Monthly Archives: April 2004

More on Fallujah

It seems I wasn't real clear in the previous post. I don't mean to suggest that the right answer to the Fallujah crisis was starting a major urban campaign and killing lots of civilians. I do mean to say that:

1. If this is the end state, the seige was a blunder.

2. But, because I don't think the administration is willing to accept the likely consequences of this move — it will be seen as the weakness that it is — I fear even more what this seems likely to lead to, which is bloodier consequences in Fallujah and especially elsewhere. And I suspect that the US administration's response to those facts — when faced with possible widespread chaos as Iraqis decide the US can be driven out — will end up with more casualties on both sides. Therefore, I think that leaving in these circumstances has very bad side-effects. That doesn't mean that turning up the violence (“going in” to urban warfar) made any sense either.

3. Putting a Baathist in charge doesn't seem real smart unless he's a very unusal one. Is this a calculation that Baathists are better than Islamicists? Is the best-case exit scenario now reduced to a Saddam-like regime without Saddam? Is Saddam lite really the best we can do?

Posted in Iraq | Leave a comment

Another Such Victory and We Are Undone

George W. Bush today, defending the famous flight suit speech announcing the end of major combat operation in Iraq:

“we're making progress, you bet” in bringing stability to Iraq.

What the grunts say about about today's pullout from Fallujah, turning the town over to a Baathist general (source: UK Daily Telegraph, Saddam's man takes over in Fallujah )(reg. req.):

Many ordinary marines said they did not believe the initiative would work and it could endanger their lives when they had to revert to the “plan A” of a full-scale offensive to take Fallujah.

“Honestly, I don't think they're going to be able to do it,” said Cpl Elias Chavez, 28.

“We had the insurgents cordoned off, they couldn't go anywhere, we had a chance to get them. Now they can flee wherever they want and we're still going to have to deal with them.”

He said the new force, largely made up of Fallujah residents, would be unlikely to apprehend or clamp down on anti-coalition fighters.

By leaving without defeating the insurgents, their deployment since April 5, following the killing and mutilation of four US defence contractors, “was a waste of time, of resources and of lives”.

“Everyone feels the same, especially those who know someone who was killed.”

L Cpl Julius Wright, 20, said: “Now it's going to get worse. We pulled out when we should of gone in.”

I'm with the grunts on this one. This is “progress”?

Posted in Iraq | 1 Comment

Characteristically Funny

After a week or two of trying (and failing) to be fair and balanced by finding a flaw in Firefox to match the problems with IE, User Friendly explains why we don't have Lynx -friendly cartoons.

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment

Joi Ito: Did Google Help China Censor Search Results?

Not trying to make this an all Google day, but given what a clean reputation google has, and given all the stuff in their IPO about how they plan to Be Good and not be short-termists, it's a little disturbing to read this Joi Ito item collating various bits of info suggesting that Google colludes in government censorship.

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment

Venturpreneur Throws Cold Water on Google IPO

The Venturpreneur is an interesting blog I stumbled on last week. Now I discover that the author is Gordon Smith, someone I met in Tilburg, the Netherlands (not as strange a place as it may sound for two Americans to meet — Tilburg, along with Amsterdam, is an Internet studies powerhouse).

Gordon is now a law professor at Wisconsin, and he's writting some provocative comments today about the new Google IPO:

The Growth Story: Selling stock in an IPO is not about convincing people that your present performance is stellar. It is about your growth story. People who invest in IPO shares are hoping that your company will become the next Microsoft. A compelling vision is crucial. I have been reading the prospectus for clues about Google's growth story, and this is what I have found.

Bottom line: The prospectus is worse than I imagined it could be. I assumed Google would have a difficult time telling a growth story, but I thought that they would give it the old college try. Instead, their growth story is nothing more than a celebration of past accomplishments. “Don't you just love our search technology?!”

Yahoo is currently trading at a price/earnings ratio of approximately 125. Google is currently less efficient at servicing the bottom line, and it admits that operating margins will decline. In the face of these realities, it will need to achieve a price/earnings ratio higher than Yahoo's to obtain the kind of valuations projected over the last few days. While it may reach such lofty heights if retail investors get overly enthusiastic, those prices are not sustainable under any scenario contemplated in the prospectus.

I hope this is pessimistic, although it certainly seems right as far as I can tell. I'd like the first major IPO which is run on a pure public auction, without huge margins to the parasites investment banks, to be a stunning success.

Update: John Battele's take on the IPO

Posted in Econ & Money | 2 Comments

A Good Start on our British Problem

It's good to know that those alert authorities at JFK are taking no chances with dangerous visiting British accountants. You never know what they might do in New York — maybe go shopping and reduce the trade deficit a little.

Briton 'in chains at JFK airport over bogus debt' (UK Telegraph, reg. required): An accountant claims that he was kept for more than 24 hours in “leg chains” and denied food and water after flying into New York's JFK airport with his wife.

David Pattison, 52, of Beeston, Norfolk, was held by US security officials because an Interpol notice alleged that he was wanted in Qatar for debts of up to $10,000 (£5,800).

He was deported on Monday night without having been allowed to enter America.

Mr Pattison, who disputes the alleged debt, said he was subjected to “inhumane and degrading” treatment by the US authorities and a “lack of assistance” by the Foreign Office.

He arrived at the airport's immigration control on Sunday afternoon, at what was to have been the start of a two-week holiday with his wife, Janice, 49, the mother of their six children.

There he was told of the Interpol notice. Mr Pattison worked for an oil company in the Gulf state in 1999 but denies that he left behind any debts. Although about $5,000 (£2,900) had been outstanding on a car he used for work, this was settled after the agreed sale of the vehicle in 2000.

“This was the first I had heard of any warrant against me, and I have travelled all over Europe since 1999,” said Mr Pattison.

“I told the US officials I had a letter at home to prove all matters in Qatar had been settled but they were not interested.”

Mr Pattison was then told he would not be allowed into the country and would be deported. “I requested a call to the British consulate in New York and I spoke to a man who refused to give his surname. He said he couldn't help because I hadn't been admitted to the country and I was in limbo.

“But that is exactly when British subjects in a situation such as mine need assistance. God knows what it would have been like had we been travelling with our children.”

Mr Pattison claims his wife was then escorted out of the room in tears and left to fend for herself. He said cuffs were placed on his hands and ankles and that a wooden restraint was put across his chest.

“I was escorted to a facility with no food or drink and my angina medication was locked away from me. I was placed with eight other unfortunates, two of whom were also British, but we weren't allowed to speak to each other.

“We begged for water but the [Department for Homeland Security] staff just sat there eating hamburgers. There was nowhere to wash or sleep and I observed verbal abuse by US immigration personnel to most of these people.”

It's especially important to be tough on Britons as we would not want them to think that their government's supporting the Administration in Iraq should give them any right to the decent treatment we deny to foreigners from other countries. And you certainly wouldn't want to let in people with debts, especially not big debts like up to $10,000. Especially not an accountant who racked up debts like that. Why, it's not as if Americans were ever in debt!

It's also important to discourage tourism to New York, as there will soon be a Republican convention there and we'll need all the hotel rooms and lots of space for drunken parties on the streets.

Oddly, the government of Quatar claimed to have no knowledge of the warrant for Mr. Patterson, but they're from the Middle East, so why believe them?

Posted in Civil Liberties | 1 Comment

More American Censorship (Patriot Act Dept.)

No, it's not a typo: Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act:

“It is remarkable that a gag provision in the Patriot Act kept the public in the dark about the mere fact that a constitutional challenge had been filed in court,” Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said in a statement. “President Bush can talk about extending the life of the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is still gagged from discussing details of our challenge to it.”

Yes, it's still a free country. Just not as free as last year. (spotted via boingboing)

Posted in Civil Liberties | Leave a comment