Tuesday, February 28, 2006

They Just Can't Help Themselves Anymore

I have not written anything on the ports issue because there had been a dearth of information on the subject and I have no hands on knowledge of port operation. I have driven through a few ports and I have had lunch at the South Street Seaport in New York. It did strike as not very likely that the security paranoid Bush people were going to give up security to anybody. We have good experience with the fact that the Bush people are often inept at public relations and this was another reminder of that failure. As bad as the news sounded a week and a half ago, the time since has seen the only people who actually were familiar with port operations deem the entire controversy a non-starter.

When we found out that the UAE has been servicing our naval ships for years I wondered if anybody told Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton sits on the Senate Arms Services Committee and should be familiar with the UAE and its port operations. Well this week brings more bad news for the Schumers, Kings, Clintons and Corzines of the world. C-Span ran an interview this morning with the Assistant Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection and a Coast Guard Rear Admiral. The guys at Powerline have a great post here that includes excerpts from the C-Span interview and another post here that includes an excerpted letter from someone with first hand knowledge of port operations. I have seen what are now known to be outright lies in some news media repeated well after we knew the facts about port operations. Some honest commentary on this issue is refreshing.

It is unfortunate that so many members of the Democratic Party and the media are willing to lie about threat posed by terminal operation. This deal does not concern port security. The Democrats just can’t help themselves anymore, we know that they hate Bush, but this is ridiculous. Did any of them know what we are now finding out about port operations? Here’s an idea for Democratic politicians, if you want to appear to be concerned about the threats posed to America try to actually be helpful to our country when it comes to fighting terrorists. Sucking up to librarians won’t do it. It’s kind of strange that the scariest terrorists that those guys have seen are Arab corporate executives. Unfortunately many Democrats will believe that we are giving away our ports and their security to some Arabs and they will repeat this for years like some drunks babbling on about the Easter Bunny.

Happy Mardi Gras

Happy Shrove Tuesday!
Happy Fat Tuesday!
Happy Mardi Gras!

See this site for a list of Mardi Gras Cams, see the drunks live!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Is the Cover Band Thing Getting Out of Hand?

Okay, there is something mildly wrong with this, Thursday night at the Cubby Bear in Chicago the band Lez Zeppelin will be performing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against lesbians, but we’re talking Zep here. I guess if you want your Zeppelin sung by some sort of Joan Jett with hair then this is your band. I once saw the band Dread Zeppelin at the Cubby Bear, so maybe its just a Zeppelin thing. In defense of the Cubby Bear I have seen some great shows over there, including Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash and the Carter Sisters. I know that I shouldn’t razz a band (Lez Zeppelin) that I haven’t seen, no less heard, but what the heck, it’s a cover band. My objection comes from the fact that I’m kind of “old school” about Zep. I saw the original line-up as a kid and I have the hearing loss to prove it.

The Muslim Martin Luther

I, for one am skeptical of an Islamic reformation taking place, especially in the next several decades. As I said in this post yesterday, if a Muslim Martin Luther ever showed up, there is every chance that he would be murdered by Muslims, much like the story of Jesus. Jesus was a threat to both the political and religious establishment. A Muslim Martin Luther would likely threaten the power of literally thousands of Imams around the world. In many cases these Imams have integrated themselves into the political and judicial lives of their followers. Certainly there are Muslim religious leaders who are not abusing the power that is given them by their follows, just as certainly there are some who are abusing that power.

The reason that I say that a Muslim reformer would likely be murdered is threefold; the first is the reason of power, all those little Imams running around this world wield large amounts power over their followers, witness those followers regularly killing themselves for their faith. The second is theological, if one is to believe that the Angel Gabriel brought Mohammed up into the sky to give him the wisdom of the Lord (in this case Allah), then who is any mere mortal to question the words that were given to the prophet by the Lord (in this case Allah).

Having said that I must state that there is a flip side, not all Muslims read the Koran in the literalist and fundamental fashion that the Islamists do. Maybe I’m fooling myself here but it seems that the wise move is to strongly support those who preach against fundamentalism while remembering that we may be fooling ourselves. The key for the West is to support those who diminish the desire for the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law. The implementation of Sharia demotes non-Muslims to second class status. Here in America we actually had a civil war over this kind of nonsense, we should resist the implementation of Sharia anywhere in the West. In Canada there is a move to allow Muslims to have their own court system ruled by Sharia. They would be giving essential government power to a religion. That is insane.

A third problem could be a reformer himself. Christians believe that the Lord sent his son to save the people of the earth, essentially to show us the path that man must walk for salvation. Unfortunately many Muslims believe that if the Lord sends another prophet, then that prophet will signal the end of time. Like we don’t have enough problems with these folks; imagine if they were pressed for time in their martyrdom efforts. I’m afraid that heaven would need a lot more virgins.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Keeping Up With the Enzos

This poor guy with the Ford GT in Kansas didn't have to try to keep up with the guy in the Ferrari Enzo in California last week.

Welcome to the BUD LIGHT Bleachers?

2003 NLCS Game 6
c Flying Debris

I am hearing that the Cub tickets for the Wrigley Field bleachers this season are stamped with “Welcome to the BUD LIGHT Bleachers”! Isn’t it bad enough that we have had to listen to the taunts of our Sox fan friends ever since the night of the Bartman Game? Anyway, here is a link to the new seating chart for Wrigley Field. It includes this years ticket prices, including $40 for “Prime Date” Bleacher seats. I had season bleacher seats in 1989 and the 81 games cost $324.
Hat Tip: Tim

Cartoon Protestors In Love, All Shook Up

c REUTERS/Ali Abu Parker
Elvis: Aloha From Najif

Big Hat Tip to Little Green Footballs and my Attorney.

Everyone in the West Should Read Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn, whose web site can be found here publishes in papers around the world including my home town Chicago Sun Times. His column this Sunday is typical of his high quality writing but I must say that today’s column is particularly great. Steyn writes:

“Something very remarkable is happening around the globe and, if you want the short version, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto the other day put it very well: ‘We won't stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.’”

That demonstrator’s quote, as over the top as it is, pretty much sums up one of the big problems that I was trying (much less eloquently) to write about here and here. We need to be aware that so far Islam’s neighbors have suffered for the demand for all to live under Islamic law. That “so far” is about 1400 years. That “so far” hasn’t been all that great for the Muslim world either, particularly most of the last millennia.

Sunday Porsche Blogging – type 951 the Porsche 944 Turbo

951 on Lake Geneva
c Flying Debris

The above photo is of an old car of mine, a 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo; the Porsche factory number for that car is the 951. That shot was taken on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, about a mile or two off of the bar Chuck’s in Fontana. The University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory is in the far background. A few of us had gone up to go ice boating and there wasn’t enough wind so I just had to drive around the lake in a Porsche.

That 951 was in many ways a wonderful car, although it did have a few expensive repair bills. When properly driven the car is incredibly fast, smooth and quick; for the inexperienced the turbocharged nature of the car can be dangerous. I probably would’ve kept the car for the long-term (I had it for 7 years) if I drove more. As the screen name implies I take public transportation to work everyday. Lately I’ve been putting about 3000 to 5000 total miles per year on a few vehicles. That’s what city living can do for you, not only can I walk to a grocery store and restaurants, but I can walk to Home Depot and Office Depot; the down side is that parking is ridiculous.

The Porsche 944 Turbo (951) is often on lists of relatively inexpensive but relatively exotic sports cars, excellent examples of pre-1988½ can be found well under $15,000. Even the more powerful 1988½ and later cars are now in that $15,000 range. As those magazine articles often point out, it is critical to get a well maintained vehicle. A point to pay particular attention to is the proper maintenance of the timing belts. The factory replacement schedule must be religiously followed, including follow-up adjustments. Another area to check is the motor mounts, they are made of some hard rubber-like compound and they wear out from use and age. Not only are they expensive to replace but as they wear out the engine movement endangers the torque tube, the torque tube is the drive shaft in this rear transaxle car and is not inexpensive.

The last 951 was last sold new in the US in 1990, so all of these cars are at least 16 years old and any 16 year old car will have parts that break and Porsche parts are expensive, as is service. Figure dealer shop rates at $100 per hour and private shop rates somewhere in the $60 per hour range. My advice on these and any older Porsche street car has included “be ready to spend $5000 on your car at any time, you may never have to spend it but you should always be prepared to spend it.” For an air cooled 911 a rebuild starts at about $7000. The reality of a nice $12,000 951 is that it should be seen as a $20,000 car, not only realistic but really quite a deal. It may take years to spend the extra $8000 budgeted but it will get spent.

Another great point about the 951 is that they can be dramatically improved; the bottom end of the straight-four engine is rock solid and can take much bigger forces than those it normally faces. Additionally the turbo and controlling software can easily be modified, allowing for huge power increases. Due to the car’s race history there are plenty of products to improve the power, the handling, the transmission and anything else that you could imagine, or pay for. At the 1999 24 hour race at Daytona there was a team running a 1987 street 951 that had been modified for racing. The car finished, it didn’t win anything but it finished the 24 hours. That 951 had been a well used 12 year old street car that was rebuilt and went out and took on the world’s best, not bad.

The 951 is wonderful on the highway, when Road & Track first reviewed the car they recorded the fastest highway passing times that the magazine had yet recorded. I can attest to those findings, at high speeds the car feels like it settles down (the aerodynamics give the car fantastic down force) and with proper use of the turbocharger (through throttle control and judicious gear changes) it will go from 80 to 110 in what seems like an instant. Visibility and stability of the car give the driver great confidence at high speed, the car just feels rock solid at speed. The best gas mileage that I ever got was 32 mpg., all highway driving between 60 and 80 mph.

The interior of the car is snug but comfortable and it looks fairly modern, in ’86 it was the fist car to have driver and passenger air bags as standard equipment. The ergonomics are great for me; I can reach and see all of the controls and gauges. However, I have heard complaints from others concerning their view of the gauges. The car is a hatch-back so it is very practical; I put 8’ 2x4s through the hatch and into the passenger foot well. The 951 is a 2 + 2, meaning that it has rear seats; these fold down seats would be great for kids if you could put a child’s seat into them. I didn’t try all that hard, but I never did find a seat that fit. I’m not sure if they still use the term but Porsche once referred to their rear seats as “occasional seats”, you don’t want to sit in those things, even occasionally.

Overall I would recommend the 951 as a great car as long as one accepts its limitations and costs. It is a car that I would buy again, if I was in a situation where I often found myself on highways. I would also suggest swapping the wheels for the 17” 5-spoke Carrera Cup2 wheels; they improve and update the looks dramatically. A great spot for a CD changer is under the rear carpet in the area behind the wheel well. The car also makes a great race car; after all it is directly derived from the 924 GTP that raced in the 1981 Le Mans 24 Hour race and during its production run Porsche also turned out a variety of racing versions of the 951.

Further Porsche Blogging at Flying Debris can be found here and here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Plug for My Democratic Congressman

I have been pretty tough on my congressman, Rahm Emanuel lately; here and here. I believe that I have been fair but tough. Friday, as a constituent registered with Mr. Emanuel’s office, I received a form e-mail letter from the congressman that contains some great links. The subject of the letter is identity theft, a very serious situation. I have never experienced that situation (knock wood!) but have been the victim of a stolen card number that resulted in a Vegas spree for someone. I received a call on a Saturday morning asking if I was at the Vegas airport trying to book a flight to Seattle. I was eating breakfast in Chicago. They busted the guy and I was lucky, mostly Visa was lucky.

Instead of simply including the supplied links I felt that it would be fair to include the entire letter from Mr. Emanuel. It is a good letter on an important subject and I seriously doubt that he would object. In fact I am sure that he would want a wider audience for such a letter.

Dear ,

Recently, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a new identity theft hotline for Illinois residents. More than 11,000 Illinoisans were victimized by identity theft in 2005, and I applaud the Attorney General for her work in helping consumers affected by this crime. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. Protect your personal information, and check your credit report regularly for evidence of unusual transactions, mistakes or anything that seems out of the ordinary.

Following passage of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003, you may now order one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission has set up one central website and toll-free telephone number through which you can order your one free credit report a year.

To order your annual credit report, call 877-322-8228 or visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm

Sometimes, though, precautions may not be enough. If you or anyone you know has been victimized by identity theft, please use the resources listed below:Illinois Attorney General's Identity Theft Hotline WebsiteToll-Free Identity Theft Hotline: 866-999-5630TTY Number: 877-844-5491The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft WebsiteI hope that the information contained in this e-newsletter helps you protect yourself and your family against fraud.

Please feel free to share this e-newsletter by using the fields to the right.

It is an honor to serve you in the U.S. Congress.


Gang of French Muslims Vie for Title of Most Putrid Pigs on Planet

This bizarre story about a gang of Parisian Muslim pigs who kidnapped, tortured and murdered a Parisian Jew is little more than a continuation of the litany of disgraces perpetrated in the name of Mohammed and his little book. These pigs tortured this poor guy for weeks and burned his flesh in the cramped quarters of the outer Parisian slums. Allegedly, no neighbors were aware of this activity. Yeh, right; and I’m Bill Clinton. It would be easier to take seriously the Islamic insistence on others showing some low level of reverence towards their “prophet” if his alleged words weren’t used in such a disgraceful manner. Okay, I will admit, it is ridiculous for them to expect any reverence from those of other faiths. I would like to note the differences between the word “reverence” and the word “respect”. I do not expect them to revere Jesus; they should not expect me to revere some 7th century warrior.

Although I am no biblical scholar I can think of no place in the Bible’s New Testament were I am instructed to go out and murder my fellow man because he blasphemed a book or drew a cartoon or was a member of another religion. Although the New Testament does tell its readers to go out and convert people to Christianity it decidedly does not tell anybody to enslave or murder those who choose not to. Yet outside the United States I have seen Muslims murder for those reasons throughout my entire life. Religion of peace, my ass.

I have yet to notice any strong contingent of Muslims in the US or elsewhere who have spoken out against these Islamic pigs who may be bringing disgrace to their religion. They have been too busy lecturing us about how peaceful they are and how we should show reverence to their ideas and taboos. I say that those pigs "may" be bringing disgrace to their religion because I do not see Muslim leaders taking any action against such people and groups. The actions of these pigs are likely not even seen as disgraceful to some in their own communities. Be it cowardice or religious belief, these Muslim leaders are doing nothing to “defend” their faith against the honest and realistic charges that people like myself level against it daily. Does the Muslim Martin Luther walk the earth today or does the world have to wait several more centuries for an Islamic Reformation? Unfortunately some Islamic pig may have they already slain him for blasphemy.

Hat tip to the guys at Powerline.

Update: I feel that I need to once again state that I do not expect my neighbors to torture and burn local Jews; in one part of Chicago (the Devon Ave. area) Jews and Muslims live and do business next to each other. It is tragic that this is not true in so many places in our world.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich vs. the Box of Rocks

Today the Tribune ran an AP story that reported on something that I missed two weeks ago. Gov. Blagojevich (D) IL. appeared on the Daily Show while thinking that it was a serious political program. Besides the fact that either the Trib or the AP waited two weeks to publish this embarrassing article, it is very funny and well worth reading. Blagojevich’s handlers apparently didn’t clue the clueless Governor into the fact that the Daily Show is not an entirely serious undertaking. The Daily Show is on a cable network named Comedy Central, not exactly the National Broadcasting Corp.

Also today, the Sun Times reported that Gov. Blagojevich enlisted a Nation of Islam (NOI) “minister” to serve on the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Does this Blagojevich guy even get out? Has he been reading the papers during the last, oh I don’t know, twenty-five years? The Nation of Islam is a very disturbing group. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that their members are not out dealing drugs, shooting people and beating women; but is the only path towards that life one that insists that white people are devils invented by a black scientist? The NOI claim that they are no longer teaching that strange version of history and anthropology, but my guess is that those ideas are not very far from the surface. When NOI members used to peddle the Final Call on downtown streets they were very reluctant to sell me a copy, they likely didn’t want white people to see what they were up to. With good reason; they seemed to have cleaned it up for the internet.

The NOI is having their big annual shindig, Saviours’ Day in Hyde Park (a Chicago neighborhood) this weekend, where Minister Louis Farrakhan will likely wax eloquently (?) on the history of Jews in the slave trade. This would be despite the fact that Mr. Farrakhan is a minister in a perversion of the religion that was extremely active in the slave trade. Strange interpretations of history aside, Mr. Farrakhan has a pretty sharp mind. He was once an amateur concert pianist and he has the ability to sound like a pretty reasonable fellow. Do not believe it. Mr. Farrakhan is a demagogue. Some demagogues use bricks of truth connected by the mortar of lies; Mr. Farrakhan has a tendency to use imaginary bricks.

Mr. Blagojevich is where he is today because his father-in-law is Richard Mell, a powerful Chicago Alderman and all around big time muckety-muck in local Democratic circles. Frankly, although I have never lived in his ward, I have mostly liked Alderman Mell. It seems that somebody has been whispering into Blagojevich’s ear that he is national material and that he is going to have to make hazy his association with his ward boss father-in-law. I seem to recall an old picture of Alderman Mell standing on his chair in the City Council Chambers yelling at then Mayor Harold Washington. Although it was often disgraceful, we didn’t lack for political amusement back then. The whisperers must have been telling Blagojevich that some fellow Democrats and most Republicans would likely attack him as the lackey of a ward boss. If I were advising a candidate (nobody that dumb has yet emerged) my advice would be to stay away from Mell. Alderman Mell is a good, old-time Chicago politician, those guys can be dangerous. Don’t even think about kicking that dog. I believe that the advice to distance himself from Mr. Mell will prove to be harmful to the long-term political prospects of Mr. Blagojevich; it has also likely been tough on his family. I wonder if Blagojevich got that wonderful advice from the same guy who briefed him before his appearance on the Daily Show?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Congressman's Office Didn't Know What He Wrote That Morning

Before writing this post I called my congressman, Rahm Emanuel, to ask his opinion on the effect of taxation on capital formation in light of his call for increased capital gains taxes. That was last Friday February 17, 2006; I was assured a return call on the subject of “capital formation”. I did not expect a call last Friday but I did expect one on Tuesday. There is still no word from the congressman’s DC office. I know that they have more important things to do than answer reasonable questions from actual constituents but the guy had written an article on the subject that morning. How serious is Mr. Emanuel on this subject if his office is not prepared to answer a simple question concerning this new position that he touted in one of the nation’s largest newspapers that very morning?

This is part of what I wrote last Saturday:

My congressman, Democrat Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has had a tax proposal on his web site for a few weeks. This week he and Sen. Ron Wyden (D) Oregon wrote this article (subscription site) on that subject for the Wall Street Journal. They mix some good ideas with one horrible idea that continually rears its ugly head when Democrats get together; they want to raise taxes on one of the most important building blocks for businesses, I'm talking about capital. We can not have growth in this country without capital, people would not have jobs without adequete capital. Why the Democrats want to tax such a fundemental building block of job creation is beyond me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Maybe the LaRouchie Just Sounded Like Some AP Coworkers

Please somebody tell me, what the heck has been going on at the AP? The organization that is supported by member papers across the country seems to have let their standards of journalism slip a bit in the last few years. Is this article about a few protesters or a Supreme Court Justice discussing a controversial trend in jurisprudence? It turns out that the principle protester is actually some LaRouche goofball. Could the reporter discern the fact that the protester could reasonably be described as a cult member or did he just sound a lot like the reporter’s coworkers?

If you have not had any interaction with the followers of Lyndon LaRouche you should count your blessings. I have mostly seen them in downtown Chicago. Sometimes they circle the block that holds the Federal Reserve Bank in an beat-up old Suburban while one of them screams through a bullhorn, sometimes they set up a table in front of the Federal Reserve Bank to pass out their propaganda and again with the bullhorn. I have never seen them in the subway with the bullhorn, making them more approachable down there. They are strange people; they do not appear to be all there, the old “few cards short of a deck” problem. They seem to have a spiel, actually a variety of spiels. All of these spiels seem to rely on the idea that if you agree with them on one issue then the LaRouchies can’t be all that unreasonable on the issues that they actually are quite unreasonable about.

The followers of LaRouche did some recruiting on subway platforms in Chicago a few years ago, mostly to black people; it was bizarre. Here were these fairly pompous, not very bright white guys with their “just got to the city” clothing using their canned rap on people who did not appear to be very receptive. If there is one thing that us long suffering subway riders know about, it is crazy people; needless to say the LaRouchies have not been active in the subway for years. From seeing them operate they appear to be some “not so bright” people who are convinced that they have found the true way through the conspiracy theories of Mr. LaRouche. The ones that I have talked to (to the extant that one can talk to a LaRouchie) do not seem to college educated. Due to the fact that they have found the truth, the LaRouchies clearly feel superior to the rest of us poor saps.

Back to the AP, was their reporter able to discern that this guy was not your average anti-Bush ranter? Maybe the better question is whether or not the LaRouchie sounds like the average anti-Bush ranter at the AP? I was really struck by this because I have never seen a LaRouchie who would not appear out of place at a judicial conference involving a Supreme Court Justice. Couldn’t the reporter figure it out? I would like to further add that here in Chicago if you pay attention to the LaRouchies on the street you can recognize the members. There aren’t very many of them.

Has the AP been hiring this guy?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DNC - Too Cheap To Pay $11,000?

Clinton In Winnetka, 1996
c Flying Debris

The fact that the Democratic National Committee has not written an $11,000 check so that a prolific Democratic fundraiser can get to the 1st tee on a Saturday morning without getting razzed by his neighbors makes me wonder about the DNCs financial condition.

This Chicago Tribune article reports on the conflict between Democratic fundraising big-shot William Brandt Jr., CEO of Development Specialists Inc. and his hometown of Winnetka, IL. Mr. Brandt held a fundraising soiree for then candidate President Clinton in the fall of 1996. I attended a tightly controlled “meet and greet” before that fundraiser (photo above) when the President’s helicopters landed at Duke Childs Field, also in Winnetka. As is his habit, the President was late. President Clinton then took a motorcade across Winnetka to the Brandt home on Sheridan Rd. Sheridan Rd. runs along the shore of Lake Michigan and some of the village’s most extravagant homes are on it.

Winnetka secured the area outside of Duke Childs Field, a series of athletic fields plus the motorcade route and the Brandt neighborhood. It is the cost of this security that the village of Winnetka is seeking recoup by billing Mr. Brandt. Although he is often described as a millionaire bankruptcy executive Mr. Brandt has declined to pay the $11,000 bill and is making a federal case out of the issue, literally. He has sued the village of Winnetka in Federal Court.

The article also reports that Patrick Ryan, Executive Chairman of AON Corp. received a similar bill involving village security at two political events. The Tribune reports that Mr. Ryan and the Republicans handled that situation in a much more graceful manner. Point of disclosure, my late father was quite good friends with Pat, they had much in common including Notre Dame. The Ryans held two fundraisers in their Winnetka home for President Bush during the 2004 election season and the village billed Mr. Ryan $80,000. Mr. Ryan declined to pay the bill and explained that for him to do so would violate federal campaign finance laws. Eventually the Republican National Committee paid the bill, allowing the Ryans to both not stick their neighbors with their fundraising bills and not violate federal statutes.

The Village of Winnetka bills its residents for security in a variety of crowd situations including charitable benefits. It does sound like they are on good footing, after all Mr. Clinton was there to raise money. In the mean time Mr. Brandt has wrapped himself in the robe of the 1st Amendment while his attorney has taken the more rational approach of contesting parts of the statute. My take on this? Mr. Brandt is in a bind here, if he pays the bill he may be in violation of the campaign finance statutes; on the other hand if he sticks his neighbors with his political fundraising bill he may not get invited to the next block party. This may be a stalling scheme. They may want to stall until they get the fundraising cranked up again. At that time one would hope that Howard Dean could find $11,000 in order to get Mr. Brandt out of this bind; it’s killing his golf game.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bobby Rahal Drives the "Hippy Car"

Rahal's Ride!
c Flying Debris

This is one of my favorite race cars of early ‘70s, the Porsche 917. 25 of these cars were built for the ’69 sports car season; they were very fast but notoriously untamed. Porsche test driver Hans Herman once said of the early 917 “Often I really believed that my next resting place would be in heaven.”1 The ’69 Le Mans 24 hour race was the closest Le Mans ever. Yet the excitingly close finish was between a Porsche 908 driven by the 41 year old Herman and a Ford GT40, driven by a 24 year old Jacky Ickx; the vaunted 917 was not involved in the chase for the checkered flag. The Ford won after a final lap that featured several lead changes being reported back to the packed grandstands from the 8.365 mile course.

The next year, 1970 saw a 917L race at Le Mans with this fantastic Martini Racing livery that inspired observers to dub it the “hippie car” for its beautiful swirling paint job. The “hippie car” took second place in the rain soaked Le Mans of 1970 with Gerard Larrousse and Willibert Kauhsen at the wheel. The winning car was the 917K entered by Porsche Salzburg, the firm owned by Louise Porsche Piech. Louise was the daughter of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, the older sister of then Porsche Chairman Ferry Porsche and mother of 906 designer and later Volkswagen Audi Group Chairman, Ferdinand Piech. Her story is a wonderful one in itself. I once read an interview with her in which she said “I’ve only ever driven my family’s cars. First the cars of my father, then those of my brother, and now those of my son.”2

The fact that Louise had such a hot car in the 1970 race while customers Martini Racing and Team Gulf chased her car didn’t sit very well with the customers. On the other hand it was Louise who kept Porsche going both as the head of the firm and by moving supplies and funds through the various Allied Occupation Zones in the early post WWII period. During much of that time both her father and her brother were being held as economic war criminals in France due to the pre-war and war-time activities of Porsche, Ing. The engineering firm could count the Volkswagen Beetle and the King Tiger tank among their war related projects. An exasperating factor is the fact that Ferdinand Porsche, in his roll at the bizarrely named KdF (Kraft Durch Freude; the Nazi conglomerates’ name in German, translates as Strength Through Joy) had authority over the Peugeot factories during the German occupation of France. Needless to say, Peugeot, a previously proud French firm, was not turning out smartly elegant French cars while under the thumb of KdF. The area between where the Porsche family was living, Zell Am See and the firm’s base in Gmund was split by the post war authorities. German men had a much tougher time crossing between those zones than German women, giving Louise an advantage over the other early Porsche employees. It was an advantage that the young Porsche firm needed, for without that help it is likely that the firm would have lost many key employees to other opportunities.

The photo above shows the “hippy car” after being run on a Saturday afternoon by Bobby Rahal in July of 2002. The shot was taken in the pits at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. during the Brian Redman International Challenge (BRIC). The BRIC has been renamed the Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman; KICBR doesn’t really work so it will likely still be called the BRIC. It is an annual vintage auto race held in July at the Kettle Moraine area race track, the longest road course in the US. The BRIC is also one of the largest vintage races in the country and is always a great time. The nearby towns of Elkhart Lake and Plymouth are nice Midwestern farming towns that have enough economic activity to still be described as thriving. They are the quintessential dairy towns of middle Wisconsin, a real throwback.

1 Porsche Excellence Was Expected by Karl Ludvigsen 1st Edition 1977 pg. 660 2nd Edition 2003 pg. 583
2 Excellence Magazine #143, Dec. 2005 pg. 82

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Best Car Review Ever?

Well Optioned MG TD
c Flying Debris

Okay so the annual Road & Track April Fools issue and many a Car and Driver review could fall into this category but what have they done for me lately? Of course the R&T April issue should be in the mail any day now. Car Talk’s latest “test drive” is Test Dive Notes: Tommy’s 1952 MG TD Roadster and it has got to be one of the funnier pieces of the genre. If you’re not familiar with “Car Talk” on NPR, then it must be explained that the two brothers, Tom and Ray, razz each other well enough to have been on the radio every week for years. They have a garage in Cambridge, Ma. and I think that they may have gone to MIT; at least that’s what I’ve been told by folks who listen to NPR a lot more than I do.

I’ve driven the MG TD Roadster and I must say that it makes you appreciate old time drivers and racers. When you see old photos from Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake you usually see some of these old MG “T” series cars racing around the courses. Check out this photo of a TC at Daytona or this photo of a TD leading a parade of bikes at Sturgis in ‘53! The MGs were dramatically less expensive than the Jaguars, Ferraris and Maseratis that made up the top tier of the continental competition. They were also less expensive than the then rare Porsches, especially the 550 Spyders. In all fairness the TD is a fun car to drive, it just takes some getting used to for those of us who spend so much time in modern cars. An example of its quirkiness would be the electric turn signal that is actuated by a switch on the dashboard; that is odd but it definitely beats an arm out the window!

I say that I like the TD because it brings both the driver and the passenger so close to the driving environment. Actually, I think that the real reason that I like the TD so much is that if I was dropped into Pittsburg or Cleveland circa 1885 tomorrow morning, I would have amazing teeth and I could probably build a “T” series MG from scratch.

The difference between the “T” series of the MG and the following “A” series is pretty dramatic as far as handling and drivability goes. The “T” series really is a throwback to a different era; it shows us how our Fathers and/or Grandfathers drove cars. If they were lucky. If they happened to drive better cars I say “God Love ‘Em.” When it was new the MG was considered one of the sportiest cars on American roads, excepting the relatively rare and expensive Jaguars. The story of MG in America is a post WWII story that has always centered around the military personnel who first saw those little cars while stationed in or passing through Britain on their way to points east. Frankly the casual observer would be hard pressed to tell whether they were looking at a ’36 MG TA or a ’55 MG TF.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Then the Evil Cheney Stopped the Rain

Here is what Alec Baldwin, a pompous Hollywood type, had to say about Cheney, Whittington and Enron (this Baldwin character can really get around!) on the Huffington Post:
“What would Cheney do about the whole secrecy thing then? I mean, this is the guy that sicced Enron on Gray Davis and the state of California to embarrass Davis, trigger the recall and then watched Arnold Schwarzenegger become governor of California. (To this day, perhaps, still the low point in American political life.) Then Cheney covered it up.”

Obviously Mr. Baldwin has not been able to figure out what happened in his own backyard. On the other hand I don’t know why anyone would expect the likes of Mr. Baldwin to know what happened five years ago in his homestate, after all the guy does play “dress-up” for a living. What we know about the Califonia electrical crisis of 2001 is that the state had an unsustainable regulatory scheme that relied on low prices for other energy sources, such as natural gas. The legislators who set this scheme up assumed that there would be no spike in natural gas prices. During this time California electrical utilities, like utilities around the nation were producing more and more electricity using clean burning natural gas. During this time the enviromental gas bags who insisted that natural gas was the preferable way to generate electricity would go to court in order to deny any attempts to drill for more of the natural gas that our nation was using at ever increasing rates. Those groups are continuing that activity today; in addition they are protesting attempts to build facilities to import natural gas. This is a classic set up for higher prices; increased demand combined with a stagnant, throttled supply. The price of natural gas was up everywhere in the nation that winter but Californians threw the biggest hissy-fit, claiming that the laws of supply and demand do not apply to their tanned selves. However Californians do believe that the laws of supply and demand apply to their houses, ironically, those houses are inanimate objects.

The regulatory scheme not only eventually bankrupted California utilities but it also set up byzintine energy purchasing rules that did not allow pre-purchase hedging of prices and in fact forced California energy providers to purchase their energy needs on an as needed daily basis. The requirement that the energy concerns had to use the spot market left them at the mercy of firms like Enron, a criminal enterprise. Let me be perfectly clear; although firms like Enron ripped off their customers they did not cause the factors that underpinned that historic bull market in natural gas and electrical prices.

The factor that I alude to in the title is the fact that the state of California got a sizable amount of its electricity from hydro damns, obviously those damns rely on steady river flow and thus steady rainfall. For about the 5 years leading up to the California energy crisis the West had been receiving less than adequate levels of rainfall. The diminished spring runoff combined with lower levels of summer rains meant lower river levels and thus less hydro-electricity. This shortage became so acute that aluminum plants in the northwest were shut down due to the loss of the cheap electricity provided by the regional hydro-power damns. When the Canadian government made the decision to provide hydro-power to their own citizens rather than the citizens of California Gov. Grey Davis made the bizzare decision to sue Canada over Canada’s rational decision to provide power to their own freezing citizens rather than the subsidised hot tubs of Santa Barbara.

This loss of hydro-electricity combined with the historic and sustained spike in natural gas prices left the California electrical market in the shambles of bankrupt electric companies and daily spot shortages until Governor Davis made the mistake of hedging the states needs for years to come at the very high prices. Had the California legislature made the decision to price the states’ future needs during the mid-nineties instead of putting their bizzare regulatory scheme into place they would’ve ended up paying prices that would’ve been less than twenty-five percent of what they paid during the ensuing panic. The liberal legislators of California were worried that the states’ utlity companies would make too much money; instead the companies went bankrupt and the state endured rolling electrical blackouts. Anyways, it is bizzare to blame the California electrical problems on Enron, Cheney, Bush or anyone outside of the California political classes. Unless you believe that Cheney can stop the rain. Maybe Mr. Cheney has some sort of “ant-rain” dance; he’s from Wyoming, you know, they have actual Indians there.

Mr. Baldwin also calls the election of Arnold Schwartzenager “To this day, perhaps, still the low point in American political life”. Does that bit of hyperbole even desrve a response? Okay here goes: Worse than Watergate? Worse than Tammany Hall? Worse even than the Vietnam War? Obviously the comparrisons could go on all day; the point is that Mr. Baldwins statements are simply ridiculous.

More of the Same from the Democrats, Again

My congressman, Democrat Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has had a tax proposal on his web site for a few weeks. This week he and Sen. Ron Wyden (D) Oregon wrote this article (subscription site) on that subject for the Wall Street Journal. They mix some good ideas with one horrible idea that continually rears its ugly head when Democrats get together; they want to raise taxes on one of the most important building blocks for businesses, I'm talking about capital. We can not have growth in this country without capital, people would not have jobs without adequete capital. Why the Democrats want to tax a fundemental building block of job creation is beyond me.

The good ideas in the article are common sense suggestions to simplify the tax code and if I’m reading this article correctly they advocate cleaning up the picayune special interest deductions that are rife in the federal tax code. I did not notice any suggestions to systematically keep the tax code clean of those picayune deductions.

The two Democrats state that their proposal would eliminate “the unfair ways wages and investment income are currently treated”. This is an ongoing lament of Democrats; it has been used successfully over the years to support the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Elimination of the AMT is one of their suggestions, so at least the Democrats are starting to see the light on that particular tax. The reality is that the AMT net has gotten so big that they are hearing about that tax from their constituents.

The glaringly bad idea is one which would make us less competitive than we should be in the arena of attracting capital to our businesses. They want to raise the capital gains tax. Nowhere in the article or on Mr. Emanuel’s web site is the issue of capital formation addressed. By capital formation I mean the ability of corporations, partnerships and individuals to raise the necessary capital to start or expand businesses. My hope is that there is nobody left in America who would say that humans do not react to tax rate changes. After all, this is a nation of people who will drive well out of their way to save a few cents per gallon of gasoline. Taxes involve much more than a few cents per gallon. It is important to remember that investors are human and that humans react to stimuli.

Starting a business is difficult and risky work; this is easily seen in the business failure statistics. The vast majority of businesses fail within five years, making an investment in a start-up business a risky venture indeed. Those of us who advocate lower capital gains taxes understand that a business start-up is a very risky venture and that if we as a society lower the cost of the successful ventures then successful business owners will be more willing to risk their capital again rather than socking it away. Whether they risk their capital in a new venture or expand their original venture does not matter, they are creating jobs and opportunities for people. The retort that most capital gains do not involve actual start-ups ignores the use of capital for expansion and the very real effect that secondary markets have in capital formation.

Secondary markets in this case are markets made in stocks that have already been issued to the public through Initial Public Offerings (IPO); it is the stock market that we see in the paper every day. Lively secondary markets mean increased liquidity, meaning in this case, that an investor can sell a holding easily and at a fair price. Lower capital gains taxes help spur investors to put their capital into the secondary market and thus add to that liquidity. That pool of liquid capital is an added incentive to those who put their capital to work in the riskier early funding stages of companies. The lively public secondary market means that those early investors can easily take their capital out of an ongoing concern and invest in another start-up venture, thus supplying the market with an IPO at that time and possibly another IPO down the road if the next start-up investment becomes a success. This is a good thing that we as a society should encourage.

It is important to remember that our capitalist system needs capital to thrive and grow. Not only does our population growth need a consistently growing economy to employ new workers but our Social Security system very likely faces a disaster without a larger and more productive economy. Politicians and pundits have always said that our options involving the future of the current Social Security system are limited to lower benefits or higher taxes. We never hear another option; that our population could grow dramatically enough to cover our obligations. That idea makes the Ponzi scheme aspect of the system much more obvious. It is rarely, if ever, considered that our economy could grow enough to cover the future social security obligations. I don’t know why this option is never discussed but I suspect that to many it seems unrealistic.

Traditionally our system has relied on many workers supporting each retiree, that ratio has been going down for years, that ratio is likely to go to ridiculous levels when the baby boomers retire. My suggestion is that we need to grow our economy enough so that future workers are compensated well enough to actually pay for the Social Security program. A necessity to achieve such growth would be much more efficient use of capital. By efficiency I do not mean the selection of winners over losers; competition makes for stronger ideas and ventures. I am saying that the government should be satisfied with a smaller cut from a larger pie when the investing public reallocates their capital.

I have only scratched the surface of this subject and I plan to write on this and other economic subjects in the future. I especially plan to write on the strange idea that the strong economy that we experienced in the ‘90s was due to tax increases earlier in the decade; a meme that I have described as Rostenkowski economics. The lesson that allows one to understand why the tax increase equals booming economy nonsense is actually a meme lies somewhere between understanding Economics 101 and understanding the bond-desk at Goldman Sachs; so it may take a while to work it up.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sosa, the New Sandberg?

Believe me, I mean no disrespect to Hall of Fame baseball player Ryne Sandberg, I just couldn’t help myself. You see, I have this friend who seriously dislikes Sandberg. He refers to Sandberg as a “cuckold loser.” He considers Sandberg a quitter due to his initial, mid-year retirement. He correctly states that Ryno quit on his teammates and he believes that Ryno should be scorned for that. My friend is persuasive enough on this issue (and others) that I once witnessed him convince a large section of the center-field bleachers to boo Ryno during his at bats, on opening day! My friend is also a Sox fan so he relished the moment like a maniacal Dr. Evil character, right there in the bleachers. The unwritten theory on Rynos’ initial retirement was that he was in the midst of a divorce from his first wife. Rumors alleged that his first wife was a baseball Trixie and was sleeping with other major league ball players, including a number of his teammates. The teammates most often rumored to have been associated with her were Rafael Palmero and Thad Bosley. The rumors alleged that they were both traded soon after the incidents became known within the team. The theory back when Ryno first retired was that he wanted to avoid any claim on future baseball earnings and the fact that Ryno was suddenly a retired ball player likely affected any negotiations between the parties to that divorce. He came back to Wrigley and the center field bleachers booed him. Sammy Sosa’s agent said today that Sosa will hang it up and no longer play professional baseball at age 37. This follows a pathetic ’05 with the Orioles (.221, 14 HR, 45 RBI) that was marred by injury and an injury plagued ‘04 with the Cubs (a still respectable but deceiving .253, 80 RBI, 35 HR) that featured a back injury caused by a sneeze. Ironically, the baseball steroid crackdown started to become more serious before the ’04 season.
I was lucky enough to closely witness both of their careers and I have to say that Ryno deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Sammy on the other hand… Sometimes, okay quite often, watching Sammy in right field was like going to a NASCAR race; you knew that there was going to be a crackup, it was just a matter of whether or not somebody would get hurt. Ryno on the other hand was a smooth and productive player throughout his entire career, excepting my friends’ concerns. Ryno probably cemented his Hall election by having a game named after him, “the Ryne Sandberg Game” on June 23, 1984. In that game Ryno hit two runs, one in the ninth and one in the tenth, both of them game tying home runs against his soon to be fellow Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. This feat, that spurred Whitey Herzog to describe Ryno as “Little Babe Ruth”, helped the Cubs defeat the hated St. Louis Cardinals 12 to 11 in Wrigley Field. The fact that Sutter, the leagues premier reliever, had once pitched for the Cubs just added to the perceived importance of that game. That game made that team realize that they could play together against the big boys and was seen as the turn around game for that Division winning team. It was a wonderful game. Sammy Sosa had some wonderful games but there has been no “Sammy Sosa” game, and there won’t be. When Ryno was inducted into the Hall last summer he delivered one of the truly great induction speeches in which he chastised current players in the same way that he was said to have criticized Sammy Sosa when they played together. I guess that in the end, Sosa is not the next Sandberg.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Some Casino Is Missing Its Greeter

c AP
Please, Someone, Get This Man A Job!

What the heck is going on with Al Gore? I will say at the outset that I never liked the guy; even Dukakis was a better candidate. I disliked Al enough to make a $100 bet in 1994 (yeh, I know, real big money…) that Mr. Gore would never become President, excepting some sort of succession. So as long as Big Al walks this earth I am at risk for $200 (it seemed reasonable to settle the bet after 2002), I made the bet because I did not believe that the American people would elect such a condescending man to lead them. I was wrong, Al won the popular vote. Consider that my disclosure on the issue.

Just a few weeks ago Al claimed to have found some sort of controlling legal authority (Finally!) involving the NSA tapping situation. As far as I could figure, Al found the same “controlling legal authority” that he found ten tears ago; Al Gore.

Now this week we open Monday to see Al in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia insulting America for money. Al was complaining about, among other things, some changes that our government made in visa applications that were made in the wake of 9/11. Beyond the obvious fact that three-quarters of the 9/11 murderers were Saudis, we should all remember that before 9/11 (actually until the following July) the visa applications for Saudi citizens were made through the notorious “visa express” program in which travel agencies issued visas. Yep, travel agencies; those are the days that Big Al is longing for. He also complained of people being detained who were in this country illegally. I’m not really sure where Al is going with those two, but he sure made it sound bad, for money. If Al Gore is so hard up for cash that he needs to go to Saudi Arabia to slander America to an overly receptive audience (he could do that in California), then some American Democrats should step up and give Al a job, something, please! Al is in pretty good shape but I think that the WWF is out. You know, if Big Al and Gerry Cooney were working together at some casino, I’d definitely go to Vegas!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

They Never Expected the Spanish Inquisition

Here is a line from this AP report, it is unbelievable:
“Saudi Arabia's top cleric said in a Friday sermon that it was too late for apologies and those responsible for the drawings should be put on trial and punished.”
The history of Islam has been very troublesome for its neighbors and the above is an example of why that is so. Traditionally Islam has seen non-believers as second class citizens so it only makes sense that they also believe that Islamic law should hold sway over any secular law or non-Islamic religious law. Back in the seventies Monty Python's Flying Circus had a wonderful skit that lampooned the Spanish Inquisition; the punch line was the oft repeated “they never expected the Spanish Inquisition.” What this cleric is suggesting takes the Inquisition idea out to the neighborhood of Salem in 1692. Back when those Python shows were new it was assumed that the Spanish Inquisition was about as bad as a religious courtroom could get, we were wrong and we will likely see the live version soon. (As I was writing this the AP has reported that the Yemenis have arrested three journalists for republishing “blasphemous” cartoons. Actually they’ve been doing this sort of thing for years.) Another problem faced by those who have to coexist (apparently anywhere in the world) with extreme Muslims is the decentralized nature of that religion. “Saudi Arabia's top cleric” is not the Pope or his equivilant; whom exactly he speaks for I am not sure, but the citizens of Saudi Arabia is a good guess. Back during the summer of 2001 I read a short article in the Financial Times; it reported that one Yusuf Islam had re-issued a fatwah against Salman Rushdie. Yusuf is the former Cat Stevens, a folk singer from the seventies who had a hit song named “Peace Train”; there I go with the seventies again. Cat Stevens isn’t the Pope either, so I don’t know what the heck he was doing issuing religious death edicts. Imagine if that practice was widespread in other religions, it could wreak havoc: Bernie Taupin - “I issue a fatwah on that bitch Sir Elton”, Keith Richards – “I issue a fatwah on that gallon bottle of Jack Daniels for being empty”, Mick Jagger – “I issue a personal fatwah to be served in my hotel room on that girl, her friend and her mother”. As you can see it would be messy and I didn’t even mention Lil’ Kim or Madonna. The Rushdie situation was a precursor to this cartoon nonsense; sure Mr. Rushdie is still walking the earth, but where was the unified Western response to religious death threats made against a novelist? At the time some commentators stated that Mr. Rushdie’s book “the Satanic Verses” was an insult to Islam. If that book had been considered blasphemous to Christianity, especially Catholicism or one of the more fundamentalist branches of Christianity, many of those commentators would have praised the book for being “objective” or some other mealy-mouthed adjective. By the way, the Neo-Neocon recently wrote about Mr. Rushdie’s recent third marriage to a woman who can easily be described as “quite fetching” both here and here. A third problem is addressed by Mark Steyn in his Sun Times article this morning, Steyn points out the problem of Muslim thugs and how they use intimidation to gain power and enforce their beliefs and taboos. It has always struck me that a certain, unknown, percentage of the population can be reasonably called sadists, thugs would generally fall in that group. Sadists are critical to non-democratic governments; where would Stalin have been without people to intimidate all of the people around him, including the other intimidators?

Cheney Shoots A Lawyer! Now Where Is That Killer Bee Suit?

The AP has just reported that Vice President Dick Cheney has just shot a guy! The report says that he shot a friend of his on a quail hunting trip down in Texas. Yep, there’s nothing like living down to the worst expectations of the kids at the Daily Kos. Life is getting to be more and more like some old Saturday Night Live skit all the time.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Stage Coach Pass Road in the Afternoon

Stage Coach Pass Road
c Flying Debris

The photo is from a great little mountain road in Arizona. It's a great drivers road, although the bottom of that hill, just in front of the house, is a scary place to try to find the brake pedal in an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite, luckily I found it. I wanted to check out the standard Porsche Boxster after having one years’ experience in the Boxster S, so I rented one while on vacation. It really is a wonderful car, much easier to drive than the “S” version due to the 5 speed transmission. Don’t get me wrong, I love the 6 speed, it’s just that the 5 speed is a much smoother transmission for everyday driving; which is what we do, everyday. That said, I did notice the power difference, the S is noticeably more powerful. If you are in the market for a car I highly suggest that you rent one first. You can rent almost any type of car these days, I rented a Boxster S in San Diego a few years ago and then decided to buy one. It was the first time that I had rented a car that close to the border, so I wasn’t expecting to have to sign a pledge that I would not take the car into Mexico. All that I could think was; the last place that I am taking this thing is Tijuana. Simply google “exotic auto rental” and the desired city and you are likely to find at least one agency that specializes in exotic or odd cars. Rentals are also great for teaching someone to drive stick shift cars. I once spent a Christmas afternoon teaching one of my sisters how to drive stick in a Porsche 944 Turbo; do not try that at home, or anywhere else. She lived in New York City at the time so she was just happy to be able to drive. I later gave her lessons in a rented Mini Cooper S, when she was able to back out of an uphill driveway I knew that she had gotten it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reagan as Kennedy and McSweeney as Clinton?

Reagan and McSweeney Posted by Picasa

This guy is running in the Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District in IL. He would run against Melissa Bean (D) as she tries to extend her first term. When I checked out his website I was struck by this great picture of him as a fourteen year old kid. Obviously the designers intended good feelings and it worked for me. This picture reminds me of that great picture of Bill Clinton meeting President Kennedy when Clinton was a teenager. The candidate’s name is David McSweeney. Bean defeated Phil Crane in 2004 after Mr. Crane had spent a portion of the previous term in rehab. Even if it was for Scotch or other beverages, it just didn’t look good. Mr. McSweeney’s campaign and this photo can be found at:

Sign Says It All
c Flying Debris

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tough Guys When It Suits 'Em

Last week the Tribune Co. had their lawyers go to Federal Court in order to argue that the Tribune Co. should have access to top-secret testimony involving undercover Israeli agents; agents who would be murdered by Palestinians were their cover blown. The Tribune Co. demanded to see the secret testimony due to some level of newsworthiness and because one or more editors were uncomfortable with the proceedings. I should add that this organization has been in the news for some time and that it is easy to be uncormfortable with foreign testimony in our courts, I could never figure out where the Tribune came into this. The Tribune has yet to report on the potential uncomfortableness of the undercover Israeli agents. Two years ago the Tribune Co. had it’s lawyers go into Federal Court in Los Angeles in order to publicize a sealed divorce record; a move that was fought by all of the parties to the divorce. The Tribune Co. succeeded in publicizing the divorce record of the Senate candidate and gave proof to the stories about those files that had been circulating in local political circles for some time. Clearly the Tribune is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get a story when they want to. This week, in a move deserving a chapter in the yet to written “Profiles in Cowardice” the Tribune editorial board has spared it’s readers the shock of seeing cartoons that are less than flattering to the memory of a man whom some consider to have been a prophet. For decades the Tribune has been reporting on violent attacks by followers of that prophet on members of virtually every other faith throughout the world; the common theme of these reports has been that the attackers stated that they killed in the name of Islam. The reports of the use of what can only be called a war cry, “Allah Akbar”, were so ubiquitous that it became a punch line over twenty years ago. Another recurring theme in those violent attacks has been the promise of seventy-two virgins in heaven to men who die while murdering others in the name of their prophet and the advancement of Islam. You don’t need to be Howard Stern to get some mileage out of that one. Considering those realities, the two cartoons that Clarence Page referred to today (Feb. 8 linked at the bottom) are not unreasonable cartoons. Most of us recognize that the couple down the street isn’t going to slay us over a Christmas display or a Menorah in a window; they are just trying to get through the week like the rest of us. However, we need to recognize that there are some parts of the world where that simply is not true. This would be a very good time for the decent Muslim people of America to acknowledge to the world that freedom of the press means sometimes getting your own ox gored. This incident should make us wonder, if the Tribune Co. is going to succumb to the censorship of intimidation what standing should we give them as a news organization?