Sunday, November 25, 2007

Continued woes of Anti-War / Anti-Iraq films

Everyone's been talking about the dismal box office returns of this season's crop of anti-war / anti-Iraq films. Hollywood claims the movies simply aren't "entertaining enough" but the cold hard fact is that Americans don't like being lectured or preached to through the silver screen. I did some quick and dirty analysis over at box office mojo, here's some numbers for you:

1. Lions for Lambs:
Debuted at no. 4 in it's opening weekend at $6.7 million (the movie at no. 3, Fred Claus, did $18.5 million the same weekend - that's roughly $12 million better). Dropped 56.8% its second weekend to no. 8 with $2.8 million, $11.6 total. This weekend's estimates are in and it's completely out of the top 10, estimated drop of 60.1% to $1.16 million, $13.8 total. Worldwide it's done better with $20 million total, but that's pennies compared to the standard Hollywood blockbuster. No idea on the budget, but with Redford, Cruise, and Streep, it's gotta be steep.
Received an "F" rating by 57.6% of BoxOfficeMojo users.

2. Redacted
This one is laughable. Debuted last weekend in limited release (only 15 theaters, presumably NY and LA) to the tune of $25,628 dollars for no. 50 in the box office results. Yes, you read that correctly, only twenty five thousand six hundred and twenty eight dollars. That's a per theater average of only $1,708. To put this into context, Dan In Real Life, which had been out for 4 weeks already and was at no. 6 in the box office for the same weekend averaged $2,284 per theater. Internationally it's only done $71,968. Currently I don't believe it's box office results are even being tracked anymore.
Received an "F" rating by 84.5% of BoxOfficeMojo users.

3. Rendition
Despite an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and Peter Sarsgaard, this one tanked quickly, although it received more favorable ratings at BoxOfficeMojo than the previous 2 entries (41.6% rated it a D or an F while 49.2% rated it an A or B). Rendition debuted at no. 9 in the box office back on October 19 with a weekend gross of only $4 million. It quickly dropped to no. 11 the following weekend, then no. 20, then no. 33 before it stopped being tracked. Total domestic AND international gross? A whopping $14.9 million.

4. In The Valley of Elah
This one, at least by BoxOfficeMojo users, rated the best of these films, with only 26.2% of users rating it an "F" (still, that's roughly a quarter of the audience) while over 50% of users rated it an A or B. Unfortunately the combined star power of Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron was unable to generate sufficient buzz or box office mojo, despite adding theaters to its initial limited release. It debuted strongly at no. 35 in a limited release of only 9 theaters with $133,557 total gross, that averages out to $14,839 per theater, which is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, it quickly tailed off and continued to lose ground, even as they added more theaters. It's second weekend the film was boosted to a total theater count of 317 which saw its weekend gross rise to $1.2 million, with a decent per theater average of $3,996. The third weekend saw its theater count rise to 762, more than double the previous weekend, but its weekend box office rose a paltry $300,000 to $1.5 million and its per theater average plummeted to $1,984. That was the last decent weekend for Elah, with its fourth weekend box office take down, despite a +200 theater count increase. Theaters quickly dumped the movie and it is no longer being tracked.
Total domestic + international gross? Merely $10.1 million.

I've read that there's a number of new movies along the same lines as these four clunkers. Perhaps after they've bled enough red ink Hollywood will finally learn that Americans like heroic stories where the bad guys are the Islamic terrorists / fascists and not the American Military, FBI, CIA, or the Defense Department.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Violent protests in Bangkok against the military coup

Bangkok Pundit has all sorts of good stuff on the protests and the aftermath. Just keep scrolling. As Bangkok Pundit notes, Freedom House has downgraded Thailand's political rights and civil liberties to a level shared by such stalwarts as Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Burma. (Correction: Only their political rights were downgraded to this level, not Civil Liberties - thanks to Bangkok Pundit for the correction, our mistake)

Regentisland.com also has plenty on the protests, and is openly calling them Thai Rak Thai Riots as it has been alleged that Thaksin, the former prime minister, and his political party were behind the violent protests, a view that Regentisland seems to share. Plenty of interesting info and commentary, just keep scrolling.

The military government, very popular at the time of the coup, has been steadily losing popularity and credibility as peoples patience wears thin. From what little I know, it seems they are making the same mistakes as previous governments in Thailand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

California Republican Party are idiots

In a moderate, centrist state, where independents are the fastest growing segment of voters, the California Republican Party has been lurching rightward over the past few years. In an idiotic move that will only strengthen Democrats, the executive board voted narrowly to exclude independent voters from the February Presidential Primary:

The motion, by two hyperpartisan bloggers now playing high elected roles in the state party, Jon Fleischman and Tom Del Beccaro, carried narrowly on an 11-9 vote. Among those in favor were the Republican leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, Dick Ackerman and Mike Villines. Among those opposed were Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, represented by a proxy, and former state Republican chairman Duf Sundheim. Democrats, of course, allow independents, by far the fastest growing voter group in the state, to participate in their primary.


Way to go idiots. Keep moving rightward in an overly moderate state where independents make up a sizable chunk of the electorate and you will continue to lose elections and cede control to the Democrats.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Anti-Universal Coverage Club

You can count me in:

Here are the guiding principles of the Anti-Universal Coverage Club:

  1. Health policy should focus on making health care of ever-increasing quality available to an ever-increasing number of people.
  2. To achieve “universal coverage” would require either having the government provide health insurance to everyone or forcing everyone to buy it. Government provision is undesirable, because government does a poor job of improving quality or efficiency. Forcing people to get insurance would lead to a worse health-care system for everyone, because it would necessitate so much more government intervention.
  3. In a free country, people should have the right to refuse health insurance.
  4. If governments must subsidize those who cannot afford medical care, they should be free to experiment with different types of subsidies (cash, vouchers, insurance, public clinics & hospitals, uncompensated care payments, etc.) and tax exemptions, rather than be forced by a policy of “universal coverage” to subsidize people via “insurance.”
If you are interested, head on over to Cato-at-Liberty and post something on your blog or e-mail Michael Cannon.

Disaster warning towers to resume construction in Thailand

....after having been put on hold after last year's military coup:

Work was suspended because the military-led government was worried it would swing opinion in favour of the deposed Thaksin administration.

Chairman Smith Dharmasarojana said the centre intended to install about 200 warning towers in the North, Northeast and Central regions and along the Thai Gulf. It had already installed 99 towers in six provinces. The towers are equipped with sirens which can be heard up to 1.5km away and will give warning of any natural disaster, not just a tsunami.



Via Bangkok Pundit, who notes:

Yeah, because avoiding a repeat of a disaster where thousands of people
died must always be secondary to the government's goal of making Thaksin look bad.


Sad to see that we're not the only ones where political considerations by those in power take precedent over what might be good for the public.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Uninsured in America : new film by Stuart Browning

Uninsured in America is a short film by Stuart Browning profiling some of the people who make up the so-called uninsured in America. You can watch the film here. I highly recommend it. A couple of excerpts from the transcript:

According to the US Census Bureau, 17 million of those without health insurance live in households having over $50,000 in annual income. That's 38% of the uninsured in America.(2)

In fact, 9 million - 20% of the uninsured - reside in households pulling down more than $75K a year. (3)


Hat tip to Dr.Helen.

All those uninsured better be careful what they wish for - if some politicians have their way this is what the future could look like.


Friday, June 15, 2007

"The military has run out of excuses as to why it cannot protect civilians and restore peace in the deep South "

Thailand's The Nation rightly criticizes the military for their failure in combating the Islamic terrorism in the South:

Insurgents have succeeded in everything that they have set out to do, while the military has failed to achieve any of what the public expects of it. The armed forces have not only failed to contain the worsening situation in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, which have descended into lawlessness, but they have also allowed insurgents to expand their sphere of influence to parts of Songkhla, if not Bangkok, which was rocked by coordinated bombings on New Year's Eve.

The number of people killed since January 4, 2004 has gone well past 2,200, most of them civilians, and it keeps rising. Not a single day has gone by without policemen, troops and civilians being blown up and ambushed, schools being torched, teachers being murdered or other innocent civilians being killed.

Insurgents have been able to challenge the authority of the Thai state, destabilise the southernmost region and wreak havoc on local economies with impunity and little cost to them. Only a handful of suspected insurgents have been arrested and have court proceedings pending in connection with about 20 incidents. Insurgents get away with their crimes 99 per cent of the time.

The military has been so humiliated in this regard that its credibility as an effective fighting force has been cast into doubt, which explains why the armed forces never have good intelligence: local people are too afraid to identify with authorities. This is why government troops who are armed to the teeth dare not venture into areas infiltrated by insurgents.

Troops brave enough to put their lives on the line to do their jobs are left largely to their own devices if targeted by roadside bombs or ambushes - there is little hope of reinforcements arriving promptly. In the absence of clear strategy and workable tactics, the majority of troops stay in their heavily fortified units whiling away their six-month tours of duty.


Big hat tip to BangkokPundit who comments:

So it seems that even The Nation does not believe Thaksin behind the New Year's Eve bombings.

I think at this point the only people who still believe Thaksin are behind the New Year's Eve bombings are those that perpetrated the myth in the first place - the military government who has failed so miserably to do anything constructive in the South. I remember when it happened and all the U.S. news outlets dutifully reported the official military government line that the bombings were the work of "political elements".

For those of you who don't know what is going on in Thailand, here's a great primer to get you started. Also lots more from Dr. Zachary Abuza over at the Counterterrorism Blog here, here, here, and here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Generous grants for the privileged

Walter M. Kimbrough, over at Inside Higher Ed, criticizes the practice of the wealthy giving grants to prestigious private universities following the recent announcement that John Kluge has pledged $400 million to Columbia University.

So the colleges with the greatest wealth and the best of everything that money can buy (from faculty to facilities), not only are underrepresented with poor students, but also restrict minority students from accessing these resources. If public universities can be called “gated communities of higher education,” private universities like Columbia are easily the country clubs.

America’s so-called philanthropists ignore these facts, and we continue to laud their generosity to the privileged. At the same time, people of color continue to fall further and further behind, and unless we begin to help those who actually need help, America’s economy will suffer.

Hat tip to Minding The Campus.

Immigration bill roundup

I haven't been following the immigration bill fiasco because so many others are doing a much better job than me. Michelle Malkin is all over it. Just keep scrolling.

Good news from Diyala

Via Bill Roggio, the 1920 Revolution Brigades have attacked Al-Qaeda in Diyala:

The Buhriz group turned on al Qaeda in April, after the group terrorized the local population. "[Al Qaeda] ruled Buhirz with tyranny, they really harmed our town," a member of the Sunni insurgent group told CNN. "We had to stop them, and they left, no return."

"Before, when al Qaeda was here, it was all killing and stealing," another insurgent said. "We would hide in our house this time of day [during daylight]. It was all kidnapping, killing and stealing."

Al Qaeda followed the same pattern of behavior in Anbar province, which led to the formation of the Anbar Salvation Council, the grouping of tribes and insurgents which battle al Qaeda. The 1920 Revolution Brigades makes up a significant portion of the leadership of the Anbar Salvation Council. Recently, the Anbar Salvation Council has sent expeditionary units into Salahadin, Diyala, Babil and Baghdad provinces to organize local Awakening movements and fight al Qaeda.



I'm done with Quiznos - Subway it is.

I was once a die-hard Quiznos fan, at one point eating lunch there at least once per week. I would alternate between my 3 favorite sandwiches: Cabo Chicken, Turkey Bacon Guacamole, and everyone's favorite, the Mesquite Chicken. Both my wife and I signed up for their e-mail distribution and looked forward to getting regular coupons for a buck or two off their sandwiches.

However, something has gone wrong with Quiznos rapid franchise expansion, at least in the neighborhoods I frequent. I first had problems with my orders, particularly orders "to-go" where I would come home and find that a key ingredient was missing - for example, the bacon might be missing from my Turkey Bacon Guacamole, or the guacamole missing from my Cabo Chicken, etc. I finally lost my cool one day when I "dined-in" at my nearest Quiznos and dealt with an indifferent employee who had clearly made my sandwich wrong and then refused to fix it. Luckily his manager intervened and provided me with a free sandwich, ensuring I got the correct one, but the event still left a sour taste in my mouth.

The next problem that began to occur was with coupons. I used to frequent 4 different Quiznos, 2 within 3 miles of my home and 2 more located near my parents home. Quiznos ain't exactly cheap, so even a $1 off coupon is useful. We used to have no problem using coupons from the local paper or coupon mag from the mail. Then Quiznos began to differentiate between the coupons - saying the coupon we presented was not good at their location, only at the other location. Of course, they tell you this after already making the sandwich and as you are trying to pay. This happened at ALL 4 LOCATIONS. And when we complained, the staff were polite but basically told us tough luck.

As if that weren't bad enough, we noticed that our local Quiznos decided to raise prices. Then they stopped accepting the official Quiznos coupons that came via e-mail every month from the Quiznos e-mail distribution list, claiming that people were copying and abusing the e-mail coupon offers. Listen, if you start dealing in internet coupons, people are going to figure out a way to get more than one and of course people are going to use them. While we don't participate in such activity, it's not really our problem that others do - that's the company's problem. And the quickest way to piss off your customers is to start telling them they can't use their coupons, particularly when the coupon comes direct from your company. And that was the last straw.

So despite how good their sandwiches taste, I am done with Quiznos. I have had it. They have so thoroughly alienated myself and my family that there is nothing they could do to bring us back. Subway sandwiches lack the meatiness and flavor of Quiznos, but they are healthier, accept coupons, and at least you get to decide how your sandwich is made - zero risk of getting your order wrong since you are the one who told them how to make it. Equally important, the staff at my 2 local Subways are friendly and outgoing, often greeting me by name and asking if I want "my usual". Not so with Quiznos.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Ugliest Olympic logo ever...."

And that's putting it mildly. Check out London's official logo for the 2012 Olympics over at Hot Air who comments:

It looks like an Air Supply concert T-shirt logo circa 1982. It’s that bad.


They also link to a BBC website where readers have submitted their own versions of logos. I'm with Bryan - I like versions number 3 and 11.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"Al-Qaeda in Lebanon"

Michael Totten reports that Al-Qaeda is in Lebanon and notes:

Lebanon is a weak and divided country. It is also, by far, and despite Hezbollah’s presence, the most liberal and democratic of all Arab countries. More than two thirds of the people who live there (Christians, Shias, and Druze) are considered infidels fit for slaughter by the salafist groups. A large percentage of Sunnis, in Beirut especially, are irreligious and bourgeois and modern. I, for one, am surprised it took Al Qaeda so long to move on them.


So far, the Lebanese Army and government are taking a hard line against the terrorists:

The Lebanese Army is clearing the “camp” of terrorists, booby-traps, car bombs, and even domestic animals rigged with explosives. The government says there will be no negotiated truce with the enemy, that their crimes will be punished with the death penalty either in combat or later in prison. It has been years, decades really, since the government and army of Lebanon have shown this kind of resolve.

They had better keep up the resolve. This crisis may be nearing its end, but it could just as easily be merely the opening shots. Jund al-Sham (The Greater Syrian Army) has gone on full alert in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, Lebanon’s largest, outside the Sunni city of Saida south of Beirut. And Al Qaeda has published a most sinister threat to Lebanon on its Web site.

"Death or Glory": Michael Yon continues his dispatch

....from his embed with British soldiers. Excerpt:

The Queen’s Royal Lancers have been living out in the desert for about six months, like nomads moving from place to place, sleeping under the stars, getting much of their resupply of food and water by nighttime parachute drop as they patrol the Iran-Iraq border. They were living out there, as some officers had told me, in true Lawrence of Arabia style, wearing shamals, sometimes taking camel rides when Bedouins would wonder through their camps with great herds of camels. Some soldiers would go for weeks without bathing, while others would wash-down with a bottle or two of water. Water is strictly rationed.

LTC Nickersl-Ecershall would say that their job was to melt away into the desert, providing the eyes and ears that monitor the border. They’d apparently done their job well. I had been on many patrols with American forces along the Iranian border, but had no idea that Brits were out on desert safari. Although there had been some fighting, the Queen’s Royal Lancers had not lost a single soldier to combat during this tour.

Read the whole thing.

U.S. destroys Iran-supplied rocket teams in Sadr City

Good news on those Mahdi Army "rocket teams" that have been terrorizing the Green Zone with Iran-supplied rockets, from Bill Roggio:

Apache Longbow attack helicopters from the 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division killed 4 Mahdi fighters and destroyed 10 rockets and 1 truck. The air attack was followed up by a ground raid by soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Six Mahdi fighters were captured in “a residence inside Sadr City.” Reuters reported the engagement occurred in the neighborhood of Habibibya, which U.S. forces cordoned.

The Multinational Forces Iraq press release was clear the Mahdi cell was firing rockets, and not smaller mortars. The word “rocket” was used 7 times in the press release. U.S. forces found 107mm rockets in a field north of Sadr City on Friday. “[The cache] was found in an area known to locals as the ‘Jaish Al Mahdi Forbidden Zone,’ where some rocket attacks on Baghdad’s International Zone have originated,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “The cache contained 20 107mm rocket warheads, three fully assembled 107mm rockets, one 60mm mortar and a sandbag full of blasting devices.”

The Washington Post noted on Saturday that Iran has been supplying Shia insurgents with 240mm rockets, with a range of 30 miles, known as the Fajr-3. “Three of the rockets have targeted U.S. facilities in Baghdad's Green Zone, and one came very close to hitting the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital, according to the U.S. officials.” These are the same rockets Hezbollah fired into northern Israel from Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Michael Yon's Memorial Day Message

I was away from home and internet yesterday for the holiday, but Michael Yon was there with a must-read Memorial Day message:

Q has already made it to Germany and is about to be flown home. CSM Pippin is on his way to Germany. Along the way, excellent groups like Soldiers’ Angels will welcome them home, I expect. My readers will find out here where to send messages once that news is released.
Both men often lamented to me how frustrating it was to be back home and realize that the average American is not aware of practically any of the progress that’s been made in Iraq. Both men darken with something closer to anger when they consider the sacrifices made by fallen soldiers and the fact that while the media most likely counted the deaths in all instances, they also most likely failed to mention any of the good things their fellow soldiers had accomplished while in Iraq.

I plan to stay in Iraq for the rest of 2007, doing my part to tell of these and other accomplishments, and both of these men would not have it any other way. But when I do finally get home, I want to see these heroes, and be reminded what Memorial Day is all about.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross reports from Baghdad

...in an exclusive over at The Fourth Rail. It's a long, but necessary read, however I'll leave you with this excerpt:

Right now our country is embroiled in a critical debate about setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Unfortunately, this is one of the most intellectually impoverished political debates that I have ever witnessed, with both sides often resorting to sloganeering and demagoguery rather than substantive argumentation. One thing that my time in Iraq underscored to me is that, in looking at the country, many people see what they want to see. I would often think about the stories that journalists might write if they went where I went and saw what I saw. For example, after my first night on patrol—when the civilians we saw were clearly happy to see U.S. troops and felt comfortable around them—a conservative journalist might write a piece countering the stories about Iraqis hating us and wanting us to leave. Fine—but what about polls indicating that a shockingly high percentage of Iraqis think it’s okay to kill American troops? What about neighborhoods where U.S. troops would encounter a very different reception? On the other hand, a liberal journalist could write a very funny piece about the Iraqi army’s sloth and trigger-happy approach to the world, and conclude that we need to leave immediately because the Iraqi security forces are hopeless and at least a withdrawal will put some fire in their belly. Fine—but what about Iraqi soldiers’ improvements? What about the likelihood that pulling out would guarantee the Iraqi army’s failure?

Thailand: Rumors of a second coup?

Perhaps one wasn't enough. The always invaluable Bangkok Pundit links to a report that soldiers have been dispatched to TV stations to "protect" them from other parties who might use them for their own purposes. Bangkok Pundit wonders:

Who would be behind the second coup? Will it be (1) Thaksin whose army allies have been decimated, (2) Gen. Saprang who has recently been sidelined and his allies, or (3) Gen. Sonthi to consolidate his position even further?


Meanwhile Islamic radicals continue to terrorize and bomb Southern Thailand in their efforts to carve an Islamic state out of the region. As usual, the military idiots in charge of Thailand continue to speculate that the bombings are works of political elements, much like they tried to explain away the Bangkok bombings, when in fact it is painfully aware to everyone but those in charge who is responsible.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Iraq: Exploiting a single narrative

Austin Bay participated in a Q&A with Dr. David Kilcullen, senior counter-insurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq. Austin Bay points us to an article the good Dr. wrote in 2006 explaining that a good counter-insurgency involves "exploiting a single narrative" to counter the enemy's "narrative". Austin asks the pertinent question:

I asked Kilcullen: “What is the single narrative (or alternative narrative) in Iraq? And this is a two-part question. Could you gives us an example of a narrative in a Baghdad neighborhood?”


Kilcullen responded:

That’s been one of the weaknesses in this business over time. I think it is something that is improving now. We have to make certain the story, the message people are getting from Iraqi government institutions is same as message from the US (sources). One of our problems we found is how difficult it is for Americans to generate a message Iraqis find convincing. (That’s why) we need to work with Iraqis, and we are in the supporting role.

(At the moment) the Iraqi government is putting out this message to the people: that you don’t need militias to protect you against terrorists. The government can do that. Gain trust in the government to protect you and move from a dependency on militias.

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

The single narrative the US has pursued is that as they (Iraqis) stand up, we stand down. That message is not particularly comforting to Iraqis. The single big message (the Iraqi government and coalition are sending) now is that we are protecting the population and trying to achieve sustainable stability. We are improving security and doing it to create a sustainable space so Iraqis can do it themselves.

Emphasis mine.

Sadr back in Iraq

Via Bill Roggio:

Sadr is believed to have slipped back into Iraq one week ago. While Sadr's spokesmen have long claimed Sadr never left Iraq, the pretense has now been dropped.

Sadr spoke to over 6,000 followers at a in mosque Kufa, and he railed against the U.S. presence in Iraq. "No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel," Sadr chanted at the opening of his sermon. "We demand the withdrawal of the occupation forces, or the creation of a timetable for such a withdrawal... I call upon the Iraqi government not to extend the occupation even for a single day."

Sadr fled Iraq on January 14, after General Petraeus assumed command of Multinational Forces Iraq and announced the Baghdad Security Plan would be taking effect. Sadr immediately left Iraq and sheltered in Iran, and was guarded by Iran's Qods Force, according to reports.

At least the Mahdi army is a fragment of what it used to be. Now if we can just do something about Sadr.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Banning handguns - so they won't be stolen?

Alphecca makes the obvious point:

By this logic, we could prevent all crimes of theft by simply banning the temptations: Jewelry, laptops, DVD players, cars, wristwatches, prescription pain killers, and so on. Brilliant! As a bonus, by banning private automobile ownership, traffic infractions and drunk driving deaths will drop like a stone.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shakespeare vanishing from American colleges

That's the result of a study done by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Via the Chicago Sun-Times who notes some of the classes being offered by our fine Universities:

At most of America's top colleges, Shakespeare is simply an elective -- one among many. That puts him on a par with literature courses on "Nags, Bitches and Shrews" at Dartmouth; Los Angeles, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Baywatch at Northwestern; baseball at Emory, and "Cool Theory," at Duke, where students devote themselves to the study of a single word of American slang.


Hat tip to Minding the Campus for the article.

Germany attacks Ireland's low corporate tax system as "unfair competition"

From the Irish Examiner:

Ireland has the second-lowest corporation tax rate in the EU at 12.5%, which is credited for creating the celtic tiger, attracting massive foreign investment and jobs. Germany has the highest at 38.6%. In 2004 over €33 billion flooded into the country, almost the same as went to Germany.

German minister Peer Steinbruck warned that Ireland and other low tax countries in Eastern Europe were involved in what he called cutthroat competition that was not sustainable in the long run.

“Corporate tax laws such as those in Ireland are being exploited by German companies that set up subsidiaries there, borrow money from them and then write off the interest against their profits in Germany,” he complained.

The German government is adopting a two pronged attack — first in pushing the European Commission to develop an EU-wide harmonised tax base and secondly by reopening the EU’s Code of Conduct on unfair tax competition.

Mr Steinbruck’s deputy, Axel Nawrath, said they would push the finance ministers of the other member states for a new code of conduct once the German presidency ended at the end of June.

“This is something that must be addressed by the group dealing with the code of conduct. Germany is very adamant about this,” he said.

Politicians from all parties, Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy and business interests have all warned that the plan to harmonise the corporate tax base must be killed.


Big hat tip to Daniel J. Mitchell at Cato@Liberty who comments:

The bad news is that Germany is attacking Ireland. The good news is that the Germans now attack with words and bureaucratic schemes rather than Panzers and Stukas. But the attack - based on German complaints that Ireland’s low tax rates are “unfair” - is nonetheless despicable. Instead of attacking Ireland, the Germans should learn from the Irish Miracle and cut tax rates and reduce the burden of government.

Seeking failure: In Centrist California, Republican Party moves further right.

The Republican Party in California seems intent to doom itself to failure, in this long, but absolute must-read, from Bill Bradley:

The Republican Party in California is in a very odd position. Even as it has a governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has won two landslide elections in a row and boasts a 62% job approval rating for his centrist approach, the party leadership has moved to the far right.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Unlike most Republican voters, according to many polls, these new leaders not only oppose any increase in the minimum wage, but the existence of the minimum wage. “The minimum wage is socialism,” says Fleischman.

They oppose Schwarzenegger’s environmental programs, in particular his drive to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and, in most cases, deny that the greenhouse effect exists. Again, in stark contrast to the views of most Republican voters.

When vitriolic right-wing columnist Ann Coulter called Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, these worthies did not join the chorus of criticism that included all the mainstream Republican presidential candidates.

Asked about that, Fleischman said: “That’s a national issue. We focus on state issues.” Yet his publication featured glowing reports from the conference and he and his bloggers regularly opine about all sorts of national issues.

When Schwarzenegger called Rush Limbaugh “irrelevant” during an appearance on the Today Show, prompting a brief war of words with the gasbag ideologue, the Flash Report sided with Limbaugh over the Republican governor, dubbing the right-wing radio talk show host “America’s Anchorman.”

After a period in which party leadership embraced appeals to independent voters, the fastest growing segment of voters in the state, key to Schwarzenegger’s two victories, the new party leadership wants to ignore them, banning them from participating in next year’s early presidential primary.

“I will order that the primary ballot go to independent voters,” vowed Nehring in a meeting with political reporters after taking over as state party chairman in February. But he didn’t have the authority to do that under party rules, and has not moved to change the rules.

“I don’t know how you function as a modern political party in California without reaching out to independent voters,” says former party chairman Sundheim. He has pushed for their inclusion in the presidential primary.

But the vicars of the far right will have none of it. The bloggers crusade relentlessly against it. As Fleischman puts it: “Only Republicans should decide who our candidates are. If they want to vote in our primary, they should become Republicans.”

It’s an attitude that Democrats adore. “We want independents to vote in our primary,” says strategist Roger Salazar. “Let those guys have their little conservative clubhouse if they want.”


Emphasis mine. Bill Bradley then mentions the wide gap between the far right Republican Party leadership and Republican voters on the issues of global warming and the environment:

As the far right party leaders carp about Schwarzenegger, they are frequent fliers in the face of the views of actual Republican voters. Nowhere is this more evident than on the global warming issue.

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

Schwarzenegger’s environmental polices are overwhelmingly supported by Republican voters, 63% to 19%, in polling late last year by the widely respected Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Schwarzenegger’s own private polls, of course, show much the same thing.

A PPIC poll over the summer showed 62% support among Republicans for unilateral state action, independent of the federal government, to control greenhouse gases leading to climate change and global warming. Only 33% were opposed.

71% of Republicans backed the already existing state law to require automakers to to sharply curtail tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases in upcoming models of motor vehicles. 82% of Republicans back the government spending more money to develop alternative energy sources for motor vehicle fuels.

82% of Republicans want the government to spend more money on developing developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels.

On the specifics of the Schwarzenegger plan on greenhouse gases, 65% of Republicans favor the rollback of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. 69% of Republicans favor the mandatory emission limits being applied to electric power, oil, and natural gas facilities.

Part of the reason for the Democrats continued victories in California is due to the ineptness of their opposition.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Banging the lower-corporate-tax-rate drum

Larry Kudlow joins the chorus of those pushing for a corporate tax rate decrease and notes:

We should not bat an eye at reducing the 35 percent federal corporate tax rate.

And, while we’re at it, we should cut the corporate capital gains tax rate as well. Loews CEO James Tisch, who is justifiably concerned about our long-term competitiveness, is pushing this latter proposal. He believes that hundreds of billions of languishing corporate asset dollars would be unlocked and reinvested if this were to occur. He’s right. The result would be an inevitable infusion of new oxygen into the corporate bloodstream. It would create new businesses and greatly expand existing ones. All this would of course create tens of thousands of new jobs for American workers, not to mention a tidal wave of new tax receipts at Treasury.

Right now, the US and Japan are the flag bearers of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. (When one includes state taxes, the US rate is actually higher—40 percent). Yet, the EU average according to Washington policy analyst Dan Clifton is only 27 percent. And virtually every country around the globe is slashing away at their corporate income tax rate. Ireland’s booming economy boasts a corporate tax rate of only 10 percent. Even France comes in lower than the US. It’s quite clear that we have put ourselves at a significant competitive disadvantage in a very palpable, real sense.


Update: From our friends at Cato@Liberty, add yet another country to the list of those lowering corporate tax rates:

Kiwi officials openly admit that these reforms are driven by a need to compete with other nations, further confirming the need to protect and promote fiscal rivalry from the anti-competition schemes of international bureaucracies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Fred Thompson: First presidential candidate blogger?

Or at least the first one to do it right. Thompson has posted at RedState before. Then after Michael Moore sought a debate with Thompson over criticism for his Cuba trip for his upcoming propaganda documentary film, Sicko, Thompson quickly responded by posting a light-hearted video response while chomping a cigar. And today, Mr. Thompson has a post up at Pajamas Media:

To solve our problems, we have to realize that our country is pretty evenly divided along party lines. With close numbers in the House and the Senate, there will be no real reform without real bipartisanship. Too often, what we are seeing isn’t an effort to find solutions, but rather insults and purely partisan politics. There are many good and responsible people in government who are willing to work together – but the level of bipartisanship needed for real progress can only be achieved when politicians perceive that the American people demand it.

I talked about this a bit a couple of weeks ago out in California. I talked about how I’d recently run across an old clipping of a Thomas Sowell editorial. In it, he pointed out that Wendell Willkie received the largest vote of any Republican for President when he lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. After the election, though, he never let partisanship turn him into an enemy of the administration. Instead of trashing the president, he served as Roosevelt’s emissary to Winston Churchill.

In the same editorial, Sowell also told a story about Churchill. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain died, early in the Second World War, Churchill delivered his eulogy. Though Chamberlain had turned a deaf ear, for years, to all of Churchill’s warnings that could have prevented that war, Churchill praised him. “He acted with perfect sincerity,” Churchill said. “However the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor when we have done our best.”

Compare that magnanimity to what is going on in Washington and much of the Internet today. Sowell asks us, “In this day and time, can’t we have a responsible adult discussion of issues while the nation’s fate hangs in the balance in its most dangerous hour?”


Whatever one may think about Fred Thompson, he has proven to be very net savvy and is quite the communicator via digital resources.

Update: More on Thompson from Peggy Noonan over at OpinionJournal:

He is running a great campaign. It's just not a declared campaign. It's a guerrilla campaign whose informality is meant to obscure his intent. It has been going on for months and is aimed at the major pleasure zones of the Republican brain. In a series of pointed columns, commentaries and podcasts, Mr. Thompson has been talking about things conservatives actually talk about. Shouldn't homeowners have the right to own a gun? Isn't it bad that colleges don't teach military history? How about that Sarkozy--good news, isn't it? Did you see Tenet on Russert? His book sounds shallow, tell-all-y.

These comments and opinions are being read and forwarded in Internet Nation. They are revealing and interesting, but they're not heavy, not homework. They have an air of "This is the sound of a candidate thinking." That's an unusual sound.

Hat tip to - who else? - PajamasMedia.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Turning the tables on the Associated Press

Ouch. Michelle Malkin effectively skewers AP writer Nancy Benac who published a piece critical of GOP candidates, pointing out their lack of "diversity" in appointing advisers vs. the Democratic candidates. She turns the tables on the AP pointing out that of the 22 individuals on the AP Board of Directors 19 are men, 0 are "women of color", and 1 is a "man of color". She's still looking for info on 2 more members. Plenty of photos over at her site.

Crushing of dissent...

...in Thailand where the new military government has punished a radio station for receiving a call from the former Prime Minister Thaksin and allowing him to speak for 10-15 minutes:

Thaksin calls up a radio station in Bangkok and speaks for about 10-15 minutes. What happens to the radio station? The Nation reports:

[Public Relations] Department director-general Pramote Ratvinij said from the UK that he had just learned about the interview and so ordered his officials to "punish" the station for undermining national security.

COMMENT: Am I a national security threat just for mentioning Thaksin's name?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bernard Lewis: Was Osama right?

Interesting article from Mr. Lewis over at OpinionJournal that asks if the U.S. is truly "...pampered and degenerate..." as Osama and the Islamists have claimed :

During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?"
------------------------------------
From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks--on the World Trade Center in New York and on U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, on the U.S. military office in Riyadh in 1995, on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000--all of which evoked only angry words, sometimes accompanied by the dispatch of expensive missiles to remote and uninhabited places.

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

Emphasis mine.

The honest, blunt truth: We just don't care enough.

That's the harsh reality, according to A Second Hand Conjecture, who penned an open letter to Mohammed over at IraqTheModel:

The real reason is we don’t care enough. Why would we value you and your family less? It is a hard thing to say to you, though I have no doubt you know it in your heart. Europe was not only the home of most of our ancestors, the source of the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual traditions which guided us, but it is familiar and comforting to us as well. You, however, are far more culturally, spiritually and historically divorced from us, or at least we believe that to be true. You are the other, Europe is related. I have written of the way we tend to view these things, and it is human nature. Some of us see the gap between our caring for our family, country, and countries we are more familiar with, in descending importance, as smaller than others do. I cannot honestly say I don’t feel to some extent the same way, but the difference isn’t as large as it is for most Americans or Europeans apparently. Iraq was fine when it was thought (foolishly) that it would be quick and easy. Unfortunately Americans are not willing to spend 1/20th of what we would to save Europe in resources, and we are not willing to spend 1/1000th of what we would in casualties, for Iraq. That is the cold hard truth.

I tried to have this conversation with a blogger here in America who is one of the most extreme in her desire for withdrawal. I presented a situation quite analogous to the Middle East, but placed the issue in Europe. In that circumstance she was more than willing to say she would support our involvement. When I pointed out that that was exactly the situation we faced in the Middle East, she abandoned the conversation. She didn’t want to face the implications of it, but we all know it is true.

I don't agree with 100% of this, but it is a detailed, intelligent response well worth the read.

Awesome: Amazon.com to launch DRM-free music store

Over at TechCrunch:

The decision is also another step in bringing down the DRM wall. There may have been a lot of interest and discussion in relation to Apple’s announcement in April, but it’s easily forgotten that as the most popular destination for legal digital music, Apple is also the biggest seller of DRM infected music. Amazon selling only DRM-free music sends a message that a leading retailer is willing to back consumers over big business and that a digital music business can be built and continued using only DRM-free products.


I was a big fan of emusic for this very reason, DRM-free, 100% mine-to-own-music. I pretty much soured on all the other music stores, getting sick and tired of registering my laptop and mobile players with the various music stores or having problems playing or burning CDs. Amazon's announcement is most welcome.

Hat tip to PajamasMedia.

No bias here. Nothing to see. Move along.

What happens when an undercover journalist exposes unethical military recruiting methods? They become recipients of glowing media attention and journalism awards.

What happens when an undercover journalist exposes unethical behavior at Planned Parenthood? They receive zero media attention and are threatened with lawsuits.

"Hamas Kindergarten"

The always excellent Cox and Forkum puts words to pictures:
For more background on "Hamas-Mickey" go here and here.

Multinational forces try to locate missing soldiers - before Al-Qaeda uses them for propaganda

I hadn't commented on the news that Al-Qaeda in Iraq had captured three of our soldiers simply because (1) I've been busy and (2) it's been plastered all over the news and blogosphere by people with far more interesting things to say than me.

However, if you want an honest, on-the-ground update as to what is currently happening in the search for our soldiers, look no further than the excellent Bill Roggio:

The U.S has poured over 4,000 troops into the region, and are back by an unspecified number of Iraqi Army, police and tribal allies throughout eastern Anbar and Karbala. An American military intelligence source informed us the Anbar Salvation Council has devoted assets in the region and are working tribal and insurgent contacts to develop leads in the case. "Every asset has been brought to bear in the hunt for the missing troops," according to a Multinational Forces Iraq press release, "including search dogs, trucks with speakers, unmanned aerial vehicles, law enforcement advisers, and both U.S. and Iraqi troops." Pamphlets have been dropped via air and phone tip lines have been established.


There is an urgency in finding the three soldiers before Al-Qaeda can distribute footage of the soldiers for propaganda purposes:

Al Qaeda in Iraq mocked the U.S. efforts to recover their soldiers, and stated the efforts may in fact endanger their lives. While al Qaeda has claimed it has captured the soldiers, it has yet to release photographs, video or audio to support the claim.

Al Qaeda will want to broadcast footage of the captured soldiers both to demoralize the U.S. public and to reap the rewards of a major propaganda coup. The U.S. will likely have Internet access locked down in the region to prevent the tape from being transmitted digitally, but an individual courier should eventually be able to slip the cordon. If the kidnap cell did not bring its own recording equipment, it will either push to a safe house to make the recording, or a team will press to reach it. Either act can lead to exposing the location of the soldiers. But their chances of survival decreases as soon as the tape is made.

All emphasis mine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"I am Saigon-people"

The next day was another fun-filled day visiting factories and navigating our way through poorly
paved roads, when there were paved roads at all. There’s no sense in boring you regarding my factory visits, needless to say it was more of the same, with government controlled or influenced factories performing on a lower level than those running under a free market orientation. My colleagues from our agent’s office were much more comfortable come lunch time so we didn’t need to meander around for an hour looking for a “suitable” place to eat, we simply grabbed some seats at an outdoor restaurant on the banks of the river and enjoyed a nice local meal. My friends invited me to dinner that night to a popular local place that is frequented by both Vietnamese and expat residents. The food was outstanding and it soon became a game to see what else the foreign white dude would eat. I had reminded them several times that I had lived in Asia before and had traveled extensively, having tried all sorts of strange foods and meats, but they continued to order oddly named local foods in the hopes of getting a reaction from me. While I’ll admit to not knowing some of the things I ate, and am quite sure some of them involved organs or other strange meats I had no knowledge of, it was all cooked and presented very fine and I couldn’t find anything that really shocked my palate.

The next day was more factory visits but we were one person short – one of my enthusiastic hosts had gotten ill from the food the night before while the rest of us were just fine. I was grateful I myself was not ill as I had gotten seriously sick on my previous trip to India. Anyways, our work was finally done and that night I went to bed early after a quick bite to eat with my hosts. I was looking forward to the next day, where I had roughly a half-day to myself before having to return to Thailand.

The next morning I got up, had a quick breakfast at the hotel, grabbed my camera, and started out on the walking tour provided to me by an acquaintance I knew who had traveled to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) many times on business. He had sent me an e-mail with detailed instructions starting from my hotel door on which streets to walk down and what I should stop to see. The hotel was located centrally in the downtown area so it was easy to walk around and see the major buildings and sites. Just a few blocks away was the famous Ben Thanh Market, which is a massive indoor/outdoor market selling just about everything under the sun. For any of you who have been to Bangkok, it is very similar to the famous Chatuchak Market, although not quite as big and mostly indoor. They have sections for fabrics, textiles, electronics, preserved snacks, candy, shoes, coffee, seafood, vegetables, and the list goes on. Just about anything you could conceivably think of they had under this one giant roof – with some overflow outside. I originally planned to get something, but as I walked through the market snapping pictures I realized that not only did I not really need anything, most of it was stuff I had seen at just about every major market I had been to in Asia. I was not a coffee drinker; otherwise the impressive selections of coffee beans and ground coffee would have been enticing. There were some interesting snacks and foods, a few of which I grabbed to snack on, but nothing I felt like trying to pack into my tiny carry on. So I just slowly walked around, soaking in the scene and taking pictures. Not quite as crowded or sweaty as Chatuchak in Thailand, yet the merchants were very pushy whenever they saw a white face. Eventually I grew annoyed at the constant badgering and once again was subjected to grabbing, which I don’t particularly like. Its one thing to badger a person verbally to buy something, quite another when you grab their arm. My theory for dealing with it is to simply ignore them, keeping my personal items close and an eye on them at all times, and gently pulling my arm away while never stopping.

Eventually I got back out onto the hot and humid street and kept walking the various streets, snapping pictures as I walked. I was soon badgered again, this time by more of the “bicycle-shaws” where you sit in a cart pulled by bicycle around the city, and also various street vendors selling maps, trinkets, etc. I continued to decline their offers and eventually one of them asked me “You Saigon-people?” My appearance must have prompted the question. I definitely did not look like the typical tourist – dark slacks, black semi-casual/formal shoes, and a loose, solid color, short-sleeve button down shirt. I did have a camera but it was a small digital one that I held easily in one hand.

Sensing a way out of the situation, I immediately answered “yes, I am Saigon-people” Immediately all the vendors and bicycle guides dispersed, leaving me completely alone. Some of the other nearby vendors must have also heard and didn’t even glance my way as I walked by. On the next block I was again accosted by eager street vendors and I decided to test my newfound phrase, stating again “I am Saigon-people” Again, they quietly turned around and went right back to what they were doing. Lesson learned: If you are traveling in Ho Chi Minh City and don’t want to be bothered while walking the main streets or touristy areas, simply tell them you are “Saigon-people” and that you live there and you should be left alone. Hint: this obviously will not work if you don’t at least somewhat look the part. Nobody is going to believe you if you look like the guy I saw walking across the street – fancy designer sunglasses, gaudy un-tucked shirt unbuttoned halfway down to the waist, sun burnt neck and arms, khaki multi-pocketed shorts packed with junk, cheap sandals, a backpack and a big camera. (Note to world: You wouldn’t walk around your hometown dressed like that (hmm…or maybe you do…?) – so what is it about travel that makes you completely comfortable walking out of your hotel room like that?) (Note to SOME older Western int’l businessmen: I would hope you don’t walk around your hometown, day or night, loudly laughing and talking with your colleagues (for all to hear) about the bar you went to the night before and brazenly ogling and talking about girls you see on the street old enough to be your daughter, or in some cases your grand-daughter. What’s unacceptable at home is just as unacceptable when traveling on business – common sense rules of decency, professional behavior, and politeness don’t disappear just because you crossed an international border.)

So provided you are dressed somewhat normally and aren’t carrying bags of souvenirs (sometimes, understandably, this can’t be helped) you can probably get away with the “I am Saigon-people” line and prevent a lot of unwanted attention from tourist vendors. Of course, if you really are a tourist and are interested in taking a bicycle tour of the city or buying some nifty souvenirs off the street, then by all means ignore my advice. I only had a few hours before my flight and wanted to soak in as much of the city as I could before I had to jet, therefore I wasn’t interested in buying any souvenirs – I was exploring.

For lunch, once again I was amazed at the difference between the area around my hotel, downtown proper (surrounded by office buildings) where the prices aren’t much different from back home, and the neighborhoods a good long walk from the main drag. I had an outstanding bowl of pho (Vietnamese rice noodles with your choice of meats, basil leaves, etc.) that cost me less than USD 1.00, and it filled me up. On the way back to the hotel, I was dying in the heat and grabbed a banana shake from a small cafĂ© about a block away – that cost me USD 5.00 and wasn’t even that good, nor was it of a decent size. An original size Jamba Juice in the states costs 4.50 and tastes better.

Eventually it was time for me to leave and my hotel suggested I leave a good 3 hrs before my flight departure, even though the airport was not even 20 miles away. I took their advice and was glad I did, as it took us over an hour just to get through downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

At the airport it was controlled chaos, as the existing structure was never designed to handle so many people. Unlike India, however, there was some organization to the mess and people pretty much stayed relaxed and the lines were moving. Inside I waited nearly 30 minutes in line only to be told I had to pay the airport tax. I had to go to another line, pick up a form and receipt, and then stand in another line to pay. I got up to the front of the line and the government worker said to me “14 dollars” I explained that I didn’t have any dollars – this was Vietnam and I had plenty of Dong but no dollars. “14 dollars – you must pay!” I again tried to explain that I had no dollars and asked her why, since this was Vietnam and the legal tender was Vietnamese Dong, she insisted on dollars (I knew why, of course, everyone wants dollars as the local currency is pretty much worthless, but of course they can’t tell you that). She again repeated “14 dollars!” I opened up my wallet and showed her all the Dong inside – see? No dollars. “I want to help you, but honestly, I don’t have any dollars, only Dong.” I also pointed out, as nicely as possible, that the airport tax receipt also indicated the tax in Dong, not dollars. She quickly calmed down, realizing that I really didn’t have any dollars and understanding that there wasn’t much she could do about it. She nodded politely and took my Dong and stamped my tax receipt.

Then I had to go back in line and check in again. Whereupon the person working the counter had a runner go back up to the airport tax counter with my tax receipt – I guess to verify, despite the official stamp, that it had actually been paid…..? Then wait for the runner to return, and get my boarding pass. Another very long line through security where they must have stared at and handled my airport tax receipt for 5 long minutes before allowing me to proceed (had there been a recent rash of forged airport tax receipts or something……?). Then another long line to go through outbound immigration. As mentioned in my first report, Vietnam seemed to take immigration very seriously. Once again a very young, very serious young man gave my face and passport, and Vietnam visa, multiple, thorough looks before stamping my passport and allowing me to proceed.

It’s barely an hour flight from Bangkok and I was soon on the ground in Bangkok and headed back to my temporary residence there. All in all it was an interesting trip. Vietnam looks to be a promising place to come for both business and tourism. It is a country full of enthusiastic, smart, and hard working youth and massive development is everywhere. Ho Chi Minh City, at least, reminded me of China roughly 10 or so years ago – on the verge of immense growth and hopefully prosperity for its people. However, there still remains much to be done – transportation infrastructure is very poor and there is widespread corruption and disregard for basic law. Traffic is an absolute nightmare and the weather is unbearably hot and humid almost year round. I highly recommend going and hope to return again someday.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Kurdish government being targeted?

Patrick Lasswell of Moderate Risk says a pattern is emerging and that it's very possible that Al-Qaeda is using disaffected Kurds increasingly angry at the corrupt Kurdish government:

In my last visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, people went out of their way to tell me about corruption in the political process there. Although the KRG spokesmen are adamant that the attacks are driven by Al Qaeda, the possibility that dissatisfied Kurds are being exploited to aid attacks is very real. Government officials are seen as being corrupt from the top down in Kurdistan and by Kurds abroad. A higher casualty count could have been achieved at softer targets like the local markets. These two attacks on semi-hardened government facilities in four days strongly suggests that whoever is behind these attacks made a deal with Kurds infuriated by government failures and corruption.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Although some people in the Kurdish Autonomous Region are doing very well, lack of transparency causes suspicion that is rapidly becoming anger, especially among the uneducated. Without a clear indication of how honest people can do well and government indifference to local producers of goods, dissatisfaction is growing in Iraqi Kurdistan. Especially galling to locals is the widespread importation of goods that can be produced in Iraqi Kurdistan including wheat, water, and produce. Although many are benefiting from the inexpensive free market, the society is moving towards being exclusively consumers.

Zimbabwe elected to UN Commission on Sustainable Development

I find it sadly ironic that a starving, dysfunctional, Zimbabwe can be elected to any commission on sustainable development, considering they long ago dismantled any apparatus they had in place for sustaining any kind of development.

Claudia Rosett comments:

Let’s get real. Zimbabwe’s U.N. coup is not some extraordinary aberration, any more than the massive corruption under Oil-for-Food was due simply to some sort of unfortunate administrative fumbling at the top. This is how the U.N. works. This is how the U.N., as a grand collective, was, unfortunately, configured to work. This is how the U.N. — rolling in American money and support, but lacking any reasonable system of checks, balances, and accountability — will continue to work.

There is by now every sign that the endless production of reports, proposals, and strategies for U.N. reform — an output which during the final two years of the Oil-for-Food-beset former Secretary-General Kofi Annan began to stack toward the ceiling — serves chiefly to produce new programs, projects, and initiatives, coupled with fresh U.N. demands for money. That yields fresh U.N. turf which can then be captured by the same corrupt and unaccountable thugocracy.

McCain improves

From Bill Bradley's New West Notes:

With a lead in Nevada, a statistical tie in California, and a spirited performance at the first Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library outside Los Angeles earlier this month, Arizona Senator John McCain looks like the first comeback candidate of the campaign.


And he thinks Giuliani could be in trouble:

While most have thought that McCain is the candidate in trouble, it is actually Giuliani. He has not developed beyond his strong opening burst in February, and has slid sharply in most national polls since then. Little more than a month ago, he had a clear lead in Nevada. In this latest poll, he is fourth, albeit within a half-dozen points of the leader, McCain. His fundraising in the first quarter was strong, but no stronger than that of the third place Democrat, John Edwards. McCain, who seemed hyper in the begininng, delivered an effective performance at the Reagan Library, but Giuliani tended to fade into the woodwork, impressing only with a remarkably diffident answer on the fate of Roe v. Wade. This led him to refocus his campaign on his historical pro-choice stance, a risky move in the Republican primaries, especially the early ones.

"If you don't have borders, you don't have a nation."

Mark Steyn's latest is a must-read:

Which brings me to the fourth lesson: What fortress? The three Duka brothers were (if you'll forgive the expression) illegal immigrants. They're not meant to be here. Yet they graduated from a New Jersey high school and they operated two roofing companies and a pizzeria. Think of how often you have to produce your driver's license or Social Security number. But, five years after 9/11, this is still one of the easiest countries in the world in which to establish a functioning but fraudulent identity.

Consider, for example, the post-9/11 ritual of airline security. You have to produce government-issued picture ID to the TSA official. Does that make you feel safer? On that Tuesday morning in September, four of the killers got on board by using picture ID they'd acquired through the "undocumented worker" network in Falls Church, Va. Half the jurisdictions in the United States issue picture ID to people who shouldn't even be in the country, and they issue it as a matter of policy. The Fort Dix boys were pulled over for 19 traffic violations, but because they were in "sanctuary cities," any cop who suspected they were illegals was unable to report them to immigration authorities. Again, as a matter of policy.

On one hand, America creates a vast federal security bureaucracy to prevent another 9/11. On the other hand, American politicians and bureaucrats create a parallel system of education and welfare and health care entitlements, main- taining and expanding a vast network of fraudulent identity that cor- rupts the integrity of almost all state databases. And though it played a part in the killing of 3,000 Americans, leaders of both parties insist nothing can be done to stop it. All we can do is give the Duka brothers "a fast track to citizenship."

The Iranians already are operating in South America's Tri-Border area. Is it the nothing-can-be-done crowd's assumption that the fellows who run armies of the "undocumented" from Mexico into America are just kindhearted human smugglers who'd have nothing to do with jihad even if the price was right? If you don't have borders, you won't have a nation -- and you may find "the jobs Americans won't do" covers a multitude of sins.

Chevrolet marketing throws down the gauntlet

By pushing dealers to put a Camry in the showroom right next to the Malibu:

Rick Kranz at Automotive News quoted an unnamed dealer saying Catton is encouraging dealers to do the previously unthinkable "so people can see the difference in styling, the interior, pricing and features." Because Automotive News is subscription-only, I can't provide a link here.

Catton's advice comes as GM prepares for the debut of one of its most important new products. The restyled and redesigned Malibu appears in January as a 2008 model. The current generation has been an also-ran in the mid-size family sedan market for several years. A strong Malibu could be a precedent-setting tool for GM to regain lost market share.


Once again, hat tip to Instapundit who has lots of good stuff today.

Double standards in our Universities: You Don't Say!

While Christian, Jewish, and other faiths are denied any special rights on campus, Universities are all too eager to make exceptions for Muslim student groups:

For example, last year administrators at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College banned a coffee cart operator from playing music “tied to Christmas,” but approved the use of tax dollars to install special basins for Wudu so that Muslims could ritually wash their feet before prayer. College President Phil Davis defended this glaring double standard by absurdly insisting that “the foot-washing facilities are not about religion, they are about customer service and public safety.” At least a dozen other public colleges and universities in the nation have also installed Wudu facilities, including George Mason University in Fairfax.

A GMU spokesman said there were no complaints from other student religious groups when the Muslim Student Association was given permission by administrators to convert a common third-floor meditation room into a makeshift mosque. Would Campus Crusade for Christ be allowed to turn the facility into a makeshift Resurrection scene? The spokesman acknowledged that the other student religious groups have to reserve rooms or meet off campus when they want to pray together. At another state-supported school in Virginia, The College of William & Mary President Gene Nichol recently agreed to return the cross he had removed last year from the college’s historically Christian chapel only after angry alumni threatened to withhold millions in donations.

The paradox strains logic. Church and state remain firmly separated on campuses where the majority of students are Christian, Jewish or of no faith, but administrators toss the principle right out the window to satisfy a minority of Muslim students.


Hat tip to Instapundit.

Want to become a millionaire?

Finance made simple:

Unfortunately most people are looking for a way to get rich quick or to capitalize on the next big thing. It is true that some people have made their wealth through playing the real estate market while others have done so by investing in a few stocks that exploded but this is the exception and not the norm. If the above list seems overly simplistic, good. There are no secrets to becoming a millionaire and almost anyone has the chance to make it happen. The process is simple:

1. Make money
2. Don’t spend all of your money
3. Save some money
4. Invest that money
5. Repeat

Hat tip to Instapundit. I am often struck by how few people seem to understand these basic concepts of what I consider common sense.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson: Lone-Wolf Jihadists and "Al-Qaedism"

Instead, we seek with the logic and reason of the 21st century to sort out why they hate us — a phenomenon well known to crybaby Islamists who can produce new complaints as fast as the old ones are shot down.

So sympathetic Western observers must damn Israel for not giving up all of the West Bank (never asking why Cyprus, the Kuriles, or Tibet have not fostered suicide bombers).

Or is it our presence in Iraq (as if it predated 9/11)? Or is it that we have demonized poor Muslims (as if we have not saved the starving, enslaved, and targeted in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia, or subsidized the failed in Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine; or as if the Chechen-killing Russians or Muslim-burning Hindus are as targeted as we are).

Always we forget that the jihadist mind is of the 7th century, nursed on illusions of ancient grandeur lost to purported Zionism, capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. And why not such writs when they are far easier to manufacture than the necessary introspective self-criticism that might — in search of answers for the miasma that is now the Middle East — focus on warped schools, massive illiteracy, statism, authoritarianism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, or polygamy?


Read the whole thing.

"Lessons for America"

Oleg Atbashian from Pajamas Media has an absolute must read on the state of Russian politics and society back in 1991 and has harsh words for the rabid anti-American protesters of today:

Today’s anti-Bush rallies in the U.S. demand the very opposite of what the pro-freedom Soviets rallied for. By advocating for the government control of economy, the ideological monopoly of the Left, and massive redistribution of wealth, American leftists espouse the same ideas as the backward Soviet hardliners - same song, different verse.

These self-absorbed “progressives” don’t want to hear about the strife of the Soviet people who had learned the hard way that these ideas only result in massive poverty and loss of freedoms for everyone involved. In effect, the leftist rallies spit in the face of every victim of communist oppression, living or dead. That count is in the hundreds of millions.

There’s nothing heroic in disparaging democratic institutions, dishonoring the American flag, and carrying placards with anti-capitalist, anti-American slogans pre-printed for them by communist front groups with the money donated by corrupt foreign dictators. The protesters absurdly accuse this free country of being a fascist dictatorship, fully aware that an hour later they’ll be drinking expensive coffee at Starbucks - and not dragged to a political prison and getting their teeth knocked in - a likely prospect for dissidents in the countries whose leaders they idolize.

Tony Blair - "...a continuation of the government headed by Mr Major."

Samizdata comments on the announcement that Prime Minister Blair is stepping down. It's safe to say they don't think too much of Mr. Blair or the incoming Mr. Brown:

The same policies, more government borrowing, especially in the latter years of the Blair government, more government spending on health, education and welfare (and undermining of the armed forces), more regulations, and more power handed over to the EU.

On Afghanistan and Iraq it is hard to see the government of Mr Major not supporting the Americans (especially in the post 9/11 climate) so no difference on this either.
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I suppose the only real difference might be Mr Brown's 'stealth taxes' with lots of complex ways to increase taxes whilst hoping no one will notice. Such as the Robert Maxwell style raid on the pension funds - which (counting lost interest) has cost about one hundred billion Pounds since 1997 (not much if one says it quick). Of course this might lead to a discussion of all of Mr Brown's Enron style PFIs and other complex schemes - but I find the subject too depressing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Diyala tribal leaders mobilize against Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Much like Anbar province, where tribal leaders have united against Al-Qaeda, tribes in Diyala are now also uniting against the Al-Qaeda presence there. As the surge in Baghdad got under way, Al-Qaeda and foreign fighters fled the city in advance and moved their operations over to Diyala, where their presence has become intolerable for the local tribes there. Bill Roggio has the details:

In March, we noted the successful model of the Anbar Salvation Council will very likely be replicated elsewhere in regions where al Qaeda has established bases of operation. We singled out Diyala in particular, as al Qaeda's campaign of murder and intimidation was beginning to anger the tribes much as it did in Anbar province. Al Qaeda's establishment of its Islamic State of Iraq, with its capital in Baqubah made the province ripe for a major Coalition operation in the region. In early March, Al Sabaah reported the local sheikhs in Diyala were organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." Today, the speculation has become a reality, as "Arab tribesmen in Baqubah have said they will form a tribal alliance to cleanse the Diyala province of foreign fighters and those of the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Iraq."


Read the whole thing.

Hamas' "Mickey" show cancelled

Jules Crittenden speculates:

I’m wondering if they didn’t get a “come to Jesus” call from Disney’s attorneys. That would put the fear of Allah in anyone.

Are the Democrats doomed?

Larry Kudlow seems to think so:

To a person, each Democratic presidential candidate wants to undermine the global war against jihadist terrorism -- wherever it may be, and especially in Iraq. The Democrats see a civil war in Iraq, where the Republicans view a growing al-Qaida threat. And while Republicans talk about significantly increasing the defense budget and expanding American force levels for all the armed services, the Democrats are hoping for some sort of Iraqi peace dividend upon immediate withdrawal -- one that can be re-channeled into higher domestic social spending.

To a person, each Democratic presidential candidate also wants to raise taxes on the rich and roll back President Bush's tax cuts. The Republicans, however, understand that those tax cuts have propelled economic growth and contributed to a stock market boom. And they recognize that Bush's Goldilocks bull-market economy -- which I call the greatest story never told -- relies on extending the investor tax cuts and perhaps even moving forward with a flat tax or national sales tax.

Finally, to a person, each Democratic presidential candidate also has it in for corporate America. The Democrats discuss various punishments for business -- especially oil companies, but also drug, utility and insurance firms. Not so for the Republicans, who talk about helping businesses and promoting entrepreneurship in our successful free-enterprise economy.

Roger L. Simon reviews "Islam vs Islamism"

The documentary that PBS refused to show and doesn't want people to see:

Burke’s doc is a riveting and creatively made film about the most important subject of our time: what to do about radical Islam? It confronts this dilemma in a sly, novelistic manner, inter-weaving the stories of good, moderate Muslims with the Imams and supposedly “true Muslims” who, not surprisingly, accuse the moderate Muslims of not being Muslims at all. Soon enough we learn these Imams are apologists for terrorism and for the worst kind of medieval religious sadism. (One of them enthusiastically endorses the stoning to death of adulterers by holding up a Koran. “I didn’t make this up,” he says proudly. “It is written here.”) The mostly mild-mannered moderate Muslims are shown to be at risk for the lives, some of them accompanied everywhere by bodyguards.

All this is done with the people talking about themselves and revealing themselves (including the Imam responsible for the bloody Danish Cartoons riots). There are no so-called “terrorism experts” or other talking heads interpreting reality for us. In other words, this is a film, not another one of those didactic docs referred to above.

But it does have a strong point of view – and therein lies the rub. PBS, clearly, does not like what this movie says. And I suspect it likes it less because the film is well made (the reverse of what the network originally claimed).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What the media missed.

Fred Thompson takes note of a few issues the media has missed in its coverage of George Tenet and his newly released book:

On the issue of al Qaeda’s relationship with Iraq, for example, Tenet said that the CIA had proof of al Qaeda contact with Saddam’s regime; that the regime had provided safe haven for al Qaeda operatives and that Saddam had provided training assistance for al Qaeda terrorists. He went on to say that the CIA had no proof that the relationship was operational or that they had any ongoing working relationship — that it could have been that each side was just using the other. Maybe my recollection is faulty on this, but that doesn’t seem to be inconsistent with what folks in the administration said. In other words, there was clearly contact and a relationship, but no one knew exactly what it meant.

On the issue of weapons of mass destruction, although Iraq undoubtedly had such weapons in the past, Tenet acknowledges that everybody got it wrong as to whether they would have them at the time of the invasion. On the nuclear issue, he said that the CIA thought that Saddam was five to seven years away from a nuclear capability — unless he was able to obtain fissile material from another source.

Irony: Fort Dix terror suspect was once an Albanian refugee at Fort Dix

Via Michelle Malkin:

As I suspected, Agron Abdullahu, one of the Jersey Jihadist suspects, was indeed one of the thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo whom we welcomed there in 1999 (hat tip: Allah):
A trained sniper during the war in Kosovo, Abdullahu and his family were among thousands given safe haven in the U.S. under the Clinton administration to protect them from the Serbs. For months, they would be housed in refugee camps at Ft. Dix, a circumstance which now points to a terribly ironic twist.

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Well, here is the thanks we get. Eight years ago, America opened its arms to tens of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo. The first planeload landed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Military leaders worked day and night to turn the base into a child-friendly village. They coordinated medical and security checkups, mental health and trauma counseling and ethnic food preparations.

Soldiers from Fort Bragg traveled up from North Carolina to assist in refugee operations at Fort Dix. Then-U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mitchell M. Zais also assembled a team of about 80 soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Atlanta. The New Jersey National Guard and American Red Cross teamed up to coordinate charity relief. The military also supported the relief effort's interagency task force, headed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to food and shelter, we provided translators, welfare consultants and Muslim chaplains. The base constructed prayer rooms and handed out Muslim "sensitivity" cards to the troops. Said Gen. Zais: "We want to welcome these people to America the way we might wish our grandparents and great-grandparents had been welcomed to Ellis Island."


Apparently, despite our goodwill, at least one of them harbored ill-feelings towards America.