You Mean, in the Superdome?

Kos reports on the 2008 DNC convention finalists:

Eleven cities want the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Las Vegas
New Orleans
New York
San Antonio

Take the poll of which city you think should get the convention.

Update: As I suspected, the early votes show a brewing battle between Denver (part of a Democratic “Western strategy”), and the sentimental favorite — New Orleans.

Sorry… New Orleans?

I’m all for provocative choices. When the Republicans chose NYC in 2004 it was clearly meant to be a bold choice. I fully expected Bush to march down Broadway from Madison Square Garden and pull an American flag from the rubble at ground zero to cap off the evening. It worked. Having Giuliani there and referencing 9/11 a billion times almost certainly reinforced the War on Terror image in people’s minds.

I’d love to see the Dems make a provocative choice. And certainly one reason to choose New Orleans is to hammer home the idea of the Bush administration’s domestic policy incompetence (another, less cynical reason would be simply to pour much-needed convention money into the local economy!).

But New Orleans might be too much. Are you really going to pack the delegates into the SuperDome, and make them use the same restrooms that were piled high with human excrement for five awful days last September? Is that really the image the Democrats want to make?

I know, I know… “rebirth” and “renewal” and all. And who knows where NO will be by 2008 in terms of rebuilding. But right now, it seems like a choice that’s going to open up a lot of raw emotions and wounds that will ultimately distract from the inevitable nomination of Mark Warner (sorry… did I say that out loud?).

Cast my vote for Denver… or Phoenix. Go West, Donkey.

First, We Will Bomb Your Country Back Into The Stone Age, Then We Will Enroll Your Sons In 21-Meals-Per-Week Plans At Yale’s Finest Kosher Dining Hall

The controversial Sunday Magazine piece on Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, ex-Taliban spokesman who has enrolled at Yale to pursue an undergraduate degree, is pretty fascinating. After reading it, you start to root for the guy and eventually begin to think that this might be as good a way as any to pull f**ked up people with f**ked up ideologies back into the orbit of civilization. Ivy League schools might want to consider reserving scholarships for citizens of ex-tyrannical, formerly undemocratic nations. (It might shake things up a little at these places.)

And even though you may be inclined to shake your head at the apparent idiocy of Ivy League admissions offices tripping over themselves to enroll Islamists, don’t miss this nugget — the image is hilarious:

[Yale dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid] Richard Shaw said the admissions office had once had another foreigner of Rahmatullah’s caliber apply for special-student status. “We lost him to Harvard,” he says. “I didn’t want that to happen again.”

Yes, the Taliban were one of the worst regimes out there, but it’s impressive to see Rahmatullah’s point of view slowly, gradually evolve. Dude should go back to Afghanistan and run for office — it might not be half-bad for him to run for president eventually!

He’s Saying What We’ve Been Thinking

If memory serves, somebody around here seemed to make the same sort of argument Mickey Kaus is putting forward:

What if Congress eventually votes to kill the Dubai port deal, President Bush exercises his first-ever veto, and then Congress by a two-thirds vote overrides the veto? On the chat shows today, this veto-overrride scenario was treated as humiliating for Bush–further weakening, low approval ratings, lame duck status, second-term blues, etc. But mightn’t it instead be a logical Kabuki outcome for the GOP? Congressional Republicans would get what they want–which is a chance to demonstrate their independence from the President. Voters would get what they want–which is not to worry about Dubai running American ports–and they’d be more inclined to return the incumbent Republican majority. Meanwhile, Bush would show friendly Arab governments a willingness to risk his prestige to go to bat for them. (‘I tried. Too bad about those timid Congressional xenophobes.’).

Kaus doesn’t see how it helps the Democrats (“control of Congress is a zero-sum game–there can’t be an outcome that helps both parties”), but I still disagree. I’ve seen Chuck Schumer so much lately up there on the high horse about this issue. It’s possible my perspective on this is skewed — Chuck is everywhere for me, frequently showing up in my dreams, as well — but I think the Democrats have gotten pretty good right-on-terrorism points with this issue . . . no sense in seeming overtly political by rooting against an override . . .

Because Politicians And States Are Both Rational Actors Acting In Their Own Self Interest

So much for alienating allies with our unilateral arrogance:

The prelude to the Iraq war was a period of intense strain in German-American relations. In his 2002 political campaign, Gerhard Schröder, then the German chancellor, warned against an invasion and vowed that Germany would not participate. President Bush declined to make the customary congratulatory phone call to Mr. Schröder when he won re-election that September. Annoyed by the antiwar stances of Germany and France, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld offended the two nations by labeling them “old Europe” shortly before the war in March 2003.

Longstanding relations between American and German intelligence agencies, however, persisted. As the American military prepared to invade Iraq, the German intelligence agents operated in Baghdad.

Among their tasks, they sought to obtain Mr. Hussein’s plan to defend Baghdad, the United States study asserts. . . .

After the German agents obtained the Iraqi plan, they sent it up their chain of command, the study said.

In February 2003, a German intelligence officer in Qatar provided a copy to an official from the United States Defense Intelligence Agency who worked at the wartime headquarters of the overall commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, according to the American military study. Officials at the agency shared the plan with the Central Command’s J-2 office, or intelligence division. That division supplied information for the report.

The classified study contains a copy of the sketch supplied by the Germans. “The overlay was provided to the Germans by one of their sources in Baghdad (identity of the German sources unknown),” the study notes. “When the bombs started falling, the agents ceased ops and went to the French Embassy.”

That account of German assistance differs from one the German government has provided publicly. After the election of a new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2005, German officials insisted that they had not provided substantial help to the United States-led coalition. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was Mr. Schröder’s chief of staff during the invasion, denounced news media reports last month that German agents had picked targets for American warplanes as “absurd.”

. . .

Germany is not the only case in which a government that warned against the invasion quietly helped United States forces wage the war. The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, publicly warned that the invasion of Iraqi might lead to a human catastrophe and insisted that Egypt would not provide direct help to a United States-led military coalition. “It is not the case, and it won’t be the case,” he said in late March 2003.

But Mr. Mubarak quietly allowed United States aerial refueling tankers to be based at an Egyptian airfield, according to a United States military official involved in managing the air war against Iraq, who asked to remain anonymous because he was speaking about delicate diplomatic arrangements.

The tankers were used to refuel Navy aircraft in the Mediterranean and land-based warplanes on their missions to and from Iraq. United States warplanes also flew through Egyptian airspace to carry out missions over Iraq, American military officials said. United States nuclear-powered vessels were allowed to quickly move through the Suez Canal, and cruise missiles were fired at targets in Iraq from the Red Sea.

The Saudis have played down the extent of their cooperation with the Bush administration. But they allowed the Delta Force and other American Special Operations Forces to mount attacks in Iraq from a secret base at Arar, Saudi Arabia, according to United States commandos who asked not to be identified because their operations were secret. The public Saudi explanation was that the area was being cordoned off for a potential flood of Iraqi refugees.

My faith in gratuitous political theater is preserved. See also: “Realism In International Relations” Wikipedia Entry.

“And now, the rest of the story.”

Bruno and I and the rest of the blogosphere spent a lot of time today talking about Port-gate.

No wonder Bush is so confident that this deal won’t negatively impact security — he nominated Dubai Ports World executive Dave Sanborn to serve as Maritime Administrator within DoT. As head of MARAD, Sanborn’s responsiblities will include ensuring the security of US ports.

From MARAD’s website:

Mission: To strengthen the U.S. maritime transportation system – including infrastructure, industry and labor – to meet the economic and security needs of the Nation.

So, who better to keep watch on the company operating US ports than someone who’s been personally invested in managing that company?

It’s likely that Bush has been reluctant to talk about this source of his confidence, judging the inevitable — and correct — charges of nepotism to be more damaging in the long term than this short term squabble. Still, I think it’s further proof that Bruno and I are on the right side of this one — let the sale go through and focus on the real issue, which is the need to improve top to bottom security for all US ports. [although given Bush’s propensity to appoint nitwits and incompetents, maybe I should be more concerned knowing about the nepotistic angle here]

Link to the Dubai Ports World press release announcing the appointment is here.

Thanks to Bryan D. for this.

Nick Kristof: Also Making Sense

Nick Kristof, easily the most intellectually honest columnist in the NY Times’ stable, argues [Times$elect!] that the DP World deal shouldn’t concern us:

Critics of the deal seem to suggest that swarthy men in black turbans are going to be arriving to provide port “security” in Newark. But Dubai Ports World is run mostly by Western executives, under an American chief operating officer. Nothing is going to change on the ground in Newark.

He might have gotten that partly wrong. As far as I can tell, the CEO is almost certainly not American, though he was educated in the U.S. But here’s the more important point:

Suppose you were Osama bin Laden and wanted to set off a nuclear weapon or a “dirty bomb” in front of the U.S. Capitol. First you would bribe Russians with access to loosely secured nuclear materials.

Then you would ship them to the U.S. — but the key step would occur in the foreign port: hiding the materials in the shipping container of a well-known and trusted exporter. If the container were shipped out of Rotterdam and seemed to contain Lego toys, for example, U.S. customs officials (who are now also based abroad) might not bother to examine it.

So even if agents of Al Qaeda infiltrate Dubai Ports World, and some manage to get U.S. visas and be stationed in Newark, it’s not clear that they could help the plot.

Furthermore, a globalized society is always going to be about trade-offs, and the merits of each one have to be weighted carefully against the consequences:

So every country accepts trade-offs. We admit European tourists without visas, even though terrorists may slip in as well. But since 9/11 there has been a nativist, Know-Nothing streak in politics; a year ago it blocked China’s deal to acquire Unocal, and today it rages at the Dubai ports deal.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull used to say that “when goods do not cross borders, armies do.” If we want to promote global markets, as an avenue to peace, we have to practice what we preach.

Of course there are differences between the UAE and the UK. We have to grant that. Of course there are legitimate concerns here, on the face. But once you dig deeper, you quickly realize that the issue of shifting management paperwork from one global shipping concern to another is the least of our port-related worries.

I’ve said on the show that I refuse to engage in a debate with pro-lifers until they take the minimum, obvious steps of making contraception freely available to teenagers and provide good health care and other social services to young, poor, single mothers (yes, the same ones they routinely chastise as “welfare moms.”) Similarly, I think any debate over the global management paper trail of port operations companies has to take a back seat to far more pressing issues of actual port security.

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Drudge Report as Tea Leaves II

It’s fun to try and decipher the hidden codes in Drudge Report headlines. But This one’s got me stumped:

What’s the implication here? Why this picture? Is he implying that these soldiers are lining up to get in to “Soldier Costume Night” at a Baghdad gay bar?

In all seriousness, though, when you follow the link it’s not pretty. And no doubt the prominent placement of the link is Matt Drudge’s way of insinuating that gays are unfit to serve.

You Heard It Here First!

Yesterday’s Bruno in today’s New York Times op-ed page:

The chickens are coming home to roost. A White House that routinely brands anyone who disagrees with its positions as soft on terrorism is now complaining that election-bound lawmakers are callously using the ports deal to frighten voters. A White House that invaded Iraq as a substitute for defeating Al Qaeda is frustrated because Congress is using the company, Dubai Ports World, as a stand-in for all the intractable perils of the Middle East.