Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Good evening, and this is it, folks. I would request that you all join me at the news digs, since this is the last post I make at Blog* Spot. Please adjust your bookmarks and permalinks immediately to the new address and domain at http://www.drumwaster.com

Comments will be activated (since I can now selectively ban the worst of the trolls), and most welcome as appropriate. Good-bye, Clog*Spot, and
Good morning, all. Perhaps-not-so-Loyal-Reader Garth Blacker refers to my last Saturday's post when he points out (in this Seattle Times Article) that the tiny peninsular emirate of Qatar has decided to go with Airbus, rather than Boeing, and how the American economy is "dependent on foreign investment". Far be it from me to claim any kind of specialized training in International Economics, but I feel it important that I clear up a misunderstanding. A huge trade deficit with France existed long before this crisis - on the close order of $10.54 billion for 2001 (the latest complete year for which figures were available) - and while airplanes (and airplane parts) are one of the largest trade surplus items in the economy, even combined, it still only makes up only 7% of the total "Manufactured Goods" category of exports, and the (approximately) $20 billion surplus it brings in is a proverbial drop in the bucket to the $411 billion trade deficit the nation is operating under.

That works out to better than $1,128,400,000 per day. Every day - rain, shine, or Federal Holiday. So the trade surplus brought into the United States by the aviation industry is used up (and then some) in less than 2 1/2 weeks by all of the other trade deficit items. Such as fuel to push all those aircraft through the skies.

I also need to point out that much of the damage being done to the French economy is not through the aviation industry but in the high-end luxury items (such as wines and cheeses), and tourism. Another item worth pointing out is that the Paris Air Show is not the only marketplace for Boeing, and, further, that Boeing was having troubles before the no-show in Paris.

However, the troubles in France have very little to do with Boeing's troubles, and more to do with the fact that their economy has been shrinking for quite some time, as this report suggests, and this BBC story from last November also speculates. They have their own troubles with labor unions who make it almost impossible for their industries to lay off workers in slack times, and general strikes for increased benefits.

Here in the US, more companies are starting to see how unions can cause more problems than they solve, but in Europe (especially France), they have almost become a fourth branch of government, demanding mandatory retirement benefits after 37.5 years of work, full medical care by the government, and many other benefits that would seem extraordinarily excessive by American workers, including the ones up at Boeing. More information can be found on Steven Den Beste's site: here, here, here, and here. I agree with him, I just can't write as well as Mr. Den Beste does...

In other news, I note with extreme sorrow the passing of yet another screen legend, Hume Cronyn, of prostate cancer. He was 91. While his film career started almost 60 years ago, he is perhaps best known to modern movies audiences as the crazy great-uncle to Richard Pryor in the remake of Brewster's Millions, as the diner owner in *batteries not included, and as one of the senior citizens who were rejuvenated by the aliens in Ron Howard's Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return. (Those last three were alongside his then-wife, Jessica Tandy, before she died.)

He will be missed. May his family be comforted in their time of grief.

I've got to run, because I have an appointment in about 45 minutes. Have a great day!

Monday, June 16, 2003

In yet another display of namby-pamby UNcompetence (the new buzzword to describe the UN's standard level of inability to actually accomplish anything it is supposed to - spread it around), Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has "appealed" to Iran to "cooperate with additional inspections to prove the peaceful nature" of its nuclear weapons program.

I could answer that in one sentence. The Ayatollah has said (repeatedly) that "... the day Iran gets the [nuclear] bomb is the day that Israel ceases to exist..." A quote from this article: Addressing an Islamic conference in Teheran in 1992, the Iranian vice-president, Sayed Ayatollah Mohajerani said, "Since Israel continues to possess nuclear weapons, we, the Muslims, must cooperate to produce an atomic bomb, regardless of U.N. efforts to prevent proliferation."

The inherent contradiction between the Iranian claim that "... its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity for energy needs as oil supplies wear down." and the fact that Iran owns approximately 9 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia, has yet to be questioned by the UNcompetent IAEA. But this might be because this is the same IAEA that had official seals and monitoring equipment in place in North Korea. The DPRK had undergone inspections and monitoring under the very same team, and now they have nuclear weapons. This is the same team that wants to take "soil samples" outside the power plants, without bothering to monitor what is going on inside the plants.

This is the same guy who was "taken aback by the advanced stage of a project using hundreds of centrifuges to enrich uranium." But hey, Iran isn't quite ready to use it in a nuclear weapon, so it was no big deal. {/sarcasm}

Nothing to worry about, people, there's nothing to see here, and they might even bother filing a report once their meeting is over with. But the good news (yes, there is some good news) is that Iran's younger crowd, who grew up under the thumb of the Ayatollah's theocracy is going to get a chance to see what real freedom is like, once we get Iraq back up and running under a really free system of government. Even the WaPo is reporting that the younger crowds are starting to make their voices heard, especially after the US has shown that it can kick ass, and take names, in two nations, both of which border Iran (perhaps not coincidentally).

We shall see. We may get regime change in Iran without ever having to fire a shot. And North Korea's Kim may collapse from internal rot. I think the world will be a VERY different place by my next birthday.

Have a great day!

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Good morning! It's a very warm Father's Day here in SoCal, and I have just seen an extraordinary example of the rift between the US and France. It was a TV commercial for a local restaurant chain. I'm not sure how far the chain extends, but certainly throughout the Southwestern US. It's called Carl's, Jr., and it used to specialize in hot dogs and burgers. It recently (within the last few years) began expanding to chicken sandwiches. It's latest creation is the 1/4-pound chicken breast sandwich, and the commercial voice-over goes something like this: "At the battle of Waterloo, the French surrendered. In the Franco-Prussian War, the French surrendered. In World War Two, the French surrendered. Don't be a big chicken, eat one. Introducing the new quarter-pound Chicken Breast sandwich at Carl's, Jr."

The fact that a local fast-food restaurant has created a new sandwich isn't the amazing part. (That happens about once a month.) The fact that they have picked up on the zeitgeist regarding the French to such a point that making fun of the French is used as a selling point is. But I suppose their government officials are going to complain about it as an indication of American governmental policy. I suppose since they are used to governmental control of industry to the point where a government agency has final authority over commercial content, they would assume that it works that way in the US, too.

But a free-market economy, where individuals can make their own choices about what they want to buy and why, is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Combine it with Free Speech and the general contempt that the average American has for the way France has tried to interfere with the War on Terrorism and to aid, abet, and assist Saddam's Reign of Terror in Iraq, and you have commercials like the one described above. And there's not a damned thing the US government can do to stop it, even if they wanted to do so.

In other news, the descendents of the most famous family feud in American history, the Hatfields and the McCoys, have signed a truce. As the story mentions, "Reo Hatfield of Waynesboro, Va., came up with the idea as a proclamation of peace. The broader message it sends to the world, he said, is that when national security is at risk, Americans put their differences aside and stand united. If these two feuding families can come together, anyone can, he said." Good point.

Have a wonderful Father's Day. I've got to go pack now...