Thursday, September 23, 2004

Forbes updates the Fortress Re story in it's new issue, the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. Reports Lisa Scheer, "The cruelest blow may yet come: Sompo has pending claims in U.S. District Court in Greensboro against the American Hebrew Academy and the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, one of the charities where Sabbah parked money to fund his school."

7:14:38 PM    comment []

The BizJournal has poached reporter (and blogger) Mark Tosczak from the N&R. Interesting to see them hire someone away from the big paper. The BizJournal sets the standard for regular business coverage around these parts, although the N&R does well on specific stories such as Fortress Re.

12:23:49 PM    comment []

This good news op-ed from Afghanistan in today's Times got the Instapundit seal of approval. I hope there is lots of good news -- my position on the war in Afghanistan, which I was fully in favor of, is much the same as my position on Iraq, about which I was less enthusiastic: I want W to do what his father did, win quickly and then go home to Texas so the Democrats can balance the budget and do other useful domestic policy work.

But I'll admit that being badgered for a year to report on all that great reconstruction in Iraq, only to find out that most of the money wasn't getting spent and now a pile of it has been diverted anyway, has made me skeptical.

So this article seems worth a close read. Let me first commend Peter Bergen for his in-country reporting. But what does he actually report?

His first example of the good news is that the Kandahar airport is now a huge US military base. Fine, we know we have military dominance. Yet all that neat stuff -- "a 24-hour coffee shop, a North Face clothing store, a day spa and a PX the size of a Wal-Mart" -- is on the military base, not in Kandahar itself. Not exactly evidence that we have won over the Pashtun heartland. The one thing we learn about downtown Kandahar is that it has a Special Forces HQ. Again, an example of US military power, which is not in question, but which doesn't in itself address the issue of stablizing Afghanistan.

Next we move around the country. What might be described as major problems are addressed with a single breezy sentence: "Undeniably, the drug trade is a serious concern (it now compromises about a third of the country's gross domestic product) and the slow pace of disarming the warlords is worrisome."

Bergen does provide some evidence that things are on the upswing, in terms of voter registration, civil authority, and so on. "What we are seeing in Afghanistan is far from perfect, but it's better than so-so," he says. I certainly hope he's right.

Related: "Eurocorps took over command of NATO's peacekeeping force, known as the International Security Assistance Force, for six months beginning in August."

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan says Bergen is trustworthy and is heartened by the report.

12:17:29 PM    comment []

Cranky traveler presents: Travel tips for my fellow Americans

If you must come to a complete stop on airport escalators and moving sidewalks, please stand to the right, or at least be aware that some of us see those machines as speed enhancers, not inertia enablers.

Cover your mouth when you yawn. Didn't your mom teach you anything? We don't want to count your fillings. And frankly after a long day of travel, Your mouthwash ain't making it.

Related: I understand that airlines now require you to buy your food, and I'm aware that yesterday's mid-morning Delta run from SFO to Cincy lacked even that service...but do you really need to pack the cheese steak with onions as your in-flight meal?

I am not reading Cryptonomicon to avoid having a conversation with you. But because I am reading it, I do not wish to speak with you just now.

Laughing out loud at the in-flight presentation of that Jim Belushi sitcom may cause me to alert the air marshal.

Now, please relax and enjoy your flight.

9:21:44 AM    comment []

Clean sheets, hot water, and broadband: a business model for the real world

A last word on the lack of high-speed access at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco. The cluelessness of some business people never ceases to amaze me.

One staffer I spoke with said the hotel wants to drive revenue through the "business center," which I put in quotes because it is a glorified storage closet with two PCs that charges $5 for 15 minutes of access. Oh yeah, it's open from 7 AM to 6 PM, which means if you are on east coast time and want to work early, or you are on deadline and want to work late, well, too bad.

What's missing in this business model is any sense of customer convenience. If they want to make money off Internet access, fine, charge me for it. Make a deal with T-Mobile and charge me $10 a day for in-room service.

The hotel was jammed with techies in town for the same software event I was attending. Unhappy techies, from the conversations I had, if they were in the dial-up hell below the 14th floor.

In terms of driving revenue, the Argent seemed to be trying to drive my revenue away. If the whole town hadn't been booked for this show, I would have left the day I got there for the Courtyard around the corner. I don't care about the fancy lobby or the sofa bar at the Argent -- I can walk in off the street and enjoy those things if I want them --  I just want clean sheets, hot water, and broadband.

9:06:54 AM    comment []

(To the tune of Alice's Restaurant) You can say anything you want, in the News&Record letters page...

Did you know that Darwin's theory of evolution has been "scientifically debunked," and that "True scientific research continues to clearly show that the universe is the result of Intelligent Design?"

News to me, but there it is in a letter (5th on page) to this morning's N&R. Said letter argues against scientific research that might not follow Genesis.

Oh, and writer Gary Marschall also redates the exodus led by my collateral ancestor Moses by more than 500 years.

8:42:05 AM    comment []

Jeff Jarvis on what the CBS commission should do, and shouldn't.

8:30:52 AM    comment []