On Second Thought: Israel's Actions Reconsidered
Saturday, July 27, 2002
As you can see, I received quite a response to the previous post, and some of the comments were quite good. There is a similar discussion on The Spoons Experience which is worth reading as well.
Here are some of the points which have led me to reconsider:
i'm having a discussion about legal targets with my brother on my webpage. maybe you should check it out. it could answer some of your questions about whether america would have done it.. we would have. i know.. i have been to the joint targeting school.
I've read Wesley's link and I have to defer to a guy who's actually been to the joint targeting school. I'm happy to take him at his word and acknowledge that yes, the US military probably would have taken that shot. This is an important point, and directly contradicts my statement in the previous post.
Nikita, a Spoons reader, offered this comment:
Yoram Ettinger, Israel's former liaison to the U.S. Congress, has prepared a list of United States attacks in which civilian lives were not taken into consideration:
"The list actually goes beyond Afghanistan..For instance, in 1989, the US invaded Panama City in order to free [the ruling strongman] Noriega, using jets and helicopters. Six hundred civilians were killed in that raid, according to American estimates, and thousands were wounded. Then U.S-Chief of Staff, whose name was Colin Powell, said at the time that the appropriate amount of force was used 'and we have no need to apologize.' The Attorney General at the time, Dick Thornburg, said that the U.S. was operating according to the UN's clause 51 allowing self-defense...
"In 1993, in response to the killing and mutilation of 15 US soldiers, the USAF bombed Somalia, turning an entire area basically into a parking lot, killing over 1,000 citizens. Again the U.S. said that it was self-defense.
"In this current war against Al-Qaeda [in which sources say 400-800 civilians have been killed - ed. note], when Rumsfeld was asked about the American attack on Red Cross offices and on other civilian areas in Afghanistan, he said, and I agree with him, 'This is a war that has been forced upon us by terrorists... We are making great efforts not to hurt civilians, but if civilians are hurt, the entire responsibility for such is upon the terrorists who use them as cover...'"
Of course, I am well aware that civilians almost always die in war; from the WWII era of "total war" that involved the incineration of cities and P-51s destroying anything with wheels, to our most recent actions in Afghanistan, perhaps the most careful in military history, bystanders are killed and that's just the way it is. I really do understand that.
I went to bed on Thursday night with the realization that I had really not thought this topic though. It seemed as if it were very complex, almost impossible to reduce to a managable size. I've since given this a lot of thought and I'm pretty happy with my conclusions.
I think it's quite simple, really. In the modern era, the good guys do make an effort to protect bystanders. Partly this is political, partly this is of actual military benefit (people may fight less fiercely if they do not fear for what happens after surrender), and partly this is because it is "the right thing to do" and it reflect the very values we are fighting to uphold. I think we all agree on this.
I think we would also agree that there are limits to the protection you can offer to non-combatants, and they the bottom line is that your military operations must continue, and must be successful, one way or another. Furthermore, mistakes will happen, and things will get out of control sometimes, and that's not necessarily anybody's fault. War is a difficult business.
I think it is quite accurate to compare this to the concept of "due diligence" that manufacturers face when making a product for sale. If you want to sell chainsaws for a living, you have to live with the fact that some people are going to get hurt using your product. You are not required to choose between making the perfect chainsaw or going out of business, but you are required to make an effort - a real, and sometimes very costly effort - to do everything to can to design, manufacture, and document that product so it is as safe to use as you can make it. Furthermore, these standards do evolve with time, and you are expected to keep up.
So, how much diligence is due diligence? How careful do you have to be not to drop a bomb on somebody's house?
One answer is to say that it has to do with how well you've done in the past, and how well other armies like yours have done. If you are doing at least a good a job as you did before, and if your army remains about average with respect to how comparable armies are doing, then you've done enough.
Another answer is to act as if it was your best friend's house that was going to be destroyed. If you can imagine saying to him, "Look, I did my best, I really did", and you can imagining him understanding and forgiving you, then you did enough. I have never served in the military, but I imagine that officers hold themselves to a similar standard when they send their own men into harm's way. They work very hard to minimize unnecessary deaths.
You can see where I'm going with this. Israel is usually quite good about this stuff, but they really screwed the pooch with this last operation. Dropping a 2000 pound bomb into a residential area demonstrates a flat-out disregard for civilian losses. They were not going out of their way to kill civilians, of course, but this is a text-book example of a failure to exercise due diligence.
Maybe they had a compelling reason to do it. Maybe we'll learn that this guy was so dangerous, and the need to take him out was so urgent, that it justified this unusually heavy-handed approach. Or, maybe, Israel lowered her standards just a bit too much that day, and needs to be yelled at by her friends so that she doesn't do it again.
But, guys, let's face it. This was fucked, and they should not have taken him out this way.
I do believe there is a good general test we can apply to determine if civilian losses have been properly considered:
1) The avoidance of civilian casualties should present a difficult and challenging problem to everyone involved in the planning stages, even to the point of effecting strategy and logistics, and it should significantly limit the operation of forces on the ground. In general, it should be a big, unending pain in the ass for everybody who's going to be involved with throwing metal through the air.
2) You should win anyway.
This clarity is important. A selfless concern for the lives of noncombatants is a costly burden to carry, but a necessary one (necessary, if we don't want to be like them). That cost, unfortunately, is carried by the people we ask to do our fighting for us, so it is essential that we keep that burden to an absolute minimum. This burden threatens not only their lives, but also the success of the missions which are of such vital importance to our nation that they justified all the killing to begin with.
I think we agree on the basics, and it's just a judgement call to determine the level of degree. I've called it like I see it.
Thanks for the feedback.
(I'd also like to qualify some of the derogatory terms I used. When an army disregards civilian losses, they have become "uncivilized bastards", and when they go out of the way to target civilians, they are "fucking savages". In my opinion, the Israelis lowered themselves to the "uncivilized bastards" level with this recent action, whereas the Palestinians have been operating as certified savages for quite some time. Just wanted to make that clear.)
Update: Protein Wisdom reports that even the Israeli Military may agree:
I Think This Was Fucked
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Israel killed a high-ranking, piece-of-shit terrorist leader today, and that's good.
The bad news is that they killed him by dropping a one-ton bomb on an occupied, three story apartment building in the middle of the night. Current reports are 15 dead, mostly children, and "hundreds" wounded.
They say they had several chances to get him recently, but held off because they didn't want to kill too many civilians. I believe that.
They are also claiming that they were surprised that so many civilians were hurt, claiming an "intelligence failure". I think they are full of shit.
I'll give them the benefit of the doubt; they must have had a compelling reason to hit him, right now, regardless of the cost, because they normally don't do stuff like this.
Well, I hope they had a goddamn good reason, because this was fucked up. This was the sort of thing I'd expect from their enemies, not from them.
If Bin Laden himself was in a building like that, sipping wine and watching the Lakers on TV, would we have taken this shot? Not on your life. And why not? Because we're the good guys, goddamnit. We are better than the savages we fight.
Let's not fucking forget it.
Update: CNN interviews Palistinian spokesman Imam akin-Dispartop: "Where is the justice here? There is no excuse to kill innocent women and children with your bombs, none! This is not legitimate military action! Oh, wait..."
How They Do It Overseas
Monday, July 22, 2002
Here's an interesting overview that you probably won't see in your morning paper:
[...] Israeli law requires that a person have a license in order to own any kind of firearm, but the license is readily available to any law-abiding adult who can show he or she has had firearms training. (Israel has universal military training for Jews of both sexes). And if you legally possess a gun, Israel allows--indeed encourages--carrying it. [...]
Nevertheless, though rapidly growing, gun ownership is low in Israel - because it is unnecessary. Israel is a socialist country, so the government is supposed to provide people all their basic needs, including guns for self defense. Israel loans out guns by the millions to its citizens.
Israelis going to a dangerous area routinely stop by a police station or communal armory to pick up an Uzi or a pistol. Israeli policy is that armed guardians should be near every place there are potential victims. Schools may not send children on field trips unless the children are accompanied by at least one teacher or parent carrying a gun.
At night, many neighborhoods are patrolled by "civil guards" - teenage volunteers carrying government-issued guns. If someone has disappeared (and possibly has been kidnaped), dozens, scores or even hundreds of civilian volunteer searchers are assembled and issued firearms to carry while searching for the missing person.
And then there is Switzerland, where the laws are similar to those in Israel and gun availability is comparable to that in the U.S. In Switzerland, handgun licenses are available to any law-abiding applicant. In half the Swiss cantons (similar to U.S. states), licensees are free to carry their personal handguns concealed. Beyond this freedom of ownership, every law-abiding military-age Swiss male is issued a firearm and he must keep it at home to perform his mandatory militia obligation.
For the 263,000 officers and non-commissioned officers, the issued firearm is a 9 mm Parabellum semi-automatic pistol, either the SIG-Sauer P210 or its successor, the SIG-Sauer P220. For the millions of enlisted men, the issued firearm is an assault rifle: the STGW 90. The STGW 90 is a version of the SIG-Sauer 550 semi-automatic rifle that is select-fire, meaning it may be fired in either full- or semi-auto mode. When he retires, any Swiss militiaman who wishes to buy his issued firearm may do so.
Excerpted from Gun Laws Around The World: Do They Work? (October, 1997)
The Dow In Perspective
Saturday, July 20, 2002
Yesterday, the market continued to fall like a stone, with the Dow briefly touching the 7000s before closing at about 8020. People have been losing a shitload of money lately and they are not happy. Monday morning we'll probably break into the 7000s for sure.
The following graphs (shamelessly lifted from www.LowRisk.com, the first site I could find via google that offered this data) shows the Dow in an historical perspective. This first image is plotted on a linear scale.
This second image is probably more interesting; it's the same data plotted on a logarithmic scale. (The log scale can be a more honest way of looking at data like this, because it shows the relative value of a given percentage change. A 40-point drop was a big deal in 1930, but it's almost invisible in 1990):
Suppose the Dow were to totally melt down and fall another thousand points, all the way to 6999. People would freak, but what would it really mean?
Well, on the one hand, it would mean your stocks lost well over a third of their value since the morning of 9/11. That's bad, and no pretty words are going to change that.
On the other hand, it wouldn't mean much of anything in the long term. If you look at that second chart again, and try to imagine the graph continuing to 2002 / 6999 (about the 1997 levels) you'll see it's still perfectly in line with the nice, long-term, logarithmic growth of the market.
On the short term, it'd be a disaster. On the long term, it's a blip.
Everything I've read by people I trust suggests that the important things about the economy are solid; we remain productive, employed, and innovative, with growing markets and new products in the pipeline. Once the last of the accounting crimes have come to light, we'll still have solid companies to invest in and we'll know, finally, what they are really worth. And they will continue to grow.
The economy is sound. Sit tight and don't sweat it.
Rebuilding The Trade Center
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Maybe it's just me, but these plans suck.
I mean, this stuff is about as inspiring as those welded, rusted, metal-plate sculptures they put in parks now.
I want something more like this:
With a real live anti-aircraft battery on top, goddamnit, crewed by a 24-hour-a-day honor guard.
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
So far as I can tell, the FBI does not consider a killing to be a terrorist act unless they can prove a connection to a terrorist group. While they are certainly free to use whatever definition of the word "terrorist" that they like, this word does have a specific and generally understood meaning to the rest of us, a meaning which is important in our understanding of events as they unfold.
Can You Spot The Terrorist?
Consider the following hypothetical examples:
A lone Muslim man shoots his Jewish wife.
A lone Muslim man shoots his Jewish neighbor after a long-running argument.
A lone Muslim man shoots his Jewish boss after he is fired.
A lone Muslim man kills several strangers, one Jewish, after acting strangely for days.
A lone Muslim man shoots his Jewish boss for no apparent reason.
A lone Muslim man shoots his Jewish neighbor for no apparent reason.
A lone Muslim man seeks out Jewish strangers, shoots several for no apparent reason.
A lone Muslim man seeks out strangers at an American cultural icon, shoots several for no apparent reason.
A lone Muslim man seeks out strangers, kill several with a bomb for no apparent reason.
A lone Muslim man destroys an airplane or a bus, killing himself and everyone aboard.
Sometimes a killing is an ordinary crime or a random meltdown, despite the ethnic makeup of the people involved.
Sometimes an ordinary crime is fueled by ethnic division.
Sometimes a killing is an act of terrorism, even if the killer acted alone.
With this in mind, today's excellent Post editorial by Daniel Pipes (via YOB) hits the nail right square dead-center on the head. Consider the following real life examples:
Rashid Baz, a Lebanese cab driver with a known hatred for all things Israeli and Jewish, armed himself to the teeth in March 1994 and drove around the city looking for a Jewish target. He found his victims - a van full of Hassidic boys - on the Brooklyn Bridge and fired a hail of bullets against them, killing one boy. And how did the FBI classify this crime? As "road rage." [...]
Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian gunman hailing from militant Islamic circles in Florida, took a gun to the top of the Empire State building in February 1997 and shot a tourist there. His suicide note accused the United States of using Israel as its "instrument" against the Palestinians, but city officials ignored this evidence and instead dismissed Abu Kamal as either "one deranged individual working on his own" (Police Commissioner Howard Safir) or a "man who had many, many enemies in his mind" (Mayor Rudolph Giuliani).
Gamil al-Batouti, an EgyptAir copilot, yelled "I put my faith in God's hands" as he crashed a plane leaving Kennedy airport in October 1999, killing 217. Under Egyptian pressure, the National Transportation Safety Board report shied away from once mentioning Batouti's possible terrorist motives.
Damir Igric, a Croat immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, used a boxcutter to slash the neck of a Greyhound bus driver in Tennessee last October, causing the bus to roll over, killing six passengers and himself. Although this bus-hijacking scenario echoed similar attacks by Palestinians on Israeli buses, the FBI immediately classified it "an isolated incident" and not an act of terrorism. The media attributed the violence to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Hassan Jandoubi, an Islamist with possible connections to al Qaeda, had started working at the AZF fertilizer factory in suburban Toulouse, France, just days before a massive explosion took place there last Sept. 21. This, the worst catastrophe ever in a French chemical plant, killed Jandoubi and 29 others, injured 2,000, destroyed 600 dwellings, and damaged 10,000 buildings.
The autopsy revealed that Jandoubi was wearing two pairs of trousers and four pairs of underpants, which the coroner compared to what is worn by "Islamic militants going into battle or on suicide missions." Also, the chemical plant was processing ammonium nitrate, a stable chemical that requires a substantial infusion of energy to explode.
Ignoring these signs, the French authorities declared there was "no shred of evidence" of the explosion being a terrorist act and ruled it an accident. They even prosecuted two publications merely for calling Jandoubi a "radical Islamist," making them pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines to Jandoubi's heirs, a mosque and a Muslim organization for their "defamation" of Jandoubi.
I have no idea if all of these men were really terrorists or not, but I am certain that some of them were. Does it matter what we call it? Is there really a difference between a lone terrorist act and a lone hate crime?
You bet your ass it matters. If the KKK started encouraging whites to start killing blacks again, would we write off each incident as a independent, random event, or would we recognize the pattern and deal abruptly with the source of the violence? If radical Christians began killing gays in ones and twos across America, preaching the glory of such actions to one another and encouraging other members to do the same, would we pretend that there was nothing behind it, or would we call things by their proper names and get the truth out into the open? If we were to establish law enforcement priorities, public policy, and security doctrines, should we do it with this knowledge, or without it?
Names matter, for the same reasons that honesty and fairness matters. It's time to leave the sensitivity bullshit behind.
Sunday, July 7, 2002
First, we have breaking news from FOX about an Afghan man arrested today near Reading, PA. The man had been wanted for five years.
"When I saw a Middle Eastern man driving a heavily loaded pickup towards Limerick [nuclear power plant] I became a little suspicious," [arresting officer] Unterkoefler said. "The bumper was almost touching the ground."
[...] agents searched Popal's truck, which appeared to be loaded with about a dozen cases of soda, Unterkoefler said. He said he found several car batteries, adhesive solvents and electrical wiring under the soda.
FOX and CNN are also reporting that mens' wigs, binoculars, two cell phones, cameras, $3600 in cash, and a video camera were also found.
Now look at this report, from just this morning:
On July 3, a different group of men appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent took extensive videotapes on the ferry Tacoma between Bainbridge and Seattle, she said. "They were filming all over the place" even before boarding the ferry [...]
And this report, from last month:
Local ferry operators became alarmed last week when someone described as Middle Eastern man boarded a ferry to Alcatraz but did not leave the boat when it reached the island. Instead, the man videotaped boat traffic and used a stopwatch to time the route.
"He got on the boat to go to the island, but never got off when the other tourists did. Instead, he asked unusual questions about the timing and frequency of the trips, all the while videotaping and using the stopwatch," a source told The Examiner.
The frequency of suspicious activity in San Francisco became apparent to the feds and local law enforcement in October when three men, described as Middle Eastern, boarded a ferry at Pier 41 for a trip to Alameda.
The boat's crew became alarmed when one of the men made his way to the upper deck to observe the captain piloting the ferry, another man used a stopwatch to time the route and a third man videotaped the Anchorage 9 terminal, a source said.
The crew noted the men did not appear interested in filming standard tourist attractions like bridges or other known sites. The report stated in part: "While it is not an overt act of terrorism, it is not (considered) normal passenger activity."
This was preceded by an alarming incident that occurred in Daly City on Oct. 20. Six Blue and Gold Fleet and Golden Gate Transit uniforms were stolen from a ferry employee's car, in addition to ferry schedules, maritime maps and a copy of the U.S. Coast Guard's Rules of the Road.
Now, I realize they make medication for this sort of thing, but goddamnit, this monkey smells a rat.
I'm not the only one:
State troopers have launched an aggressive campaign to boost security on Washington State Ferries by randomly searching vehicles while their owners wait to board. The searches are ostensibly voluntary, but motorists who refuse can be denied passage by the captain of the boat.
How many of you remember the Achille Lauro?
What Does A Terrorist Look Like?
Friday, July 5, 2002
Terrorists look like this:
In fact, almost all of them look like this. Really.
These are the sorts of people who commit terrorist acts. If someone who looks like this does something suspicious, you should be extra careful about it.
Lets Just Make A Couple Of Things Clear
Thursday, July 4, 2002
1) Just because an incident is "isolated" doesn't mean it's not a terrorist act.
Lots of terrorist acts are isolated incidents. Many are committed by individuals who act under their own initiative; others are committed by individuals who have been encouraged and even trained by others, but who are acting on their own at the time of the incident.
We hear about suicide bombers all the time in Israel, but we pay much less attention to the small-scale shooting attacks, which are nearly as common. Terrorists, either alone or in small groups, will attack Israeli soldiers and civilians with rifles or handguns. Sometimes they shoot up cars on the road, or soldiers at checkpoints. Sometimes they shoot into people's homes, or even break in and shoot the people inside.
Doesn't mean they aren't terrorists, for chrissake.
2) The ethnicity - even the apparent ethnicity - of an attacker matters now. It's news, it's an important part of the story, and we shouldn't be shy about mentioning it.
If you've watched CNN TV, you'll know that three separate law enforcement sources described the appearance of today's suspect as an "Arab male". If you've read only the webpages of CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, you'd think the shooting was committed by Casper the Friendly Ghost.
The FBI knows this guy is exactly 52 years old, but they won't mention his name. I'll give three-to-one odds to the first taker it's something along the lines of Mohammed or Akbar. Enough, already, with the cuteness and the sensitivities. If this guy was white they'd have been shouting it from the rooftops, to help reassure us that this was not a terrorist attack. Why? Because his appearance matters.
Imagine you need to drop by the local feed store to pick up some fertilizer for your garden. The guy ahead of you in line is asking lots of questions about Ammonium Nitrate, and he obviously has no idea what he is doing and he looks like he's never held a shovel in his life. If this guy looked like an Arab, would you take a moment to write down his license plate number? You goddamn well should. Would you bother if he looked like a Norwegian? Probably not. I certainly wouldn't.
Let's just cut the crap here. Three thousand dead is enough.
3) Is there anybody in America who thought, "Gee, if that guy has shot up the American Airlines ticket counter, our security guys would have done a much better job taking care of him"?
Of course not. The Israelis know what the fuck they are doing, and their people dealt with this threat superbly. Unless I am greatly mistaken, we are nowhere near as capable.
This is not rocket science. We know exactly what needs to be done, and it's about fucking time we started doing it. Why are we not recruiting and training thousands of people right now to staff these sorts of security positions, instead of having National Guardsmen with empty rifles wandering around? It's been nine months. I've seen companies founded, have an IPO, and crash in less time than this.
4)What the fuck do you mean, "no evidence that this was a terrorist attack?"
You want evidence? I got evidence: it was an Arab-looking man, killing random Jews in public, for no apparent reason, on July fourth. That's not evidence?
Sure, it's not proof - we'll need to find out a whole bunch of stuff before we really know what happened here - but it's sure as shit evidence. So stop talking to us like we're retarded or something.
4) And finally, if you are going to run a headline that reads "Moslem-Americans avoid July 4th festivities for fear of being victimized by a racist hate-crime", please have the decency to add "just like hundreds of millions of other Americans".
To our great credit, there have been very few acts of retaliatory violence here in America, and let's face it, it's not innocent Arabs who are most likely to get slaughtered by the thousands anytime soon in our cities. Let's try and keep a little perspective, OK?
Update: "Hesham Mohammed Sadeyet". Egyptian born. Left a note reading "Read The Koran".
What a fucking surprise.
Update: Here are the people he killed:
Update: My blood pressure continues to rise. Both Drudge and the Washington Post are pushing the idea that the shooting was actually "an argument between two people that spun out of control" at the ticket counter.
He was armed with two handguns and a knife. They figure maybe he was booking a flight to Miami, lost his temper and opened fire with the weapons he just happened to have in his pocket?
But they do know this: It was "a brazen, mysterious attack that authorities said did not appear to be an act of terrorism." Whew. That makes me feel better.
Well, I'll tell you what's brazen and mysterious: this press coverage is bordering on disinformation. What the fuck is the matter with these people?
Getting Ready For The Fourth
Sunday, June 30, 2002
Believe it or not, the Fourth of July is actually my second favorite holiday, right after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is all family and great food, Independence Day is fireworks, grilled meat and beer.
What's not to like?
A slightly deeper element in each of these occasions is gratitude. Gratitude - or, in my internal language, "knowing what you want, and being smart enough to recognize it" - is something worth making an effort for. It actually improves your life. I would not be diminished if I failed to mark the birthday of god's first kid or the nation's first president, or if I neglect to consider the Easter Bunny or the yearly Jack-o-lantern in it's proper light. But if I managed to go a whole year without getting fat and happy and thinking about how fucking lucky I am, and how happy I am to mark another year in the prosperity to which I have, incredibly, become accustomed, well, I'd be an idiot.
Especially if I took it all for granted and let it slip away.
This year's celebration will be somewhat complicated by the fact that we may be getting shot at before it is over. I'd propose that we make it a point of national pride to rise to this challenge rather than shrink from it.
We are going to have to live with this sort of risk for a long time. We can cover up and lose a little every day, bleed ourselves dry over time with worry and with fear; we can get all childlike and stupid and pretend that nothing bad will ever happen, and get really surprised and hurt when it does; or we can be brave and united and face down danger with indignation and with pride.
Use the Fourth as an opportunity to advertise to your friends and your neighbors that you are one of the folks who can be counted on over the coming years. You're not going to hide under the bed, and you'll be damned if a bunch of ignorant savages are going to screw up a good barbecue, or take the fun out of blowing some shit up in the backyard with some contraband fireworks.
You're going to be the sort of American Citizen that doesn't worry about every goddamn little thing, because you know you can deal with what happens. You get a flat tire, you can fix it. Your neighbor gets tangled up in his mower, you patch him up and run him to the hospital. And if somebody is trying to build an ANFO bomb in a Ryder truck, they'd better hope they don't let you catch a glimpse of it because you're just itching for the chance to personally blow their cover and fuck up their whole day.
We'll use the day to show everyone that we have made our choice and we are sticking with it, unbowed, unintimidated, and unafraid. We don't need to ask permission to be free, we take our freedom, thank you very much, and we manage it, and defend it, ourselves.
You know. Independence Day. A chance to celebrate what we have, and to demonstrate that we intend to keep it.
OK, Now This Is Creepy
I remember when people got upset when they bit the head off a bat...
Antron Singleton aka "Big Lurch," an up-and-coming rapper from Texas, was charged with murdering a Los Angeles woman in April, after a detective's report showed there were teeth marks on her face and lungs, which were torn from her chest, according to the Los Angeles Times.
You can't make this stuff up...
You Make The Call
Who recently uttered the following?
"If Iraq came across the Jordan River [into Israel], I would grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die".
Dick Cheney, speaking from an undisclosed location?
Jessie Jackson, in the heat of an impassioned sermon?
Paul Wolfowitz, during an unguarded moment?
Or Bill Clinton, fundraising in front of some Jewish people?
You can't make this stuff up...
Quote Of The Day
The Compleat Iconoclast makes the case for paying the high cost of war with Iraq:
A free and independent Iraq means the death of the Islamicist movement worldwide. It means that Iran will surely follow. Those two nations are the key to a resurgence of the Islamic world, and to it's return to modernity. With those as an anchor of democracy in the Middle East, the other corrupt and backward oil theocracies will wither away into insignificance, and a great wave of political and personal freedom will wash over the planet.
When I first read this I thought he had overstated the case a bit - "a great wave of political and personal freedom"? - but when I thought about it some more, I realised he had it exactly right. There are hundreds of millions of people who may get their first taste of such freedom over the coming years, perhaps more than at any other time in history.
And of course, avoiding a WMD attack on an American city would be a nice bonus, too.
Want To See The Space Station?
You can see it with the naked eye if you know where to look. These folks can tell you all about it.
Here's the chart showing where to look at 8 o'clock tonight if you happen to live near my neighborhood.
You'll Be Hearing More About This One
A Seattle man, James Ujaama, 36, was arrested by the FBI in Denver on a "federal charge of being a material witness" with potential ties to al-Qaida.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes Ujaama as a Seattle author and activist well-known in the city's black community:
Published reports attributed to unnamed federal agents have said James Ujaama delivered laptop computers to the Taliban before Sept. 11, associated with al-Masri and helped set up a Web site for him in England. (Al-Masri is thought to be an al-Qaida recruiter and is wanted in Yemen on terrorist charges).
James Ujaama offered a statement of his own:
"This is surely a runaway government administration that I strongly believe knew about the events of September 11 prior to the attack on New York, and refused to intervene in lieu of economic and political gains," he wrote in a seven-page statement. "I also do not believe that Zacarias Moussaoui had anything to do with those events, and that he and many others are being railroaded in an attempt to cover up the truth.
Ujaama runs a website called stopamerica.org which I thought was, um, pretty interesting. Take a peek before it comes down. One Freeper noticed that the site was created just a week after the September 11 attacks.
It's Things Like This...
I'm driving home today and I see the following bumper sticker on the van ahead of me:
"If you can read this... thank an Educator!"
That got me thinking.
1) Since when is "Educator" a capitalized proper noun? Should we also capitalize words like "plumber" or "soldier"?
2) Why use ellipses instead of a simple comma?
3) Shouldn't the exclamation point be outside of the quotation mark? In fact, why use quotation marks at all? It's not like this is a famous quip that is attributed to someone.
At least it was spelled correctly.
If I had handed in a sentence like that in my tenth grade English class, it would have come back with red circles all over it:
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
"My first day of vacation was not a good one. I flushed the toilet, but it overflowed... so we called the Plumber!"
So, maybe that's the point? Maybe whoever wrote this was being clever, essentially offering the statement "If this pisses you off, be thankful you are educated"?
Or is the true message a bit more direct?
If this pisses you off, be thankful you were educated by someone other than us.
Link Of The Day
What would your conversation sound like?
The archives are broken, so go here and scroll down to "A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT".
The Hidden Dangers Of Marijuana
Sure, it seems innocent enough. Get good and toked up, bring out the video camera, and the next thing you know, every guy on the internet wants to have sex with you.
What I Want For Christmas
Who Says Free Enterprise Is Not A Weapon Against Terror?
A bounty hunt for bin Laden yields heads, ears:
Federal and private rewards offered for the capture or death of Osama bin Laden and his henchmen have prompted a wave of mercenaries to flood into the Afghanistan area, and now they're bragging about delivering heads and ears as proof of success. "The going currency with bounty hunters is ears," says Edward Lozzi, a Los Angeles PR exec who helped 10 Fortune 500 telecommunications firms organize a $100 million mercenary effort. "It's a total windfall for the mercenary business." So far, he claims, no top bin Laden aides have been nabbed, but several others have been killed. The administration is quietly cheering the headhunters, and one key source added that the Pentagon is encouraging private "off-the-shelf little armies." Success, however, has been rare - and hard to prove. One hunter recently claimed he had beheaded bin Laden aide Ayman Al-Zawahiri and asked the Pentagon for the $25 million reward. An official tells us the Pentagon asked for proof and got the head, which the FBI found wasn't Zawahiri's. "There are a lot of con men over there," says the official.
Who'd have thought that a Los Angeles PR exec and some Fortune 500 telecom firms would self-organise to become one of Al Queada's biggest fears?
I love this country.
Just In Case You Were Starting To Relax
Customs officials at Detroit Metropolitan Airport have arrested a man - Omar Shishani - who arrived on a flight from Indonesia.
Mr. Shishani "appears on a watch list of people trained in Afghanistan by al Qaeda. Shishani's name turned up in documents captured in Afghanistan, sources said."
Mr. Shishani was born in Jordan and his family is from Chechnya.
Mr. Shishani was carrying a U.S. passport, and previously lived in San Francisco and Napa, Calif.
Mr. Shishani was carrying 12 million dollars in fake cashier's checks.
"They fool you when you look at them. They were very nicely done," said one official. "They put work and research into making them. It was first-rate work." Financial investigators said criminals deposit bogus cashier's checks in a bank account, which could give the depositor immediate access to the money before the checks have formally cleared.
OK. So an al Qaeda operative has 12 million dollars...
What It's Like To Be Me
Imagine you're in bed, in your cozy little house out in the woods in Upstate New York. Downstairs, the dogs are asleep on the couch, and a cat is curled up at your feet.
Then you here this. And this... and this... and before you know it, you're standing alone in the darkess, in your underwear, with a rifle in one hand and a flashlight in the other, wondering what sort of rabid motherfucker is going to come charging out of the thicket towards you like Jason in a halloween mask.
I like foxes, I really do, even if they do scare the crap out of me sometimes. These excellent sounds are a small part of the collection offered at Foxforest.com.
Be On The Lookout
Police are seeking a "light blue and gray" Chevy Astro van, Pennsylvania license plate ECJ1368, possibly connected with the Elizibeth Smart abduction.
The vehicle is registered in Cambridge Springs, PA, and was last seen in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Abdul Hamid (John Walker Lindh) Pleads Guilty
Plea bargain; he agrees to two charges, the government forgets about the rest of it.
If there is a difference between this idiot and the neo-nazi skinhead types we have running around, I have yet to see it.
How much do you suppose he'll make from his book, and from TV appearances?
Update: Unconfirmed reports suggest Abdul will serve several years at least, will not make any money from books or movies, and will cooperate fully under threat of facing the remaining charges.
Poor kid... his only crime was to volunteer to carry a rifle for the Taliban. Does that really make him a bad guy?
I dunno. You could ask her.
Things Seem To Be Moving Right Along
From the London Telegraph:
[...] Indications that the British armed forces want to be ready for every eventuality have been revealed by significant troop withdrawals from Bosnia, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and most recently from Afghanistan. It is being viewed as highly significant within the Army that Maj Gen John McColl has returned to Britain from commanding the international stabilisation force in Afghanistan.
Gun Control Works!
Britain now "the crime capital of the West (Australia not far behind):
The UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute reveals that people in England and Wales experience more crime per head than people in the 17 other developed countries analysed in the survey.
[...] And "contact crime", defined as robbery, sexual assault and assault with force, was second highest in England and Wales - 3.6 per cent of those surveyed. This compares with 1.9 per cent in the US.
...and I still have people telling me how well gun control has worked in Britian.
My Kind Of Girl
Woman, bear trade blows:
"She said she was at it for an hour and a half, and she traded blows with it just straight up," Ralph Abbott said. "She would keep it away with a stick as best she could. She said she somehow got a tree between the two of them, and for 15 minutes or so, she'd go one way and it would go the other."
Why I love The Internet
Look out! Spiderman Will Make You Gay.
And the more you click on this guy, the stranger it gets...
Best Article Of The Week
A hardcore conservative discovers... well, that he likes organic veggies, and maybe some other stuff, too. And it's OK.
I love articles like this. Once you tear down the talking heads and start to talk to one another like grownups, who knows what you might learn?
Go read this, and tell me what you think.
The Rumor Mill Is Busy Tonight
Both Venice, Italy and Pasadena, Texas are on alert for possible terrorist attacks. The threat against Pasadena, which is full of oil refineries and chemical plants, was specific to tomorrow (Friday).
I'm Actually Shocked By This
I had no idea this was possible; I'd have dismissed it as a hoax, but I have two good sources for it:
Following a recipe downloaded from the Internet and using gene sequences from a mail-order supply house, researchers have assembled a manmade version of the polio virus to prove how easy it would be for terrorists to make deadly biological weapons.
They go on to say that other viruses are quite a bit more complex, and harder to make.
My second source for this story points out that this polio virus "was made over a period of two years", so maybe it's not quite so easy to make as they suggest. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, but I had no idea this sort of thing was really possible today.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but SUNY Stony Brook is not exactly on the cutting edge of modern technology, right?
Visit This CNN Poll
Update: I've never seen a poll so close.
This morning, it was running 50-50, with about 30,000 votes cast. Now (7:20pm est) it's still 50-50, with well over 100,000 votes cast.
Quote Of The Day
How To Lose The Next Election
If the Democrats want to get their asses handed to them in the next election, they can just keep on being themselves:
Deep in the bill to establish the [homeland security agency] is a provision that would allow a "flexible," and "contemporary" personnel managment system, "grounded in the principles of merit and fitness." Translation: They want to be able to fire people.
[...Majority Leader Tom Daschle] gave the following patriotic statement to WaPo on behalf of his fellow Democrats: "I think it's safe to say that there is unanimous opposition to the administration's proposal to circumvent the civil service laws of the country .... We can't do that."
I don't think I know a single person who hasn't suggested, at one point or another, that some government functionary in charge of some element of homeland security shouldn't be fired as a result of their remarkable incompetence.
Of course, I don't know that many union members, or Senate Democrats.
From the Washington Post:
"It's a huge issue for the Democrats because it's a huge issue for working families," said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). "Public employees were the first responders on September 11th, and they deserve the security of keeping their civil service positions."
Yep, that's what our response to September 11th is all about: job protection.
Something Else To Keep In Mind
Winning The War On Terror
An innovative plan:
Maybe It's Not Hopeless After All
I never thought I'd see this headline:
Can you even imagine this happening during a Gore presidency?
Bolt Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Canadian snipers make good.
Update: More details of a possibly record-setting shot.
There's A Right Way And A Wrong Way Of Doing Things
Take suicide, for example. It might seem easy at first, but if you fuck it up the consequences can be severe. Furthermore, if you have any concern for your personal dignity, or for the feelings of the people who will find you, the problem really becomes rather complex.
One method which seems quite good is advocated in the book Final Exit; it involves the use of an ordinary dose of sedatives to help you to fall asleep, and a plastic bag held in place with a rubber band to finish the job once you drift off.
I have very mixed feelings about assisted suicide, but it seems to me that propagating information like this does more good than harm; I think it is humane to help people avoid suffering, even as they seek to destroy themselves, for good or ill.
Of course, not everyone agrees. Here are some people who are outraged that plastic bags might be sold for such a purpose. It's not the bags themselves, of course, it's the spread of this knowledge that offends them.
The nannies are everywhere. Sex, drugs, guns, even suicide... they think it's better to keep people in the dark, for their own good.
Here is a link to an excellent report on America's plans to begin smallpox vaccinations. Unlike many such reports, this one is actually informative, reasonably accurate, and non-hysterical. I especially like the discussion of how a vaccination program like this is not a simple thing to throw together.
The bottom line? Expect a half-million healthcare workers to get the first vaccines soon. Several millions of other Americans will probably follow.
The good news is that we are taking this threat seriously, and dealing with it in a correct and aggressive way.
The bad news is that we are taking this threat seriously. A smallpox attack is not a pie-in-the-sky threat anymore, not in the opinions of the people with access to the best information, and with the responsibility to focus on the important things first.
I'm not an expert by any means, but I am pretty well informed. I cannot think of a disease outbreak I fear more than I fear smallpox. Honestly, I'd rather read about an American city being nuked before I'd want to read about smallpox spreading through our population. A nuke would only kill a few million of us.
This Is Creepy
Check This Out:
It was hanging up, so I've had to move it to a separate page - click here.
If you haven't guessed, this thing is trying to detect your geographic location. Let me know if it actually worked.
For Want Of A Nail
From The New York Times:
Minutes after the south tower collapsed at the World Trade Center, police helicopters hovered near the remaining tower to check its condition. "About 15 floors down from the top, it looks like it's glowing red," the pilot of one helicopter, Aviation 14, radioed at 10:07 a.m. "It's inevitable."
Those clear warnings, captured on police radio tapes, were transmitted 21 minutes before the building fell, and officials say they were relayed to police officers, most of whom managed to escape. Yet most firefighters never heard those warnings, or earlier orders to get out. Their radio system failed frequently that morning. Even if the radio network had been reliable, it was not linked to the police system. And the police and fire commanders guiding the rescue efforts did not talk to one another during the crisis.
Oh, This Is Just Terrific
Hydrofluoric acid - AKA hydrogen fluoride - is nasty, deadly, horrible stuff.
Five, 100-pound cylinders of it are missing.
And You May Have Just Saved Your Daughter's Life...
A neighbor of the guy who just shot three random Jews:
Why Are Israeli Security Guys So Good?
Because they work really hard at it:
The scenario that unfolded yesterday at the airport - a gunman suddenly shooting at passengers boarding a flight to Israel - is one of the most practiced by the security forces specializing in airline security.
[...] El Al security officers, like the one on the job in Los Angeles yesterday, are not Shin Bet employees, rather they are paid by the organization they work for. But the Shin Bet protection division provides the basic professional training, which takes seven months, at the cost of about NIS 50,000 per marshal.
[...] From the security service's perspective, the main characteristics required of a marshal are courage and determination. The assumption is the attacker will always have the element of surprise on his side, so marshals must solve the problem by themselves as quickly as possible. The actual shootout is a matter of seconds - any longer turns into a massacre.
Maybe He Was Just Looking For A Good Job?
Breaking news, few details yet:
A man thought to be the step-son of Saddam Hussein was arrested tonight in Miami on an immigration violation. Mohammad Saffi arrived in the Los Angelas yesterday on a flight from New Zeland and then came to Miami. He came to South Florida to attend a flight school.
Rotten.Com Outdoes Itself
Now this is absolutely the most disgusting thing you are going to see today.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Fossett Pulls It Off
Steve Fossett bagged one of the last unclaimed prizes in aviation today, being the first to circle the globe in a balloon.
No, wait, don't tell me... you're underwhelmed.
Well, I'm not. This guy is unquestionably brave, and he endured a long and difficult adventure requiring tons of innovation, fortitude, vision, and courage. He gets big credit in my book.
People seem to dismiss him because he's rich. I think his weath makes his personal example that much more impressive. He could have led a comfortable and safe life with wonderful distractions and entertainments, but he chose to do something honestly dangerous and real. Good for him.
Good for all of us.
Screw the whiners, Steve, you're all right by me. Good job!
Airliners Collide Over Germany
Few details available.
Quick question: has there ever been an airline accident like this?
Update: Yes, there have been a few.
Quote Of The Day
Austin Fulk, describing the Pink Pistols:
"I know of absolutely no conservatives who have attacked us [...] I've gotten a lot more grief from gay people for owning guns and supporting the Second Amendment than I ever have from gun owners for being gay."