Monday, July 27, 2009

Define Yourself in 25 Questions

It's mainly for chicks, but hell, I take the quizzes in Mrs Cosmo, so why not this? You might get to know me better with this.


1. Do you have a personal hero? If so, who is it?

My old man. Korean war vet, accomplished CPA, faithful husband and father, self educated philosopher, pillar of the community, conservative activist in his younger days, Eagle Scout, and when he died, dozens of people at his funeral and visiting hours told me the same thing: "he was an honorable man, and there are very few people you can say that about." Yeah, he had feet of clay, but even so, he jumped pretty high. I hope that when I die, people say the same thing about me.

2. What is your favorite book of all time and what made it so fucking good?

Moby Dick. The opening paragraph just kills me.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the ciruclation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Damn. That is just so good. It's the best thing ever written, with the possible exception of Genesis 1:1, and for fuck's sake, God himself wrote that.

As a runner up, Hayek's "Road to Serfdom", without which we would undoubtedly be a socialist nation; Ken Heller's Catch-22, in which irony was born; Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", and the Haynes manual for the Honda VTR 1000 twin, a mechanical thing of beauty. And anything by Milton, A.E. Housman, Joyce, Mencken, T.S. Eliot, or Ezra Pound (especially Personae. And Penthouse Letters isn't bad.

3. What does “diversity” mean to you?

It means accepting the fact that not everyone is the same; trying to treat everyone the same in my interactions with them, and trying to make sure (as a lawyer) that they get equal treatment under the law. It does not mean equality of results...

4. What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done?

Hah. Yeah right. I have a security clearance, you know. Kinda depends - with our without clothes? When I was a soldier, I was a wild man. Completely fearless, anti-social, and oversexed.

Man, even I didn't like me back then. But I sure had fun.

5. Do you regret doing it?

Hell no! None of it. That's why we're young.

6. Can you drive a stick shift?

I can drive stick, manual, control yoke, joy stick, or differential on a tracked vehicle. You name it. Just don't ask me to drive a golf ball; I almost never go lower than a 3 wood.

7. What’s the highest speed you ever traveled in a car?

Only about 170 or so, in a buddy's '85 Mustang. He had a hopped up 351 in it. He let me drive - but I didn't break 160 in it. I did used to go around 180 on the autobahn on my Yamaha FZR 1000 (a big motorcycle) pretty regularly. And me & the Missus used to tour around Europe doing 140, two up...

8. Were you driving, or riding at the time?

Riding in the car, operating the bike.

9. Which is better: snakes or spiders?

Spiders. You can tie a rope around them, and make them fight similarly harnessed scorpions and small rats and so forth.

10. What is the most disgusting thing you ever ate?

Dog. Although it was only mentally disgusting. It tasted like... well, like wet dog. I like wet dogs, grew up with labs, huskies and shepards, and all of them swam... so wet dog is a pleasant smell.

The most disgusting thing in terms of taste and texture, was curdled goats blood, which is evidently a bedouin delicacy. In addition to the bad taste, I wound up with a six week long bout of dysentary -- two weeks longer than the dysentary I got from eating the VietNamese dog. So yeah, it was more disgusting in a number of ways. I've eaten butterflies and worms and grubs too... don't ask. They were funny tasting, but when you are hungry, you are hungry. I'll leave it at that.

11. Have you ever shit your pants? Be HONEST!

Not today.

12. Was losing your virginity an enjoyable experience?

Yeah. What was that country song -- "Older Women Make Beautiful Lovers"...

13. Should oral sex be outlawed or encouraged?

Should be compulsory. And graded. The only problem is, the Russians would always come out on top, because they'd bribe the French judges...

14. Name one man with a fine ass.

Eeeeeeekkk. Whaddya think I am... gay? Well, okay. Any big league baseball player, other than David Wells. That's what my wife says, anyhow. And she says David Wells has other charms.

15. Do you watch golf on television? If not, will you iron my shirts?

Yes. No. Get a Korean laundress, asshole. Extra starch on the collar for you.

16. Who is Martha Burk?

More importantly, who cares?

17. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd be kinder, gentler, more caring, and a better human being.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'd swap out my hands for giant killer robot death ray guns.

18. Do you eat raw oysters?

Is this related to number 13? Yes, I eat raw oysters. I eat the shit out of them. As doctor Suess might say:

I do so like oysters and beer,
I like them there, I like them here.
I them in a plane or train;
In the sun, or in the rain.

I like oysters with red sauce;
With my wife, or with my boss.
I will eat them with white wine;
I suck 'em down, they are so fine.

But best of all is with horse radish;
nothing rhymes, with horse radish.
But one thing is so very clear;
They do taste better with good beer.

Cross Street Market in Baltimore. That's where I eat raw oysters by the bucket, and swill huge $4 craft brew beers. You can't beat eating oysters and getting faced, while sitting at the exact same spot, in the exact same bar, where H.L. Mencken used to sit, eat oysters and get faced.

19. Are you claustrophobic?

No. What are you, blind?

Oh, you can't see the black leather bondage hood I have on right now...

20. If you rode a motorcycle, would you wear a helmet even if the law said you didn‘t have to?

Yeah. The Hurt Report (really, that's the name, go look it up) pretty conclusively demonstrated that the benefits of wearing a helmet outweighed the minimally increased risk due to added weight on the neck, loss of some hearing. The anti-helmet folks really play up the advantages of being able to hear surrounding traffic, and the increased risk of whiplash injury from the helmet -- but Harry Hurt's exhaustive study shows it just ain't so. Howcome? Because most multiple vehicle motorcycle accidents happen in front of the biker, with a car turning in front of the bike, or running a light in front of the bike. It doesn't matter what you can hear, or whether there's a risk of whiplash, because you wind up T-boning the car, or getting T-boned, flying and skidding on your face. (If you, God willing, clear the cage).

If that doesn't sell ya (and that means you, Mike Hendrix of Cold Fury), then exhibit #1 for the defense is Gary Busey. If you can look at him, and decide that you would rather ride without your brain bucket, you are either incredibly dumb, or incredibly brave.*

That said, I support people's right to go without a helmet, insofar as they support my right to not pay insurance to subsidize the brain injuries that flow naturally from riding without one.

*This does not include slow cruising on warm summer nights, with a little hottie on the back of the bike. That simply must be done without a helmet. At least if I wind up a vegetable, my last memories will be happy happy happy.

21. Name five great Presidents.

Washington (no brainer), Sam Adams (brewer, patriot, president), Teddy Roosevelt (bully; American triumphalism), Cal Coolidge (most problems will just roll into the ditch, if you just do nothing), Reagan (America's back... and its pissed)

22. Name three shitty Presidents.

Most of the rest. Clinton and Andrew Jackson especially; Nixon the same, only less so. (Clinton and Nixon get asterisks -- decent public policy wonks who brought shame and bitterness on the office and on the country).

23. Now call me fanny and slap my ass. Just kidding.

I hope so.

24. This is the 4th of July. Did you set off any fireworks?


25. If you could have dinner and conversation with anyone in the history of the planet, who would you choose?

Jesus, for a lot of reasons. First of all, there's the whole philosophy thing. He's more influential than anyone other than Marcuse, or maybe Nietsche among college sophomores. Then there's the food and booze - you'll never run out, as long as you have at least one fish, one piece of bread and some water. And finally, if you eat dinner with him at the right time and place, you are saved forever, hallelujah. It's win/win.

Either him, or Oliver Reed. If you have to ask why Oliver Reed, then you aren't much of a drinking man, and I don't want to know you anyhow.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Historic vote could remove California's governor from his job

A prominent California Democrat said on Wednesday, August 6 that she would not square off against her state's Democratic governor in an upcoming recall election. The announcement by Sen. Dianne Feinstein comes as Gov. Gray Davis faces a kind of political confrontation that no governor in the U.S. has faced in more than 80 years.

The Republican-led effort to remove Davis from his job has been fueled by dissatisfaction over an ongoing energy crisis in California and by a $38 billion budget deficit, which occurs when a government has spent more money than it has earned. A petition containing 897,158 signatures - or 12 percent of the total votes cast for governor in 2002 - was required to trigger the recall election. Officials from California's 58 counties reported that more than 1.3 million valid signatures were gathered.

Feinstein called the effort to remove Davis a "terrible mistake" and said that "attention should be focused on working in a bipartisan manner" to solve the state's problems. She also said that a recall would increase instability and uncertainty in California and would hamper efforts to help the state get back on its feet.

An election on Oct. 7 will determine whether or not Davis is actually recalled. The election will have two parts. First, voters will be asked whether to recall Davis. Then, they will get to choose from a list of possible successors. If voters decide in the first part of the election to remove Davis, the candidate who wins the most votes in the second question will become California's new governor.

Davis has called the recall effort "a hostile takeover" by Republicans. He added, "The voters have a right to have another election, and I will present my credentials. But I think at the end of the day, (the voters) will allow the state to go in the direction that I'm trying to lead it, not to slam it into reverse."

Davis contends that a recall election in October would cost the state about $35 million to conduct. He says that if the ballot were to be held at the same time as the March 2 presidential primary, the state could save that money.

However, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican who is challenging Davis in the recall vote, said that he "wanted this race as soon as possible because the people of California know that Gray Davis created the (budget) deficit; Gray Davis tried to cover it up - successfully covered it up in the last election - now that they know he lied, they also have begun to realize that he has no fix for the problem. So if you create a problem, lie about a problem, and have no fix for a problem, it's time for you to go as soon as possible."

Issa has spent $1.5 million of his own money to fund the recall - a move questioned by many Democrats. Feinstein said the recall "demonstrates that virtually anyone with $1.5 million can hire professional petition gatherers to produce enough signatures to force a recall of any state-elected officials. This sets a terrible precedent which ought to cause us all to think very carefully."

Now that the vote is scheduled, several other candidates besides Issa have been working to get on the ballot by Saturday, August 9 - the deadline for gubernatorial hopefuls to file their paperwork. In order to get on the recall ballot, a candidate needs to pay a $3,500 fee and obtain 65 signatures of his or her supporters. Among those planning to run are a model, a charity volunteer, and a teacher who says he wants his students to have a first-hand example of politics at work.

The state's major Democratic officeholders, including Feinstein, are not among those planning to put their names on the ballot. Strategists from both parties believe that Davis would be more likely to keep his job if there are no Democratic alternatives.

If Davis were to be ousted, he would be the second governor in U.S. history to be recalled from office. The first was North Dakota Gov. Lynn J. Frazier in 1921.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Pre-Sept. 11 Intelligence Failures Added Up

WASHINGTON — U.S. Naval ships were in position in the North Arabian sea ready to attack Usama bin Laden between 1999 and 2001, but no spies were close enough to the terrorist leader to help us target him, Sen. Bob Graham (search), D-Fla., said Thursday.

Last year Graham served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (search), which researched intelligence failures before Sept. 11. The report on those failures was released Thursday.

Congressional Reports: Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001

"The attacks of Sept. 11 could have been prevented if the right combination of skill, cooperation, creativity and some good luck had been brought to task," Graham told a news conference.

The report describes a series of missed opportunities and government gaffes going as far back as 1998, when the intelligence community first heard that bin Laden was plotting an attack in the United States.

The report finds that in 1998, CIA Director George Tenet declared war on bin Laden, but the FBI, Defense Department and others were not aware of Tenet's declaration.

The Pentagon and CIA, the report says, were at odds over what to do about Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

"Senior U.S. military officials were reluctant to use U.S. military assets to conduct offensive counterterrorism efforts" partly because they believed "the intelligence community was unable to provide the intelligence needed to support military operations," the report states.

A Series of Missteps

The declassified report, over 800 pages in length, concludes that no single bit of information could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even though U.S. intelligence agencies failed to communicate with each other or stop Al Qaeda's buildup in the country.

"Our work started with the recognition of a sobering fact: Al Qaeda was better at planning the attacks and keeping their plans secret than the United States government was at uncovering them," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ex-officio member of the committee.

While the authors look at problems within other agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency (search), the report is particularly harsh on the FBI, noting a series of missteps.

For example, the CIA and the FBI were aware in early 2000 that two of the hijackers, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, had ties to Al Qaeda and had made calls to the Middle East while living in San Diego. The two were later found to have been on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

In early 2000, the CIA had learned independently of the Al Qaeda connections of Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi, but they failed to put the two on terrorism watch lists that might have prevented their entry into the United States.

The two also lived in the home of a longtime FBI informant who was never made aware of who they were. That same informant may also have had contacts with a third hijacker, Hani Hanjour.

In that case, the FBI's San Diego field office did not get enough information from the CIA and FBI headquarters about the search for the hijackers. "As a result, the FBI missed the opportunity to task a uniquely well-positioned informant — who denies having any advance knowledge of the plot — to collect information about the hijackers and their plans in the United States," the report notes.

An agent from the San Diego office told the committee, "It would have made a huge difference'' if they had been privy to the intelligence.

Also, as far back as 1998, the intelligence community received reports that a member of Al Qaeda was planning operations on U.S. targets, including a scheme to hijack U.S. planes. In fact, two individuals "successfully evaded" checkpoints in a dry run at a New York airport, according to a December 1998 intelligence report cited by the joint committee.

A fall 1998 intelligence report says that Al Qaeda was considering a new attack using biological toxins in food, water or ventilation systems of U.S. embassies. And a spring 1999 intelligence report stated that bin Laden's supporters in Afghanistan were experimenting with enhancing conventional explosives with radioactive material, the report notes.

The report criticizes the FBI in particular for failing to devote resources to counterterrorism and failing to locate Al Qaeda cells in the United States. It also points at a larger, government-wide failure to take the threat of terrorism seriously.

"The criticism regarding the FBI's limited attention to the dangers at home ... reflects a large gap in the nation's counterterrorism structure ... a failure to focus on how an international group might target the United States itself," the report says. "No agency appears to have been responsible ... for regularly assessing the threat in the homeland."

Among the more troubling findings:

— The NSA had intercepted "some communications that indicated possible impending terrorist activity" between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10, but these were not translated or disseminated until after the attacks.

— The CIA had received unconfirmed intelligence before the attacks that suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been in the United States as recently as May 2001, possibly to meet with recruits and colleagues already in the country. Mohammed, Al Qaeda's director of operations, is now in U.S. custody.

— The Sept. 11 hijackers had substantial contacts around the world and were not isolated cells.

But even with all the failures, no "smoking gun" has emerged to suggest the government could have stopped the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

"While the intelligence community had amassed a great deal of valuable intelligence regarding Usama bin Laden and his terrorist activities, none of it identified the time, place and specific nature of the attacks that were planned for Sept. 11, 2001,'' the report notes.

"There is no question there were some lapses of intelligence, failures of communication," said Sen. Trent Lott (search), R- Miss., who added that for 20 years the intelligence community had been ignored and had failed to modernize to change with the times.

"I think since then they have made and they are making efforts to do a better job, to exchange information, to communicate. Still, I think they have more they need to do, but this report will show that there were some things that should have been picked up on that could have been picked up on, that were not. I don't think there's any one defining moment that you can point to," Lott told Fox News.

Referring to the creation of a Homeland Security Department (search), improved information sharing between government agencies and efforts to freeze terrorist assets, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the report "confirms the importance of the strong, aggressive stance we have already taken to better protect the American people at home and abroad."

Saudi Connection?

Parts of the report will remain classified, including a section that reportedly discusses whether there was any support for the hijackers from Saudi Arabia.

However, the report notes that the lack of Saudi cooperation may have contributed to the attacks.

"A high-level U.S. government officer cited greater Saudi cooperation when asked how the Sept. 11 attacks might have been prevented,'' the report notes.

For example, a Saudi individual may have been aware in May 2001 of an "upcoming al Qaeda operation'' but the Saudi government did not cooperate with the intelligence community both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report notes.

Further, there are suggestions that the hijackers may have received "foreign support,'' but much of the information that could implicate the Saudi government remains classified.

"Through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States,'' the report states. "The Joint Inquiry's review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to independently verified, concerning these potential sources of support.''

In July 2002, a CIA officer sent a cable expressing his concerns that "persons associated with a foreign government may have provided financial support to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers while they were living in the United States," the report notes.

An FBI agent based in San Diego ended up with a copy of the cable, but never sent it on to FBI headquarters. It should be noted that the joint committee did not talk to any Saudi government officials during its investigation.

McClellan said "80 percent" of the report is being made public, with only the most sensitive national security sections — for instance, sources' names — under wraps.

But Pelosi, who was ranking member on the House intelligence panel when the investigation began, decried the report as "overclassified" and said the administration's "obsession with secrecy does not serve the nation well."

"The administration's failure to cooperate fully with the joint inquiry showed an unwillingness to exhaust every effort to discover information that might assist in better protecting the American people," she said.

Fox News' Anna Stolley, Julie Asher, Malini Bawa and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Bush, Blair defend Iraq intelligence

By Joseph Curl

President Bush, standing shoulder to shoulder with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the White House, yesterday said U.S. and British intelligence on weapons of mass destruction "made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace."

"I strongly believe he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear-weapons program," Mr. Bush said at a joint press conference, adding that after the first Persian Gulf war in 1991, "it became clear that Saddam Hussein was much closer to developing nuclear weapons than anybody ever imagined."

The British prime minister was equally strong in backing British intelligence that charged Saddam had sought to obtain uranium from Niger — a claim that U.S. intelligence agencies now believe was probably erroneous.

He said U.S. and British forces were not deployed to Iraq "on the basis of some speculative intelligence."

"We based our decisions on good, sound intelligence. And ... our people are going to find out the truth. And the truth will say that this intelligence was good intelligence," Mr. Blair said at the White House, shortly after telling the U.S. Congress that Saddam's brutality and the enormous risks of being wrong about his weapons mean the war was morally justified, regardless of intelligence details.

Under fire from Democrats on Capitol Hill for citing British intelligence about the Niger uranium in his January State of the Union address, the president said, "I take responsibility for putting our troops into action.

"The regime of Saddam Hussein was a grave and growing threat. Given Saddam's history of violence and aggression, it would have been reckless to place our trust in his sanity or his restraint. As long as I hold this office, I will never risk the lives of American citizens by assuming the good will of dangerous enemies," Mr. Bush said.

While the validity of a British intelligence report charging that Iraq had sought to buy nuclear material from Niger has been questioned, Mr. Blair stood by other intelligence that Saddam was attempting to restart his atomic-weapons program.

"The British intelligence that we have, we believe is genuine. We stand by that intelligence," Mr. Blair said. "And one interesting fact I think people don't generally know, in case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased ... about 270 tons of uranium from Niger. So I think we should just factor that into our thinking there."

Mr. Bush also said that enemies of the United States are seeking to undermine efforts to bring democracy to Iraq.
"We are being tested in Iraq. Our enemies are looking for signs of hesitation. They're looking for weakness. They will find none," the president said.

The two leaders made clear that removing Saddam from power ends a clear and present threat of terrorism and advances the effort to squash terror cells across the world.

"The removal of Saddam Hussein is an integral part of winning the war against terror," Mr. Bush said. "A free Iraq will make it much less likely that we'll find violence in that immediate neighborhood. A free Iraq will make it more likely we'll get a Middle Eastern peace. A free Iraq will have incredible influence on the states that could potentially unleash terrorist activities on us."

Both leaders also said that while no mass-destruction weapons have yet been found in Iraq, they have no doubt that Saddam's weapons will be eventually discovered.

"I believe that we will find the truth, and the truth is, he was developing a program for weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Bush said.

"Now, you say, 'Why didn't it happen all of a sudden?' Well, there was a lot of chaos in the country, one. Two, Saddam Hussein has spent over a decade hiding weapons and hiding materials. Three, we're just beginning to get some cooperation from some of the high-level officials in that administration, or that regime," he said.

Mr. Blair took up the Bush administration's argument that the recent criticisms leveled by the president's detractors — who have been emboldened by the claims of erroneous British intelligence — does not match their words over the 12-year period that Saddam defied weapons inspectors and the United Nations repeatedly sought to check the Iraqi dictator.

"In the debate in the past few weeks, it's as if prior to the early part of this year the issue of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction was some sort of unknown quantity, and on the basis of some speculative intelligence, we go off and take action," Mr. Blair said.

"The history of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction is a 12-year history, and is a history of him using the weapons, and developing the weapons, and concealing the weapons, and not complying with the United Nations inspectors who were trying to shut down his programs," he said.

"The proposition that actually he was not developing such weapons and such programs rests on this rather extraordinary proposition: that having for years obstructed the United Nations inspectors and concealed his programs, having finally effectively gotten rid of them in December 1998, he then took all the problems and sanctions and action upon himself, voluntarily destroyed them, but just didn't tell anyone," Mr. Blair added.

"I don't think that's very likely as a proposition," he said

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair departed from the White House together last night, with the president heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and the prime minister going to Japan on a trade mission.