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Thursday, June 29, 2006

FLORIDA "TERRORIST" RING LEADER BIZARRE CULT LEADER, TOO

I meant to blog about this [http://thepete.com/what-a-joke-our-government-is/|the other day] but I somehow missed it. Check it out--the supposed ring leader of these "terrorists" that were caught in Florida was also the leader of a sort of mini-cult. At least [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2242141,00.html|A June 25, 2006 article] from http://TimesOnline.co.uk reported. Here's a clip from the article:
THE ringleader of the seven men accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago was a “Moses-like figure” who carried a crooked cane and wore a cape as he sought to recruit followers to a religious cult called the Seas of David.


OK, I really think this is a case of 'nuff said.

Come on Alberto--this is the best you can do? Go after non-white American freaks who have no hope of ever being organized enough to shoplift a stick of gum?

Man, the USG is just grabbing at anything to distract and scare us. You guys did notice that another warrantless spy program was [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/23/washington/23intel.html|reported on] in the NYT, right?

Man, isn't it amazing how blatant the USG is getting at seriously abridging our rights? Are they just going to keep abusing the American People until someone rises up and revolts?

That could take a very long time!

From NYTimes.Com:

Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror

By ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN

WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.

The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous."

The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.

But all the programs grew out of the Bush administration's desire to exploit technological tools to prevent another terrorist strike, and all reflect attempts to break down longstanding legal or institutional barriers to the government's access to private information about Americans and others inside the United States.

Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing. Much more limited agreements with other companies have provided access to A.T.M. transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments, the officials said.

Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific Congressional approval or formal authorization.

Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions, Mr. Levey said.

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.

Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told American officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At that time, new controls were introduced.

Among the safeguards, government officials said, is an outside auditing firm that verifies that the data searches are based on intelligence leads about suspected terrorists. "We are not on a fishing expedition," Mr. Levey said. "We're not just turning on a vacuum cleaner and sucking in all the information that we can."

Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Mr. Levey, the Treasury official, said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate.

Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution.

But at the outset of the operation, Treasury and Justice Department lawyers debated whether the program had to comply with such laws before concluding that it did not, people with knowledge of the debate said. Several outside banking experts, however, say that financial privacy laws are murky and sometimes contradictory and that the program raises difficult legal and public policy questions.

The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Mr. Levey agreed to discuss the classified operation after the Times editors told him of the newspaper's decision.

On Thursday evening, Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said: "Since immediately following 9/11, the American government has taken every legal measure to prevent another attack on our country. One of the most important tools in the fight against terror is our ability to choke off funds for the terrorists."

She added: "We know the terrorists pay attention to our strategy to fight them, and now have another piece of the puzzle of how we are fighting them. We also know they adapt their methods, which increases the challenge to our intelligence and law enforcement officials."

Referring to the disclosure by The New York Times last December of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, she said, "The president is concerned that once again The New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is working to protect our citizens."

Swift declined to discuss details of the program but defended its role in written responses to questions. "Swift has fully complied with all applicable laws," the consortium said. The organization said it insisted that the data be used only for terrorism investigations and had narrowed the scope of the information provided to American officials over time.

A Crucial Gatekeeper

Swift's database provides a rich hunting ground for government investigators. Swift is a crucial gatekeeper, providing electronic instructions on how to transfer money among 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. The cooperative is owned by more than 2,200 organizations, and virtually every major commercial bank, as well as brokerage houses, fund managers and stock exchanges, uses its services. Swift routes more than 11 million transactions each day, most of them across borders.

The cooperative's message traffic allows investigators, for example, to track money from the Saudi bank account of a suspected terrorist to a mosque in New York. Starting with tips from intelligence reports about specific targets, agents search the database in what one official described as a "24-7" operation. Customers' names, bank account numbers and other identifying information can be retrieved, the officials said.

The data does not allow the government to track routine financial activity, like A.T.M. withdrawals, confined to this country, or to see bank balances, Treasury officials said. And the information is not provided in real time — Swift generally turns it over several weeks later. Because of privacy concerns and the potential for abuse, the government sought the data only for terrorism investigations and prohibited its use for tax fraud, drug trafficking or other inquiries, the officials said.

The Treasury Department was charged by President Bush, in a September 2001 executive order, with taking the lead role in efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. Mr. Bush has been briefed on the program and Vice President Dick Cheney has attended C.I.A. demonstrations, the officials said. The National Security Agency has provided some technical assistance.

While the banking program is a closely held secret, administration officials have held classified briefings for some members of Congress and the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said. More lawmakers were briefed in recent weeks, after the administration learned The Times was making inquiries for this article.

Swift's 25-member board of directors, made up of representatives from financial institutions around the world, was previously told of the program. The Group of 10's central banks, in major industrialized countries, which oversee Swift, were also informed. It is not clear if other network participants know that American intelligence officials can examine their message traffic.

Because Swift is based overseas and has offices in the United States, it is governed by European and American laws. Several international regulations and policies impose privacy restrictions on companies that are generally regarded as more stringent than those in this country. United States law establishes some protections for the privacy of Americans' financial data, but they are not ironclad. A 1978 measure, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, has a limited scope and a number of exceptions, and its role in national security cases remains largely untested.

Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.

"There was always concern about this program," a former official said.

One person involved in the Swift program estimated that analysts had reviewed international transfers involving "many thousands" of people or groups in the United States. Two other officials placed the figure in the thousands. Mr. Levey said he could not estimate the number.

The Swift data has provided clues to money trails and ties between possible terrorists and groups financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.

Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.

In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.

The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.

In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to "sanitize," or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.

The Bush administration has pursued steps that may provide some enhanced legal standing for the Swift program. In late 2004, Congress authorized the Treasury Department to develop regulations requiring American banks to turn over records of international wire transfers. Officials say a preliminary version of those rules may be ready soon. One official described the regulations as an attempt to "formalize" access to the kind of information secretly provided by Swift, though other officials said the initiative was unrelated to the program.

The Scramble for New Tools

Like other counterterrorism measures carried out by the Bush administration, the Swift program began in the hectic days after the Sept. 11 attacks, as officials scrambled to identify new tools to head off further strikes.

One priority was to cut off the flow of money to Al Qaeda. The 9/11 hijackers had helped finance their plot by moving money through banks. Nine of the hijackers, for instance, funneled money from Europe and the Middle East to SunTrust bank accounts in Florida. Some of the $130,000 they received was wired by people overseas with known links to Al Qaeda.

Financial company executives, many of whom had lost friends at the World Trade Center, were eager to help federal officials trace terrorist money. "They saw 9/11 not just as an attack on the United States, but on the financial industry as a whole," said one former government official.

Quietly, counterterrorism officials sought to expand the information they were getting from financial institutions. Treasury officials, for instance, spoke with credit card companies about devising an alert if someone tried to buy fertilizer and timing devices that could be used for a bomb, but they were told the idea was not logistically possible, a lawyer in the discussions said.

The F.B.I. began acquiring financial records from Western Union and its parent company, the First Data Corporation. The programs were alluded to in Congressional testimony by the F.B.I. in 2003 and described in more detail in a book released this week, "The One Percent Doctrine," by Ron Suskind. Using what officials described as individual, narrowly framed subpoenas and warrants, the F.B.I. has obtained records from First Data, which processes credit and debit card transactions, to track financial activity and try to locate suspects.

Similar subpoenas for the Western Union data allowed the F.B.I. to trace wire transfers, mainly outside the United States, and to help Israel disrupt about a half-dozen possible terrorist plots there by unraveling the financing, an official said.

The idea for the Swift program, several officials recalled, grew out of a suggestion by a Wall Street executive, who told a senior Bush administration official about Swift's database. Few government officials knew much about the consortium, which is led by a Brooklyn native, Leonard H. Schrank, but they quickly discovered it offered unparalleled access to international transactions. Swift, a former government official said, was "the mother lode, the Rosetta stone" for financial data.

Intelligence officials were so eager to use the Swift data that they discussed having the C.I.A. covertly gain access to the system, several officials involved in the talks said. But Treasury officials resisted, the officials said, and favored going to Swift directly.

At the same time, lawyers in the Treasury Department and the Justice Department were considering possible legal obstacles to the arrangement, the officials said.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans had no constitutional right to privacy for their records held by banks or other financial institutions. In response, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act two years later, restricting government access to Americans' banking records. In considering the Swift program, some government lawyers were particularly concerned about whether the law prohibited officials from gaining access to records without a warrant or subpoena based on some level of suspicion about each target.

For many years, law enforcement officials have relied on grand-jury subpoenas or court-approved warrants for such financial data. Since 9/11, the F.B.I. has turned more frequently to an administrative subpoena, known as a national security letter, to demand such records.

After an initial debate, Treasury Department lawyers, consulting with the Justice Department, concluded that the privacy laws applied to banks, not to a banking cooperative like Swift. They also said the law protected individual customers and small companies, not the major institutions that route money through Swift on behalf of their customers.

Other state, federal and international regulations place different and sometimes conflicting restrictions on the government's access to financial records. Some put greater burdens on the company disclosing the information than on the government officials demanding it.

Among their considerations, American officials saw Swift as a willing partner in the operation. But Swift said its participation was never voluntary. "Swift has made clear that it could provide data only in response to a valid subpoena," according to its written statement.

Indeed, the cooperative's executives voiced early concerns about legal and corporate liability, officials said, and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control began issuing broad subpoenas for the cooperative's records related to terrorism. One official said the subpoenas were intended to give Swift some legal protection.

Underlying the government's legal analysis was the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Mr. Bush invoked after the 9/11 attacks. The law gives the president what legal experts say is broad authority to "investigate, regulate or prohibit" foreign transactions in responding to "an unusual and extraordinary threat."

But L. Richard Fischer, a Washington lawyer who wrote a book on banking privacy and is regarded as a leading expert in the field, said he was troubled that the Treasury Department would use broad subpoenas to demand large volumes of financial records for analysis. Such a program, he said, appears to do an end run around bank-privacy laws that generally require the government to show that the records of a particular person or group are relevant to an investigation.

"There has to be some due process," Mr. Fischer said. "At an absolute minimum, it strikes me as inappropriate."

Several former officials said they had lingering concerns about the legal underpinnings of the Swift operation. The program "arguably complies with the letter of the law, if not the spirit," one official said.

Another official said: "This was creative stuff. Nothing was clear cut, because we had never gone after information this way before."

Treasury officials said they considered the government's authority to subpoena the Swift records to be clear. "People do not have a privacy interest in their international wire transactions," Mr. Levey, the Treasury under secretary, said.

Tighter Controls Sought

Within weeks of 9/11, Swift began turning over records that allowed American analysts to look for evidence of terrorist financing. Initially, there appear to have been few formal limits on the searches.

"At first, they got everything — the entire Swift database," one person close to the operation said.

Intelligence officials paid particular attention to transfers to or from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because most of the 9/11 hijackers were from those countries.

The volume of data, particularly at the outset, was often overwhelming, officials said. "We were turning on every spigot we could find and seeing what water would come out," one former administration official said. "Sometimes there were hits, but a lot of times there weren't."

Officials realized the potential for abuse, and narrowed the program's targets and put in more safeguards. Among them were the auditing firm, an electronic record of every search and a requirement that analysts involved in the operation document the intelligence that justified each data search. Mr. Levey said the program was used only to examine records of individuals or entities, not for broader data searches.

Despite the controls, Swift executives became increasingly worried about their secret involvement with the American government, the officials said. By 2003, the cooperative's officials were discussing pulling out because of their concerns about legal and financial risks if the program were revealed, one government official said.

"How long can this go on?" a Swift executive asked, according to the official.

Even some American officials began to question the open-ended arrangement. "I thought there was a limited shelf life and that this was going to go away," the former senior official said.

In 2003, administration officials asked Swift executives and some board members to come to Washington. They met with Mr. Greenspan, Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, and Treasury officials, among others, in what one official described as "a full-court press." Aides to Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Mueller declined to comment on the meetings.

The executives agreed to continue supplying records after the Americans pledged to impose tighter controls. Swift representatives would be stationed alongside intelligence officials and could block any searches considered inappropriate, several officials said.

The procedural change provoked some opposition at the C.I.A. because "the agency was chomping at the bit to have unfettered access to the information," a senior counterterrorism official said. But the Treasury Department saw it as a necessary compromise, the official said, to "save the program."

Barclay Walsh contributed reporting for this article.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture?


Photo: AP.org

I mean no disrespect to the troops, but I really wonder who should be more ashamed for being in this picture. Bush for having the gall to run with a guy whose legs he had blown off in this useless war or the GI for not jamming his prosthetic legs up Bush's ass.

I hope the vet asked Bush why his legs had to be sacrificed for non-existent WMD or the oil or for Iraqi freedom.

Read [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060627/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_wounded_soldier_1|the original article] that this picture came with at News.Yahoo.Com.

Yes, I know Bush promised the guy by his bed to run with him one day, but this war (any war) is so much bigger than some Hollywood-perfect promise Bush made to a GI.

Don't be distracted by Bush pretending. Bush running with this guy is an empty gesture. If Bush really wanted to help, he'd stop this from happenning to anyone else.

Sorry, I can't talk about politics and stuff at work, so I kind of explode with cynicism and disgust at night. :)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Was it entertaining?? Of COURSE it was!!


Technically any good? FX ranged from "eh" to AMAZING. You will believe a man can not only fly by save lives in all sorts of fun ways. Script got an amazing number of things right and the tone of the first half of the film was great. Acting was spot on by Routh and Marsden is given more to do in this movie than the last three X-Men films put together. Sadly, Kate Bosworth was the Halle Berry of the film--pretty badly miscast. She's too young for the part in every sense of the word. Still this is a wonderful crowd pleaser and not a film that will fully disappoint anyone (aside me--but I'll get into that in a later post). Oh and the music was very nicely done--a wonderful mix of new stuff and the classic John Williams theme that we all know and love.


How did it leave me feeling? It left me disappointed, but odds are it'll leave you feeling like you finally spent ten bucks that was worth it. Go see this movie now!!!


Final Rating? GSN

Hey, look! There's us in the theater:



Click over to [http://thepete.com/superman-returns-2006/2/|page 2] to read a spoilerific explanation for why I didn't like this movie in the end. Don't click through unless you don't mind having the film ruined for you.

The reasons I didn't like the film:

1) Superman is a dad.

2) Superman is a dad.

3) There is no narrative reason for Superman to have a son, yet he has one.

3a) In nearly 70 years of Superman stories, they've never made Superman being a dad a permanent part of the mythos. Luckily, I'll just ignore this movie, like I did The Adventures of Lois and Clark and Smallville.

4) The second half of the film (which begins right as we find out Superman's a dad) was the bad kind of predictable. I stopped caring about anyone or anything. Everything stopped being clever or interesting or surprising. The first half was sharp, fun, entertaining and predictable in a good way. In the second half we discover that Lex's plan strands him on a giant, technolgy-free rock which makes you wonder what's so great about Kryptonian technology, anyway.

5) Did I mention Superman's a dad?

6) Did I mention he flies away at the end? Mentioning nothing about being a good dad to his son?

7) Did I mention that the reason for Superman leaving Earth only to return at the beginning of the film is never explored beyond a single line of dialogue?

8) Did I mention that Lex Luthor, while brilliantly played was horribly underwritten?

9) Did I mention that I am a HUGE fan of Superman and count him as one of my role models (even at my age)?

10) Did I mention that Superman, uses his powers to spy on Lois, and he drinks a beer.

Superman doesn't drink, doesn't smoke and never lies. Well, according to this movie that desperately wanted to be a sequel to the original 1978 Superman movie, he does drink and does lie, in that he does things with the intent to decieve--i.e., he should have just knocked on the door and asked to come in to Lois' house instead of using his X-Ray vision to peep on her and her family with the subtlety of Donald Rumsfeld and AT&T.

No, it's OK that Superman spies, we can trust him!

Oh yeah? The dude was so irresponsible, he gets this chick pregnant and takes off from the planet before she can tell him she's pregnant with his child. He's gone for five years and when he comes back and soon discovers he's a dad, does he pledge to the son and to the mother to be a good dad? NOPE. He just nods at Lois and flies off.

VERY RESPONSIBLE.

Where's Batman when you need him?

Yeah, like Lois Lane would carry a baby to term! Can you picture her pregnant trying to get the big scoop? I can't. She'd get an abortion. Of course, if it was Superman's baby, they might not have been able to give her an abortion--then again, wouldn't the baby kick inside Lois' womb like in that alternative future storyline they did in Superman comics back in the late 80s/early 90s? In that comic, the baby kicked and killed Lois. THAT was awesome storytelling.

Well, it was still better than Supermans 3 & 4 and pretty much on par with Superman 2, in my mind, if not just a pinch better because of the less-cheese-factor.

Still, it was painful for a hardcore Superman purist like me to sit through. Well, the second half, anyway.

What a Joke Our Government is Part 2!

The other day I came across [http://www.joystiq.com/2006/06/23/pentagon-fear-good-facts-bad-in-machinima-mix-up/|a June 23, 2006 post] at Joystiq.com that talks about an Al Qeada recruitment video that was presented to the USG by Science Applications International, a firm that gets $7 million bucks to sit around monitoring AQ's myspace page. There are two interesting things about this AQ recruitment video.

1) It's a machinema video--this means it was created using footage from video games and, according to Pentagon official, Dan Devlin, is proof that AQ will take any video game and "modify it and change the game for their needs."

2) The video was actually created by a bored Muslim guy in Holland by lifting cut scenes from the game Battlefield 2 and dialogue from Team America and mashing them together to create a video that anyone with a brain would see as a fan-made fun little statement on America.

This is how COMPLETELY and UTTERLY out of touch the United States government is.

The blind leading the blind, you might say.

Read more about it in that Joystiq post I linked to above or in [http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/285129.html|a May 11, 2006 post] at the [http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/|GamePolitics LJ community].

Monday, June 26, 2006

What a Week for a Fanboy!

The Bad News:

My 'net connection is down again, which sucks. Luckily, I have a neighbor who doesn't encrypt his WiFi so I'm borrowing it to post this real quick.

The Good News:

I have tickets to see Superman Returns Tuesday night and tickets to see the newest Gamera film at the Egyptian on Friday. WAHOO!!!!

I'm such a geek.

The added bonus is that the Gamera film is part of a double feature with a Takashi Miike (one of my favorite Japanese directors) film called The Great Yokai War which sounds more like a cheesy Kamen Rider ripoff than a film from the director of Audition. Still, I'll enjoy watching it, I'm sure.

Now, if I can just figure out what to do for this week's episode of The 5 Minute Show...

What a Joke Our Government Is!

I don't think I could find any more irony in the nickname I use to refer to The War Against Terror. That nickname is TWAT and that's just what I think of this TWAT--it doesn't mean twat, but the "terrorists" being arrested are twats. As in, little things that are no threat to us whatsoever.


So, last week you may have heard 7 suspected "terrorists" were nabbed by authorities in Florida. In [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-062306terror_lat,0,7448492.story?coll=la-home-headlines|the very first article] I read about the arrests Alberto Gonzales explains that these men were not an immediate threat. Here's a clip from that article at LATimes.Com:
Authorities arrested the suspects -- whom U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales characterized as "homegrown terrorists" -- after searching a warehouse in the impoverished Liberty City area north of downtown Thursday. They said that the men, ages 22 to 32, never presented any real danger.


No real danger? Well it's great that there was all this hubub then, wasn't there? Elsewhere in the article it says:
On Friday, Justice Department officials said the case was an example of the government's success at rooting out terrorist plots before they come to fruition.

"This case clearly demonstrates our commitment to preventing terrorism through energetic law enforcement efforts aimed at detecting and thwarting terrorist acts," Gonzales said at a news conference. He added that, "These men were unable to advance their deadly plot beyond the initial planning phase."


I think that's a lie--it's not that they were unable to advance their "deadly" plot--they were incapable of advancing any plot at all. The supposed ringleader of the group [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2242141,00.html|was the leader of a weird little mini cult] that referred to an old warehouse in a rundown area of Miami as "the Temple."

The father of the ring [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060624/ap_on_re_us/terrorism_investigation_profile_1;_ylt=Ams3M5HRl8TFUCj0nq3Ch4gTv5UB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl|described his son] this way in an article from AP.org and News.Yahoo.com:
"He's not in his right mind, I'll tell you that," Narcisse Batiste, 72, said in an interview from his home in Bunkie, La.


So, this dude is a nutter who only thought his plan was going to be deadly. Hang on--there's more from that first LATimes.com [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-062306terror_lat,0,7448492.story?coll=la-home-headlines|article] that is worth reading:
Indeed, the indictment suggested that they never even came in contact with anyone from Osama bin Laden's terror network. The only materials they received during the seven months they were monitored by an undercover informant appear to have been six pairs of boots and use of a digital video camera.

...

The men were charged with conspiring to violate a sweeping anti-terror measure that makes it a crime to provide "material support" for terrorism, punishable by as many as 15 years in prison. That law has been used successfully against scores of defendants since the Sept. 11 attacks.

But this case was developed exclusively through information provided by the undercover operative, a circumstance that could allow defense lawyers to argue entrapment.

Some of the men had minor criminal records. One is a Haitian citizen in the United States illegally, five are American citizens and one was living in the U.S. with a residence permit. None was known to be an adherent of a militant Islamic factions, nor even of the Muslim faith. Relatives described some as religious, but drawn together to study the Bible -- not the Quran.


These guys aren't even Muslims!!

Another thing they are not is WHITE. Which is why you're hearing about them at all. See, if they were white, like [http://thepete.com/canada-catches-aq-wannabes-but-what-about-us-terrorists/|Demetrious Van Crocker] or [http://thepete.com/us-terror-that-media-forgot/|those white supremacists from Texas], the CNN and the Fox News would ignore the entire story.

So, in conclusion, it's obvious that the US government is pretty much CONSTANTLY lying to us about anything and everything connected to the War Against Terror and Iraq (and even Afghanistan, really).

Sunday, June 25, 2006

OPERA BROWSER FOR NINTENDO DS HAS A RELEASE DATE!

Since it's still the weekend (as I type this) I thought I could still post some FUN news. If you're like me, you've been waiting for a browser for the Nintendo DS. The DS has WiFi capabilities built in and a browser for a device with a touchscreen always seemed like a logical thing. For some reason, however, Nintendo waited until this year to announce one. Sure, there have been homebrew browsers that you could use, but you had to have a GBA movie player or something called a flash cart along with a device that would flash the firmware--or remove the software in the machine that is not supposed to be removed, usually.

Now, I don't have a problem with any of this, but I didn't want to go through all of this and end up with a dodgy browser. Sure homebrew stuff for the DS (and other devices) aren't always dodgy, but you figure if Nintendo is going to put out a browser it'll probably be a lot more stable than something from the homebrew community. SO, you can imagine my excitement when Ninty finally announced the release date for their new browser, made by the folks over at Opera.

July 24, 2006 is the magic day, exactly one month from yesterday. Sadly, that's the release date for Japan, only. The theory goes that if it's a huge hit in Nippon (what the Japanese call "Japan"), it'll make it's way overseas posthaste.

However, being the early-adopting-gadget-freak that I am, I'll be importing a copy from Japan, ASAP. I'm also going to take the opportunity to upgrade to a black DS Lite--they're sooo cool looking!!

So, good news for those of us who have never understood why we couldn't surf the web on our DS!

Another post and pics when my browser arrives! Expect that to happen some time in early August since it still takes a while to get stuff from Asia.

Read more about this in [http://www.dsfanboy.com/2006/06/22/view-opera-browser-boxart-through-a-web-browser/|a June 22, 2006 post] at DSFanboy.Com.

SONY'S EXTINCT ROBOT DOGS USED FOR EXPERIMENTS

Sony has long since discontinued their line of robot dogs, affectionately called "Aibo" which is Japanese for "pal". However, they weren't all sent to the scrap heap. The company had a few laying around so they sent them to an R&D type lab of theirs in France and now they are being used for pretty fascinating experiments in Artificial Intelligence.

Check out this clip from [http://www.engadget.com/2006/06/23/sony-teaching-aibo-scary-new-tricks/|a June 23, 2006 post] at Engadget.Com that talks about the software the Aibos have been installed with which:
...allows them to not just communicate amongst one another, but to actually employ a sort of group-think to independently establish the rules of the language they're using. Perhaps the scariest part about this so-called Embedded and Communicating Agents technology is that the robodogs are initially programmed with a very simple command set, which they build upon to form a common knowledge base about their environment, constantly chatting and teaching each other new discoveries that they've made.


Anyone familiar with the anime series Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex might recognize this as a possible prototype for the Tachikoma--a group of self-aware robot tanks that share their experiences with each other and get so curious about life that they begin to wonder about God and their place in the universe. It should be interesting to see how far these Aibo can evolve. I'm just glad that Sony didn't give them opposable thumbs.

Check out the [http://www.engadget.com/2006/06/23/sony-teaching-aibo-scary-new-tricks/|post] at Engadget.Com for more robot-dog-overlord-fun.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Good Friday Night

Wow, it's amazing how slave labor/an average dayjob can eject you happily into your weekend. I swear, last night I felt like it's 1981 and I just left Iran.

The reason this good feeling is bad is because I didn't do anything spectacular Friday night. I just wandered around Westwood Village by myself. That's how bland and boring my dayjob is--a walk around a shopping area I've walked around THOUSANDS of times before was fun.

West Side Story in Westwood Village.This is not to say I didn't stumble across some cool things. One thing I discovered is that the LA Film Festival, which is being held currently in the Village, held a free, outdoor screening of West Side Story. Check out a somewhat lousy pic of it to the right there.

The screening was set up in a street that is usually one-way but usually featured more pedestrian traffic than vehicle traffic, so it wasn't a big loss to the area. Personally, I get annoyed when big showbiz events block traffic in Westwood, but this was not a huge deal.

Aiptek MPVR The camera I used to take the above pic is my new minicam. The old minicam has been a real workhorse for me since I got it back in December of 2003, but recently has gone a bit senile. Some of the videos it shoots end up being unplayable on my Mac and it'll just randomly turn on throughout the day all by itself. I'll just hear this beep from my shoulder bag.

Combine this with my new job (or rather, its paycheck) and I thought it was time to look into a replacement. But rather than get an exact replacement for the [http://thepete.com/uploads/minicam.jpg|original minicam] ([http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=POCKET-DVII-N&cpc=SCH&srm=0|available] at Geeks.com for $50!) I thought an upgrade was in order, especially when I found a new minicam that had the most amazing feature imaginable. Check out all that it can do:

1) still cam
2) video cam
3) voice recorder (I know, big deal)
4) plays mp3s
5) plays videos
6) records video from an outside source!

That last feature is what makes this device nearly ideal for me. I can just plug this puppy into any video source and record. Sadly, I can only record in ASF format which Quicktime doesn't seem to like, but luckily, iSquint can convert it fairly quickly, which is nice. So if this recorded video in the same format that the iPod uses and even had iPod engineering and design behind it, it would be my ultimate device. On the other hand, that would have upped the price way beyond the $150 I spent on it, sooo...

Anyway, so I picked that puppy up Thursday night but tested it last night.

Another cool thing I found was what I believe to be the coolest Superman toy I've ever seen. Usually people think of toys as being action figures, but I like toys that help you imagine you are in the stories you enjoy. As a result I have a huge toy light saber collection, a huge club that Bam-Bam (from the Flintstones) carried around and now, I have what you see below:

Kryptonite Shard


No, I will NOT grow up and NO, that is NOT A DILDO MADE OF KRYPTONITE!!

I don't think you'd want to use this thing as a dildo as it has fairly sharp edges... yick... anyway, it came with two glowsticks, but I am thinking about picking up one of those small flourescent flashlights and canibalizing it so it'll make this thing light up on cue. I might also try one of those uber-bright LED based flashlights.

OH and I also got my tickets to a little film that will screen starting Tuesday night:

superman_returns_tix


Yes, it's amazing--a film I am actually looking forward to seeing!!

Today will be spent doing mostly housework. As with most Americans, toiling at a dayjob for 8 hours doesn't leave you inspired to do the chores when you get home, so Saturday becomes choreday. I'm also going to try to sneak in an entry of TheVlog. Wish me luck--it's been hard finding the energy to do anything truly productive since going back to a 9-to-6er.

The 5 Minute Show was late last week and will be late again most likely this week. However, it will show up, no matter how late it is. My goal is to get us up to 52 episodes by the end of the year.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't Believe the (North Korean) Hype!

Or rather, "Don't believe the hype about North Korea" because hype is all it is, as usual.

Once again, we see the Bush Admin going on about a new threat to America. First it was the Taleban, then Iraq, then Zarqawi--We The People got bored of all of them so now it's NORTH KOREA!!!

WAHOO!!

And guess what, not one of the above mentioned threats was actually a threat to the US of A. Sure, they each could have messed with an American business interest or two, but as far as us regular American folks? We never had anything to fear and it sure seems like we still don't from NoKo. Check out the following clips from [http://blog.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2006/06/north_koreas_nonthreat.html|a June 20, 2006 editorial] at WashingtonPost.Com written by none other than William M. Arkin:
Amidst an Iraq withdrawal debate and an Iran nuclear crisis, amidst a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and a grave threat to the Kabul government, amidst growing recognition of al-Qaeda gains in Pakistan, The We-Still-Can't-Resist-Putting-Any-Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction-Story -on-the-Front Page Times reported intelligence leaks yesterday that North Korea was imminently going to test an intercontinental ballistic missile.

...

Much ado about nothing I say.

North Korea, starved for attention and with its own fish to fry domestically and in its own region, may or may not be preparing some rocket for launch, and it may or may not be attempting to use its missile as a bargaining chip or a PR stunt, and it may just be attempting to put its own satellite into space. What should crystal clear though in a world of risks and balances is that North Korea's missile, even if it exists, is hardly a threat to us.

On Monday, The New York Times reported a leak from an unnamed U.S. government official that North Korea was preparing a long-range ballistic missile for launch at an east coast site.

Lurking behind the story of course is the image of a long-range North Korean missile capable of hitting Alaska and even Los Angeles.

It is a false image, and one that even if true, would be the least of America's worries.

North Korea, which can barely feed its own people and is not, shall we say, known for its technological prowess, may have succeeded in sinking all of its national treasure into developing a third rate missile. But so what?

North Korea has conducted all of two live long-range missile tests since 1993.


WOW!! TWO WHOLE TESTS!!

WE'RE IN TROUBLE FOLKS!!

Feh... more trumping up of the "evil doers."

In other words: More Lies from Bush and Co.

Is anyone else getting as tired of this shit as I am?

Please tell me if you are.

Seriously.

I feel so alone in the world right now...

So...

...alone!



Well, beyond my wife, anyway...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The 5 Minute Show Episode 25!

Oh, man--this episode was a little messed up--I got kidnapped and the results weren't pretty. I barely made it out with my life. This episode will change the way you look at comedy video podcasts forever.

OK, maybe it won't. Just watch it and try not to cry too much...



OK, maybe you won't cry at all. Just watch and stop yer yappin'!

This week, it's just 13.2 megs and an mp4 as usual!

A BUSH ADMIN OFFICIAL FOUND GUILTY OF SOMETHING!!!

WOW!! This is INCREDIBLE.

Someone from the Bush Administration was ACTUALLY FOUND GUILTY of something!!

So much for God being on their side, huh?

CNN.Com [http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/06/20/lobbyist.probe.ap/index.html?section=cnn_topstories|reported a few days ago] that:
A jury found former Bush administration official David Safavian guilty Tuesday of covering up his dealings with Republican influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

Safavian was convicted on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction. He had resigned from his White House post last year as the federal government's chief procurement officer.

The verdict gave a boost to the wide-ranging influence peddling probe that focuses on Abramoff's dealings with Congress.


Weeeee!!

Expect a comment from Bush about how he had only met Abramoff once on a rope line...

Man, I hope this "Bush Admin Official Found Guilty" thing is a trend!!

FINGERS-CROSSED!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

NOW Can We See Why Torture Is Bad?

It's because when we do it to them, they do it to US.

The following comes from [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/world/20cnd-iraq.html?ex=1150948800&en=f85c20e38511be5b&ei=5087%0A|a June 20, 2006 article] at NYTimes.Com:
The American military said today that it had found the remains of what appears to be the two American soldiers captured by insurgents last week in an ambush south of the capital, and a senior Iraqi military official said the two men had been "brutally tortured."

An American military official in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that both bodies showed evidence of "severe trauma" and that they could not be conclusively identified. Insurgents had planted "numerous" bombs along the road leading to the bodies, and around the bodies themselves, the official said, slowing the retrieval of the Americans by 12 hours.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman, said "the remains" of what are believed to be the two Americans were found near a power plant in the vicinity of Yusefiya, about three miles from the site were they had been captured by insurgents.

General Caldwell declined to speak in detail about the physical condition of those who had been found, but said that the cause of death could not be determined. He said the remains of the men would be sent to the United States for DNA testing to determine definitively their identities. That seemed to suggest that the two Americans had been wounded or mutilated beyond recognition.

"We couldn't identify them," the American military official in Baghdad said.


Is it as fun when it happens to Americans, Rumsfeld?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

JAPAN: SAYONARA BUSH!

Just a little "HA-HA" and "IN YOUR FACE" moment here as Japan announces they're pulling their troops out of Iraq.

Read about it yourself in [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5097148.stm|a June 20, 2006 article] at http://News.BBC.co.uk.

What more has to go wrong over there before we pull our troops out?

At this point is a "success" even worth the human lives we'll lose just to get there?

Every day George W. Bush isn't impeached is another day people die needlessly in a war that should never have happened (and is illegal, to boot).

And what the hell is success in Iraq, anyway? When will we know we're done over there? If it's only this stable after 3 years of occupation, it's going to be another decade before we can get the hell out of there.

Why is this our responsibility at this point? Why can't we just apologize for the mess and get out? Do we really need to sacrifice mroe of our money, men and women? Not to mention, make a bigger mess out of things?

The US has lost roughly 2500 souls to the Iraq war. The Iraqis have lost more than ten times that.

Have a nice day now!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Angelina and Anderson Sitting in a Tr--Cable News Studio

(not) K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Check out this screengrab I snagged from I don't remember where:



The look on Andersons face says to me "I'm gay and even I can't help but want to have sex with her!!"

Not that I'm saying Anderson is gay, I'm saying, that's what his look says to me. :)

FEAR IS OUT TO GET YOU!!!

Now, on this website, I've gone on and on about how much bad stuff is going on in the world (see my 13 Strikes post). My intent isn't to scare you--it's to get you concerned and knowledgable about the bad things going on in the world. I'm not afraid of most of the things I write about. Life is life and life tends to do what it wants whether I'm scared of it or not, so I generally avoid being scared about anything.

However, the same can't be said for most folks out there. Fear of death is such a basic instinct that we all suffer from it from time to time. The thing is most of us suffer it a lot. Capitalism and politics makes sure to capitalize (!) on our tendency toward embracing fear.

In short, we want to believe someone is out to get us.

Enter Time.Com and [http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1205309,00.html|the article they posted this past Saturday on how Al Qeada had planned to gas a NYC subway]. Here's a clip to get you nice and frightened:
Al-Qaeda terrorists came within 45 days of attacking the New York subway system with a lethal gas similar to that used in Nazi death camps. They were stopped not by any intelligence breakthrough, but by an order from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. And the U.S. learned of the plot from a CIA mole inside al-Qaeda.


Weeeee.

Can you taste the fear yet?

Here's more:
U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot – and then kill everyone in the store."


EVERYONE IN THE STORE???

THAT'S LIKE 50 OR 60 PEOPLE!

Wait. Didn't that many people die the other day in Iraq?

Don't that many people die in a single day in Iraq every so often? Yet this story is being used to sell books, copies of Time Magazine, and of course, scare the living shit out of us.

I'll admit it. As I read the above passage, I felt my chest tighten. Fuck, dude--it's that easy to create one of those things? AQ has engineers??

Remember a few years back when the USG told us that AQ had underground headquarters at Tora Bora that would rival Bruce Wayne's basement? What the news didn't cover were the reports of what the US Mil really found when they raided Tora Bora. Caves. Just, caves. No hi-tech anything.

AQ doesn't have a research and development department any more than it had a Tora Bora Batcave.

This is just more fear mongering and more of the media's avoidance of the real issues at hand. Check out a clip from [http://www.physorg.com/news69729067.html|this June 18, 2006 article] at PhysOrg.Com from www.AFP.com on a new drone that will be watching Los Angelenos from the sky:
Police launched the future of law enforcement into the smoggy Los Angeles sky in the form of a drone aircraft, bringing technology most commonly associated with combat zones to urban policing.


The unmanned aerial vehicle, which looks like a child's remote control toy and weighs about five pounds (2.3 kilograms), is a prototype being tested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Police say the drone, called the SkySeer, will be able to accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers and free up helicopters for other missions.

"This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone," said Commander Sid Heal, head of the Technology Exploration Project of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "The ideal outcome for us is when this technology becomes instrumental in saving lives."

The SkySeer would also be a helpful tool to nab burglary suspects on rooftops and to chase down suspects fleeing on foot. The drone comes equipped with low-light and infrared capabilities and can fly at speeds up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour for 70 minutes.


The article goes on to talk about how it's virtually silent and basically undetectable from the ground since it's so small. Why not just set up viewscreens ala 1984 in our living rooms at this point?

No where in the AFP piece to they discuss how easy it would be to abuse the power such a drone would give its operator or the government, in general. Likewise, the Time article doesn't talk about how easy or hard it would be to build one of these gas-dispersal systems--how big are they? How practical would it be to get several of them into a subway stations without being caught? I remember years ago a plot to gas a subway station in NYC was foiled by a concerned neighbor of the terrorists. Something as simple as a guy going "Hey, what's that vat of chemicals for?" and then passing on the answer to authorities foiled everything.

Years and years ago, I came up with the theory that terrorists are idiots. If they were smart, they'd see how blowing shit up won't do any good. But they're not. They're fools. It took them two tries to take down the WTC towers. Back in '93 they killed something like 8 people.

Yet we act like a few thousand terrorists around the world are as bad as the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, serious, real issues are being ignored.

Gay marriage is being questioned instead of the government's involvement in marriage in the first place.

Illegal Immigration law is being reformed instead of the laws governing the businesses that illegally hire illegal immigrants for slave wages. However, even if that was being discussed, we'd still be missing out on the most dire problem facing America today--the fact that our economy requires cheap, illegal labor to function.

Our economy is so week it needs one step up from slave labor to keep it going.

If there's anything worth being afraid of in the world today, it's that.


On a side note, that Time article literally laps itself. It's as though someone at the site copy and pasted the entire article into the "paste article here" field and didn't bother to proof it. Gotta love the media! (If the link above to the article is bad, check out [http://thepete.com/fear-is-out-to-get-you/2/|page 2] of this post.)

Al-Qaeda Cell Planned a Poison-gas Attack on the N.Y. Subway

The plot was called off by Bin Laden's No. 2 only 45 days from zero hour, according to a new book by Ron Suskind

Al-Qaeda terrorists came within 45 days of attacking the New York subway system with a lethal gas similar to that used in Nazi death camps. They were stopped not by any intelligence breakthrough, but by an order from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. And the U.S. learned of the plot from a CIA mole inside al-Qaeda. These are some of the more startling revelations by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose new book The One Percent Doctrine is excerpted in the forthcoming issue of TIME. It will appear on Time.com early Sunday morning.

U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot – and then kill everyone in the store."

The device was shown to President Bush and Vice President Cheney the following morning, prompting the President to order that alerts be sent through all levels of the U.S. government. Easily constructed and concealed, mass casualties were inevitable if it could be triggered in any enclosed public space.

Having discovered the device, exposing the plot in which it might be used became a matter of extreme urgency. Although the Saudis were cooperating more than ever before in efforts to track down al-Qaeda operatives in the kingdom, the interrogations of suspects connected with the Bahraini on whose computer the Mubtakkar was discovered were going nowhere. The U.S. would have to look elsewhere.

Conventional wisdom has long held that the U.S. has no human intelligence assets inside al Qaeda. "That is not true," writes Suskind. Over the previous six months, U.S. agents had been receiving accurate tips from a man the writer identifies simply as "Ali," a management-level al-Qaeda operative who believed his leaders had erred in attacking the U.S. directly. "The group was now dispersed," writes Suskind. "A few of its leaders and many foot soldiers were captured or dead. As with any organization, time passed and second-guessing began."

And when asked about the Mubtakkar and the names of the men arrested in Saudi Arabia, Ali was aware of the plot. He identified the key man as Bin Laden's top operative on the Arabian Peninsula, Yusuf al Ayeri, a.k.a. "Swift Sword," who had been released days earlier by Saudi authorities, unaware that al-Ayeri was bin Laden's point man in the kingdom.

Ali revealed that Ayeri had visited Ayman Zawahiri in January 2003, to inform him of a plot to attack the New York City subway system using cyanide gas. Several mubtakkars were to be placed in subway cars and other strategic locations. This was not simply a proposal; the plot was well under way. In fact, zero-hour was only 45 days away. But then, for reasons still debated by U.S. intelligence officials, Zawahiri called off the attack. "Ali did not know the precise explanation why. He just knew that Zawahiri had called them off."

The news left administration officials gathered in the White House with more questions than answers. Why was Ali cooperating? Why had Zawahiri called off the strike? Were the operatives planning to carry out the attack still in New York? "The CIA analysts attempted answers. Many of the questions were simply unanswerable."

One man who could answer them was al-Ayeri — but he was killed in a gun battle between Saudi security forces and al Qaeda militants, who had launched a mini insurrection to coincide with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Suskind quotes a CIA operative as questioning whether it was an accident that the Saudis had killed the kingpin who could expose a cell planning a chemical weapons attack inside the U.S. "The Saudis just shrugged," the source tells Suskind. "They said their people got a little overzealous." .S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot – and then kill everyone in the store."

The device was shown to President Bush and Vice President Cheney the following morning, prompting the President to order that alerts be sent through all levels of the U.S. government. Easily constructed and concealed, mass casualties were inevitable if it could be triggered in any enclosed public space.

Having discovered the device, exposing the plot in which it might be used became a matter of extreme urgency. Although the Saudis were cooperating more than ever before in efforts to track down al-Qaeda operatives in the kingdom, the interrogations of suspects connected with the Bahraini on whose computer the Mubtakkar was discovered were going nowhere. The U.S. would have to look elsewhere.

Conventional wisdom has long held that the U.S. has no human intelligence assets inside al Qaeda. "That is not true," writes Suskind. Over the previous six months, U.S. agents had been receiving accurate tips from a man the writer identifies simply as "Ali," a management-level al-Qaeda operative who believed his leaders had erred in attacking the U.S. directly. "The group was now dispersed," writes Suskind. "A few of its leaders and many foot soldiers were captured or dead. As with any organization, time passed and second-guessing began."

And when asked about the Mubtakkar and the names of the men arrested in Saudi Arabia, Ali was aware of the plot. He identified the key man as Bin Laden's top operative on the Arabian Peninsula, Yusuf al Ayeri, a.k.a. "Swift Sword," who had been released days earlier by Saudi authorities, unaware that al-Ayeri was bin Laden's point man in the kingdom.

Ali revealed that Ayeri had visited Ayman Zawahiri in January 2003, to inform him of a plot to attack the New York City subway system using cyanide gas. Several mubtakkars were to be placed in subway cars and other strategic locations. This was not simply a proposal; the plot was well under way. In fact, zero-hour was only 45 days away. But then, for reasons still debated by U.S. intelligence officials, Zawahiri called off the attack. "Ali did not know the precise explanation why. He just knew that Zawahiri had called them off."

The news left administration officials gathered in the White House with more questions than answers. Why was Ali cooperating? Why had Zawahiri called off the strike? Were the operatives planning to carry out the attack still in New York? "The CIA analysts attempted answers. Many of the questions were simply unanswerable."

One man who could answer them was al-Ayeri — but he was killed in a gun battle between Saudi security forces and al Qaeda militants, who had launched a mini insurrection to coincide with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Suskind quotes a CIA operative as questioning whether it was an accident that the Saudis had killed the kingpin who could expose a cell planning a chemical weapons attack inside the U.S. "The Saudis just shrugged," the source tells Suskind. "They said their people got a little overzealous."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

BEATING CHILDREN THE CHRISTIAN WAY?

Hope you had fun at Church, today, if you're a church goer that is. If you are, odds are you probably aren't a serious Christian. At least you aren't if you don't beat your children--according to a group of evangelical Christians who feel that a 2000-year-old book contains good advice for raising your children today. England's http://Guardian.co.uk posts [http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1792729,00.html|an article] detailing the return of the systematic abuse of children. Here's a clip:
"We are told that in England it is a crime to spank children," writes Debbi Pearl from No Greater Joy Ministries, following a row that has erupted over the distribution of their literature in the UK. "Therefore Christians are not able to openly obey God in regard to biblical chastisement. They are in danger of having the state steal their children."

The Pearls are evangelical Christians who believe corporal punishment is "doing it God's way". With a mailing list of tens of thousands of parents, the Pearls say that the justification for their approach is in scripture: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24).

Chastening begins early. "For the under-one-year-old, a little, 10- to 12-inch long, willowy branch (stripped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient," writes Michael Pearl. With older children he advises: "After a short explanation about bad attitudes and the need to love, patiently and calmly apply the rod to his backside. Somehow, after eight or 10 licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand-new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein."


First torture is back and now beating our children is trying to come into style again. It's like Western Civilization is taking backward steps or something.

Thanks be to Kay for posting [http://thepete.com/thegraffiti-at-thepetecom/|graffiti] about this.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Working Saturdays is FUN!

So, I get suckered into working on a Saturday at my projectionist job. Not just a Saturday, mind you, but an 8:30am start. Then, yesterday it turns out they need me to come in at 7:30am to make sure the client has what they need. Turns out they may not even screen anything and will just be using the big room to shoot stuff for a Discovery channel show in it. Robert Osborne will be in the house later this morning.... WAHOO!!!

Actually, I like him quite a bit. I even have a copy of a commercial he did back in the 80s for a psychic hotline--I think I even remember his dialogue from it "I'm Robert Osborne and I endorse xyz hotline and it is endorsed by the stars."

Whatever the hell that means.

Anyway, so now it looks like I'll just be babysitting, which I guess is fine except for the fact that I reeeeally wanted to sleep in today. I'll just have to sleep in tomorrow. Monday morning I've actually got a court appearance. My lawyer is trying to have that lawsuit dismissed. Man, I'll be so happy when that is all over with. It's clearly an illegal lawsuit but since I'm clueless how the law works I may still get screwed. Hopefully my lawyer knows what he's doing.

So, I'm just sitting here. I was going to back up some files to my box.net account, but they were on my 3g iPod which can't get power from my usb port and alas, it seems that my iPod has met the same fate as so many others--the battery is having trouble holding a charge for very long. So sad...

Instead, I think I'll work on the site. I've been slowly retooling the look since the footer refuses to display properly and the sidebar was getting too cluttered for my tastes. You might expect to see some weirdness over the next day or so, but by Monday things will be stable. Or at least, I hope they'll be. :)

Anyway, I hope you're having a great weekend! I'm making $15/hr to babysit and work on my site. That's pretty cool, actually...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Even My Fictional Role-Models are Letting Me Down

I grew up as a latchkey kid--like most American kids these days all four of my parents (2 biological, 2 step) held down day jobs so I spent a lot of time by myself after school. I hated jocks, so I wasn't about to get involved in sports. What did I do instead? Watch TV, videos and read comics. My real role models were all fictional and to this day I take lessons from them all. One of those role-models was Spider-Man. I had a lot in common with the guy. Suburban upbringing, grew up not very far from NYC, and had a keen sense of right and wrong from the working-class level.

He was a rational, real human being, despite the fact that he could swing from webs, climb walls and had a Spider Sense that allowed him to dodge bullets. Spidey was always a real person to me because he was always sweating the rent, his bills, his girlfriend and so on. In many ways, I'm kind of like him now, though I live in LA, instead of NYC. Can't do much webswinging here.

The thing is, at this point, I'm kind of glad I'm not like him because he just got way illogical--hypocritical, even. Now, mind you, I haven't picked up a Spidey comic in over ten years. I stopped reading right after they killed off Aunt May and introduced a bunch of Spidey clones (literally, they were clones of Peter Parker). To me cloning and time travel are the very height of cliche storytelling (although there are the exceptions) and so I knew when to let the price of modern comics get too high for me.

Tonight (Thursday night) I came across an article talking about a new storyline in Marvel comics (the line of comics Spidey appears in). It turns out there was a big super-hero-related disaster where the heroes survived but hundreds of regular folks died. The government decides to pass the Super Hero Registration Act which forces all superheroes to register themselves as living weapons of mass destruction.

This is Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada's idea of a great way to deal with the attacks on civil liberties we're all experiencing in today's world. The thing is, there's a stack of problems with this.

1) The Superhero Registration Act bears a striking resemblance to the Mutant Registration Act which was passed over a decade (15 years?) ago. Mutants (like the X-Men) have had their civil rights threatened since their genesis back in the 1960s. So this storyline is pretty damn far from original. It even begs the question: Did anyone at Marvel ever bother to read their own books?

2) Here's where the Spidey angle comes in. It turns out Spider-Man, working-class, underdog, unSuperman, is FOR this new law and thinks it's a good idea. This simply makes no sense for his character. What also makes no sense is another character's stance against the new law--yes, Captain America is against this law. This makes no friggin' sense whatsoever. If he hasn't left the country by now (with his boss being Bush, himself) Captain America isn't about to have a problem with something like the SHA.

3) As an extension of Spidey's support for this law he decides to set an example by taking off his mask at a press conference. This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Does he never want to have friends, family, etc, again? I don't think he does. His mantra since the very first issue of his comic has been "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility". I know it sounds cliche, now, but I think it's a pretty good slogan to live by. Now, he isn't.

Now, Spidey is jumping on this bullshit bandwagon so many American citizens have jumped on where you don't have to take responsibility for your actions or think about any possible consequences of your actions. This is something Spider-Man was always good at thinking about.

But not any more.

Now he's so flawed I'm disappointed in him as a human character. I'm disappointed in the writers at Marvel for once again failing to come up with a good and interesting way to approach the topic of civil liberties being attacked.

I suppose it's to be expected since the rest of America seems to be suffering from a distinct shortage of imagination.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Man, Where to Begin? Zarqawi's Many Deaths? My Few Spare Minutes?

I'm now in the second full week of my new temp gig, which is fine--they've told me they want me to stay on until the fall--which I said I was OK with, but I'm not. After so long finding alternative sources for money the traditional route is really putting me to sleep. I don't fault any of my fellow cube-dwellers out there for not being as fussy about their job as I. I piss off easily and I bore easily.

However, I still manage to sneak in a few glances at the news throughout my days data-entering. One thing I read about was Bush's surprise visit to Iraq. What a stunt!

Man, we Americans are idiots--or at least, that's what the Bush Administration must think of us. Back on Monday [http://thepete.com/fun-with-the-usg-al-zarqawi-and-themedia/|I blogged about Zarqawi] and how he is being used, even now, by the Bush Admin to enhance their standing in the eyes of Americans.

The funny thing is that in that blog post of mine, I link to [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4446084/|an article from 2004] at MSNBC.com that reports on reports of Zarqawi's death--please note that the article was posted back in 2004. Now, it's also important to note that there are certain correlations between that story from two years ago and the Zarqawi of today and even a few weeks ago.

Now, before I run a clip from that article, I want to point out that for months the US Mil, the media and the USG have been trying to sell this whole "sectarian violence" thing in Iraq. They keep pumping up the idea that it's an all out Sunni Vs. Shia Muslim Civil War right now.

However, I've heard many Iraqi civilians admit to there being no great animosity between the two sects of Islam. There are even numerous examples of intersectual marriage. (You like that word? "Intersectual"?) Yet still the stories of sectarian violence persist.

Other stories that persist surround Zarqawi. Many say he was an "evil" man and a savage and all that. Meanwhile many others say he was just a CIA stooge, like Noriega, Pinochet, or even Saddam, by some estimates. The point is that Zarq was such the perfect badguy for the Bush Admin that many began to think that he was a little too perfect. Now check out a clip from that AP.org [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4446084/|article] from 2004:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq “during the American bombing there,” according to a statement circulated in Fallujah this week and signed by the “Leadership of the Allahu Akbar Mujahedeen.”

...

The statement did not say when al-Zarqawi was supposedly killed, but U.S. jets bombed strongholds of the extremist Ansar al-Islam in the north last April as Saddam Hussein’s regime was collapsing.

It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.

Before the Iraq conflict began last March, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg.

The statement said the “fabricated al-Zarqawi memo” has been used by the U.S.-run coalition “to back up their theory of a civil war” in Iraq.


So, the total badass that the US mil couldn't catch was a one-legged man? Like Osama's kidney problems, Zarq's one-leggedness didn't seem to slow him down much. Hell, he was even able to survive for 2 more years only to narrowly fall short of escaping a ton of US bombage falling on him.

Also: even two years ago, his supposed followers were suggesting he was being used as a tool by the US--that the USG's claim that Zarq was trying to cause a civil war was something the USG made up. Then, check this other bit from that article:
“The truth is, al-Qaida is not present in Iraq,” the Mujahedeen statement said. Though many Arabs entered the country to fight U.S. troops, only a small number remain, the group said.


This totally fits with other stuff [http://thepete.com/iraqi-insurgents-not-al-qaeda/|I've blogged about], too. I've read that US Mil experts, themselves, have said that they've found a very small number of foreign fighters in Iraq. So, it may very well be that the USG is just trumping up all of this to first make us feel threatened and second to make us feel victorious.

I mean, why would there be a statement from people claiming to be Zarq's followers saying he was dead and that the US was lying about him unless the USG really was? Were they just doing it to discredit the USG? Seems like the USG has already done plenty to do that on their own.

While I never believe anything 100%, I do believe there's more to learn regarding this angle of the Iraquagmire.

I'm reminded of Orwell's 1984 once again and how Big Brother created an enemy for the people to be afraid of.

Well, back to being tired. I hope to return to regular blogging once I build up a tolerance for brain-deadening data entry work. I'm consistently amazed at how a crappy dayjob is able to suck so much energy out of your soul despite the fact that you're just sitting there at a computer all day long...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bear With Me...

Still getting the hang of the new schedule--well, that and getting used to having my soul sucked from my body 5 days a week. I'm sure once I actually start seeing money I'll feel better about wasting 40 hours a week on someone else's company. :D

Bitter?

Oh... a tad...

Hopefully I'll get back to posting more regular blogs, comics and media. Man, if only I could make money doing all of THAT stuff! SHEESH!

See you soon!

The 5 Minute Show Episode 24!

This week, Gary TheIntern does his best to "help" out with the show. Poor guy. He needs therapy.

Seriously.



This week's mp4 is 23mbs and ALL COMEDY, PEOPLE! CHECK IT OUT!!

Fun With the USG, Al-Zarqawi and TheMedia

As you may have heard, last week Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had a couple of bombs dropped on him and he died. For those of you who don't know who Zarq was, we are meant to believe that he was Al Qeada's man in Iraq. Something plenty of us have noticed, however, has nothing to do with Zarq's connection to AQ. It has to do with his ability to survive.

Now, I remember reading [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4446084/|somewhere that there were reports of Zarqawi having been killed back in 2004]. I've also heard journalists wonder aloud if [http://planetsave.com/ps_mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7301&Itemid=70|Zarqawi was even a real person] seeing as Zarq seemed to be helping the Bush 43 Administration by supplying himself as a reason for the US to stay in Iraq (much like Osama saving Bush from what history would surely have called "a lame duck presidency").

Truly, even now when we have his body in a Zip-Lock bag, it seems Zarq is still helping out the US admin by distracting from the Haditha massacre and Bush's ever-dropping poll numbers. It seems like every day since Zarq's actual death some new angle has been trotted out by the media to help distract us from our truly impeachable "president." Check it out:

Stardate 20060608 (June 8, 2006) - we learn that 2 500 lb bombs were dropped on a safehouse Zarq was hiding out in. Here's a screengrab of [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,198651,00.html|an article] FoxNews.Com posted on June 8, 2006:



Stardate 20060609 (June 9, 2006) - now that Zarq's dead face has been splashed all over the news like a victim of Vlad the Impaler, speculation begins as to what this means for Iraq. Even a day earlier, mere hours after Zarq's death was reported, the obvious assumption was that Zarq's dead would not end the violence. Check out the truly bizarre pic TCSDaily.com posted along with [http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=060906A|a June 9, 2006 article] they posted on their site:



I think I saw a picture of Elvis that was Photoshopped like that. There's more from June 9, though. In [http://mediamatters.org/items/200606090009|a post] at MediaMatters.Org, they point out that US authorities had chances in the past to nail Zarq but they didn't. Here's another screengrab:



So, while Clinton missed Osama, Bush missed Zarq only to finally get him with a couple of huge-ass bombs. But he almost didn't--there's more...

Stardate 20060610 (June 10, 2006) - http://Independent.co.uk [http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article754407.ece|reports] that Zarq was allive when authorities got to him. Here's a clip:
The astonishing new details of Zarqawi's death were given yesterday in a video briefing from Baghdad by Maj-Gen Bill Caldwell, a military spokesman who the previous day had said that Zarqawi was killed instantly.

In fact, he explained, a mortally wounded Zarqawi was the only one of the six people in the house to initially survive the blasts of the two 500lb bombs dropped on the house, a two-storey white structure in a date grove near the town of Baquba.

Police found Zarqawi alive and placed him on a stretcher. At a certain point, when he "attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher, everybody resecured him back on... He died shortly thereafter from the wounds he received." Maj-Gen Caldwell added that "he mumbled something - whatever it was, it was very short."


Interesting... what's even more amusing is how [http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060609/D8I4VN101.html|a June 9, 2006 article] from AP.org at MyWay.Com described what Zarq did as the following:
A Dying Al-Zarqawi Tried to Get Away

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could barely speak, but he struggled and tried to get away from American soldiers as he lay dying on a stretcher in the ruins of his hideout.

The U.S. forces recognized his face, and knew they had the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.


Nice, so "turning away", with the help of the AP, becomes "trying to escape"--but just wait until June 11.

Stardate 20060611 (June 11, 2006) - The website for the Toronto Star (TheStar.Com) [http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1149976210315&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724|reported yesterday] that there are quite a few "questions" about the killing of Zarq. Here are a few choice cuts from the above linked article:
The two 230-kilogram bombs that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pulverized the brick house where he spent his final minutes, vaporizing walls and the foundation, hurling concrete blocks 90 metres into the weeds and blasting a crater 12 metres wide and deep.

"A big hole, sir," said Sgt.-Major Gary Rimpley, 46, of Penrose, Colo., who reached the scene about 90 minutes after the bombs fell.

Yesterday, three days after the air strike that ended the life of Iraq's most feared terrorist leader, the scene here was a bit tidier than in those first minutes after the attack: the bodies of the six people, including a child, who U.S. officers say died in the strike, were gone. The most useful bits of intelligence had been carted away. The once-gaping crater was reduced by bulldozer to a ditch.

...

It seemed puzzling, too, surveying the destruction, how al-Zarqawi's head and upper body, shown on television screens across the world, could have remained largely intact.

With rumours circulating in the Iraqi media that al-Zarqawi had begun to run from the house as the first bomb struck, U.S. officials said two military pathologists had arrived in Iraq to perform an autopsy to determine the precise cause of his death.

One Iraqi witness has come forward and told reporters a man resembling al-Zarqawi was pulled from an ambulance by U.S. troops and beaten before he died.


Yep, you read that right. Check out more on that on June 12.

Stardate 20060612 (June 12, 2006) - [http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19439329-401,00.html|This article] at Australian news website http://News.Com.Au includes the following tidbit:
It now appears, despite the US military initially saying the symbol of the insurgency in Iraq had died instantly, that Zarqawi was alive when Iraqi and coalition forces appeared at the scene of the air strike that hit him.

One man who lives near the scene claimed to have seen US soldiers beating an injured person who resembled Zarqawi until blood flowed from the man's nose.

The Iraqi man, identified as Mohammed Ahmed, claimed residents had put the man in an ambulance before US forces arrived.

"A middle-aged man with a beard, still alive and still breathing. We put him in the ambulance, the US forces came, got him out of the ambulance wrapped his dishdasha (traditional Arab robe) over his head battered him severely till he died and blood came out of his nose," he said.

London's Sunday Times published a similar account in which soldiers, once they had established that the man was not a threat, started to kick him in the chest.

"They kept kicking him with their boots, shouting, 'what's your name?', but the man only moaned and said nothing," Ali Abbas, a labourer, told the paper.

According to the US military, army medics tried to save Zarqawi's life.

"He attempted to roll off the stretcher, I am told, and get away, realising it was the US military," General Caldwell said. "Everybody resecured him back onto the stretcher, but he died almost immediately."


So, locals say they were beating Zarqawi while US Mil says they were trying to save Zarq's life AND that Zarq tried to climb off the stretcher. Personally, I don't believe either of them.

Sure, I can see how locals might mistake attempts to save Zarqawi's life for attempts to end it. However, why the US mil would save Zarqawi's life after trying to end it with two 500 lb bombs is beyond me. I mean, if they really wanted to capture Zarq alive, they should have done the raid the old-fashioned way and done it with actual soldiers.

So, let's go over the evolution of the Zarqawi story.

1) Zarqawi dead
2) Zarqawi survived 500 lb bombs only to die as authorities arrived (he's one bad mutha!).
3) Zarqawi tried to "escape" (from the stretcher)
4) Locals claim Zarqawi was beaten and kicked

One guy is killed and we get this orgy of news.

What do we miss in the meantime?

Well, let's see... Israel killed a bunch of people at the beach, the US Congress voted to not protect Net Neutrality, which means people like me could have to spend a lot more to keep our websites as accessible as say, CNN.com. There's also the media ground lost on the Haditha story. News sources in America won't want to go back to the Haditha story because they'll call it "old news."

Oh yeah and the real thing that is being missed here is that five other people died in the bomb-droppage, including a young girl who was about 5 or 6 years old.



Yeah, but it's WAR, man! Innocent people die in war--that's what makes it so cool!!

From AP.org and MSNBC.com:

Iraq militants claim al-Zarqawi is dead

Updated: 3:31 a.m. PT March 4, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombing and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a statement allegedly from an insurgent group west of the capital said.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq “during the American bombing there,” according to a statement circulated in Fallujah this week and signed by the “Leadership of the Allahu Akbar Mujahedeen.”

There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement, one of many leaflets put out by a variety of groups taking part in the anti-U.S. resistance.

The statement did not say when al-Zarqawi was supposedly killed, but U.S. jets bombed strongholds of the extremist Ansar al-Islam in the north last April as Saddam Hussein’s regime was collapsing.

It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.

Before the Iraq conflict began last March, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg.

The statement said the “fabricated al-Zarqawi memo” has been used by the U.S.-run coalition “to back up their theory of a civil war” in Iraq.

In February, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq made public an intercepted letter it said was written by al-Zarqawi to al-Qaida leaders, detailing a strategy of spectacular attacks to derail the planned June 30 handover of power to the Iraqis. U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi may have been involved in some of the series of suicide bombings this year in Iraq.

“The truth is, al-Qaida is not present in Iraq,” the Mujahedeen statement said. Though many Arabs entered the country to fight U.S. troops, only a small number remain, the group said.

A little over a year ago, Jordanian authorities named al-Zarqawi as the mastermind behind the October 2002 murder of Laurence Foley, a 60-year-old administrator of U.S. aid programs in Jordan.

In a German court last year, Shadi Abdellah, a Palestinian on trial for allegedly plotting to attack Berlin’s Jewish Museum and a Jewish-owned disco, testified he was working for al-Zarqawi. He said they met in Afghanistan.

German authorities have reportedly said they believe al-Zarqawi was appointed by al-Qaida’s leadership to arrange attacks in Europe.

Moroccan government sources said a group blamed for bombings last May that killed 45 people in Casablanca got its orders from al-Zarqawi. In Turkey, officials said he was believed to have played a role in bombings that killed 63 at two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul in November.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

USING A KILLER OF THOUSANDS TO SELL STUFF

So, I'm doing some research for a post on Zarqawi that you'll be seeing tomorrow and I stumble across the below ad on, of all sites, the Israeli news source Haaretz.com. Check out the ad:



So, now you can beat up/kill a flash cartoon of Osama bin Laden, the man who, we are told, masterminded the 911 attacks and get a free X-Box 360. How could any patriotic American resist beating up/killing a cartoon version of a mass-murderer?

There are so many layers of cynicism, I'm not sure where to begin.

1) Trivializing the man who was behind the killing of 3000 American souls on 911 trivializes the deaths of those 3000 souls, too. After Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark he learned more about the Nazis and what they did. Spielberg came to regret making such horrible people into cartoon badguys. Charlie Chaplin said the same thing after he made the film The Great Dictator which made Hitler out to be a fool. Chaplin would later regret doing so upon learning about the true atrocities of the Holocaust.

2) In the ad, we can choose to either beat up Osama or shoot him with a gun, making us, in a small way, his judge, jury and executioner, with the emphasis on the last bit. Combine this with all of the other killing imagery in our society and you lose just a little more respect for the legal system that needs to prove someone guilty and until then he or she is assumed to be innocent. Osama doesn't get that right since he's a sand nigger, apparently. Just because the USG tells me Osama did it, I'd still like to see the evidence in a court of law. And no, I don't trust videos or recordings Osama has made. It's not my place to judge him, it's a court of law's place.

3) Then there's the fact that trivializing Osama as a cartoon makes us less critical of an administration that can't catch the real Osama. On some level an ad like this encourages the individual to feel that they've already taken care of Osama, so who cares if authorities actually catch him for real? (Yes, this is a subtle thing, but it's still worth noting, in my opinion.)

4) *details apply. What this little note at the bottom of the ad does is "save" the ad's sponsors from any accusation of false advertising. See, if you beat up or shoot cartoon Osama you don't actually get a free X-Box 360. Instead, you get forwarded to a site that requires you to complete an offer for a credit card, Blockbuster Video by mail or some other offer requiring you to drop some of your hard-earned cash for something you probably wouldn't want to spend money on in the first place. Once you do this, you then have to convince a stack of your friends to do similar offers. This takes months to do and sometimes it never happens. It took me a year to get enough friends to do the offers to get my "free" Nintendo DS.

So, yeah, this ad is wrong on so many levels.