Monday, July 26, 2004

While we're busy being a nation of Neros

"John could be utterly charming or totally devastating. He could wither with a look, suffering fools badly. He was openly contemptuous of people he didn't think pushed the envelope or themselves. He thought so quickly he often finished my sentences. I knew when he disagreed with me by catching an amused flicker in his eye. Behind the bluster, John was a gentle soul. He would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

--- Interviewer Barbara Newman, on FBI Agent, John O'Neill.

"My passion holds all of my wealth and all of my liabilities. It is the best and the worst of me. But it is me. It is my identity. Alas I know of no more noble cause than to fight for that which one has the greatest of passions for. Rebellions left in the hands of good men will ultimately prevail, and the costs and the sufferings of the rebels will be small, indeed. "

--John O'Neill

Among the first to identify Osama Bin Laden and the threat of Al-Qaeda, likening Bin Laden to Hitler in the pre-Mein Kampf days, John O'Neill was obsessed with the fact that the United States was not taking the threat seriously enough, dismissing Bin Laden as a financier rather than the very real leader of the Islamic jihadi movement.

One of O'Neill's greatest criticisms was of the Bush administration -- and the Clinton administration --- for what he felt to be stonewalling his attempts to reveal the Saudi Arabian components financing and support of Al-Qaeda operations.

John O'Neill was transferred on August 23, 2001 to a position at the World Trade Center from his previous role as a maverick FBI counter-terrorism agent. He perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

If he were alive today, he would most likely be unable to contain himself over the recent turns taken in our "war on terror." A strong champion of sanctions, diplomacy, inter-organization information sharing, and covert operations of both the military and investigative variety, O'Neill understood the connection between our large-scale military actions and their success as recruitment devices for new terrorists.

I believe if John O'Neill were alive today, he would be screaming at every journalist willing to listen that we know Osama Bin Laden has succeeded in his quest for nuclear suicide bombs, as stated by Yossef Bodansky, head of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare in a 1998 congressional committee meeting. He told the committee that the bombs had been transported through Pakistan to various al-Qaeda cells. "The Russians believe he [Bin Laden] has a handful [of nuclear weapons], the Saudi intelligence servcies are very conservative, perhaps they are freindly to the United States, believe that he has in the neighborhood of twenty. As far as the acquisition and obtaining [of said bombs] theres the multiple sources of that, dealing with the actual purchse of the suitcase bombs. He [bin Laden] has a collection of individuals knowledgeable in activating the bombs and he is looking for and recruiting former Soviet Special Forces in learning how to operate the bombs behind enemy lines."

Bin Laden himself said as much in December 1999 in a Time magazine interview. "If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so."

So. . .the million dollar question is. . .why have we let Osama bin Laden go off to Pakistan ( a country with proven history of selling nuclear capabilities to nearly every country except Iraq)? Is it because
of the nuclear threat, with conventional wisdom being that the capture of bin Laden would assuredly result in immediate nuclear attack from sleeper cells in the US? We have no choice other than to catch those working closest with him. One way or another, Osama bin Laden, free to roam and plan or within our grasp, intends to wage nuclear war on America and he already has the means and manpower to do so.

Would John O'Neill support the war in Iraq, or would he support the use of that same money, manpower and time on diminishing the power of Osama and al-Qaeda? Prescient, hard-hitting and relentless, O'Neill's insight and focus on the threat of bin Laden is sorely missed and greatly needed while our leaders choose instead to focus on Iraq and we spend our collective free time discussing who will be the next person tossed out of the Big Brother household.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Cardboard castles perched upon clouds

What an unholy hold rightwing leaders have over America's soul.

Somehow, since the Reagan years, the party has managed to subvert and redefine a number of heretofore dignified words within the American lexicon: family values, liberalism, celebrity, compassion -- even kindness and love have been marginalized, twisted and framed into something divisive and worthy of contempt.

While it's shocking enough to see this feat accomplished, even over time, what's decidedly sickening is its attendant poisoning of America's overall atmosphere as the GOP'ers continue to generate fear, alter the meaning and history of words and further divide the country through insidious methods. The hatred they breed hangs palpably in the air, clogging our hearts and minds.

The press has been co-opted by Sun Myung Moon's purchase of UPI and The Washington Times (that lovely paper that reported WMD as having been found last week -- a story all credible media was reticent to endorse). Yet publicly decrying the media a "liberal " stronghold seems enough for Americans to swallow the notion wholesale without any investigation into the facts.

With a failing media serving as more lapdog than watchdog, a ready team to spew Bush's talking points wherever and whenever they can, a President who repeats "America is safer!" eight times in one speech without offering one shred of empiral evidence, we're living in a carefully constructed superficial pseudo-reality.

The only speck of sunlight peeking through exists in the knowledge that houses built on shifting sand cannot withstand inclement weather. It remains to be seen if said weather will consist of a majority determined to expose the truth or acts of terrorism perpetrated against the US in retaliation for decades of bad foreign policy.

One way or another, the truth will have its day. The price may be more than we're willing to pay, but we can only blame ourselves if it takes radical outside interference to expose what we as a nation willingly continue to subvert.

On another political note: the Brad Blog is still up in full swing. If you've not visited it, Brad Friedman offers an excellent, timely, thoughtful counterpoint to the current fiction being offered by our leaders. He's also been instrumental in uncovering many of the truths behind the Enrique Presley/Claire Chanel/Andy Kaufman exploits, though neither of us has really determined the identity of Stephen Maddox aka "Running Man." Not sure if his "Claire Chanel FAQ" still exists, but his political commentary alone is priceless.

Friday, July 23, 2004


I was flying into Chicago at night
Watching the lake turn the sky into blue-green smoke,
The sun was setting to the left of the plane,
And the cabin was filled with an unearthly glow.

In 27-D I was behind the wing,
Watching landscapes roll out like credits on a screen
The earth looked like it was lit from within
Like a poorly assembled electrical ball as we moved

Out of the farmlands and into the grid
The plan of the city was all that you saw
And all of these people sitting totally still
As the ground raced beneath them thirty thousand feet down

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened,
the noise just went away

And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video
The stewardess came back and checked on my drink
In the last strains of sunlight, a Bridgette Bardot

There's a hat on my headphones
Along with those eyes that you get
When your circumstance is movie size

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

In the trenches: Message Boards

Imagine most of the people who visited this blog have gone on to greener pastures. I've been absent for quite awhile, conducting sociological experiments at a message board.

Years ago, Freenets were the writer's masochistic playground. Far more peaceful and educational, Freenets were comprised of local community members who actually endured the hardships of time limits, IP logging, and good manners. Being local meant maintaining real, civil discourse. It also meant more difficult navigation, so forces for evil hadn't a roadmap yet. With the advent of AO-Hell and the home computer revolution, everything's changed; bringing credence to the motto: If you build it easy enough for morons, they will come.

At the board which will remain unnamed, they came. Carrying all their baggage, poor spelling skills and silly games along for the ride. Interesting phenomenon, in that anonymity and the ability to use a mouse bring out the worst in some people. I was at first celebrated (it's the whole being able to spell miracle) by those who agreed with me and rapidly vilified by others, as people who disagreed with my messages sought the age-old practical magic of discrediting the messenger, instead. What's most amazing is that other people who said the same or similar statements were not quite smacked with the "tag, you're it" sticker. It could have been my being female. It could have been about their lack of desire to be challenged. Or, it could just have been a response to having a mirror thrown before them. Perhaps it was my failure to pull punches when needed, often saying with sarcasm things that should have been said kindly. Whatever it was, pitchforks and torches ensued.

Believe it or not, this all became personal to me, somehow. In using my real first name, the myriad unkind conjecture about my alleged trailer park existence, drug use, supposed communist hippie lifestyle (those Fundamentalist Christians -- such kidders!) and questionable dominatrix career charges eventually felt all too real. Before opening the Adam and Eve catalog to search for new employment leather power suits, I pulled the plug.

Funny thing is, they haven't. For days now, the board is still clogged with messages about where I've gone and what happened. Despite the rampant hatred hurled in my general direction, the personal attacks, the utter disgust at my very existence, I'm still somehow part of their collective -- in both admiring and disparaging terms.

Proving that the power they vested in me was not emanating from same. It was provided through them, willingly, in exchange for whatever it was they wanted. But, the people who want to fight the good fight do have that power. Rather than invest it in discussing my absence, it would be best to recognize most of them can, and often did, say exactly what I said. Many said it much better. It just requires the energy to do so and a belief that they can try to make a difference. And one helluva thicker skin than I had.

The whole experiment? An abject failure. All the way around. Armed with a teeny amount of wit and seeking discourse with others, I discovered that the so-called safety and security of hiding behind a computer is nothing more than an assumed contract. When a person refuses to adhere to the terms and places his or her true feelings out for the world, it becomes a very unlevel playing ground. The results can often be painful. Still, it is better to remain true to yourself and your beliefs, even when you're worlds away from other people, connected only via electricity and a cable modem. Leave the playing behind for others who are fully comfortable in the contractualized anonymity and supposed freedom it brings to attack others without giving it much thought.

In the coming days, more lovely anecdotes from a message board teeming with ill-bred vipers and blessed with the presence of some really cool, smart, decent people. I've missed the friends made here, like Miss Moon, and am still wondering when Andy Kaufman will show up at my local Wal-Mart. If ever. All those responses to his last post at the andykaufmanreturns/blogspot and he's yet to answer a single one. Now that's disappointing.

[ETA: I had a comment on here and lost it somehow. When I try to republish this post it simply stays at zero percent published. Anyone have an idea how to correct this problem?]

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