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Saturday, July 06, 2002

I've always felt it was beyond me to write even a bad Science Fiction novel, but there may be hope. Patrick Nielson Hayden has devised an Evil Overlord Random Plot Generator that may be just what I need. Also Teresa's lecture is worth a read. (As you probably know Patrick and Teresa are both SF editors at Tor Books.) Some randomly-generated plot possibilities:

Advice for the Evil Overlord:
I will not devise any scheme in which Part A consists of tricking the hero into unwittingly helping me and Part B consists of laughing at him then leaving him to his own devices.
Advice for the Hero:
If I am granted a vision of the future, I will not try to prevent anything that I see. It never works
Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Innocent Bystander):
If you associate with the Hero, you run the risk of becoming a True Love or a Sidekick, depending on your availability and mutual gender preferences. The former will involve hostage situations on a semi-regular basis, but chances of survival are optimal. The latter can be quite hazardous to your health, so avoid it.

Friday, July 05, 2002

I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means....--John Adams

The words of Gray Davis , Governor of Cal..of C C, of C, of Calfff, of, of...aaagghh--I just can't say it ...

"That it happened on the day on which we honor what America stands for — liberty, security and diversity ..."
NO! no no no no no ... I can't take it any more! We're doomed! There's no hope! #f/aa abgop,.j

[NOTE: Mr Weidner will not be weblogging for a while. The Bloggers Benevolent Brotherhood has arranged for him to spend some time in Switzerland, where he can re-center himself. ]
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Renata is about to make her big move to Israel. Good luck, kid. This is something she just wrote:

My giggles...
People, I know I sounded cruel, in the post below, when I said I would laugh after the attack in Los Angeles´ airport. Let me explain... I am not happy because of the shooting atack, of course. And I am even more pissed off as there were israeli victims there.

What I meant is that it´s another great lesson for Unites States stop pretending they are fighting against terror and stop claiming they have great security systems. It´s a lie! They lie to american people and to the world. The truth is US is still vulnerable while Bush administration ignores the burocracy and the lack of integration among its intelligence agencies. While they close their eyes to terrorist countries, governments and organizations. While they issue false alerts to their citizens almost every week.

The attack happened in july 4th, the Independence Day, when they were claiming proudly that security was tight all around the country. Imagine what could have happened if it wasn´t a big holiday with a strong (sic!) security system? And the attacker was only intercepted and killed by an ISRAELI GUARD FROM EL AL. The aiport security failed too. Imagine if the attacker had passed and boarded a plane? Can someone imagine what could have happened? We don´t know. The truth is that they failed again! And it´s really funny to see american administration trying to explain a failure that just proves my theories: Bush´s policies are a joke.
While I still give Bush good marks on the international front, Renata is right. The home-front is a big disappointment. (Though to be fair, the ticket counters are outside the security screening) And I can imagine what would happen if he tried that on a plane. Some people would be shot but the passengers would pulverize him. Average Americans are much more dangerous than bozo airport security personnel. And anyone trying to fly these days is probably feeling bitter and vengeful and ready to kill.

You know the old cliché about crisis and opportunity. Well, every crisis is an opportunity to say, "let's cut the bullshit and get real." This would be a splendid opportunity for a leader who believed in what he said on the campaign trail to make a strong stand for encouraging (as Israel does) law-abiding citizens to carry firearms. Or any one of a dozen other changes that I can think of, and you can too.

Yeah, yeah, Peggy, I know, he has to make political compromises to break the power of cartilaginous Democrats who want to sabotage the War. But this isn't that kind if issue. The gun-control dimwitskis are already voting Democrat and won't be open to new ideas until Mohammad Fubar is shooting at them.

But most Americans are looking for leadership. In a time of crisis they are open to fresh thinking. And they aren't getting any, at least not from the top. Somebody is letting precious opportunities slip by, just like his father did, and will deserve to be replaced by a clinton.
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From Ha'aretz, an article on why those Israeli security people are so good...

...El Al security officers, like the one on the job in Los Angeles yesterday, are not Shin Bet [Israeli counter-intelligence and internal security service] 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. Overseas protection is run by a joint team consisting of the Foreign Ministry (for embassy protection), Ben-Gurion Airport, El Al, Arkia, and Zim.

In large organizations, like El Al, the head of security is a Shin Bet officer, while his senior professional subordinates are veterans of the organization. The Shin Bet provides the organization's intelligence and the doctrine and is responsible for enlisting new recruits and their training.

The organization that is being protected is responsible for control and command, but even then, the Shin Bet is involved. 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. The marshal has to rely on his judgment, distinguishing between terrorists and the innocent. And the message drilled into their heads during training and on the job is that "every minute that goes by without an attack increases the chances that an attack will come in the next minute."(Via innominate)
The LAX attack is just the sort of thing that will become routine for us in the future. We may even be forced to be realistic about who's likely to start trouble. All yesterday there was no announcement of the name of the gunman. I bet if his name had been Swen Swenson we would have heard about it within minutes...

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams, 1766

This is from a letter by Abigail Adams, in Boston, to John Adams, who was in Philadelphia with the Continental Congress; July 21, 1776.

...Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the multitude into King's Street to hear the proclamation for independence read and proclaimed. Some Field pieces with the Train were brought there, the troops appeared under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousands from the country).

When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona [balcony] of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was paid to every word. As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyful. Mr Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen.

John AdamsThat Proclamation was later a matter of painfullest irony for John Adams. He had led the long and difficult efforts towards independence. Congress wanted to tidy up the loose ends of several years of hard work with a forthright public proclamation. SO, they picked a young fellow who had a knack for the right phrase, and hadn't done much work for the cause yet. His name was Thomas Jefferson. Alas, the document he drafted was The Declaration of Independence, and it came to symbolize the entire movement. In the simplifying lens of history, Jefferson got most of the credit for the work Adams and others had done.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Some common sense from Matthew Hoy:

...Also, the old "wall of separation" thing is getting old. Here's the entire sentence from which the famous phrase is taken.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
I don't know how you read it, but it looks to me as though that wall of separation is designed to keep the government out of the church. Some contend that it also means to keep the church out of government. Either way I don't think Jefferson was arguing that even the slightest mention of "God" was something that has no place in public life -- which is what the Ninth Circuit's decision taken to its logical conclusion would do...

Some words of wisdom from Megan:

I'm getting tired of the whining from the left, as if their last two presidents were carving bold, visionary foreign policy coups out of the barren steppes of Republican thought, instead of shamelessly caving to every two-bit foreign power as long as they'd just go away and leave us alone so we could tinker with the welfare state.

And I'm tired of whining from the right, as if it were the simplest thing in the world to hop up and Make the World Safe For Democracy with one big anti-terror bang. ... Bush is not Emperor of the World. (For which we may all humbly thank God every day). He does not call up his legions and say "Hark! Go thee forth and crush the barbarians under they muscled heels!"

The world is a complicated place. Solutions are never as straightforward as they seem when the only thing you have to conquer is a 40 of Old English.
All of you who think your heroes cut a straight, visionary line to the heart of the problems in front of them, guess again. Everyone from Churchill to Rockin' Ronnie scuttled hither and thither, seeming to lose their way, making missteps, and being harshly criticised from both sides for almost everything they did.
Keep in mind, that the history books that make it to the best-seller list are usually giving you a simplified version. If you dig in a bit, read that fat book with all the footnotes, you will find that the real battle was confusing and chaotic, and both sides were blundering about in the fog of war.

The secret of winning the war/campaign/invention/crusade is not avoiding mistakes, but learning from the mistakes you will inevitably make.

P. Krugman

In "Everybody is Outraged" (07/02/02) Paul Krugman plumbs the depths of his own outrage over recent business scandals. He finds that he is not only outraged by the business practices themselves, but also by Bush administration officials for saying that they too are outraged. According to Krugman their outrage is not genuine and, as you have probably guessed, he finds this outrageous. Those who should be outraged are customers of the New York Times who, expecting the views of a prominent economist, find themselves reading a gossip column on the op-ed page.

We will leave it to others to run down the ins and outs of Harken Energy, internal S.E.C. memoranda and whether George W. Bush went Martha Stewart "one better" back in 1989. We are more interested in how Krugman sees the big picture on this issue. Clearly he is fed up with American capitalism. On the other hand the obvious alternative, scientific socialism, failed worldwide and has been abandoned everywhere but in North Korea and Cuba. By default this leaves some sort of a mixed system that is perhaps nominally capitalistic, but heavily regulated, government directed and subsidized.

We may have gotten a preview of Krugman paradise last week in "The Reality Thing" (06/25/02) when he chastised the Bush administration for NOT being attentive to a corporation in need. This needy company has hemorrhaged cash for 25 years, has no chance ever of becoming profitable and always has its hand out to Washington. The contrast in Krugman's position on public policy toward this company compared with that toward Enron or WorldCom could not be sharper. The latters' transgressions were dealt with swiftly and severely in the market place. Both are essentially out of business and deserve to be.

But Krugman's needy company, Amtrak, lives on.

All of the justifications given for Amtrak over the years are demonstrably false. It does not serve mainly low income Americans; its impact on commuter traffic is negligible and claims that the environment benefits from Amtrak are laughable. Its supporters, organized labor and politicians in states "served" by Amtrak, are now pressing for a half-cent of the federal gasoline tax as a means of giving it permanent life support. Now that is outrageous!

Krugman has written about the evils of crony capitalism, but what about crony socialism? He should clarify his vision of a corporate American build around the Amtrak model.

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CLUELESS ABOUT WESTERN CIV: Charlene was just now browsing art on eBay, and saw this description of a painting from a dealer in Denmark: Antique oil painting. Picture of a lady with a man's head on a dish.

Monday, July 01, 2002

From the Intl Herald Tribune: Key House Panel Targets International Tribunal

With strong administration support, an important House committee has voted authorization for the president to use force to rescue any American held by the new International Criminal Court and to bar arms aid to nations that ratify the court treaty. The measure is sponsored by Representative Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who is the majority whip... DeLay told the Appropriations Committee on Thursday that his provision was necessary so the United States would never see an "American soldier or elected leader dragged before this court"; which he called a "rump court" and a "rogue court"...

"Rump court" -- I like that.

...The bill would also codify the Bush administration's announced policy of refusing to cooperate in any way with the court, and it would bar the extradition of anyone sought by the court...

Bush just went up a bit in my estimation.

...The Senate overwhelmingly passed a weaker version of the DeLay measure last December, but Democratic leaders who opposed it were able to kill it in a House-Senate conference. This year, with the court scheduled to come into existence on July 1, they may not be able to block the measure...

I'm guessing that those "Democratic leaders" and various "European Leaders" are so sympatico they hardly have to discuss who's to be on their little lists, of those who simply won't be missed...

...Before the committee voted, 38 to 18, to adopt DeLay's plan, it was bitterly attacked by several Democrats. Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island said that the DeLay measure sent a message of unilateralism to the world...


Representative David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the Appropriations Committee should not even consider the measure but leave it to the International Relations Committee...

That's probabably a unilateralist-free zone.

After demonstrating that some committee members did not know the court would be in The Hague, Obey asked if DeLay understood that under the rescue provision, "We would be sending our troops to invade the Netherlands." DeLay said he did not consider that a serious question.

That's tactful of you Tom, but it is a serious question. And the answer should be, "Sure, anybody who holds our people hostage should be invaded. And any American leader who fails to do so, such as Jimmy Carter, is a scoundrel traitor and should be hung.
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I just figured out why various European leaders were upset with Bush's call for democracy for Palestinians. It makes no sense to them. The PA already IS a democracy. They had an election. You know, just like voting to join the EU. You have an election, and then the thing is settled. Having MORE elections is, well, undemocratic.

An interesting article (via tonecluster) in the Jpost:

Sharansky urges West to help Palestinians build a 'real democracy'

"If liberty can blossom in the rocky soil of the West Bank and Gaza, it will inspire millions of men and women around the globe who are equally weary of poverty and oppression, equally entitled to the benefits of democratic government," US President George W. Bush said in a rhetorical flourish during his Monday night speech.

In Israel, both on the Right and the Left, these words were shrugged off to a large extent as quintessential "American naivete."...

But one man who did not snicker, and in fact greeted these words with a sense that a thesis he has been propounding for just under a decade was finally gaining currency, was Construction and Housing Minister Natan Sharansky...

...Of all the Arabs, Sharansky said, the Palestinians are the closest to democracy. The problem is that until now the West has chosen to prop up a dictator Arafat.

When reminded that the polls show the Palestinians are overwhelmingly still supportive of Arafat, Sharansky asked, "What does it mean that the Palestinians love only Arafat, the Russians when asked loved only Stalin. Did they have a choice. Has anybody made sure that the Palestinians have a choice?" ...
One would like to hope to think he's right... just now they are looking more like mad dogs that have to be put down ... 'course if they could change, if they were to become democratic and peaceful and prosperous, why, it would piss-off the rest of the Arabs worse than bombing Mecca...

Sunday, June 30, 2002

The single most exciting thing you encounter in government
is competence, because it's so rare." --Daniel P. Moynihan