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Friday, April 30, 2004
 
What The Market Will Bear

Washington Monthly
has a rather in-depth article about the incipient collapse of the
housing market bubble. It sounds as if things are finally about to
come to a boil.


Yes, yes, yes. People (including myself) have been jawboning
incessantly
about the
housing bubble
now for at
least
three years or more, and all
during that time
real estate prices have done
nothing but go up
.


So what? The same could have been said about stock-market
valuations
for the three-year
span
from 1997-2000
... and, in fact, it was.


If anything, the Washington Monthly article does at least
provide a plausible explanation for Alan Greenspan's otherwise
insane
recent recommendation
that Mr. & Mrs. Middle America ditch their current fixed rate
mortgages for adjustable rate ones. After all, with interest rates at
historic lows, and with nowhere to go but up, Greenspan must have been off
his nut to expect anyone to hitch their wagons to an ARM.


Well, insanity and desperation are often cut from the same cloth,
as Washington
Monthly points out
:


Greenspan's rather ham-handed
effort to get them to go for ARMs, is a sign not of the chairman's
own eccentricity or advanced age, but, instead, of the economy's
current unsteadiness. Greenspan knows, perhaps better than anyone,
that this economy is perched nervously on top of a wobbly, Dr.
Seuss-like tower. Our recovery is propped up by consumer spending,
which is in turn propped up by mortgage refinancing, and if that
refinancing dries up before more props can be put in, the whole
edifice could fall. “Since long-term interest rates cannot
fall low enough to facilitate another wave of fixed-rate
refinancings, he is trying to encourage homeowners to refinance one
last time: fixed to ARM,
” Peter Schiff, president of Euro
Pacific Capital in Los Angeles told the San Francisco Chronicle.


In other words, for the past three years or so Greenspan has been
part and parcel to a gigantic
check-kiting scheme
, with home
mortgages and refis
playing the role of the empty checks.


In lieu of real economic demand to fuel the economy, Greenspan's
Fed had to resort to pumping enormous amounts of credit into the
system in order to keep the post-tech crash economy afloat.


The trick was to use this credit to keep the economy limping along
on an artificially
induced consumer-spending spree
until the business cycle kicks
back into gear ... with the hiring, and the wage gains, and the real
consumer spending that should come with it.


There are some anemic signs that this
is happening
, but apparently Greenspan's faith in them isn't
strong enough
. Hence, his attempt to con America into one last
round
of refi activity.


Well, the refis
are down
but housing
sales are still up
; so while the people aren't drinking
Greenspan's freshest snake oil, they're still taking part in the
collective
delusion
that is a market
bubble
. As certain as I am that this bubble is going to deflate,
however, I'm just as certain that every fiscal contraption imaginable
will be brought to bear over the next few months to maintain a facade
of market stability until the November elections are passed.


After which, all bets are off. With no artificial stimulation
needed in order to serve anyone's short-term political purposes, and
a number
of long-term
negative economic
factors
worming their way into
the system
, the Year After It All (i.e. 2005) is looking to be a very gray time indeed.


Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
Eye Of The Tigris

Patrick Cockburn of the UK
Independent
is reporting that there was yet another mutiny of
Iraqi forces fighting around the city of Fallujah. His is the only
report of it, but since he was also the only correspondent who filed
any stories on the hood-wearing Iraqi militiamen to the outside world, I've
learned to trust his accounts
:


Part of the 36th battalion of the
paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defence Corps revolted last week after the
unit had been fighting in the besieged city for 11 days, the minister
told The Independent yesterday. Mr Allawi blamed the mutiny on “a
failure of command. The commanding officer was absent, his deputy ...
was seriously wounded and the number three faltered.”


...


The battalion may have split along
ethnic lines. Its soldiers were recruited from the militiamen of the
Iraqi political parties which belong to the US-appointed Iraqi
Governing Council, and about half were Kurdish soldiers, known as
peshmerga. The Kurds were prepared to fight but Iraqi Arab soldiers
said they had had enough. Those who refused to fight were withdrawn
from the battlefield for retraining.


Hmmm ... “retraining.” That's a rather unfortunate
choice of terminology. Call me a cynic, but I can't help but imagine
that these “retraining
sessions are going to involve taking these men on a long field trip with bags
over their heads
, followed by intense
debriefing sessions
at the illustrious Abu
Ghraib
facility.


And that's if they like you. If they don't, the outcome
is a little different
:


Iraqi police administer quick
justice. Any insurgent they catch ends up on his knees, a burlap bag
over his heads, and is shot in the back of the head, according to
Baruffi.


The above article is not a confession of any sort, by the way. The
eyewitness reporting these events, Spc. Robert Baruffi, seems to
tacitly approve of the practice.


The story also tries to support the notion that most of the people
causing all the ruckus in Iraq are
foreigners
(Syrians, in Baruffi's case). The account would hold
more water, however, if the
unit
he was in hadn't been patrolling a
town on the Syrian border
.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004
 
If A Blogger Blogs On The Web, And Nobody Reads It, Does It Still Move Electrons?

Just because quantum mechanics is a funny science doesn't mean
that all quantum mechanics references are funny.


Yeah, I'm talking to you, Wonkette
... and your little buddy Quibbles
'n Bits
, too:


[Kerry's]
the Schroedinger's Candidate. He's an undefined state. You don't know
where he stands until you put him in office.”


Yup-per, I get it: Kerry's a flip-flopper. He's a flip-flopping
politician. Who ever heard of such flip-floppery?


Shouldn't political humor come with an expiration date attached?
I'm not saying all jokes about flip-flopping
politicos
are Old Chestnut territory, but throw in a reference to
powdered wigs and snuff boxes, and I think I once read Quibbles'
slam in a dog-eared copy of Poor
Richard's Almanack
.


Really, though, I'm just bitter because my quantum
mechanics joke
was much more clever ... and predates Mr.
Quibbles'
lazy-assed punting by at least a couple of days.


Next time, I'll have to remember to throw in a couple of sodomy
references
. That oughtta earn me a blip or two on
Wonkette's radar for once.


 
ReRe U: A Special University For Special Students

Yeah, this sounds
like a fitting tribute
for the least intellectual President we've
had since Warren G. Harding:


... America's only
movie-star-turned-president may have another dramatic role in higher
education: as the namesake and inspiration for Ronald Reagan
University.


Backers of the ambitious plan to
build a private university outside Denver that would focus on the
former president's economic and diplomatic principles asked the
Colorado legislature this week to endorse the idea. With a 200-acre
campus site donated by a prominent Colorado Republican, the plans
call for construction to begin next year and a student body of 10,000
to be in classes before the end of the decade.


We have worked with an
architect, and we think we're looking at an $850 million construction
budget,” said Terry Walker, a former professor and
administrator at the University of Louisiana who is serving as
founding president of the proposed school. “We are planning for
a full-scale university, with a law school, business school and a
graduate school of foreign affairs and public policy. We also want a
performing arts school, to reflect the president's long movie
career.”


A student body of 10,000 before the end of the decade? I'm not one
to cast aspersions at an institution that hasn't even had a chance to
prove itself yet, but expansion plans like that are usually the
province
of diploma mills
, not prominent
universities
.


Then again, the kind
of students
Reagan was known to work best with weren't exactly
the Einsteins of the hominid gene pool, if you get my drift.


But I bet the “Gippers
are gonna be a totally kick-ass football team ... and everybody on
campus will get to be an
honorary TEKE
, too.


And that's really all you need for a successful college these
days, anyway.


 
The Continuing Feline Geriatrics Saga

Well, I just got the test results back for the ailing feline ...
and overall, it's mostly good news.


The mixed news is that his thyroid (T4) levels are down, but still
way up. Right now, he's sitting at about a T4 of 5. That's still
pretty high
for a cat — I got the impression that was
several times the levels the vet wanted to see.


It should be noted, however, that his T4 was in the astronomical
range of 14+ before we started this regimen. So he's responding to
the medication, but just not well enough. We're gonna double his
dosage and see what happens from there.


The better news (so far) is that his kidney
function
is still normal. This is a huge issue, since
hyperthyroidism
can often mask renal failure
.


The odd news is that his liver enzymes are still off; but since
the vet didn't seem overly concerned about that factor, I choose not
to be, either.


After all, he always has been a weird little cat.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 
Happy Nerdiversary!

Today is the day that I bring the
cat
in for his checkup, so I haven't been able to put much effort
into researching anything for a decent post.


For now, here's a quaint
little blurb about a quaint little hobby
, courtesy of the
quaintest news outlet in the world, the BBC:


In the 1980s millions of teenagers
world-wide would battle dragons armed with just dice, paper and pens.
D&D became part of youth sub-culture but as the game
celebrates its 30th birthday
, is anyone still playing?


In 1974 two men in the US Midwest,
Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, created “Dungeons and Dragons,”
the first ever role-playing game.


Developed out of war gaming using
table-top miniatures, the paperback rule books were an instant
success, a genuine phenomenon which spawned an industry and
influenced a generation of film-makers, writers and videogame
developers.


That's right. D&D is thirty years old this year. The game that is the touchstone for all geek cultural mores of the past quarter-century.


The first
D&D game ever
, in fact, was played just a few miles from
where I'm writing this very post. Sometimes, when the wind is blowing
just right, you can catch the faint scent of nerd still lingering in
the air.


Oh, wait. That's just the ethanol
plant
.



I
never owned any of these books, and I don't still have them buried in
the back of my closet.


Me? I'm a tenth-level barista,
myself.


Monday, April 26, 2004
 
Running With The Papal Bulls

Does the Catholic leadership honestly want to start
denying Communion to Americans who stray from every iota of their
teachings? Because if they do, they're going to quickly find
themselves delivering homilies to some mighty sparse congregations.


The question is sparked by an article in today's Washington
Post
:


The American Life League, a
Catholic antiabortion group that has led the charge against Kerry,
said
[Cardinal Francis] Arinze's statement should encourage more U.S. bishops to follow
the example of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis. In January,
Burke issued a decree barring three Wisconsin politicians who
support abortion rights from receiving Communion
in his former
diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and said he would deny Communion to Kerry
if the Massachusetts senator came to town.


But Burke's decree did not apply
to church doctrine on subjects other than abortion
, and neither
the American Life League nor any major Catholic lay organization has
called for bishops to take politicians to task because of their
stands on other matters.


The Cardinal mentioned in the article (Francis Arinze) is widely considered to be one of the leading candidates to succeed the ailing John Paul II as Pope, so his declarations on the matter shouldn't be taken at all lightly. He's also on record as saying that the September 11 attacks were a direct result of America's permissive record on abortion, so I think we can take his opinion on the Communion issue at its face value.


The fact that the Catholics in question are being so narrow in
their theological denunciations is, as far as I'm concerned, prima
facie
evidence that the dominating purpose of their crusade is to
seize a political advantage, rather than to expose any moral
weakness.


The above Post article, for instance, centers mainly around
the question of why these same Church leaders aren't as vehement in
their condemnation of pro-death
penalty
Catholics as they are pro-abortion
ones. That is a valid
argument
... to a point.


Although the Catholic Church does indeed heartily
dislike the death penalty
, it does not universally condemn the
practice. While the circumstances must be extreme to justify it in
the Church's eyes, that does allow enough moral wiggle room for
Catholic partisans to weaken the comparison, at least as far as we
theologically wobbly Americans are concerned.


A better case might be
made for hauling America's pro-war
Catholics onto the carpet and making
them explain
exactly how the Iraq situation has anything to do
with the Just
War Doctrine
of their Church before they can get their cookie.


Or, how about the question of in
vitro fertilization
? That's an even more comparable issue to the
question of abortion — perfectly so, in fact.


Furthermore, the Church has extreme moral reservations
concerning the practice; I quote from the Catechism:


Techniques that entail the
dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other
than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are
gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial
insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born
of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by
marriage. They betray the spouses' “right to become a father
and a mother only through each other.”


Neither is this a position that the Church issued once, and then
casually forgot about. As recently as last month, the Pope issued a
blanket
condemnation
of it:


The Vatican issued a broad
condemnation Tuesday of fertility treatments such as in-vitro
fertilization, calling the destruction of embryos in the process a
massacre of the innocents.


The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore
Romano published the final communiqué from the Vatican's
Pontifical Academy for Life following a conference it hosted last
month on “The dignity of human procreation and reproductive
technologies: anthropological and ethical aspects.”


...


It condemned the use of embryos for
research, and called the destruction or loss of embryos in the
in-vitro process “a true massacre of the innocents of our time:
no war or catastrophe has ever caused so many victims.”


The Vatican holds that embryos
are human and thus deserve all the rights and dignity granted to
humans.


And there's the rub. The technique of in vitro fertilization
necessarily requires the creation of far
more embryos
than will ever actually be brought to term.


To the Catholic Church, these embryos are human beings. The best
that can happen to these embryonic “people” is that they
are frozen
for some later, undefined purpose; just as likely,
they are simply
destroyed
once their immediate usefulness has passed.


Abortion may be an abomination
according to the teachings of the Church (and, indeed, anyone
who espouses the belief that life
begins at conception
), but even the most vehement anti-abortion
protester has to admit that it only results in the death of one
individual at a time, whereas to a Catholic in vitro fertilization
requires the destruction of multitudes of people in order to
create a single life.


In other words, in the eyes of the Church, it's
worse than abortion
. Far worse. And yet, I've never once
heard of any American politician denied the body and blood of Christ
for supporting the practice.


For that matter, I'm still waiting for the indignant
crowds
to start forming around America's
fertility clinics
. But I'm not holding my breath until I do.


Sunday, April 25, 2004
 
Schrödinger's Budget

I'll admit, at first glance, the following story makes it appear
as if the whole Capitol Hill complex has been torn down and replaced
with a giant treehouse, complete with rope ladders, trap doors,
secret handshakes, and a gigantic, crudely-drawn sign declaring “No
Demmycrats Allowed:


Health and Human Services Secretary
Tommy Thompson has refused to make public or give congressional
Democrats the Bush administration's estimates of the cost of last
year's Medicare legislation.


In a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman,
D-Calif., a senior HHS official writing on Thompson's behalf said
Democrats have no right to review administration estimates that the
Medicare overhaul would cost substantially more than what President
Bush and Thompson disclosed last year
. The Associated Press
obtained a copy of the letter yesterday.


I'll be the first to agree that the treehouse theory sounds tempting. No doubt that's
the take most people reading this weblog are going to have on the
story; but that's only because we liberals are, sadly, victims of our
own Lesser Minds.


Our puny, effete little brains are incapable of grasping the
greater reality at work here. We assume, through our incomplete
understanding of events, that the Administration is playing political
games with us.


And yet, nothing could be further from the truth. What's going on
here is not some petty, trollish little manipulation for political
advantage, but actually a sweeping, ambitious attempt to protect the
very fabric of reality itself!


An old
and still predominant theory
of quantum physics is that an object
remains in an undefined state

until such a time as it is observed.
Once that observance occurs, then the object undergoes a collapse
into a defined state. It becomes, essentially, what the observer sees
of it.


In this case, allowing the
Democrats
to observe the Administration's Medicare
estimates would almost certainly cause those figures to
collapse into a multi-billion
dollar, budget-busting, fiscal nightmare
. And nobody wants that
to happen, right?


Clearly, then, these numbers should
never be exposed to the light of day; in fact, given the gravity of
the circumstances
, I think it would be wise to lock up all the
budget numbers
— and never let any
Democrat
ever set eyes on them again.


No, not ever. Your future may depend on
it.


Consider the quantum ramifications of the recent
dustup
over the war
dead photos
: the military understood that, so long as the coffins
remained unobserved, the soldiers they carried remained in an
undefined state.


Were they dead? Were they alive? Of course they were, puny human
... don't you know the story of the
cat
?


But then, by insisting on actually
seeing the pictures
, we liberals went and stepped in it. We
precipitated yet another wave form collapse. The soldiers became
dead
.


And we killed them.


Damn, Anne Coulter's right: we
really
are on the terrorist's side, after all.


Friday, April 23, 2004
 
WW(n't)JD?

One of the most emphatic points the Gospels make is the promotion
of Jesus as a great healer. In his wanderings up and down the hills
of Judea, Samaria and the Galilee, he was presented with a plethora
of illnesses
, and cured
anybody
who came to him.


Thank God that's all over with. Via Atrios,
we learn that certain
Christians
have come to the conclusion that they're better
Christians than Jesus
:


Doctors or other health care
providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat
gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan
House.


The bill allows health care workers
to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.


...


Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) the
first openly gay legislator in Michigan, pointed out that while the
legislation prohibits racial discrimination by health care providers,
it doesn't ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation.


That do have a point there, Mr.
Kolb
... but then again you're gay,
so who cares.


On the flip side of the equation, what happens when a physician
from, say, this church is
faced with the prospect of treating a black guy? Or for that matter,
how about an old-school Nation of Islam
Doc who feels he's being forced to treat a Blue-Eyed Devil such as myself? Will the law protect their
religious points of view ... no matter how twisted up they may be?


Y'know, this bill actually has a chance of making it. The Michigan
House already passed
it by an exact 2/3 margin
; all it would take is a three-vote
defection of Democrats from the Michigan
Senate
, and the bill arrives on the Governor's desk essentially
veto-proof.


If it doesn't get that margin then the Governor, Jennifer
Granholm
, will almost certainly veto it. She already showed
her colors last December
when she issued an executive order
banning discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation;
unless she's had some kind of traumatic brain event in the
intervening months, she's not gonna let this one pass if she can do
anything about it.


Which means, naturally, that one of the chief purposes behind the
bill is to serve as a slick political attempt to smear an otherwise
well-liked and admired liberal politician with the ever-popular Queer
Cooties
.


It wouldn't
be the first time
the Michigander Winger Corps has tried it ...
and you know it's not going to be the last, either.


Thursday, April 22, 2004
 
Riding Out The Clock

Jeez, Donald Rumsfeld isn't even trying anymore.


His lying used to have
a certain amount of bravado to it; lately, however, he's gotten so
rote and robotic in his pronouncements that his lies don't even seem
to have much purpose any more.


Just a refresher for ya, Don: The purpose of a lie is to make a
situation sound better than it is for your side, not to wash
it over with the same
shade of gray
that's already there:


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
says troops who've had their tours extended in Iraq won't be there
indefinitely.


He says the military is firm about
keeping those roughly 20,000 troops in Iraq only up to three months
longer.


Rumsfeld says he's ready to give
Gen. John Abizaid the number of troops he needs in Iraq. He says if
Abizaid wants troop levels to remain around 135,000, the Pentagon
will swap fresh forces for those who are overdue to come home.


Actually, Donald, 120
days
is a wee
bit longer
than the three
months
you describe — but then, these
guys stopped taking appointments from you
a long time ago, didn't
they?


Another critical number the Administration might want to keep in
mind with these people is 210. That's the number when, shall we say,
the pigeons could start flying their coops.


Assuming that these Guard and Reserve units will
be allowed to come home
after their 120 days are up (which would
be around mid-August or so), any citizen soldier whose military
commitments have been “held over” during that time will
be allowed to decide if they want to re-up for another term —
but only after they've gone through a 90-day
“cooling off” period
.


Many of these people will, no doubt, run
screaming
from the Army at this time. Others may wish to stay,
but will face nearly
insurmountable pressures
from their
families
to muster out. Still others may decide to stay ... but
it's a total crapshoot as to how many of these people there will be.


As a result, military retention rates (which have been held
artificially high due to the “holds”) will finally begin
to see their long-expected
dropoffs
. How dramatic these numbers will be, nobody seems
willing to guess; but the only people who don't openly concede
that it's going to happen are those who already have a dog in this
fight (i.e. the Pentagon brass and the Administration).


Adding the 90-day “cooling off” period to the
mid-August date places this harmonic convergence of circumstances
smack dab in the middle of November ... and right after the 2004
elections.


I don't know if all this was factored into the Administration's
decisions on the matter, but it is awfully convenient for them that
the voters won't be faced with any real hard data on this stuff until
after they've cast their ballots.


But then, the Bush
people
always have
been lucky
that way.


 
Conceal And Carry (And Cash)

Somebody must be pretty grumpy down in the Peach State today; it's
kind of a bummer when your big laundry plans for the day get all
messed up because someone else up and grabs
your washer
between loads:


Italian customs has seized more
than 8,000 Kalashnikovs and other weapons on a ship headed to the
United States, officials said Tuesday.


The arms, worth about six million
euros, were discovered aboard a ship arriving from Romania that
pulled into the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro on its way to
the United States, Italy's customs said in a statement.


According to travel documents, the
arms are the property of a large U.S. company headquartered in the
U.S. state of Georgia.


A “large US company” whose headquarters are in
Georgia?


Either Ted Turner must be
planning some sort of palace coup, or else the Cola
Wars
must be really heating up again.


Just to be on the safe side, I think I'm gonna avoid eating at any
Taco
Bells or KFC's
for a while.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004
 
Between The Lines

There is a surprising amount of pre-election discussion going
around about the necessity
of reinstating the draft.


Last week, Democratic Senator Joe Biden had to shuck and jive his
way out of a draft question posed by a caller on Larry King.
Poor Joe must've been caught off guard by the question; it was one of
the most inelegantly
constructed nondenial denials
I've heard this year:


No, and yes. It's not time
to reinstate the draft, and it would be, I think, difficult for his
re-election. I think we can — I think it's time to engage the
international community so that we take an American face off of this,
and get more help.”


This week it was a Republican Senator — Chuck Hagel of
Nebraska — who brought it up. And unlike Biden, Hagel wasn't at
all prepared to do a
little fairy dance around the issue
:


... why shouldn't we ask all
of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?”
Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would
force “our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of
challenges we face.”


The Nebraska Republican added that
a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden
of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social
strata.


Those who are serving today
and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class,”
he observed.


While it might seem odd that a Republican is bringing up the
“class warfare” aspects of our current military system,
you should keep in mind that he's only really channeling
Representative
Charles Rangel
. Hagel's sentiments are the exact same ones voiced
by Rangel over a year ago, when he introduced the military
draft legislation
currently tiptoeing its way through Congress.


Hagel created enough of a stir with his morning comments that Lou
Dobbs called him up for a chat about it on his show. That gave Hagel
a chance to get more specific about what duties he thinks lie
ahead for our nation's youth
:


Over 40 percent of our
commitments already in place on the ground in Iraq are National Guard
and Reserves.
So we're talking about that component. But we're
also talking about another component here. Lou, if, in fact this is a
generational war
that the president has noted, all of us I think
have noted, then why should we ask very few people in our society to
bear the heavy price, to carry the heavy burden and not ask everybody
to carry some burden? There's a societal implication here. It's the
middle-class, lower-middle-class that's always the rifleman in the
field that is always on the line, not the sons and daughters of the
wealthy and the powerful. If we have got a generational war, then
all of us should take some responsibility for this country, if it's a
nation at war.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. He says that “all of us” will
be sharing in the responsibilities ... but he's really talking
about the kids
, isn't he? It's not like anything in the above
paragraph implies that 40-year-olds are going to be pulled out of
their dorm rooms and forced to shoulder a rifle.


Y'know, this “generational war” Hagel and guys like
him keep bringing up is starting to sound more and more like a
rehashing of the Cold War. The one difference, though, is that this
time we're
the ones
trying to push
the dominoes
over.


I always figured the Baby Boomers would get around to drafting
their kids; I just didn't realize they were going to be so blatantly
obtuse about it.


 
You Can't Do That On The Battlefield!

Since war is becoming such a bottom-line
business
these days, I suppose it makes sense that a magazine
going by the title Business Week should weigh in on the Iraq
Conflict.


All this media convergence is getting too damned confusing; am I
going to have to buy a subscription to Soldier of Fortune in
order to get the latest stock tips now?


The problem, as Business Week tells it, is that the Iraq
War has gotten just too darned bloody
of late
; the answer, it responds, is to hearken
back to the combat techniques
developed and honed in old
Nickelodeon game shows:


The U.S. military has been
developing a raft of nonlethal anti-personnel weapons that seem
tailor-made for precisely the type of urban warfare now unfolding
across Iraq. One fires a canister containing a slimey goo that
coats the surrounding areas and makes it nearly impossible to remain
standing. Other devices include pulsed energy weapons that can
be aimed at crowds. These arms target the human nervous system and
induce severe burning sensations without inflicting any permanent
harm ...


Admittedly, both sides in this conflict could benefit from a
dramatic infusion of wackiness into their lives, but I don't think
adding these weapons to our arsenal is going to help us out as much
as Business Week thinks it will.




Score one for democracy! Another Iraqi insurgent is subdued
...


Most (if not all) of the “nonlethal” weaponry
highlighted in the article are crowd control devices, not
combat weaponry.


When the Iraqi
opposition forces
are milling around in a single, relatively
compact area, then slime cannisters and zap cannons will work
admirably. When they are dispersed
throughout a battlefield
— such as, say, sniping from
behind doorways, firing off rocket launchers from ditches, or setting
off remote bombs from the relative safety of an olive grove —
these weapons are going to be about as effective as a harsh note on
the refrigerator door.


Adding new gizmos to the mix is not going to change the fact that
the puzzle of this war is not going to be solved through military
means. In fact, this war, as it stands, is a hindrance to solving the
political problems that the Iraqis (and, by extension, we) face.


You can't make a rebellious people stand down from their
insurgency; you have to give them viable reasons to do it. Whether
that
Apache
is armed with slime cannisters or HEDP
rounds
doesn't matter so much to them, so long as they still
notice that its cannons are pointed their way.


 
Out & About ... For Now

This is interesting. CNN is giving live coverage to the
release of Mordechai Vanunu; I didn't think they knew that the guy
even existed.


Then again, they just cut out in the middle of his Big Release
Statement for a Comcast commercial ... so I guess they're not that
sure who the guy is.


Vanunu is the person who first
brought proof to the world
that Israel was producing nuclear
weapons. While Israel's nuclear
capabilities
were whispered about before then, the evidence
Vanunu presented back in 1986 not only put the weapons on the table,
but gave a number to them as well.


That number: 200 ... as in “Israel
has upwards of 200 nuclear weapons at her disposal.


Personally, I think the guy did Israel a favor. After all, what
possible good are nuclear weapons to you if none
of your enemies
know you have them? Do you think you're actually
going to use
them?


And for that, Vanunu just spent 18 years in an Israeli prison —
two-thirds of that time in solitary confinement. While that does seem
a bit harsh, I'm more
spooked
by how
he was rounded up
in the first place:


She was the only missing player in
the drama which ended in the 18-year incarceration of the man who
first told the world Israel had nuclear weapons. But Cheryl Hanin,
the agent who back in 1986 seduced Mordechai Vanunu in London,
then lured him to Rome and into the hands of Mossad, who drugged him
and smuggled him back to Israel
, turns out to be alive, well,
married and distinctly prosperous in Alaqua, Florida.


I guess sex does pay. And what prosperity: a gated
luxury community
in central Florida ... just outside of Orlando!


That makes a weird sort of sense; where else would a couple of
ex-Mossad agents wind up than in the Spookiest
State in America
?


According to the above Independent article, the heavily
cloistered Mr. Vanunu could also be of use in explaining to all the
rest of Israel's boiling
frogs
exactly how hot
their water has gotten
since he's been away:


The Israel into which Mordechai
Vanunu will emerge this morning has changed in many ways from the one
he left behind 18 years ago.


The first of the two Palestinian
intifadas was still more than a year away; Yasser Arafat was in exile
in Tunis, and not many people would have bet that Ariel Sharon,
rebuilding his career as Trade and Industry Minister after being
censured for the massacres at the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and
Chatila in 1982, would nearly two decades later be prime minister
after winning two general elections.


...


But you wouldn't have to be as
political as Mr Vanunu to realise how dramatically the political and
security environment has altered. The West Bank settlements have
grown substantially. He will not be accustomed to the multiplicity of
checkpoints or by the fact that Israelis no longer shop freely in
West Bank towns. And he will have to get used to the security man at
the door of almost every bar, restaurant and office: suicide attacks
were almost unknown 18 years ago.


That is, if he's allowed
to say anything
at all.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004
 
The Groundhog Day President

Y'know, this
stuff
is getting to be awful monotonous ... downright
yawn-inducing, even:


In the two years before the Sept.
11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted
exercises simulating what the White House says was unimaginable at
the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets
and cause mass casualties.


One of the imagined targets was
the World Trade Center.
In another exercise, jets performed a
mock shootdown over the Atlantic Ocean of a jet supposedly laden with
chemical poisons headed toward a target in the United States. In a
third scenario, the target was the Pentagon — but that drill
was not run after Defense officials said it was unrealistic, NORAD
and Defense officials say.


So attacking the World Trade Center with commercial jets was
realistic, but lobbing one at the Pentagon wasn't? Is that what Condi
Rice meant when she declared that she didn't “think
anybody
” could have imagined terrorists using jets in such
a way?


NORAD: Ms. Rice, a
number of airliners have been hijacked, and we believe at least two
of them are heading straight for the World Trade Center.


CONDI: Oh, my
Goodness! We've got to stop them!


NORAD: We also have
reason to believe that another one is heading for the Pentagon.


CONDI: Oh, now your
just pulling my leg ...


Dubya is still hacking away at the old “unthinkable!” chestnut, by the way. In fact, a
statement
he made
at last week's press conference is a pretty solid
paraphrasing of Rice's
now two-year-old
statement:


... nobody in our
government, at least, and I don't think the prior government, could
envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.”


• George W. Bush, 4/13/2004


I don't think anybody could
have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it
into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the
Pentagon ...”


• Condoleeza Rice, 5/16/2002


I know Dubya's not much of a reader, but could someone on his
staff please, please enjoin him to catch up on the last couple
of years of his briefing notes? It's just plain embarrassing when the
guy's two years behind on his own talking points.


 
Degrees Of Separation

Josh
Marshall
, of all people, is claiming a connection to the four
Italians who are being detained in Iraq. Here is the relevant section
from an e-mail he's posted over on his Talking
Points Memo
website that he
received from “a friend”
in Iraq:


Dear Josh, I would like you to
share with your readers that the four abducted Italian bodyguards
worked for me. They were people I had brought in to provide close
protection for my former company's contractors.
Fabrizio, who was
executed, was a great guy and it appears he died with honor, knowing
what was about to happen. If the rumors are true that he stated “Cosi
Morare Un Italiano — Here is how an Italian man dies”
well it would be just like him ... all of the others Incusori,
Bersagalieri, Alpini and other Italians have such honor filled
sayings tattooed on their arms and chests ...


The guys were returning home to
Italy from Baghdad via route 10 to Amman.
I don't know why they
thought they could make it and I am racked with guilt for not having
been there to weigh in on such a simple decision ... it would have
been NO! Fly royal Jordanian! Everyone would have gone home happy and
safe.


By this account, then, the four men were little more than what it
has always been claimed — plain old bodyguards. It also offers
a simple (and stupid) enough explanation as to why they were near
Fallujah at the time they were caught; Fallujah lies along the major
route between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan.


The above references to being of “Incusori,”
“Bersagalieri,” (sic) and “Alpini” (i.e.
Italian
specialized military units
) might be taken to imply that the men
are/were a bit more than your average rent-a-cop ... unless the
author is just referring to the Italian forces in Iraq in general.


It still doesn't explain what “DTS Security” is at all
about, however. Nor does it explain why they chose to drive
out of the country, when they could have simply flown
out
at considerably less danger to their lives and valuables.
Iraqi highways have become legendary
for their unchecked banditry
, after all.


It would be nice to know who it was who wrote this e-mail, and
what organization he was working for at the time that he hired the
four men. Marshall indicates in his post that he has more to write on
the subject, and I'll be interested to find out when he does.


 
Understanding Jane

Here's another recent revelation unveiled by the 9/11 commission;
the FBI had assigned someone to grind away at the al Qaeda threat
through the summer of 2001. That person has been given the name
“Mary,” and the Christian Science Monitor has an
excellent
rundown
of the role “she” played:


... John, the CIA official who'd
been detailed to the FBI
, asked a counterpart, called Mary, from
the FBI who'd been assigned to the CIA
to review the Kuala Lumpur
material.


Get that? A CIA agent working for the FBI, and an FBI agent
working for the CIA. Was Ashcroft aware of all this interagency
fooling-around going on behind his back?


Mary began reviewing that cable
traffic on July 24.
She soon discovered a cable reporting that
[Khalid al-]Midhar, too, had a US visa. A week later she found
one reporting that Midhar's visa application listed New York City as
his destination. Then, on Aug. 21, she found the March 2000 cable
that “noted with interest” that
[Nawaf al-]Hazmi
had flown to Los Angeles in January 2000. “She grasped the
significance of this information
,” the staff report says.


The article isn't clear on this, but the actual document it is
referencing (available here)
declares that “Mary” unearthed the cable concerning
al-Midhar on July 24, the same day “she” began the
research.


Hmmm ... July 24, 2001. That's just about a day or so before the
Justice Department made its now
infamous announcement
that Attorney General John Ashcroft would
not be traveling in commercial aircraft for the remainder of his
term. At the time, they cited vague “threat assessments,”
but refused to give any specifics ...


Mary worked with another FBI
analyst on the case, referred to as Jane. Together they met with an
immigration official on Aug. 22, who told them that Midhar arrived in
the US on Jan. 15, 2000, and again on July 4, 2001. They also learned
there was no record that Hazmi had left since January 2001. The two
decided that if the men were in the US, they must be found. They
divided up the work: Mary worked with the CIA to place the two names
on international watch lists, and Jane assumed responsibility for the
hunt inside the US. Jane drafted a memo outlining why these two men
should be found and questioned by the FBI's field office in New York,
and called an agent there to give him a heads up. But her memo
wasn't sent until Aug. 28, and it was labeled “routine.”


This is very strange. If “Mary” and “Jane”
were so convinced that al-Midhar and al-Hazmi were such deathly
urgent cases, then why did it take “Jane” so damned long
to spit out a memo on the subject? How many words does it take for a
Fed to tell other Feds to “go get those guys?”


The reference to the memo being labeled “routine” is
also funny. As this previously-referenced
LA Times
story points out, CIA memos are given four levels
of priority: routine, priority, immediate, and flash. Why would
“Jane” assign “routine” — the lowest
level of priority, meaning the recipients would have up to 30 days
to respond to it — to a memo about two guys who were so clearly
and imminently determined to be up to no good?


And then again, the whole point of the LA Times story is
that it was the CIA that had sent out the cable. Furthermore,
they had marked it “IMMEDIATE,” only to see it
essentially downplayed by the FBI. It's possible — even likely
— that “Jane's” FBI memo and the CIA cable are
the same document. That's certainly the
implication.


Other
sources
, however, have the CIA cable being sent out on August 23,
and cite intelligence sources who are adamant that the cable was
marked “IMMEDIATE” (I had a loooong
post
on this not so far back), as opposed to “routine.”
In fact, the CIA seems genuinely baffled that the FBI treated their
urgent information in such a casual way.


In my earlier post, I suggested that perhaps the time and content
differences between the CIA and FBI versions of the memo could be
explained by the possibility that it had been altered by someone at
the FBI.


I think the case for this has been strengthened. Furthermore, I think this “Jane” character is an excellent candidate for the perpetrator of it.


And I'm not just being paranoid. The “woman”
apparently has a record of handling things this way ... or
at least trying to
:


One of the Cole case agents read
the lead
[i.e. “Jane's” August 28 memo] with
interest and contacted Jane to obtain more information. Jane took the
position, however, that because the agent was a designated “criminal”
agent, the “wall” kept him from participating in any
search for Mihdhar. In fact, she felt he had to destroy his copy
of the lead because it contained information she believed could not
be shared with any criminal agents.
The Joint Inquiry covered the
details of their heated exchanges, and we will not repeat them here.
The result was that criminal agents who were knowledgeable about the
Cole and experienced with criminal investigative techniques,
including finding suspects and possible criminal charges, were
excluded from the search.


Wow. Now that's dedication to the “wall.” “Jane” must
not have gotten this
memo
, then, which rendered “her” position
obsolete.


The above exchange is a very well-known one, by the way, and is
perhaps most notorious for the New York FBI agent's ominous
prediction that “someone
will die
” because of “Jane's” obsession with
the wall.


Here's another
article
touching on the subject of that heated August 29, 2001
intra-agency debate. Intriguingly, this story accidentally points us
to someone very close to this “Jane,” if not the actual
person: Marion “Spike” Bowman, then-head of the FBI's
“National Security Law Unit.”


A little over a year ago, Mr. Bowman was the recipient of some
flack after it was announced that he had received a cash
bonus and personal citation
from President Bush for all the
excellent work he had been doing for the FBI over the years. Some
people had a problem with that, since by then it was well-known that
Bowman had been one of the monkeys up at FBIHQ that had consistently
thwarted
the Minneapolis Field Office's attempts to make any
headway in the Zacharias
Moussaoui
case.


The Minneapolis agents, too, complained that someone
up at FBIHQ had altered
some of their information in a very
crucial way. In this case, it was a FISA
request
to allow the agents to make a thorough search
of Moussaoui's notebook computer
:


... on August 28, 2001, after a
series of e-mails between Minneapolis and FBIHQ, which suggest that
the FBIHQ SSA deliberately further undercut the FISA effort by
not adding the further intelligence information which he had promised
to add that supported Moussaoui's foreign power connection and making
several changes in the wording of the information that had been
provided by the Minneapolis Agent, the Minneapolis agents were
notified that the NSLU Unit Chief
[Marion “Spike”
Bowman] did not think there was sufficient evidence of
Moussaoui's connection to a foreign power.


The “SSA” who “undercut” the Minneapolis
Field Agents' efforts by altering their FISA request is a cryptic
reference to Michael
Maltbie
, who was the “Special Supervisory Agent” with
them in regards to the Moussaoui situation. At the time, Maltbie was
with the FBI's counterterrorism division; he has since been promoted
out of it.


And that, for whatever it's worth, is as close a match as we're
ever going to get to our mysterious “Jane.”


If Maltbie is this “Jane,” then we have at least one person
who was aware of both the al-Midhar/al-Hazmi case and the Moussaoui
case at the same time ... at least one person who — if he'd had
an ounce of brains — should have been able to put the two
together, or at least recognize enough of the similarities between
the cases to realize that something very bad was going down, and
fast.


Add Bowman to the mix — as well as Dave
Frasca
, Maltbie's boss — and you have at least three people
who should have had all the numbers and variables in front of them to
do all the algebra.


Why they didn't ... if
they
didn't ... I couldn't tell you. I'm sure they'd say, just
like everyone else does these days, that it was the “wall”
that made them do it — not that they're admitting to doing
anything wrong, mind you.


Yeah. Sure, whatever. That's as good an explanation as anything
else I've heard out of these people so far.


Monday, April 19, 2004
 
General Malaise

I don't know what to make of this — exhaustion, stress,
illness ... all three?


But I do know that it scares
the Hell
outta me:


The top U.S. military spokesman in
Iraq appeared to briefly lose consciousness during a news
conference Saturday
, bumping his face into a podium microphone.
He left the room for a period but returned smiling and answered more
questions.


...


As he listened to the question,
Kimmitt's eyes rolled upward and he began leaning forward into the
podium.
The podium's small black microphone struck him on the
right side of the mouth. After a few seconds leaning against the
microphone, he slumped backward but remained standing.


Senor stepped toward him and said,
“You all right?”


No, I'm not,” [Brig.
Gen. Mark] Kimmitt mumbled. Two aides approached the podium and
led him out a side door.


I take it as a very bad sign, if not an omen, when our own
Generals start collapsing, on camera, for all the world to see.


Then again, it's not nearly as bad an omen as this:


A dozen American soldiers died on
Saturday, 10 of them in action and two in accidents, bringing the
number of American soldiers killed in action in Iraq so far this
month to 98, more than died from enemy fire during the U.S.-led
invasion a year ago.


A dozen in one day. Already 98 for the month, and it's barely half
over. As Xymphora
points out, the US hasn't seen that kind of casualty rate since
October
of 1971
.


You can't sustain a volunteer army under these conditions. Enough
poor souls get their asses blown off for no good reason but to take a
town that had been taken, retaken and then lost a dozen times before,
and pretty soon you discover that all the other poor souls are
staying away from the recruiting stations in droves.


You know what I mean: we don't even have enough troops in there to
control the situation now; how the Hell can we be expected to
make any sense of this without either a) pulling out, very soon; or
b) initiating a draft, sooner than you think?


Impossible,” you
say? “
Political suicide,” you say?


Which one?


 
Another Little String To Pull At ...

While futzing around the web this weekend, I dug up a few more
possible references to “DTS Security LLC,” the mystery
company behind three of the four Italian
mercenaries
rounded up near Fallujah last week.


According to this web page, a company calling itself “DTS
Security” has
an office of a sort
in the municipality of Erith. Erith is in
Kent, just a few clicks down the River Thames from London —
which, of course, is in England. It would be interesting to find out
if the address represents a space one could actually stand up in, or
if it's just another
PO box
.


If this is the same company as the “Nevada” firm, then the case is strengthened for a
more direct connection between DTS Security and Presidium
International
, the Seychelles-based company owned by the fourth
man in the group. Presidium, too, has an office in the UK (although
in a different, more northerly, part of the island).


DTS Security's agent in Nevada, Jay Ray, has said that he
“thought” the company was based somewhere on the East
Coast of the US. His only method of communication with them is
through e-mail, however, so his opinion on the matter can't be
regarded as being terribly trustworthy. The
most recent e-mail
Mr. Ray received from the company was
apparently written by someone in Iraq.


My best current guess is that DTS Security is an offshore entity
that chose to incorporate in Nevada in order to create the illusion
of being an American company. Perhaps it looks better on the Pentagon
ledgers if a company has an American address.


This
Italian weblog
spends a considerable amount of intellectual
energy musing over the possibility that “DTS Security”
might have something to do with the gigantic (and gigantically
amoral
) US military contractor Dyncorp,
through their “Dyncorp
Technical Services
” subsidiary. Perhaps DTS Security is an
unacknowledged paramilitary arm of a much, much larger company?


I'll admit, this thought has occurred to me as well, and I'm
certainly willing to keep my mind open to the possibility. I'm
afraid, however, that there just isn't enough evidence on the
upfreeze to get me to buy into it wholesale at this point.


 
Night Of The Living Memo

Lock your doors and close your blinds, America. The memo stalks
again.


Last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed
to an astonished world
that an eight-year-old piece of
bureaucratic detritus was the fifth columnist behind our noble
G-men's failure to stop the 9/11 hijackings. This memo — a
Clinton-era document, he was careful to point out — had
so crippled his FBI that the agency was rendered completely immobile
in the face of the looming threat.


Thus could a scrap of paper kill thousands.


And it looks to be not done yet; even after so much blood, The
Memo hungers .... oh, how It hungers. As I write this, it is
preparing to turn
against
the sinister genius behind its creation:


Jamie Gorelick, a member of the
commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,
said Saturday that she received death threats this week after
a number of conservatives alleged that her former work in the Justice
Department may have contributed to failures leading to the attacks.


In the mid-1990s, Gorelick served
as deputy attorney general of the United States.


During that time, she wrote a
memorandum
establishing distinctions between intelligence that
could be used for law-enforcement purposes and intelligence that
could be used for national security purposes.


She created it! The massive intelligence failure was all her
fault! Off with her head!


But Gorelick said she planned to
continue her current duties.


This is not a basis for
resignation,” she said, noting that Ashcroft's own deputy
ratified the memorandum in August 2001.


Oh.


So Ashcroft's people approved the offending document ... you
didn't let us in on that when you brought it into the donnybrook,
Johnny Boy.


It would've been helpful, y'know; a
lot of conservatives
had to swallow
a lot
of nitroglycerin
tablets
because of that little omission of yours.


According to Joe Conason over at Salon.com,
the deputy
in question
is Larry Thompson, Ashcroft's No. 2 man at Justice at
the time. Considering how distasteful Ashcroft found the policy
outlined in the memo, he must've come down like a ton of bricks on
ol' Larry for approving it. If not at the time, then certainly after
9/11
, right?


Immediately after the Sept. 11,
2001, hijacked airline attacks, Thompson was named chairman of the
President's National Security Coordination Council
, which was
ordered to assess vulnerabilities in the country's private,
governmental and industrial sectors.


Oh.


In fact, according to a different memo(!)
dated June 20, 2001, Ashcroft had put Thompson in charge of reviewing
FBI procedures, with an eye towards a comprehensive restructuring of
the agency. The implications of the Gorelick memo on his new duties
must've occurred to Thompson when it came to his attention on
August 6
, less than two months later.


In fact, this did occur to Thompson — so much so that he
fired off a memo of his own the very same day, one which modifies
the intent
of the Gorelick memo considerably:


In this memorandum, I noted that
the Attorney General's Procedures for Contacts Between the FBI and
the Criminal Division Concerning Foreign Intelligence and Foreign
Counterintelligence Investigations required the FBI to notify the
Criminal Division when “facts or circumstances are developed”
in a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence investigation “that
reasonably indicate that a significant federal crime has been, is
being, or may be committed.”
I further instructed that the
FBI was required to notify the Criminal Division of this important
information without delay.


Well, now, that wasn't so hard, was it? Who needs the PATRIOT Act,
when all it took to knock down a section of the hated “wall”
was a bee in your bonnet and a good stenographer? Wall? What “wall?”


As for Thompson, he did leave the Justice Department eventually,
bowing
out in August of last year
to take a six-month gig at the
Brookings Institution. Thompson was spoken
highly of
at the time of his departure, so I don't think anyone
could claim that there were any bootprints visible on his ass as he
was heading out the door.


Saturday, April 17, 2004
 
Jimmy & George

I came up from the desert and here
I will die,
Tooth for tooth and an eye for an eye,
Though I
didn't want a war.


I went in for killing another
man,
Defending my holy land,
As if there's a god who would
understand ...


• Matthew Sweet, “Holy
War
” (1991)


Oh, there
is
, Matthew ... there is.


George W. Bush is a Good Christian,
because before dispatching his Legions into the Blasted Heartland of War Itself, he prayed that his God might bless and anoint his earthly endeavor:


The president described praying as
he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin
combat operations against Iraq, and the powerful role his religious
belief played throughout that time.


Going into this period, I
was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. . . . I'm surely not
going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless,
in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as
possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for
forgiveness.”


Yes. Yes ... forgiveness, of course.
But mostly it's about the messianic, “messenger of God,”
personal strength stuff, isn't it, George? I'm sure a guy with your connections made sure to get all
that “forgiveness” stuff bought and paid for ahead of time.


Don't worry, you're a Good Christian, Mr. Bush. Everybody says it, so it must be true.


... Jimmy Carter is a Better Christian, though, because he at
least tries to reconcile
the realities of the world we live in
with the teachings of that
2,000-year-old carpenter you profess to love so much:


... what do Christians stand
for, based exclusively on the words and actions of Jesus Christ? We
worship him as a prince of peace. And I think almost all Christians
would conclude that whenever there is an inevitable altercation —
say, between a husband and a wife, or a father and a child, or within
a given community, or between two nations (including our own) —
we should make every effort to resolve those differences which
arise in life through peaceful means.
Therein, we should not
resort to war as a way to exalt the president as the commander in
chief. A commitment to peace is certainly a Christian principle
that even ultraconservatives would endorse, at least by worshiping
the prince of peace.


The above quote is from a recent American
Prospect
online interview with Mr. Carter on religion. It is
definitely worth reading — Jimmy was evangelical way before all
the cool kids got into it, and it's important for us to realize that
not all evangelicals are cut from the same Manichaean
cloth that our President and his ilk are.


Oh, I get it: Jimmy Carter may be an
evangelical, but George W. Bush is a fundamentalist. From what
I take of the above two quotes, then, I would guess that being an
evangelical means being of service to God, while being a
fundamentalist means making God be of service to you.


Thank you, Jimmy and George, for
clearing that up for me.


Friday, April 16, 2004
 
Free Beer And Three-Dollar Women

Yesterday the Wonkette initially reported that John Kerrey was listed as a member of the
Yale College Republicans in his Senior yearbook, then discovered that
it was in all probability a college prank.











Meet JFK, version 2.0


Yeesh. Couldn't someone have warned us that the guy was a
mouth-breather before we went and nominated him?


If that's the kind of thing that passes for collegiate hijinks at
Yale, then no wonder they need all those secret societies to keep
themselves entertained.


But there is a shocking side to this story yet. While sourcing the
Boston Globe's exposé on the issue, Wonkette completely misses
the Globe's most revealing
paragraph
in the entire article!


... It [Yale] was an overwhelmingly
Democratic campus in the 1960s, and the Republican club was all but
defunct — until it signed up nearly half of the freshman
class in 1965 with an offer to hear speakers, drink free beer and
meet girls brought to the all-male campus as part of a $3 membership
.


Free booze? Old-Boy networking? Cheap women? Great Nixon's Ghost!
It's an embryonic “Southern
Strategy!


It also goes without saying that convincing
someone
to pony
up $3 for free beer
is another vintage example of Republican
Party strategic thinking.


Unless, of course, the beer really was free ... but then
what does that say about the girls?


 
Not So Good

... not so bad, either; but not so good.


The new motherboard doesn't seem to want to work, for some reason. It wouldn't even boot. Plop the “old” motherboard back in, though, and everything's as back to normal as it has been for the past few weeks.


It must be an incompatibility issue of some sort, although for the life of me I couldn't tell you what. I mean, to all intents and purposes, they're identical motherboards. One is just a slightly newer model, is all.


I suppose the wisest thing would be to wait until my father the Old School Übergeek blows into town again, but I don't know if I can hold out that long. The temptation to try again may be too great.


 
Work, Work, Work ...

Ever since my computer meltdown of a couple of weeks ago, my
system has been operating with a serviceable – but slightly
crippled – “older” motherboard of mine. While it's
been holding up fairly admirably, the time has come to swap it
out for the brand-new one.


I actually got it a week or so ago; it's just been sitting in the
box until I figured the time was right to dare the swap.
Specifically, I wanted to get all that extensively rabid 9/11
frothing out of my system before risking any extensive downtime.


See you soon, I hope. It shouldn't take any more than an hour to
get it done.


If you don't hear from me for a couple of days, you'll know what
happened. Just in case it does, I'm linking to a couple of older 9/11
postings worth rehashing ... just to keep what seems to have become
the theme of the week alive:



Like I said, I should be back up in an hour; but with this wacky,
Rube Goldbergian machine of mine, you never can tell ...


By the way, in case any of you are wondering what happened to the
Google Ads that used to be on the top of the site: I pulled
them myself.


I don't object to having Google's ads on my site; I do
object to the consistently bizarre and contradictory advertisements
Google keeps deciding to issue to my site. After over six
months worth of putting up with nothing but pro-RNC ads, reactionary
bible-thumping pronouncements, and warnings of “End Times
Prophecy” coming true, I decided that I'd had enough.


I re-read my EULA for this website, and I couldn't find anything
in it about requiring me to put up with these ads if I don't want to.
So I yanked 'em.


If Google's paying enough attention to me to notice this,
I'd like to point out that I'd gladly pay for the privilege of an
ad-free weblog, but you won't let me. You axed that option
when you bought out Blogger last fall, and although you
promised to return it “soon,” you show no signs of doing
so at any time in the near future.


In short: if you don't like it – bill me.


Thursday, April 15, 2004
 
Being An Elite Means Never Having To Admit You Fucked Up

In everything I had read about the Zacharias Moussaoui case,
nothing in it would have pointed me in the direction of this
jaw-dropping
revelation
:


C.I.A. officials have been
unwilling to say what, if anything, the agency had known about Mr.
Moussaoui before Sept. 11. But the commission disclosed this week
that information about his arrest on Aug. 17 had been relayed
within days to the highest levels of the C.I.A., including to Mr.
Tenet
, and the commission's report on Wednesday revealed the
headline of the briefing, which was part of a larger report about
intelligence developments that summer.


In late August, the
Moussaoui arrest was briefed to the D.C.I. and other top C.I.A.
officials under the heading 'Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly,'”
the staff report said, offering no other detail on what the document
contained. “The news had no evident effect on warning.”


Let me get this straight: the chief reason the head honchos at the
CIA and FBI have been giving for all the nauseatingly repetitive “intelligence
failures
” of 2001 (including the Moussaoui
case) is that there was just too much friction at the interagency
levels for the vital information to move freely.


... or for it to move
at all
, as one certain calico-fearing,
Clinton-obsessed, oil anointing weirdo
recently claimed.


... or that
it was trying to move
, but got stalled out by careerist
hacks
at FBI Headquarters, to hear the Minneapolis
Field Agents
tell it.


But isn't the fact that George Tenet received a prompt briefing
about the arrest of Zacharias Moussaoui pretty much a de facto
admission that both of these hypotheses no longer hold water?


If Tenet got the memo, then somebody at FBIHQ had to have had a
hand in composing it — meaning somebody up there must
have had more concerns about Moussaoui than they were letting on to the hoi polloi in
Minneapolis.


Not to mention the fact that if he got the memo, then this is
evidence that the interagency gears weren't completely fouled into
immobility, as the folks in in the intelligence/law enforcement
community clearly want us to believe.


Dammit, the Moussaoui case was being discussed at all levels, and
in both agencies to boot!


Was 2001 not the Red,
Blinking Light Summer
of Perpetual,
Clandestine Hijacking Warnings
? Were our
elites
not supposedly spending the entire first half of 2001
fretting over the Looming
Islamic Threat
?


Did not Attorney General John “Let
the Eagle Soar
” Ashcroft get a CIA warning in
early July
of that year about an imminent al Qaeda attack of
spectacular scale, and then abruptly stop
flying commercial airlines
by late July?


Did not George Tenet get a briefing plopped on his desk in the
middle of August with the title “Islamic Extremist Learns To
Fly”
splayed ominously across its front?


Did he think it was a children's book or something?


How silver does this magic bullet they're looking for have to be?
Are our intelligence and law enforcement agencies so full of dimwits
that they expect their opponents to issue lengthy dénouements
before attacking, like some third-rate
James Bond villain
?


Word to the wise, guys: the one lesson an arch-villain can learn
from a James Bond movie is that announcing
your plan to your opponent ahead of time
always ... always
... leads to failure of the plan.


They already know it. Please don't spend the next
five years
trying to figure that out for yourselves.



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