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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
 
Another Case Of Buyer's Remorse

Yet another voting machine company is in hot water with the
government. This time it's ES&S, the Omaha-based voting machine
company partially
owned by Senator Chuck Hagel
(R-Nebraska). It turns out they've
been trying to game
the system
in the same way Diebold has:


The Indiana Election Commission
voted to allow Vanderburgh and three other counties to use voting
systems in the May primary that would otherwise be illegal under
Indiana law
after hearing from county clerks left in a desperate
situation by the voting system vendor.


Vanderburgh County bought new
touch-screen voting systems from Election Systems & Software, its
vendor for around 30 years, to upgrade from its old punch-card
systems. ES&S demonstrated and first shipped the systems with a
version of software, called 7.4.5, that has not received approval in
Indiana.


Well, these things happen; it was only state-level approval, after
all. You can't hardly blame them for getting confused, what with the
whims of some 50 different apparatchiks to keep track of.


But the Election Commission was in
a tough spot in just allowing version 7.4.5 to be used in the primary
because it has not met federal standards.


Oops.


Meanwhile, the Great
California Votequake
continues to wreak its havoc upon Diebold's
Dark Empire. Heavily-Democratic Alameda county has had enough of the
Ohio
Syndicate's
machinations, and has poised itself to unleash the
terrible swift sword of ... Contractual
Obligation
!


Alameda County, the first and,
until recently, largest user of Diebold touchscreen voting machines
in California, warned the McKinney, Texas, firm this week that it is
not adequately performing its obligations.


Voting industry observers say the
warning marks perhaps the first time that a U.S. county has lodged a
formal contract complaint with a manufacturer of electronic voting
systems.


After his phone inquiries to
Diebold went unanswered
, Alameda County Registrar of Voters
Bradley J. Clark wrote a letter Monday invoking the performance
clause of the county's $12.7 million contract.


I admit that I, too, have tried this
clever strategem of “not answering the telephone” from time to time ... oh, heck, I'll admit
it: I'm the Grand Poobah of telephone unavailability. I even managed
to go entirely without a telephone for two solid years. In the middle of a major US city, no less.


But a major American corporation? With
banks of secretaries, help desk employees, and even the occasional
janitor wandering by the lobby phone? Is it physically
possible for them to actually do that sort of thing?


Apparently, Diebold thinks its West
Coast donnybrook is something on the level of a disgruntled
girlfriend or an alcoholic's 3AM booty call.


What's the next step? Scurry off to a
bar with all the other Election Companies and spend the night
bitching over beers about how California's suddenly gone all “psycho”
on you for no good reason?


But then again, the article outlines
some pretty good reasons. Take Super Tuesday:


The most serious and well-known —
the large-scale failure of electronic devices used to produce
ballot-access cards for voters — delayed Super Tuesday voting
at 200 polling places in Alameda County and more than 560 in San
Diego County. When paper ballots ran out, hundreds of voters were
turned away.


Not to mention the antics of last
October:


Clark also made note of “absentee
ballot problems,” a reference to a glitch in the Oct. 7 recall
election that mysteriously awarded thousands of absentee votes for
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Southern California Socialist
John Burton. A Diebold technician changed the votes based on
examination of the paper ballots and scanned ballot images.


And, lest we forget ...


Contrary to its agreement with
Alameda County, Diebold also has failed to supply certified software
and hardware. State elections officials found uncertified voting
software running last fall in Alameda and all other counties that
Diebold serves
.


Y'know, Diebold, when folks in the know
say that democracy is “hard,” they mean the art of
political compromise, not the actual physical act of casting a
ballot.


That's supposed to be the easy part.


Monday, March 29, 2004
 
Death By 1,000 Pecks

I am working on a couple of 9/11 projects for this week, but now
it's too late to finish them up for today. So, for now, I'll just
take the lazy man's option and point to an interesting post over at
the Daily Kos.


It's about the number and strength of investigations currently
being conducted against prominent Republicans. Keep in mind, as you
read this astonishingly huge list, that these are the guys who are
supposed
to be in control of the process
:



  • The Senate's top cop investigated Republican hacking of
    Democratic accounts and theft of thousands of documents. After
    finding probable cause for wrongdoing, the Senate Judiciary
    Committee recommended the Justice Department undertake its own
    criminal probe.


  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are both
    investigating intelligence lapses heading up to the Iraq War.


  • The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating Bush's
    pre-war lies about Iraq's WMDs and ties to al Qaida.


  • Rove, Cheney's entire political team and others are being
    investigated by a Justice Department special prosecutor for leaking
    the name of a covert CIA agent (Plame) to discredit her husband -- a
    critic of the administration's trumped up charges that Iraq was
    seeking nuclear material in Niger.


  • Can anyone forget the 9-11 commission?


  • HHS Inspector General Dara Corrigan is investigating
    administration lies about the true cost of the Medicare bill.
    Remember, not only did the Bush Administration undercount the costs
    (from $395 billion to $521 billion), but then threatened an auditor
    with his job if he revealed the true numbers.


  • The General Accounting Office is investigating the fake
    “news reports” the White House created to promote the
    Medicare law's new prescription drug coverage provisions.


  • And being the gift that keeps on giving, the House
    Standards of Official Conduct Committee and the Justice Department
    are both (and seperately) investigating bribery allegations as the
    administration and its congressional allies twisted arms to get the
    necessary votes in the House to pass the Medicare bill.


  • Tom DeLay is under criminal investigation on whether his
    Texas political action committee (Texans for a Republican Majority)
    improperly financed the GOP's takeover of the Texas legislature.
    DeLay has already signaled he may be forced to step down from his
    leadership post (even if just temporarily) if indicted.


  • Connecticut Governor John Rowland is being investigated by
    federal prosecutors for a shockingly brazen level of corruption.
    Even the state's GOP establishment has abandoned the governor, and
    impeachment proceedings are likely unless he resigns his post.



Can you imagine what would be happening to these guys if they
weren't the ones in charge of things?


To put it another way (and as Kos points out), there isn't a
single investigation of this scale being conducted against any
equivalent Democrats.


Good thing, too; can you imagine the condition the Donkey Party
would be in today if they were facing off against this volume
of corruption allegations?


Sunday, March 28, 2004
 
The Funny Thing Is ...

... I probably would have gotten back to writing all the sooner if
the cat had up and died.


Which would have been last Thursday, when I brought him in to the
vet
; she pretty much took one look at the poor little
raggedy-looking critter and declared him a goner on the spot —
and frankly, that was my gut feeling, too. Still, the standard order
of blood tests were ordered.


I was fully prepared to spend the day sobbing (quite) a bit,
committing the Act of Terrible Mercy, and working off the sadness and
guilt with a full regimen of napping and writing. I mean, I love the
guy, but I'm not gonna turn him into a zombie just because I can't
let go.


Instead, the “bad” blood work (renal failure) came
back negative and the “not so bad” one (hyperthyroidism)
came back positive, so I've been spending the last couple of days
bringing a cat back from death's door through the power of baby food
and topical steroids. It's time consuming, but so far it's working
quite well.


So now I'm the owner of a hyperthyroidic
cat
. It's a very serious condition in felines — fatal if
untreated — but highly treatable, with often little (or even no) loss of
quality of life for the animal.


It's even completely curable, if you don't mind
breaking a couple of
piggy banks and dealing with a radioactive cat
for a week or two.


We'll see about that. At least I'll be able to sleep a little
better for a while.


Meanwhile, back in Mundus
Major
...


Wednesday, March 24, 2004
 
PC Down! PC Down!

So, my computer went out two nights ago.


No screen. No boot. No BIOS.


No nuthin'.


It turns out that one of my DDR RAM memory cards went bad. Probably shorted out while I was installing a new Hard Drive.


Hmmph! I could have sworn I was being careful enough; still, computer innards can be testy little buggers.


I also have a developing pet-health situation. It's feline, gerontological in nature, and might be heading towards a crisis point.


I'm letting y'all in on that not to garner any sympathy, but just to let you know what's going on in case the posting suddenly gets very sporadic over the next several days or so. The passing of a small, pampered animal may not be worth much of a to-do within the general comings and goings of our disordered Cosmos; but I'm not a terribly large animal myself, so it's important to me.


In short: I hope to keep up with Great Men and Epic Conflicts of Mundus Major, but Mundus Minor has its commitments, too.


Monday, March 22, 2004
 
The Long-Awaited Clarke Volley

It was as though they were
preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier.”


Richard
Clarke
, on the early months of the Bush Restoration


I caught (most of) the 60
Minutes interview
with former Anti-terrorist Czar Richard
Clarke
last night. It was every bit as good as promised —
better, in fact.


Clarke's role in the months-long runup to the September 11
disaster was sort of like that of the Ignored Scientist in every
disaster movie you've ever seen. He was the guy who would
periodically run in to the room with a sheaf of horrifying data, only
to be tossed out the door by the sneeringly dimwitted authorities —
who, of course, had no time for some egghead's unlikely “doom
and gloom” scenario of a Killer Earthquake/Giant Meteor/Atomic
Monster/Mutant Virus/Al Qaeda Attack.


A lot of people on the right will no doubt try to claim Clarke
is just covering his ass
with this book. There might indeed be a
little of that; however, most (if not all) of his pre-disaster
attempts
to get al
Qaeda
on the Bush
Administration agenda
have been well
documented
.


Clarke wasn't alone, either. Other leftover Clinton Administration
figures were running
up against the same wall
he was:


John Ashcroft seemed particularly
eager to set a new agenda. In the spring of 2001, the attorney
general had an extraordinary confrontation with the then FBI Director
Louis Freeh at an annual meeting of special agents in charge in
Quantico, Va. The two talked before appearing, and Ashcroft laid out
his priorities for Freeh, another Clinton holdover (though no friend
of the ex-president’s), “basically violent crime and
drugs
,” recalls one participant. Freeh replied bluntly that
those were not his priorities, and began to talk about terror and
counterterrorism. “Ashcroft didn’t want to hear about
it
,” says a former senior law-enforcement official. (A
Justice Department spokeswoman hotly disputed this, saying that in
May Ashcroft told a Senate committee terrorism was his “highest
priority.”)


Get with the program, Louis! Who cares about al Qaeda,
dammit, when Tommy
Chong
is still running free!


Then again, something Freeh said must've gotten through to
Ashcroft, as this
July 26, 2001 CBS News report
indicates:


In response to inquiries from CBS
News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet
aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited
what it called a “threat assessment” by the FBI, and said
Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the
remainder of his term
.


Janet Reno may have
had a lot of enemies, but
it never stopped her flying commercial.


As for Dubya & Crew's post 9/11 activities, Clarke's interview
was most damning in his accusations of their eagerness to wage war
against Iraq over it, no matter what the cost.


The following piece of the 60 Minutes story has already
gotten much play on the web; still, it's good enough to be reprinted
here as well
:


The president dragged me
[Clarke] into a room with a couple of other people, shut the
door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he
never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in
absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a
report that said Iraq did this
.


I said, 'Mr. President.
We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it
with an open mind. There's no connection.'


He came back at me and
said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a
very intimidating way
. I mean that we should come back with that
answer. We wrote a report.”


...


As for the alleged pressure from
Mr. Bush to find an Iraq-9/11 link,
[No. 2 man on the National
Security Council, Stephen] Hadley says, “We cannot find
evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president
ever occurred.


When told by [CBS Reporter
Leslie] Stahl that 60 Minutes has two sources who tell us
independently of Clarke that the encounter happened, including “an
actual witness,”
Hadley responded, “Look, I stand on
what I said.”


You think that's damning? You should see the actual interview as
it unfolds. From the look on Hadley's face, you'd swear Stahl had
just reached into her purse and pulled a gun on him.


By the time this is all over, he might be wishing she had.


 
Nice People ... Just Not Our Kind Of People

Let's play Big Media MadLibs!


Atrios
has lovingly provided us with the perfect opportunity; it's from a
puff-piece
article in the Chicago Tribune
on the woman All America
hails as it's “Comforter-In-Chief.


Yes, that's right ... I mean Laura
Bush
. And yes, I've heard that
phrase
used to describe
her
on many occasions, and by many
different sources
(although Larry
King
seems to be particularly
fond
of the
term
).


The Tribune, for it's part, seems to be well-aware of the
designation, as this sample paragraph demonstrates:


If President Bush is a guy many
people would like to join for a non-alcoholic beer, as political
imagemakers like to say, Laura Bush's is seen as a woman with whom
you could chat comfortably in the grocery checkout line, someone
likely to offer you a coupon she's not going to use
.


I dunno about the “near-beer with the President”
thing. Do I have to drink it, or can I just throw it at him?


And for that matter, does anybody in the Bush family even have any
idea what a coupon is?


But back to the MadLibbery. The operational paragraph is just a
few lines further down in the article; we're gonna change a few (just
a few!) key nouns here, and watch the comfort levels fly off the
charts.


For proper effect, I'm choosing to use some mildly offensive (but
period appropriate) terminologies:


She defended her husband's call for
a constitutional ban on
[mixed-race] marriages, while
acknowledging that she and her husband have
[negro]
friends. “They ought to welcome the debate,” she said
of
[negroes] who say the amendment would relegate
them to second-class citizenship.


The original words, naturally, were “same-sex” and
“gay/s.”


Admittedly, the comparison isn't terribly original. In fact, it
was one of the principle
arguments
presented by Mayor Gavin
Newsom
of San Francisco when he defended his city's position on
the matter.


The Laura Bush article, though, was such a gerl-danged hanging
curve that it had to be hit out of the park. I mean, she and Dubya
have “friends” in the afflicted minority group —
how classic is that?


Archie
Bunker
had “colored” friends too, as I recall ...


Some may try to assert that the interracial
marriage
comparison is too historically abstract to be relevant
today
, or that the vintage
debate
is somehow an “apple” to the modern-day gay
marriage “orange.” Well, it
isn't
, and I'll tell you why.


My maternal grandparents were married in the state of Virginia.
Pre-1967
Virginia
.


While my grandmother is a good old-fashioned, Anglo-Celtic prairie
girl, the man she hitched her wagon to (my grandfather) was one of
those very complicated Southern Men ... with an equally
complicated family history
.


The point is this: if pre-1967 Virginia had been aware of the —
shall we say — less
obvious branches
of my grandfather's family tree, there is no
way in Hell
they would have ever allowed the marriage to happen.


As far as Virginia was concerned, what they did wasn't so much a
declaration of their mutual love as it was a
felonious act
, punishable by up to five years in prison.


As well as the annulment of the marriage, naturally. After all,
we're talking about one of our most ancient and sacred traditions,
aren't we? We can't let just
anybody
go out and do it.


That would be unnatural.


Saturday, March 20, 2004
 
Rock Vs. Hard Place

Farmers are the “stopped clock” of our capitalist
system; they can always get a good price for their crops at least
twice a day.


Of course, it's
a twenty-four-hour day
...


Soybean prices have nearly
doubled
in the past 12 months and topped $10 a bushel for the
first time in 15 years Thursday, leading a charge in farm commodity
prices across the board.


The price increases should
substantially raise farm income in the coming year — but also
could raise food prices for consumers.


Soybeans in futures contracts at
the Chicago Board of Trade closed up 24 cents Thursday, trading at
$10.18 per bushel. Corn on Chicago futures contracts gained from 3.75
cents to 4.25 cents per bushel, with one contract topping $3.16 per
bushel on Thursday.


Time to hit the Tractor
Supply
, Roundup Cowboys! But better get there fast; those Armani
coveralls, mink feedcaps, and solid gold tractors are gonna sell out
mighty fast at this rate.


Of course, the half-caff-no-foam-soy-latte nutcases are gonna
flip their little calcium-deprived wigs out over that second
paragraph (you know: the part about “raising food prices for
consumers”) — but then, it never takes very much to set
them off in the first place.


Maybe we could break the news to them with a
glass of nice, warm milk
to settle 'em down ...


On the other hand, inflation is a two-way street. A wholesale price may
come up the alley in one direction, but the consumer has to come down to meet it on the other, or else there's no deal.


And considering how stagnant
the US job market has been
for the last few years, it's not so
much a matter of if the consumer is willing to pay the price, but
rather if he can.


If businesses finally bite
the bullet
and start
giving people decent jobs
and/or real, honest-to-God raises, then
the commodity prices will be supported at the retail level, and
inflation will kick in (umm ... “hooray”).


If they don't (and that looks
to be the case
for the immediate future), then the
prices won't be supported
, and the retailers will have to eat the
difference.


Nobody
wins
.


No, not even the farmers. They need every soybuck they can get get
their herbicide-soaked
hands on just to buy
the commodities they need to get by
themselves.


And next year is another hour, anyway.


 
Falling Out Of Bed

The price of a certain well-known
commodity
is rising — but does that mean inflation is on
the way?


After hitting a 13-year high of
$38.18 per barrel on Wednesday, oil prices closed Friday at $38.08
for light sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Industry experts and traders said
they still expect the price of crude to test $40 a barrel in the near
future, driven by rising worldwide demand, concern over domestic
supply, continued unrest in the Middle East and terror fears sparked
by the train bombings in Madrid.


It's a little peculiar that they don't mention one of the most
significant reasons behind the rise in oil prices: the fall of the US
dollar.


World oil prices are kept in US dollars. If the value of the US
dollar increases in relationship to other currencies, then oil gets a
free price hike. Likewise for a decline in the dollar — only in
reverse.


Since just last fall, when the US dollar began
its most recent excursion
over the 1:1 mark against the Euro, the
currency has fallen dramatically, and is currently loafing around at about $1.23
per Euro
. That's a 20% decline in just the last few months; if
you go back as far as 2002 (when the retreat first began), the US
dollar is down by almost a third.


OPEC saw the
writing on this chalkboard
a long time ago. They've been trying
to throttle back production ever since, and are finally achieving
their desired effect. As of late last year the
price of oil was in the upper $20's
; now it's bouncing around the
upper $30's and, as the above article attests, looks to go even
higher.


That's roughly a one-third increase in the price since fall.
That's a lot, but it doesn't really mean more than bringing the price
back into equilibrium.


As long as the US dollar doesn't fall any
more, t
hat is.


And since the US government is now a de facto backer of a
... ahem ... “not-so-strong
dollar policy, this can't be an unexpected development to them.


Friday, March 19, 2004
 
Ovum Omnipotens, Audacibus Annue Coeptis

Yikes! Dodged a bullet there.


All it took was one post — one — and those
theomaniacal Google-ites pounced on me. Yesterday afternoon the
Jeebus ads were back up at the top of the site.


Oh, sure, they're gone now, but now I know they're out there ...
watching me ... waiting for me ...


I don't know how the topic of catfighting monastic hairstylists
was supposed lead anyone to their corner of Christendom, but I'm not
about to take any chances; if Jesus
snuff
can do it, then God only knows what
else can
.









Not a word. Not one word.





... Although I do hope “You-know-who”
remembered to put on a cup before practice.







It's time to cleanse my palate the only way I know how —
through the liberal application of exotic, retro-futuristic aircraft.


I've pretty much exhausted every ornithopter-related link in
existence, so now it's the return
of the zeppelin
that's the order of the day.


But this ain't your Vater's Hindenburg, meine Freunde;
nope, the Zeppelin
of Tomorrow
is no slouchy bag of flammable Kraut gasses, but
rather a sleek, high altitude, solar-powered,
Great Robotic White
Whale of the upper Blue Yonder
:


[The Stratospheric Platform System] is
an unmanned, powered airship that can maintain a relatively
geostationary position at 70,000 feet
[a little over 13 miles].
Lift is provided by helium that is contained in its envelope.
Differential thrust, electric-powered props control the pitch and
roll and keep it in position. With the advent of thin-film
photovoltaic solar cells (capable of producing voltage when exposed
to radiant light), commercially available fuel cells, and
lightweight/high-strength fabrics, a high-altitude airship could stay
on station weeks or even months at a time by generating its own power
and keeping helium loss to a minimal amount.


On station, the onboard sensors’
surveillance coverage extends over the horizon and monitors a
diametric surface area of 775 miles. At nearly 500 feet long and 150
feet in diameter at its widest girth, the airship’s volume
exceeds 5 million cubic feet.


Oh yeah, that's right. It'll also be watching
everything you do
.


“Better be on your best behavior on your field trip today,
kids. You don't want the Great Gasbag in the Sky to get mad at you,
do you?”


And did I mention that the Great Gasbag is going to have friends?
Fast, tough, brutal little friends ... you could think of them as the
Great
White Sharks of the upper Blue Yonder
:


By the end of the decade, the
military could be sending the first true robotic warplanes into
battle. These autonomous weapons-on-wings would sniff out hidden
enemy air defenses before human-piloted fighters or bombers ventured
into enemy airspace, deliver up to 3,000 pounds of smart bombs and
missiles, and even take on enemy fighter jets. Called unmanned combat
air vehicles, or UCAVs, their presence is likely to redefine the role
of warplanes — and even warfare itself — by giving machines
more responsibility for attacking enemy targets
.


That's not far fetched at all. You might remember this Proof
of Concept
demonstration from October, 2002:


The debate ended on Sunday when the
CIA incinerated an alleged al-Qaeda leader, Qaed Salim Sinan
al-Harethi, and five other alleged operatives with a laser-guided
Hellfire missile, fired from an unmanned drone aircraft.


Hear that distant, muted howling sound? That's the reanimated
dust
of Isaac
Asimov
desperately trying to claw himself back from the beyond.


Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
Stylistic Differences

OK, it's early morning on the 18th, but I haven't gone
to bed, yet ... so it's still St. Patrick's day to me.


While St.
Patrick
didn't bring Christianity to Ireland (it had arrived
there a few centuries earlier), he undoubtedly left it Christian by
the time he was done.


Even then, the Irish weren't exactly Catholic
Christians until around 664, with the convening of the Synod
of Whitby
. Through much of that time, the church that was coming
of age in Old Erin was known as the Celtic
Rite
.


The Celtic Rite had many
cultural and liturgical differences
with the Roman Church. No
bloodshed was ever spilled over them, however, and most were ironed
out at Whitby ... although there were reputed to be a few holdouts
into the eleventh century or so.


And, of course, since nothing
really dies
in the Internet Age, there are “revivals
going on in several far corners
of the web.


As I said ... none of the differences were ever worth coming to
blows over: some minor “rounding out” issues related to
calculating
the date of Easter
, the proper way to name churches and
monastaries, et cetera. The worst you could lay in the lap of the
Celts was probably the Pelagian
Heresy
... but that's another story.


I'd rather we mull over this
doctrinal squabble
— I think it's a scream:


The Britons [i.e. Irish] were
accustomed to shave the whole head in front of a line drawn from ear
to ear, instead of using the coronal tonsure of the Romans. This,
though there is no real evidence that it was the practice of the
Druids, was nicknamed “tonsura magorum.” (“Magus”
was accepted as equivalent to druid, and to this day the “Magoi”
of Matthew 2, are “druidhean” in the Scottish Gaelic
Bible.) Later, the Roman party jeered at it as the “tonsura
Simonis Magi,” in contradistinction to their “tonsure of
St. Peter.” This is mentioned in the passage attributed
wrongly, to Gildas (Haddan and Stubbs, I, 113).


Yes, you read that right. They were arguing over each others'
hairstyles.


Like I said: no bloodshed was ever spilled — but I can't
help but imagine that a whole lot of lip-pursing, eye-rolling, and
finger-waving was going on.


Frankly, the Irish style does sound sillier. The reference to
Simon Magus is
an interesting one, though.


I wonder: was it just a generic
condemnation on the part of the Roman clergy (sort of like when
14-year-old boys deride anything they don't like as “sooooo
gay”), or is there a more relevant clue exposed by the
statement?


Probably the former. Although few are even aware of him today, the
Early Church regarded Simon Magus as the worstest,
evilest, vilest, most dangerously un-Christian devil incarnate

who ever stalked converts in the Holy Land.


Which makes him all the more intriguing, doesn't it? After all,
for a cat who only merits a half-dozen
lines
in the New Testament, he sure manages
to garner
a lot of extracurricular
jawboning
on the part of the early
Church Fathers
(all condemnations, of course).


Wednesday, March 17, 2004
 
The Magic Word

I seem to be briefly winning the upper hand in my eternal fight against Google and the ludicrously counterintuitive ads they repeatedly put on the top of my site.


Yesterday morning began with them running the same old “Jeebus Saves” ads they have been pumping out since shortly after my infamous “Religion Week” came to a close. By the afternoon, after my Greenspan post, they had finally switched strategies, giving me some rather mindless sounding financial ads.


Today, however, the space has gone totally blank! Google only sits there, in a daze, gibbering something about “searching!”


Clearly, my sudden flurry of ornithopter posts must be what did the trick. Google just plain couldn't figure out what to do with 'em.


Hooray for “ornithopter” ... the word that broke the spirit of Google!


Ornithopter! Ornithopter! Ornithopter!


 
Ornithopters Are Real, By The Way ...

Well, not passenger-carrying
ones ... but there are some pretty neat model-sized
ones
out there now.



In yer face, Sky Captain!


I bought one
of these
for my father just two Christmases ago. He loved it,
although he did complain that it had a tendency to fly into trees —
no matter how broad and empty the field he flew it in was.


Maybe someday I'll save up enough to buy him one
of these bad boys.


The mechano-men are arriving a little later than expected, but fear not (or fear a lot, Luddites),
they're definitely on their way,
too.


 
Ornithopters Over Manhattan!

And zeppelins over Long Island!


And giant, flying Mechano-Men pulverizing Packards on Broadway!


And ... uhhh ... Angelina Jolie as the crusty, one-eyed Naval
Captain.




What ... you thought I was kidding about the Jolie thing?


Not a single autogyro
or flying
jeep
to be seen, though. Oh, well ...


That's right. I've been sitting around watching the trailer for
Sky Captain and the World
of Tomorrow
,” the lushly rendered, retro-deco futuristic
movie due for release this June. In case you haven't seen it yet,
it's right
here
— in Quicktime format.


If you're like me, you'll notice that the visuals are very
reminiscent of those old Fleischer Studios “Superman
shorts. In fact, one
of those shorts
even featured a flying mechano-man.


But since,
stylistically speaking, Fleischer's “Superman” movies are
widely lauded as a triumph, I don't foresee this as a problem. The acting
does seem a bit wooden, though.


I'm sure I'll enjoy the movie, regardless of how well-written or
acted it is. Frankly, I'm a sucker for retro-futurism any way it's
dished up.


I even sat through a rerun of “The
Rocketeer
” on cable just a couple of weeks ago — and
not for the quality of the acting, believe me. I also used to have a
reprint collection of vintage “Airboy
comics, although I haven't been able to find it for quite some time.


Regardless of how well it does at the box office, the movie will
forever be footnoted for the dramatic technological leap it
represents in the world of filmmaking. For although all the actors
are real people, none of the scenery surrounding them ever really
existed.


That's right, almost
the entire movie
was blue-screened; the only parts that weren't
were the computer-rendered
action sequences
.


If it succeeds on a technical level (and
there's every reason to believe that it will
), studios will no
doubt regard this development as excellent news. At a rumored
$70,000,000
to produce, “Sky Captain” is already coming on far less
money than your average Hollywood blockbuster.


This can't be very good news for actors, though. In the short
term, it will mean acting is about to get a whole lot duller; emoting
in front of a blue screen that's supposed to be Southern
France ... or Southern France? Which do you think sounds more
appetizing?


In the long term, it means we're one step closer to the Holy Grail
of completely rendered movies — right down to the pixilated
actors themselves. There was already one unsuccessful
attempt
at this, but great
advances have been made
in the rendering
of human
actors
since then.


Frankly, it's inevitable. Welcome to the cubicle, divas!


Y'know, a movie is only a representation of a particular reality,
isn't it? Given that, are you prepared for what this movie represents
for you? Are you prepared
for a future
in which fantasy
is completely
indistinguishable
from reality?


One has to wonder: does the “World of Tomorrow” in the
title refer to events in the movie — or to the reality-warping
real-world technologies it represents?


 
Alternate Reality TV

The use of video news
releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private
sector. Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some
research on modern public information tools.


• Kevin Keane, Bush
Administration Shill


Ooh! Ooh!! I have a question, Mr. Keane! Are you really a
sanctimonious, dissembling, animatronic toady ... or just an ignorant
dumbass posing as one?


I vote for the ignorant dumbass poser motif. I may not have written
any books on “modern public information tools,” but I've
read enough of them to know when one of those “tools”
crosses the line into a pure propaganda play.


When the US Government starts canning up fake news stories and
shipping them off whole cloth to local news outlets — complete
with suggested talking points about them — that's
propaganda, pure and simple. It's also a violation of Federal Law,
but who's keeping track of that anymore?


By the way, isn't it amazing how well this
story
folds in with the one about the decline of news media efficacy from just a few
posts ago? Depressingly in sync, yes ... but that doesn't make it any less
so.


But back to the immediate story ... dig
the dialogue
in these things:


HELPFUL PHARMACIST: [The new
Medicare law] helps you better afford your medications.


HYPERMEDICATED OLD FART: It
sounds like a good idea.


HELPFUL PHARMACIST: A very good
idea.



“A very good idea, Old Human. Now shut up and eat your pill.”


Cinema
Verité
it ain't. Sounds more like these guys have been
taking their cues from the Craftmatic
Adjustable Bed
people, or maybe those geezer-oriented
life insurance policy
ads.


Then again, they are marketing their
dreck at old
people
... and the old people are desperately in need of
marketing
direction
, it
would seem
:


Documents from the Medicare agency
show why the administration is eager to advertise the benefits of the
new law, on radio and television, in newspapers and on the Internet.


Our consumer research has
shown that beneficiaries are confused about the Medicare
Modernization Act and uncertain about what it means for them,”
says one document from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services.


Of course they're confused, you dolts! You're using your position
as a trusted source of information to tell
them one thing
, when they
can plainly see
by their own
experience
that it's not
happening that way
! Propaganda only works when it parallels
reality, not opposes
it!


Read
the book
, dammit.


Notwithstanding all the other garbage swirling around the drain on
this issue, I myself have a couple of questions about the story which
have so far not been addressed:



  1. We know that “Karen Ryan” and “Alberto
    Garcia” were actually actors hired to recite their lines, but
    did they use their real names for the shoot, or were they, too, as
    canned as the stories themselves?


  2. If it is Karen Ryan, is she the same woman who used to
    anchor ABC's “Business
    Now
    ” (and, apparently, also once worked for CNN
    NewsSource
    )?


  3. Likewise for this “Alberto Garcia” character.
    There is an Alberto Garcia Marrder who is the award-winning
    Miami Bureau Chief
    for EFE, the
    Spanish news agency. Is this him?


  4. If these people aren't who they say they are, then did the
    latent familiarity of their “names” (such as that may
    be) have anything to do with why they were chosen?



I think the most likely scenario is that “Karen Ryan”
and “Alberto Garcia” are actually their real names, in
which case they're simply another couple of shills paid to parrot the
Administration line.


After all, it's not like these people are hard
to find; the line starts at the White House door, and snakes out
halfway to Atlanta, if you ask me.


If they aren't who they say they are, though, then we have another
glaring problem.


“Karen Ryan” and “Alberto Garcia” are
being used as primary sources in the pieces. You cannot make up your
primary source and still retain any validity as a news story.


Demonstrably untrue information prominently placed within a story implies
that the agenda behind it is more important than the story
itself; and when the agenda of the presenter overwhelms the
information behind the story, then it's undeniably a propaganda piece.


End of story.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
Eternal Sunshine Of Alan Greenspan's Mind

Please be a dear and don't mention anything about the budget deficit, trade
deficit, or ballooning consumer debt levels around Alan Greenspan —
it only makes him hold his ears real tight to his head and go
“lalalalalalala!”


And
you know what a scene that can be
:


In speeches and testimony, Mr.
Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is piecing together
a theory about debt that departs from traditional views and
even from fears he has himself expressed in the past.


A theory? He has “a theory,” you say? Never mind his eccentric humming — we're saved!


Oh, but I gush. Do go on, New York Times:


Mr. Greenspan's thesis, which is
not accepted by all traditional economists, is that increases in
personal wealth and the growing sophistication of financial markets
have allowed Americans — individually and as a nation —
to borrow much more today than might have seemed manageable 20 years
ago.


Hooray! It's OK for us Americans to get into debt now, because
we're too smart to fuck it up! We're modern ... worldly ...
sophistimacated; Alan Greenspan says so!


Yeah, but not that sophisticated, Al. Remember Enron?


Frankly, this shiny new “theory” of Greenspan's sounds
eerily
like the ones
voiced by all those stock market pundits back in
2000. You remember them, don't you? They were the guys who, when
faced with the insanity of triple-digit
P/E ratios
, comforted themselves by musing that ... gee ... maybe
it was just a ... a ... a paradigm
shift
of some sort going on. Maybe the stocks really were
worth that much after all.


Debt
is debt
, and no amount of über-complicated
leveraging and runaround kiting is going to make it any less onerous
on the day it comes due. Even at its most optimal — when debt
is used to build wealth, rather than fake it — it still
comes at the expense of the future.


Here's a Brad
DeLong
post to illustrate what I mean. It's in response to a
writer who contacted him with a question about the dramatic spike in
housing prices. Sure, the curious writer points out, he profited
handsomely from the recent refinancing boom ... but from “where,”
exactly, did his money “come from?” Surely not thin air,
right?


To which DeLong
responds
:


Where did the money come from?
Consider this. Somebody planning to buy your house in 30 years (and
expecting to have to pay, say, a round $500,000 for it then). At a 5%
interest rate on the CD's they deposit, they have to put $125,000
away today to earn interest and so have enough to buy your house in
30 years. At a 2% bank interest rate on their CD's, they have to put
away $275,000.


Your reduced payments/mortgage term
is the gain, the fact that those who are going to purchase your house
in 30 years are suddenly 150,000 poorer (and will be able to spend
$150,000 less on other stuff over the next 30 years and still buy
your house then) is the loss.


Short answer: Your kids are paying for it, dumbass. Just like
everything else.


Greenspan believes our markets are “sophisticated
enough to make up for this shortfall, presumably by creating
enough wealth
to let your kids spend the extra $150,000 they need
without having to resort to an endless regimen of Diet Shasta and cat
food/ramen noodle casseroles in order to do it.


Or, more
ominously
, by kicking
up enough inflation
into the
system
to make $150,000 seem like Friday
night booze money
to them.


As for me, I'm still more worried about the immediate threat of
deflation,
myself. The good news on that front is that your kids won't have to
worry about coming up with that extra $150,000 you yanked out of your
house, because it won't
exist anymore
. The bad news, of course, is that you
still have to pay it
.


But don't tell Greenspan I brought all this stuff up ... it'll
only get him humming to himself again.


Monday, March 15, 2004
 
Maybe They Shouldn't Be Doing So Much Stuff Before 9 A.M.

Attention Canada: You'll be pleased to note that there is not
a cloud of lethal, plutonium-laced dust hovering over your western
provinces today. This un-cloud of nonexistent radioactive materials
has been provided to you courtesy of the United States Navy.


Don't ever say we don't do anything for you.


Guess what? We had us a nuclear accident last November — a
scary one, too.


How scary? Well, the code words “Broken
Arrow
” were used, and that's
never a good sign
:


A Navy Strategic Weapons Facility,
Pacific handling crew came within inches of impacting a live Trident
I C4 missile nuclear warhead during a Nov. 7, 2003 daylight dockside
offload of the USS GEORGIA (SSBN - 729) at Submarine
Base, Bangor, WA
.


...


The submarine’s missile was
hoisted up into an access ladder left installed in tube #16 slicing
a 9-inch hole in the nosecone. The lift was stopped inches from one
of the missiles multiple warheads
, a distance measured between
thumb and forefinger.


Impact concussion, impalement, or
crushing a nuclear warhead can cause deadly plutonium air and water
radiation contamination, non-nuclear explosion, sympathetic
non-nuclear explosions (other warheads), and missile propulsion
fueled fires.


The above report came from a disgruntled ex-Naval Officer's
weblog, but all
elements
of the account have
been verified
in other major
media outlets
.


I guess we could be thankful that it (probably) wouldn't have been
a full-bore, Hiroshima-style nuclear explosion. Then again, plutonium
is fairly toxic
on its own:


Prevailing winds that day blew at 5
to 10 mph over courthouses in Kitsap, Mason, and Thurston counties,
and over the state house and government campus in Olympia. Also
downwind the Belfair, WA. home of Congressman Norm Dicks.


Some “collateral damage” would have been inevitable.


 
Spanish Flee

There's been a lot of conventional wisdom-grade talk over the
years as to the effect of another terrorist assault on the US in
regards to the upcoming elections. I'm always surprised by the number
of people who actually believe that such an event would be good
for the Administration.


I've never bought that. I'm a firm believer in the old “fool
me once” platitude; Bush may have been able to reap great
rewards the first time, but another such event won't be nearly as
beneficial to him.


If it happens again, the best that he could hope for is
that the American people won't place the blame for it on his
shoulders. More likely, though, people are going to be looking back
at him and asking: “exactly what the Hell have you been up to
these past few years?”


Admittedly, I may be wrong. Still, I can't help but notice that
the recent
events in Spain
are rather like a dry run for just such a
possibility. And
look what happened
:


Spain's ruling Popular Party last
night conceded victory to the Socialists in the general election
overshadowed by the Madrid train bombing and a reputed al-Qaeda claim
that it staged the attack to punish the Government for backing the
US-led war in Iraq.


Many said Thursday's bombing - in
which 200 people were killed and another 1,500 injured, and the
Government's much-criticised handling of the initial investigation -
were decisive factors.


The Popular Party has made
me lose faith in politics,” said Juan Rigola, 23, a biologist
in Barcelona. “It deserves to lose and to see the Spanish
people turn against them.”


Prior polling all showed the Popular
Party winning the elections fairly handily. Now, not only is the
Anzar
government
out, but the entire country is too. Prime
Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has already announced
that Spain will remove
its troops
from Iraq by June 30, with the volatile declaration:
“The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a
disaster.”


While the electoral results may comfort
those on this side of the Atlantic who are convinced that the folks
in Turd
Blossom country
have an Operation
Northwoods
in the can waiting to go, the Spanish election results
bring to light the even more disturbing reality that the bombings
actually served their purpose. Spain is pulling out of the
war.


Thus, we can no doubt expect an
increase in attempts to bring such results here to our shores.
Unfortunately, since the Administration's response to such threats
has been essentually to squeeze out every last drop of political
value from them and then move on, we are probably no more prepared
for such an eventuality than we were in the summer of 2001.


 
You're Stupid.

We're a nation of slack-jawed, incurious morons.


At least that's the take to be gotten from the New York Times'
piece on the decline of journalism consumption in this country. The
first clue comes in the title they chose for the story itself: Study
Finds a Waning Appetite for News
:


A research institute associated
with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has
surveyed the journalistic landscape and concluded, not unlike others
who have traversed similar ground, that the immediate prospects for
newspapers and broadcast television news are bleak.


Why? Ummm ... because we're a nation of
slack-jawed, incurious morons, of course.


Clearly, if the Great Media Outlets
like the Times, the Washington Post, and the
CNN/MSNBC/FOX hyperchannelmart are experiencing a decline in
eyeball exposure, then it's got to be the consumers' fault, right?


Nothing in the Times article
says otherwise, although it does point to a lot of
statistically-based kibbitzing on the part of the Networks over the
efficacy of the data. FOX, in particular, is annoyed with the
fact that the report has shown a decline in Cable News viewership
since 2001; as far as they're concerned, the data would be much more
reflective of reality if the report traced these readership numbers
back about ... ohhh ... seven years or so, to 1996.


Hey, wasn't FOX News launched
about seven years ago
? A viewer growth rate of infinity-plus-one
percent is pretty good statistically, isn't it? And after all, what's
good for Rupert Murdoch ...


Typically, the flyover folks out in Hee-Haw country haven't got
the memo about their intellectual listlessness yet. Dammit, they
don't even think they're morons! Take a gander at what they're saying
in the Yokelville Picayune (aka Kansas City Star) about
the report
:


The audience for most news media
outlets is either shrinking or stagnant, and investment in
newsgathering among most traditional outlets is down
, according
to a new study released Monday by the Project for Excellence in
Journalism.


...


In television, the study found a
declining amount of airtime devoted to actual news, as opposed to
other content like commercials and promotions. Taken together, the
nightly network newscasts, which run for 30 minutes, average 18
minutes and 48 seconds of news
, down 11 percent from 1991. On
network morning shows, the average is 15 minutes and 6 seconds of
news per half-hour
.


...


In cable news, according to the
study, 62 percent of the air time consists of live broadcasts, which
are often cheaper than prepared, packaged reports. And the vast
majority of stories reported on cable consist of a few “big
stories” of the day. In one 16-hour broadcast day, the study
found, only 27 percent of stories were new reports that hadn't been
mentioned earlier. Fully 68 percent of stories, the study found,
were segments that repeated the same information over and over again,
without any new reporting.
The result, the study said, is a
“jumbled, chaotic, partial quality in some reports, without
much synthesis ... of the information.”


So the average viewer, in order to get
anything out of his/her chosen Big Media news source, has to wade
through over eleven minutes of pure crap in order to get
access to any information at all; and when they do get at it, it's
the same repackaged, cut-rate crap that everyone else is saying
anyway.


And that's the best case scenario.


The Yokelvillians also have some very
bad news for newspaper publishers. Not only is readership down
considerably, but trust in the reliability of newspaper
reports is down too — and dramatically. Trust levels have
dropped from 80% in 1985, to 59% today — meaning over one-third
of all Americans today regard newspapers as an untrustworthy source
of information.


The only news sources that have seen
growth are niche publications such as spanish newspapers (for obvious
demographic reasons
), alternative urban
weeklies
, and the internet.
The New York Times believes that these news sources have too
many inherent limitations for true growth, but I get the impression
that Yokelville isn't so sure.


It's clear what's really going on; all
you have to do is take a sideways
glance
at the music
industry
to see it in full bloom. The question in this case isn't
whether “the media” has become too liberal or
conservative, but rather if it has anything relevant to say at all.


Corporate acquisitions,
overhomogenization of the information stream, delocalization of the
delivery system, and the inability to recognize context are starting
to bring down the news industry as surely as it has humbled
the music industry.


After all; music, news, entertainment
... it's all just information. You can't just secure an advantage
anymore by merely having it in the first place — you
have to do
something with it
. Something worthwhile, relevant, and in sync
with reality.


Sunday, March 14, 2004
 
Africa Screams

Old habits die hard. South Africa has
admitted
that there is a connection between the planeload of
mercenaries currently detained in Zimbabwe and an exposed
coup plot
in Equatorial Guinea:


South African Foreign Affairs
Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirmed on Wednesday that the plane
held by Zimbabwean authorities and an alleged coup plot in Equatorial
Guinea were linked.


Indeed there was a link
between the plane and Equatorial Guinea,” Dlamini-Zuma was
quoted as saying by the South African news agency (SAPA).


There's also a hazy possibility of an American link. A newspaper
in Barbados
is reporting that, in addition to having a layover in
that nation's airport, the 727 in question took off from Pope
Air Force Base
, in North Carolina.


At least I think it was Pope Air Force Base; the newspaper
report calls it “Hope” Air Force Base. Admittedly, this
puts it in a somewhat spurious light — and nothing about the
aircraft's filed
flight plans
can be believed, anyway. Still, keep it in mind,
just in case something else turns up about this case.


The backing for the operation appears to be coming from some shady
concern calling itself “Triple
Options
” (operating out of the equally shady pseudo-state
of the Channel
Islands
). The aircraft is supposedly owned by some other entity
calling itself “Logo
Logistics
,” which is also
registered
out of the Channel Islands.


The Logo boys also bought up a couple of fishing
trawlers
; apparently, they were preparing some sort of seaborne
assault
.


As for the aircraft, it's most current owner (according to this
website
) was the United States Air Force. This appears to be old
data, however. The Washington Post reports
that some salvage outfit
calling itself Dodson
Aviation
was the company that sold the 727 to Logo Logistics ...
so, really, nobody honestly knows where the Hell that plane came from
any more.


And that's just the way it's supposed to be, I'm sure.


Then there's something else that gives the operation a certain ...
“Anglo/American” ... fingerprint
about it
:


The leader of a group of suspected
mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea said on national television
Wednesday their mission was to abduct President Teodoro Obiang
Nguema
and force him into exile.


Obiang, who came to power in a 1979
coup, on Tuesday announced the arrest of a group of 15 mercenaries he
said wanted to overthrow his regime.


This is a different group of mercenaries, mind you; and in
countries like Equatorial Guinea a “public confession” is
often barely worth the videotape it's kept on. There seems to be a
consensus, however, that these guys are in fact related to the posse
of heavily-armed clowns now cooling their heels over in Mugabe
Land
.


And they're singing a similar song —
except that in their version, they get to kill Obiang.


But why would anyone care about who's in control of a dirt-poor,
piddly little country like Equatorial Guinea, anyway? I don't
remember anyone
ever giving a damn about them
before; what could they possibly
have
going for them now
that would make them so important to the
outside world?


Massive oil strikes in the late
1990s have shot the small, poor nation from obscurity to being
Africa’s third largest oil producer, second only to Nigeria and
Angola.


US oil giants, led by ExxonMobil,
have invested over $6bn in operations that pump 350,000 barrels of
oil per day and made Equatorial Guinea Africa’s fastest growing
economy.


...


Visa requirements have been waived
for US citizens, and more than 3,000 US oil workers live on premises
provided by the Obiang government. There are direct flights from
Houston to the capital, Malabo. Most controversially, US firms
have been depositing oil royalties into a Washington account with the
Riggs Bank
— which only Obiang controls.


Well, duh.


Man, this is getting monotonous.


 
Destroying Miss Daisy

First off, this whole thing is wrong on a semantic
level
, as well as a moral one:


The university [Tulane]
paid National Anatomical Service, a New York-based company that
distributes bodies nationwide, less than $US1,000 ($A1,343) a body to
deliver surplus cadavers, thinking they were going to medical schools
in need of corpses.


The anatomical services company
sold seven cadavers to the Army for between $US25,000 and $US30,000,
said Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for the Army's Medical Research and
Materiel Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The bodies were blown
up in tests on protective footwear against land mines at Fort Sam
Houston in San Antonio
.


Semantics, semantics, semantics ... Pyrotechnics
is an art
, you fools, not a science. So don't go telling
people their death is going to help
promote
the advancement of science, or give little tow-headed
children a new lease on life, then
turn around and put their earthly remains in the middle of some
jarhead's performance-art project.



No corpses were violated in the production of this art piece.


As for the moral wrongness of it
... yeah, that's obvious; still, the Morning Herald article
went through all the trouble of trucking out an official egghead to
point it out for us, so let's let him say his piece:


Imagine if your mother had
said all her life that she wanted her body to be used for science,
and then her body was used to test land mines. I think that is
disturbing, and I think there are some moral problems with deception
here.”


• Michael Meyer,
Professor of Philosophy, UC-Santa Clara


Yes, thank you for the imagery. Sounds
like Mike's got some issues of his own to deal with. Tell me more
about your mother, Doc.


An extra weird part of the story is how the dollar amounts keep
changing with each new version of the story. According to Harpers
(through the New
York Times
, that is), Tulane charged National Anatomical
Service $7,000 per corpse to be rid of the bodies — a figure
the company says is “completely wrong.”


Fair enough. But does that mean that Harpers/NYT was
actually highballing the dollar amount? After all, in the
Sydney Morning Herald version of the story (see above), Tulane
actually paid them $1,000 per corpse. Here's a BBC
account
that generally agrees with them — except that the
amount is given as less than $1,000 per body. Don't these people keep
records?


And for the record (if it even freaking matters at this point), it
is actually illegal
to buy and sell human remains. National Anatomical Service gets
around this by never
actually purchasing
the bodies it handles. Instead, it gets paid
to receive, transport, and deliver them — sort of like a
ghoulish long-haul trucking company.


Sometimes it's just not such a good idea to wonder what's really
going on inside those semis that blow by you on the freeway, is it?


Friday, March 12, 2004
 
More Things, Horatio ...

HORATIO: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!


HAMLET: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
       There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
       Than are dreamt of in your philosophy ...

• Hamlet — Act I, Scene 2


The State of Oklahoma, unhappy with the life sentence (without
parole) that Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols
received in Federal Court, is retrying him in hopes of delivering a
death sentence.


Not that Nichols isn't a creep who deserves whatever he gets from
the Sooner State ... but methinks them Okies might not be fully cognizant of exactly what
manner of worms they're a-fixing to unleash from their respective cans.


Nichols' defense team has already fired
the first shot
, and it's a doozy:


Attorneys for Terry Nichols say
they were not given 13 FBI documents that raise the possibility of
other accomplices in the Oklahoma City bombing.


The documents are cited in a recent
series of Associated Press stories. They include two teletypes from
then FBI Director Louis Freeh mentioning possible connections between
bomber Timothy McVeigh and a gang of white supremacist bank robbers.


They're talking about a group called the Aryan Republican Army.
Back in the early nineties, the ARA was the bizarro terror of the
midwest, holding up dozens of banks in an effort to fund a
white-power revolution straight from the nation's heartland.


The website rotten.com has an excellent rundown of the group
and its activities. Read it. Trust me, you'll like it.


I'll get you started. Just take a gander at the opening paragraph, and then tell me that's not an attention-grabber:


You don't get much, well, Rottener,
than a gang of skinhead, white supremacist, rock-star-wannabes, led
by a cross-dressing pre-operative transsexual who calls himself
Commander Pedro, on a cross-country bank robbery spree wearing rubber
masks of Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.


Yes, that's right. A cross-dressing, pre-op transsexual, white
supremacist bank robber. And it only gets better after that.


Folks,
there's no way this could be a conspiracy theory; you can't make
this stuff up.


And they were real, all right. In the year-and-a-half prior to the
Oklahoma City bombing, the ARA robbed
enough banks
to fund
the destruction
of a dozen Murrah Buildings, and spoke often
about their desire to do just
that sort of thing
.


And they had a fairly intimate relationship with McVeigh, Nichols,
and the whole damned Christian Identity/White Supremacist/Militia
nexus of the American Southwest, circa 1994. There's even a tertiary CIA
relationship ... if only a family one (Peter Langan, the
aforementioned pre-op, is the son — and brother — of
a CIA agent
).


Langan, in fact, is getting ready to testify for Nichols. He
claims that at least some
members of his group
did, in fact, help do the deed — a
fact which is, frankly, hardly a surprise to anyone who's ever laid a
critical
eye upon the case
:


Peter Langan, one member of the ARA
robbery gang, told AP he plans to testify at Nichols' trial that
federal prosecutors several years ago offered and then withdrew a
plea deal for information he had about the Oklahoma City bombing.


Langan said he plans to testify
that at least three fellow gang members were in Oklahoma around the
time of the bombing and one later told him that they had become
involved.


The government wants very, very badly
for us to believe otherwise. I can't tell you why.


Honestly, I can't. I don't think I'm
paranoid enough to figure it out. This story is pockmarked with rabbit
holes
.


But I am paranoid enough to figure out
that there's way,
waaaay more lurking
behind all this than
meets the eye
.


 
“Mr. Lowry, Will You Step In Here, Please?”

I learned something
new about myself
today.


Dennis [Mahon,
creepy white supremacist]
sat on the bed. “I'd
never heard of a Tim McVeigh,” he said. “I'd heard of a
Tim Tuttle. Tim Tuttle was a real good patriot. Tim
Tuttle was a highly decorated army guy from the Gulf War and
he was travelling through the area and people wanted me to meet him.”


...


“[BATF informant] Carol Howe
testified that she was at your house when Tim Tuttle
telephoned you shortly before the Oklahoma bomb,” I said.


Yeah, well,” said
Dennis, sharply. “That was another Tim. Okay? Another Tim. His
name was Tim Buttle.”


Yeah, that's right. Creepy, truck-bombing white supremacists and I both share a love for
Terry Gilliam
films
. Anyone got a problem with that?


Jeez. My favorite movie of
all time
. This must be what it feels like to stumble across your
grandmother naked.


If anyone needs me, I'll be in
therapy
for the rest of the week.


 
The Truck Bomb Of The Almighty
Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder. Justice is on the way. I won't trade places with you or any of your political cronies. Hail His victory. I am at peace.


  • The last words of white supremacist Richard Snell. Spoken on
    the day of his execution: April 19, 1995.



Those wacky conspiracy theorists! They've got this crazy idea that
there was some kinda “conspiracy” going on behind the bombing of a
government building in Oklahoma a
few years ago
:


... the state trial of [Terry]
Nichols on 161 counts of murder, set to begin with jury selection on
Monday, is fueling a fresh round of conspiracy theories pointing to
Midwestern neo-Nazis, Iraqi government agents and Islamic extremists
from the Philippines as possible participants in the crime.


The evidence is all circumstantial,
weaving together loose ends from the FBI investigation of the
bombing, eyewitness sightings of presumed accomplices and
associations that McVeigh and Nichols may have had with domestic and
foreign terrorist groups. Much of it has been countered by FBI
officials and federal prosecutors, who insist that McVeigh and
Nichols had no outside help.


Circumstantial?! Since when is evidence
like this
considered circumstantial?


Item: Surveillance tape recording.
Location: Prep
Room, Lady Godiva “gentleman's club” — Tulsa,
Oklahoma.
Date: April 8, 1995 (OKC Bombing minus eleven
days.)


STRIPPER #1: (Leaning into
the mirror, adjusting her costume) You know those three guys I'm
sitting out there with? Well, one of them says he's looking for a
girl to fool around with tonight. Are you interested?


STRIPPER #2: Well, OK, I'll
figure out a way to scam them.


[The tape becomes unintelligible
for a few seconds.]


STRIPPER #1: ... one of them
said, “I'm a very smart man.” “You are?”
“Yes, I am. And on April 19, 1995, you'll remember me for
the rest of your life!
” “Oh really?” “Yes,
you will.”


One of those strippers noticed a yellow
Ryder truck
parked outside
the nightclub
that evening, by the way. She remembers peeing right next to it (don't
ask
).


The strippers later identified two of the lapdance afficionados as
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. As for the third
guy
... well, the
government says
there never
was a third guy
, so I guess he
wasn't there
.


Not here,
either.


Or here.


Or here.


And most certainly not here.


As for “circumstantial evidence” ... I suggest you try
this circumstantial evidence on for size, Mr. Skeptic.


You might have known that the date of the Oklahoma City bombing
(April 19, 1995) was the two-year
anniversary
of the FBI's disastrous raid on the Branch Davidian
Compound in Waco, Texas; after all, that's the main reason given for
McVeigh's actions. But did you know that:



  1. April 19 has long been revered by whacko
    right wing militia types
    as “Patriot's
    Day
    .” That's because it's the anniversary of the Battle of
    Lexington & Concord — otherwise known as the start of the
    American Revolution.


  2. The 1995 bombing was the second
    attack
    planned against the Murrah Building. The first one was
    supposed to go down in the early eighties, and was planned by a
    group calling itself the Covenant,
    Sword, and Arm of the Lord
    .


  3. That first attack was broken up exactly
    twelve years earlier
    , on April 19, 1983, when the leader of the
    plot (Richard
    Snell
    ) was arrested for murder.


  4. Snell was executed for that crime on the
    very day
    the Murrah Building went up ... but not before
    getting a chance to watch the news of the carnage unfold (while
    smiling approvingly).



Oh, wait. I get it.


All this stuff points to an act of conspiracy by extremist
Christian fundamentalists
. Everybody knows that only extremist
Islamic fundamentalists
conspire to commit acts of
terrorism in this country.


Oh sure, there is a big difference between the two — for one
thing, the Islamic hillbillies currently
have more money
at their disposal than the Christian
hillbillies
. They have something in common, too; neither of them
bears any relationship with the teachings of their respective
religions.


And athiests, I haven't
forgotten about you
. Quite
a few souls
have been
snuffed
out in
your name
too, so don't try that smug “religion kills”
argument on me.


Obscurantism
is the enemy. Not Islam. Not Christianity.



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