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»  March 31, 2006


NPR Plays Down Support for Censure: Friday night on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered", host Michele Norris introduced a story and interacted with political correspondent Mara Liasson in a segment titled "Calls for Censure Show a Divide in Democratic Party" that followed a piece by David Welna on the Senate Judiciary committee hearing on Senator Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush. These transcript excerpts are my own, from the audio on NPR's site.

NORRIS: The muted reception that Sen. Feingold's censure resolution is receiving from Democrats points to a serious divide in the party. Among liberal activists, censuring Pres. Bush is a very popular goal. Many would go further, saying he needs to be impeached. But as you heard in David Welna's piece only two Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring Feingold's resolution.
LIASSON: Among liberal activists in the base of the party and certainly in the blogosphere, censure is very popular. And censure even gets lots of support in polls of registered Democrats, not just activists.
In fact, according to a mid-March poll by American Research Group, 70% of Democrats support censure of the President for "authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders". With only 26% opposed, that's not simply the liberal activists in the party, that's nearly a 3:1 majority. 61% of Democrats polled support impeachment, with 30% opposed, a 2:1 majority.
LIASSON: Just because the President's policies and performance are unpopular doesn't mean the public wants him censured or rebuked, and on this particular issue, which is about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, the President's policies are not that unpopular. Polls show the public either split or a small majority are actually in favor of them.
The same poll showed that more voters supported censure (48%) than opposed it (43%). That's not just Democrats, that's all voters. 42% of independents and 29% of Republicans polled were in favor of censure.
NORRIS: Back to the Democrats, is the split between the liberal base and the suits in the Senate a big concern for the party?
70% of the Democratic party is in favor of censure. 71% of the GOP is opposed to or undecided about censure. In other words, censure is splitting the parties in a complementary manner. Certainly there is a disconnect between Democratic Senators and the party's voters, but that's not how NPR framed the issue, choosing instead to give the appearance of a minority of "liberal activists" and bloggers who support censure when, in truth, most of the people who make up the party agree with Russ Feingold. As do nearly half of all voters.


»  March 29, 2006


Get Textures from W3D Files: In my second reference to Berndt Garbotz (pictofun.com) in less than a week, he mentioned on dirGames the other day that Synchronik's W3D Extractor will pull the textures out of a W3D file and save them to files. W3d Extractor uses the free, third-party FileXtra4 and Binary Xtra.


»  March 26, 2006



The Good News About the Good News: An ABC News article written up at AMERICAblog (via Firedoglake) makes much of a figure from a poll stating that "31 percent of Americans believe the media make things in Iraq sound worse than they are". The story on the ABC site makes no mention of which poll this figure comes from, nor does it mention that the other 69% of those polled either have no opinion, agree with the coverage, or think it's being sugar-coated.

The video report accompanying the article interviews several people from the minority of respondents who believe there's not enough "good news" coming from Iraq, paying scant lip service to the majority (more than twice as large) who don't share their view. So I thought I'd try to track down the actual poll.

In the video segment, the 31% figure has an attribution of "Source: CBS News, Mar 9-12, +/-3". A quick Google search for "'31%' makes things worse site:cbsnews.com" and you come up with a PDF of the poll. At the bottom of page 8:

Most Americans are skeptical of the President’s 
description of the situation in Iraq. 66% think 
President Bush makes things in Iraq sound better 
than they are – the highest number to date. 23% 
think he describes things accurately.

                           Now   1/2006   1/2005
   Better than they are    66%     58%      55%
   Worse than they are      6       5        6
   Accurately              23      31       35

Views on how the media explains the situation in 
Iraq are more mixed. 35% say when the media
talks about Iraq they describe the situation 
accurately, but almost as many – 31% - say they 
make things sound worse in Iraq than they really 
are. A quarter of Americans say the media makes 
things in Iraq sound better than they area.

   Better than they are           24%
   Worse than they are            31
   Accurately                     35
By my count, that leaves 10% undecided. A clear 59% of the respondents think that the picture coming out of Iraq is accurate or actually worse than the media is reporting (that's 65% of the decided respondents). But both CBS and ABC make special note of the 31% which -- by the way -- is barely more than the number of people who think the media is describing things as better than they really are.

More egregiously, ABC's report highlights only the 31% figure, without noting that that is a decided minority of the repondents or providing a reference to the poll in their Web article, which is already being picked up on the right blogosphere as some sort of proof of vindication. Can't they do math over there?

[UPDATE 2006/03/26 17:30]

This is the party breakdown from page 11 of the poll:

q47 When the news media talks about how things 
are going for for the United States in Iraq today,
do you think they are making things in Iraq sound
better than they really are, making things sound
worse than they really are, or are they describing
the situation in Iraq accurately?

                                 *** Party ID ***
                               Total  Rep  Dem  Ind
Sound better                     24     8   30   31
Sound worse                      31    57   14   26
Describing accurately            35    30   43   31
DK/NA                            10     5   13   12

[UPDATE 2006/03/28 08:30]

Looking at the party ID figures again, it's sort of interesting that a higher percentage of Democrats than independents think the media is giving an accurate picture in Iraq. The percentage of Republicans who think the media's assessment of Iraq is correct is equal to percentage of independents with the same view. The number of independents who think the media is making things sound better than they are is equal to the number who think it's described accurately (with those who don't think the good news is getting out coming in close behind).

Crossposted to Daily Kos for comments.


»  March 25, 2006


Everybody Does It, Right? Right?: From a comment at Protein Wisdom about the Ben Domenech Red America blogging fiasco:

And the Left side of the blogosphere, while getting a scalp, did not acquit themselves well in this matter. They went completely off the rails. As TS9 has said, this is likely to boomerang on them. Who else has plagiarized? I guarantee you, there are going to be people going over ever word Jane Hamsher ever wrote.
I'm sure she's quaking in her boots.



GDC2006 Post IX: Faces From the Minna Mingle: Aside from wanting to see what's going on in the game world, the Game Developers Conference offers one of the best opportunities to get together with Director developers. Like, what else is there?

The IGDA Casual Games SIG and the Casual Games Association organized the Minna Mingle Wednesday night, and a number of Director game developers met up there.

Tom Higgins (Macromedia) shares a beer with Sulka ("The Game Designer who ran out of cards" it says on his cards) Haro and Tomi (Tom, in Finnish), both of Sulake, the Habbo Hotel folks.

A face not seen on these shores for too long, Mauricio Piacentini of Tabuleiro joins the group to talk to Tom.

Ten years ago this spring, Gary Rosenzweig's first book (The Comprehensive Guide to Lingo) was published by Ventana. Also published by Ventana that spring: Shockwave! by Darrel Plant. Gary's gone on to do marvelous things. Ventana went out of business the next year. About me, the less said the better!

Osma -- also of Sulake -- with the aforementioned Tomi. Why I don't write down Finnish surnames before I drink is beyond me.

We ran into Gene Endrody, the creator of Maid Marian, lurking around the Shockwave.com table.

Peter Glover, VP Games at Shockwave.com came through with invitations to their party the next night.

I'm not sure of the message adveractive's Steve Bullock was trying to get across to this photographer while talking to Gary. Just kidding!

While this photo is not technically from the Minna Mingle (it's from the next night) it does have a couple of notable Director programmers in it. That's yours truly on the left; Brian Robbins, the new Director of Games at Gametrust in the middle; and Rett Crocker of 3Dsolve on the right.

Thanks to Steve Bullock for taking the photo.

Maybe this construction at San Jose airport isn't semi-permanent, but it sure wasn't doing much for the airplane topiary.



GDC2006 Post VIII: Applying Torque to Shockwave: I didn't see this at the GDC, but Berndt Garbotz (pictofun.de) posted it to the dirGames list yesterday: "TGE Plugin now working in IE 6.0". That's the Torque Game Engine from Garage Games for those of you needing an expansion of the acronym. Neil Marshall's got a Windows plugin enabling playback of games developed with Torque within a browser, and is looking for people to help with ports to Mac and Linux.

What I did see at GDC was a new book by Edward F. Maurina III (from A K Peters, Ltd.) called The Game Programmer's Guide to Torque.

Got a copy.



GDC2006 Post VII: Booth Babes:

Before I left for the show, someone asked me if there were "booth babes" at GDC. I replied that I really hadn't seen many in my previous visits -- certainly nothing like you hear about at car or boat shows -- mostly women who worked for marketing or HR departments within the companies they were representing. And truth to tell, I didn't see many in evidence at this year's show, except for the booth at S3 Graphics, which was promoting its rendering technology with a Quake 4 tournament and a bevy of women in black dresses, some of whom had tattoed designs on their shoulders. Another company providing animation services had what looked like Japanese schoolgirls in French maid outfits, but I felt that taking a picture of them was just too pervy.

On the other end of the spectrum was +7systems. It just looks like he's holding her hand.



Disaster Management: Compare and Contrast: The April issue of National Geographic has an article marking the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

By April 1986, despite the fantasies of Tom Clancy and the scrying of Sovietologists like Condoleezza Rice, it was obvious to anyone with a clue that the Soviet Union was on the ropes. They'd been fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan for six years. Stories of long lines for people in Moscow to buy basics like bread and toilet paper didn't give the impression that the worker's utopia was just around the corner.

Still, despite all of the Soviet Union's many, many problems, this is how author Richard Stone describes what happened in Pripyat, a city of 50,000, two miles from Chernobyl (my emphasis):

In a radio broadcast the next morning, officials announced that there had been an accident and the town would be evacuated. That day, 1,100 buses from across Ukraine lined up in Pripyat. By 5 p.m. the city was empty.
Even with that kind of organization, the Soviet Union was gone five years later. Does not bode well.



GDC2006 Post VI: The Tortoise and the Turtle:

Bunnies and turtles abounded at the GDC this year. Seemingly inspired by the PLAYBOY logo, I saw at least five variations of the white rabbit silhouette on a black backgound, of which this poster was but one (the text under each of the pairings reads: "Multiplayer / Matchmaking / Cross-Platform). Of course, with a name like DemonWare, you don't need to worry if someone's offended by outlines of copulating bunnies and turtles.

It's that last pairing that intrigues me, however, as at another booth for a rendering product called Turtle, I made an obvious joke about the mismatch of a rabbit's head with the name of the product, only to be put promptly in my place by a young man mentioning that it was an allegory to the fable with the moral "slow and steady wins the race". Too much of a literalist I; when I learned that fable it was a hare and a tortoise, not a rabbit and turtle. No poetry award for me.


»  March 24, 2006


GDC2006 Post V: Have a Seat, Mr. Bond:

D-BOX Technologies was demoing their GameSim motion chair with a custom driving (and shooting) application made using Garage Games' Torque Game Engine.

Inserting some code for the force-feedback into the game was fairly easy, according to their reps, and the players seemed to think it was (almost literally) a kick in the pants. They might be available by the fall. I expect the price to be about $4,000.



GDC2006 Post IV: Sweeping Vista Under the Rug:

Microsoft was doing their best to get the message out that Vista, the next version of Windows, with its Vista Game Explorer, Xbox 360 Controller for Windows, and new in-box games is going to be the game platform for the future despite the fact that the company announced a delay in its release the same week as the Game Developers Conference. But yes, this guy was playing Solitare.



GDC2006 Post III: I Didn't Do It:

Tucked into the far back corner of the Expo Hall, behind all of the other recruiters, was a small booth with several of these posters. I have to say I nearly fell backward in amazement; just look at the second word in the line above "WANTED". Is that bizarre, or what?

As a matter of fact, as I walked up, one of the guys at the booth was just telling the other staffers that they'd had several of these posters stolen from around the corner of the booth, and he was taking one down before it, too, vanished.

That address at the bottom is www.cybview.com, by the way. They use Director to prototype front ends for the gaming industry. And they weren't the only company there looking for Director programmers.



GDC2006 Post II: Signs of the Apocalypse:

There was just something wrong about walking into a high-tech show when I saw the sign doing this. It wasn't changing. It was like this the whole time I was there.



GDC2006 Post I: We Have a Winner!:

Jake Grandchamp of RabidLab, who wrote the wacky Dodge That Anvil is pictured here with his custom-made anvil in front of the kiosk where his game was displayed at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose this week. The game was nominated in two categories (Best Web Game, Innovation In Audio) for the 2006 Independent Games Festival. It didn't win either one but Jake did get the Special 2006 IGF Award sponsored by Adultswim.com, which came with a $5,000 prize. Read Jake's Gamasutra.com interview.


»  March 22, 2006


GWOT Timeline Update: In his press conference today, President Bush said that a US military presence in Iraq will be "decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq." Assuming he's planning to serve out his full term, that means that the war will last at least until 20 January 2009, the 2,134th day after the invasion of Iraq.

With that in mind, I've updated the Global War on Terror timeline comparison.

The good news is that the projected length of the Iraq War is still less than the length of the Vietnam War. The bad news is that the amount of time we've been in Iraq hasn't quite reached the amount of time that elapsed between the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Tet Offensive.


»  March 21, 2006


GDC2006: I'm flying into San Jose tomorrow (Wednesday, 22 March) for the Game Developers Conference. If you're signed up for the Minna Mingle tomorrow night at the Corinthian Center (and really, who isn't?) I'll see you there!


»  March 20, 2006


MAX in Vegas: Shockwave & Awe: It hasn't been posted on Macromedia's site yet, but the word is out in the user group community that the next MAX conference is slated for Las Vegas, October 22-26.

Now, I go to MAX because without free t-shirts I have nothing to wear for the rest of the year, but there is, admittedly, not a lot of content at MAX for Director developers. After last year's show I found myself wondering if perhaps it might not be worthwhile to try to schedule a day-long Director only presentation either one day before or after the main portion of MAX. Director users who were already going to MAX for other reasons would have more content they could use. People who were on the verge of attending might have a reason to take the plunge. People who could get a cheap flight to Vegas could attend just the Director stuff.

The hotel I stayed at for last year's MAX was just around the corner from the Anaheim Conference Center where MAX was held, had meeting rooms that could hold a couple hundred people (which weren't being used) and would have been a fine, low-key, relatively low-cost venue for such an event. Whatever happens, I don't want to get caught in the trap Pat McClellan and Zac Belado did with the planned 2000 Director conference in Florida when Macromedia pulled out at the last hour.

Tentatively, I'm calling this "Shockwave & Awe". I know there's got to be a better name.

I'd love to hear what people think of the idea (and suggestions for a better name). If you think that you might be interested, send me your name at dplant at moshplant.com. If you have an idea of how much you think something like this might be worth to you, let me know. If you'd be interested in presenting something, let me know -- I can promise you I won't pay any less than Macromedia's paid for its speakers in the past (i.e. nothing). If you (Zac) think this is the most screwed-up idea you've ever heard of let me know. No promises, but hey, what have I got to lose but a wad of money?


»  March 19, 2006


Portland Protest Photo: Just a little photo from the Portland peace march, on 19 March 2006. Looking toward the Morrison Bridge from the west side of Waterfront Park.

I haven't heard what the crowd estimate was, and I really have no idea. The park area seemed pretty full between the bridge and Oak Street a couple blocks away, where the march began.



Reinhard vs. Allawi: Letter to the Oregonian:

In his Sunday editorial, David Reinhard chides those of us who predicted a civil war in Iraq by asking "where's a true civil war?" Pretty snappy come-back.

Of course, on the same day, the BBC reported that Iyad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq and someone presumably more in tune with the situation there than Mr. Reinhard, said this:

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more.

"If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."


»  March 18, 2006


Skip a Beat: I have no earthly idea why Mike decided to include me in today's Round Up at Crooks & Liars, but when you're just checking the sites you always look at and see your own name staring at you, the heart stops for a second...not that I wouldn't want it to happen again, mind you.



David Brooks Lies About Reagan and Reality: Last night on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer (emphasis added):

DAVID BROOKS: And -- and I think partisanship -- one of the things political science shows is that partisan shapes the reality you choose to see.

People choose the reality that -- that flatters their partisanship. For example, in the Reagan years, unemployment went from 13 percent to 5 percent. If you asked Democrats, at the end of that, did unemployment go up or down under Reagan, 60 percent said it went up. Republicans said down.

You choose the reality you want to see.

Apparently so.

These unemployment figures are from the Census Bureau's 1999 Statistical Abstract of the United States, Section 13, Figure 649, "Employment Status of the Civilian Population: 1950 to 1998". According to the legend, they represent "annual averages of monthly figures."

(percent of
labor force)

First, note that none of the annual averages even approach "13 percent." But more importantly unemployment in 1980 -- the last year of Carter's administration -- was just over 7 percent, a figure that was below anything seen in the first five years of Reagan's presidency. Even then, the numbers showing a downward trend were affected by changes in the methodology (Section 13, page 3):

Beginning in January 1985, and again in January 1986, the CPS estimation procedures were revised due to the implementation of a new sample design (for the 1985 revision) and to reflect an explicit estimate of the number of undocumented immigrants (for the 1986 revision).

First he claimed that under Reagan unemployment dropped 8 percentage points (13% to 5%) when by the government's own figures it went down by 1.6 points from 1980 to 1988. He claimed that the unemployment rate had been 13% when the average annual rate was less than 10% at its highest. He implied that Reagan had reduced unemployment significantly when, in the first years of the Reagan administration, the unemployment rate actually increased, and it didn't drop below the level of the last year of Carter's final year until after Reagan's re-election.

And that's how partisanship shapes David Brooks's reality.

You can retrieve monthly data for unemployment and many other statistics from the Bureau of Labor web site.

Crossposted to Daily Kos for comments.


»  March 14, 2006


Letter to Senators Smith & Wyden:

Dear Sen. ________:

I called your office yesterday to encourage you to support Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush for conducting warrantless wiretaps on American citizens.

I would like to reiterate that encouragement due to recently-released information about how the FBI and other intelligence agencies have been wasting resources investigating peace activists from the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice and others who disagreed with the administration for more than three years. In an era when there are real, serious threats to the safety of this country, it's an incredible waste of scarce intelligence resources.

What's worse is that it's exactly the same kind of misdirected effort that has been seen before in this country when secret police and intelligence forces are conducted without oversight. From the "red squads" of the 1920s to wiretapping civil rights leaders in the 1960s to the attempt to short-circuit the democratic process (i.e. spying on political opponents and creation of a blacklist) that led to President Nixon's resignation, unchecked policing powers have always led to a constitutional abuse, That's precisely why restrictions like the FISA law were set in place in the late 1970s.

Some of your Senate colleagues have speculated that the current NSA spying program could be made legal, but that program has been going on for four years in an extra-legal framework. Without oversight, we have nothing but trust in an administration that did an incredibly poor job of knowing what was going on in Iraq (while the NSA program was operational, no less) to go on that there have been no abuses. That's from the people who brought us Abu Ghraib, the Pat Tillman death cover-up, and the Brandon Mayfield incident. It's not a particularly good record.


»  March 11, 2006


It's Time: The minute I saw that the prize firedoglake's Jane Hamsher was giving out for her Joe Klein contest was a copy of the newly-released Action! DVD, I went ahead and ordered one.

I saw Action! on Fox when it ran in 1999, and made sure I caught the final few episodes on FX. Barbara and I can crack each other just repeating the inane tagline of "Beverly Hills Gun Club", the movie that lies at the heart of the storyline of the 13-episode series.

There truly is nothing new under the sun, and the people who created a TV show about the movie business during the waning years of the Clinton administration put in a segment where the show's protagonist — a morally-bankrupt producer named Peter Dragon — has to testify before a Senate panel on media violence that could have been written yesterday (or twenty years ago). This is a clip from the opening scene in the fifth episode ("Mr. Dragon Goes to Washington") where a senator asks Dragon how he can make the films he does and look his little daughter in the eyes. As reprehensible as he is, Dragon rises to the occasion (although he, of course, gets in trouble for it):

Quicktime (3.33MB)

Peter Dragon: I never voted to subsidize the growing of tobacco, while turning my back on food programs for starving kids. I've never vetoed a gun control bill; all my guns are fake, Senator. I've never rushed to the defense of Kuwaiti oil fields, while ignoring genocide in Africa, because big oil companies that line your fat pockets aren't concerned with black Africa. Those are all productions of your company Senator, this company right here!

Senator: Now you are perilously close to being cited for contempt, Mr. Dragon!

Dragon: I'm already in contempt! I'm in contempt of all you old whores and hypocrites! At least I'm giving the American people what they want!

Senator: And just exactly what it is that you think they want?

Dragon: I'll tell "yew" exactly what they want, Senator. They want chase scenes and car crashes. They want firm breasts and tight-assed Latino men. They want their cowboys to be strong and silent. They want their cops to bend the rules to get the job done. They want the boy to get the girl. They want the alien to get killed — unless he's cute. They want the good guy to win. They want the bad guy to die; hopefully in the biggest explosion the budget will allow. But most importantly, Senator, they want to walk into a theater and for ninety minutes forget the fucking mess that you have left of this nation.

Senator: You, sir, are a malignancy on America!

Dragon: I'm a malignancy? Well, if I'm a malignancy and my movies are cancer, I hope the whole damn country gets cancer, how's that?

Just buy the damn DVD like I did.

For extra credit, here's a twenty-some-odd-year-old clip from SCTV, lampooning the pressure put on commercial television by conservative groups and advertisers.

Quicktime (14.73MB)



Activision Co-Founder on Shockwave: I missed this back when it was originally published (on my birthday, no less!) but this month's issue of Game Developer magazine reprints several interviews with some of the giants of the computer game development industry from Gamasutra.com, in preparation for this month's Game Developers Conference.

One of those interviews is with David Crane, who worked for Atari before co-founding Activision in 1979. At Activision, he worked on Pitfall! and other legendary titles.

Since the mid-1990s, he's been involved with Skyworks Technologies, which develops advergaming and casual game applications. This is from the interview (emphasis added):

"Garry and I have designed and marketed games for every video game system since the 1970s, and we decided to treat the internet as a new game system. Our expertise making quality games for the early (small ROM) game systems would be invaluable in keeping game files small enough for modem download. We settled on Shockwave as a game design platform, a tool we had been using almost since its creation.


»  March 9, 2006


Six Ports Over Hillary: Paul McLeary of the CJRDaily blog (which is associated with the Columbia Journalism Review) has been a collaborator of Nation columnist and MSNBC Altercation blogger Eric Alterman. He recently did a series of reports about the practice of journalism from Iraq. On the other hand, Atrios once named him "Wanker of the Day" for a statement that bloggers were somehow more partisan than mainstream media figures. Most of the time, his heart seems in the right place, but some of the things he comes up with make me wonder where his head is.

Take the Dubai Ports World deal. Last Tuesday, he wrote 500 words on the genesis of the "six ports" figure that's been a prominent point in most stories. His conclusion? That it was five ports, not six, and that "the incorrect reports can be sourced to a press release issued by New York Senator Hillary Clinton." No link to the press release was provided.

His basis for this claim is that "the confusion could lie in the difference between 'container terminals' and ports where the company performs stevedoring operations." He came to that conclusion after speaking to one Robin Dolan, who is the VP for business development of P&O Ports, the operator being purchased by DPW. McLeary writes: "As Dolan notes, the release 'stated that the New York and New Jersey ports were separate, when they're one port.'" Actually, the P&O Ports North America lists them separately, as well.

Intrigued, I looked at Sen. Clinton's site. The first press release there mentioning the port issue announced legislation from Clinton and Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) to block foreign governments from controlling US ports. It's dated 17 February, and contains this language (emphasis added):

Dubai Ports World has announced plans to buy P&O Ports, the company that runs commercial operation at ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia, as well as other U.S. cities.

Note that this sentence mentions "commercial" operations and is not limited to containers. In fact, container terminals are not mentioned at all in this press release, although the final paragraph does say that only 5% of containers entering the US are inspected.

This is an important point, because the P&O operation in New York is actually the cruise line terminal on the Hudson River that handles over 800,000 passengers a year (emphasis added).

The New York City Passenger Ship Terminal, owned by the City of New York and operated by P&O Ports North America, provides five 1,000-foot-long berths suitable for servicing the worldÕs largest cruise vessels at a convenient location on the Hudson River only a few blocks west of Times Square in the heart of Manhattan. The terminal occupies the West Side of 12th Avenue between 46th and 54th streets.

 P&O Ports North America customers include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian, P&O Cruises, Princess, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn and Silversea. The terminal is also home to an array of trade shows and special events managed by P&O Ports North America.

Was Sen. Clinton's press release the origin of the six port figure? A couple of minutes with Google got me this AP story:

UAE Co. Poised to Oversee Six U.S. Ports

Company From United Arab Emirates Poised to Oversee Six American Ports Due to Sale


WASHINGTON, Feb 11, 2006, (AP)A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.


The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved Monday. The British company is the fourth largest ports company in the world and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Again, the language in the article is not limited to "container" operations, using "significant operations" and "commercial U.S. port operations", both of which include the activities at the New York City Passenger Ship Terminal. The article goes on to quote Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) but does not mention Sen. Clinton. It appeared nearly a week before the earliest press release from Sen. Clinton archived on her web site.

In comments to the CJRDaily article, I posted links last Wednesday to both the AP article (which may not be the earliest mention of the deal) and to Sen. Clinton's press release. I pointed out that there was no link in the CJRDaily article to the Clinton press release McLeary and the P&O spokeman claim originated the "six ports" figure. After receiving an email from McLeary that said "what we're talking about here" is container ships and not cruise ships, I pointed out to him and CJRDaily managing editor Steve Lovelady that neither the Clinton press release or the pre-dating AP article specified containers and that cruise ships are "commercial" shipping. I also invited him to send me a copy of a Clinton press release mentioning the six ports figure that eas earlier than the AP article I referenced, just in case one hadn't made it to her web site or I'd missed it.

Now, I've never been a fan of Hillary Clinton (and I wasn't particularly impressed by Bill, even during the 1992 campaign), but I find it troubling that someone working at one of the bastions of journalistic criticism would publish something accusing her of not knowing what she was talking about and either not have the evidence to back it up or the integrity to issue a retraction. It puts me in mind of the smirking and finger-pointing that the media indulged in when they were talking about the nerdy Al Gore in 2000. Rather than examine issues (Has Dubai actually proven itself as a reliable ally in the past four years? Is everyone in the ruling class there who might have supported bin Laden's cause in 2000 completely reversed their ideals? Do any of them work for DPW?) people like McLeary find some meme (Al Gore exaggerated his involvement in the creation of the Internet! Hillary Clinton exaggerates the potential threat of foreign operation of ports! She doesn't even know how many there are!) and run with it because it makes them look like "sensible" people who don't toe any party line.

Too bad if the time you don't bother to check whether the facts back up your gut instinct comes back to bite you. Of course, you could say the same thing about the Bush administration.

The sole reason for the existence of McLeary's article is to claim that the number of ports involved in the deal has been reported incorrectly. He blames that incorrect number solely on Hillary Clinton, without any verifying documentation. As I've outlined above, I believe that he's wrong about Clinton's office being the source of the "six ports" figure, it's only "incorrect" if you accept the premise of the P&O Ports spokesman that the discussion has been limited to container shipping (which is not the language used in most articles), and despite several requests to McLeary to provide a link or date of a Clinton press release that originates the figure, he has not provided one.

Finally, let me just add that it doesn't take a shipping container to bring in something like a nuclear warhead.

This is a photo of a US W80 nuclear cruise missile warhead. It has a potential yield (150 kilotons) of up to 10 times the strength of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. It weighs about 300 lbs., is a foot in diameter and is under three feet long. Even with packaging around them to disguise its inherent "bombiness" you could fit an awful lot of these babies into the dark corners of the "world's largest cruise vessels". Heck, with something like a W80 parked in a ship "only a few blocks west of Times Square" you wouldn't even need to bother to offload. The nuclear warheads the Soviet Union built for their Kh-55 cruise missile are likely a little larger and heavier (with a yield of 200kt). But presumably the warheads would be easier to get hold of. Certainly the missiles themselves are: Ukraine sold 18 older Kh-55s to both China and Iran.


»  March 7, 2006


Then They Came For Chomsky: I haven't seen anyone comment on this truly bizarre exchange between General Peter Pace and Tim Russert on this week's "Meet the Press":

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Jafari said that one of his favorite American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky, someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush administration foreign policy. Does that concern you?

GEN. PACE: I hope he has more than one book on his nightstand.

MR. RUSSERT: So it troubles you?

GEN. PACE: I would be concerned if the only access to foreign ideas that the prime minister had was that one author. If in fact that's one of many, and he's digesting many different opinions, that's probably healthy.

I have my doubts that Pace has any idea who Chomsky is, much less that he's read him. Frankly, I doubt Russert's ever read him.

Watch what you read.


»  March 5, 2006


Top Search On Oscar Night: Do It Yourself Abortion: I just happened to drop into Technorati this afternoon, and noticed something that seemed decidedly strange. Here, placed so that the time (Pacific) and day are visible, is the Technorati home page, showing the Top searches, the popup that appears when you roll over the top search, and the status bar showing the link at the bottom of the window:

In case you can't make it out (or it's changed by the time you get there), the top search is "Do It Yourself Abortion". The second slot is just Abortion. Those are both above "Natalie Portman", Oscar, and Video.

Crossposted to Daily Kos, where you can comment, if you wish.


»  March 3, 2006


India's Middle Class: 300 Million Strong?: Here's a question for an economist.

We've been hearing a lot this week about how the middle class in India is 300 million strong. Why, that would make just the middle class there the size of the entire population of the US. But do people in the US assume that middle class in India is the same as middle class in the US? There was a study in the mid-90s I've seen referenced by the National Council of Applied Economic Research on this site, for instance:

The first dilemma in looking at the Indian middle class is defining it. Simply converting living costs from Indian Rupees (RS) to dollars is one sure way to misunderstand the economics of life in India. One aid is the National Council of Applied Economic Research’s mid-1990’s report on the growing Indian middle class. It was based on a national population that was estimated to be 900 million rather than today’s 1.1 billion. The survey said the Very Rich consisted of about 6 million (or 67/100 of 1 %). Below them were three sub classes: The Consuming class, about 150 million people (17%,) the Climbers, about 275 million people (30 %); and the Aspirants, about 275 million (30 %). Beneath these were the Destitute, estimated to be 210 million (23%).

The Consuming class was reported to have an annual income between $1,300 and $6,000, and typically owned a TV, cassette recorder, pressure cooker, ceiling fan, bicycle, and wristwatch. Two-thirds of them own a scooter, color TV, electric iron, blender, and sewing machine, but less than half of them own a refrigerator. India is now the world’s largest market for blenders and the second largest for scooters (after China). Sixty percent of all urban homes have TV sets and 68 million of all Indian homes have TV sets. More than 32 million of those have cable, growing 8% a year. By comparison, only 22 million homes have telephones.

Just to be clear, the Consuming class is the rung just below the Rich. The Climbers and Aspirants are between them the Destitute.


»  March 1, 2006


Re: The Port Deal. WWID?: Just a quick question about whether opposition to the Dubai Port World thing is driven by common sense or racism: what would Israel do? I mean, do they already have ports operated by DPW (hard to imagine if the owners, the UAE, don't recognize Israel) or some other Middle Eastern company or country? Could someone ask an Israeli official whether they'd welcome the same sort of deal and if not, why?



Trying to Contain the Story: I took issue with Paul McLeary at CJRDaily about his attempt to finesse the number of ports involved in the Dubai Ports World takeover of P&O Ports (scheduled to be inked tomorrow).

In my comments, I pointed out that contrary to his statement (helpfully supplied by a P&O spokesperson) that "there are only five ports with container terminals (as opposed to the six we keep hearing about)", news reports and press releases by Senator Clinton don't specify container ports. P&O/DPW operates the cruise ship port on the Hudson River side of Manhattan.

It takes no great stretch of the imagination to figure that you don't need something the size of a shipping container to do some serious harm with the right weapon. Say you were a terrorist who'd gotten his hands on a nuclear cruise missile warhead. You've got a buddy who's in charge of loading stuff onto ships all around the world. You tell him you've got some heavy contraband you'd like smuggled into New York. He agrees to help you, ships it to a Caribbean port of call, and gets it onto a cruise ship bound for NYC.

How big would that weapon be? If it was something the size of the W80 nuclear warhead designed for the Tomahawk and ALCK/ACM cruise missiles, it'd be about 300lb (plus something to put around it), about 4 feet long, and 1.5 feet in diameter (at least that's what it looks like in the photo). A single W80 has the potential yield of 10 Hiroshima-sized bombs. I think you could probably hide a few of them on something the size of a cruise ship. And you don't even need to offload them.



It Did Not Warn of Attacks: Bumiller To Write Book On Condi: According to a story in the New York Observer (as reported on Romanesko), New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller is about to take a leave of absence to write a book for Random House on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

My sources in the book business say that it's a "slam dunk" that this is going to be the cover for Bumiller's book.

It Did Not Warn of Attacks

An alternative title was "Not A Historical Document", but it was pointed out to editors that that was the opposite of Secretary Rice's statements to the 9/11 Commission, so an actual quote of hers was used.

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