February 23, 2006
Some good sense on the Ports
The choking fog of nonsense and islamophobic/xenophobic shouting is giving way, at last, to some good sense. There are people willing to take a look at the situation before taking Chuck Shumer's word on it.
Everyone seems to think that the administration was exceedingly foolish to not realize that this was a dangerous position politically, but I am going to disagree. First of all, the reason not to be "prepared for a storm" is that there is nothing really there. How can one be prepared for a mass hallucination? This is a normal run-of-business deal, that actually takes place elsewhere. One group of foreign nationals we like sells a firm to another group of foreign nationals we like. No one in Washington "awarded" anything to anyone.
I suspect that a shift from some English owners to some Arab owners didn't raise warning flags with the people involved because they know both parties well. We do a lot of business with the UAE today, and now we'll do a bit more. I strongly suspect that Congress has been fully briefed but either did not attend the briefing (very common practice on Capitol Hill) or didn't pay much attention. Now they are shocked to find that foreigners are doing business in this country.
What will they do when they discover that the ships unloading in those ports are foreign owned and staffed, and that there are foreign airlines operating in U.S. airports. Those folks from Lufthansa are acquiring vital information about the operations of our air facilities, and Germany has ties to terrorism (or at least some Germans did, which in this new way of thinking amounts to the same thing.)
Welcome to globalisation, folks. I'm afraid it is too late to fight it, we have to make our peace with it and learn how to live in a shrinking world.
Technorati Tags: Ports
February 22, 2006
Jiim Geraghty has some background on how the conservative blogosphere got scammed
So it looks like the AP and Chuck Shumer floated some very misleading comments around, and some big-time bloggers took the bait.
The controversy over this port sale have been driven by a great deal of vague, ominous and sloppy language thrown around by lawmakers, the media and bloggers. Had this discussion been marked by precision and a focus on just what was at stake, this would not have turned into the brouhaha it did. One almost wonders if the misleading language was deliberate.
Declaring that the UAE “has financial links to the 9/11 hijackers” makes it sound like the country’s government itself backed the attacks instead of some of its citizens; if that were the case, we would have invaded them.
Just what does it take for a country to have, as a New York Post editorial put it, “ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers?” The editorial observes that the country’s “banking system - considered the commercial center of the Arab world - provided most of the cash for the 9/11 hijackers.” Terrorists look to financing in Dubai for the same reason Billy the Kid robbed banks; that’s where the money is. I’m sure terror financing runs through Dubai; financing for just about every economic activity in the region runs through Dubai.
“Much of the operational planning for the World Trade Center attacks took place inside the UAE.” Well, the Hamburg cell planned a lot in Germany. Are we to distrust German companies? Does this fact outweigh the fact that our military leaders credit the UAE for cooperation and help in the war on terror, and call them “very, very solid partners”? Do we suspect that Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace are lying, and putting American lives at risk because they really want to see this deal go through?
Here's a WashPo rundown on the development of the story.
I myself would fault President Bush for many failings, but lax interest in security is not one of them. When I saw reports that Bush had "sold our nations ports to the Arabs," implying, of course, "Arab terrorists", my first reaction was, "that can't be correct." The news these days is absolutely full of misleading BS, so why believe this?
The more you look at this story the less there is there. We'll get hammered in the Muslim press, of course, only this time we'll deserve it.
Technorati Tags: Ports
A reminder on why I'm a centrist
Yes, the Left is insane these days, but its also good to remember that the Right has its own blockheads.
These people got rolled. Someone whispered a shocking revelation about the Bush administration, that is not the least bit true, and they bought it, hook, line and sinker. Then they ran to the microphones and put into the permanent record the evidence of their own gullibility and knee-jerk bigotry. As we get closer to the mid-terms, look for the Democrats to "leak" news that Bush has secretly sold all American children to space aliens to be kept as slaves. Watch the Right go bonkers protesting the "secret deal."
February 21, 2006
The RINO sightings has been released to an anxious public, and can be viewed at AllThingsJennifer.
In the face of hysteria, let's deal with the truth
The Muslim world, or at least a highly visible part of it, has erupted into a raging hysteria over what they claim is rampant anti-Islamic feelings in the Western nations. Most commenters in the West, myself included, believe that this is a manufactured offense, and a manufactured rage. Both the charge and the reaction are based on deliberate misinformation, which has fueled the well-fed paranoia of the region. The antidote to this madness is truth.
In the West we hold to a concept of symmetry and balance that the Muslim world does not share. We try, in our better moments, to treat them with the same fair hand we would hope they would show us. As I mentioned, the Muslim leadership has been clear that they don't hold with this thinking, so we would be naive in expecting them to recognize that they themselves are guilty of what they accuse of the Danish cartoonists. No, this idea of fairness and balance is our morality, not theirs. Nevertheless, it matters. No matter how the Imams and Mullahs feel about the rest of the world, we have made our own position clear. Now, will we live up to it?
We claim that the charges against our society are unfair and untrue. Are they? If we have any hope of ever winning the battle against the psuedo-religious bigotry that fuels terrorism, we will need to eradicate any similar feelings amongst ourselves. When Americans react angrily to the sale of a British company to an Arab owned company, on what facts do they base their anger? Let's be honest; there is only one fact in circulation, the old owners were British, the new owners are Arabs. Apparently, that's all America needs to hear.
Let's deal with the truth, folks. This is why a handful of Imams can raise a riot so easily. We have a habit of providing our enemies with just the ammunition they need. We have long preached a practice we cannot bring ourselves to follow. If we are going to defeat radical Islam, and prove its paranoia wrong, we have to locate and support the moderate Muslims. We have to take real steps to be good friends to people who are willing to be our friends, and demonstrate the that we mean what we say.
Truth is, I don't figure we're much safer under a British-owned company. Having "friends in the region" is a vital part of any victory in this new form of warfare, and friends with money and power are the best sort. But practical considerations aside, there is no reason to object to this deal except for the owners race or religion. That "looks bad", to say the least.
So...the radical rabble-rouser's in the Muslim world have said that Western societies are:
I'd have a hard time arguing with points one and two. The press, in Denmark and elsewhere, likes to insult my religious beliefs too, and I am sickened by much of what my own culture celebrates. I get angry about it just as they do, and I'd stop reading the Danish press if I had ever started reading the Danish press. For what it's worth, I don't read much of the U.S. press anymore these days either. The third point, however, is the critical one. If it is true, or believed to be true, the gulf between us will become too deep to bridge, and our only hope for peace is in the bridging of this gap.
Our "case" has always been based on an appeal to the truth. We ask to be judged not on rumors or aspersions, what someone claims about our motives, but on the truth of our actions. Our enemies have claimed that we will never offer fairness to Muslims, that we will never treat them as equal partners. This would be an opportune moment to prove them wrong.
UPDATE: Squiggler has some background on the business and the claim that "Bush is giving control of the Port to the Arabs" which is bunk. This is a relatively simple business deal, not a Bush giveaway. The UAE is buying this company from Some Brit's with good money, I assume, they have every right to own a company. Given our good relations with the UAE why should this deal elicit hysteria. Instapundit has more details, although Glenn seems to be doubtful about the contract himself.
There are some good bloggers out there doing themselves a real disservice today. They are saying things that do not stand to their credit, but I have read these authors for months and know them to be better than this. If the company hiring stevedores in some ports was sold to some Chinese investors (not at all an unrealistic possibility) would we be demanding congressional investigations? How about if the new owners were Greek, or Indian? Singaporean? French? Why can't we do business with an Arab company? Is it because it is here in the US that the business services are provided? US firms have been all over the Arab world providing business services for generations. Now that the Arabs are in a position to do business here in the U.S., we're going to slam the door?
I'm not dense, I know this is about 9/11. But this reaction comes from the same unfortunate human weakness that gives rise to the cartoon riots and indeed to much of the terrorism. The U.S. was not attacked on 9/11 by the whole of the Muslim world or by all of the Arab world. This is the sort of broad-stroke identity politics that our enemies use against us. There are people in the world who note that the crusaders were white Christians and feel anger at America, because many Americans are also white Christians. This is dangerously flawed thinking, as I expect most Americans would agree. How then can we hold that because a relatively small group of disaffected Arab men attacked us, the United Arab Emirates cannot be trusted? This terror war is effecting us in a very bad way. We are becoming the people our enemies make us out to be.
Technorati Tags: Ports
The "Crunchy Cons" get some organization
Rod Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News and contributor at The Corner, has been writing about what he calls "Crunchy Cons" or conservatives who have a bit of environmentalism and perhaps a touch of social ethic about them. Rod has turned this idea into a book and now has a permanent blog location on NRO for the Crunchies.
I may not be conservative enough to qualify as one of Rod's Crunchy Cons, but I sure like their ideas and approach. The new site features a "Crunchy Con Manifesto" (gotta get me one of those "manifesto" things.) Item number two summarizes the whole movement nicely:
2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
I think you could same the same about most of modern culture, not just the conservatives.
Personally, I'm whole-heartedly on board for most of the ten points, except perhaps for #6 and #7, which deal with reverence for the "Small, Local, Old, and Particular" and a suspicion of the drive for efficiency. I'm not going to argue against these ideas, but as much as I revere the old (much of the music on my iPod is more than 300 years old) I have a lot of faith in the new as well. I also like efficiency, but like any positive drive, it an be twisted to bad ends. Perhaps I am too technophilic to qualify as a true Crunchy Con.
In any case, the best thing here is someone taking a stand for the very old-fashioned conservative idea of stewardship and preservation. That the stewardship of the earth and its resources has become somehow associated with Leftist thinking is a mystery and a great shame. I would toss in concern for the climate as well. These issues ought to transcend politics, but, having been captured by the crafters of partisan "spin" have been terribly distorted and abused.
Rod indicates a suspicion of "Big Business" as well, linking it to "Big Government." There is some truth in this view, a lot of truth actually, but Rod should be careful to avoid the "anti-business" label. The environment and the climate have been unfairly characterizes thusly and it clouds the discussion. There is a lot of opportunity for business in the environmental challenges and also a great risk. Climate change is not good news for the agriculture industry, which despite lack of "coolness" is a very big dollar industry for the U.S. and others.
I have ordered Rod's book and will report on it. In the meantime, keep an eye on the new blog.
February 20, 2006
The angry extremes
Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes a short piece in the Opinion Journal today on the dangers of political anger. Brooks doesn't provide the source research for the claims he makes in this oped, but I'm not going to argue. The professor is "preaching to the choir" as far as I'm concerned.
To begin with, there is abundant evidence that extreme political opinions lead to the personal demonization of fellow citizens. Consider, for example, how those on the far left and far right respond when asked for a zero-to-100 score of their feelings toward people with whom they disagree politically. Political scientists find that scores below 20 on these so-called feeling thermometers are very unusual--except on the political fringes. Indeed, according to the 2004 National Election Study, one in five "extremely liberal" people gave conservatives a score of zero, a temperature you or I might reserve for Osama bin Laden. The same percentage of "extremely conservative" people gave liberals a zero.
Ironically, these angry folks tend to feel that they are more compassionate than others--while their personal actions tell a different story. Take people on the far left. According to the General Social Surveys in 2002 and 2004, those who say they're "extremely liberal" are 20 percentage points more likely than moderates to say they feel concern for less fortunate people. But this doesn't appear to translate well to a deep concern for any individual: This group is also 20 points less likely than moderates to say they'd "endure all things for the one I love." To some, this might support the stereotype that the far left loves humanity--but only in large groups.
Like extreme liberals, extreme conservatives are more compassionate in theory than in practice: They are slightly more likely than centrists to say they "feel protective of people who are taken advantage of." Unless, it seems, they are the ones taking advantage: It turns out they are substantially less likely than moderates to act honestly in small ways, such as returning change mistakenly given them by a cashier.
These results certainly square with my personal experience. I also agree with Brook's assertion that the number of Americans out on the angry extremes is growing, and that this is bad news for America.
A candidate winning a governorship or the presidency usually mutters a common platitude to the effect that they intend to be the "President of all the people." A few of the more centrist-minded might even mean it. Of course, it is literally true; G.W. Bush is the President for all Americans including Democrats. We know that they are unhappy about that, but the more interesting question is how does Bush, or any such political leader, feel about the people who opposed him in the election.
Does winning the election mean "it's pay-back time!" or is it a call to relax the ideological barriers and try to appreciate and integrate the ideas and desires of all one's constituents. I'm not so naive to believe that the highly partisan candidates of today will magically transform into centrist coalition builders upon election, but I do not think it unreasonable to ask that leaders feel respect for all the people they lead, not just those that donated to the campaign war chest.
There are powerful voices in our political debate who make a point of bragging their depth of hatred for a large chuck of Americans. I hope I am not alone in finding that distressing. Even more distressing is the thought of such people gaining power over the country. In the heat of a campaign it can be difficult to remember that the "other-guys" are fellow Americans, neighbors, whom we supposedly respect and even love. Difficult to do but vital. If the guy I didn't support wins the election, I am disappointed. That's natural, but I can remain calm and constructively involved in the community if I believe that the new leader takes my well-being seriously. But if the new leader openly expresses his hate for me, because of my religion, or race, or because I have tended to vote for people with different priorities and ideas; well then I might get pretty nervous, and be less eager to cooperate.
As bad as things are in the U.S., they seem worse abroad. "Sowing the wind" seems the common practice throughout the Muslim world, and we all dread the harvest. Our old friends in Europe argue over whether it is better to hate the U.S. for doing too much in the middle-east, or for doing too little. Being clever fellows, perhaps they will find the means to hate us for both.
I take refuge, in my less rational moments, in a happy dream about a candidate and a party who are not defined by hatreds and anger, and a country that tires of bile and snarling, turning, perhaps in boredom, to the "refreshingly-new," old idea of American optimism. Some of us can remember how the Reagan campaign in 1980 felt after a decade characterized as 'malaise." Are we too cynical now to be moved by such a corny approach? Have we become sophisticated like the Euro's, expressing the customary pleasantries and believing none of it?
As I said, it's just a day-dream, but it keeps me moving these days...
Technorati Tags: political anger
February 18, 2006
A hunting accident ends up being a story about the media
I don't hunt and I'm neither a Cheney advocate nor Cheney hater, so this hunting accident story doesn't grab me much, except as it has developed into a story about a "meltdown" (as some have characterized it) among some of our nation's more self-exulted egos. All this has served to remind me of the low regard I feel towards the Washington press corp and the major media outlets. I am thankful that I have learned to avoid them. I have not seen any of the reporting on this story itself. Indeed, I have not set eyes on a television news broadcast in a while, and am a happier, and I think better informed man because if it.
Some blogger who's post I have misplaced (I'll add a link if I can find it) noted that this media has determined that cartoons which have brought deadly riots to much of the world are not newsworthy, but an accident on a private ranch is the sort of news that cannot wait a few hours. Just as in the cartoon story, we can see through the words to the true motivation. The insult in Denmark was not to a prophet but to the authority of the Muslim leaders who forbid the publication of the cartoons, and the anger in the press is not that an important story was suppressed, as there is no important story here, but that they were circumvented.
Listening to them makes me angry and sad. A vigorous, honest and free press would be a wonderful thing at the moment, but we are not so fortunate.