Tuesday, August 30, 2011

¿El Spanglish Del Alcalde Bloomberg Es Muy Cómico, No?

Yeah, that's pretty bad. The first New York politician I can remember speaking Spanish was Nelson Rockefeller, who used to shout out greetings "to all my Puertoricanous amigos." Transparently ridiculous pandering, but, at least Rocky really did speak Spanish.

The inevitable parody Twitter account is @ElBloombito, where the not-so-fluent Alcalde puts out public service announcements like this one:

Alerto: If usted see el somethingador por favor to say somethingador. Los terroristeros estan mucho malo! Que vigilance!

Funny thing is, when I lived in Puerto Rico I often overheard people speaking almost exactly like that. This was how a Puerto Rican U.S. Army sergeant informed another Puerto Rican that the rear gate of Fort Buchanan is closed on weekends: "el rear gate esta cerrado por los weekends."

El Bloombito might not be so much of a parody after all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Obama's Uncle Omar Arrested; Next Step, Amnesty Or Asylum?

Another of President Obama's Kenyan relatives has been arrested in Massachusetts after living there illegally for decades. First it was Obama's Aunt Zeituni, who defied multiple deportation orders for several years until Immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro granted her asylum and legal residency in May 2010. Now, it's Obama's Uncle Omar, who got busted for drunk driving in Framingham last week and is being held without bail on an old federal immigration warrant.

An illegal immigrant from Kenya busted for drunken driving after nearly striking a cop car in Framingham is the uncle of President Obama, the Herald has learned.

Obama Onyango told cops he wanted to “call the White House” after he was nabbed for OUI Aug. 24 after nearly plowing his SUV into a police cruiser. He was arraigned Thursday and was ordered held without bail because he was wanted on a federal immigration warrant, officials said.

Mike Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong, who is representing Onyango, confirmed that the 67-year-old is the president’s uncle. Wong is the same lawyer who represented the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, in her fight to win asylum last year.

Reached at her apartment in a South Boston public housing complex today, Zeituni Onyango said of her brother’s arrest: “Why don’t you go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washingon, D.C. and ask your president? Not me.” She then hung up on a reporter.

[TSB note: That is an excellent idea. I will wait for the White House press corps to ask the President's spokesman about Uncle Omar.]

The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

Zeituni and Obama Onyango are brother and sister, Rogers told the Herald today.

The two are the children of the president’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, and his third wife, Sarah, according to the London Times.

The Times also reported that Obama Onyango is the man referred to as “Uncle Omar” in the president’s 1995 book, “Dreams from My Father.” In the book, President Obama writes about his Uncle Omar as “the uncle who had left for America 25 years ago and had never come back.”

Sarah Obama is called “granny” by the president because she raised his father, Barack Obama Sr., whose mother was Hussein Obama’s second wife, Akumu, the Times reported.

Somehow, I don't feel up to doing the mental math involved in understanding that family tree. First, second, and third wives ... aunts and uncles however many times removed ... half (quarter?) brothers and sisters ... who knows about the cousins? It's more than a simple monogamist like me can comprehend.

But one thing I do understand. There is no chance, no chance at all, that Uncle Omar will ever come back from America.

Libya: "What If It Turned Out Good?"

I second The War Nerd in his summing up of the Libyan revolt:

Well, that was a quick takedown. One of the strange things about Libya was the pacing. It needed a good editor, because it started fast, then bogged down, and then just when everybody’d given up and gone to get some caramel corn, the credits started rolling.

--snip --

So I’m gonna say here: Just maybe, the whole thing ended pretty well. Not that expensive, money or lives; gotta be better for the Libyans if anybody actually cares about them; can’t see any risk for the big picture—only 6 million Libyans to start with, for God’s sake, and I don’t see the Berber going on a global jihad any time soon. Jeez, what a thought: What if it turned out good?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work In Waziristan

Al-Qaeda's new Number 2 leader, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been struck off the AQ organization chart as the result of a drone strike in Northwest Pakistan, the WaPo reports.

Rahman was seen as a high-priority target in the CIA drone campaign at a time when U.S. officials have described al-Qaeda as near collapse and have said that a small set of successive blows could all but extinguish the organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Last month, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said a strategic defeat of al-Qaeda was “within reach” and called for continued efforts to hammer the group’s weakened leadership with a series of attacks.

So, we've now killed AQ's Number 1, and its Number 2, and - of course - a great many of its Number 3s. When does the organization collapse?

Maybe it doesn't collapse. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, thinks AQ has already been institutionalized to such a degree that it will survive leadership changes. See his essay on just that question, which was published in The National Interest three days ago:

Being a highly talented combination of seventh-century believer and twenty-first-century CEO, bin Laden built, in al-Qaeda, an absolutely unique Muslim organization: multiethnic, multilingual, organizationally sound and resilient, religiously tolerant and militarily effective. We will see in the next few years if bin Laden was the indispensable glue that kept al-Qaeda together or if his skill, his leadership and its nearly twenty-five years of being institutionalized as an organization created a survivable entity ... My own bet is that al-Qaeda will survive, as it did after near economic ruin in Sudan (1994–96); after the pounding it took from the U.S.-NATO-Pakistan coalition (2001–02); and after the U.S. military helpfully killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s chief in Iraq (2006), whose indiscriminate targeting of Muslims almost pushed al-Qaeda to the brink of defeat.

There are plenty more AQ leaders where al-Rahman came from. And, really, what are a few drone strikes compared to all that AQ has already survived?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Turning Full Circle

The rebel leader has just issued an inspiring Communique Number One over Libyan radio:

"People of Libya! In response to your own will, fulfilling your most heartfelt wishes, answering your incessant demands for change and regeneration and your longing to strive towards these ends; listening to your incitement to rebel, your armed forces have undertaken the overthrow of the reactionary and corrupt regime, the stench of which has sickened and horrified us all." -- 1 September 1969.

H/T to Opinio Juris, where you can find the full text of Qaddafi's first communique.

Years from now, someone will probably be ransacking National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil's compound and taking his gold-plated AKs as souvenirs.

Qaddafi's Misty Watercolor Memories Of The Way They Were

I knew that Qaddafi was hopelessly smitten with ex-SecState Condoleezza Rice. See this post from 2009. He gave her presents, and gushed to Al Jazeera about his infatuation with her:

"I support my darling black African woman," he said. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin."

Okay, we all loved Leezza. But that wasn't going to happen for him, so you would think that Qaddafi would forget her and move on. But, no.

Now that rebels have sacked Qaddafi's home and pawed through his photo albums, it turns out the poor fool has been carrying a torch for his Leezza, Leezza, Leezza all this time. Talk about misguided affection.

The thought of a lovestruck dictator mooning over photos of an old would-be girlfriend is simply embarassing.

As the Godfather would advise Qaddafi, "you can act like a man! (Slap!) Whatsa matter with you?"

Best Campaign Attack Ad Of 2012, Available Now

“The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion dollars for the first 42 presidents -- number 43 added $4 trillion dollars by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion dollars of debt that we are going to have to pay back -- $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.” -- July 3, 2008, at a campaign event in Fargo, N.D.

President #44 has added a further $4 trillion in debt so far during his 2+ years in office.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Qaddafi's #1 Son Drops By Rixos Hotel, Talks To CNN

Saif Qaddafi was looking pretty good for someone who was reported by the Chairman of the Transitional National Council to have been captured by the rebels a day ago.

Posted one hour ago (around 8:30 tonight EDT, 11:30 PM Tripoli time) by a CNN correspondent:

Libyan TNC: No Islamic Extremists Here

The Chairman of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, held a press conference this morning. Here are some of the highlights, via Al Jazeera Libya Live Blog:

"I can't say that the revolutionaries have complete control over Tripoli. Bab al-Azizyah and the surrounding areas are still outside our control, so we have no knowledge of whether he is there.

"As for cities currently under siege such as Sirte and Sabha, they will rise up from within as the stranglehold that Gaddafi's forces have them under eases."

Jalil repeatedly stated that a strict Islamist regime is not on the rebel's agenda:

"We are on the threshold of a new era ... of a new stage that we will work to establish the principles that this revolution was based on. Which are: freedom, democracy, justice, equality and transparency. Within a moderate Islamic framework.

Jalil has called on the rebels to show that Libya is a country of "religiously moderate" people, and has called upon "everyone to take care and guard properties both public and private."

Jalil has congratulated the rebels on taking Tripoli, and says that Gaddafi tried to "scare" the international community by saying that Islamic extremists were part of the rebels' movement.

How silly of Qaddafi to say that Islamic extremists were part of the rebels' movement!

But, maybe Qaddafi was referring to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamic extremist organization that was named as an affiliate of al-Qaeda by the UN 1267 Committee, and which is part of the Libyan rebel movement.

Last March, the leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group gave an interview about their relations with the Council of which Jalil is Chairman:

“We told [the Libyan National Council] that we are happy to work under you to help you. We are happy to put all our knowledge and experience under your control and we don’t have any separate strategy for our group. We are happy to fight under the [rebel] army’s command and we don’t ask to have a place in the leadership,” says Mansour.

The two men also disclosed that the LIFG had changed its name to Al Harakat al-Islamiya al Libeeya (Libyan Islamic Movement). Some 500-600 of its members have been released from jail in recent years. About 30 remain in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison. Mansour says there is full agreement within the group regarding its position on the LNC.

The Libyan National Council responded positively to the LIFG’s approach, Mansour says. “They said the first thing they wanted to be sure of is that we are not linked with any other group so we confirmed this point. They also wanted to make sure that there were not any other people coming from outside Libya to help – they said this is a red line. In the end, they said if you try to help our people, to help the army, and co-operate and work together, we will be happy.”

In other words, 'you domestic extremists are okay but the foreign types will cause NATO heartburn, so keep them at arms length, please.' Message understood.

Or, it could be that Qaddafi read the interview in Le Figaro on June 24 in which the head of media relations for the National Transitional Council estimated that about 15 percent of the rebels are what he would call Islamic extremists:

Q: Some in the West are concerned about infiltration of the rebellion by al-Qaida. Is there reason to fear extremism?

A: [T]hey represent only a small portion, no more than 15% of the rebels, and are not, in our view, a threat.

Maybe the head of TNC media relations didn't get the press guidance before he gave that interview. Or else, Chairman Jalil just forgot that there are some Islamic extremists among the rebels, after all.

But then, what's extreme or moderate is all a matter of definition anyway. The TNC's draft constitution establishes in Article 1 that Islam will be the religion of the post-Qaddafi state and Sharia law will be the principal source of legislation, just as it was under Qaddafi's regime. That is as per usual in the constitutions of all Muslim states, e.g., Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and so on, and nothing extreme happens in those places, does it?

Now, once the mopping up of Qaddafi strongholds is done, Libya will move on to it's moderately Islamic future and "freedom, democracy, justice, equality and transparency" will rain down from the sky. In so far as they are not incompatible with Sharia law, of course.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Has The Qäddaferdämmerung Begun At Last?

Libyan news presenter Hala Masrati had a meltdown on the al-Libiyah television channel early this morning, Sunday August 21.

Source: Al Zajeera Live Blog.

"With this weapon, I either kill or die today, you will not take al-Libiyah channel. You won't take Jamahiriyah channel, Shababiyah channel, Tripoli or all of Libya, and even those without a weapon are willing to be a shield in order to protect their colleagues at this channel. We are willing to become martyrs."

The video is being run by various news outlets this morning, however, they report that it was originally posted by an unidentified social media source, so take that into account.

The news presenter, Hala Masrati, is a well-known Qaddafi loyalist of the over-the-top sort (google her), so I think the video is genuine.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unconfirmed Report Qaddafi Has Fled Libya

Tweeted by NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel around 4 PM this afternoon, EDT.

There is much more rumor and speculation here.

Good Shooting Stance In UK Police Video

Cities in the UK are pretty much blanketed with surveillance camera coverage, and it shows in this video montage of a mob rampaging through a Birmingham suburb ten days ago. They smash shop windows and set buildings on fire. In other words, the usual. Amazing to watch but, sadly, nothing new.

What was new is that the video captured one of the hoodie'd yobs firing a pistol, and, when a police helicopter closed in on him, he raised his pistol and reportedly fired another round at the helo (although it was not clear to me from the video that he actually fired).

I'll say this for the shooter - he consistently uses a good Isosceles stance, with both arms held up in line with the shoulders and his weight shifted forward onto his weak-side leg.

He even maintains good control and muzzle discipline when he lowers the pistol.

Our own domestic hoodie'd yobs most often use a silly one-armed stance with the pistol turned sideways in the style made popular by gangster rap videos. This makes me think the Midlands gunman has better than average taste in music and movies, and probably got his firearms training by watching the more realistic sort of cop shows.

The video, still photos, and details are here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Statement Department

"The Statement Department." I like it. It suggests an agency that makes remarks, declarations, and assertions, and reports facts and opinions.

Too bad Rev Al wasn't around when Thomas Jefferson
was thinking up a name for the first federal agency.

Sweetshop Labor On J-1 Visas

"The Exchange Visitor Program promotes mutual understanding between the people of the United States (U.S.) and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges, under the provisions of U.S. law. Exchange Programs provide an extremely valuable opportunity to experience the U.S. and our way of life, thereby developing lasting and meaningful relationships." - U.S. State Department

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

I'm sure the J-1 visa program provides an extremely valuable opportunity for someone, but not for the exchange visitors who are earning $8 an hour doing warehouse work for a Hershey subcontractor. Those students, or visitors, or workers, or whatever they are, are protesting their conditions:

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) — Foreign students working at a candy warehouse protested conditions and pay for a second day Thursday, chanting on Chocolate Avenue under streetlights shaped like Hershey’s Kisses, arguing that they were employed under the guise of a cultural exchange but toil away in what amounts to a sweets sweatshop. The State Department said it was investigating.

More than 100 students gathered in touristy downtown Hershey, home to the nation’s second-largest candy maker, complaining of hard physical labor, steep pay deductions for rent that often left them with little spending money, and no cultural enrichment. They said their concerns were met with threats of deportation.

“We have no money, we have no time and we have no power,” said Yana Brenzey, 19, a journalism student from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. She said she had no idea that she would be lifting 40-pound boxes or netting only about $200 a week when she began working in early May at the warehouse run by Westerville, Ohio-based Exel Inc.

A spokesman for the Hershey Co. would say only that the corporation expects its vendors to treat employees “fairly and equitably.” An Exel spokeswoman said the company was working with SHS Staffing Solutions of Lemoyne, Pa., which helped place the students, to resolve the situation.

The students earn about $8 an hour, the same as their American counterparts, and were fully informed about the nature of the work, SHS spokesman Sean Connolly said. The company does not intend to fire the students for their protest, he said.

[TSB Note: The Pennsylvania minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, and state labor law counts "the reasonable cost to the employer of board, lodging and other facilities" as part of the minimum wage. If Hershey's indentured foreign servants are actually receiving $8-something per hour, I assume that is the local prevailing wage.]

“We continue to discuss the concerns they have,” Connolly said. “We hope there’s a resolution.”

The leader of the Council for Educational Travel USA, a nonprofit based in San Clemente, Calif., that also helped place the students, asserted that their motives weren’t entirely pure.

[TSB Note: By "their", the Council for Educational Travel USA is referring to the students-visitors-workers. If any of the other parties in this deal have impure motives, the Council isn't saying.]

“Somebody has been circulating a letter that they will get several thousand dollars back if they protest and be a part of this movement,” said CEO Rick Anaya. “We have not gotten any cooperation from the kids. Somebody is promising them a lot of money in order to participate in this protest.”

He acknowledged that the jobs are “fast-paced” and involve heavy lifting, but said the students knew what they would be doing. He said he became aware of complaints two weeks ago and sent managers to Pennsylvania to work out differences.

The students were offered the opportunity to leave the job if they were unhappy, he said.

They are among more than 100,000 college students who come to the U.S. each year on J-1 visas, which supply resorts and other businesses with cheap seasonal labor as part of a program aimed at fostering cultural understanding.

An Associated Press investigation published in December found students who were forced to work in strip clubs instead of restaurants, others taking home $1 an hour or even less, some living in crowded apartments or eating on floors. Members of Congress have expressed concern about misuse of the program.

The State Department is sending staff to Pennsylvania to investigate.

“The Department of State takes its responsibilities for administering the J-1 Visa Program seriously,” spokesman Mark Toner said. “It is our responsibility to ensure that all J-1 visa participants are accorded their rights under all provisions of the Summer Work Travel program.”

Yilmazcan Cebe, 20, a civil engineering student from Ankara, Turkey, said that his complaints were met with threats to force him to pay the remainder of his housing costs and that he might be barred from returning to the United States.

“We are not real workers,” said Cebe, who blamed a persistent wrist pain on the tough labor. “We are just students.”

Student protesters also came from China, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland and Romania. They said their goals were to have all the companies related to their employment negotiate on repaying them and converting their jobs to living-wage positions.

The walkout is in its second day. On Wednesday, about 150 people picketed outside the warehouse several miles away in a protest organized by the National Guestworker Alliance. Three people were arrested, including Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale and two other organized labor officials.

On Thursday, the students protested with a bullhorn, leaflets and a petition they planned to present to Hershey executives.

“All we can do is work and sleep,” said Godwin Efobi, 26, a Ukrainian student originally from Nigeria.

Most students showed up for the first shift Thursday, and the walkout isn’t disrupting warehouse activities, Exel spokeswoman Lynn Anderson said.

The complaints began this year with two students from Central America who went to the state AFL-CIO, which referred the matter to the national office and the New Orleans-based National Guestworker Alliance, Bloomingdale said.

One foreign worker, he said, showed him a paycheck for 32 hours — at $8.35 an hour — that amounted to just $44 after state and local taxes and deductions for rent.

“I’m shocked that all of this is happening in modern-day America,” Bloomingdale said. “These are 400 warehouse jobs, packing jobs.”

Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, an advocacy group in Oceanside, Calif., said the problems faced by the workers at the chocolate plant are not unique.

Similar complaints have been made for years across the country, and the State Department has not done enough to fix the J-1 program, she said.

“People are leaving our country hating America, hating Americans,” she said. “If this is the impression of the United States that we want these students to have, then perhaps we should thank the State Department, because they are not implementing regulations to protect these students.”

The National Guestworkers Alliance posted this video with student-visitor-worker interviews on its YouTube Channel:

Syrian Regime Condemned, But Not By Everyone

Secretary Clinton delivered some strong remarks on the situation in Syria this morning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. For months, the world has borne witness to the Asad regime’s contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.

The Asad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.

Only to Iran ... and to our close ally Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, who has gotten very friendly with Asad's government lately.

Mr. Maliki last month hosted a delegation of Syrian government officials and businessmen to discuss closer economic ties, including the construction of a gas pipeline that would run from Iran through Iraq to Syria. A month earlier, Syria’s foreign minister visited Baghdad.

In a television interview this week, Mr. Maliki said that the protesters should use the democratic process, not riots, to voice their displeasure, though Syria does not allow competitive, free elections.

He put most of the blame on the protesters and said little about the government’s ending the bloodshed.

Somehow that source of support for Asad's government got overlooked in Hillary's remarks.

When The Bus Is Barackin', Don't Come A Knockin'

“Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me.”

Actually, no. The comparison is laughable. And the pity-party he's throwing just tells us that “Obama is a guy who has a thin skin and does not take criticism well,” in the words of Eric Foner, the historian who did much to encourage this Obama-as-Lincoln comparison.

Anyway, it is beyond ridiculous for a POTUS to make himself an object of pity. Never feel sorry for a man who flies in Air Force One. Or rides around the Midwest waving to tiny groups of voters from behind the armored windows of a multimillion dollar bus (Ground Force One?).

Here's a soundtrack that suits the occasion, WMAL's Brian Wilson performing 'The Long and Whiny Road'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Central America, Plan Mexico, and Where's The Drug Czar?

Assistant Secretary William Brownfield, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, is one of the few people in Washington who is working during August. Maybe that's because narco cartels never take a holiday?

For whatever reason, he made some extensive remarks at a Council of the Americas confab last week on the current state of counter narcotics efforts in the Americas.

The gist of his remarks was that in the 1990s our counter narcotics programs succeeded in choking off the major drug trafficking routes that existed on the Atlantic coast, and later we did the same to the Pacific routes that sprang up in the 2000s, so today the dominant trafficking routes to the U.S. come straight up through the middle of Central American and Mexico. Hence, we are re-running the Plan Colombia playbook, only this time we're calling it the Merida Initiative. I think that's a fair summary.

As a result of the efforts in northern South America, in the Caribbean, and in the eastern Pacific, you now see the overwhelming majority of the flow of narcotic products through Central America on its way to the North American market. And, I might add, beginning in the year 2007, you see a squeeze at both ends of the Central American isthmus, not just the efforts of Plan Colombia and its successor plans to the south, but the beginnings of an impact of the efforts to put the squeeze on the routes to the north in Mexico under the Merida initiative.

- snip --

And where are we today? Let's ask ourselves the question: How serious is this threat, that is affecting, and in my opinion, threatening the very core institutions of Central America today?

First, we calculate that more than 95%, let me repeat that figure, more than 95% of all illicit drugs that enter North America from South America have transited Central America. Ninety-five percent.

What impact might that have on the region? Here is a statistic, dates from 2010, the last year that we have full statistics. In 2010, the homicide rate in Honduras was 82 per 100,000 population, in El Salvador, 65, in Guatemala, 41. To put that in some perspective for you, here in the United States, a society not known around the world for its passivism and lack of violence, our homicide rate is somewhat below five. More than 70,000 youth in the seven countries of Central America, and overwhelmingly focused on the northern three of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are calculated to be members of gangs ... The entire population of Central America is about one seventh of the population of the United States of America. If you play the statistical game and say what would this correlate to in the United States, it would mean about a half a million gang members on the streets of the United States cities.

Ladies and gentlemen, Central America in a very real sense is a victim. It is a victim of geography, and it can do nothing about that ... It is a victim in a very real sense of progress elsewhere in the region. Progress in Colombia, under Plan Colombia, where thanks to the heroic efforts of a large number of Colombian citizens, the problems have been squeezed down substantially over the last eleven years, and the progress that we see beginning, I submit, more on that later, in Mexico, with the Mexican government's efforts to retake control of its own communities, its own streets, and its own borders.

-- snip --

If I could use the metaphor of three houses located side-by-side on a street. One house erupts in flames, and the community, alas, due to resource and budgetary issues, has only one fire truck. Where does the fire truck go? It goes to the house that is burning. Well, sure enough, sparks pass over to the third house and it starts to burn as well. The fire truck goes to the third house. It knows perfectly well that the house in between is eventually going to burn, but you’ve only got one fire truck. You're watching that house in the middle, you know that at some point in time you are going to go after it, but you’ve got one truck, and you are going to focus the truck on the house that is actual burning. And it is burning today, ladies and gentlemen, and I suggest to you that what we will talk about for the remainder of this morning is where to put that fire truck, what equipment to put on that truck, how many people we can put on that truck, and how we can get maximum value out of that truck.

-- snip --

We have limited resources to work with. On the 23rd of June, in the city of Guatemala, the Secretary of State committed $290 million from the United States Government to support this effort in the course of this year. Not $2.9 billion, not $29 billion, $290 million ... I do not see the likelihood of a vast infusion of new funds coming from that element of the United States Government that is constitutionally entitled to fund and appropriate the taxpayers' money in the United States in the foreseeable future.

A few questions followed, including this one, which went right to the heart of the narco trafficking problem - the demand by users in the U.S. for drugs that come from South and Central America:

QUESTION: I’m William Steadman. I’m a retired Foreign Service Officer. U.S. domestic demand is certainly a considerable problem which you noted. I’d like to know what is being done, what can be done, and what coordination exists among various U.S. government state and local agencies to deal with domestic demand. Thank you.

Ambassador Brownfield's answer was not so well focused. In fact, he tried to pass the ball to the Drug Czar, who wasn't present to receive it.

[I] got to tell you that you can bet that you could have asked the same question, as you well know, in the year 1965 or 1955, and in many ways, the fundamentals of that question have not changed. I suppose the simple answer to your question is we have not yet solved the problem of demand in the United States of America ... I would suggest to you, for example, that the demand in the United States for cocaine has probably has probably dropped, I would throw out a figure, as much as 50% over the last 10 years ... demand is elastic, both in terms of how much or how little demand there is, and where it is located.

I am not the right one to give you a detailed answer to that question, because, of course, I am the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, sometimes referred to as the Drug Czar, is that position which for the past roughly 40 years has had the responsibility been linking all of these elements together into a common strategy and a common approach.

If anyone passed that question along to the Drug Czar, I'm not aware of it. By the way, when was the last time anyone saw or heard from the Drug Czar? I think Miami Vice was still on TV the last time he mattered.

Ambassador Brownfield did much the same press conference again today, this time in Ciudad Juarez, Ground Zero in the battle over international narcotics and law enforcement.

Has This Ever Happened To You After A TDY?

A commenter (H/T to gwb) brought this story to my attention.

Imagine that you've taken a short trip out of town and, when you return home, you find a family of Romanian gypsies living there? And they've trashed your place. Then, once you get them thrown out, they move two blocks away and do it again at someone else's house.

Between this and their flaccid response to the riots, it's looking like British law enforcement has simply taken the summer off. The icing on the cake is that the victim in this case is a British Immigration Officer.

An immigration officer returned home to find gipsies had moved in, ransacked the place and dressed in her clothes.

Julia High was even offered a glass of her own wine by the Romanian squatters.
They claimed they had rented the property from her

The family of five adults and three children had ripped up carpets, emptied the fridge and dumped her belongings in bin bags in the garden of her £270,000 home.

They left water damage to the kitchen and bathroom, while a computer and digital cameras were missing. Only her beds and wardrobes were left intact. And once evicted, they squatted in another home two streets away.

Miss High, who works for the UK Border Agency, had spent a weekend visiting her parents and on the Monday evening went to see the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall before returning to the terraced home in Leytonstone, east London, which she has owned for 30 years.

She said: ‘The women came to the door dressed in my clothes, they were sitting around my dining room table, drinking my wine out of my glasses. They even offered me a drink and told me they were from Romania. They said I was dead and my son had rented the house to them. I am very much alive, single and I don’t have a son.’

She secured a county court eviction order the next day and police removed the family. But she has been forced to stay with friends during repairs, and fears it will be weeks before she can return.

She said: ‘These people have just trashed 30 years of my life and thrown it into bin bags. It is soul-destroying.’

Yesterday the Daily Mail found the family in a four-bedroom house two streets away, owned by a doctor who bought it in March but delayed moving in to carry out repairs.

When approached for a comment, the family spat and swore. One woman, who said her name was Dragoi Carmen, said: ‘I’ve never seen [Miss High’s] house, I don’t know why I’m being accused of this.’

Laura Eparu, who lives next door to Miss High, said: ‘I’m Romanian myself and I realised they were Romanian gipsies. They’ve brought shame on our country.’

Congressional Flashmob Swarms Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

With Congress on its August vacation, our liberties and property are secure until after Labor Day. Good news for the rest of us, but bad news for the staffs at U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate Jerusalem, where a whopping 81 - count 'em, 81 - visiting Congressmen plus their spouses are doing the grand tour of Israel on an excursion funded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

They're coming in three waves. First, 26 Democrats - who are there now - followed by 55 Republicans in two groups, each of the three waves lasting one week. But this is not a CODEL, you see, because someone other than the U.S. taxpayer is footing the bill.

[B]ecause it’s not an official congressional trip paid for by taxpayers, there will be no military jet, no taking off when you feel like it, no landing in military airports. That’s part of the reason, in today’s parlance, it’s downgraded to only an AA jaunt, not AAA.

Still, the excursion includes a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.

It's a good thing that AIPAC is neither a political action committee nor an agent of a foreign government, otherwise our Congressional representatives might not be able to accept this freebie without legal complications. I'm just saying.

Unlike a proper congressional trip, we’re told that the AIPAC foundation “runs [the members] pretty good.”

There will be breakfast speakers, dinner speakers, Q&A’s with U.S. Embassy folks and Israeli media. There will be appearances by government leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (ask him about those recent demonstrations) and President Shimon Peres, as well as by opposition leaders. The schedule is packed from morning to late at night.

But wait. It’ll be okay. Judging from past trips — they’re not giving out the schedule for security reasons — the travelers will get a walking tour of the Old City and the Western Wall, plus a tour of the city, trips to Masada and the Dead Sea, the Holocaust Memorial, a trip north to the Golan Heights and to the border with Lebanon. There will be a couple of days to hang out in Tel Aviv — Miami on the Mediterranean.

At some point, the group will head to the West Bank to chat with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other leaders. No Hamas folks are invited.

Best of all, unlike codels, these are segregated by party — we’re told the members prefer that. Because there is no need for bipartisan cover to justify a taxpayer-funded jaunt, you won’t need to pretend to like someone from across the aisle.

-- snip --

The U.S. Embassy, oft-beleaguered by congressional trips, won’t need to coordinate logistics. The foundation does that. Still, a former diplomat noted, “The embassy will extend whatever assistance is needed” by the lawmakers — such as security for the trip to Ramallah. “We know who pays for our budget.”

Regarding "whatever assistance is needed" for a trip to Ramallah, well, let's just say that is A WHOLE LOT OF ASSISTANCE. The security part alone will be enormously taxing. Pity the poor RSOs who will have to take groups of 25 to 30 prima donnas and their handlers in and out of the West Bank.

Idle thought: how many Congressmen can you pack into a Suburban? Do they share seats without fighting? Do the freshmen members have to take the middle seats? Who called 'shotgun?' You know that the windows don't roll down, so does everyone have enough A/C, or is that too much, or is the A/C just right? Will this be all business, or more like a torturous family minivan trip to Disney World?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

USAID Hiring For Libya

H/T to U.S. Trade and Aid Monitor for news of these job announcements:

A recruitment campaign led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initially seeks to deploy a Country Representative and Deputy Country Representative to Libya, where the vendors will work with the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) within the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA), according to personal contracting service (PSC) notices dated Aug. 15

-- snip --

The contractors will at first establish a presence in the city of Benghazi, the notices said, without indicating other potential locations.

The announcements (active links in the Aid and Trade Monitor post) include this description of the Office of Transition Initiatives:

Created in 1994 as a distinct operating unit within USAID, OTI helps local, indigenous partners advance peace and democracy in priority conflict-prone countries by providing fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key transition needs.

I'm glad someone sees a key transition coming to Libya in the near future. I wish I could be as optimistic, but the see-saw war between Qaddafi and the rebel coalition doesn't inspire high hopes. The USG's official spokesmen were lukewarm at best in remarks today:

Neither [White House spokesman Jay] Carney nor State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the rebels now have the upper hand ... One senior military official said the Pentagon is not ready to declare the opposition forces have reached a turning point, although it is not insignificant that they appear to have been able to hold the ground so far.

Not insignificant? That's faint praise, indeed. It sounds like we are doing a good job of containing our official enthusiasm.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vladimir Putin: Is There Anything He Can't Do?

He's been at it again, staging another preposterous photo op for the sycophantic Russian official news media. This time he went diving in the Black Sea and came up with two ancient Greek ceramic urns. Really. He found them within minutes in water only two meters deep, and - hey, look - they didn't even have 1,500 years worth of crud all over them.

He's already hunted tigers, shot an arctic polar bear, fought forest fires, piloted a mini-sub to the bottom of the world's deepest lake, and done so much more, usually while shirtless and riding a horse. Which once again proves the wisdom of Mel Brooks - it's good to be the King dictator.

I wonder ... if Putin and Kim Jung Il even played golf together, would there be numbers high enough for their caddies to record all the holes-in-one they'd make?

Putin's act might finally be getting a little stale for some of his audience, as the BBC reports, but I don't think it will be going away.

How can he keep it fresh? I think the solution is obvious. Putin should grow a beard and take over those Dos Equis commercials, thereby making him officially The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Where Is The Nanny State When Feral Children Run Wild?

The starkest and grimmest commentary I've seen on the English rioters comes from the historian, editor, and journalist Max Hastings. How liberal dogma spawned a generation of brutalized youths:

A few weeks after the U.S. city of Detroit was ravaged by 1967 race riots in which 43 people died, I was shown around the wrecked areas by a black reporter named Joe Strickland.

He said: ‘Don’t you believe all that stuff people here are giving media folk about how sorry they are about what happened. When they talk to each other, they say: “It was a great fire, man!” ’

-- snip --

If you live a normal life of absolute futility, which we can assume most of this week’s rioters do, excitement of any kind is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and terrorised communities have no moral compass to make them susceptible to guilt or shame.

Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.

They are illiterate and innumerate, beyond maybe some dexterity with computer games and BlackBerries.

They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.

They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.

Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it.

A former London police chief spoke a few years ago about the ‘feral children’ on his patch — another way of describing the same reality.

The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call ‘lives’: they simply exist.

Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. They do not watch royal weddings or notice Test matches or take pride in being Londoners or Scousers or Brummies.

Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present.

They have their being only in video games and street-fights, casual drug use and crime, sometimes petty, sometimes serious.

The notions of doing a nine-to-five job, marrying and sticking with a wife and kids, taking up DIY or learning to read properly, are beyond their imaginations.

Last week, I met a charity worker who is trying to help a teenage girl in East London to get a life for herself. There is a difficulty, however: ‘Her mother wants her to go on the game.’ [English-to-American translation note: to 'go on the game' is to become a prostitute] My friend explained: ‘It’s the money, you know.’

-- snip --

When social surveys speak of ‘deprivation’ and ‘poverty’, this is entirely relative. Meanwhile, sanctions for wrongdoing have largely vanished.

When Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith recently urged employers to take on more British workers and fewer migrants, he was greeted with a hoarse laugh.

Every firm in the land knows that an East European — for instance — will, first, bother to turn up; second, work harder; and third, be better-educated than his or her British counterpart.Who do we blame for this state of affairs?

-- snip --

Of course it is true that few have jobs, learn anything useful at school, live in decent homes, eat meals at regular hours or feel loyalty to anything beyond their local gang.

This is not, however, because they are victims of mistreatment or neglect.

It is because it is fantastically hard to help such people, young or old, without imposing a measure of compulsion which modern society finds unacceptable. These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better.

A key factor in delinquency is lack of effective sanctions to deter it. From an early stage, feral children discover that they can bully fellow pupils at school, shout abuse at people in the streets, urinate outside pubs, hurl litter from car windows, play car radios at deafening volumes, and, indeed, commit casual assaults with only a negligible prospect of facing rebuke, far less retribution.

John Stuart Mill wrote in his great 1859 essay On Liberty: ‘The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.’

Yet every day up and down the land, this vital principle of civilised societies is breached with impunity.

Anyone who reproaches a child, far less an adult, for discarding rubbish, making a racket, committing vandalism or driving unsociably will receive in return a torrent of obscenities, if not violence.

-- snip --

The police, in recent years, have developed a reputation for ignoring yobbery [English-to-American translation note: 'yobbery' is hooliganism] and bullying, or even for taking the yobs’ side against complainants.

‘The problem,’ said Bill Pitt, the former head of Manchester’s Nuisance Strategy Unit, ‘is that the law appears to be there to protect the rights of the perpetrator, and does not support the victim.’

Police regularly arrest householders who are deemed to have taken ‘disproportionate’ action to protect themselves and their property from burglars or intruders. The message goes out that criminals have little to fear from ‘the feds’.

-- snip --

A teacher, Francis Gilbert, wrote five years ago in his book Yob Nation: ‘The public feels it no longer has the right to interfere.’

-- snip --

So there we have it: a large, amoral, brutalised sub-culture of young British people who lack education because they have no will to learn, and skills which might make them employable. They are too idle to accept work waitressing or doing domestic labour, which is why almost all such jobs are filled by immigrants.

They have no code of values to dissuade them from behaving anti-socially or, indeed, criminally, and small chance of being punished if they do so.

They have no sense of responsibility for themselves, far less towards others, and look to no future beyond the next meal, sexual encounter or TV football game.

They are an absolute deadweight upon society, because they contribute nothing yet cost the taxpayer billions. Liberal opinion holds they are victims, because society has failed to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential.

Most of us would say this is nonsense. Rather, they are victims of a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline — tough love — which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live.

Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.

They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values than the young rioters of Tottenham, Hackney, Clapham and Birmingham.

Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights, for whom their monstrous excesses were ‘a great fire, man’.

That's stark, all right. Even dismal. But it rings true to me. Who has not seen those feral children of all ages, or experienced the public's unwillingness to interfere with blatantly antisocial behavior?

It's the fault of the nannies (government agencies) who aren't doing their jobs, and therefore ultimately of the careless people (voters) who left them in charge.

The Decamping Of The Saints (Or, The Dutch Find The Limits Of Tolerance)

It turns out that when the most tolerant society in Europe imports a million Moroccan and Turkish guest workers, plus refugees from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, the result is not all Unicorns and Rainbows. Instead, it's having fellow citizens who applaud the killing of filmmakers who criticize the treatment of women in Islam.

So, now the Dutch government has decided that a multiculti society is fundamentally a bad idea, and it wants to reverse course.

I'm not sure why I didn't see this news before, but back in June the Dutch Interior Minister presented a bill to parliament that would force integration of immigrants to Dutch values, if possible, and remove residence permits from those who refuse to conform. Quite a reversal of policy.

Here's a news story with details and links to the Interior Minister's action plan (in Dutch):

The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.

A new integration bill (covering letter and 15-page action plan), which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads: "The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society."

The letter continues: "A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups."

The new integration policy will place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants will be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government will take a tougher approach to immigrants to ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.

The government will also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, "it is not the government's job to integrate immigrants." The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.

If necessary, the government will introduce extra measures to allow the removal of residence permits from immigrants who fail their integration course.

The measures are being imposed by the new center-right government of Conservatives (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA), with parliamentary support from the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), whose leader, Geert Wilders, is currently on trial in Amsterdam for "inciting hatred" against Muslims.

As expected, Muslim organizations in Holland have been quick to criticize the proposals. The Moroccan-Dutch organization Samenwerkingsverband van Marokkaanse Nederlanders, which advises the government on integration matters, argues that Muslim immigrants need extra support to find a job. The umbrella Muslim group Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid says that although it agrees that immigrants should be better integrated into Dutch society, it is opposed to a ban on burqas.

But polls show that a majority of Dutch voters support the government's skepticism about multiculturalism. According to a Maurice de Hond poll published by the center-right newspaper Trouw on June 19, 74 percent of Dutch voters say immigrants should conform to Dutch values. Moreover, 83 percent of those polled support a ban on burqas in public spaces.

The proper integration of the more than one million Muslims now living in Holland has been a major political issue ever since 2002, when Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated for his views on Muslim immigration, and since 2004, when Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death for producing a movie that criticized Islam.

Muslim immigration to the Netherlands can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s, when a blue collar labor shortage prompted the Dutch government to conclude recruitment agreements with countries like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s, Muslims also arrived in the Netherlands as asylum seekers and refugees, mainly from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia.

There are now an estimated 1.2 million Muslims in the Netherlands, which is equivalent to about 6 percent of the country's overall population. Moroccans and Turks comprise nearly two-thirds of all Muslims in the Netherlands. Most Muslims live in the four major cities of the country: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

As their numbers grow, Muslim immigrants have become increasingly more assertive in carving out a role for Islam within Dutch society. For example, a documentary aired by the television program Netwerk in June 2009 reported that Dutch law was being systematically undermined by the growth of Sharia justice in the Netherlands.

In December 2004, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior published a 60-page report titled From Dawa to Jihad. Prepared by the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, the report says that the Netherlands is home to up to 50,000 radical Muslims whose key ideological aim is to target the Western way of life and to confront Western political, economic, and cultural domination.

The report concludes that Dutch society is poorly equipped to resist the threat of radical Islam because of "a culture of permissiveness" that has become synonymous with "closing one's eyes" to multiple transgressions of the law.

As for Interior Minister Donner, he has undergone a late-in-life conversion on the issue of Muslim immigration. In September 2006, while serving as justice minister, Donner provoked an outcry after saying that he welcomed the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the Netherlands if the majority wants it. He also said Holland should give Muslims more freedoms to behave according to their traditions.

After applauding Queen Beatrix for respecting Islam by not insisting that a Muslim leader shake hands with her during a visit to the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague, Donner said: "A tone that I do not like has crept into the political debate on integration. A tone of: 'Thou shalt assimilate. Thou shalt adopt our values in public. Be reasonable, do it our way.' That is not my approach."

Fast forward to 2011 and Donner now says his government "will distance itself from the relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society." Although society changes, he says, it must not be "interchangeable with any other form of society."

If the Dutch adopt this bill and are serious about enforcing it, they will escape the dilemma that was famously framed by the 1972 novel The Camp of the Saints, which you can read here.

Watch for this backlash to spread to other countries.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

UK Riots Go Into Fourth Night Amid Plastic Bullets And Metal Bats

Four nights of looting and arson is enough, it seems, and tonight the police in London are supposed to take a harder line:

Scotland Yard has ordered its officers to use every available force, including possible use of plastic bullets, to stop Britain's riots as London was flooded with 16,000 officers, the biggest police presence in the capital in history.

With early reports emerging of a fourth night of trouble, involving shops broken into and torched in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, some urban areas, notably in London, were in virtual lockdown as many businesses closed and shop windows were boarded up.

-- snip --

The public should expect to see "many more" rioters arrested from now on, the prime minister said. Parliament would be recalled on Thursday to debate the trouble, he added. Shortly afterwards Cameron chaired a meeting of the Cobra security committee at which it is understood he and the home secretary, Theresa May, discussed the possible use of plastic bullets, water cannon and other tactics. Following the meeting the Home Office asked the Ministry of Defence to "scope out what low-end" help the armed forces might provide.

Any decision on using plastic bullets will be up to senior police officers. If used, it would be the first time they have been fired at rioters in the UK outside Northern Ireland. It forms part of a wider reversal of tactics by Scotland Yard following criticism of its response so far. Senior police sources told the Guardian on Tuesday that for the first three nights of trouble officers in London were told to stand by, watch and wait rather than actively seek to arrest rioters and looters. But after anger from the public – who witnessed officers seemingly doing little as youths ran unchecked, burning and looting– and Cameron's intervention, those orders were abruptly changed to leave officers free to tackle troublemakers in the act.

-- snip --

In several parts of London local people began the initial clean-up by taking to the streets armed with brooms following appeals on social networking sites. Others were taking matters into their own hands in a different way: Amazon.co.uk's sales charts saw a sudden spike in sales for baseball bats and police-style batons.

Evidently American-style bats are popular in the UK for home defense, and they are selling like mad. This prompted an exchange of comments on the Amazon.Co.UK website, where they sell the Rucanor Aluminium Baseball Bat, between nanny-staters who want to ban the bat and defenders of the traditional right of Free-Born Englishmen to keep and bear sporting equipment.

The thread began with a call for unilateral disarmament:

Patrick Hoelscher says:

call upon amazon.co.uk to ban this item temporarily as it is obviously currently abused as a cheap, quick weapon to be used in the london riots. ban it now!

6000% increase in sales in last 24hours!!!


D. Clydesdale says:

but what about those buying it as protection incase rioters attack their home, mindless rioting idiots dont seem like the type to log on to amazon to get a good deal on a baseball bat online.

Dave in Crete says:

Amazon must show some serious maturity by 'delaying' all sales of this item until the riots are long forgotten....

TSB Note: Easy for someone in Crete to say that. Dave is about 1,600 miles away from the rioting.

Dr. J. G. MCCREA says:

Bat hit people good

V. Wevell says:

Even if they are being bought by respectable home and business owners, they should be banned from sale temporarily. Vigilantism is not the answer. Get these items off the shelves, we are all scared and angry in London and need to know that measures are being taken to help us to feel safe in our Cities again.

Z. Johnson says:

Cracking a dude with a bat who's broken into your house trying to steal your stuff is not vigilantism.

arlo says:

"Usually dispatched within 4 to 6 weeks"
Hope Britannia can hold out that long...

Katherine Ross says:

How do we know this is for rioters.. It could be possible the UK has finally realized the superiority of American Baseball over Cricket..

Elmo Smith says:

Us Americans prefer shotguns for riot control, but I admire you Uk-ians for getting up close and personal with your looters.

Watching the coverage of those riots, I'm inclined to take the advise of Dr. J. G. McCrea. Bat hit people real good.

Monday, August 8, 2011


My regular route to work in the morning takes me up South George Mason Drive and then onto Route 50, right past the entrances into National Foreign Affairs Training Center. While getting onto Route 50 this morning, I saw a woman roller skating past the line of cars waiting to turn into NFATC. She was somewhere in her mid-20s, wearing cut-offs and a Tee shirt, and had an employee badge dangling from a lanyard around her neck. I had to drive on before I saw her actually skate into NFATC, but I assume that was where she was going. Where else, with that badge?

Everybody I know complains about their commute to work, and the summer weather, and the lack of parking, but this woman has got it all solved. She's doing alternative commuting, getting aerobic exercise, catching some sun, having casual Friday on Monday, and beating FSI's chronically overfilled parking lots and out-of-control parking enforcement.

She is an inspiration, and I salute her.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Voice Of Fiscal Sanity

The day after Standard & Poors downgraded the U.S. government's debt rating, a senior government source has finally given us a stern lecture on fiscal reality.

The American government needs to "cure its addiction to debts" and "learn to live within its means." Damn straight. The USG spends an amount equal to 24 percent of our GNP, but takes in only (only!?) 19 percent.

What's more, it better "address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety" of the dollar if we are to have any hope of economic recovery. I couldn't agree more.

Unfortunately, it was the New China News Agency that delivered that message, but that doesn't make it any less true. I don't normally agree with the ChiComs - indeed, I'll never stop referring to them by that great, semi-offensive, Cold War term "ChiComs" - but when they're right, they're right.

China's own credit rating agency downgraded U.S. sovereign debt instruments two days before S&P did.

I saw this interesting tidbit in the LA Times story about the China's lecture:

In addition to holding about $1.2 trillion in treasuries, an estimated two-thirds of China's $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves is estimated to be in dollars.

So it looks like those wily Chinese have more than one reason to want our government to live within its fiscal means. When they are that dependent on the dollar themselves, we don't just have a creditor, we have a partner.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Off The Press

Or whatever the term for it is in this digital age. The text of the debt ceiling bill that the House just voted in is here, and its CBO score is here.

The best bottom-line description I've seen tonight is that this is a modest win for conservatives but a major loss for liberals.

My Summer Tour Of Homes

I took last week off from work to tour a few historic Presidential homes, mainly James Madison's home Montpelier, but also those of Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson. Montpelier is still undergoing historic restoration and archaeological exploration of the building and grounds, but I have to say it's looking like the best instance of historical interpretation of all the American historic sites I've seen.

I immensely enjoy these little road trips. For a week I can wear flip-flops, and everything I need is located in a small duffel bag behind my seat. Fantastic! I'm seriously thinking about getting a VW Passat with a diesel engine - a car that has comfortable seats and can cruise for 800 miles between fill-ups - and doing this all the time after I retire.

One of the many things I enjoy about road trips is that the deeper you go into Beyond The Beltway America the scarcer the Starbucks become, until eventually they can be found only inside a Target or some such retailer, and finally they disappear. But what you lose in Starbucks you gain in Sonic drive-ins, a delightful place that I only see when on vacation in rural areas. I recommend their iced latte with a couple of Sonic Booms (shots of espresso) to counter the sweetness of the whipped cream.

While touring around I strictly avoided the news out of Washington. By which, I mean that I read only USA Today, since every hotel I stayed in slips it under your door in the morning. I don't understand how that curious newspaper acquired its stranglehold on the hotel market. Each morning last week I read the whole thing at breakfast, and yet all I could remember from it afterwards was the national weather map. Those very short stories and colorful news boxes seemed to evaporate as soon as I looked at them.

But I digress. Although I was avoiding the debt crisis news, I still saw it in all the homes I toured.

At the home of James Madison, the Founding Father who imagined and invented the Constitution, I saw this quote from the Federalist Papers on why we need, and should want, partisan conflict between the houses of Congress and between the Legislature and the Executive:

"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?" - Federalist 51

That's a very Adam Smith-ian insight. In a system of separated government powers, each politician's inherent ambition to gain power for himself serves to check the same inherent tendency in other politicians. So, when you see all the hand wringing about partisan conflict and gridlock, and hear the old oh-why-can't-we-all-just-work-together coming from those in power, know that things are working the way Mr. Madison designed them to work. Because people in power cannot be trusted.

I also saw that Thomas Jefferson would be for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

"I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the general principle of the Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government their power of borrowing." - Letter to Virginian Senator John Taylor, 1798

George Washington would use public debt as little as possible, mostly for defense expenditures, and wanted it paid off by the same generation that incurred it.

"As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear." - Farewell Address, 1796

Lastly, Andrew Jackson actually eliminated the public debt. Gone. Zero. The USG operated in the black at the end of his second term. It has not done so since.

"Free from public debt, at peace with all the world, and with no complicated interests to consult in our intercourse with foreign powers, the present may be hailed as the epoch in our history the most favorable for the settlement of those principles in our domestic policy which shall be best calculated to give stability to our Republic and secure the blessings of freedom to our citizens." - Sixth annual message to Congress, December 1, 1834.

God only knows how Jackson would react to the idea of a government having fun, fun, fun until our Daddy takes our T-Bills away.

A Plague On Both Your Houses

The New York Times had a story from Afghanistan a couple days ago that should make even the most optimist nation-builder give up on the place. It's just too foreign to succumb to our Three Cups of Tea blandishments.

The story is a standard Romeo and Juliet tale, except it happened in Herat rather than Verona, and it has a couple of plot twists that Shakespeare couldn't have imagined.

In Afghanistan, Rage at Young Lovers:

HERAT, Afghanistan — The two teenagers met inside an ice cream factory through darting glances before roll call, murmured hellos as supervisors looked away and, finally, a phone number folded up and tossed discreetly onto the workroom floor.

It was the beginning of an Afghan love story that flouted dominant traditions of arranged marriages and close family scrutiny, a romance between two teenagers of different ethnicities that tested a village’s tolerance for more modern whims of the heart. The results were delivered with brutal speed.

This month, a group of men spotted the couple riding together in a car, yanked them into the road and began to interrogate the boy and girl. Why were they together? What right had they? An angry crowd of 300 surged around them, calling them adulterers and demanding that they be stoned to death or hanged.

When security forces swooped in and rescued the couple, the mob’s anger exploded. They overwhelmed the local police, set fire to cars and stormed a police station six miles from the center of Herat, raising questions about the strength of law in a corner of western Afghanistan and in one of the first cities that has made the formal transition to Afghan-led security.

-- snip --

Ms. Mohammedi’s uncle visited her in jail to say she had shamed the family, and promised that they would kill her once she was released. Her father, an illiterate laborer who works in Iran, sorrowfully concurred. He cried during two visits to the jail, saying almost nothing to his daughter. Blood, he said, was perhaps the only way out.

“What we would ask is that the government should kill both of them,” said the father, Kher Mohammed.

-- snip --

The case has resonated in Herat, in part because it stirred memories of a brutal stoning ordered by the Taliban last summer in northern Afghanistan.

A young couple in Kunduz was stoned to death by scores of people — including family members — after they eloped. The stoning marked a brutal application of Shariah law, captured on a video recording released online months later. Afghan officials promised to investigate after an international outcry, but no one has faced criminal charges.

The NYT makes the point that the legal system in Herat, and officialdom there generally, is treating the star crossed lovers pretty leniently. Even the clergy is not the problem, since "top clerics" have not condemned them. Rather, it's the Capulets and the Montegues themselves - well, the Tajiks and the Hazaras, but you have to dig down to paragraph 21 of 30 before the story reveals the identities of the parties - who want to kill their own children.

Suraya Pakzad [director of Voices of Women Organization, which operates the only women’s shelter in the Herat province] said most of the women and girls in the shelters of western Afghanistan had fled forced or abusive marriages, or had been ostracized from their communities for dating young men without their families’ approval. Male relatives often punish such transgressions with beatings or death.

But in separate interviews at the juvenile jail, Ms. Mohammedi and Mr. Mohammed said they had not worried about such things.

He did not think about the rage that would erupt if a young Tajik man picked up a Hazara girl in a neighborhood dominated by conservative Hazaras, members of one of Afghanistan’s many ethnic minorities. “It’s the heart,” Mr. Mohammed said. “When you love somebody, you don’t ask who she is or what she is. You just go for it.”

-- snip --

They now spend the days at opposite ends of the same juvenile jail, out of each other’s sight. Mr. Mohammed nurses the wounds still visible in his swollen face and blood-laced eyes, and Ms. Mohammedi has been going to classes and learning to tailor clothes.

Both say they want to be together, but there are complications. Family members of the man killed in the riot sent word to Ms. Mohammedi that she bears the blame for his death. But they offered her an out: Marry one of their other sons, and her debt would be paid.

Even assuming that nation-building is possible in a multinational state like Afghanistan, which I don't, it would still not change the deep cultural beliefs and practices that are on display here.

Romeo and Juliet always die in the end, which is the point of the play.

"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume." - Romeo and Juliet, 2.3