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Unsafe Harbors

The administration drops anchors on its toes. Also: The Great Raid is great indeed. Don't miss the director's cut. Plus: Treasuring Peter Sellers. And much more.

2.22.06

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PORT OF PIQUE
Re: Jay Homnick's Ports in a Storm:

Mr. Homnick refers to the ports deal as "another flash of the famous Bush obstinacy," and who can argue with that assessment? After all these years of obstinate refusal to deal with the problem of our porous borders, he has actually threatened to break out his dusty veto pen (assuming he can find it at all) to get the deal into reality over any Congressional challenge. He's determined to poke yet more holes in our national security even as he argues for ever greater powers to monitor private transactions of citizens.

How I wish that he'd apply some of that famous obstinacy to say, Social Security reform, on which issue he tucked tail and ran in the face of some partisan sniping and whining.

Is there no U.S. company that can provide the services to be provided by this new outfit? Where did this issue come from anyway? Is it a payoff for the claimed support of Dubai in our "war on terror"? Has there been some malfeasance or misfeasance on the part of whomever has been doing the job so far? Did they fail to adequately protect our ports of entry?

It's yet another example of Mr. Bush jabbing a sharp stick in the eye of those who elected him, with the consolation to them being that he's also nicked Charlie Schumer with this one.
-- Mark Fallert

Jay Homnick is correct in his assessment that Dubai Ports World is unlikely to engage in terrorist activities within the U.S. ports that it would be managing. At least within the foreseeable future. Yet there is still extremely good reason for the White House to justify its position on the pending transfer of responsibility.

That the UAE appears to be friendly and supportive of U.S. efforts to mitigate Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East is heartening. Yet only three years ago, they were, seemingly, staunch supporters of radical Islamic groups that engaged in the most violent type of terrorist activity. They had strong public ties to Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and China. And, though they have taken a series of public steps, beginning in early 2005, that seemingly repudiate support for terrorist Islamic groups and regimes and pledge assistance with increasing security of maritime shipments; is it wise to trust our new found friends too far?

This nation, and certain long time allies, find themselves in a war, not with nations, but with a religion-based culture. A significant number of the leaders of which are not hesitant to use violence to maintain their power and even to expand it. This culture is bound together by the religion of Islam. The debate over the essential nature of Islam, peace or war, is best left for another time. What is significant here is the fact that the UAE is an autocratic government with a strong Islamic identity and they are controlling partners in Dubai Ports World.

The question is, if this war heats up, who will the UAE cast its lot with? Will it be the secular, and non-Muslim, nations of the West? Or will it be the staunchly Islamic peoples in the world? And if they choose the latter, what harm can be done to this nation by having a state owned company from Dubai in control of major ports in the U.S.?

It is for these reasons that the White House must justify its decision to allow this transaction to continue. And at the least, some of the reasons have to be made publicly. The President must assuage the concerns of the citizenry as to the benefits of this action. Recent history should have driven this point home very clearly, by now.

I will reserve final judgment on the advisability of placing this company in control of the ports in question, providing the administration provides the answers to some questions. Though, I must say, that I see little to recommend allowing this to continue. This endeavor is every bit as foolish, at this time, as continuing our overwhelming dependence on oil from countries that support our adversaries in this war. It is past time to take serious steps to provide for the security of this nation.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Meaning no slight to the excellent Mr. Homnick, I would offer a few thoughts in the ongoing Dubai debate:

1) Chuck Schumer vigorously opposes the acquisition of the British management company by interests in the UAE? Last time I checked, the absolute best reason for supporting SDI was that the very thought of such a thing sent the Kremlin Commissars into a paroxysm of spittle-spraying fury. They were correct -- the USSR is now consigned to the dustbin of history and "Leningrad" is once again known as "Saint Petersburg."

2) Nothing changes, except into whose coffers the profits go. Is the news reported in the Washington Times any less accurate because Reverend Moon fronted the money for it?

3) Even assuming that all of the critics' misgivings are valid, I know of many a small-town police chief or sheriff who headed trouble off at the pass by hiring/deputizing local rowdies as soon as they came of age. Poachers seem to make the best game-wardens.
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

Let's put our conspiracy hats on for a minute. G*d knows the loony left will even if things work out on ports the way they say they WANT it to.

What reasonable person will believe that George Bush would sacrifice national security after all the unpopular (to the left) measures he's taken to preserve it? Sure, there are politicians on both sides of the aisle who want to pass a law prohibiting foreign companies from owning or managing U.S. seaports, but the Democrats are especially eager to demonstrate that they really are tough on terrorism and that they really, really are more concerned about homeland security than they are in getting reelected and taking over Congress and the White House. They see an opportunity to get to the right of the administration on what they perceive to be a homeland security issue. And since there aren't soldiers, bullets or other stuff that goes "BOOM!" involved, Democrats are speaking up loudly all over the place. Opposing Bush reflexively and mindlessly is what they do best, and they see a political bonus in this obstruction.

Taking over our own ports may not be a bad idea. Who knows?

But there's a kicker. A bit of research reveals that there may be only one U.S.-based company that has the assets, infrastructure and know-how to run and manage our ports.

And that company is (drum roll)... Halliburton!!

When (if) this all takes place, the Democrats are going to go crazy (crazier?) knowing that Bush and his evil puppet masters, Rove and Cheney, set another trap for them. He will have made them look like chumps again. If Bush wanted to give the contract to Halliburton all along, he had to know that it would be a major political problem. But with the angry left's help it may not be a problem much longer, especially if no U.S.-based company other than Halliburton could even submit a qualified bid.

Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and the rest of the Dems in the bleacher seats will be on Halliburton's Christmas card list this year, and the Bushies will be chuckling -- again. The Dems are the gift that keeps on giving...

Heh!
-- J. Shenk
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

I am so damn confused.

I thought we were fighting a war. I thought the war was against terrorists. I thought the terrorists were overwhelmingly Islamic radicals who have been quite patient and spectacularly successful using disguise, deceit, planning and propaganda aimed at diluting our cautious skepticism with politically correct fear of being seen as "anti-Islam."

I thought one of the main reasons we are fighting "over there" is to avoid the "over here" aspect of this war... at all costs. I thought common sense would dictate supreme security measures at AIRPORTS, BORDERS and SEAPORTS...

Smart foxes cause havoc long before anybody notices the henhouse door ajar and feathers on the ground...

Dubai is not noted for its poultry. There must be lots of smart foxes there.

Accordingly, smart American farmers build secure henhouses and don't outsource poultry safety.

There can't be many farmers in Washington...
-- John Curtis

Since 9/11 I've come to one simple conclusion I'm suspicious of Muslims and Arabs (I'm much more honest than Chuck Schumer) so I am hostile to the ports deal. But what if the buyers were South Koreans? It's been reported that over half of South Korea's youth would side with North Korea against the U.S. if the two nations went to war (an additional 40 percent want to be neutral). My guess is we couldn't depend on their feckless parents either. What if the buyer was French? That's right, the same France that was hell bent on arming Iraq right up to the beginning of OIF. How would Chuck Schumer and the hysterical D.C. crowd react to a French buyer? Do you really believe the two-faced Democrats when they say they want Halliburton to operate the ports? If you believe that I've got a port I'd like to sell you cheap.

The fact is America's regulations, taxes and general antithesis to business has destroyed our maritime merchant fleet and the accompanying industries. This should be a wake up call to rethink our national hostility to corporate America, but what companies should we help -- Ford, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler? Is it time to dust off Smoot-Hawley?

If we're going to oppose this deal lets also begin racial and ethnic profiling in our airports. The 9/11 hijackers didn't look like aunt Jen from Annapolis, but they did look like the folks who want to operate these six American ports. Visa applications from Arab and Muslim countries should be denied out of hand. How about it Chucky, if you through stealing GOP politician's credit history, what about implementing these practical national security safeguards?

Should all Muslim and Arab companies be discouraged from investing in the U.S. period? Then what happens to Johns Hopkins' new deal to operate hospitals in Dubai? What about Pepsi's lucrative contracts in Arab countries, because they don't do business with the hated Zionists (our friend and ally Israel)? Where will we base our ships in the Persian Gulf? Should we do a John Murtha and just roll up the sidewalks and hunker down in our bunkers in the fetal position? Should the rival Singapore Company be allowed to operate the ports? Don't forget Singapore is Muslim too.

I go back to my original statement -- I'm hostile to this deal, but I'm uncomfortable when politicians who describe racial and ethnic profiling as racist want to scuttle this business deal with Arabs without presenting real alternatives. Why not take a breath, examine the deal in the light of day, demand greater safeguards if they're needed and then see where that takes us? Senator Leahy, now's the time to demand real airport security that targets potential bad guys and not Quakers or nuns.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

Having to agree with Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton about this mess makes me wonder if I woke up in some alternate reality. At least Jimmy Carter is for this deal so it isn't a Democratic "hat trick." A hint for President Bush, if Jimmy is for it, run away from it fast.

I do know the economic and other reasons put out to support having Dubai run the ports, but in this time of war it is to say the least tone deaf. To say what I actually think would require using those characters above the numbers on my keyboard followed by "are you insane."
-- Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

Sometimes it appears that George W Bush, despite the coaching of Karl Rove, is just politically tone-deaf.

I'm not referring to the gross but superficial politics presently being engaged in by leading Democrats, where they would have criticized Dubya just as readily had he turned down the UAE ports deal. No, I'm talking about the essential politics of leading the American people, especially those of the conservative base.

The problem is this: we are supposedly engaged in a "war" on terror but huge numbers of Americans take this war quite un-seriously, thereby leading to weak support for security initiatives like the eavesdropping on foreign communications. Despite that fact, the Department of Defense makes a deal with one of the erstwhile headquarters of the terrorist movement.

It matters not whether the UAE is or is not an effective ally in the War on Terror; what matters more is the perception of the mass of American citizens. To them (and to me, quite frankly) it appears that Dubya is refusing to take seriously his own cause. It looks, in effect, like doing business with the enemy, a Bill Clinton kind of strategy. It looks like rewarding the emirates not so much because they are good allies but in the hopes that, out of gratitude for this gift, they might turn into better allies. In other words, it looks like nothing more than wishful thinking.

Conservatives did Dubya quite a favor, whether he would acknowledge it or not, in the matter of Harriet Miers. We can do him just as big a favor if we manage to kill off this ports deal.
-- Richard Donley
New Lyme, Ohio

I believe GW's threat to veto any congressional legislation to overturn the Dubai Deal is akin to his father's famous "read my lips" moment. Paying ''Baksheesh (bribery money)" to Dubai for ostensibly helping in the War on Terror is a twisted Jack Abramoff presidential moment reflected in a Harriet Miers mirror. Bush has certainly rallied the American people to the cause now. With a single, stupid veto threat he has hurt his presidency immeasurably. I think it's time for Bush to resign and let the VP take over. At least Cheney's still known as a straight shooter!
-- Wolf Terner
Fair lawn, New Jersey

If Chucky Schumer is opposing this sale simply because the buyers are from the UAE, doesn't that make him guilty of (GASP!)... racial profiling?
-- Randy Gammon
Drexel, Missouri

Simply wondering, is this port security deal fiasco a way of pulling opposing forces together before an attack on Iran?
-- William Zeranski
Pennsylvania

I wouldn't worry too much about agreeing with Senator Schumer on the port/Dubai issue. As the saying goes, "even a broken clock is right twice a day."
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

Jay Homnick is dead-eye on target. Leave it to a mook with Brooklyn connections to see this mess for the old protection racket it is! Can Bush really be this politically blind twice in 12 months?
-- unsigned

PRIME DIRECTOR'S CUT
Re: Happy Feder's Spit in Oscar's Eyes:

Kudos to Happy Feder.

I watched The Great Raid last week -- twice -- on two successive evenings. Everything Feder says about it is spot on.

I haven't found enough broken glass yet to be dragged across to induce me to see any of the other films up for awards.
-- Jim Woodward
Fruitland, Maryland

I am not surprised that this movie has not been more widely seen or supported. The historical truth is not "current." Interestingly, I lived in Japan for four years. One of the problems that great country has today is that they have essentially obliterated the WWII years from their education. One small example is at Tokyo Disneyland there is a "historical ride" which shows all of the great events over a very long and exciting history. But when they get to the middle of the 20th Century, they simply say, "there was a period of darkness" which then led to Hiroshima. No acceptance of responsibility or even the facts of Nanking, Singapore, Bataan, etc. All countries have horse thieves in their collective families. Ignoring them will only make us worse today.
-- LPR

I just watched The Great Raid last weekend. What a great movie! Maybe it will sell in the Philippines. The movie does an excellent job of portraying their courage and ferocity in resisting the brutal Japanese occupation. (A far more vigorous and effective resistance than the more well-known French resistance to Nazi occupation.)

Before this movie, I always considered the battle to re-take the Philippines as a sideshow in the drive across the Pacific towards Japan. Now I understand why we needed to liberate the Philippines by force.
-- Chris B.
New Jersey

We did just what Happy Feder suggested: ignored the Hollywood crap and bought the best movie of the year --surely several years -- The Great Raid. We had wanted to see it in theatres and couldn't find it close by and noticed how fast it disappeared -- it would have made a lot of money if it had been kept in the theatres, but hopefully the DVD sales will vindicate the vision and fine efforts of everyone who worked on it to make it so good.

Meanwhile, we noticed with bemusement all the progressives, a number of which who foolishly took their children to see Brokeback Mountain, a preachy liberal tale of two callow sheepherders (hello Hollywood! a wide-brimmed hat and a horse doesn't make a "cowboy"; it's the cattle!) who cheat on their spouses and children, exposing their families to abject humiliation and rejection, and we're all supposed to feel sorry for those losers because they were "in love"? Consistently, they were unnaturally subdued afterwards...haplessly maintaining that, well, it had great scenery. As usual, they didn't want to be seen as backward so they subjected themselves to a film experience that they are afraid to admit now that they hated.
-- C. Gressly

I never watch the Oscars but watching the Great Raid in their place is a really good idea. I read the book (Ghost Soldiers), saw the movie, and bought the DVD when it came out. I think this movie epitomizes the thoughts of our warriors more than any other movie on WWII (including Saving Private Ryan). The DVD has the complete version that wasn't shown in the theaters, which include the scene where the Col. says he wants no atheists along on this raid and every man will go to chapel to give his oath he will not come back without those prisoners. That scene set the whole tone for the mission. These movies such as Mel Gibson's Patriot, Gettysburg, The Lost Battalion, Sergeant York, and We Were Soldiers (along with Saving Private Ryan) showed the true American spirit, which made this nation great. What do you have with the Oscar nominations? Nothing but perversion, self-satisfaction, greed, all the vices that are destroying this nation today. Yes, on Oscar night, honor real Americans by watching The Great Raid. That movie is about real men, not some fops looking after sheep.
-- Pete Chagnon

It's worse than Mr. Feder reports. The original release of the DVD was in full screen so many of us that would have purchased the DVD were waiting for the widescreen version.

This creates the false impression that The Great Raid isn't marketable.. when in fact those interested in "epics" would disproportionately want widescreen, so thanks for the tip.
-- Dane Gunderson

RACIST, AND NO ONE CARES
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's Racism and Sports:

What angers me is that Bryant Gumbel can say what he said and get away with it. The rest of us know if a similar statement was made by a white person or (God forbid) a conservative white person the MSM would come out loaded for bear while every race-baiter (Jesse Jackson, Louise Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Harry Belafonte, Algore and the like) would be given maximum face time on the evening news to tell us what a sad commentary it is. (Look what happened to Rush Limbaugh with his benign remarks pointing out how the media is ever hopeful to see a black quarterback succeed.) Bryant Gumbel has shown once again that he reserves a place among these racial profiteers who seem oblivious to their own affluence made possible by how far this country has progressed in racial equality and equal opportunity.
-- John Nelson
Hebron, Connecticut

CLASSICALLY UNFUNNY
Re: James Bowman's review of The Pink Panther:

James Bowman's commentary on the new Pink Panther movie hit home for a couple reasons: one, because I (and my family) are major Clouseau fans, and because we saw the remake just last weekend.

I approached the new movie with considerable trepidation -- my daughter even warned me to stay away from reviews of the work. (Not usually necessary -- with all due apologies to Mr. Bowman, as I generally abhor the craft of movie reviewing, or art reviewers in general. But we're talking about fundamentals here...)

Our family has watched the Clouseau movies faithfully for years -- my 12-year-old daughter enjoys them as much as I (56 and counting) do, and my wife (10 years younger, but apparently no wiser). We watch them regularly (we have the Pink Panther DVD collection, and recently added the movie missing from that compilation), and laugh the same with each viewing. That could reflect on our lack of sophistication, or the human tendency to be comfortable with the familiar.

Instead, I think it speaks to the universality of the role that Sellers -- whose genius was not limited to his efforts re: oblivious French gendarmes, vis: The Goon Show, Dr. Strangelove, The Magic Christian, and Being There -- created. Bowman addresses that, in regard to the plot contrivances: the denouement just happens in the "Pink Panther" movies, in support of the character, but is contrived -- verily, wrapped and tied -- in the remake.

Steve Martin "is a very funny guy" -- that's how I remember the pitch -- and some of his shticks fit the bill. The King Tut thing still cracks me up, as do memories of The Jerk -- this is s---, and this, Shinola, indeed. I haven't watched most of the more recent movies that seem to offend critics. And perhaps they are right that Martin doing Sellers is just an egomaniac comedian thinking he can do it all.

But perhaps it is something more basic, and honorable. Although we can quibble about the quality of some of the later Pink Panther movies, and argue whether Sellers would have, or could have, matched his performances in A Shot in the Dark, the fact is that he was taken from us before that could be proved, or disproved.

No, Martin, funny as he may be, is constitutionally incapable of topping the party scene or the Frenchman crossing the street in The Pink Panther, the "Chinese nookie factory" or the hotel check-in thing in Strikes Back ("Does your dog bite... that is not my dog!"). But at least he tried. Until the second coming of the Master, it's perhaps the best we can do.
-- August Balls

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Bowman's lament about remakes of classic movies. I absolutely hate it when the jerks in Hollywood succumb to the urge to ruin what was once a wonderful movie by remaking it based on today's (lack of) standards for what makes a movie good, or even great. And don't get me started about making a movie based (very loosely) on some '60s or '70s TV show. Aaaarrrggghhh!!! Can't they leave well enough alone? Is the new Casablanca just around the corner? Say it ain't so.
-- Scott Warren

SOMETIMES ALWAYS
Re: The Prowler's Blunt Whipped:

The following sentence appeared in the Prowler article "Blunt Whipped":

"It didn't have to be this way, though it was probably inevitable."

I'm sitting here scratching my head, asking myself if there is any way of interpreting this sentence that could possibly make it any less ridiculous than if you had said:

"It didn't have to be this way, though it probably did have to be this way."

Do y'all have any proofreaders?

Or is the editor himself the Prowler?

If so, then "Quis custodet ipsos custodes?"
-- unsigned

The editor replies: "Unsigned" didn't have to leave his letter unsigned, though it was probably inevitable he would.

THE PRESS VS. US
Re: Carol Platt Liebau's Why Do They Hate Us?:

Why do we hate them? Because they insult our intelligent on a daily basis. Because we, the great unwashed, uneducated and unrepentant are treated by the media as though we have no memory, no independent thought and must be instructed by them as to what we must think. Why else do they gather in panels after each presidential speech to explain to us what it was the president said and what he meant and what he omitted?

Personally, I had my biggest laugh when Newsweek's Evan Thomas in 2004, after months of lap-dogging it around the country with Kerry (wrung a book out of it, as I recall) gave us the big news that there was, indeed, media bias favoring Senator Kerry and it was going to be worth a 15 point advantage to Kerry in the election. He later revised it to a five-point lead. Oh, well, thank God for their support. Without it Teresa might be in a sanitarium somewhere. Where is she, by the way? Sadly, about that time my PBS station quit carrying "Inside Whatever" with Thomas, Krauthammer, Nina T. and whoever waits by the phone for an invitation to fill the empty seat. So I never got to hear Evan's explanation of how he misunderestimated George Bush one more time...I'll bet it made riveting television.

The media's blatant efforts to muzzle, then downplay the Swift Boat story was fairly transparent. Did anyone see a critical story when John Kerry tried to have bookstores refuse to carry the book? Apparently they didn't feel the public had a right to know about that! Chris Matthews still, if he refers to Unfit for Command at all, calls it "largely discredited." But then you could Chris's brain in a shot glass and still have room for your whiskey. The nightly network attacks on John O'Neill, Swift Boat veteran, meant to destroy his credibility, merely served to strengthen it and show them for what they were -- supporters of John Kerry.

Tonight Brit Hume quoted Jay Rosen of N.Y. University School of Journalism as saying it was no accident that Cheney suppressed the shooting story. In fact, he did it in an effort to "ignite the press" causing them to ignore more important stories. OK, pay attention, now. Cheney gets off a wild shot and hits another hunter. Says to himself "Geez, I've pumped birdshot into a hunting companion. But wait, I think I can work this to political advantage. We'll sit on the story and the gullible goons back at the White House will rise from their torpor and take the bait...." Like throwing chum in the water. Lest we forget, Cheney is a fisherman, too.

Anyhow, if we have the likes of Jay Rosen teaching the likes of David Gregory, then this is what we are going to get. However, hating requires more energy than I am willing to squander on them. Contempt is what I feel.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

A COZY CRISIS
Re: Patrick J. Michaels's Hansen's Hot Hype:

The dishonesty of global warmers is well documented. They have tried to write out of history well documented periods of warming (1000 A.D.) because the tremendous warming during that period could only have been natural and nothing like it today is even close. Greenland was green and people lived there. Viking explorers were able to walk to extremely high latitudes. Three hundred years later Greenland was no longer a place people could live.

Global warmers total lack of sincerity is given away by the fact that almost always they are also against nuclear energy which would have a tremendous impact on carbon emissions as well as more serious pollutants. Their only ideas are to cripple our economy while giving themselves a healthy dose of tax money. The fact is that Hansen and many others are government scientists. This class generates much money for itself by hyping whatever they do. Global warming advocacy can be distilled to the statement government researchers have consensus that they want more tax money to support their unproductive lifestyles. Science like all other human endeavors can be corrupted and this crew works overtime corrupting the profession they claim to love. Al Gore is the political leader of this class. I don't think you need say anything more about these "smart" people.
-- Clifton Briner

NAME CHANGE
Re: Thomas Lipscomb's Pappy Boyington Shot Down:

Here is one veteran of the Vietnam war that thinks the University of Washington student senate should debate changing the school mascot from a husky to a weasel.
-- Jack Harrison, University of Washington, Class of 1967
Austin, Texas

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