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4/06/2004

EBS BRD: Where, oh, where, have all the missiles gone?

We'll us folks around HQ decided it was high time to meander into a bunker buried a bit deeper. Unfortunately, it is ferociously difficult to find a U-Haul chain (it's not really that we needed the truck, but we broke the hitch, you see) among the smoking apocalyptic ruins strewn about.

That and those damned cannibal mutants.

I can live with mutants. I can even manage cannibals, provided they're not too hungry.

But damned cannibal mutants.

Bastards won't even help you change a flat.

Nope.

Just 'AArrrgh!' 'AArrrgh?' 'Must Eat Brain, AArrrgh!!'.

All the time.

Bastards

At any rate, once I'm safely enconsed in the new digs, and have a chance for the Queer Eye guys to spruce it up a little bit, I'll start doing with ballistic missiles what monkeys do with feces.

4/02/2004

TBM BRD: Error America

Doesn't it strike you as the least bit interesting that the Left Wing answer to Right Wing Talk Radio is called Air America?

Talk about people with selective memories of the Viet Nam era...

Air America was the name of the air component of the CIA's largest ever paramilitary operation - the war in Laos from 1955 to 1974.

"Air America, an airline secretly owned by the CIA, was a vital component in the Agency's operations in Laos. By the summer of 1970, the airline had some two dozen twin-engine transports, another two dozen short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) aircraft, and some 30 helicopters dedicated to operations in Laos. There were more than 300 pilots, copilots, flight mechanics, and air-freight specialists flying out of Laos and Thailand. During 1970, Air America airdropped or landed 46 million pounds of foodstuffs--mainly rice--in Laos. Helicopter flight time reached more than 4,000 hours a month in the same year. Air America crews transported tens of thousands of troops and refugees, flew emergency medevac missions and rescued downed airmen throughout Laos, inserted and extracted road-watch teams, flew nighttime airdrop missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, monitored sensors along infiltration routes, conducted a highly successful photoreconnaissance program, and engaged in numerous clandestine missions using night-vision glasses and state-of-the-art electronic equipment. Without Air America's presence, the CIA's effort in Laos could not have been sustained." (Link)

Not entirely unlike Terry McAullife's decision to name the official blog (which in all fairness is a shade or two less whitebread than its Republican counterpart) "Kicking Ass." Or the political rhetoric requiring a politician to "Stand and Deliver" - a demand originally issued by highwaymen to their unfortunate victims (it couldn't be that this says something about the Guardian's views on politics, right?).

Or for that matter, the yellow ribbon thing folks saw as a means to express support for troops - particularly during Gulf '91 - which had its origins in songs about those pining for convicts serving their jail sentences.

It's the kind of goofiness that could only be self-inflicted. I guess it makes COINTELPRO sort of a moot point...

4/01/2004

SRBM CVE: Al Franken, Voice of the Left?

I was listening to more Air America today when the disconnect hit me. When, exactly, did a guy who clowned around on Saturday Night Live and whose most memorable line was "...me, Al Franken" get to be the voice of the Left?

I mean, I can kind of trace it. There was the '96 campaign season where he did political commentary/comedy on Comedy Central. He made a name for himself in political circles for being one of the first to note that Buchanen was hurting the Republicans more than he was helping them, especially after that speech at the convention.

Then came Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and more recently Lies, and the Lying Liars who Tell Them. And certainly Lies is a much more serious book than Rush was, but both are so filled with humor (and attempts at humor) that it can be hard to tell when he's joking and when he's serious.

And now he's the lead voice of Air America. Not as much as a leap as the Reagan/Arnold jump from acting to politics, but its still kind of hard to take the guy seriously...especially when he fills his show with goofy antics like the Ann Coulter bit yesterday.

"...me, Al Franken."

I don't know if I buy it just yet.

Editted to correct the famous line...the original line mentioned here was by Dan Ackroid, not Franken. -CVE

3/31/2004

TBM CVE: Air America, Day One

Okay, so I caught much of the "headline" show of Air Americ today, the O'Franken Factor. Surprise, surprise, it was hosted by Al Franken. And it showed its newness, with some bumbling and fumbling, a rather unfunny running joke about Ann Coulter, too short interviews with people I'd like to hear from and too long with others.

Your basic teething pains, in other words.

But just once, near the end of Franken's first show, they approached greatness. They were interviewing Michael Moore, a guy I normally have fairly little use for, Democrat or not, and in the middle of the interview Al Gore called in. Listening to Franken wheedle Moore into apologizing to Gore for supporting Nader back in 2000 was hilarious.

It may have taken three hours to become really worthwhile, but at least there are flashes. For all those conservatives who encourage moderates and liberals to listen to Limbaugh "so you can hear what we're thinking", I offer the same advice...check out Air America to see what's going on in the heads of the Left.

3/30/2004

TBM BRD: Condi To Testify

According to CNN, "White House will allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly under oath before 9/11 commission, a senior administration official tells CNN."

Also check out the post below for CVE's take on the testimony.

3/29/2004

SRBM CVE: A Bad Idea

See, if Condi Rice got up in front of the commission and just said the same things she's been saying elsewhere, this thing would be over with by now. No one went nuts over what Rumsfeld and Powell said, so why would anyone care more about Rice?

But no, the Administration is continuing to stonewall, and now its making it look like they've got something to hide, regardless of whether they do or not. Between that and the dogfight with Clarke, especially when added to the earlier criticisms by O'Neill, Iraq is starting to look less and less like a selling point and more like an albatross around Bush's neck.

No one outside the beltway buys the "separation of powers" line, and every time they repeat it, the more it smells like a cover-up. You'd think that an Administration who is comprised of people who lived through the Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton presidencies would have learned by now...the cover-up is always worse than the original offense. But no, that lesson doesn't seem to have sunk in.

What's particularly ironic about the whole deal is that anybody who's read what Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had been writing before 2000 would know that they always advocated going back to Iraq, and have said from the start that it was in America's best interests. If they'd simply stuck to their guns with "its a good idea" rather than trying to blow WMDs and fake Al-Queda links into our faces, they wouldn't sound like lying weasels now when they try to defend their decisions.

There's a lesson to be learned here, people. Play it straight, or get hung with your own words.

TBM CVE: Too Little, Too Late?

After more than a decade of allowing conservatives to rule the radio waves, the liberals have finally brought a single station online to present the opposing point of view. Air America is on the air.

The question is, will it make a difference? For all that Dean is credited for revolutionizing the way the Internet is used in politics, the fact is that talk radio's been beating Democrats over the head since the first President Bush was in office, and one has to wonder if one station, no matter how witty the people on it may be, can really swing the tide back.

On the other hand, the fact that such a station exists at all may suggest that the political pendulum is swinging its way back...

3/25/2004

SRBM: CVE: Yeah, You Better Retract That!!

So in the wake of Yassin getting blown up, Hamas decided it was a good idea to threaten the good old USA. In a statement they released Tuesday they said "The Zionists didn't carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American administration and it must take responsibility for this crime, all the Muslims of the world will be honored to join in on the retaliation."

A day later, the newly crowned head of Hamas, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi (soon after receiving his ceremonial Bulls-eye of Israeli Targethood), backed off from those threats and declared that Ariel Sharon would be the target now, not the U.S.A.

al-Rantissi may have just saved his organization's ass with that decision. The absolute last thing Hamas needs is to give the U.S.A. an excuse to join the fray as full-fledged combatants. One solid strike at an American target would be that excuse. We've never been terribly Hamas Friendly, and we've been less so since 9/11 and the Palestinian Party they threw in the wake of it.

But Arafat (who read the writing on the wall with more skill than he's shown lately) was quick to show support for the U.S. and to condemn the attacks and so removed his people from the Immediate Target List. And if Hamas were to go off the rails and put themselves back on it, nothing but catastrophe would follow. After all, if the Syrian government in Damascus is faced with the choice of giving up Hamas or risking "Crazy George" going over the line from Iraq, Hamas will be handed over so fast they won't have time to pack.

I'll give the Prez one thing...he's added immensely to the fear factor when dealing with America. Now whether that fear is worth the damage those policies have done to our relationships with our friends is one of the things for voters to decide in November.

3/23/2004

SRBM CVE: On the Use of Language

So I've been giving some thought to the usage of certain words. Here's a good one: Assassination versus Attack. Both the BBC and CNN are telling the same story about the funeral for blown-up Hamas head honcho Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, but on that side of the pond its an assassination, on our side its just an attack.

But what about Uday and Qusay? Weren't they important? But no one, not even the BBC, called their deaths assassinations.

Dictionary.com has the following to say on the word:

as·sas·si·nate ( P )
tr.v. as·sas·si·nat·ed, as·sas·si·nat·ing, as·sas·si·nates
1. To murder (a prominent person) by surprise attack, as for political reasons.
2. To destroy or injure treacherously: assassinate a rival's character

Obviosuly, we can set aside defintion #2, since the Israelis didn't so much call Yassin nasty names so much as smear him across the pavement.

So we're left with #1, and we have to ask ourselves...why is this such a big deal? Especially in this case. Is the blowing up of Yassin and some Hamas henchgoons any worse than the random deaths of Israeli civilians? Were the Israelis killed on the 15th at Ashdod somehow less dead because they weren't "prominent"?

After all, Yassin knew he was at war. He was one of the guys who declared it. Yassin's oft-repeated quote on the matter was: " The so-called peace path is not peace and it is not a substitute for jihad and resistance." In jihad, and while offering resistance, one accepts that one is under wartime conditions. One knows one can get killed in a battle.

On the other hand, the guys who were going about working at the docks at Ashdod had no such expectations, and it was because of Yassin's orders that they died.

So I'm not going to be shedding any tears over this guy.

Back in February, I decried the ongoing tit-for-tat violence between the Israelis and Palestinians as inherently non-decisive. I thought, and still do, that just raiding Palestinan towns (and they are full fledged towns now...you should stop calling yourself a refugee camp after 50 years or so) and blowing up Hamas and Islamic Jihad foot soldiers simply wasn't getting the job done. Foot soldiers are expendable and replaceable.

And there's absolutely nothing as expendable as a suicide bomber.

But if every time there's a big bombing in Israel, the response is to take out one of the high end leaders of these groups, such as Yassin, maybe those self-same leaders will have second thoughts about ordering another teenager to his doom.

Maybe.

The situation still sucks, and as I suspected might happen, even the slightest escalation by Israel has brought a tremendous (and, to my mind unwarranted) international condemnation and scorn.

But at least they're trying something newish...the combination of starting to pull out with stepped up violence directed at the "head of the snake" is one they haven't tried before, and it should be quite interesting to see if it works.

3/22/2004

TBM BRD: Taiwan Election Results

Following the recent assassination attempt on the incumbent president and vice president, national elections were held as scheduled.

Official returns indicate that Chen (the incumbent) has retained power - which is thought to bode ill for Beijing, as he has been a markedly pro-independence candidate. Thus far, reports state that he won with less than one quarter of one percent margin (about 29,000 votes) - less than the number of spoiled ballots.

However, the returns are hotly disputed, and protests have erupted.

All things considered, if Chen Shui-Ban wants to pull the independence trigger, I think 2006 or '07 is his best bet, pending developments in Iran and North Korea. It'll be close enough to the Beijing Olympics that the cost of Chinese military response will be much higher - after the Olympics they can have their every-two-decades fit of bad behavior without having as much on the line. Furthermore, in my estimate, Bush would be relatively likely to back a vote for independence. Assuming that air and naval forces have had a chance to replenish, and there are no conflicts looming on the horizon, then he may be in a fairly good spot to support Taiwan militarily.

This, of course, assumes that China doesn't bribe North Korea to go over the line (with promises of military support and a blind eye) in order to tie up US assets in the region. In this scenario, start asking serious questions about Japanese, Indian, or possibly even Russian, Vietnamese, or Australian involvement in one or both theaters.

Stay tuned for chaos, kids!!

3/18/2004

TBM BRD: Ayman al-Zawahiri Update Jumping the Gun?

Following up on the post below, Bloomberg has reported that bonds are down on reports of al Zawahri capture, based on earlier reports from Sky News. More to follow as warranted.

Update #1: Bloomberg: Pakistani officials cannot confirm or deny that Zawahiri is surrounded, as fighting is still ongoing.

Update #2: As I'm sure you're all aware there are a sea of reports indicating that fighting is ongoing and is expected to continue for the next few hours. These reports also suggest that the individual cornered is, indeed, al-Zawahiri. However, beyond the Bloomberg report above, I have found nothing to post to coroborate suggestions that he has either surrendered or been captured. Additional reports do suggest that he has been wounded in the fighting. So, in all, I feel that I must retract my original claims as they seem to be either premature or overblown or both. I will continue to update this post as events warrant.

Update #3: PRovenance of the reports of surrender: Bloomberg cited reports from SkyNews indicating that AAZ had been captured. SkyNews has since pulled the story indicating that AAZ was in custody. Some subsequent reports indicate the possibility that he has been wounded, and he is, indeed, the High-Value Target mentioned in various reports. This has not been confirmed by official reports.

Update #4: Apologies to visitors from Asymmetric Information, Vodka Pundit, Winds of Change, Mythusmage Opines, Ace of Spades, and any others I've missed. It seems, I may have jumped the gun. Despite that, I hope that the rest of the site is worth your reading.

SRBM CVE: More on Voter Turnout

Nathan Newman on one hand and Rick Heller over at Centerfield on the other have an interesting dialog going on whether Voter Turnout is really as down as it seems, and what the implications of that could be.

I would only comment to note that the very issues we debate are often framed by the awareness of who votes.

Social Security and Presciption Drugs have been big issues lately, and we often forget that the largest and most powerful "Special Interest Group" ain't the NRA (not by a long shot!), its the AARP...the American Association of Retired People.

Why? Well, as any election judge could tell you, retired people make it to the polls virtually every election, and often take care to vote Absentee if they plan to Snowbird out of town during an election.

On the other hand, there isn't much play to the fact that one of the places getting cut hard by the various state financial problems is funding for Universities. Public schools all over are having to cut services or increase tuition...or both...with alarming frequency accross the nation, but it isn't getting much play in the media or from the canidates.

The reason should be obvious...college kids fail to vote in higher percentages than most of the other age/job brackets.

And that frames the debate. Retired people vote, college kids don't, so issues that matter to the former are focused on those important to the latter are ignored.

Which is why I encourage people to vote more often...if you don't, and if all the other people who are like you in age/job/opinion don't either, you don't exist as far as getting your message heard goes.

That's how your vote matters far more than whether any individual canidate you vote for wins or loses. If you become representative of a voting block, then things you want or need are more likely to be tended to. If you don't, then the "Powers That Be" will write you off as uinimportant in the grand scheme of things.

TBM BRD: News Flash

Some sources confirm that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda number 2 has been captured.

UPDATE the First: Provenance of the information and current status posted above.

3/17/2004

SRBM CVE: Primary Blues

I'd like to tell you a story.

I served as an election judge on Tuesday. About an hour and a half before we closed the polls, one of our more faithful voters came in, a man that everyone calls "Johnny". Being in his fifties, blind, and mentally disabled, Johnny is the kind of guy who brings a smile to your face despite yourself. In particular, it was inadvertently funny when (as one of the other judges read the ballot to him, which you have to do for a blind voter) he decided he wanted to vote for "all of them" in the Senate primary. Though he'd focused on the Presidential campaign and knew who he wanted to vote for in that primary, he really had no idea on the rest of the races, and seemed to pick whichever name he heard last in every race.

Just a cute little story, right?

Except...if you didn't vote in your primary (or aren't planning to), then you made less difference than Johnny did.

It doesn't matter that he didn't really understand anything besides wanting to vote for John Kerry. Didn't matter that he was basically picking names out of a hat for every other office.

What matters is that he votes and you don't.

Sure, the Presidential primary was all but decided (and became officially decided after Kerry won Illinois) but there was an open Senate seat to fight for, with both Republican and Democratic primaries to decide who would fight it out in November for "The Seat of the Damned" (ie, Illinois' second Senate seat, which has been held by one term losers Carol Mosley-Braun and Peter Fitzgerald, neither of which managed to accomplish much in their six years). Not to mention a bevy of House seats and local offices.

With all that going on, my precinct managed to muster 93 actual voters out of 552 registered.

That's right, not quite 17%.

I'm with BRD and Doc Jawa that it was a terrible message the voters of Spain sent, and that the consequences of it are likely to be dire.

And yet...I can't help but think that there's a tragedy brewing here, too. What kind of democracy can't even muster 1/5 of the registered voters into the polling place? That's the registered voters!! How many more can't even be bothered to register?

I do understand that given Anticipatory Retaliation's Military/Political Mandate I'm likely preaching to the choir...if you're reading this, you probably vote.

You damn well better, anyway.

But I can't help be feel frustrated at noting the tremendous number of people who can't get enough of complaining about politics, government, tax policy or what have you and comparing it with the terribly small number who will make the minimum effort involved by voting.

What should we do different? What can we do different? Move elections to the weekends as the do in Germany? Give away free food and coffee? Make it a fineable offense if you don't vote as they do in Australia?

What's the plan? Because I don't like the direction we seem to be moving in, gang...

3/16/2004

TBM BRD: International Day of Dammit! You Ought To Know Better

Doc Jawa has been compiling a list of folks who share sentiments similar to the one I expressed below regarding the potential impact of terrorism. Unfortuantely, it seems that much like economics, it's not a crisis until you make it one. Dreary news, indeed.