Friday, March 07, 2003

A couple of new addresses for sites in the blogroll, one temporary, one permanent:

The latter will show up in the blogroll itself as soon as blogger starts using the new template I gave it. (The changes have been saved, as clicking the template button pulls them up, but when publishing, it's still using the old one. Sigh...)

Christopher Allbritton, in his general survey of the prewar scene, notes some remarks from the Turkish military chief of staff, Gen. Himli Ozkok:

"If we had expressed our views, it would have amounted to pressuring the parliament for the approval of the resolution. It wouldn’t have been democratic," Ozkok said. (Cue rueful laughter.)

In other words, Ozkok told parliament that the Turkish military believes in Turkish democracy -- until it gets a vote it doesn't like. Has he been taking lessons from Don Rumsfeld?

There is no doubt the civilian government got the message, as Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Ozkok's comments were "reasonable." Parliament speaker Bulent Arinc, who is pursuing some agenda of his own, gave a more measured response, saying he appreciated the general’s remarks and thought the timing of the statement was "quite telling."

Parliament is surely as aware as Gen. Ozkok of the Turkish army's history of military coups -- it seems to have viewed itself in the past as a check on the civilian government, rather than the reverse.

Thus do we light a beacon of democracy in the Muslim world...

The footloose penguins of the San Francisco zoo are no longer trying to migrate to Brazil; the attempt, which had them swimming in circles for a couple of months, had excited what the SF Chronicle calls "worldwide interest in the fact that penguins swim."

But the perils of penguinhood persist:

[Penguin keeper Jane] Tollini worries that burrow selection, often meaner than the nastiest real estate transaction, could be a bloodbath for the more genteel Ohio birds.

Although most penguins reclaim their previous burrows, it doesn't preclude a land grab. So far, Fig Newton and Hey You have appropriated four burrows, while Louise and Charles have claimed three.

"They are little Donald Trumps," Tollini said.

The burrow wars continue until the first eggs are laid, when the birds stop trying to defend their other, eggless, burrows. Until then, manifest destiny can be lethal in the penguin world.

Over the years, three female penguins at the zoo were beaten to death when they wandered into the wrong burrows. One fatality occurred five years ago. The victim was a widow named Cruella.

Not Leona?

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Nicholas Kristof surveys the wreckage:

So let's take stock of how our invasion of Iraq is going. The Western alliance is ferociously strained, NATO is paralyzed, America is resented by millions, the United Nations is in crisis, U.S. pals like Tony Blair are being skewered at home, North Korea has exploited our distraction to crank up plutonium production, oil prices have surged, and the world financial markets have sagged.

And the war hasn't even begun yet.

Also, we look like lunatics to people the world over; when Dubliners were asked who was the greater danger, they picked Dubya over Saddam Hussein by 60% to 39.

But we must press ahead regardless, say the liberal hawks; to do anything else would endanger our credibility.

More get-out-the-Security-Council-vote efforts, Dubya style:

Showing its exasperation with Russia's growing defiance of U.S. war plans, the United States on Wednesday resorted to economic blackmail and warned Russia that it risks jeopardizing its bid to join the World Trade Organization if it vetoes a UN Security Council resolution.

Russia also risks having to endure the continued humiliation of Soviet-era U.S. trade restrictions and being locked out of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, said a senior U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview Wednesday.

Which moves Sean-Paul Kelly to comment that:

This is quite possibly the stupidest thing the administration could do. (Full disclosure: I am married to a Russian.) Hurting Putin in this way will only embolden his domestic critics, especially when election are just around the corner.

You know, I've thought several times myself that these guys had done the stupidest thing they could possibly do. And they keep proving me wrong...

Taking an offhand look at USS Clueless, I ran across this analysis of Dubya's deep strategy regarding North Korea. (He always has a deep strategy concerning these foreign policy conundrums, which is frequently opaque to experienced diplomats, but invariably transparent to retired cell phone engineers). Here it is, in brief:

Kim is trying to provoke a crisis for us because he's facing one of his own. With the cutoff of oil shipments [for free from the US, as part of the broken nuke cessation deal], and as a result of other factors, he's looking at a situation where his nation may collapse completely. They do not have the ability now to generate enough power to keep even a minimal modern state running. For instance, their railroads are electric; without electric power generation, most of their internal transport will shut down. A railroad system is to a nation what the blood system is to a person; shut it down, and everything else dies.

And, as a result of this impending crisis, Dubya can just sit tight and wait for Kim's money to run out.

Of course, North Korea has some options for generating funds to pay for oil which Den Beste neglects to mention -- if Kim can hang on a few more months, for instance, while Dubya is preoccupied with other matters, he gets to go into the highly lucrative nuclear weapons export market.

By the way, Den Beste's 2500 word analysis of North Korea's financial, diplomatic and economic situation mentions China, the DPRK's largest trading partner, exactly once -- as a destination for refugees who fear the minefields in the DMZ. That relationship kind of matters to his argument, since the free crude oil, fertilizer, and food from the Chinese are still coming, and the Chinese have expressed an extreme reluctance to join any sanctions regime which would cut them off...

Den Beste has now added an odd postscript, perhaps intended as a response to someone else, in which he notes that the DPRK can't be selling nukes now. Which no one disputes; the most alarmist estimates are that they right now have only one or two, which they'd want to retain themselves for deterrence. Sales do become an issue a bit down the road, when their plutonium plant is turning out weapons grade material once again. The only way that resource shortages, of fuel or anything else, will prevent that from happening is if China cuts the cord -- which is unlikely; that would precipitate exactly the collapse Den Beste wants, and the Chinese seem to regard nukes as the lesser danger. And his postscript still doesn't acknowledge that they're getting oil from China in the first place.

He also suggests that if waiting it out won't take care of the problem, a few cruise missiles lobbed at Yongbyon will. Which is surely the case, so long as you don't mind retaliation with whatever weapons the North already has, the annihilation of Seoul, and a second Korean war...

The Treasury Department is adding new colors to the back of the $20 bill to try to stay one jump ahead of the counterfeiters. But marketing professional Kevin Drum thinks they omitted a vital stage in planning this initiative -- "Unlike M&Ms and Lifesavers, however, the Treasury Department is not allowing consumers to vote on the color, a potentially costly mistake". So people may just want money less.

I, on the other hand, see this as a sagacious, prescient initiative. preparing up the population to weather economic hard times...

Oh, drat. It's his most recent post, and isn't in the archive as I write. Try the front page if you're curious...

FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley wrote another letter:

She said she was worried by the bureau's continuing mishandling of the cases against Mr. Moussaoui, the only person charged in an American court with conspiring in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and Mr. Reid, who pleaded guilty last year to trying to blow up an American Airlines plane over the Atlantic.

Specifically, she said, she was alarmed that the bureau and the Justice Department had failed to try to question either of the two about their Al Qaeda contacts, choosing instead to focus entirely on prosecution.

"It therefore appears that the government may have sacrificed the possibility of acquiring information pertinent to future attacks, in order to conduct criminal prosecution of these two individuals," she wrote. "Although prosecution serves worthy purposes, including deterrence, standard practice in `Organized Crime/Terrorism 101' dictates imaginative, concerted attempts to make inroads into well-organized, cohesive groups. And sometimes that requires `dealing with the devil.' "

"Lack of follow-through with regard to Moussaoui and Reid gives a hollow ring to our `top priority" — i.e. preventing another terrorist attack," she wrote. "Moussaoui almost certainly would know of other Al Qaeda contacts, possibly in the U.S., and would also be able to alert us to the motive behind his and Mohammed Atta's interest in crop-dusting."

She also notes that during all this, the FBI brass has apparently been preoccupied trying to keep the agency from getting broken up or restructured. (Which, given the agency's performance, might be the best thing that could happen to it, though I'm sure Ms. Rowley, a career agent, would disagree).

There will presumably be the usual whining from the usual quarters about how she's only seeking attention, and so forth -- never mind that she turned down some potentially lucrative book contracts...

It's a little late to link to this now that it's made Atrios, but is collecting volunteers to fast for the holiness of George W. Bush. And to think, time was that political office was considered in the realm of the profane. Render unto Caesar, anybody?

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

There they go again. Critiquing wavering liberal hawks, David Adensik asks:

... why have Kevin and Matt become so worried in the immediate aftermath of the speech in which Bush went further than ever before in spelling out his commitment to promoting democracy throughout the Middle East? (Not just in Iraq, a point Kieran Healy seems to miss.)

While talking the talk is not the same as walking the walk, one has to realize two things about Bush's speech. The first is a general point which relates to all political speeches: When polticians make explicit promises, they can either be punished for breaking them or forced to live up to them. ...

So, imposing democracy (strange concept, that) is clearly, in David's view, a feasible plan, within the constraints of America's available resources. But on the other hand...

While Kevin thinks containment "could be made to work for several more years", I doubt it. The UN can't keep its inspectors on the ground forever, perhaps a year at best. Eventually, they will either have to declare that Saddam is lying or give Saddam a clean bill of health and just go home.

So it's completely impossible to keep inspectors in the country to verify continued compliance, during the same period in which we would otherwise have a full-scale army of occupation in place to run the country for a several-year reconstruction project. Say what?

Peter David, "Writer of Stuff", has a new baby in the house, and the effects of sleep deprivation are showing. Hearing that captured al-Qaeda nabob Khalid Shaikh Muhammed was known as "the brain", he comes up with this:

Bin Laden and the Brain
Bin Laden and the Brain
One is a genius, the other's insane.
Send people to their graves
While hiding out in caves
Osama...bin Laden and the Brain brain brain brain brain
It seems that some high school sports leagues need to reorganize:

Lakeshore Public Academy in Hart, Mich., has only 50 students and just a handful of sports teams. Academics, not athletics, are supreme. So it is a complete surprise that Lakeshore has become the subject of a debate on sportsmanship and fair play in high school sports.

It began when the Lakeshore girls' basketball team lost to Walkerville High School early this season. Lost badly, in fact, 115-2.

And they weren't even running up the score; Walkerville's second team was on the floor for the whole second half, and specifically instructed not to press.

The blowout was perhaps the most troubling of what many coaches and educators say has been an increasing number of lopsided games across the country this season, particularly in girls basketball.

And the story goes on to discuss several tricks that leagues are playing to try to cope with blowouts -- mercy rules, running the clock fast, and so forth.

Is it naive of me to suggest that schools like Lakeshore, which have a few beginning players and an inexperienced coach, just shouldn't be playing in the same league as Walkerville, with ten years of tradition and experience, and kids who have been playing for years?

A belated comment on the Garrett affair, discussed in detail here for the few, the lucky few who don't already know what I'm talking about. Briefly, Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer, got a backstage pass to the World Economic Forum at Davos, and upon her return, sent a long, chatty email about it to what she describes as a "handful" of friends. They sent it to their friends, who sent it on further, and a few weeks later, she was shocked to find this (initially) private email being chewed to death on Metafilter.

As a rather private person myself, she starts with my sympathy. But after finding out about her little problem, she's been working to lose it.

Garrett does have completely legitmate complaints about the discussion. To start with, the blurbs about off-the-record briefings, as unsurprising as the contents were, could be a real problem for her in trying to deal with confidential sources in the future. However, her response to the MetaFilter thread, which was clearly intended to be posted into that public forum, was full of intemperate nonsense. Let's start with this:

... in 2003 few of us pen letters anymore, and the number of seconds it takes to forward an e-mail to a dozen people is too few for ethical reflection. We have erased privacy. And, remarkably, we have all come to believe that it is our right -- our privilege -- to read and analyze the personal musings of complete strangers. We don?t want the government reading our mail, but we se [sic] no problem with reading other citizens' letters.

Never mind how much of investigative journalism consists of reading other peoples' private documents without their consent -- a right Ms. Garrett would surely defend in other contexts. The notion that email technology somehow prevents people from exercising ethical judgment is just bizarre. The Internet Engineering Task Force's own netiquette guidelines warn against forwarding email (though it also warns that unencrypted email has the privacy of a postcard at best). These are the people who invented email, and have been using it longer than anybody.

Garrett's problem isn't with the technology. And it's not really with the folks at MetaFilter either -- by the time the message reached them, all record of its origin as private email had been stripped off. Rather, as some of the MeFi folks themselves noted, Garrett's problem is with her friends, who were thoughtless at best.

(You could sensibly argue that what's new about email is that it requires the exercise of ethical judgment about forwarding, which is hard enough to do with paper mail that the question of whether to do it just doesn't arise. But that's not what she said).

But the genuinely offensive part of Ms. Garrett's note was the end:

Ten years ago, before the Great Dot Com Crash, Silicon Valley pundits waxed eloquent about the great "community" of the internet, and the "new global democracy" it represented. But People, this is a fraud. Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF--whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM--waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

I beg of all of you--the Internet addicts of the world--to turn off your TVs and computers now and then and engage the world. Go have actual eye-to-eye conversations with your family, friends and neighbors. Read a great book. Argue politics over dinner with friends. Go to City Council meeting. Raise money for your local public library. Teach your 12-year-old algebra.

Climb a mountain.

Execute a dream.

Be a citizen of the real world.

As I read through the electronic conversation on this URL I was reminded of documentary I saw years ago about "Star Trek" fans. In it, William Shatner (AKA Captain Kirk) stood before hundreds of people dressed as Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans and assorted other imagined aliens. Somewhat bemused, Shatner looked at the sea of masked and oddly dressed humans and said, "People, I have only one thing to say to you: Get a life!"


We have here a Pulitzer prizewinning journalist, writing (as she had been made painfully aware) for a public forum, citing the well-known "get a life" SNL skit as a documentary. Now that's unprofessional.

But what's offensive is the notion that conversation on the internet is somehow less noble and real than arguments over dinner, and those who participate are simply wasting their time. And given, say, the well-documented role of the Internet in organizing the recent, world-wide antiwar demonstrations, or the credit that bloggers received for keeping up the fuss about Trent Lott, it's also demonstrably false.

From a subsequent UPI piece on the fracas, it seems that Garrett is still drawing the wrong lessons, though now they're different ones; now, apparently, she refuses to comment, saying "anything I say just makes things worse". No, just the dumb things.

The UPI piece also criticizers bloggers for lacking journalitsts' professional standards, particularly as regards to fact checking. Never mind that fact-checking efforts from the generally skeptical MeFi crowd (about a note that was already on the web before they got to it) were how Garrett found out about her little problem in the first place -- they didn't try to reach her quickly enough. Puh-leeze.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Capitol Hill Blue reports on the true significance of the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Muhammed, as seen by some in the administration --- facing the prospect of a "humiliating" defeat in the Security Council, it may provide a diversion they can use as an exit strategy:

"The vote in Turkey fucked things up big time," grumbles one White House aide. "It pushes our timetable back. On the other hand, it might give us a chance to save face."

"Saving face" means backing away from a showdown with the UN Security Council next week and agreeing to let the weapons inspection process run its course.

"The arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gives us some breathing room," says a Bush strategist. "We can concentrate on the favorable publicity generated by the arrest and the valuable intelligence we have gained from that event."

Mohammed, arrested in Pakistan, masterminded the 9-11 terrorist attacks. CIA agents found computer files, memos and other materials which pointed to plans for new attacks against the U.S. ...

"We've always needed an exit strategy," admits one White House aide. "Circumstances have given us one. We shouldn't ignore it."

Pursuing the war on terrorism by pursuing terrorists -- what a strange and novel idea. Was it Churchill that said that Americans could be counted on to do the right thing -- after exhausting every other option?

More: Emma of Late Night Thoughts has some words for people who don't mind the thought of this guy getting tortured. To which I'll add, as Christopher Hitchens was arguing in the wake of 9/11 (though who knows what he thinks now), that torture is excellent at getting the victims to tell you exactly what they think you want to here. It's not nearly so good at extracting the truth...

Regrettably, the permalink isn't working (the latest post isn't in the archive yet, a common blogger bug), so go here to see it for the moment...

Update: This WaPo story also suggests they're backing off holding a vote, but also says that Bush and Blair have agreed that the war drums will beat on regardless...

More than a year ago, Jim Henley offered a conspiracy theory --- that al-Qaeda and the Saudi government are in a tacit alliance, which the Saudis are using to draw dissenters away from direct attacks on the Kingdom.

That theory is looking a little better. Families of 9/11 victims are suing a number of Saudis for damages relating to support of al-Qaeda, including Turki al-Faisal, the erstwhile head of Saudi intelligence, now serving as their ambassador to England:

Turki admits to meeting bin Laden four or five times in the 1980s, when the Saudi-born terrorist was being supported by the West in Afghanistan. Turki also admits meeting Taliban leader Mullah Omar in 1998. He says he was seeking to extradite bin Laden at the request of the United States.

However, the legal papers tell a different story. Based on sworn testimony from a Taliban intelligence chief called Mullah Kakshar, they allege that Turki had two meetings in 1998 with al-Qaeda. They say that Turki helped seal a deal whereby al-Qaeda would not attack Saudi targets. In return, Saudi Arabia would make no demands for extradition or the closure of bin Laden's network of training camps. Turki also promised financial assistance to Mullah Omar. A few weeks after the meetings, 400 new pick-up vehicles arrived in Kandahar, the papers say.

Kakshar's statement also says that Turki arranged for donations to be made directly to al-Qaeda and bin Laden by a group of wealthy Saudi businessmen. 'Mullah Kakshar's sworn statement implicates Prince Turki as the facilitator of these money transfers in support of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and international terrorism,' the papers said.

Score one for the blogsphere...

It's been a while, but here's a little news from Boston:

We're getting used to Mitt Romney's brand of Republican politics. Like some past governors here, he's preaching the virtues of privatization -- for instance, he wants the successful Massachusetts Maritime Academy (which found good jobs for just about all of its graduates last year) to experience the benefits of operating as a free enterprise, so he's proposing to cut off all state support. The immediate effects would be to double tuition, and get the Navy to pull its loaner ships (which require state sponsorship), but what's that compared to the benefits of operating as a free enterprise?

This is part of a massive government restructuring program in which the administration claims to have found $2 billion in waste, fraud and abuse. The legislature hotly disputes that, --- but don't expect much comment from the state employees whose activities have been labeled as wasteful, fraudulent, and abusive. Per the administration's new regulations, most of them are forbidden to talk to the press.

Romney is also addressing another matter, restructuring the state's housing programs (a critical issue after years of skyrocketing rents). The state has mandated that towns put some cash into subsidized housing for quite some time, but some of them have a problem with that. Not that they couldn't afford it -- these are among the richest communities in the state -- but that it would add elements to the town population which the current residents find, ahem, undesirable. So, Romney is proposing to restructure the plan on a regional basis, which would allow wealthy town governments to build their share of affordable housing somewhere else, sparing their residents exposure to messy, smelly, poor people.

He's also proposing to cut back on construction of several new housing projects which the state is running directly. Since he hasn't spoken much about still having to cut programs of genuine value to meet his "no taxes" pledge, I gather that creating those new apartments is somehow wasteful...

Monday, March 03, 2003

Jim Henley has posted a fine critique of Kenneth Pollack's recent Times op-ed piece, a precis of the arguments from his pro-war book, in which, as Jim says, he cites "over and over again ... as evidence that Saddam cannot be deterred, instances where Saddam was deterred." As you might expect, he also has something to say about Pollack's use of evidence from defectors, which has come under renewed scrutiny of late. Recommended reading for fence-sitters and reluctant hawks.

Also of interest along these lines, Brad DeLong finds this nugget floating in "Bush at War", Bob Woodward's latest stew of leaks and innuendo:

[I]t's interesting to learn that--according to Woodward's sources at least, who include Powell or at least people who are close to and work for Powell--Wolfowitz, Perle, and company wanted to use American outrage at 9/11 as a justification for attacking Iraq before or instead of dealing with Al-Qaeda in its Afghan bases, even though they thought the chance that Saddam Hussein had been involved in 9/11 was less than 50 percent, and perhaps as low as 10 percent ...

Sunday, March 02, 2003

The New York Times reports on the present destitution of Argentina. A few years ago, the country had the highest per capita income in Latin America. Now, doctors are treating children with kwashiorkor, a nutritional deficiency syndrome. Other kids have it worse --- they're literally starving to death.

Turn over another leaf, and you get another anecdote. Desperate people literally tearing the country apart to sell it for scrap:

With Argentina in the fifth year of a devastating recession, anything that glitters is gold for thieves: bronze busts, commemorative plaques, statues of the famous, door knockers.

No metal object is safe: 1,200 manhole covers, 20 traffic lights and 10,000 electric meters disappeared last year in Buenos Aires.

And then there's this:

... on a May morning that happened to be her 59th birthday, Norma Albino stepped into her bank branch in San Isidro, a Buenos Aires suburb of cobblestone streets, famous for its affluence and the tall spires of its 100-year-old church. She asked -- for the third or fourth time since December -- for her family's money. When the teller told her that he couldn't help her, she blurted out: "I'm going to kill myself."

As horrified bank employees looked on, she poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol over her head and snapped at a cigarette lighter.

Albino became, at that instant, a symbol of the rage and hurt smouldering inside millions of Argentines. Rushed to a hospital, she survived with third-degree burns. Months later, she has found that the best therapy is simply to forget.

That last story gives an account of how it happened --- radical IMF-inspired reform pushed hard, in fact to the point where the IMF itself, albeit by its own account, was pushing the country to ease off. But as Emma from Late Night Thoughts points out, even during the '90s, when "reform" was supposedly working well, there was smoke in the air and the glint off strangely placed mirrors for those with eyes to see it:

In 1993, as part of its deal with the World Bank, Argentina was forced to privatize its water and sewage utility. The government granted the concession to Aguas Argentina, a consortium founded by two French companies, Vivendi and Suez. The consortium promised to reduce water rates and to improve and expand water and sewage services. In order to make the move popular, the Argentinian government drove the price of water up 54% before the contract was signed, allowing the company to roll back the increases and appear as saviors to the population.

If the IMF had the courage of their convictions, the whole exercise would have been pointless; if private industry could do a better job, there's no need to go out of your way to make the public utilities look bad. What does it say about the institution that they signed onto this fakery in the first place?

It's interesting how quickly a bunch of ideologues who are unwilling to let facts get in the way of a good theory can ruin a country...

Edit note --- last bit added late

A litte break from war talk and corruption. Here's a brief description of the shortest railroad in New York, a very short line (1.5 miles of track) which snakes around the Brooklyn waterfront on city streets, loading train cars onto barges for Jersey City (avoiding a detour which would otherwise take them near Albany), and trying to explain to passersby that they haven't somehow wandered onto First Avenue by mistake:

Sitting on 47th Street, on top of the tracks, was the crew's most persistent annoyance: a double-parked car, in this case a blue Ford Spirit. The train groaned to a stop.

"Hey, you know you've got a train in the middle of the street?'' one driver yelled. "Yeah, man, we know,'' [brakeman José] Torres replied with a sigh.

The railroad is down to three crew total, counting Mr. Torres, who is studying computers at the Katharine Gibbs school and hoping to find a new job somewhere indoors, but not counting Vice President Howard Samelson, who occasionally takes a little time out from his executive duties for a little impromptu track work:

On another cold morning, this one misty and drenched in rain, the locomotive set off from Bush Terminal down First Avenue like a ghostly apparition to collect 14 New York & Atlantic cars. [Conductor Jimmy] Lada and Mr. Torres were soaked. After a few blocks, Mr. Lada radioed [engineer Charlie] McClellend to stop. Down in the street, a switch point - the moving section of rail in a switch - had been dislodged, probably by the trucks pounding in and out of the Army Terminal during the night.

Mr. Lada called the railroad's vice president, Howard Samelson, and Mr. Samelson started driving from the office in Jersey City. A railroad man with 30 years' experience, he joined Cross Harbor eight months ago. His wife calls it that "silly little railroad.''

Mr. Samelson has a beard and wears a hat like Indiana Jones. He may be the only person living in Manhattan who actually needs a Land Rover: It bounced and sloshed across the moonscape of the Bush Terminal yard, which was so flooded that many tracks were underwater. When he pulled up to the idling locomotive, he crouched down before assuring Mr. Lada that the train would not derail; the other track, the one that was still there, would hold it in place.

As the crew continued on to 65th Street, Mr. Samelson found the missing piece of track by the side of First Avenue and got a forklift operator to drop it into the flooded opening in the roadbed with an iron-on-iron bang. The railroad vice president was showered with dirty street water.

The railroad's office is a trailer in Jersey City. The five locomotives which the railroad owns are antiques. The one it uses, which it rents, is a more recent antique. They're stored in a yard which shows signs of better days, in a crew room with a lockers for a couple of dozen crew. The track shuffles in and out of warehouses, cutting through a few, where the track is a lot less likely to be blocked by parked cars.

The line's future is uncertain. One city bureau is trying to expand rail use in the city to get trucks off the streets. Another is suing it trying to recover costs from a toxic waste cleanup, and apparently holding a brand spanking new dock facility hostage until it settles up. Says the line's President, Wayne Eastman, "We're not the little railroad that could. We're the little railroad that wants to."

One last passing thought on the day's events...

It is nice to see the strength of democracy at work --- that a democratically elected legislature, faced with a truly dumb proposal from a United States President, and under heavy pressure to accept it from the executive branch, can nevertheless, at least momentarily, do the right thing and just say no.

Pity it wasn't ours...

So, it seems Michael Savage is pimping for the return of the 1917 Sedition Act, a Woodrow Wilson initiative which the radical right evidently approves. (They're not so hot on the League of Nations. I'm not sure what they'd say about the segregation of the Post Office, though that may depend on who they think is listening).

Kip at Long Story, Short Pier, notes that in a just world, the first result of the enactment of this bill, which forbade (among many other things) false representations which endangered American troops, would be the relocation of Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld et al. from the Pentagon to an entirely different sort of federally managed facility.

And beat me to it. Drattit.