“I thought it handled great…”

April 25, 2007

The news that Toyota has overtaken GM as the world’s top seller of automobiles is touching off an emotional response in Detroit.

On message boards, some voiced support for Detroit by criticizing Toyota.

“Toyota takes their profits and invests it in their country, not ours,” a post on the Detroit Free Press Web site said. The author, who used the screen name Americanmade, added, “Wake Up America and Buy American!”

Others showed their support for the Japanese company. “Nice Job Toyota! Your cars are great! Too bad we can’t say that about the Big 3,” said one reader in a posting on the Detroit News Web site Tuesday, signed by R.C. of Kalamazoo, Mich.

This seems like as good a time as any to bring up memories of the economic nationalism that fueled the backlash against Japanese automakers in the 1980s. Since I am too lazy to make a substantive argument right now, here’s a clip from the 1986 film Gung Ho that feels appropriate for the moment.


Negotiating with Terrorists

March 22, 2007

Italy had five Taliban prisoners released in order to free a kidnapped journalist in Afghanistan. US and UK officials have criticized the move, though they didn’t prevent it, obviously. The standard logic behind such criticism is that negotiating with terrorists is a bad idea. Beyond the harm of having five bad guys back out in the world to do ill, the larger concern seems to be that this sends a message to other terrorist groups that will encourage further acts of kidnapping.

I wonder if there’s any evidence to support the US/UK line on this rather than the Italian position. Do terrorist acts really increase in the wake of such negotiations? It’s not like a terrorist organization is going to spend its resources on community service but then sees that kidnapping might be fruitful and decides to do that instead. Rather, terrorists have limited resources, and if they don’t pursue kidnappings they will probably just focus their time and energy on car bombings and things like that. I don’t see why there’s much of an increase in the overall badness in the world.

It’s always seemed questionable to me not to take simple steps that would save a hostage’s life based on speculation about how others will interpret the event and act in the future. Israel took a similarly hard line last summer in refusing to engage in prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, leading to a war that caused massive destruction in Lebanon and actually heightened the political clout of Hezbollah in the Middle East. We can’t predict future consequences, so why not save hostages whenever we can and redouble our efforts to eradicate terrorist groups by standard means?

Jorge W. Visits Colombia

March 11, 2007

Jorge W in Colombia


From the New York Times:

The risky nature of President Bush’s trip to this violent country was spelled out on a television monitor aboard Air Force One en route from Uruguay: “Colombia presents the most significant threat environment of this five country trip!”

Listing the terrorist and criminal threats as “high,” the message — meant for Mr. Bush’s security detail but seen by reporters on the plane — underscored the complications Mr. Bush is confronting during his visit to South and Central America.

Mr. Bush’s visit to Bogotá was in itself a statement of support for Mr. Uribe: no American president has visited the capital city since 1982, largely because of security concerns.

Aides said Mr. Bush chose to come to illustrate that under Mr. Uribe it was now possible for an American president to visit without incident.

But his hosts were not taking any chances. After the empty decoy motorcade left the airport, the real one traveled to the palace at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour under heavy military guard, with 20,000 troops and police assigned to his protection, lining his route with submachine guns visible on the street and on rooftops. The motorcade passed nearby protesters carrying a large sign that read “Yankee Go Home” and another banner displaying the Communist hammer and sickle.

The leading local newspaper here, El Tiempo, griped that Mr. Bush’s visit was too short, and featured a front-page headline that read, “Bush: Seven hours are enough?” Above it read a smaller headline listing the visits by the last two United States president to visit the city: “Kennedy (1961, 13 hours) and Reagan (1982, 5 hours).”

Rather than illustrating that it is “possible for an American president to visit without incident,” scenes like the one in Colombia on Sunday do more to demonstrate how huge the security concerns are and how limited presidential travel must be because of them. At what point does putting on a spectacle like this become counterproductive?

The Not-so-Violent Cheney Protests Down Under

February 22, 2007

Dick Cheney is visiting Australia, and some antiwar activists aren’t so pleased with him over there either, hence the public display of disagreement with the American veep.

Cops face down Cheney protesters in Sydney

Via Raw Story comes this first-hand account of the allegedly violent protests in Sydney. It turns out that the minimal “violence” consisted of a little pushing and shoving that members of the media instigated themselves so as to have the picture they wanted. Basically, this is a non-story, says our reporter on the scene.

If you stripped the 350 (or 500) strong crowd of “Anti-Cheney” protesters down to those who actually turned up to protest, and weren’t involved in the organisation of the protest itself, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a number bigger than 80.

And it still made news all the way around the world.

Amazing stuff.

“Violent Protest”?

I’ve seen more violence in the Seafood Buffet line at the Sydney Casino.

Aren’t blogs wonderful?