Category Archives: Soap Box

Maritime Terrorists

So a company named Dubai Ports World is based in the United Arab Emirates and wants to buy six U.S. ports. We’re opening our borders to terrorists. Everybody run.

It’s funny–well, laughable, anyway–how we can outwardly hold American ideals to be so important to us only to roll over on them at the slightest whim. We should try to remember that the ports in question are privately owned by Britain’s P&O shipping company. I’d be willing to bet that P&O does not base its business decisions on the ill-informed American public’s image of an ideal business partner (good thing, too). No, I would be willing to bet P&O bases its business decisions on profit, that omnipresent, ever-powerful motivator serving as the backbone of capitalism. You remember capitalism, don’t you?

Right about here is where I should be pounced upon for implying that the pursuit of a (at least partially) free market economy should necessarily supersede security interests. Yes, let’s take a look at those security interests.

I won’t bother discussing Los Angeles, the largest shipping port in the U.S., to dwell on the fact that 80% of its shipping ports are owned by foreign entities. I’ll keep this post focused on the ports along the eastern seaboard which are currently in such eminent danger of Dubai acquisition. Why is it so typical for the United States to treat an ally with such impunity? The United Arab Emirates IS an ally, after all, and not merely in name. Aside from continual support in our “War Against Terror,” the U.A.E. was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to acquiesce to U.S. requests and sign the U.S. Container Security Initiative. The agreement places U.S. customs agents in overseas ports of origin to begin screening cargo. Does the simple fact that the United Arab Emirates happens to be in the Middle East warrant more scrutiny than a country located in a different part of the world? I think that’s a slippery slope to start down.

To place blame on the United Arab Emirates for 9/11 is also disingenuous. Their counter-terrorism efforts of the past few years aside, as far as we know, one or two of the 9/11 hijackers may have been born in the U.A.E. A few others traveled through the country at some point or conducted some business there. Does that constitute “ties” to 9/11? If so, perhaps we should consider Germany, where several of the hijackers were based for a time, as also “tied” to 9/11. Would such a ruckus be raised if a German entity was interested in buying U.S. ports? I doubt it.

One more issue I would raise: how will the situation on the ground change at these ports? Currently, dock workers are members of the longshoremen’s unions; the same will be true after any handover. Furthermore, port security has always been the charge of the U.S. government; that, too, will remain the same. Please, tell me, what exactly is changing again? Before and after any sale, the shipping ports are worked by American laborers, secured by the American government. And did I mention that some of Dubai’s top executives are American expatriates? Oh yes, this company reeks of Al-Qaeda.

Yes, I believe it prudent to demonstrate heightened scrutiny when a business deal of this magnitude involves foreign interests, absolutely, and perhaps especially when a foreign interest is state-controlled; but I think we should be careful with our tone. Does the call to place a hold on the sale stem from a sense of general caution, or is it the result of the buying party being Middle Eastern? An ally of the United States is an ally of the United States, regardless of what region of the world it is located. Treating a Middle Eastern country differently only serves to highlight the American hypocrisy that has gained such global notoriety in recent decades.

Journalism Never Annoys Me

Oh, wait. Yes it does.

Check out this stellar piece of scientific reporting I pilfered from CNN.com (Nule, you may insert sardonic CNN jab here). The article was discussing the possibility of future asteroid impacts with Earth:

 

story.astro.asteroid.jpg
“Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart holds a 3-D model of an asteroid near a spot on the globe where it could hit the Earth.”

 

This is among the more meaningless photo/caption combos I’ve seen as of late. I mean, imagine the expertise involved in demonstrating where an asteroid having a 1-in-5,500 chance of striking Earth in 2029 COULD hit. Hell, give ME that rock he’s holding. I’ll show you. Oh wait, that’s not a rock…it’s a 3-D model of an asteroid.

Somehow I doubt you can blame old Rusty for this silliness, either; I’d be willing to bet he was handed a rock…err…3-D asteroid model…and asked to hold it up to a globe. Then again, who knows. Perhaps he found himself in the spotlight and got a little carried away; but even that wouldn’t explain the caption.

Maybe I’m obsessing; I do that some. And maybe Nule’s right; perhaps I should turn to BBC News instead. The fact that this is an Associated Press article, however, does not leave me with much hope.

The Terri Schiavo Show

And if you don’t think it was a show, think again. Look no further than the evangelical jugglers showing up among the throng of protestors at the hospice which cared for Terri Schiavo during her final days. Jugglers. Come on, you think I could make this stuff up?

The sad fact of the matter is that this case was used as a political fulcrum with which opposing parties could weigh their competing interests. Sure, legislative squabbling plays a role in a healthy political process, but whenever I see a case such as this, where dueling policy-makers claim to have a victim’s well-being in mind, I can’t help but wince. To grapple over legislation is one thing, but to do so under the pretext of exhibiting greater care than a political adversary is utterly hypocritical, not to mention shameful.
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The “In” Thing

Some fads I see these days leave me pretty baffled, at times. In short: I just don’t get it. Here’s a few, to which I reserve the right to add.

Sushi
Though sushi can consist of vinegared rice with any number of ingredients, I typically see it with raw fish. Raw fish. At its best it tastes like nothing. The real genius about making this an “in” thing is marking it up to sell at your bar along with $9 martinis. Tres sophistique. I *really* wish I would have thought of this one.

Atkins
The whole anti-carbs movement, in general, actually. Hasn’t this diet been pretty much established as the wrong way to KEEP weight off? And yet, the low-carb craze continues. The sheer amount of effort I see people put into carbohydrate management is frightening. If a fraction of the discipline were only directed toward moderate physical activity and a “reasonable” eating routine…

Poker
Okay, now I know I’m gonna take some heat on this one, but I’m serious. Yeah, it’s a good game, don’t get me wrong. But is it $200-poker-kit-I’m-having-a-texas-hold-‘em-tournament-once-a-month-bring-your-personalized-visor good? I mean, the game’s been around for centuries. Why the sudden passion? If a table dispute were resolved with an eight-pace duel outside, I might be more interested. And playing poker is one thing, but how about watching it on television? It’s on ESPN incessantly; there are seemingly innumerable World Series in the professional poker world. I never was able to reconcile the fact that these best-of-the-best players wear shades that cover half their faces (though I must admit, someone did recently tell me that the “truly great” ones do not wear sunglasses). I’m thinking it’s a matter of time until a Hollywood pretty boy is tapped to star in a movie depicting one man’s rise to poker greatness against the backdrop of a budding romance, all to the sounds of the latest Top 40 Billboard hits. Tell me you can’t see it. Maybe I’m just bitter than the majority of my web blog spam comes from online casinos. Maybe that’s it.

Anyway, a little high-and-mighty’ish on this post, I know. And, after all, diversity makes the world go ’round. But, that said: I just don’t get it.

Hitler’s Patriot Act

One thing everonward has (hopefully) yet to be during its short existence is political (and by that, I think I mean partisan). I plan, for the most part, to keep it that way, too. If you are like me, you find yourself bombarded by politics at every turn. And, if you are like me, you grow weary of its intrusion into otherwise enjoyable pastimes. Don’t get me wrong, involvement and education are important, but smothering me with unsolicited political commentary only serves to further jade my perception of modern government and taint my desire to participate in it.
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Unleaded

Lately, I’ve been amused at the to-do over rising gas prices in this country. Myself, I just find it hard to complain when our European brethren are paying an average of over $5/gallon to fill up. But I suppose that’s typical. It’s likely that most Americans don’t view Europeans, or the rest of the world for that matter, as brethren. For some reason we tend to feel as if we deserve better. Put that way, I guess we really do have something to complain about.

As it turns out, much of the price of European gasoline is attributable to taxes placed on it. United States gasoline prices include tax, as well (around 50 cents/gallon is attributable to taxes, varying by state), just not as much. Much of this tax goes toward supporting the highway infrastructure which, in the case of the U.S., is the best in the world. So here we are paying less than half the price for the same gasoline while enjoying a transportation system unmatched in the global community. But let’s complain.

I think some twisted part of me hopes that gasoline prices continue to rise. In such an instance, maybe alternative fuels would become a more attractive option for car manufacturers and the traveling public alike. Fossil fuels are not the future; that much is clear. Perhaps rising gas prices will encourage the utilization of car-pooling and mass transit. People in this country have developed this notion that it’s their inalienable right to drive their very own 1-ton (and any in many cases 2-ton and beyond) vehicle for the sole purpose of delivering only themselves from the suburbs to the city for work. It’s the American way: wanting all the benefits without any of the effort. I admit, I am guilty of this myself. I get in my car every morning, drive straight to work, and return straight home afterward; no messing around with picking people up or catching a bus (though, if mass transit were an option for me I’d seriously consider it). But I really should complain, I suppose.

Is OPEC a monster? Absolutely. But until I see American citizens (myself included) and, to an extent, corporations putting forth at least minimal effort to mitigate the impact of rising gasoline prices, and at the same time combat them, you won’t see me feeling sorry for us. Until then, for me and the Jetta, it’ll be 87-octane, please. And you won’t hear me complaining.