Monthly Archives: May 2006

Doom Meets Jesus

I thought social conservatives were against violence in video games.  Guess not. 

Welcome to the video game version of the famous Left Behind series, where young rapture wannabes get to convert or kill heathens from the computer desk.  This is a direct bllurb from the game’s website:

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission – both a religious mission and a military mission — to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state – especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

***

This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.

Not all Christian conservatives are climbing aboard the Left Behind bandwagon/bloodfest:

Not surprisingly, Left Behind Games’ attempt to make Christianity accessible to youngsters through the use of lethal firepower has its critics. Thompson, for instance, said he severed ties with Tyndale House in a dispute over "Eternal Forces."

"It’s absurd," the video game critic said. "You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn’t hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away all the Christians."

But for those who think Christianity is all about killing people, this is the game for you.  My favorite part?  The subtle fear-mongering homage to September 11:

All of the ambulances have 911 painted on their roofs. In the reality-based world, most ambulances have a red cross on top. Yet the game designers make prominent use of these 911 ambulances to evoke the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The historical context of 911 is invoked as if to say, We are living in the End Times, and Muslims are among the kinds of infidels whom you should fear, whom you should be prepared to kill for your cause.

Happy gaming!

"Though we walk in flesh, we do not make war in accordance with the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4a).

UPDATE:  Andrew Sullivan reports that the nemesis in the Left Behind game is an Anti-Christ figure named Nicole Carpethia, a Romanian who, after the Rapture, becomes head of the United Nations.  (No, I’m not making this up).  He is conceived through the genetic material of one women and two gay men.  So Satan literally is the spawn of gay people.

These people are simply evil haters, pure and simple.

The Religious Right And The Environment

Where does the religious right stand on environmental issues?  The answer may surprise you.

Rick Cizik is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian church.  More importantly, he’s the vice-president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organizations for all the smaller evangelical organizations trying to do away with stem cell research, abortions, etc.  Cizik is just about as "right" as they come on those issues.

But Cizik is concerned about the environment.  His concerns stem from a spiritual belief that God entrusted man to be stewards of this planet, and we’re failing miserably at the task.

But the religious right is giving him hell for it:

The movement’s political leadership, however, sees the [environment] issue as a distraction from its main tactical priorities: getting more conservatives on the supreme court, banning gay marriages and overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 abortion ruling.

"It is supposed to be counterproductive even to consider this. I guess they do not want to part company with the president. This is nothing more than political assassination. I may lose my job. Twenty-five church leaders asked me not to take a political position on this issue but I am a fighter," he said.

No doubt Jerry "global warming is a myth" Falwell has weighed in on this, too.   Wanker.

So where does the religious right stand on the environment?  Well, subject to exceptions like Cizik, they care about the unborn and not-yet-living.  As to the planet that the living live on, they couldn’t give a damn.

Gay Bashers Going Off The Deep End

His Unholy Shrillness, James Dobson:

Cos as you all very well know marriage is under vicious attack, now I think from the forces of hell itself. Now it’s either going to continue to decline, and as I told you in my office a few minutes ago, I believe with that destruction of marriage will come the decline of western civilization itself.

***

We’re really in a crisis point, right now, right now… Where the family is either going to survive or it’s going to fall apart and it will happen in the next few years.

Speaking of shrill gay-bashers, our local Congressman Vernon Robinson is in an election against Democrat Brad Miller.  Vernon, for those who don’t know, has a history of insuating that his political opponents are gay.  He’s run an infamous ad on the radio that said “If Miller had his way…America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals.”  Now he’s making gay insinuations about Miller:

…Soon after winning the GOP primary in the 13th District in May, Robinson mailed literature to more than 400,000 households portraying Miller’s voting record and personal life as being out of the mainstream.

Among many other things, the literature calls Miller a “childless, middle-aged personal injury lawyer.”

There’s a reason why Miller is "childless":

“I think that should not be part of what you agree to take on if you want to be involved in politics — that kind of personal attack without any basis,” Miller said.

Miller said his wife of nearly 25 years, Esther Hall, could not bear children because she had endometriosis and then a hysterectomy at age 27 before the couple were married.

What WMD Would Jesus Use?

Apparently, some sort of biochemical weapon.

It looks like some Christian fundamentalists are using homemade weapons of mass destruction to terrorize porn stores.  But don’t take my word for it:

WALDO, FL — Evidence teams plan to put on protective gear and seal the room as they search for any clues left behind on a contraption that investigators are calling a "weapon of mass destruction."

Technicians will be looking for fingerprints and any other evidence that may have been left on the device, which was pumping a mix of water and a caustic chemical into a sex shop when neighbors found it Sunday morning, detectives said.

The evidence crew will be breathing the air inside the room, but won’t have any unprotected contact with the plastic jugs, duct tape, and hoses that make up the device.

In Waldo, people have held prayer vigils and protests aimed at an adult bookstore along US 301, trying to keep the "Cafe Risque" from opening its doors on time.

Those efforts have all failed, so investigators say it looks like someone has turned to what they’re calling a clear act of terrorism to keep the store’s owner from opening up shop.

The device, discovered Sunday morning, was made of two gallon-size sports drink jugs connected by hoses. Someone set it on top of the store’s window air conditioning unit.

Detectives say that person then strung one hose from a water spigot on the outside of the building, and pushed another hose into the building through a gap above the air conditioner.

Question: What’s the difference between a radical Christian fundamentalist and a radical Islamic fundamentalist?

Answer:  Nothing.  Nothing at all.

Last Throes = One Year (At Least)

Dick Cheney:

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time. But I think the level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint, I think will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." — Dick Cheney, May 30, 2005

Conservative Songs, Part II

The same idiot who came up with the list of the 50 best conservative songs . . . has come up with 50 more best conservative songs.  This list is even stupider than the first.  It contains (a) songs that nobody heard of; (b) songs that clearly have no political content in it whatsover (e.g., "Yackety Yak"), and (c) songs that are clearly liberal.

I mean, come on.  The Byrd’s "Turn, Turn, Turn" — written by Pete Seeger — is a conservative song?  Well, to John Miller it is.  And why?  Because its lyrics "are taken from Ecclesiastes".  See if you can figure that one out.  As if biblical and liberal can’t possibly occupy the same space?  What a doofus.

Corrupt Democrats

Ever since the Abramoff scandal rained crap on many GOPers, the Republican establishment and their colleagues in the press have been looking for the equivalent level of corruption in Democrats.  They think they’ve found it.

The headline reads "Reid Accepted Free Boxing Tickets While a Related Bill Was Pending":

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada’s agency feared might usurp its authority.

Except it’s not that bad.  TPM Muckraker explains that "there is an exception for gifts from governmental agencies (like the Nevada Athletic Commission) in the Senate ethics rules. So there is nothing untoward about Reid having accepted the free tickets."

Moreover, Reid voted against the legislation for which the Commission was seeking his support.

Now, to be sure, this has the appearance of impropriety, and perhaps Reid should have been smarter.  (There’s no doubt he would not do this in a post-Abramoff world).  But it’s hardly comparable.

Impatient Americans

If you’re like me, you might read this article and think "Yeah?  So?".  It’s absolutely true:

An Associated Press poll has found an impatient nation. It’s a nation that gets antsy after five minutes on hold on the phone and 15 minutes max in a line. So say people in the survey.

The Department of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. version of the old Soviet bread line, is among the top spots where Americans hate to wait. But grocery stores are the worst.

Almost one in four in the AP-Ipsos poll picked the grocery checkout as the line where their patience is most likely to melt like the ice cream turning to goo in their cart.

And it seems people don’t mellow with age. The survey found older people to be more impatient than younger people.

Nor does getting away from the urban pressure cooker make much difference. People in the country and the suburbs can bear a few more minutes in a line before losing it than city inhabitants can, but that’s it.

In short, Americans want it all NOW. Or awfully close to now.

Fake News

It’s a sad commentary on the state of the media when they broadcast news segments produced by the government and major companies:

Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

"We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group’s researchers. "I would say it’s pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

***

The range of VNR is wide. Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA" in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day (yesterday we observed it).  It’s the time to remember fallen heroes who, as is so often said, protect our freedoms.

Ironically, a fallen soldier by the name of Patrick Stewart is being denied his freedom of religion:

Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart’s widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family’s religion — and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward — is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart’s plaque is installed.

"It’s completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband’s place on the memorial.

She said she had no idea the pentacle could not be used on her husband’s memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her husband.

"It’s discrimination," she said. "They are discriminating against our religion.

The Veterans Administration has never authorized the use of Wicca’s pentacle on grave markers, even though it allows the use of symbols from 38 other beliefs including obscure or possibly fictional religions such as Ixumo Taishakyo, Soks Gakkai, Aaronic Order, Seicho-no-ie and Presbyterians.  Not to mention atheism.

Bush Admits Mistake And STILL Gets It Wrong

In the week leading up to Memorial Day, the president acknowledged that some of his childish taunts hadn’t been in America’s best interests.

… (S)aying "bring it on," kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner — you know, "wanted dead or alive," that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that.

Sadly, Bush wasn’t misinterpreted in "certain parts of the world."  They knew exactly what he meant.  And the death toll for Americn soldiers approaches 2,500.

Hope You’re Enjoying Your Last Few Hours Alive

As I reported last month, May 25th (that’s today) is the day the world is supposed to end, thanks to Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann coming down on our heads.

I’m glad to see that you all are behaving yourselves, and not engaging in rioting and looting and sex orgies and such.

Or if you are, you haven’t invited me, which is frankly quite rude and I’m glad you’re all going to die.

I wanted to drop in on the website of the "scientist" predicting the end of days.  His new website is called www.savelivesinmay.com.  Sadly, that particular website is down, so maybe an asteroid fell on his server.  I did however find some Internet postings from the doomsday soothsayer, which I reprint below the fold…

UPDATE:  Apparently, the prediction was taken seriously in some corners of the world — particularly those who witnessed the awful Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

Geek Humor

Dear Tech Support:

        Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed that  the new program began making unexpected changes to the accounting modules, limiting access to flower and jewelry applications that had operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

        In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.9.  It also installed undesirable programs such as NFL 5.0 and NBA 3.0. Conversation 8.0 no longer runs and House Cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.  I’ve tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

        Desperate


Dear Desperate:

        Keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an entertainment package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.  Try to enter the command: C:\>I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME and install Tears 6.2.  Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications: Guilty 3.0 and Flowers 7.0.  But remember, overuse can cause Husband 1.0 to default to GrumpySilence 2.5, Happyhour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will create "snoring loudly" wave files.

        DO NOT install MotherInLaw 1.0 or reinstall another Boyfriend program. These are not supported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

        In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly.  Consider buying additional software to improve performance.  I personally recommend HotFood 3.0 and Lingerie 5.3.

[Source]

To read about the technical issues that occur when you upgrade from Girlfriend 6.0 to Wife 1.0, read here.

Plamegate In The News In A Big Way

Murray Waas, who has an excellent track record for these things, reports that Novak’s source regarding Valerie Plame was Karl Rove.  Moreover, he reports that three days after the announcement of a federal investigation into the leak, Rove and Novak spoke by phone and — some investigators believe — concocted a cover story.  (What this means in legal terms?  The two engaged in a felony known as "obstruction of justice", among other things:

On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men. . . .

Rove and Novak, investigators suspect, might have devised a cover story to protect Rove because the grand jury testimony of both men appears to support Rove’s contentions about how he learned about Plame.

Below is a picture of the two together.  Rove’s pin says, "I’m a source not a target" (looks like he’s both):

Rovenovakpals3_2

Your Phone Isn’t A Luxury

Back in 1898, the federal government imposed a 3% excise tax on all long-distance phone calls.  It was called a "luxury tax", because back then, only the wealthiest Americans could make long-distance phone calls.  In fact, most Americans didn’t have a phone.

Oddly enough, that "luxury tax" has been with us for 108 years, even though phones and long-distance calls are commonplace.   And throught our whole lives, we’ve been paying that extra 3%.

Until today.

After losing in a series of court challenges, the IRS is giving up trying to keep the long distance "luxury tax" alive.  In fact, since the lawsuits were brought three years ago, the IRS has to give you a refund for the luxury taxes you’ve been paying, with interest.  Here’s the IRS announcement.

Don’t worry — you don’t have to do anything now.  You’ll get to claim your refund on next year’s tax return.  You won’t need to rifle through old telephone bills either (you did keep them, didn’t you?) — the IRS assures us that they will employ a "straightforward system" that is "simple and fair".  (And if you believe that….)

Though They May Have Won All The Battles, We Had All The Good Songs….

Speaking of political songs (as I did last night), the conservative National Review has posted what it touts as the "top 50 conservative rock songs".  I’ve put the whole list, along with National Review’s reasoning, below the fold.

What’s clear is that in order to compile this list, the editors of NR often had to ignore the politics of the songs’ authors and engaged in tortured interpretation of lyrics.  But Rude Pundit explains it better:

The entire list – fuck, the entire effort – is sad and embarassing, like watching Grandpa do the Macarena now, thinking that he’s still hip, that he’s been hip for the last 30 years. Because to come up with fifty songs, the readers and editors of the National Review had to neglect, almost entirely, the politics and lifestyles of nearly every single one of the music acts on the list, like, say U2, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols, just for kicks, or noted cross-dressing androgyne David Bowie. They had to twist the meaning of lyrics so that vague references to "freedom" all of a sudden became calls to a modified libertarianism (you know, no taxes, but also no fucking). And, of course, the mention of every fucking song they could find that seems to oppose abortion or alludes to the fall of Communism or doesn’t like taxes. This leads them to have to include the Scorpions, Kid Rock, Rush, Creed, After the Fire, Sammy Hagar, and Jesus Jones in a great huge pile of suck.

For, truly, what madness does it take for a magazine that not only supported the Vietnam War, but viciously attacked the anti-war movement, to include Creedence Clearwater Revival’s "Who’ll Stop the Rain?" as the 35th best conservative rock song? And then justify it by saying that it "takes a dim view of Communism and liberalism" in the line, "Five Year Plans and New Deals, wrapped in golden chains." Does it even matter to say that the point of the song is, would somebody, fucking anyone, make the insanity of the war end?

Of course not. It’s best just to point and laugh at how simple-minded and, yes, again, pathetic the whole effort is, like when Ronald Reagan played Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the USA" on campaign stops (hell, at least the National Review didn’t include that). And enjoy the mad manipulations: The Pretenders’ "My City Was Gone" (#13) is really about "a conservative’s dissatisfaction with rapid change." The Georgia Satellites’ "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" (#32), which seems to the Rude Pundit to be about the deep desire to fuck a girl, actually seeks to "affirm old-time sexual mores." The Crickets’ "I Fought the Law" (#15) ain’t about rebellion against authority, oh, no – it’s a "law and order classic." And let’s not even get into the myriad sins, misinterpretations, and outright delusions in putting the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" as the #1 conservative rock song.

He’s right (and rude).  To add another example, I notice that #7 on their list is The Beatles’ Revolution.  This was how the Editors explain that song as a "conservative song":

"You say you want a revolution / Well you know / We all want to change the world . . . Don’t you know you can count me out?"

Nice ellipses, boys.  Of course, everyone knows that The Beatles wanted to be "counted out" of "destruction", not revolution, as in:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

So the Beatles were pro-revolution — as long as it was non-violent revolution.  That’s Gandhi hippie stuff.  NOT revolution at gunpoint, which is what we are seeing in Iraq.  Hardly a conservative sentiment.

GOP Crook To Teach “Nuts And Bolts” Campaign

Charles McGee, former Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, is sending out invitations for a “GOP Campaign School”, where attendees can learn the "nuts and bolts" about running GOP political campaigns.

From the indictment, here’s what McGee did as Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee:

In or about October 2002, Charles McGee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, informed the defendant, James Tobin, then the New England Regional Director of the Republican National Committee, that McGee wanted to hire a telephone services vendor to annoy and harass Democratic telephone volunteers in order to disrupt their attempts to communicate with qualified voters on Election Day.

***

On or about November 4, 2002, McGee sent a check for $15,600 drawn on the account of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee to GOP Marketplace as payment for placing hang-up calls repeatedly throughout Election Day to five Democratic phone numbers and the Manchester Firefighters’ phone number dedicated to assisting qualified voters in exercising their rights to vote by providing qualified voters with information regarding their polling precincts and by providing qualified voters with transportation to their polling precincts on Election Day…

McGee, who pled guilty and served seven months in prison, is qualified to operate a "campaign school" about as much as Charles Manson is to operate a seminar on conflict resolution.

Does The Praying Make My Ass Look Fat?

How many times has this happened to you?

You’re taking your daily bow to Mecca, but as you lean over to place your forehead on the prayer rug thingee, your jeans ride low, exposing your "plumber’s crack".

How embarassing.  You can’t show your face in that mosque again, right?

Wrong.  Now you can worship Allah without all the fuss and muss, thanks to Al Quds jeans — jeans with that extra room and padding, specially "designed with the idea of prayer in mind".

Nothing says "death to the infidels" like Al Quds jeans – for today’s Muslims.  Get yours today!

American Idol: Last Show

Hicksmcphee

I gotta admit, that was one fun final show to watch.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the show for a couple of seasons, but I don’t recall it being that star-packed and full of music.  I seem to remember a lot of wasted time-filler and remotes from "back home", and that’s about it.

But if they keep doing it like this, the American Idol finale is destined to be one of those annual must-see events, like the Oscars or Miss America (back in the day).  I thought the Puck & Pickler bits were cute, and most of the music was pretty good.

I know some are going to say it’s a little mean-spirited to poke fun at the terrible contestents who tried out, but I disagree.  They knew the score when they signed the paper, and they all signed the paper.

But MAN, they really worked those ten finalists tonight.  I’ll bet they’re glad that’s over and they can start the tour.  I’m particularly glad that Paris, Mandisa, and Lisa got their share of the spotlight.  I think any of those three could have been in Katharine’s spot tonight.  Eliott won me over again, too — I rode that guy hard at the beginning.

Nice to see Clay Aiken’s new hip look . . . if you think Simon LeBon cicra 1990 is hip!

Anyway, glad to see Taylor won.  Wish I could say the same for the Sox.

Birds Do It

Not only did I not know there were such things as gay storks, but I also didn’t know this:

Four gay storks have proved they are as capable of raising a family as their heterosexual counterparts.

Staff at the zoo in Overloon, near Eindhoven, were unsure if the gay and lesbian storks would still have the same natural urge to raise offspring.

But after giving one egg to a pair of gay males to sit on, and another two eggs to a pair of lesbian storks, they say the gay storks took to parenthood straight away.

Zoo spokeswoman Esther Jansen said all three chicks had hatched successfully: "The gay storks look after the eggs and the chicks just as well as our heterosexual birds."

James Dobson is probably going to condemn the storks for their destructive lifestyle, and propose a federal amendment to the Constitution decreeing that all bird marriages must be between a male of the species and a female of the species.

Tomorrow Is Towel Day

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

What THHG says about towels:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Are We Safe?

Apparently not.

(1)  Natural disaster drill canceled because of red-tape confusion:

A mock evacuation that was supposed to be part of a two-day statewide hurricane preparedness drill was canceled after a misunderstanding about who had jurisdiction over a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park.

Imagine what would have happened if it was not a drill.

(2)  New Jersey toxic chemical plants are vulnerable:

Millions of residents of the central U.S. East Coast are at risk of death or injury from release of toxic chemicals because of lax security at chemical plants in New Jersey, a study released on Tuesday said.

New Jersey has 110 plants that could release life-threatening chemicals into the environment in "worst-case scenarios" developed by chemical manufacturers, such as accidents or terrorist attacks, said the study by the New Jersey Work Environment Council, an alliance of labor, community and environmental organizations.

The study cites six facilities where a major chemical release could kill or injure as many as 1 million people, and another 15 facilities that could each affect 100,000 people.

That must make you feel all warm and fuzzy, huh?  But you have to love this graf:

Elvin Montero, a spokesman for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, which represents chemical manufacturers, said the study itself undermined security by releasing information about the locations and activities of chemical manufacturers that has not been widely available since the attacks of Sept. 11.

Interesting theory.  That’s kind of like saying you don’t need to lock your car doors when you go to the mall, so long as you don’t tell people that you’ve left your car doors unlocked.

Shorter Townhall

Shorter Mary Katherine Ham: "Moral clarity", by definition, means that we presume that the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty, and accused Muslim terrorists are just plain guilty.

Shorter Jeff Emanuel: A judge did something I didn’t like; therefore, he is a judicial activist.

Shorter Walter E. Williams:  Enforcement of seatbelt laws is socialism.  Yeah, you heard me.  Socialism!

Shorter Chuck Colson: So it turns out that Terri Schiavo was brain-dead after all, which means Michael Schiavo was right.  But that doesn’t mean people who said she was still functional were wrong to send him death threats.

Shorter Michelle Malkin:  Let me debunk a "cause celebre" that nobody ever heard of.

Shorter John Stossel: A good samaritan who tried to provide needed supplies to Katrina victims reminds me a lot of big oil companies.  They’re good guys, and I’m not just saying that because I went to a huge oil lobbyist party last night.

Shorter Brent Bozell:  The Dixie Chicks are only pretending to hate George Bush, because they know it will get them on the cover of Time.

Shorter Terence Jeffrey:  It’s not racist to pass an amendment demanding English as the official language.  After all, Martin Luther King spoke English, right?  Right?!?

Shorter Tony Blankley:  I got nothing of substance to say about Mexican President Vincente Fox’s trade mission to Utah, but if I make popular culture references — like "iPod" and "American Idol" — you might actually read this.

Shorter Linda Chavez: The whole point of graduation ceremonies is to pay tribute to guest speakers like John McCain, and not the graduating students.

Shorter Jonah Goldberg:  How can people blame George Bush for the poor federal response to Katrina?  He wasn’t even there, for crying out loud!

Shorter Ben Shapiro:  Recent polls uniformly agree that Americans prefer Democrats over Republicans.  Which is undoubtedly true.  And that’s why most Americans will vote Republican.

Shorter Maggie Gallagher:  The only way for states to pass amendments banning gay marriage is for the federal goverment to shove it down their throats, as any conservative will tell you.

A Depressing Link

Actual suicide notes, such as:

I could wish that I had, for my goodby kiss, a .38 police special with which I have made some good scores — not records but at least made my mark. Instead, I have this black bitch — bitch, if the word is not familiar to you — but at least an honest one who will mean what she says.

The neighbors may think it’s a motor backfire ,but to me she will whisper — "Rest – Sleep."

Albert

P.S. I think there is enough insurance to see Valerie through school, but if there isn’t — I am sure you would out of the insurance payments, at least —

I hope further and I don’t insist that you have the ordinary decency — decency that is — to do so — Will you see Valerie through college — she is the only one about whom I am concerned as this .38 whispers in my ear.

ALSO NOT FUNNY RELATED STORY:  A blogger writes about getting shot at while at his computer….

American Idol Update: The Last Round

I hate they’re pushing this as some huge match-up.  It doesn’t matter who wins — they’re both going to get a big contract.  Anyway….

First Round:  I liked the song ("Black House and Cherry Tree") the first time Katherine did it.  She did it well again.  But Taylor laid it out and bested her by far with "Livin For the City".  This is shaping out to be like I expected.

Second Round:  I thought Katherine sang "Over The Rainbow" better last(?) week.  She pushed it this time, but it was still rather moving.  Taylor wasn’t as good this round with "Levon" (one of my favorite songs) as he was the first round, but I tstill hought he outsung Katherine.  Barely.

Third Round:  Good lord, Katherine butchered that song.  That’s her first single?  Ugh.  First of all, it was way too low for her. Second of all, she was pitchy.  Taylor was far better (a little sharp at times), but he delivered like he always does.

If it is based on tonight, Taylor wins.  If it is based on the entire series, Taylor wins.

Or, he should win.  I suspect that 80-90% of AI5 voters already knew who they would be voting for, and I suspect that this show didn’t change any minds.  Of course, there may be many first-time voters tonight, so it’s anybody’s guess.

P.S.:  Nice to see some of the old faces….

Pat Robertson Is Superman

Interesting.  Over at the website for the Christian Broadcasting Network, you can find this health advice infomercial from Pat Robertson:

Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds! How does he do it?

Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman?

One of Pat’s secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients.

Discover what kinds of natural ingredients make up Pat’s protein shake by registering for your FREE booklet today!

Pretty amazing — a 76 year old man leg pressing one ton.  One TON!

It’s especially amazing when you consider that the collegiate world record for the leg press is 1,335 pounds.  That was set by Dan Kendra of Florida State University, who had to use a specially modified leg press machine, since the normal ones don’t go that high.  And even then, the capillaries in Kendra’s eyes burst when he set the record.

But not Pat’s.  Pat beat him, by a full 665 pounds.

Or — could it be — that Pat is bearing false witness?   Naaaaaaah…..

Bob Harris snarks:

I’d really, really like to see Pat Robertson strapped to a table somewhere, with 2000 pounds being slowly lowered down on top of him. This would be Pat’s big chance to show us just how fantastic his drink-powered leg-presses really are.

I’d really like this chance to see I was wrong for doubting him. In fact, I would like to see this on Pay-Per-View.

Then we could all see just what an honest man Pat Robertson really is.

“You Are No Jack Kennedy”

Historyphoto

The debate:

Quayle: …I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.

Judy Woodruff: Senator Bentsen.
Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy. (Prolonged boos and applause) What has to be done in a situation like that is to call in the –
Woodruff: Please, please, once again you are only taking time away from your own candidate.
Quayle: That was really uncalled for, Senator. (Shouts and applause)

Bentsen: You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator – and I’m one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken.

RIP, Lloyd.

Pat Boone/Dixie Chicks Smackdown

Pat Boone is calling out the Dixie Chicks:

Music legend Pat Boone is ripping into the Dixie Chicks for withdrawing their apology for a previous attack on President Bush.

Music legend?  Name one Pat Boone song that doesn’t suck.

"I have four daughters, and I taught them to respect their elders, even if they weren’t president of the United States," Boone told Fox News host Neil Cavuto today.

Tomorrow’s headline: Pat Boone urges everyone under the age of 49 to respect bin Laden.

"I think it’s outrageous for any of these performers to be bashing our president the way they are."

You have a better way to bash him?  Please share.

"If I were the president of Iran, if I were Osama bin Laden or any of the terrorist organizers and I could have my wish list totally," Boone said, "I couldn’t ask for anything better than for America’s entertainers to bash their president, denigrate him, make him seem like an idiot and a self-serving fool, and then have the media go along with it and promote it like crazy and try to undermine the whole war effort."

Apparently, our entire war efforts hinges on what entertainers say or do, in Pat’s world.

He continued, "We are at war, and you don’t tell even a quarterback in a football game that he’s nuts and you don’t respect him."

Pat, if the quarterback keeps on throwing the ball into the opposing team’s hands, you not only criticize him, but you yank him.  Bad analogy.

Ethics In Oregon

Yesterday, the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature adopted a recommendation that people who hold public office in Oregon should not work while intoxicated.

Good idea.  Bold move.

Duh.

The Death Of The Broadway Musical?

The New York Times takes a look at the Tony Award nominations and wonders allowed if the Broadway musical is on its last legs:

True, bulletins on the musical’s failing health have been posted with weary regularity since at least the 1960’s. But in the Broadway season that just ended officially, this once lively art seemed finally to have crossed the border that divides flesh from ectoplasm.

Part of the problem is that most "new" musicals on Broadway aren’t new at all — they’re pre-branded.  Forgetting revivals (like "The Pajama Game"), most "new" musicals are based on a book or movie ("The Color Purple", "The Wedding Singer", "Tarzan", "The Producers", "Hairspray"), or contain music which has already been written, i.e., "Hot Feet" (Earth, Wind and Fire), "Jersey Boys" (The Four Seasons), "Lennon" (John Lennon) and "Ring Of Fire" (Johnny Cash).

So what remains?  Shows like "The Drowsy Chaperone" which are bland (according to the reviewer) despite racking up Tony nominations in the double digits.

Food for thought.  I blame Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Room 641A

A whistleblower talks to Wired about the secret room at AT&T where call data is forward to the NSA.

Meanwhile, Seymour Hersh has a pretty sensible guess as to how the whole NSA wiretapping thing works:

The N.S.A. also programmed computers to map the connections between telephone numbers in the United States and suspect numbers abroad, sometimes focussing on a geographic area, rather than on a specific person — for example, a region of Pakistan. Such calls often triggered a process, known as “chaining,” in which subsequent calls to and from the American number were monitored and linked.

The way it worked, one high-level Bush Administration intelligence official told me, was for the agency “to take the first number out to two, three, or more levels of separation, and see if one of them comes back” — if, say, someone down the chain was also calling the original, suspect number. As the chain grew longer, more and more Americans inevitably were drawn in.

….The point, obviously, was to identify terrorists. “After you hit something, you have to figure out what to do with it,” the Administration intelligence official told me. The next step, theoretically, could have been to get a suspect’s name and go to the FISA court for a warrant to listen in….Instead, the N.S.A. began, in some cases, to eavesdrop on callers (often using computers to listen for key words) or to investigate them using traditional police methods. A government consultant told me that tens of thousands of Americans had had their calls monitored in one way or the other.

Kaye Grogan On The English Language

Kaye Grogan’s latest editorial on America’s "official" language is a hoot.  Because Kaye struggles so much with English, it is ripe for parody.

But Sadly, No beat me to it:

Speak English . . . or else!

Kaye Grogan
May 20, 2006

Okay it’s official — I hope! It has taken 200 plus years for English to become America’s official language. Maybe we missed something here. Did another boat come in behind the Mayflower with people speaking in unknown tongues?

Say, wasn’t America "discovered" by a Spanish-speaker long before the pilgrims came over?

If the current language dispute wasn’t so serious, it would be right up there with "Comedy Central" for being funny. Wow! . . .out of 300 million people in the United States of America — there are around 215 million who speak English. Well, shut your mouth!

But I’m talkin’ ’bout Shaft!

Since when does a nation who taught their children to speak English fluently need to verify and have a vote in the Senate to make the language official? Only in America! . . .can these bizarre things keep happening.

If English is the official language of the United States, then someone really ought to warn Kaye. I’m worried that people will think she’s some kind of commie subversive if they hear her speaking in Groganese.

According to some of the suggestions being proposed by our illustrious government — all illegal immigrants if they want to become legal citizens they are going to have to learn English, and forget about singing the National Anthem in Spanish. In other words, learn English or else! . . .or else what? I guess everyone not learning to speak English in a certain length of time will be sent to the back of the class. Then what? Heaven knows — deportation is out of the question!

No kidding. Otherwise, Kaye would be deported back to Groganstan.

We have 100 United States Senators speaking English as they are passing laws (mostly bad laws) in America, while supposedly representing Americans. And yet it’s racist to expect English to be the national language? For heaven’s sake! . . . what’s next? On second thought — forget I asked!

I was going to count all the punctuation errors in this piece, but I’ve had to stop because I have no idea what number comes after 999 katrillion gajillion.

Hey! . . .you’re either for the American culture or you’re against it. You’re either an American in every true sense of the word or somewhere in-between — which translates into troublemakers.

I.e., shifty dark-skinned people.

And if you’re going to be a United States Senator, House Representative or President of the United States — you should put the needs of the American citizens first. You can’t straddle the fence on these issues, and expect the majority to keep electing you to serve them.

And that’s just my opinion!

My new pet cause is getting Kaye Grogan deported until she learns English.

About This Blog

I’m calling it "The Seventh Sense" for now.  I’ll see if it grows on me.  It may change any day.  I’m just that fickle.

I realized that a lot of my ideas had negative words in the title ("can’t" "not" "don’t"), so I stayed away from those.

P.S.  Commenter Brett reminded me that I once called this blog "Goldfish Don’t Bounce".  Yet another negative phrase.

NAME THIS BLOG!

According to recent estimates, there are 7 million blogs in America, NOT counting sites like MySpace and Xanga.

Of the top 55,000 blogs tracked by TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem, I am ranked at around 15,000.  My internal Typepad counter informs me that I get anywhere from 50-100 hits per day, although I suspect that many of those "visits" are from spambots.

One of the nice things about being a not-much-read blogger is that it affords me the liberty to change the blog’s name at will, since the only person who really cares is, well, me. 

Small bloggers often change names.  Even well known bloggers with large followings have been known to do it.  And I have a hankerin’ to do it.

It’s not the first time.  I think my first blog attempt (on Blogger) was called "So Anyway" for a month, and then it became "The Way Bricks Don’t".   The latter title was from Douglas Adams’ "A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy".  He had a wonderful turn of phrase.  I believe the full sentence was something like "Her words hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t."  I just loved that sentence.

After a year or so, I moved to Typepad and chose the name "No, You Can’t Have A Pony" without too much thinking.

I don’t recall why I chose that name — the irreverance of it appealed to me.  I still like it, although, in retrospect, I think it is simply too long.  Plus, I’m sick of seeing that girl crying.

So I’m toying with the idea of renaming the blog, and changing the look a bit.  Any suggestions would be helpful.  Here’s kind of what appeals to me:

  1. I hate cliches.  Words like "rant", "thoughts", "musings", etc.
  2. Preferably, it should have nothing to do with anything I generally write about.  And not necessarily reflective of me, either.  Kind of like the way that Monty Python’s Flying Circus had nothing to do with a guy named Monty Python, flying, or a circus.  The more "out in left field", the better.
  3. I kind of like the idea of a catch-phrase that has gone out of style: "23 skidoo" or "The Hell You Say".  But I’m not married to that.
  4. My favorite blog name of all that I have seen is "Sadly No" — a short phrase with just a hint of snark.
  5. Literary references, Latin, etc are all okay, just as long as it’s not pretentious.
  6. I like funny-sounding words, like "boondoggle", "quagmire" and "smattering"

None of these rules are immutable, except for perhaps the first two. 

Off the top of my head, I’ve come up with some examples, all of which appeal to me for reasons beyond my own comprehension.  ("Beyond My Own Comprehension", come to think of it, isn’t a bad name either.  Actually, same with "Come To Think Of It"). 

Anyway, you’ll get my drift when you read these examples:

How To Pay For Border Guards

Buried deep in this Washington Post article (in fact, the last paragraph) is this tidbit of news:

The White House said the new budget request by Bush would cover the $750 million-plus Guard deployment, new agents, fences and barriers, five helicopters and two new unmanned surveillance aircraft. The money would be offset by delaying other military purchases, according to the White House.

"Other military purchases" could mean anything, but it’s not hard to assume that some  of that $750 in military purchase would have benefitted our soldiers in Iraq (can you say "armor"?) or the over-all War Against Global Islamofascim (or whatever the White House is calling it these days).

So basically, we’re taking money away from The Iraq War and putting it into the War Non-Militarized Thing Against Illegal Mexican Immigration.

It would be nice if we actually spent time and effort going after — you know — bin Laden.  But that’s just me talkin’.

Who Are Christians?

Columnist Peggy Noonan is all confused about The Da Vinci Code (the movie):

I do not understand the thinking of a studio that would make, for the amusement of a nation 85% to 90% of whose people identify themselves as Christian, a major movie aimed at attacking the central tenets of that faith, and insulting as poor fools its gulled adherents. Why would Tom Hanks lend his prestige to such a film? Why would Ron Howard?

Are those serious questions?

Um, well, The Da Vinci Code is probably the most staggeringly successful book in decades.  Not just in American, but all the world.  Is it not conceivable to Peggy that someone in Hollywood just might want to turn the world’s best bestseller into a movie?

Altogther now: D-U-U-U-U-U-H!!

But underneath Peggy’s transparent stupidity lies a more incideous one: the implication that The Da Vinci Code (the movie) will be "offensive" to the 85-90 percent of the population who call themselves "Christian".

This is patently untrue.  After all, who bought all those copies of The Da Vinci Code (the book)?  Obviously, millions of Christians did.  Statistically, they had to.

What Peggy has done is conflate "Christians" with evangelical Christians and/or the Christian right.   Sadly, she assumes that all Christians are of the Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson/James Dobson stripe.

But, of course, that is simply untrue.  Evangelical Christians may be the loudest, but they are not the greatest in number.  The 85-90 percent of the population who call themselves "Christians" include Catholics (whose church doctrine now rejects creationism), Episcopaleans (whose church pulpits now include homosexuals), and the other more established Protestant churches.

Peggy ought to know better.  And it’s time that respectable journalists stop trying to merge the religious doctrines of extremists with the heart-felt and sincere religious beliefs of moderates.  You simply can’t lump them all into the same category, just like you can’t assume that all women who believe in equal pay for equal work are "feminists".

Aardwolfs

Harper’s has a good article about what happened to CIA field agents who wrote reports that clashed with the Bush Administration blind optimism:

A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration’s war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA’s ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can’t write anything honest, only fairy tales.”

The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq—assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as “Aardwolfs,” were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author—who I’m told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer—was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. “He was a good guy,” one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.”

In 2004 Meyer was replaced with a new CIA station chief in Baghdad, who that year filed six Aardwolfs, which, sources told me, were collectively as pessimistic about the situation in Iraq as the ones sent by his predecessor. The station chief finished his assignment in December 2004; he was not fired, but according to one source is now “a pariah within the system.” Three other former intelligence officials gave me virtually identical accounts, with one saying the ex–station chief was “treated like shit” and “farmed out.” (I was given the former station chief’s name and current position, but I am not publishing the information because he is still employed by the CIA.)

As has been the case with other people deemed to be insufficiently loyal, the White House went fishing for dirt on the two station chiefs, including information on their political affiliations. “I spent 30 years at the CIA,” said one former official, “and no one was ever interested in knowing whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. That changed with this administration. Now you have loyalty tests.”

The fate of those two station chiefs had a predictable effect. In 2005, I’m told, the Baghdad station chief filed but a single Aardwolf. The report, which one person told me was widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” asserted that the United States was winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear; at the end of his tour, that Station Chief was given a plum assignment. “This is a time of war,” said one former intelligence official. “Every day American kids are getting killed over there. We need steady, focused reporting [from Baghdad] but no one is willing to speak out since they know they’ll get shot down.”

“The CIA’s ability to speak honestly is gone,” concluded the official, “which is extraordinarily dangerous to our country.”

There’s lots more.

Friday iPod Random Ten

Hairposter2 What’s the iPod digging today?

  1. Sandy – Grease
  2. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In – The Fifth Dimension
  3. A Summer In Ohio – The Last Five Years
  4. Beast of Burden – Bettle Midler
  5. Don’t Worry Baby – Beach Boys
  6. Angry Young Man – Billy Joel
  7. Babooshka – Kate Bush
  8. Contact – Rent
  9. I’m Black/Ain’t Got No – Hair
  10. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush

Wow.  My iPod is really into "Hair" and Kate Bush this week.

There’s a joke to be made there, but it’s Friday….

The More You Know…

Interesting.

A study done last year shows that the people more opposed to immigration are people who are least exposed to immigrants.  Conversely, people who live in areas with lots of immigrants are more positively disposed to them:

The simplest interpretation of this result is that people who rarely see an immigrant can easily scapegoat them for everything wrong in the world. Personal experience doesn’t get in the way of fantasy. But people who actually see immigrants have trouble escaping the fact that immigrants do hard, dirty jobs that few Americans want – at a realistic wage, anyway.

Official English

I honestly hope these people have better things to do than debate whether or not English is America’s "national language" or a "common and unifying language".  Either way, the piece of legislation is symbolic, since you can’t enforce anything. 

Aren’t there real problems out there that need addressing in real ways, rather than symbolic ones?

Of course, the legislation is just meat for social conservatives and the religious, who are disgruntled that the GOP is not catering to their desires.  Politicians seem to think that empty symbolic legislation will appease them and bring them to the polls in November.  Sadly, they may be right.

Powerline’s John Hindrocket does his best to defend the importance of the issue:

But the issue is not a trivial one, nor is this just a temporary bowing to "nativist" sentiment, as it will no doubt be portrayed in the MSM. It is absolutely vital that America remain an English-speaking country.

Was there a chance it wouldn’t be, John?  Take the tin foil hat off your head.

Right next door, in Canada, we have the starkest possible evidence of the catastrophic consequences of bilingualism.

Not suprisingly, Hindrocket doesn’t inform us what that evidence is.  Canada, like any country, has its share of problems, but how much of it can be attributed to bilingualism?  Is bilingualism any more destructive than say, a two party government?

I like Bob Harris’s take:

In over two centuries of constant immigration, never once has an official language been important enough to bother with. And in these days of the Internet, massive multilingual communication, and translation tools at our fingertips, never has an official language been less necessary. Not even close.

But it’s an election year. And for about 30% of this country, fear is an emotion that overrides everything else.

Debbie Daniel’s Civil War

DedanielOur favorite Renew America pundit, Kaye Grogan, must be on vacation or in rehab, but excitable advertising account executive Debbie Daniel is happy to fill in with breathless outrage on the subject of — what else — immigration.

Her article is entitled "Load Your Guns — Let The Battle Begin", which may sound like hyperbolic rhetoric until you realize that she’s from Central Texas and probably means it.

Either that, or she’s trying to emulate Yosemite Sam.

Anyway, it’s a long article, so we’ll place it below the fold.

The Leak That Could Have Prevented 9/11

The Bush Administration likes to say that national security leaks to the press endanger American security.

This pretty much kills that meme: Ex-New York Times Judith Miller (of Plamegate fame) reveals in an interview that, back in July 2001, an anonymous White House source leaked top-secret NSA intelligence to her that Al Qaida was planning a major attack on the United States.

This is how she tells it:

"The people in the counter-terrorism (CT) office were very worried about attacks here in the United States, and that was, it struck me, another debate in the intelligence community. Because a lot of intelligence people did not believe that Al Qaida had the ability to strike within the United States. The CT people thought they were wrong. But I got the sense at that time that the counter-terrorism people in the White House were viewed as extremist on these views."

"Everyone in Washington was very spun-up in the CT world at that time. I think everybody knew that an attack was coming — everyone who followed this. But you know you can only ‘cry wolf’ within a newspaper or, I imagine, within an intelligence agency, so many times before people start saying there he goes — or there she goes — again!

Why was this information leaked to the press?  BECAUSE BUSH WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION!:

"Sometimes, you wonder about why people tell you things and why people … we always wonder why people leak things, but that’s a very common motivation in Washington. I remember once when I was a reporter in Egypt, and someone from the agency gave me very good material on terrorism and local Islamic groups.

"I said, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you giving this to me?’ and he said, ‘I just can’t get my headquarters to pay attention to me, but I know that if it’s from the New York Times, they’re going to give it a good read and ask me questions about it.’ And there’s also this genuine concern about how, if only the president shared the sense of panic and concern that they did, more would be done to try and protect the country.

Emphasis mine.  This, of course, confirms what Richard Clarke and George Tenet have been saying all along — in the summer of 2001, they were running around trying to get the Bush Administration to take seriously all the al Qaeda "chatter" of an impending attack.

But here’s the really bizarre part.  WHY DID AL QAEDA WANT TO ATTACK US?

This has been a heavily debated, almost-philosophical issue, and usually the answer (from the Administration, that is) is that they "hate our freedoms" — a wholly incomplete and facile answer if I ever heard one.

Turns out, it’s also (according to Miller) the incorrect answer:

"But I did manage to have a conversation with a source that weekend. The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone’s attention was a conversation between two members of Al Qaida. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the Cole. And one Al Qaida operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.’

"And I was obviously floored by that information. I thought it was a very good story: (1) the source was impeccable; (2) the information was specific, tying Al Qaida operatives to, at least, knowledge of the attack on the Cole; and (3) they were warning that something big was coming, to which the United States would have to respond. This struck me as a major page one-potential story.

"I remember going back to work in New York the next day and meeting with my editor Stephen Engelberg. I was rather excited, as I usually get about information of this kind, and I said, ‘Steve, I think we have a great story. And the story is that two members of Al Qaida overheard on an intercept (and I assumed that it was the National Security Agency, because that’s who does these things) were heard complaining about the lack of American response to the Cole, but also … contemplating what would happen the next time, when there was, as they said, the impending major attack that was being planned. They said this was such a big attack that the U.S. would have to respond.’

Now read that last part again.  The terrorists struck us so that we would respond, i.e., bomb the crap out of the Middle East, which would foment anger and hostility toward the United States.

Man, did George bite down hard on that one!

Blogging The Bible

An intrepid (or perhaps bored) writer for Salon, a self-proclaimed "ignoramus" when it comes to matters religious — has decided he’s going to blog the Bible

So far, he’s doing it in a rather non-snarky, but inqusitive way.

A snippet from Genesis, Chapter 3:

The Lord—not so good at follow-through. In Chapter 2, He is clear as He can be: He commands man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad: "for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die." No wiggle room there. You shall die. But then when Eve and Adam eat the fruit of the tree a few verses later, do they die? Nope. God punishes Eve with "most severe … pangs in childbearing" and curses Adam by making the soil barren. Any parent knows you have to follow through on your threats, or your children will take advantage of you. God makes a vow He can’t keep—or if He did, He would undo all his good work. …You can call this "original sin," but maybe it’s just lax parenting.

White House = Fox News

WH Press Secretary Tony Snow, yesterday:

MR. SNOW: "Well, as I pointed out — I mentioned this yesterday, and for — let me see if I can find my quote, because I pulled it out. Chuck Hagel, as you may recall, made a fair amount of news over the weekend when he first said that — let’s see — "Well, I want to listen to the details and I want to listen to the President," said Senator Hagel — he said this on ‘This Week’ on a competing network."

Either Tony Snow isn’t aware that he no longer works for Fox News, or the White House is competing with ABC.

The Biggest “Big Brother” Award Goes To…

Mayor Chris Napoli of Dillingham, Alaska.

The mayor received a $202,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and used the money to install 70 public security cameras in and around the town of Dillingham, Alaska — population 2,400.

That comes out to one camera for every 34 people.

Because al Qaeda has its eyes set on Dillingham, Alaska.  Or something.  I guess.

I’m sorry.  Did I say "Mayor" Napoli?  I meant "ex-mayor".  The subject of outraged citizens who didn’t like being peeped on, he resigned last week.

Carbon Dioxide: Our Friend

Think Progress has a nice follow-up to my earlier post about the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a oil-industry funded group which is trying to convince Americans, through advertising, that there is no global warming.

One CEI ad argues that carbon dioxide (one of the root causes of global waming) is good and necessary.  Specifically, the ad says carbon dioxide is “essential to life” because “we breath it out.”

That’s the sort of facile argument that will persuade 5 year olds, but not serious adults.  As Think Progress notes:

It’s comforting to know that this is the best global warming rejectionists can come up with. There are plenty of things that are healthy and essential in reasonable quantities but harmful in extremely large quantities. (For example, drinking a few glasses of water is beneficial. Drinking 10 gallons of water can kill you.) We need some carbon dioxide, but too much causes global warming.

The other CEI advertisement simply misuses a particular scientific study.  The ad says that the study found that glaciers on Greenland are growing.  This is technically true, but misleading.  What the ad doesn’t say is that the glaciers are growing on Greenland’s interior, due to localized weather patterns and elevation (sort of a cold El Nino of the North).  Greenland’s coast, however, is still diminishing, due to global warming.

But what would you expect from an oil company funded institution?  Honesty and fair play?

George Will Makes Sense

Yeah, I know.  But when he’s right, he’s right.

George Will’s topic today is the so-called "values voter" and he begins like this:

An aggressively annoying new phrase in America’s political lexicon is "values voters." It is used proudly by social conservatives, and carelessly by the media to denote such conservatives.

This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots.

Will recognizes that liberals, moderates, libertarians, and conservatives of the non-social kind also vote their values, too.  For example, isn’t environmentalism — the desire for proper stewardship of the Earth and its resources — a "value"?  Isn’t federalism a "value"?

But as Will points out, social conservatives have usurped the phrase as if the only values worth discussing are values that matter to them — end of abortion, prayer in schools, etc.  And to be sure, those are values, but certainly not the only ones.  Freedom, for example, is obviously a value, but when you legislate morality (as social conservatives want to do), you necessarily deny freedom.  That’s why pro-choice proponents can rightfully designate their position as one of value, too.

Social conservatives are quick to label those on the left as "elitist".  But what could more elitist than assuming that you have the monopoly on values?

Read the whole thing.

Can We Call It Vietnam Now?

Then:  My Lai

Now:  Haditha

Billmon writes:

Ugly? That doesn’t even begin to cover it. Dick Cheney is ugly. The Pentagon is ugly. An Abrams tank is ugly. Executing helpless women and children while they’re huddled on the floor, praying to their God, is a war crime committed by terrorists. It’s Lidice and Rwanda and Srebrenica and, of course, My Lai. The men who committed this crime aren’t really human any more — they shed their humanity like a snake sheds its skin when they walked into those houses and started shooting. All that’s left of them is a dark pit at the center of their reptilian brain stems, a place that knows no pity or remorse or even self-awareness. They’re lost souls — lost to the world and to themselves.

I don’t know if it’s better or worse that this atrocity seems to have been committed by a military unit completely out of control, instead of one that was following orders, as was clearly the case at Abu Ghraib. One one hand, you can argue that it’s simply a reminder that Americans are as capable of being beasts as anyone else: Germans, Japanese, Russians, Serbs, Arabs, Afghans, Israelis, Somalians, Afrikaaners, Salvadorans — the list goes on and on. There’s nothing exceptional about us, even in our war crimes.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Marines — the few, the proud, etc. — were capable of such bestiality says something ominous about the psychological state of the American military after three years of being stretched to the limit. These weren’t draftees or Guardsmen or pathetic losers like Calley. These were professionals, supposedly the best of the best, and yet they threw away their training, their code and their honor, and drenched themselves and their flag in the blood of innocents. They simply snapped, in other words, and it makes me wonder how many more like them are out there — one IED or ambush away from going beserk.

President Bush Responds To Flooding Emergency

…in the State of Washington!!!  From floods that happened between January 27 through February 4.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire

Bilde

With belongings and damaged materials strewn about the lawn, Rick Langelier and Terry Papagni take a break from cleaning up to eat pizza donated by a local restaurant. Island Drive residents began returning to their homes to tear out soggy carpeting and wallboard damaged by this week’s flooding as they try to save their homes along the Merrimack River. (Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom, Nashua Telegraph)