Sunday, March 26, 2006

24: Nihon

For those who are fans of the TV show 24 (and if you aren't, rent a season and get hooked), Japan has their own spinoff courtesy of FujiTV. Take a look, and be sure you don't miss Tony Almeda's guest appearance

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Book Review: 1776

Category: American History
I don't know if I can even add something to the discussion here. 1776 is the non-fiction book of last year, you know, the one that everybody talks about and therefore is a huge bestseller. As the title implies, it is about the year 1776. The main thing that people know about it is that's when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and that is the case. However, this book is more about the battles that were fought in Boston, New York, and New Jersey. This was a trying time for George Washington, and you can see how ineffectual he was at times as a field general - splitting his troops up, waffling on where to keep them - in Brooklyn or in New York, and so forth. However, McCullough does a great job showing Washington's strengths too, mainly in inspiring and leading his army. He may not have been the best strategist or military mind in our nation's history, but he was the only one who could have kept the army together amid scuffles in between states and the Tory v. Patriot intrastate battles. Several times you can see Divine Providence in the escapes of the Continental Army - a fog that rolled over New York Harbor during the escape from Brooklyn, unseasonable winds that kept the British Navy from cutting off the army from escape routes, and so on. There definitely was a divine hand in the founding of the United States, but it wasn't going to all be up to God - we had to help it happen. For a quick understanding of the year, this is a very readable and thorougly enjoyable view of one of the defining years in our nation's history. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Headed Out

I'm headed to Washington DC for a conference this next week, so blogging may or may not be light. It all depends on the internet access situation at my hotel. If the Hilton Garden Inn likes my laptop, I'll be around, if it doesn't, I probably won't. I will be leaving my wife and daughter for the trip, and I'm sure that most business travelers wouldn't give that sentence second thought. However, one of the wonderful things about the company I work for is that they allow families to go on business trips. Of course, that doesn't mean that the company will pay for everyone's airfare, but it does mean that they pay for my wife's trip. That's really one of my favorite benefits, because it's tough to leave them. Once you start though, I'd imagine it gets easier, but it's a very pro-family thing to do.
The Washington DC conference is an annual event, and it's one of my favorites. We learn about the new laws that affect us and then get to lobby Congress to give us more money via Medicare. Of course, everyone is looking for the same pot of cash, but we just want a bit of it. It's closer to the movers and shakers than I ever thought I'd get, and since I love politics, it's a definite perk. See, there is a reason to get that PolySci degree!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Corrupting Our Precious Bodily Fluids

I didn't think that people like this still existed. Sure, there was the big scare back in the late 40s and 50s, but I thought that seeing as how there wasn't ever a big thing that came of flouridation, there wasn't a reason to fear. That isn't the case:

FAN Bulletin #534: NRC Delivers Wake Up
Call on FluorideMarch 22, 2006
Dear all,Enclosed below is a copy of today's
press release from Fluoride Action Network (FAN) regarding the historic report
on fluoride toxicity released today by the National Research Council. For more
information on the report, including the latest updates and press coverage, see:
Michael & Paul Connett
...A National Research Council (NRC) report on fluoride toxicity released today gives powerful evidence that many Americans are being overdosed with harmful levels of
fluoride. A wide range of health problems are cited in the report, with bones
and teeth being the foremost, but not sole, targets of concern.The current
“maximum contaminant level” for fluoride, 4 parts per million (ppm), was set by
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect adults from crippling
skeletal fluorosis, a severe arthritic bone disease. The NRC advises the EPA to
lower this standard because of strong evidence linking fluoride to bone
fracture, joint pain, and damage to teeth...

And so on. I won't bore you with the rest of it, but seriously, I can't believe that General Jack D Ripper's legacy lives on today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

SorroMobile: Live at the Caucuses

I’m blogging tonight from the site of the Republican Party Caucuses. This is my first time actually going to a caucus, and I’m not even going to be going to them. How is that you might ask? It’s because I’m in the leadership for my Legislative District and as a result I’m not able to participate in my home precinct. Instead, I’m running a group of caucuses at a school north of where my caucus would be. What’s my job? I am in charge of making sure that my precinct chairs don’t let their meetings degenerate into Lord of the Flies-style chaos. It’s hard to believe that you’d have a bunch of people running around in loincloths and bashing each others heads in during a political meeting, but rest assured, it can and will happen. Nobody remembers the great Kansas Headbashing session of 1902, where Lars Gudenof beat Michael Allen to death with his peg leg, but you can rest assured that it did happen.
Caucus night is one of the great exhibits of democracy. You have small groups of neighbors (unless you live in Wyoming, they have one caucus for all 10 people that live outside Jackson Hole somewhere outside John Smith’s Ranch just outside Manville) gathering together to discuss who they want to represent them. Sometimes they get a bad name in relation to their bigger brothers, the primaries, but I think that when the Founding Fathers thought up this whole political thing, they had something like a caucus in mind. Of course, Philadelphia was only 20,000 people strong at the time, so there wasn’t a need for larger meetings and elections. Nevertheless, it’s high time that they get some press from somebody who’s not covering them in Iowa, home to the most famous of caucuses and Howard Dean’s infamous Yeaugh! Bus Tour 04.
I know that there are quite a few people out there who love to gripe about their lousy leaders but don’t want to do anything to actually oust them, and the caucus is not for you. Instead a caucus is for those who actually want to influence their government. Unless you live in Florida, one vote usually doesn’t mean much. Of course there are instances where that isn’t the case, but in general, your vote in a general election means less to the governance of this nation than (insert colorful metaphor here). This is completely different in a caucus. Here the individual is king. You can actually play kingmaker, instead of just seeing it done on TV. You can run for offices that give you even more power, where you can go to conventions and vote on nominees for your party. It’s actually a great deal. You can then use that to influence your local governance further. If you’re looking at getting into politics, there is no easier way than the caucus. Everybody had to start somewhere, and if you don’t have oodles of money lying around to buy an election, you can start at this level and get some name recognition, then climb up the rather long ladder to the Presidency.
I really don’t have a point here (well, other than go and do this caucus thing). I thought it’d be interesting for someone out there to get a feel of what the deal is with a caucus without actually being there, and now I have.

Monday, March 20, 2006


There are some things that shouldn't ever be done. I'm not talking about the Good Morning Burger (18oz ground beef patty, 6-8 tbl. of rich creamery butter, 8 stripes of bacon, 4 slices of ham, and 3 fried eggs), I'm talking about Baseball's Best Burger.
My problem with this isn't that it's a $4.50 heart attack, it's that it can't possibly taste good. A hamburger is savory. It's full of meat, cheese, vegetables, and so forth. Who in their right mind thought that adding a Krispy Kreme original glazed donut as the bun would make it good? The KK original isn't a good bun donut anyway. It's very airy and can be quite sticky, so it wouldn't have the staying power of a typical bun, especially when you start adding condiments like ketchup and mustard. Not only would the flavors completely clash, the hole in the middle would allow things to spill out everywhere. On top of that, they would completely disintegrate the donut holder. While I'm all for gut-bombs, combining the world's most decadent and therefore least good for you donut with a hamburger is like mating cats and dogs. It just shouldn't happen.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Maximizing Utilities at One Plate Buffets

Have you ever eaten at one of those restaurants that's all you can eat, but only as long as it fits on your plate? It's the one trip buffet concept, and you pay the same amount as at a regular place. Forro told me about some Mongolian places down in Arizona and how he would cram the meat in with his elbow, compacting it so much that the guy on the grill would have to pry it out with his chopsticks. Then you'd nest noodles around it, then build a stack of vegetables on top. It sounded pretty impressive at the time, but I wasn't yet wise in the ways of the world. Instead, how about something really amazing?
Here's a couple of guys from Taiwan who have gone out of their way to show us crammers how it's really done. Instead of fitting everything inside a cereal bowl, why not stack it as high as the tailfins on a 56 Buick? I have to bow my head in shame at not being able to do anything like this. I have disgraced my family. The only way I can continue is by training at my local Pizza Hut to come close to them. Unfortunately, it seems like Pizza Hut is going the way of Domino's and Papa Johns. All the sit down restaurants in the county closed a while back, which was unfortunate. Their pizza buffet was a great deal and a fantastic way to secure bragging rights over your friends with the biggest stack of crusts on your plate, like bready chicken bones.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Espinosa

Taking a page out of Hollywood, a couple from Mexico got so mad at each other that they proceeded to beat the everloving crap out of each other and then blow up their house.
All I have to say is wow. I can't believe that you'd go that far. I've heard of women chopping off manhood, of fights that have turned deadly, and so on, but I thought that blowing up your house was strictly fiction. Seriously, who hates their spouse that much? Well, who hates their spouse that much but wouldn't get a divorce? I suppose that it could happen in the course of a divorce fight, something along the lines of "if I can't have this house, nobody can!" but while you're still both living in it? Wow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Below I have reproduced a sample e-mail from the many that I get from the Eagle Forum:


Gayle, Karen and Rep. Christensen met with Governor Huntsman to discuss HB-148 Parent and Child Amendments.



I have at least 3 problems with this.
1. SHOUTING!!! These are not calm e-mails. Instead, it's filled with all sorts of all-caps, exclamation points, underlines, biggification of words, and so on. If you're going to e-mail me about an issue, do it in a calm, rational way and not with the shouting nothingness that you sent me.
2. The Eagle Forum sends me these types of e-mails at least 2-3 times a day, sometimes one right after another, so I've got all kinds of shouting e-mails in my inbox. Please, send one e-mail with every issue you've got in any given day. Don't pester me, I'm busy.
3. No information. They send these hyperbolic e-mails out with no information attached. Why not let us read about the issue, then decide. Are you worried you'll be wrong?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dan Brown Decodes Da Vinci

In the continuing court case of Those Guys Who Wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail vs. Dan Brown, Random House, and Common Sense, Dan Brown has submitted a gargantuan piece of evidence - 75 pages on how he writes, his sources, and so forth. The Wall Street Journal got their hands on a copy, and if you have Adobe Acrobat/Reader, it's right here for your reading enjoyment.
First, on the merits of TGWWHBHG v. DBRHCS, there are a couple of excellent points that Brown makes. One, that he included an anagram of the names of the authors of HBHG in his book, and two that it's specifically mentioned by the characters in his novel. For someone who is plagarising and denigrating, that's some pretty blatant behavior. Dan Brown may be a lot of things, but judging from his degrees and his books, stupid isn't one of them. I can't wait to see TGWWHBHG get their butts handed to them in court.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Conservatives Will Rule the Earth?

The latest issue of Foreign Policy (I know that you all read it!) has an intriguing theory that actually holds a lot of water. You'd think that it wouldn't be accurate, but they take birthing statistics and show that it's legit. They posit that conservatives will rule the earth because declining birthrates among the more liberal, less patriarchal parts of society will leave them with a smaller portion of the demographic pie, while more patriarchal conservative groups will gain ground because of their bigger birth rates.
The main reason behind this is the return of patriarchy. No, I don't mean the scent, I mean the philosophy. As the article says,
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Because the affluent tend to be more conservative (also, those who tend to practice patriarchy are more conservative), then they rule the dialogue. This is a bit simpler than the explanation in Foreign Policy, but I don't want to write four internet pages about it.
This is already being seen among some groups. Of course, most known for high birthrates are evangelical Christian groups, especially us Mormons. We get married relatively young (it's creeping up there, but it's still much younger than the national average) and we make sure we have lots of kids, the better to multiply and replenish the earth with. This is also one of the reasons why the US is in dire need of immigrants. I know there are groups out there who want to get rid of all the Mexicans and put up a wall, but they're going to be the only way we can finance Social Security, Medicare, and continue to live the lifestyle we are. Without them, we'd be a nation of Wal-Mart greeters - sure we're friendly, but in the end we can't even get the boxes down from our collective shelves. This also means that, with the imminent collapse of welfare states (it will happen when the younger generations can no longer shoulder the burden of an incredibly top-heavy society), there will be a return to the conservative values of doing things yourself and not relying on the government for everything. However, what if there's a countermovement? Perhaps the next younger generation will want their Medicare?
The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of modern societies married and had children. Some had more than others, but the disparity in family size between the religious and the secular was not so large, and childlessness was rare. Today, by contrast, childlessness is common, and even couples who have children typically have just one. Tomorrow’s children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents’ values, as always happens. But when they look around for fellow secularists and counterculturalists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Small Compensation

This picture was taken by my friend Jessie, who passed it to Marianne, who passed it to me. Really the picture speaks for itself, but let me say this; you only laughed because deep down you know it is true. I could really lump a lot of cars in this section but let's be honest just because you see a huge truck doesn't mean the driver is supplementing their "ego", it could be legit. With Hummers though, you can almost guarantee that it was purchased to act as a huge shiny phallice. A phallice that produces 3.4 metric tons of carbon emmission in a year. Hummers are the vehicles for two types in society: the few F-Dudes who actually became somewhat successful in life and those yuppies who still think that your car in any way defines your status in life. My annoyances with people who drive such monstrosities are really three fold (although, I should add another fold of annoyance, because the fact that they suck down more gas than an M4 Sherman irks me pretty bad...I'll let that one slide though). First, anyone who drives a Hummer feels compelled to refer to it as "The Hummer", i.e. "Lemme, just pull The Hummer out of the garage, and then I'll drive The Hummer to the curb so that you can all admire The Hummer while you get in The Hummer". Second, people who drive Hummers seem to all be under the same misconception that the rest of society actually thinks their vehicle is cool, and that we sit behind them during our commute and long for the day that we might ride in "The Hummer". Third, you never ever see an H2 or H3 or whatever H they are on now with a speck of dust on it, leading me to believe that my Mazda Protégé sees more off-road time than their "ultimate off-road vehicle" does.
Now for the very few innocent motorists who accidentally purchased a Hummer not realizing the statement you were making about your wang, you have a chance to repent. As soon as possible go ahead and sell it to a more...shall we say "deserving" member of society. And for the sweet love stop calling it “The Hummer” immediately...shut up, you know you do.

Friday, March 10, 2006

One Port, Two Port, Red Port, No Port?

The battle over Dubai controlling US ports is over. DP World announced that they would sell the rights to US ports to an unnamed US company to avoid what was turning into a disaster both for DP World and for President Bush. Because DP World may renege on what they said though, Congress is deciding to go for political points, overkill, and alienation:

I have to agree 100% with Dan Drezner that "The UAE is the closest thing we have to a reliable, stable, Westernized ally on the Arabian peninsula, and both official Washington and the American public just pissed on their leg." While there are some efforts at Westernization going on in Bahrain and Qatar, Dubai is situating themselves as the premier city/state in the Middle East. They are using their oil money to modernize, liberalize, and diversify to create a stable economy so that they don't go into the toilet when the oil dries up the way that most Arabian economies did in the 80s and 90s. They're doing this by investing in all sorts of different projects - buildings, infrastructure, financial institutions, and ports. Would DP World running ports here in the US cause problems with terrorism? It's doubtful. They'll be manned and run by US citizens. Even under this arrangement, it looks like DP World may create a US subsidiary that doesn't have ties to the mother company, but that gives its revenue up. As one of the most progressive parts of the Arabian Penninsula, they realize that it's bad for business to blow up parts of the US. It really looks bad for business if you blow up part of the US using your assets. It doesn't matter to a jihadi, but DP World isn't run by jihadis. If they were to have something like that happen, UAE assets all over the world would be seized and nationalized. Besides, why wait when you could strike the Great Satan's military arm? Again, Dubai is the biggest US Naval port in the Middle East, fully manned and staffed by natives from Dubai. Have we had any mass poisonings, any bombings, or anything to worry about? No. Why does it stand to reason that they would do that over here? We can rest assured that our Chinese underwear isn't being touched by Arabs now - there won't be any Boxer Rebellion.

Never Neverland

Poor Bubbles the Chimp. His owner, former King of Pop and current pedophile Michael Jackson, has been ordered to close Neverland Ranch by the state of California for not paying employees and not having workers compensation insurance on said employees. I would imagine that a lot of this is a result of being a freak of nature. When he was the best selling singer on the planet and making his billions from Sony, he could afford to live his quirky lifestyle. Unfortunately the perpetual nose jobs, the gradual turning into an albino, and the feministizing of his voice have taken their toll on his sales. Instead of being worth the billion Sony paid him, he hasn't done anything since he admitted that he doesn't know if he is black or white.
It's a sad story because he used to be at the pinnacle of success, and now he's just a circus sideshow, on par with the Bearded Lady or the lion in a cage. Maybe he could sell off Neverland and move into an apartment in the city, saving enough money to last him through the cold winter of his life, because it'd be tough to have enough plastic surgery to undo the plastic surgery he's already had, and there are enough lawsuits that will probably come to a head that it'd be best for him if he pulled a Killer Kane and lived a modest life from now on. Don't pull a Hammer and wait for things to get so bad that the IRS and the repo man come. Pull out now, with some semblance of dignity.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

USO've Got Mail

One of the things I like the least is comeons like this one from the USO. You've got your soldier in the bunker and he's thinking "man, I hope that Sorro still cares." Never mind that he's under fire, his buddy was killed next to him, and he's got insurgents surrounding him - he just wants to know that I still care. How will he know that? By a donation from me to the USO! Would I donate to the USO? Well, probably not due to this campaign (I've gotten this, along with some address labels from them both at home and at work. However, assuming that they stopped their "let's guilt the public into donating" campaign, I still wouldn't donate. Why? Because honestly, what has the USO done for the troops lately? They haven't done one thing since Bob Hope died. In fact, they now don't even send people over to Iraq to entertain the troops, it's just on television. You're telling me that you can't get these people to donate their time? You can't get CBS or News Corp to donate studio space and broadcasting equipment? I'm calling bull crap on this. This is a money grab, and I'll support the troops, but there are many more ways to do that other than ensuring that they'll get USOTV.
Of course, I'd reconsider if you use my money to exhume and reanimate Bob Hope's corpse, then send it over there to entertain and as the key figure in our new army of the undead.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Die Super Dell, Die!

Wonderful news from Utah! "Super" Dell Schanze, owner and proprieter of Totally Awesome Computers and all-around nutjob, has closed up shop. Of course, it wasn't because of his annoying commercials or troubles with the law, it's because "...all of the media in Utah are liars and murderers. You just destroyed the greatest computer company of all time. We were the best in the world, the world champion. All this hatred was created by you. You're basically angels of Satan. All I can say to the people in Utah is, please pray for all the news people."
Super Dell has a history of hyperbolic statements like that, including when he called employees that left Totally Awesome Computers evil. He also has a history of calling out newspaper reporters, as Eric D. Snider found out back in the early aughts. In something that shows that Super Dell only knows a few words, he also owns Totally Awesome Guns & Ammo and Totally Awesome Windsurfing. Unfortunately that's still around, but one less Super Dell product on the market is good enough for me. Really, I'm surprised that I forgot to put him on notice earlier. He went off the radar for me there for a while because, with the magic of TiVo, I stopped seeing commercials of his on TV, and because he mainly advertised on KSL Newsradio and I haven't listened to the Sean Hannity Show in quite some time, I forgot about him since his run in with the law last fall (threatening people with a 10mm pistol).
I've had several people say how great his computers are and how great TAC's service was, and I don't doubt it. However, because his marketing campaign, and indeed, his personality, is based around being an annoying jackass, I am so happy to see him fail, even when it results in one more crazy tirade against the media, the people, and the world.
Super Dell, may you have a totally awesome bankruptcy auction and jail term.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ma Bell Rises from the Grave

I got some shocking news on my Blackberry last night. AT&T (formed from the combination of AT&T and SBC) decided to buy another of the Bell companies - BellSouth. After AT&T was broken up in 1984 by the Feds, nobody thought that it would ever be the same. For a long time, they were right. The seven Baby Bells (Mountain Bell, Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell, Southern Bell, Midwestern Bell, Atlantic Bell, and NYNEX) were stuck to their own geographic area, AT&T stuck with long distance, and they never crossed paths. After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 loosened the rules, there was a rash of mergers. Qwest bought US West (Mountain Bell). SBC (Southwestern Bell) bought Pacific Bell and Ameritech (Midwestern Bell), BellSouth (Southern Bell) stood pat, and Atlantic Bell and NYNEX joined to form Verizon. Again, things simmered down. The long distance company, AT&T was getting beaten every which way by local competetors offering long distance, and the rise of the internet and VOIP only assured AT&T of a long run inability to survive. They fought this with a variety of worthless tactics, including spinning off their IP and equipment company, Bell Labs, buying TCI cable, then selling it a few years later to Comcast, buying McCaw Cellular, then selling it a few years later to Cingular. Nothing seemed to work, and they ended up being bought by one of their prodigy, SBC, who took the storied name. Now, assuming this merger is allowed, AT&T will once again be the dominant carrier in over half of the US. Analysts are also speculating that they will try and buy Qwest as well.
There are historical precedents for this. Standard Oil was broken up into over 20 companies back in 1911 and over the years they have slowly joined back together, with the main pieces now being part of ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Conoco Phillips. Nevertheless, it's taken 90 years for Esso to reconfigure, and it's still not as far along as AT&T would like to be a scant 20 years after it broke up. While there are a lot more options for phone and internet service in the US now than there were back in the 80s, the new AT&T would be powerful enough to exert serious force on the marketplace. They've already decided that, given approval, they will start charging companies like Google a fee to access their lines. That right there is reason enough for me to want to nix the deal. Customers are paying their local provider of choice for the use of their phone lines and Google (or whomever) is already paying their company for the use of phone lines. What makes AT&T think that they can swoop in and collect a middleman fee for allowing data to transmit in between? They could charge higher fees to the companies that are leasing line space from them or change the agreement to companies that are connecting to AT&T pipes to move data across the AT&T network, but neither end should be directly affected by this. All it is is an old company crushed under the brutal process that is a free market trying to thrash and gasp for air.
In general, I think the free market should be allowed to decide mergers and who companies survive, however, there are certain industries that are so capital intensive (telephone and water/sewer are two of the biggest) that I think they still need government regulation. Telephone will probably change as times do, with everything moving to wireless, which lowers the barriers to entry. But for now, because of the way AT&T has tried to bully internet companies, I have to say that this is not a good deal for consumers or for other companies.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Book Review: Pity the Nation

Genre: Recent Middle Eastern History
Author: Robert Fisk
643 pages

I just finished Pity the Nation, and it's as comprehensive a history of the Lebanese Civil War as you'll be able to find anywhere. I've been interested in it for years, ever since I saw the Chuck Norris movie The Delta Force as a pre-teen back in the 80s. For those who didn't have the pleasure to watch it, an American airliner (I don't think they identified it as TWA, but they may have) is taken by terrorists who land in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War and proceed to get their butts handed to them by Chuck Norris and company. I wanted to know what was happening there, why was Beirut a hub of terrorism, and what can I do to get my hands on Chuck Norris' magic motorcycle.
This didn't lead anywhere for a while, but movies like Navy SEALS and Spy Game kept my interest in Lebanon and Beirut alive. I finally did something about it other than looking up stuff on the internet, and Fisk's book is excellent in every regard. It's well written, clear, and personal. Fisk was a correspondant for The Times and The Independent and spent the entire war in Lebanon. I think the most enlightening thing about the book was being able to see the separate phases of the war. It started with Christians killing Palestinians and Muslims, then both groups striking back, and so on until the Syrians intervened and invaded the country to stop it from tearing itself apart. This lasted for a time until the Palestine Liberation Organization attacked Israel enough to cause the Israelis to invade Lebanon, setting off another round of fighting even more destructive than before. After some embarassments, the Israelis withdrew to the south of the country from Beirut and a multinational force of US, Italian, French, and British moved in. They were driven out by the rise of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in Lebanon in the early 1980s and that led to the final phase of the war where once again Christian and Muslim elements attacked each other.
These phases were interspersed with ceasefires that led to rebuilding of war-torn areas, followed by the next phase of fighting. Fisk chronicled the rise of Hezbollah and IJ as a result of a couple of factors - the Israeli invasion and the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah. This radicalized the Muslim population of Lebanon and led to the most famous images of the Lebanon Civil War - the hijacking of a TWA jet and the kidnapping of Terry Anderson.

I could go on, but there's over 600 pages of information in the book, and I don't have time or space to go into that kind of detail. My nitpicks with the book are mainly that Fisk tends to put more of the blame on Western powers than with the PLO. Sure, they were the victims of some brutal massacres (Chatila and Sabra being the most notable), but they were constantly the ones that destabilized the situation. They did the same thing in Jordan before they were booted out to Beirut in the 1970s. He wears his political affiliations on his sleeve and he's not afraid to say that he disagrees with everything that Israeli PM Begin and Ronald Reagan did in Lebanon. I think that we made some mistakes (notably underestimating the opposition), but it was well-intentioned and not strong enough. The Marine Barracks bombing of 1983 was the kicker that got the US out, but it also was the first step in a long road towards September 11.
Ultimately this book was a great read and it really helped me to understand more about this relatively unrecognized war (at least in this day and age) that laid the foundations for everything that came thereafter in the Middle East. Highly recommended.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dubai-ous Arguments About Ports

The last political firestorm that I've been hearing a lot about is the deal for Dubai-owned DP World to acquire P&O, a British shipping company that operates 5 ports in the US - New York/New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Apparently, this deal is the one single thing that is going to help Osama bin Laden get a nuclear weapon in the US and blow it up somewhere.
There's a huge uproar about this, despite the fact that DP World already owns shipping facilities here in the US. We'd already be nuked if this was the only thing standing between us and certain annihilation. Nevertheless, it hasn't stopped Congress and certain governors (Jon Corzine, I'm looking at you) from trying to turn this political lemon of Bush's into their own lemonade. This is a deal that makes sense, and I'm going to say why.
1. Port control still resides with the US. Our people will still be patrolling these ports. They will still be as secure as they were before. None of that is changing as part of the deal. This was agreed upon by career bureaucrats who have survived their lives in Washington by not making stupid moves that will literally blow up in their faces. The deal is sound and Dubai has every interest in making sure that it will have safe ports.
2. Dubai has had ample opportunity to strike fear in the hearts of the imperialistic Americans for over a decade now. It's home to our fleet in the Persian Gulf, and as such, it would be a simple matter to go and blow up an aircraft carrier or two. We saw what happened to the USS Cole in Yemen, and if Dubai was really so evil, they could easily put one of our capital ships, a vessel that hasn't been sunk since World War II, on the bottom of the ocean, along with 6,000 soldiers. I don't know about you, but if I were fighting the US, that would look like a mighty tempting target.
3. Racism. For Congress to scream about how terrible the national security situation is with Dubai taking over ports, they are implicitly stating that all Arabs are terrorists. In a situation like this, where we are trying to win hearts and minds, it doesn't help either objective. What's next? Are we going to stop allowing Emirates Airlines (based in Dubai) to fly to the US? After all, they will be flying A380s, the world's largest passenger aircraft, and that could blow up a lot of buildings.
4. Pro-globalization creedence. The Bush Administration is supposed to be pro-globalization (and in general they are). The US is promoting open borders around the world, and one more thing that we are doing to close our borders doesn't help us out when we go with hat in hand to the Chinese asking them to hook up one of our companies with a sweet deal.
Despite all the carping from the blowhards in Congress, this will end up passing (it already has). The best thing to do is to approach it from the perspective that it's okay and we're all for allowing foreign investment in our nation. More money will flow, tensions could ease, and we'll be better off as a result.

Friday, March 03, 2006

AK-47 Can Tag an F-18

Andrei Kirilenko became the most admired envied man in the world this week, and not just because he specializes in 5x5s. In ESPN Magazine his wife said that he gets one freebie a year. This isn't like one free chicken or bowl of borscht. This is one free night a year with a lady of Andrei's choosing. She does this because she doesn't want him to think that the other ladies are pizza and so he'll start pigging out on pizza.
My question is if this is actually something that can last. While from a personal standpoint I'm not one for infidelity, even if it's out in the open and there are terms and conditions set, can this really work? So far AK hasn't done anything with this newfound freedom, so it's all well and good for his wife to say that it's not a big deal, but what would happen if he took advantage of her offer? Sure, men will be men, and basketball players will be basketball players, but just because that's the case and because his wife acknowledges it, will she be any less jealous if Andrei comes back from a road trip to Miami with a confession? I imagine that the conversation would be something like this (provide your own Russian accents):
Wife: So, how was Miami?
AK: It was good. We played basketball and then afterwards there was this smoking hot chick who had come back from the beach. She was falling all over me, and one thing lead to another, and I used your present for the year.
Wife: You used your present! How dare you!
AK: said...
Wife: No buts! What I meant was the only other woman you could sleep with had to be as attractive as an old babushka. You think I want you sleeping with people who are as good as/better looking than I am?!
AK: ...
Wife: Get out! Oh, and I'm taking your salary with me.

I can see the reasoning, but it's a bit different between a child and an adult. While she's okay with her leniency as long as it's never happened, she'll be regretful once it does, especially since she said she doesn't need the same courtesy. This is AK's carte blanche and if he uses it, it'll become his Stalingrad too.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

John Ashcroft sings Sinatra

I don't have much time tonight, so I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite old Letterman bits of all time. John Ashcroft was at some meeting and sang the old Ashcroft campfire favorite, "Let The Eagle Soar" for his adoring fanbase. Letterman flogged it for about a year, and for those who missed it, here it is in all it's internet-y glory:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Nuremburg This Is Not

Saddam Hussein has completed yet another day in court in his case that I swear is taking longer than OJ's. He admitted to giving the orders to kill 148 Shia in retaliation for an assassination attempt on his life in 1982. Of course, because he was President of Iraq, and therefore he made the rules, those killings were legal.
Why are we questioning legality here? Hussein is smart, and he's been playing this court for months now, and while things continue, it's taking an awfully long time. I think part of this is to provide some semblance of closure to the people who were victims of his crimes, but it's actually pretty straightforward to get him on genocide. Did he have chemical weapons? Yes. He had admitted it, and they were documented and used against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War. Did the Kurds get gassed in Halabja? Yes. Was anyone punished who was involved in the gassing? No. Is it therefore probable, without even talking to Hussein, that he did it? Absolutely. There really isn't even a question who was ultimately responsible. Rather than let this drag on, complete with outbursts from the dictator, we should have quickly tried him, then let them do the Arab execution thing (swift, painless, beheading in the center of the city). While we need to make sure that we're fair, we also need to make sure that we're quick about being fair too. We want to send a message that this won't be tolerated, in a general sense, and if you go about it, being the law isn't a valid defense. The longer this goes on, the less certain people will be that Saddam wouldn't come back and the less of a message we'll send out, in large part because nobody outside of Iraq will care by the time this gets over, in early spring of 2015.