Monday, December 23, 2002

Bulletproof Chest


This is too funny. If anything new develops, Tough Times promises to keep YOU abreast of the situation...

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Need Some Help Here!


Has anyone seen a link to a transcript of the Lott BET interview? I'd like to read it, and have yet to see one. E-Mail Tough Times with your link. Thanks!

UPDATE: Got it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Oh My Fark-ing God!


Here is my nomination for the next picture to be photoshopped at Fark.

CAUTION: Some offensive content can be found on Fark, though it is well-labled.

Blame Canada!


Here's a dual purpose news item:
WINNIPEG, Canada (Reuters) -- It took an airport metal detector to give a Canadian woman a clue to why she was suffering from persistent stomach aches four months after having abdominal surgery.

Despite the detector's beep, airport security guards in Regina, Saskatchewan, were unable to find any metal on her body before the woman's October flight to Calgary, Alberta.

Yet another commentary on Canadian Health Care. What’s the other part of the dual comment? Tough Times thinks maybe the TSA can take some lessons from their Canadian counterparts - talk about a concealed weapon!

The Truth, or Any Other Convenient Lie


Did anyone see this item on Neal Boortz’s news page today?
If you were watching Paula Zahn on CNN this morning you saw Congressmen Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and J.C. Watts (R-OK) discussing (what else?) the Trent Lott situation. During the course of that conversation Meeks, the Democrat, was doing his level best to portray the Republicans as generally bigoted and racist.

During his rant Meeks told Zahn that he has actually seen campaign literature with the picture of a black family and the words "If they win, we lose." Meeks presented this as an example of the racism that is a part of the Republican Party.

OK … now here’s the rest of the story.

That campaign literature was prepared and used in Georgia. Yes, it did have a picture of a black family; and yes, it did have the words "If they win, we lose." What Meeks didn’t say this morning on CNN was that this campaign flyer also had a picture of a white person … a Republican candidate. In the flyer the "they" referred to the white guy, the "we" was referring to the black family.

Interesting, isn’t it? The Democrats create a bit of campaign literature designed to frighten blacks into voting Democrats by telling them that if "they" (the Republicans) win, "we" (black families) lose.

This has to be the first piece of "dual use" campaign literature I’ve seen. You use the flyer during the campaign to frighten blacks into voting for Democrats; then, after the election is over, you attribute the flyer to Republicans and use it to illustrate their racism.

Here is why Lott needs to go. Every time an issue comes up that has a racial component to it, Lott's record is going to be dragged out and used to flog Republicans into submission because to some Democrats the truth does not matter. Where is the condemnation for it? Tough Times wants an apology from Gregory Meeks - but we're not holding our breath!

Dan Burton - Libertarian?


The drug war has gotten so bad that even the drug warriors are starting to realize where the problem lies.

What Will George Do?


One of the interesting twists in the Trent Lott affair is the reaction of the White House, which so far seems to have been to see which way the wind is blowing, and then react to it without actually calling for any specific action. Bush 43 has derided Lott’s comments, but has not called for any specific action on the part of Senate Republicans. Obviously the White House is very concerned (and rightly so) that the Bush agenda will suffer if Lott does not handle the situation effectively, but remains in the Majority Leader position, as Democrats will have a convenient target any time they need one. At the same time, Bush does not want to alienate the portion of the Republican party that supports Trent Lott and believes him to have been sufficiently contrite. So the White House takes the middle road, condemning action but recommending no course of action, to the consternation of many in the Pundisphere. Tough Times thinks that the President could go a long way towards relieving that concern by stating that this problem is one of the Senate, and that while he has an opinion on what should be done, it would be inappropriate to voice that opinion, because by doing so the Executive branch of government would be meddling in the internal affairs of the Legislative branch.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Winds of Change


Lots of political change today. Al Gore has formally announced that he will not run in 2004. Does this open the way for Hillary Clinton? She has stated that she would fulfill her term as a Senator, but those types of promises have never stopped Clinton before. Well, Bill Clinton, anyway. Also on the front burner is the Republican fol-de-rol over the Senate Majority leader. Many Republicans a privately nervous about the upcoming session with a closet , hmmm, segregationist? Racist? Whatever. Trent Lott has many Senators reaching for their Tums, mostly privately, some publicly. Anyone wondering why there has not been more public condemnation of the Mississippi Mental Midget needs a lesson in how power in the Senate works. Favors are traded, and later called in. Many, many favors are being called in right now. Will they be enough to keep Trent Lott in power? Time will tell. As posted previously, Tough Times thinks that this is the test many black voters have been waiting for: How will the Republicans handle a (even accidental) bigot in their midst. Believe me, not just black voters are watching right now. Here’s a roundup of who else is as well:

The WSJ Editorial Page
Peggy Noonan
John Fund
Andrew Sullivan
InstaPundit
Sen. Don Nickles (How Insulting!)
Michelle Malkin
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell Thomas Sowell!!
Charles Krauthammer
Cal Thomas
Several
Volokh
Conspirators
David Horowitz
Linda Chavez
Cal Thomas (Again!)
Joel Mowbray
William Saletan
Abigail Thernstrom
Republican appointees to the United States Commission on Civil Rights

The list can go on and on and on. In fact, the list of Lott supporters is much shorter, basically consisting of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, as far as I have seen. The man needs allies like a drowning man needs a life ring, and Tough Times doesn’t see many people manning the rails during the man overboard drill. Finally, we have news on the "Who’ll replace Henry Kissinger in the 9/11 investigation" front: It is being rumored that Bob Dole is the leading candidate. Tough Times thinks that Sen. Dole is a wonderful choice, provided that Britney Spears, Pepsi, and Viagra cause no conflicts of interest.

UPDATE: CNN confirms that it's former NJ Governor Thomas Kean who will replace Kissinger.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A Sound of Thunder


Every read one of those stories that makes your insides reverberate like a huge clap of thunder had slammed into you? This is one. The Acidman has gotten very, very good at his trade, and this story shows it. The descriptions of playing with Calvin rend the heart. Tough Times say that if you don't feel something out this story, you need to go to a doctor - your heart isn't working right.

All That You Can't Leave Behind


Drudge is bannering that Lott will soon take to the air to broadcast yet another, more forceful apology. Part of the essence of politics is realizing when you have well and truly stepped in it - and in this one, spectacular instance (drawn out over the last week), Lott has shown that he is unable to grasp the politics of the 1990's, let alone the new millennium. That it appears that the Bush administration will stand behind him provided he make a forceful enough apology is somewhat disconcerting, given yesterday's statement by the President. It seems as if the Republican Party is the proverbial frog in the pot of water, and hasn't yet realized that the temperature is life-threatening. Unless he flat out admits he realized what he was saying last week, and forcefully abjures his past beliefs (which he will not do), there is no way that he will remain as a credible leader in the Republican Party. The politics of segregation and racism must be eradicated from the GOP, and this is a good place to start.

Trent Lott may feel like he’s stuck in a moment you can't get out of, but for the good of the Republican Party, Tough Times thinks it time to walk on.

UPDATE: Volokh co-conspirator Josh Chafetz thinks that Lott will step down from the majority leadership at the 5:30 PM EST press conference. Tough Times thinks that Republicans can only hope…

Hell Hath No Fury...


For those who can’t see how it can get any worse for Trent Lott, just read this. Tough Times keeps hearing the opening bars of the old Cult song Sun King:
"This is where it all ends…"

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Differentiation


While it doesn’t (to some Republicans) seem fair that Trent Lott is taking all this heat, when Hollings, and Byrd, and others in the Democratic party have (in their estimation) "gotten away" without their party’s condemnation, I think that the point is irrelevant. Tough Times thinks that it is important for Republicans to do the right thing in this case, and put someone else in charge of the Senate majority. Does the Republican party really want to be thought of as the moral equivalents to the Democratic party with regards to policing/defending their own? Tough Times thinks not.

What a Difference a Link Makes


Mr. Reynolds flexes his muscles, and links to me tonight (Thank You very much, sir.) - and my counter goes berzerk - 1250 hits in the last two hours. That means that each of the last two hours has seen more traffic to my site than the last month's total. Wow.

Lott of Trouble


It just keeps getting worse and worse for Trent Lott. Recap: Lott makes comments regarding Strom Thurmond's run for the Presidency. Remarks imply country would be better now had Thurmond won then. Lott says this was due to Thurmond's (a Dixiecrat, remember) stance on defense and law enforcement. Excuse me, didn't the Democrat at the time (Truman) nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? So the only discernible difference between Thurmond and Truman would have been Thurmond's stance on segregation. Lott is found to have made similar remarks in the past as a Congressman. Now this:
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott helped lead a successful battle to prevent his college fraternity from admitting blacks to any of its chapters, in a little-known incident now four decades old. At a time when racial issues were roiling campuses across the South, some chapters of Sigma Nu fraternity in the Northeast were considering admitting African-American members, a move that would have sent a powerful statement through the tradition-bound world of sororities and fraternities. At the time, Lott was president of the intra-fraternity council at the University of Mississippi. When the issue came to a head at Sigma Nu's national convention — known as a "Grand Chapter" — in the early 1960s, "Trent was one of the strongest leaders in resisting the integration of the national fraternity in any of the chapters," recalls former CNN President Tom Johnson, then a Sigma Nu member at the University of Georgia.

Now I know that UGA folk hate Ole' Miss folk, but damn, that's stabbing a (fraternity) brother in the back! I don't think Lott can take many more knives. At least Gingrich recognized the writing on the wall and left before the scandals drug the party down with him. This will be updated with links later. In the mean time, Tough Times says: "Toast, white. Well burned, please!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Viewer Mail Alert!


A Viewer (I have one - Amazing!) writes:
I was hoping you would post on this topic. As the weapons expert on Moneyline indicated... Yes it is suspicious to be transporting missiles inside of concrete. But the sale of short range missiles is not illegal by any binding treaty, the only treaties in effect are voluntary, and the N. Koreans aren't party to those treaties anyway.

Tough Times would say that even the Soviet Union had the courtesy to ship their missiles (Legally!) to Cuba on the decks of their transports, in full view. The method of conveyance alludes to secrecy for some reason other than state security - after all, as CNN relates, security in the Middle East comes out of the barrel of a gun, and Yemen would be advertising this gun to all its neighbors, were they Yemen’s missiles. And indeed, Yemen has claimed them. But that does not contraindicate the possibility that these missiles were going to Al Qaeda (spelling of the day!) for nefarious purpose - after all, it could have been part of the plan for Yemen to claim them as their own should they be discovered. Once dispersed inside Yemen, they would have been hard to find, just as Saddam’s were during the Gulf War. Another interesting question: Why did the ship try to flee, if it were a legal transaction? Answer: Its crew knew it was acting in a highly suspicios, if not illegal manner.
We had very little right to board that ship, less right to hold the cargo, and no right from stopping from where it is going. We do have a right to ask whatever port authority was taking the weapons to interdict.

Actually, Spain intercepted, boarded and interdicted, though I assume the "we" you mean is the "anti-terror coalition" we, and not the "USA" we. The Spanish Captain felt that, since the vessel showed no evidence of being flagged in any country, it was a pirate, or outlaw vessel. Such vessels ARE able to be seized under International Maritime law.
My prediction is the same as the weapons inspector. We let the ship go "as is" (unless we find more sinister weapons on board than scuds) and then nobody will accept it in port. It heads back to N. Korea with its cargo...

I was going to post here that if in fact that missiles were legally ordered by, and belonged to the Yemenis, for them to NOT claim them would be an indication of the possibility of nefarious intent. Yemen has stated that they do belong to Yemen, and the latest breaking news is that the missiles will be turned over to Yemen (CNN page just updated, so link above goes directly to the now updated story). Perhaps an innocent purchase, but certainly the delivery was performed in an extremely suspicious manner.


Much Ado About Something


This whole Trent Lott thing is being blogged to death. Tough Time’s simple, no-nonsense take? What Lott said was either A) Very, very stupid, or B) He meant what he said, in which case, it was racist (Sorry, but true, Strom's platform was built on segregation). In either case, the Republican party does not need him as the Senate Majority leader.

You Gotta be Cruel to be Kind


Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a scathing editorial cartoon on the Lott blunder. Quite funny.



UPDATE: Isn't today's Luckovich cartoon remarkably similar to this cartoon in yesterday's Durham Herald-Sun? Tough Times thinks Luckovich needs to comment on this...

Link to the Cole cartoon via InstaPundit.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Sic Transit Scud


So the North Koreans are shipping missiles to somebody. The US Says that it isn’t Iraq. So who could it be? Intelligence officials are "99% certain" that the ship was headed for Yemen, but that it was stopped well off the coast in order to provide the Yemeni government "plausible deniability" - in other words, a way to play Sergeant Schutlz with the rest of the anti-terror world. The vessel carried no flags (except a Cambodian flag that was dug up by the Spanish Boarders), and was crewed by North Koreans. So who could the missiles be for? My bet is Al-Qaeda. Here’s my reasoning:

We know Al-Qaeda have been operating in Yemen. We Hellfired six Al-Qaeda in Yemen recently.
We know that they have lots of cash. Osama’s a multi-millionaire, isn’t he?
We know that North Korea desperately needs cash. We just cut off their oil supply.

The next question would be "What were they planning to do with them?" Well, aren’t we staging large amounts of troops in the gulf region? Aren’t we also operating in Yemen in cooperation with the Yemeni government? You don’t think Al-Qaeda wants revenge for us fricasseeing six of their folk do you? Or on the Yemeni government for their cooperation?

It also leaves the interesting thoughts of what type of weapons were the missiles intended to carry, and who would have supplied them? Just how tight is the Iraq-Saudi-Yemeni border, anyway? Just what else has North Korea possibly sold to Al-Qaeda? Tough Times (and other inquiring minds) wants to know!



UPDATE: Of course, they could have just been for the Yemenis:
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed in August that it bought Scud-C tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) from North Korea around 1999 and 2000, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

A Day Late, and Many Dollars Short


The signs were all there.
The Air Transportation Stabilization Board called United execs to Washington to explain the recovery plan. The recovery plan that included cost reductions from all represented labor groups. Except for the Machinist’s union, who rejected United’s last offer, and decided not to hold a vote on the latest. Now they feel abandoned:
"We were ready to partner with United, the union coalition and the government to return United Airlines into the nation's premier carrier," said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the Machinists' union that represents the 13,000 mechanics and aircraft cleaners who were to have voted. "Unfortunately, the United States government walked out on that partnership."

And then the inevitable happened - the ATSB rejected United's loan guarantee request.

United is currently in default on almost $1 Billion in debt.

United will be bankrupt by Sunday.

Tough Times has a message for Mr. Buffenbarger: You weren’t ready to partner, and the US government walked well after you (and the mechanics you represent) did.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Where Times Aren't So Tough


Technology!

I have owned, in my life, a mono record player, an 8-track, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, several dozen cassette recorders, three or four CD players, and one DVD player. Now a DVD player can be had for under 40 bucks. This more than anything else illustrates how capitalism can make incredibly complex and advanced devices available more quickly and more cheaply than any other system in the world. Between America, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, we invent things, we make them better, we make them cheaper, and then we make the commonplace.

You Gotta Be Cruel to Be Kind?


The Air Transportation Stabilization Board today rejected United’s application for $1.8 Billion in federal loan guarantees today. United was counting on these loans to help offset losses that the airline was sustaining due to the events of September 11th, and the decline in high-value business travel that has made the industry outlook grim; especially that of United, which depends on the high revenue business traveler perhaps more than any other airline. The funds were also to be used to offset some rather large debt repayments that were coming due this week, and would allow United to have operating cash to tide the company over until cost-cutting measures, such as employee wage and benefit concessions, to take effect and help reduce the airline’s bottom line. Why did the Stabilization Board reject the loan request?
"The board believes that the business plan submitted by the company is not financially sound," the board said in a statement.

What about the financial plan that was submitted was unsound? Was it due to United’s high cost per seat mile (CSM)? CSM is the cost (on average) it takes an airline to move a seat one mile. All of the majors have CSMs that are appreciably higher than those of the discount carriers (like Southwest, AirTran, and JetBlue). In addition to that, though, United’s cost is significantly higher that that of most other majors:
In the third quarter, Delta said it cost 10.33 cents to fly one seat one mile -- lower than United's 10.90 cents but well above the 7- to 8-cent range of competitors AirTran and Southwest. Delta is launching a new subsidiary next spring that it says will match those costs.

With the impending start of Delta’s low cost product, United will have to compete not only against the aggressive inroads of the bargain carriers, they will also have to compete against another major who’s operating costs would move markedly lower. Maybe this was what led the board to decide not to grant the loan request:
The board, in its statement, also said that United's plan "does not support the conclusion that there is a reasonable assurance of repayment and would pose an unacceptably high risk to U.S. taxpayers."

But others disagree:
"AirTran's presence in Atlanta has a more profound competitive impact on Delta than American's presence in Chicago has on United. American and United don't compete on the basis of price; AirTran and Delta do," he said.

Delta "has done a better job at managing its costs," he said, although its costs are still too high to compete with low-cost carriers.

Or perhaps the mechanic’s rejection of the last contract offer, or their seeming unwillingness to go along with every other represented group in the company by agreeing to wage concessions, helped sway the board’s decision. Labor costs are the major contributor to an airline’s operating expenses, and as previously pointed out in a previous post, the mechanic’s union rejected United’s latest contract offer. That this came one week before the Stabilization Board’s meeting surely didn’t help. The union votes again this week on a follow-up proposal from United, and industry insiders think that this vote is of critical importance - even if United declares bankruptcy:
"It remains critical for the mechanics union to live up to its commitment to labor cost reduction," said Glenn Tilton, chief executive of United parent UAL Corp.

Tilton warned that a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process is fraught with peril for everyone involved.

"There cannot be any misunderstanding about the differences between an out-of-court restructuring of our company and a Chapter 11 filing," he said. "We can navigate our way to success in or out of court. But we have been working to avoid a filing because Chapter 11 is significantly more challenging for our employees and for the company to manage overall."

A Chapter 11 filing from United could spell trouble not only for it’s employee groups, but other airlines as well. If United declares bankruptcy, they will be the second major airline to have done so since September 11th. Having two majors competing on a cost-advantaged basis against an already weakened field of survivors is something the remaining players are not looking forward to. Anyone familiar with the industry can speak of the havoc wrought by Eastern Air Lines when they restarted their operations under bankruptcy. United’s doing so could cause airlines like Delta, who have managed so far to slow the bleeding, to hemorrhage anew, despite cost cutting measures. Certainly American, who recently purchase the almost-dead TWA, and is in a weaker cash position than Delta, is not looking forward to the potential of an unburdened United. This is why, despite all of their talk of the need for consolidation, airline CEOs like Leo Mullin are hoping that United somehow stays afloat - it's far better business to buy a competitor when times are good (at least for you, anyway) than to buy them after they've spent a year or two killing your bottom line. It’s just looking right now like that’s not going to happen.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Blogging will be light today


One of the nice things in life is having friends visit. I will be busy today, and so these may be the only posts, unless something strikes us (my friend and I) as we cavort around the internet this afternoon.

Another Reason for the Day of Infamy?


Iraq will issue its report on its weapons of mass destruction on December 7th.
Tough Times thinks that this is ironic in it's appropriateness.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Commentors and Their Disabled Actions...


Jen's latest post over at "The Greatest Jeneration" labels almost everyone in the known world "IDIOT(s)." Or at least those that don't agree with her on everything:
While I often got thoughtful, funny or just plain nice comments, too often it was some angry young geek, surfing in the dorm, with spots on his face and calluses on his hands (and I don't mean from mousing!), who thought that I was running a glorified chat room and who wanted to air the one and only teeny tiny piece of brain their (SIC) alleged minds possessed.

I don't care if you call yourself a "Conservative" Dimocrat or a "Liberal" Republican: I call you an IDIOT.
Have a nice day and don't forget to vote G.O.P.--We're bigots. We're intolerant.
And they don't call us the Right for nothing!

Message to Jen: I would say you’re most definitely not the G.O.P. I know. Exactly where you fall neither I nor anyone else knows, since you haven’t published your screed on the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything yet. Hint: It isn’t 42.

Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater


The employee-owners of United, or at least some of them, have decided that four days of paid vacation each year are more important than their long-term employment chances. Members of the machinists union, so far, have rejected United management’s offers for a new contract to run through 2007. They are the only major employment group at United to have not come to an agreement with management on contributions necessary to shore up the company’s bottom line:
Randy Canale, president of the International Association of Machinists at United, urged employees in a letter to do their bit to help in the recovery. Mr Levy conceded that the union members had come under pressure from other unions to agree a deal. He added that one of the biggest concerns from the mechanics who had voted against the deal had been the change to vacation pay.

United had proposed the first four days of vacation would be unpaid from 2003 to 2007. "A lot have complained about the four vacation days, and there are some quality of life issues as well," he said.

Perhaps someone should remind them that since they hold the biggest stake in the company (United employees hold approximately 55% of the available company stock in a previous wage concession deal) that continuing paychecks are also a quality of life issue, and that they as employees have the most to lose from the coming bankruptcy. It is no secret that airline industry executives have been talking for the last three years about the coming consolidation. Already we have seen TWA purchased (and now out of business), USAir bankrupt and teetering, and several smaller carriers close their doors for good. Will United be a consolidator, or will they be consolidated? Bankruptcy makes the latter far more likely. Either way will be painful for them, and for the entire industry.
United is the most vulnerable (to bankruptcy and the possibility of being broken up and consolidated) of the three majors, with large debts coming due this week, and the whole industry is (at least for the short term) dreading their fall. Why? United would then be able to write off all previous debts, and since they would have to make no payments on those debts, they would be able to compete very aggressively on fares, driving down the yield of all other carriers they compete against. This in itself might spell financial trouble for American, Northwest, America West and possibly Delta. A United bankruptcy could very well set off a chain reaction amongst it’s major competitors, with no one sure who would be left standing.

We're shocked! Simply SHOCKED!


From Drudge:
"FORMER TOP WHITE HOUSE AIDE TURNS ON ROVE; CLAIMS ALL DECISIONS ARE POLITICIZED"

All decisions in the White House are political? Tough Times wonders: "This surprises us how?"

"We're not ordinary people; We're Morons!"



From the "So what were they intended to do?" files (Courtesy of CNN):
An adviser to Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Sunday he doesn't believe charitable donations given by a Saudi princess to students in the United States made it to the September 11 hijackers.

Tough Times thinks this begs the obvious question: "So does this mean they were supposed to, and just didn't?"

I'm Back


Well, a bit of an unplanned break - sorry to all who were looking for regular updates, but there were many irregularities to my holiday break that contributed to the absence of posts.

One regularity though was our 23rd annual Saturday-After-Thanksgiving football game. Friends from high school and I gather every year and play the game most of us love best. It has been too long ago that we moved from ten-on-ten tackle football with no pads, to flag football, with (if we're lucky) 10 people total. But the regulars still show, and we always have a good time. See 'ya for #24 guys!