Yale and the Taliban 
Monday, February 27, 2006, 05:36 PM
The New York Times Magazine published an extremely interesting article on a former member of the Taliban who is now a freshman at Yale. This guy was not simply some random punk -- he was an ambasador at large who represented the Taliban in countries around the world, including the United States. Several years later, he has a different view on many issues and would like to one day bridge the gab between Islam and the West. It was one of the most encouraging articles I've seen in a long time.

One thing the United States needs to do to help improve it's image abroad, is stop making obtaining a student visa such a nightmare. Certainly we have to watch who we let into the country, but current delays are due to bureaucratic incompetence more that actual security concerns. The issue may get tossed aside because it doesnít directly affect voters (because we're citizens), but my guess is that a graduate from an American university is much less likely to spend the rest of his life hating America than someone who pursues his education elsewhere. And right now, it isnít just the Middle East that has an abundance of America-haters. International ill will isn't simply going to disappear -- it's going to require some effort on our part to eradicate.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006, 09:52 PM
All of the noise regarding this Dubai port deal is really starting to make me angry. The situation is an astounding combination of xenophobia and ignorance. It seems that the more ignorant some people are, the more they feel they have a right to voice their strong opinion on this.

There are two major points I'd like to make about the majority of the port deal opponents. 1) None of these people know very much about port security. If they did know anything about port security, they would realize that having control over the shipping operations doesn't give you anything. They are not in charge of actually inspecting the containers or determining what is allowed into the country. As far as learning "important information" regarding where American shipping goes to and comes from, that could easily be learned by getting a job as a dockhand. The key point is, they're not in charge of security. And there's not very much security to be in charge of, which leads us into the second point.

2) None of these people really give a hoot about port security. This isn't an issue of port security, because our ports are alredy astoundingly insecure. If any of these people actually cared, they would already be making noise because port security can't get much worse. Virtually all containers entering the United States are not inspected for dangerous cargo (ie, a nuke). Port security is the job of the Coast Guard, which is about the same size as NYPD (around 40,000). The difference is that NYPD patrols one city, while the Coast Guard attempts to patrol thousands of miles of coast line. Furthermore, a significant portion of Coast Guard assests aren't even involved in port security. For example, I'm currently bobbing around off the coast of South America looking for drug smugglers. The real issue here, is an irrational fear of Arabs that is starting to smell of discrimination. (I can't believe it, I sound like a damn liberal.)

Ana Marie Cox said it best: "shouting 'sold to country with terrorist ties' is fun and easier than trying to understand maritime law."

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New Home 
Sunday, February 26, 2006, 01:11 PM
If you're here, then you know that while my old entries will remain here, this is the new home for my random thoughts.
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Sunday, February 26, 2006, 09:15 AM
Today is our last day in Panama City, Panama. Port calls are few and far between so I'll take any opportunity to step off this boat and get a taste of dry land. One of our cab driver's gave me an interesting take on politics. Contrary to what I would think, he was furious at the government for kicking the Americans out of the canal zone. He said that Americans put a lot of money into the local economy, which benefited everyone. He also said that Americans helped keep crime down and drugs out of the country. Now the Columbians are moving in full force, bring the drugs and crime with them. Now if our government wasn't so good at making the rest of the world hate Americans, we might be able to do some good.
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