Sunday, September 30, 2007

Your Foreign Policy at Work

This is astonishing:

Britsh MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America's stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked to be told by one of President Bush's senior women officials: "I hate all Iranians."


The all-party group of MPs say Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, made the comments this month.

The six MPs were taken aback by the hardline approach of the Pentagon and in particular Ms Cagan, one of Mr Bush's foreign policy advisers.

She made it clear that although the US had no plans to attack Iran, it did not rule out doing so if the Iranians ignored warnings not to develop a nuclear bomb.

It was her tone when they met her on September 11 that shocked them most.

The MPs say that at one point she said: "In any case, I hate all Iranians."

Although it was an aside, it was not out of keeping with her general demeanour.

"She seemed more keen on saying she didn't like Iranians than that the US had no plans to attack Iran," said one MP. "She did say there were no plans for an attack but the tone did not fit the words."

Another MP said: "I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming."

Where does the Bush Administration find these people?

[via LR]

Profiles in Blackballing

The GOP's big tent might start getting a lot smaller if Giuliani is nominated.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Rep. Nass Puppet Regime

Check out these utterly emasculating opening paragraphs of an article on Rep. Steve Nass of Whitewater in the Isthmus (subsequant emphasis added):

For someone who generates headlines by vigorously attacking the UW every chance he gets, state Rep. Steve Nass is a remarkably quiet man. During long conversations about the UW, the Republican lawmaker from Whitewater sits mostly silent, hands folded, nodding his head as his research assistant, Mike Mikalsen, does the talking.

Nass is actually the chairman of the Colleges and Universities committee in the state Assembly. One would expect him to be rather knowledgeable about -- oh, I don't know -- perhaps, colleges and universities? But apparently not (as will be discussed a few grafs down). Instead he lets his, and this part I love, "research assistant" do all the talking?

Are you kidding me? What legislator in his or her right mind would let their staff do most of the talking to a reporter while the legislator himself is sitting in the room? It looks awful. I mean, really awful. Nass' bread and butter issue is slamming UW and it turns out he really doesn't have all that much to say about the subject? Yet his staffer is somehow a font of knowledge on the matter? Any reader worth their fourth grade education has to start asking themselves who is really in charge of that office.

Mikalsen, who has worked in the Legislature for 16 years, including 12 with Nass, behaves like Nass' critics might expect him to. He sputters and growls and waves his arms. His tone ranges from mild disgust to infinite disdain as he describes the UW's various transgressions.

Again, Nass appears rather stoic about the UW system while his staffer is described as being almost unhinged at very idea of the state university education. But it gets better:

He also makes more inflammatory comments than his boss. Explaining Nass' 2005 push to make faculty follow codes of conduct, including not making "anti-American" statements, Mikalsen says, "Part of the issue is we have foreign-born professors. Those professors say things."

What a load of completely disingenuous nonsense. We all know who we're talking about here: Kevin Barrett, whom, last I checked, wasn't foreign-born but is actually from -- wait for it -- Nass' own hometown of Whitewater.

Nass at one point acknowledges that Mikalsen dominates the conversation about the UW, explaining that legislators often don't have time to delve too deeply into issues. "That's just the nature of the beast," he says. "So it's essential that the Legislature has good staff." Still, at times it seems as though Nass is playing second fiddle to his assistant.

OK, it's obvious who wears the pants in Nass' office -- and it's not the person the people of Whitewater elected.

First of all, there is no excuse for Nass not being well-acquainted enough with the issues involving the UW system that he can't speak to a reporter without the help of his staffer. If he can't, he has no business serving on the committee, to say nothing of serving as the committee's chairman.

Secondly, if Nass is going to let his staffer run his mouth, his staffer better back up his words with a little evidence. I don't know if Vicki Kratz, the article's author, asked any follow up questions after Mikalsen's xenophobic statement that suggests all foreign-born professors are by their nature anti-American, but he should be required to cite specific examples of behavior before even thinking about expecting to get away with something that cheap.

More reporters should look into the relationship between Nass and his staffer because it's obvious that the elected official isn't calling the shots (at least on the UW issue). If I were a journalism major working at one the UW systems' school newspapers right now I'd be licking my chops trying to get a piece of a story about an unaccountable Svengali. So Badger Herald, Daily Cardinal, Advance-Titan -- go nuts.

Finally, and this is for Nass and Mikalsen, never ever ever get your picture taken together again -- especially like the one that ran in the Isthmus. Just take a good long look at it for a second. Everything about it reinforces the gist of the article that Mikalsen is the one in charge here. Nass looks like he's 3' 5" and appears very diminutive standing in front of his stocky and plump staffer. The best detail about this photo is the little piece of Mikalsen's hand that's resting on the building to the right of Nass. Not only does it look like the staffer has his arm around his boss' shoulder -- simultaneously protecting and guiding him -- but I can't help get the impression that the staffer's hand is just waiting for the right moment to bring his marionette (i.e. Nass) to life.

The WaPo IED Report, Part I

According to the Washington Post, the IED jammers I've noticed coming down the appropriations pipeline (here and here) have been a huge part of explosive countermeasures in bothe Afghanistan and Iraq:

If no one foresaw that within four years more than 30,000 jammers of all sorts would be in Iraq, a few suspected that something big had started. "We're going to need a lot more jammers," Col. Bruce Jette, who commanded the Army's Rapid Equipping Force at Fort Belvoir, told a Fort Monmouth engineer in August 2003. "And eventually we're going to need a jammer on every vehicle."

The history of these jammers is actually pretty amazing and winds through extremely classified Secret Service projects to protect presidential motorcades to measures used by the Navy:

For decades, electronic countermeasures had been a vital part of airborne combat for Navy fliers. Submariners also considered it a "core mission," as did surface ship officers. "It's how I deal with cruise missiles coming at me," said Rear Adm. Arch Macy, commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Washington.

One of the article's more sobering moments is a series of statistics that shed light into just how pervasive the IED probably is in Iraq:

Yet U.S. strategists, who before the invasion failed to anticipate an insurgency, also drafted no comprehensive plans for securing thousands of munitions caches, now estimated to have held at least 650,000 tons and perhaps more than 1 million tons of explosives...

More than a year after the invasion "only 40 percent of Iraq's pre-war munitions inventory was secured or destroyed," the Congressional Research Service reported this summer.

Tens of thousands of tons probably were pilfered, U.S. government analysts believe. (If properly positioned, 20 pounds of high explosive can destroy any vehicle the Army owns.) The lax control would continue long after Hussein was routed: 10,000 or more blasting caps -- also vital to bombmaking -- vanished from an Iraqi bureau of mines storage facility in 2004, along with "thousands of kilometers" of detonation cord, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst.

(Emphasis added)

Think about that bolded parenthetical sentence for a second. That's an incredible neutralizing figure illustrated by this anecdote:

A large explosion along a roadbed near Balad in October of that year flung a 70-ton M1A2 Abrams tank down an embankment, shearing off the turret and killing two crewmen.

If those numbers aren't frightening enough the insurgents have also demonstrated a wily capacity to adapt on the battlefield:

Camouflage remained simple, with bombs tucked in roadkill or behind highway guardrails. (Soldiers soon ripped out hundreds of miles of guardrail.) Emplacers often used the same "blow hole" repeatedly, returning to familiar roadside "hot spots" again and again. But early in the insurgency, before U.S. troops were better trained, only about one bomb in 10 was found and neutralized, according to an Army colonel.


Each week, the cat-and-mouse game expanded. When coalition convoys routinely began stopping 300 yards from a suspected IED, insurgents planted easily spotted hoax bombs to halt traffic, then detonated explosives that had been hidden where a convoy would most likely pull over.

So where does the MRAP fit into the milieu? Rick Atkinson, the article's author, suggests that the delay in moving MRAPs into the theater was both an administrative and field decision:

Two weeks after taking command from the retiring Gen. Tommy R. Franks, Abizaid publicly described resistance in Iraq as "a classical guerrilla-style campaign," a blunt appraisal that reportedly irked the Pentagon's civilian leadership. But the amount of unsecured ammunition in Iraq, particularly in Sunni regions, alarmed him. So did the realization that many Iraqi military officers -- unemployed and disgruntled after the national army was disbanded in late May -- possessed extensive skill in handling explosives.

Abizaid hoped that American technical savvy would produce a gadget that could detect bombs at a distance, "a scientific molecular sniffer, or something," as he put it. "We thought the problem would spread," Abizaid later reflected, "but it didn't appear overly sophisticated." Underestimating the enemy's creativity and overestimating American ingenuity, a pattern established before the war began, continued long after the capture of Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. ground commander in Iraq, told Pentagon strategists that he hoped to minimize the military's "footprint" in Iraq by maintaining an occupation force that was two-thirds motorized and only one-third mechanized. "What I don't want is a lot of tanks and Bradleys," Sanchez said, according to a senior Army commander.

The rest of piece details a special forces group that was assembled to assess the IED threat in Iraq and recommend countermeasures. and some of the initial measures (such as up-armored Humvees) that were used against the threat. Atkinson concludes the article by hinting at another struggle likely to be a major part of the IED story: the money issue.

Creation of the Joint IED Task Force would dramatically expand the U.S. effort. A $100 million budget in fiscal 2004 would mushroom to $1.3 billion in 2005. In subsequent meetings with industry executives and the national research laboratories, Wolfowitz declared that there was no higher priority. Within the Defense Department, countering IEDs would be second only to exterminating Osama bin Laden.

In fact, IEDs were likely more important than finding bin Laden at the time or at least quickly becoming so, as the CIA's bin Laden unit was in the process of disbanding in late 2005.

MORE: The Armchair Generalist weighs in.

EVEN MORE: Max Boot: "[T]echnology seldom confers a lasting advantage in military affairs. What counts is not having the right tools per se, but how you make use of them, and especially whether you can adapt faster than your adversaries."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Rudy's Goons

One of the lessons that Americans should take away from the failed Bush presidency should be that the people a candidate surrounds himself with are frequently just as important as the candidate himself. Right now Rudy Giuliani is failing that test big time -- what with all of the coke-dealing state campaign chairmen, national tragedy exploiters, and Norman Podhoretz. Now it's out that it was Rudy's guy who was behind the effort to split California's electoral votes:

A close friend and major fundraiser of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has identified himself as the mystery financer of the proposed California initiative to apportion the state's 55 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all.

He is New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. He said he provided the $175,000 to initially finance the petition drive to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot. But as The Times' Dan Morain revealed in an exclusive story on this website last night, the drive has foundered on internal disputes and lack of further financing.

This is no small matter. Rudy is clearly the guy the White House wants to win the GOP nomination and voters should really understand what their getting themselves into by giving Hizzoner a look.

Why is the Dollar Slipping? Oil.

Last week I pointed out that the Canadian dollar was at parity with the U.S. greenback, but when the market closed today our dead presidents were actually worth less than our neighbor's "loonies." Wonder why that is?

The generally weak American dollar has helped, of course, but another reason for the rise of the loonie (the nickname of our dollar) is oil: "'Among the G-10 nation currencies, the Canadian dollar is used more than any other as a proxy for oil,' Rebecca Paterson, global currency strategist at J.P. Morgan in New York, said in an interview. 'So when oil prices rise, anyone that wants to bet on oil and does not want to play the commodity market turns to the Canadian dollar.'" With the price of oil on the rise, almost reaching its record high today, the dollar has become a currency of choice for investors.

So why is that? Canada's oil reserves are the largest among the G-10 countries and second only to Saudi Arabia among all nations.

That should really underscore how ingrained oil is in the American economy. Not only does it suck when the cost of gas rises at the pump, but the price of oil also has a significant ripple effect that goes well beyond the gas station.

Fringe Candidates

These are the results of a straw poll taken by, get this, the South Carolina state Christian right group Palmetto Family Council:

Huckabee 206
Paul 179
Thompson 43
Brownback 29
Hunter 25
Romney 14
Gilbert 12
McCain 10
Cort 7
Giuliani 5

Forget the fact that Ron Paul came in a close second to an ordained minister for a minute and ask yourself the next obvious question: who the hell is this candidate who calls himself "Cort" and why is he beating Giuliani?

Well, Dr. Hugh Cort III is apparently running for president with a media strategy that clearly hasn't gotten a lot of attention. His website doesn't really say much of anything except that he's a Jesus-loving, abortion-hating dude who doesn't care for the gays. Oh, and there's this bit:

On national defense it is important you know I am an internationally recognized counter-terrorism expert. I travel the country speaking about terrorism and how we must stop it. National security is the number one issue facing this country and I am the one candidate with the expertise to ensure the safety of you and your family.

I don't know what qualifies this guy to claim that he's an expert on counter-terrorism, but I would imagine that the terrorism web site he runs probably doesn't help any claim to expertise.


If true, this would have to qualify as one of the greatest security breaches in the annals of intelligence:

The Macedonian intelligence agency denies claims made by the country's largest daily newspaper, Dnevnik, that one of its counter-intelligence analysts has stolen the agency's database on undercover operatives, fled the country and sold the information to Bulgarian secret services.


The Dnevnik report claims that the alleged theft of counter-intelligence information has compromised the entire Macedonian intelligence network and is likely to take two decades to rebuild. The story quotes unnamed sources within the Macedonian Interior Ministry, underscores longstanding tensions between Bulgaria and Macedonia and highlights potential instability within the Macedonian government.

This is a plot from which movies are made (see the first Mission: Impossible).

And while we're on the subject of Eastern European espionage ...

Turns out that everyone and their mother in the old East Germany was spying for the West:

It's a well-known fact that East Germany had agents crawling all over West Germany during the Cold War. Up to 6,000 of them, some in high places, were regularly passing information eastwards across the wall.

According to a new study published on Friday, though, when it came to recruiting spooks, the West Germans were even better. Fully 10,000 citizens of Germany's communist half were spying for Bonn. Not only that, but West Germany's intelligence agency the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had a pretty good idea about the plans to build the Berlin Wall, but their bosses in Bonn simply didn't want to believe them.

Also noteworthy, hiring Nazis to do a little freelance spying ... not a very good idea:

The U.S. government apparently derived no clear benefit by recruiting ex-Nazis as Cold War spies, but potentially huge gaps remain in the public record of U.S. ties to World War Two war criminals, according to a report issued on Friday.

The report to Congress, by an interagency group that examined the United States' use of German and Japanese war criminals during and after the war, also said the CIA had no set policy for hiring former war criminals to spy on postwar foes including the Soviet Union.


Elizabeth Holtzman, a former New York congresswoman and member of the panel, said the group received files on about 60,000 former Nazi and Japanese war criminals but did not have the names of all collaborators, particularly those in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


"It is not clear that Nazis provided us with any useful intelligence, and we know that in some cases at least they were a serious detriment to us," she added. "Given the intelligence failures of the Iraq war, it might be important for U.S. policymakers to understand that using very bad people for intelligence activities does not automatically get us very good results, and instead, may get us very bad results," Holtzman said.

Guns, Guns, Guns!

The M-16 turned 50 this month. The News Hour spoke with one of its chief designers:

JIM SULLIVAN, M-16 Co-Designer: Fifty years ago.

PAUL SOLMAN: Fifty years ago?

JIM SULLIVAN: Well, we started on it 50 years ago this month.

PAUL SOLMAN: That's 1957, the year the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. In the half-century since, computers shrank from houses to handhelds; polio was cured; man made it to the moon and Mars. And what kind of advance was there in our combat rifle?

JIM SULLIVAN: They're right exactly where they were when we gave them the M-16 in 1960. They haven't advanced an inch.

PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, the competition, says Sullivan, the Soviet-designed automatic Kalashnikov AK-47, is in its third generation, as the AK-74.

JIM SULLIVAN: That AK-74 out-hits the M-16 by two to one on full automatic. And the reason that there was 100 million AKs made wasn't to equip the Russian army. It was to give to our third world opponents so the United States can't win ground wars anymore. It's the rifleman and his rifle, that's what decides ground wars.

PAUL SOLMAN: The rifle Sullivan would have his own son use in Iraq today? The opposition's.

JIM SULLIVAN: He should have an AK.



This really isn't anything new (it's just nice to hear from the horse's mouth). The AK-47 really is one of the engineering marvels of the modern world.

Worst. Doctrine. Ever.

FP looks at the president's second inaugural address, which basically served as the Bush Administration's "freedom agenda" mission statement, through the lens of the recent turmoil in Burma/Myanmar.

Wash Post to do in-depth IED Report

I'm psyched. It looks like it's going to be a big one (four parts).

I imagine the timing of the series has a lot to do with the announcement of the MRAP contracts on Monday.

Major Sir Hamish Forbes, Bt

It's kind of too bad that I find out about these folks when they pass away, but Forbes had an absolutely extraordinary career as a WWII prisoner of war. By my count he tried escaping 13 separate times during his captivity using a variety of methods. He was captured during the British retreat from Dunkirk and finally won his freedom in April of 1945 and basically spent the entire war being a royal pain in the ass to the Nazis.

More from the Dreaded Duck Decapitating Auditor

He's run a-fowl with the law before. High-ho!

MRAP Countdown

* This is odd, and also gives some insight into just what a belabored process building an MRAP is:

Spartan Chassis Inc. said it received a $52-million subcontract from Force Protection Inc. to support the production of Cougar series advanced tactical wheeled vehicles for military use.

The contract calls for the Charlotte-based unit of Spartan Motors Inc., the maker of custom chassis for recreational and emergency response cars and trucks, to supply and integrate key chassis components for the vehicles by March 2008.

March? That's 6 months from now ... and it's not like the chassis is something you can just affix to the hood at the end of production.

* A run-of-the-mill editorial seems to be in syndication, while a far more circumspect piece ran in Washington state:

But are "economies of scale" even part of the military vocabulary? If the MRAPs are replacing the Humvee, shouldn't it follow that fewer Humvees will be needed? And would a cynic be very far off base if he or she wondered at why refurbishing and replacing of equipment is let slide to the point that it takes billions of dollars in huge catch-up doses to bring it back to reasonable standards?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ancient Polynesian Sea-farers

More archaeological evidence of their prolific sailing skills.

Sensenbrenner: Be Prepared. Be Very Prepared

Giuliani's 9/11 Tourette's is contagious:

(Washington, DC) – Menomonee Falls Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner announced today the introduction of House Resolution 673, to recognize and underscore the importance of September as National Preparedness Month.

“My resolution highlights the importance of emergency preparedness by officially recognizing this month as National Preparedness Month, and encouraging all Americans to remain vigilant against the threat of a terrorist attack,” said Sensenbrenner.

“In 2001, we were blind-sided by a determined enemy, who had no qualms about taking innocent lives in order to further a vile and misguided agenda. Six years later, that enemy and agenda still exist, so I introduced H.Res. 673, to help ensure that Americans are not caught unprepared the next time terrorists attempt to wreak havoc against us.”

Next time? You mean you're planning on there being a next time?

Sensenbrenner’s Resolution supports the efforts of American citizens, and governmental and private entities to enhance the nation’s readiness for a terrorist attack, while encouraging all Americans to remain alert and be prepared for an emergency.

“As our soldiers bravely battle our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the duty of citizens to remain prepared for the possibility of another catastrophic attack here on our soil. With this resolution, I call upon all Americans to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, from the crazed ideologues who seek to do us harm,” concluded Sensenbrenner.

"Crazed ideologues" seeking to do us harm really should be the theme of Tex's next campaign.

MORE: What's Tex doing jamming out to Japanese techno-synth? This has stop motion animation written all over it ...

Dennis Ehrenberg Would Make an Awful Businessman

I missed this yesterday:

Oshkosh Truck is big loser in deal with Chinese

It's depressing that Oshkosh Truck is celebrating the sale of one of their premiere Fire Trucks, with spare parts, to the Chinese communists. Unfortunately, that celebration will be short lived because they will suffer drastic negative consequences to that foolish giveaway. The Chinese communists are well known for pirating American technology.

Following their usual business practices, within a year they will have disassembled that high-tech Fire Truck, manufactured duplicates and will be selling their versions to willing buyers around the world. Greedy American businesses have already sold them the machinery and equipment to do it. With their cheap labor, they will drastically undercut Oshkosh Truck's pricing and there's nothing they will be able to do about it. Oshkosh Truck and Oshkosh itself will be the big losers in that naive transaction.

Dennis Ehrenberg Oshkosh

There's a certain degree of risk associated with piracy inherent in every business transaction, and when dealing with China there tends to be more than with others, but what's the alternative? No, we don't want your millions of dollars in business. Please take it elsewhere? That's absurd.

China specializes in making products that can be mass produced. Specialty trucks, like airport fire trucks, don't fit that mold.

NRCC Just Can't Raise $

Via Kevin Drum:

A crucial GOP fundraising committee is nearly broke, according to its latest monthly filing with the Federal Election Committee last week.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) reported $1.6 million in cash on hand and $4 million in debts as of Aug. 31. The group helps bankroll House campaigns for GOP candidates.

Its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reported $22.1 million, more than 10 times its Republican counterpart.

Tom Cole may have been given the political equivalent of a suicide mission when he took over for sketchy Tom Reynolds after the 2006 midterms.

MORE: Here's some recent fund-raising figures from the recent past to use for comparison:

A look back shows how sharply the Republican fortunes have declined. On the identical date in 2005, the NRCC had $624,000 more on hand than the DCCC, while on the Senate side Republicans had a $950,000 advantage.

In 2003, the NRCC had a $1.52 million edge over the DCCC as of Aug. 31, while Senate Republicans had an $800,000 margin. In 2001, it was House Republicans with a $1.38 million margin, and Senate Republicans led by $730,000. In 1999, the DCCC managed a $661,000 lead in cash on hand over the NRCC. But Senate Republicans enjoyed a $1 million edge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Psychic Computers, IED Jammers, and Big Fricking Trucks

Oshkosh Truck won a $16+ million contract from the Army to make M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter System (HETS) trucks (you may have seen them around town, albeit rarely). From

Oshkosh Truck Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., was awarded on Sept. 21, 2007, a $16,847,245 firm-fixed-price contract for Foreign Military Sale of Heavy Equipment Transporter System M1070 Tractors, Trailers, and Spares. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis. (71 percent), Princeton, Ky. (22 percent), Ann Arbor, Mich. (2.55 percent), Indianapolis, Ind. (0.45 percent), and Egypt (4 percent), and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jan. 25, 2007. The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-C-0594).

Also from today's contract announcements, Pegasus was awarded a contract to make the kind of IED jammers that may possibly be found in MRAPs:

Pegasus Global Strategic Solutions, LLC, Reston, Va., is being awarded a $6,903,614 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to provide retro-fit of 100 Jukebox jammers and provide engineering and technical support for the 1,001 Jukebox systems currently fielded under the Counter-Radio-Controlled Improvised Electronic Warfare (CREW) system. Contractor will provide field service representatives; provide depot services, repair parts, system troubleshooting, and electronic repair. Work will be performed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed by June 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $6,903,614, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Indian Head Division, Indian Head, Md., is the contracting agency. (N00174-07-D-0016)

But the most interesting contract was a $6 million job awarded to BBN Technologies Corp. out of Boston for its Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) program, which is intended to be a "prototype system of integrated computational social and political science models that forecast the occurrence and level of intensity of various conflict events of interest often associated with country instability. The work will examine and identify models relevant to country instability, develop predictive models for conflict events of interest, and integrate them into a single predictive model for potential use by Unified Combatant Command (COCOMs)."

In other words, they're trying to design a computer program that will predict the future.

Best of luck with that, guys ...

MORE: Gen. Arthur Lichte, the new leader of Air Mobility Command, also used the MRAP delivery as a reason for renovating the Air Force's fleet:

[Gen. Lichte] used figures at an Air Force Association symposium to underscore the command’s importance: 410 Cougar and Buffalo Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles sent to Iraq and Afghanistan so far; mobility command aircraft departures once every 85 seconds this week; and precise GPS-coordinated cargo drops from 25,000 feet in the air.

Lichte also said air cargo lifts have saved lives by keeping 9,400 personnel and 3,900 trucks off roads laced with improvised explosive devices. And medical air lifts, he said, have transported wounded troops — one involving a man with a knife jammed in his head by an Iraqi militant — from battlefield attacks to U.S. hospitals in 24 hours.


But the command, Lichte said, is beginning to suffer as its aircraft age. Its C-130 fleet is, on average, 42 years old. The E model KC-135 Stratotankers are, on average, more than 49 years old. With age comes problems, he said, such as cracks on C-17 thrust reverse systems and cracked equipment on C-5s.

Did the Chicago City Council Just Jinx the Cubs?

Sure looks like it!

Listen, if anyone should know this, it should be Cubs fans: When you're in the middle of a pennant race, you never (never ever never ever ever ever never ever) make like it's a sure thing. You go out, give 110%, play one game at a time and hope the good Lord finds your heart worthy. This is especially true if your team is "cursed."

So what, in God's name, are the Chicago Cubs doing giving play-off tickets to city alderman before the Cubs have clinched the division?

Nevermind the sketchiness of handing valuable tickets over to influential people -- there are cosmic rules at play here, rules the Cubs are flying right in the face of, rules the Cubs should be all too familiar with by now ... You just ... You can't ... You don't screw with curses during a pennant race!

Anyway ... Moral of the Story: If the Cubs happen to blow their lead over the Brewers during these last three games, they'll have no one to blame but their own elected officials.

Defense Stocks Rise with MRAP News

No surprise here:

Defense stocks on Wednesday hit new highs as Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested an extra $42 billion in funding from Congress to cover military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.

The AMEX Defense Index, which tracks 14 major defense company stocks, rose 14.25 to a high of 1,686.72 in afternoon trading. Since last year, the index has risen roughly 47 percent, outperforming the broader S&P 500 index, which has climbed nearly 15 percent over the same period.

Truck is specifically named as one of the beneficiaries of Gates' announcement; and its stock price did indeed see a jump, closing up 1.4% at $57.80 a share.

The midterm outlook for military spending continues to look strong:

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) analyst Robert Stallard said he expects war-related spending in fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010 to be $170 billion and $150 billion, respectively. And even after the peak, war spending is still likely to be more than $100 billion annually for the next few years to refurbish and replace war torn equipment used in Iraq.

The size of the supplemental allocation is now raising a lot of eye brows and will likely lead to more people equating DOD's investment in troop safety with investment in an ongoing war:

Spending $23.6 billion on fortified vehicles that will take years to produce is an admission that you [Sen. Biden] are planning a long-term occupation of a hostile population in Iraq, and possibly Iran.

Incidentally, this is the first opinion I have read that sees the push for more MRAPs with a possible invasion of Iran (obviously, since the MRAP can't fly, we're talking about more than just air strikes under these circumstances).

Even though the money being spent on MRAP production is huge, even by defense standards, there are signs of an ancillary effect occurring in other areas of Pentagon spending. Today Lockhead Martin used the MRAP as a reason for further Air Force investment in transport/cargo planes like the C-5 Galaxy:

[LM Aeronautics Business Development Vice President Jim] Grant said modernizing the C-5 fleet remains a fiscally sound solution for meeting the nation's strategic airlift requirements. "The C-5 modernization program capitalizes on the U.S. Air Force's investment in the C-5 and ensures this critical national strategic airlift resource continues serving the warfighter for years to come," said Grant. "Analysis and test data indicates that the C-5M program will meet or exceed all customer requirements, including those necessary to meet wartime objectives to move troops, very large loads and critical outsize cargo, like Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles."

So one could argue that a snowball effect is likely to occur in the future as more and more defense programs begin to see an advantage in demonstrating a support role for the expensive MRAP project. Yet there is a good deal of truth to these sales pitches, one that belies a very real concern that the MRAP will change the way the military functions:

The size of the MRAP may also change the way military units operate. The vehicles are too large to be sling-loaded on a helicopter, meaning they cannot be used in airmobile operations. The behemoth trucks are also too large for some streets. Gen Brogan said he doubted the smaller Humvee would be phased out entirely. "Clearly, these have a different level of protection than an uparmoured Humvee," he said. "There are some villes [towns], though, where roads are narrow, [it's a] constricted area. So I don't think every single Humvee will ever be supplanted. How many are replaced are decisions that will be made by the operations commanders, not by the acquisition community."

Now might be a good time to mention that the estimated cost of $1 million per vehicle is just the base price of an individual MRAP and does not include things like maintenance and fuel.

But the price is not deterring Pentagon procurement officers:

Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz arrived Saturday at the Jacksonville [AR] Museum of Military History with a six-member security detail as a special guest at the 10th anniversary luncheon of the Eaker Chapter of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society.

The four-star general is commander of the Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The command manages air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense...

Besides visiting the museum, Schwartz honored the DFCS members by attending their luncheon...


After the luncheon, Schwartz spoke to the group about the importance of the Air Force transporting MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles to the Middle East. The vehicles have a v-shaped underside to deflect the explosions from mines and improvised explosive devices.

Giuliani's Foreign Policy Team

A nice primer I should have linked to yesterday.

New Wisco Poll Numbers

Survey(USA) says:

Clinton 48 - Giuliani 44
Clinton 47 - Thompson 45
Clinton 50 - Romney 41

Obama 46 - Giuliani 43
Obama 48 - Thompson 43
Obama 52 - Romney 37

Edwards 44 - Giuliani 45
Edwards 49 - Thompson 40
Edwards 52 - Romney 34

You can compare these to a state party primary poll here.

"Auditor Decapitates Duck"

This will probably be the strangest thing you read all day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Akcess Granted

Council issues a go for the Waterfront:

A new downtown office building and hotel will be coming to Oshkosh, following the Oshkosh Common Council’s approval of the conditional use permit for the Akcess Acquisition Group’s first two projects in the Waterfront Redevelopment Area.


The council’s approval on the 55,000-square-foot office building and the 98-room hotel gives Akcess the green light to build the two projects. The company is hoping to start construction on both projects next month.


I've discussed some of the issues about this before. The hotel concept is still a bit odd to me, but to be perfectly honest I haven't done all that much investigation into the matter. Maybe Akcess knows something that I haven't had the ambition to look for yet. The office building makes more sense to me ...

The Cherokee Partners half of the Akcess team appears to have a track record for building projects in areas of the country that have recently experienced enormous growth. Hopefully, they see the same potential in the Waterfront district.

The whole process has been kind of uninspiring. I was hoping for a bold, even risky, statement project (even thought I know full well that's too much to ask). Think about it: what buildings in town are the city's signature features? The Paine? The Museum? All fine places, but ancient ones. It'd be nice to develop the kind of area that would serve as the postcard shot for the foreseeable future, but it might necessary to take things conservatively for a while.

Then again, I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the recent building projects here in town, so maybe it's not too much to expect the breed of architects and urban planners working around here to improve.

We'll see ...

Lit Blogging

The Japanese are writing entire novels on their cell phones.

Mad (MRAP) Money

The tab for the MRAP program is getting bigger and bigger:

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will go before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, when he is expected to deliver budget amendments to Congress that will substantially increase the president's 2008 war spending to $200 billion from the approximately $150 billion that the administration initially estimated it would need in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The supplemental funding request is expected to include some $17 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (or MRAP) vehicles, which officials say will help step up production from the 82 MRAPs made in June to some 1,300 a month by December. The vehicles are designed to help deflect the effect of roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices (or IEDs), which remain the biggest killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has ordered a total of 6,415 MRAPs to date—orders expected to be completed by March.

That's less than the $23.6 billion Sen. Joe Biden is asking for, but considerably more than the $5.3 billion requested by the White House.

Meanwhile, doubts continue to surface regarding the anticipated efficacy of the MRAP program.

MORE: Here's a breakdown of where the MRAPs will be going:

Under the new authorized figure, the Marine Corps would still be allocated 3,700 MRAPs, the Air Force 697, the Navy 544, and U.S. Special Operations Command 333, Morrell said.

Rep. Petri Votes for SCHIP

Good for him.

[via TP]

Football is Totally an Aphrodisiac

Exhibit A:

While the Badgers were scoring frequently in the second quarter of their victory over Washington State on Sept. 1, a young couple was scoring on their own in a stall in the women's restroom in the upper deck, resulting in a court appearance today on charges of disorderly conduct.

The man, 22, of the Grant County community of Stitzer, and woman, 23, of Madison, were initially cited by University Police for lewd and lascivious conduct, but those charges were later changed to disorderly conduct when the case went to the District Attorney's office. UW Assistant Police Chief Dale Burke, who measures his term of service in decades, said he cannot remember a similar incident at a Badger game in the past, but added "sex is a powerful, powerful motivator."

According to UW Police Officer Gerard Pehler, he was assisting a fan who had fallen due to heat exhaustion when a bystander approached and asked him, "Can you do anything about two having sex in the women's restroom stall?"

"They're going at it pretty good," added the fan.

But here's the best detail:

That couple was having sex in a family bathroom when arrested and taken to the police office, where officers were about to interview them separately, Burke recalled, "and the guy says (to the girl), 'By the way, what is your name?' "

And I thought Helen C. White was the place to go to hook up?

[via the Plank]

MORE: I just remembered -- Wisconsin plays Minnesota for Paul Bunyan's Axe in Minneapolis this year ... I guess the MSP police will now need to pull double duty.

EVEN MORE: Is the public bathroom the new bedroom? (I sure hope not.)

Today's Shameless Fundraising Attempt

Rudy Giuliani's holding a National House Party around the country tomorrow. The suggested donation? You guessed it: $9.11.

MORE: Apparently this was an isolated case that Team Rudy is now backing away from.

Let the 3Q Fundraising Games Begin!

One week to go before finance reports are due.

Monday, September 24, 2007

License Plates

Bizarre vanity plates.

But they're missing one:

(Normally, I'd link to the web page or credit the person who took this, but the truth is that I have no idea where I got this picture.)

Clue-orientated Title

I'm a sucker for crossword puzzles and an incompetent romantic, so this story gives me hope:

The clue was "Generic Proposal." The answer: "Will you marry me?" For Jennie Bass, the marriage proposal contained in The Boston Globe Sunday magazine was "pure elation." For her boyfriend, Aric Egmont, it meant months of planning.

Egmont, 29, of Cambridge, contacted the magazine this summer is ask if the people who create the crossword puzzles would write a special puzzle for him.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, a married puzzle-writing team who have been writing Globe magazine crossword puzzles for years, agreed. Their puzzle was titled "Popping the question," and each theme entry was a variation on proposals. For example, "Macrame artist's proposal" was "Let's tie the knot."

The tricky part was writing an entire puzzle that would be clear to the happy couple, but not obscure to all the other readers who do the puzzles.

Egmont, who works in the communications department at Fidelity Investments, said Bass initially thought some of the clues - including her sister's name and her best friend's name - were just amazing coincidences.

Then they got to 111 across: "Generic proposal" (Jen + Aric generic).

"We get to the Will you marry me? clue, and I said, Will you marry me, Jenny? I got up, got the ring, and got down on one knee and she screamed, and hugged me. It took her a minute to say yes," Egmont told the Globe.

Frickin' adorable ...

The Day's MRAP News

As we've mentioned earlier, the MRAP has not been immune to criticism, some of the most biting of which can be found here:

But like all of the previous anti-IED programs, the MRAP effort will only add more expense to the losing effort in Iraq. While the MRAPs will provide additional protection to American soldiers on the ground, they will not solve the IED problem. Indeed, the deployment of the MRAPs exposes three interconnected points that continue to frustrate U.S. efforts in Iraq:

1. The IEDs have put the U.S. military in Iraq in a defensive posture. And militaries who play defense all the time don't win wars.

2. The MRAPs will dramatically increase the size of the already gigantic logistics "tail" that sustains the U.S. military in Iraq. The larger the tail, the more vulnerable the military becomes.

3. The new fleet of MRAPs won't make any difference in the overall casualty rate for U.S. soldiers. That's the opinion of a Defense Department analyst who has worked on the IED problem for several years and was recently in Iraq.

But those critiques aren't stopping some voices to call for more MRAPs. The Kansas City Star recently ran an editorial seemingly calling for the Pentagon to do everything it possibly could to increase production:

By December, defense officials hope manufacturers will be cranking out the new vehicles, called Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, at a rate of more than 1,300 per month. That means it will take months to meet the goal of trading all the Humvees in Iraq with safer vehicles.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still shifting the numbers it will request. First, the Army asked for 2,500 and the Marines requested 3,700.

After Gates said the number should be much higher, the Army said it would need 17,700. Then it backed away: The latest Army request is for 10,000, but because of the production bottleneck that goal can’t be met for some time to come.

Congress should act rapidly on the request, and determine whether there are feasible ways to boost production.

(Emphasis added)

But production bottlenecks might not be the only thing holding up deliveries. The appropriations process for the MRAP is causing friction between the White House and Congressional Democrats:

Even with [Appropriations Chair Rep. David] Obey's assurances, however, the short-term bill could become contentious later this week if other Democrats push to increase spending in some areas. The temporary measure will include funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Democrat John Murtha of Pennsylvania, chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He said the temporary budget would include the $5.3 billion in additional spending for the Iraq war that Bush had recently requested for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, which are used to shield soldiers from roadside bombs.

(Emphasis added)

Sen. Joe Biden has introduced a bill that would increase MRAP spending next year to $23.6 billion, all of which may become part of the largest Iraq War spending budget to date.

JLTV Put on Hold

The Army and Marines have put the kibosh on on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle:

Though it's unstated in the Pentagon's decision, the burgeoning requirement for about a zillion Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles has likely made JLTV all but irrelevant, or at least unfundable.

The JLTV, the contract for which Oshkosh Truck won in 2006, was supposed to replace the current fleet of Humvees.


Have seen better days ...

I wonder how long it takes, on average, for a phrase to lose its hyphen and if that says anything about the mutative nature of the English language?

Long Books

One Summer I read both War and Peace and Anna Karenina and was very pleased with myself. Apparently, I know nothing about really long novels.

Naming Rites

Chris Hayes may be a Cubs fan, but we won't hold that against him.

He links to this story about a couple, Paul and Teri, who are conveniently surnamed Fields and have decided to name their newborn son Wrigley. If you ask me, that's the easy way to get named after a stadium. The hard way is becoming the namesake of the Friendly Confines by marriage ... as in the case of University of Wisconsin graduate student activist Elizabeth Wrigley-Field (check out the sixth paragraph).

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I'm watching Columbia University President Lee Bollinger's blistering "introduction" of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. For those that believed this was going to be some kind of propaganda coup for Iran, they were mistaken.

This is exactly why we have cultural and academic diplomacy, even with the bad guys.

MORE: Here.

EVEN MORE: I may have spoken too soon. Ahmadinejad likely scored some points with his own song and dance number.

My own frustration with trying to read the guy usually stems from trying to fit his comments into the appropriate cultural context. For example, the "we don't have gays in Iran, like you do here" comment. To my Joe Six-pack American ears there are three ways to read that statement: Ahmadinejad is either (1.) in denial, (2.) lying, or (3.) is extremely, and perhaps willfully, ignorant. But my eternal 13 year-old reminds me that there's a fourth way of reading that statement: "You Americans are totally gay. You're a decadent, effeminate, limp-wristed society and we're not afraid of you." That kind of message would likely play well in some parts of the Middle East (just like a similarly absurd jingoistic comment would in some places here in America).

So, I'm going to ask for an extension on this one before I make up my mind as to who really "won" or pass final judgment on what the right thing to have done was.

MORE YET: I'm still flummoxed, so I went looking for how the Columbia speech was interpreted by others and found a variety of responses from ridiculous pandering (really, I can't stand Duncan Hunter) to perhaps hypocritical:

Bill O'Reilly and other cable pundits derided Columbia University for extending an invite to Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that didn't stop all three cable news networks from carrying the speech uninterrupted.

to the Dude, you call this a big deal?:

SO Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earned well-deserved laughter for saying that there are no gays in Iran, and otherwise faced direct and consistently tough questioning from Columbia University's president, Lee Bollinger—so much so that he couldn't resist saying he was a little indignant at his treatment. Meanwhile, however, just outside the campus grounds, protestors (who could not hear the speech) chanted "shame on Columbia!" and "shame on Bollinger!"

Given the result, does anyone still think that Iran's president was "honoured" with his invite to the august Ivy League institution? Or can we now revert to the traditional American belief that the best way to manage odious and idiotic beliefs is the harsh light of day?

to the huh?:

But I wonder: would Columbia ever invite a right-wing extremist with the same views as Ahmadinejad on women, gays, Israel and the Holocaust? Or do you have to be a brown-skinned, terrorist-enabling, nuclear-proliferating, certifiable nut-job to get the invite?

(Isn't Ahmadinejad a right-wing nut, just one from another country?)

to the absurd:

Rough, but real, quote from translation from Ahmedinajad's speech:

Let me tell you a joke. I think these leaders, that are building nuclear bombs...they are retarded.

He'll be here all week. Try the veal.

I now give up.

The 60 Minutes Ahmadinejad Interview

Really some of the best television I can remember seeing in a while. I'm not talking about television journalism, here -- I mean, television period. The dynamic between the Iranian head of state and Scott Pelley was enthralling. Pelley's questions were tough and direct and only got more so in the face of Ahmadinejad's evasions. This was the kind of interview that presents a real instructive moment for media folk and I would hope journalism professors everywhere are showing it to their students this week.

Brian Beutler has a few more lessons that can be taken away from the interview.

Things I Didn't Know

Members of Congress who serve in the Armed forces don't receive pay for their military service:

It once was more common for legislators to simultaneously serve in the military. In fact, a statue of Sen. Edward Baker, R-Ore., who was killed in uniform in the Civil War, stands in the Capitol. But because of the Constitution's "incompatibility" clause, which states that no senator or representative shall be appointed to any civil office, some ambiguity has always lingered over whether individuals may serve in Congress and the military at the same time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


In Baghdad.

Mercenaries & Arms Smugglers

Blackwater is in more trouble.

"Intellectual Laziness"

Oh, where does one begin ...

MORE: Here's a start.

Growth Industries

You want in on an industry that will likely explode in the coming decades? Get thee some private jets:

Demand for business jets is at a record level and the credit squeeze has so far had little impact on new orders from the world’s executive and wealthy individual high-flyers. Waiting lists for many models stretch to 2010 and beyond.

“Industry growth has moved into unparalleled territory,” Rob Wilson, president for business and general aviation at Honeywell Aerospace, one of the world’s leading aerospace systems suppliers, said Sunday.

According to the Honeywell annual business aviation outlook, published Sunday, 2007 will mark the fourth successive year of growth since the trough of 2003, with annual business jet deliveries set to exceed 1,000 this year for the first time, up from 861 last year. Deliveries are forecast to rise to more than 1,300 in 2008.

Why the surge in plane-buying? Because, as I've mentioned earlier, airline travel sucks:

The arguments in favour of private aviation, such as increased executive productivity, time-saving and the avoidance of congested hub airports, have been gaining support elsewhere in the world.


This is astonishing:

However, the U-2 -which came into use in the mid-1950s—can still claim some unique abilities. Unlike a satellite, it can fly over an area for a while, allowing it to track insurgents’ movements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike low-altitude drones, the U-2 can’t be heard by the people it is observing. Thanks to these and other qualities,the number of U-2 missions flown has increased 20% in the past two years. It has been used to detect improvised explosive devices along Iraq’s roads and supplied 88% of all battlefield imagery in Iraq. Twenty-eight of the planes are flying active missions.

(Emphasis added)

88%! With all the billions spent on satellite imagery we're still relying on the U-2 to get the job done?

I suppose I should be outraged at what appears to be a misallocation of government funds, but I'm actually more impressed at just how bad-ass the U-2 is.

MRAP Contract Countdown

We're at 8 days -- that's one week from tomorrow -- until DOD announces where the MRAP II contracts are going. There's a good chance that the demand for the vehicle will make the Pentagon more likely to distribute a portion of the pie to as many companies that are able to build a MRAP to spec, so there's a good chance that Oshkosh Truck will be getting some orders.

As the date approaches local newspapers in the areas that are likely to be affected by the potentially $11 billion in defense disbursements are starting to run stories on the potential economic windfall. For instance, in Anniston, Alabama:

General Dynamics hired 270 workers in Oxford earlier this year to build a round of MRAPs authorized last year. The company already built Stryker and Fox combat vehicles in Calhoun County in partnership with the Anniston Army Depot, a 15,000-acre base that specializes in building, repairing and testing tanks and armored cars. It goes by the slogan "Pit Crew of the American Warfighter."

And in Charlotte, Michigan:

Sztykiel said Spartan officials had no idea three or four years ago that they would be entering the military vehicle business. But a former Spartan supplier suggested to Force Protection Inc., a builder of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles (MRAPs) for the U.S. military, that Spartan could help boost production efficiency -- a critical need due to a surge in demand for such vehicles in Iraq.

Spartan did its first MRAP assembly in July 2005, attaching a Spartan chassis to a hull designed with extra underbody armor to protect soldiers from roadside bombs and land mines.

Specialty vehicles, mostly MRAPs, provided 31% of Spartan sales last quarter, up from 9% a year earlier. The company is looking to boost MRAP output to 20 vehicles a day next month, from eight to 10 per day now. A hundred new Spartan workers will be added by Oct. 20 to help meet demand, said Richard Schalter, president of the Spartan Chassis operating unit.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tom Petri's Staff: Almost There, Guys!

Last time I caught a press release from Rep. Tom Petri's I found it a little, um, dull ... OK, it was downright mind-numbing. But the interns in the congressman's press secretary's office are starting to get the hang of it. Here's their latest effort:

U.S. Rep. Petri: Plymouth farm wins solar grant

Niel Wright, Press Secretary

Representative Tom Petri reports that a 25-acre vegetable crop farm in Plymouth will receive a $12,325 Rural Development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds will contribute to the installation of solar powered photovoltaic panels to provide electricity for the farm.

"The farm has all matching project funds in place, including grants from Focus on Energy and Renew Wisconsin," Petri said. "This project will help to demonstrate environmentally positive ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and I'm happy to have it happen in east-central Wisconsin."

See? Short and to the point. That little "I'm happy to have it happen in east-central Wisconsin" is a lot better than "I am pleased that we are moving forward with necessary repairs." Still not great, but definitely a move in the right direction.

Cash Drop

I found this too amusing not to pass along.

Mankiw notes that the "dropping money from a helicopter" notion goes back to Milton Frieman, but it's actually much more than merely a thought experiment:

From an old USA Today article:

Two children were injured in a scramble to grab cash being dropped from a helicopter as part of a promotion after a minor league baseball game.

About $1,000 in cash was dropped Saturday from the helicopter over Fifth Third Ballpark's outfield as children lined the outfield fence.

After the cash was dropped, the children scrambled. A 7-year-old boy was trampled and taken to a hospital, while a 7-year-old girl got a bloody lip after being pushed onto the ground.

The boy, Tino Rodriquez, of Grant, suffered bruises to his chest and back, said his grandmother, Rita Rodriquez.

"Doctors said he got trampled pretty good," she said.

The cash drop took place after the West Michigan Whitecaps' 3-0 win over the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. It was the first time the Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers had conducted such a promotion.

"It's for fun and games," spokeswoman Katie Kroft said. "This is why we have everybody sign a waiver."

Of course, I doubt the Michigan Devil Rays were thinking of Friedman when they came up with the idea, but had probably seen Bull Durham one too many times and just said to themselves "Oh, what the hell!"

Mitt Romney is in Dire Need of a New Speech Writer

This line really sucks:

"I will fight to make sure our future is not defined by the letters 'ACLU,' but by the letters 'USA.'"

[via NRO]

MORE: Man, it's even worse than I thought ...

The ACLU line is probably an attempt by Team Romney to get the kind of free media Giuliani's been getting of late as a result of his cat fight with, but the "In God We Trust" bit -- what's up with that shit?

There's a deeper problem here that the Romney camp probably doesn't want to acknowledge. Giuliani's a naturally abrasive personality, so when he's out picking a fight in public it helps him in the "authenticity" department. Sure, he's a jerk, but nobody wants nice guys fighting for them.

Romney, on the other hand, doesn't look like he could fight his way out of drum circle. He picks easy targets and often sounds more like a stern father giving a child a talking-to than he does someone who is not to be messed with. A lot of people dismissed his tough talk again Ahmadinejad's visit to the the UN as pandering (and rightly so), but it really was rather poor pandering. Romney sounded more like the Iran leader deserved a grounding, not an indictment.

EVEN MORE: Quoth Steve Benen: "
I’ve sure there have been more shameless campaign pitches by presidential candidates this year, but none come to mind."

Clash of the Assholes

Q: What happens when news hungry local TV reporters and sketchy land-owning, dictator's daughter-marrying politicians collide?

A: Magic!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rudy, What the Hell are You Doing?

This is just uncomfortable to watch:

So Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was in the middle of an important speech to an audience that was a little skeptical to say the least, the National Rifle Association, many of whose members have some problems with the former New York City mayor's past support for gun control.

He had reached the part where he was talking about the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the part of his speech this particular crowd really wanted to hear him speak about. Then his cell phone rang.

"Let's see now. This is my wife calling, I think," says Giuliani reaching for the phone in his pocket. He then goes on to do something unheard of for a candidate to do while giving an important speech. He answers the phone.


But if you're a presidential candidate trying to impress NRA members that you take their issues seriously, maybe you don't want to surprise the audience by taking a phone call right in the middle of your speech. It might help the audience take the speech more seriously.


It's such an amazing moment that at first it appeared to be some kind of pre-arranged stunt. And maybe it was. But what would the purpose be? Was the goal to make him appear like a doting husband in an attempt to soften his image with women?

Whatever it was, it looked like amateur hour. Here's a guy trying to court a huge constituency of the GOP base by flagrantly flip-flopping and he thinks talking a phone call midway through his speech is some how going to help?

How many Presidential candidates actually keep their cell phones on their person while on the campaign trail? Don't they have body people to do this?

I don't know what kind of stunt this was intended to be but it was embarrassing.

MORE: See what I mean?

Let's Try Something New

Independent Thoughts has observed that the popular local discussion board Questioning Everything, Always has closed shop. This is a pity because QEA often had very lengthy discussions on local matters involving a variety of people. So to fill the void, I've decided to attempt on a trial basis to offer the same service here at the Chief.

Here's how it'll work:

I'll maintain a link just below The Chief's header that will lead readers to a discussion area pertaining to a pertinent local issue. Readers and potential commentators won't have to scroll down or anything -- the link will be located just the right of the main blog thread and will always be the first item displayed on the "sidebar." The topic will change as circumstances dictate, meaning according to news events or the rhythm of the conversation.

Suggestions for improvement will always welcome. Please use the comment section of this post to make any recommendations. The most pressing issue right now is a name. What should this little forum be called? I'd like to think that the collective brain power of the Oshkosh online community can come up with something better than OshKonversation.

At the moment I have very few plans to "edit" the conversation thread on a regular basis. I may skim over the dialog from time to time, but this will be on no fixed interval. So everyone's on their own. It's just not something I enjoy doing. Plus, I'm kind of interested in seeing what a "Lord of the Flies" internet atmosphere looks like. All of this will change if the discussion becomes abusive. I do not mind filthy language, so long as it is not directed at specific individuals (fellow commentators or otherwise). Racist and/or bigoted language will not be tolerated. Again, I do not plan on monitoring the discussion religiously so I will hope users will maintain a sense of decorum and etiquette.

This will be an experiment. We'll see how it works.

Here's some basic advice. These aren't rules, per ce, more like guidelines:

* Anonymous comments are OK, but if you plan on making multiple comments on a single thread come up with an alias so that other readers know which comments are yours. You can change aliases from thread to thread, but please be courteous enough to let others reference what you have said recently with regard to what is being discussed. I would like to avoid having everyone refer to each other's time signature as a means of identification.

* It's a good idea to learn the basic HTML language that Blogger allows for in the comments box. Try to learn how to link to other sites without having to write http://www.... yadda yadda yadda. You can learn to do this here.

* Site your sources. Fair warning: I tend to be very anal about this. A link isn't always necessary, but at least make an effort to back up any claims with some authority. This is particularly important for statistics and or other numbers.

* Be respectful of the people you are critiquing.

* If you think you have a choice between being insightful or being funny, go for insightful.

The first installment will begin here.


Oshkosh Forum, Vol. I

Councilmen Esslinger and McHugh are looking to put an advisory referendum on the April ballot that asks voters if they want a change in the council-manager form of municipal government. From the NW:

Councilors Paul Esslinger and Dennis McHugh announced Thursday that they are asking the council to put an advisory referendum on the April ballot asking voters to select their preference from among four choices of government structures, including an elected mayor, with councilors either elected at-large or from districts, or keeping the council-manager system as is.

"The most important piece of this is giving people the opportunity to speak about government in Oshkosh," Esslinger said.

An advisory referendum is not binding, but would give the council input on what form of government citizens may prefer.

Good idea or bad?

Will this impair the search for a new city manager? Does this make the search for an acting city manager more important? Is this move in response to ground swell of public sentiment for a change in government? Are "the people" really getting much of a say when the resolution is non-binding? Would commissioning a series of public opinion polls be more expedient? How will the discussion of this issue proceed? How should the discussion of this issue proceed?

Go nuts ...

Wine in a Can

No, thank you. I drink my wine exclusively from boxes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mercs can be Funny, Too!

More Blackwater: PR advice from Danger Room.

Sounds Like Senator Stevens is Screwed

... really screwed.

Giuliani's Foreign Policy Experience

Hizzoner says he's got more than enough, but this comment says otherwise --

"We should open the organization's membership to any willing state that meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness (and) global responsibility, regardless of location," [Giuliani] said. "I think we should consider countries such as Australia, Singapore, India, Israel, Japan ... and there are probably a whole group of others that we could put on that list," he said.

On what basis will American citizens accept going to war if India is bombed (by, uh, our non-NATO ally Pakistan)? How are we to respond according to the NATO charter every time Israel suffers an attack? By turning the Terrorists' War on Us into Our General All-Purpose War, I suppose, which will have the benefit of already being on by the time any event triggering our collective defense obligations would take place.

Whose idea is this -- Norman Podhoretz's? Even a stalwart pro-Israeli strategist with an ounce of common sense can recognize the vast benefits to be derived from permitting broadly divergent foreign policies between very close allies. Including Israel in NATO would prevent the US from enjoying the proxy-like dividends reaped by the IDF, which can attack, bomb, and destroy American enemies (like Hezbollah) that we can't -- and shouldn't -- touch. Worse, any American action abroad that would fail to harm Israeli interests would seem designed transparently to advance Israeli interests. We already suffer this inconvenience now; under Giuliani's plan it would be elevated to the plane of national policy.

Poulos couldn't be more correct in his critique of Giuliani's statement. An invitation to each of the countries he sites has its own problems, and Poulos does a good job of pointing out some of the more offending issues, but what strikes me is the cavalier attitude that Giuliani seems to have for NATO. He seems to blithely offer a membership card to anyone without even considering what it might take to get NATO countries to sign off on such a project. And it's not only that he seems ignorant of the diplomatic effort needed to open NATO in this manner, but it also looks like Giuliani's under the impression that the alliance is some sort of American play thing (a neocon fantasy that makes for the pretty good shot at Norman Podheretz).

On a related note, Team Giuliani announced more foreign policy advisers today:

Carlos Eire, now a senior foreign policy advisory board member for the campaign, is a history and religious studies professor at Yale who in his spare time is a spokesman for the liberation of Cuba.

Kenneth R. Weinstein joins with the title of foreign policy advisor. Weinstein is Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Institute. According to the release sent out by the campaign, he has been decorated with a knighthood in Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication as a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Stephen Yates, a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker and senior fellow in Asia Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council joins as Senior Asia Advisor.

The senior Western Hemisphere Advisor is Stephen Haber, is a Hoover Institution scholar.

Lisa Curtis, a CIA alumnus and frequent commentator on television news shows, joins as senior South Asia advisor. She's from the Heritage Foundation, where she studies Pakistan and other countries in the region.

David R. Cameron is given the title of European Advisory Board Member. he's an expert on the European Union who teaches at Yale.

And Gerard Alexander, a visiting American Enterprise Institute scholar and expert on democratization joins as a European advisory board member.

MORE: More from Daniel Larison:

On its face, this means that any state in the world that meets these criteria can belong to the alliance and would presumably be entitled to the same security guarantees as any other member. In the new, global “NATO,” on what basis would you make security guarantees to Poland and Latvia and not to the new members? Giuliani lays out activities for the “new NATO,” but says nothing about the benefits of membership, except saying that “America can assure them that we will be there for them in times of crisis.” Is it not safe to assume that the benefits of mutual defense remain? And if America will “be there for them,” are major European states not going to “be there” for the new members and vice versa? Of what use is the alliance to eastern European states if those security benefits disappear with the “transformation” of NATO into GloboLegion?

EVEN MORE: Shorter Ross Douthat: Why should we even bother expanding NATO?


Is this the metric by which we will be judging Bush administration officials in the future?

But what the heck -- by all appearances, Johanns wasn't grossly corrupt, didn't hand out more corporate freebies than you'd expect from someone of his background and position, didn't break the law and pretend that it never happened. Given the science-skewing and dishonesty that's permeated policy in other parts of the Bush administration, this sort of old-fashioned malfeasance ("Yes, I don't like what you've done -- but at least you're honest about it!") almost makes me feel like he did a good job.

Safe House or Animal House?

Tap the keg, kids! Party's at the Secret Service crash pad!

The New Five Dollar Bill

The Treasury Dept. is releasing a new $5 bill today.

Here's a look:

I'm not kidding.

MORE: From the Economist's Free Exchange:

I DON'T know what you all are doing this weekend, but I have a new agenda item planned. Rent a truck, drive to the nearest bookseller, buy them out, and drive northward. Today, for the first time in thirty years, the Canadian dollar has achieved parity with the American dollar. In response, one of Marginal Revolution's quick-witted commenters notes:
When will book price differentials adjust? Would publishers wait as long if the fluctuation occurred in the other direction?
Clearly, some goods have stickier prices than others. Reaching into my briefcase, I see that my current read, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy retails for $9.95 in American stores but lists for $14.99 in Canada. Clearly a profit opportunity!