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Yay for pleasant surprises

Thank-yous are in order to my old friend and co-worker, Harry H., and my new friend Shaul H. (no relation). Three items from my wishlist arrived in the last two days. Sarah McLachlan, Patricia McKillip, and Hugh Jackman. Something tells me I'm going to be up late tonight, either reading, listening to music, or watching X2.

Thanks, guys! | |

Today's news roundup

The Iraqi government closed the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera. Let us all say: Amen.

What kind of sick asshat creates a hoax beheading video? A San Franciscan, for one.

Speaking of San Francisco, the city that brought us the SFSU anti-Semitic riot has defaced the posters of a Jewish candidate for office with swastikas. David Heller is the son of a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was slaughtered by the Nazis. But he must be called a Nazi, because he is Jewish and his campaign posters use the colors of the Israeli flag. Anti-Semites of the world: Just die, already.

AP is working harder to jump on the al-Reuters bandwagon. The apparently cannot publish a negative article about palestinians without throwing in something negative about Israel. First, they report that the palestinian justice minister resigned because someone whom he won't name, but whose name rhymes with Arafat, took away his powers and refuses to relinquish them. Then the article veers off and talks about the dangers to the Temple Mount mosques by Jewish extremists. And, of course, the reporter's name is not John Smith.

The Navy is looking into charges that a sailor sent valuable information about fleet movements and vulnerabilities to the Al Qaeda suspect the Brits arrested this week. He has not been identified, but an email back to him

"praised the enlistee's comments and encouraged the enlistee to 'keep up with the dawah (an Arabic term for missionary work) and the psychological warefare (sic),' "

I'm gonna take a wild stab that the enlistee was not Jewish.

And on yesterday's news roundup, an email from Alex Bensky:

I listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Co.'s FM stations most of the time because it's the only local classical music outlet. Yesterday I listened to it for four hours and each hourly broadcast had a substantial report on the Rafah situation. They did mention that the reason for the closure was terrorist activities, but the bulk of the story was about the hardship, illness, and various other difficulties.

None of the reports mentioned that Israel had offered to open another access point but the Egyptians and Palestinians had refused. I hadn't known it until I read your website this morning.

Perceptions of biased media? Just us overly sensitive Jews, no doubt.

No doubt. | |



News roundup

Bobby Fischer wants to renounce his U.S. citizenship. That's fine by me. He's a nutcase who is now as anti-American and anti-Semitic as they come, and a living example of a self-hating Jew. He doesn't need to be put in jail. He needs anti-psychotic drugs.

Israel reopened the Rafah border crossing, apparently due to U.S. pressure. Funny, they offered to open another border crossing to ease the crisis, and Egypt and the pals both said no. Because that would violate existing agreements. Oh, and because that would end the propaganda opportunity for the pals, too.

Interestingly, this article in the Ha'aretz business section says that Israeli exports to Arab nations are up 68%. But I thought the Arabs were boycotting Israeli products!

The IDF killed two more terrorists, one in Gaza, trying to blow up Gush Katif, another in the West Bank.

Al-Sadr is offering a truce in the current battle with his "militia." The real reason? Because Coalition forces have killed over 300 of his men in the last two days. You know, this guy always offers a truce when he's losing. Don't stop until you've got him this time.

One of the terror suspects the Brits caught this week had plans of a U.S. Navy battle group. Complete with suggestions on how to blow it up. Tell us again how you can negotiate with these asshats, Jimmah Carter.

You know, the terrorists haven't won. But the bastards have really impacted on our way of life. First, we close the Statue of Liberty for three effing years, and when we reopen it, you still can't go inside. Now, Independence Square is being fitted for a security fence.

May they all roast in hell, starting with bin Laden.

By the way, you can thank the PLO for the changes at the Olympics. It all started in Munich, 1972, when Black September kidnapped and murdered the Israeli Olympic athletes.

And more on this later, but there has been another major anti-Semitic attack in New Zealand by brave Jew-haters—against a cemetery. Silent Running has the scoop, and more.

Time for the mantra: Anti-Semites of the world, just die already. | |



Sometimes you feel like a post...

Sometimes you don't. | |

Politics as unusual

So let's take a look at a few of the headlines over on Google News, shall we?

Report : Al Qaida Suspect in Britain Had Access to Surveillance Data on US

Two Men Arrested at Albany, NY, Mosque

Britain probes possible Heathrow attack

Military says prisoner vows to kill Americans

Nope. No need for a terror alert. It's all politics. | |



On Second Thought

I said Rock the vote, man: MoveOn is sponsoring a rock tour in the hopes of pushing Bush out of office. I'm sure this will be endlessly discussed (in outraged tones on the right, cheerful tones on the left), but let me take a guess at the average result of our youth going to see this tour:

Bruce Springsteen: You gotta vote Bush out of office, man!
Crowd: [roar] Yeah!
Dixie Chicks: Bush is an embarrassment. Vote Kerry in November!
Crowd [roar] Yeah!
Michael Stipes: No more war! No more Bush
Crowd: [roar] What? We can't understand what you're saying
Jackson Browne: Kerry's the dude, man.
Crowd: [scattered applause] Who is this guy, anyway?
James Taylor: You've got a friend in Kerry.
Crowd:[no applause] Man, who's grandfather is that? That guy is like, old.

November 3rd, 80-90% of the crowd:

Politics sucks, man. Next time, I'm really gonna register and vote.

Hey, they're Americans. They have the right to their opinion, and they have the right to try to change America. And I have the right to laugh at them. They're going to sponsor a concert from October 1st through the 8th in swing states, trying to affect change, by getting people who scarcely vote to come to a concert where people their parents' age and older are going to tell them to vote.

Yeah, that'll work.

Tigger's Night Out: Got a phone call this morning several hours earlier than I'm used to getting up, and noticed that Tig was not in bed, which is rare. Even rarer is that he doesn't jump into bed when I wake up early, looking for his morning belly-rub. So I tried to remember if I let him in last night, and realized that I hadn't, and he was still outside, having spent the night. I race downstairs, open the blinds, look on the patio, and he's not there. Now I'm really scared, I start calling Tig—and he walks up behind me from the living room.


Then he wanted to go out. No. I went back to bed. So did he.

Help me now, I'm falling: I have a request to James Reilly: I would like it if no character on Days of Our Lives ever falls down a hole, a canyon, a ravine, a cliff, a well, a mine shaft, or even, frankly, a curb. I've been watching lately when I'm home at one, and let's see if I have the right tally here: First, Patrick falls off a plane (but survives). Then, Jennifer's plane crashes. Mean old pilot dies, but she survives. Then, Jennifer falls down a hole. Then Jack falls (or jumps, I didn't see that one) down the hole. Then they get out. Then Hope and Patrick's plane is shot down. But they survive (of course). Then Jennifer falls down a cliff. Then Jack falls down a cliff. But he climbs back up. Then Hope falls down a cliff. But she climbs back up. Then Patrick falls down a cliff. But he climbs back up. Right now, Patrick and Jennifer are on a ledge on the cliff, and she's in labor. Oh, that's right, I forgot to tell you: All the time Jennifer has been falling down holes and cliffs, she's been about eight or nine months pregnant, and the baby's been just fine every single time—in spite of the fact that back home, she nearly lost the baby six or seven times without falling down once.

I guess the only reason Jennifer doesn't climb back up is because she's worried about the baby, because, like, something might happen to it if she climbs or something.

Yeah, I know. It's a soap opera. But I just delineated above that it is my Constitutional right as an American to mock, and mock I shall.

Rain, rain, go away: I should like to state once more for the record that we in Virginia have had enough rain for the summer. We can wait a few weeks before the skies open up again. We won't mind. Really. Not at all.

I have not had my Jeep top down since Fourth of July weekend. Although there's a strange yellow light in the sky today, and I just may take the top down while I can.

Don't sit in the holly: Harrison has a very funny account of a day in the garden with a bunch of Yorkies. Y'know, Harrison, cats are a lot smarter than that. On the other hand, Tig has brought (sigh) slugs inside with him. He can't tell what gets on his fur when he lies on the patio, and it's been a wet summer.

What do we want? Waffles! When do we want them? Now! I wish Waffle House delivered. I want one of their waffles for breakfast. And I don't want to go out. I'm a member of the Instant Gratification Generation.

Tea in the Sahara with you: Does anyone, anywhere, understand what that means? | |



Does she or doesn't she?

It's enough to make your head explode. Raghad Hussein (and yes, the first name is an insult waiting to be spoken, hold your tongues, please) told an Israeli reporter she wants to hire new lawyers for her father. She'll hire an American, but not if he's Jewish.

"My only request is that my father get a fair trial", Raghad Hussein, daughter of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussen, told Israeli journalist Dafna Barak in an interview published today by the London based Arabic-language daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Raghad complained to Barak that her father's lawyers were requesting exorbitant fees, and she expressed a desire to hire an American lawyer. Barak then suggested a few names, one of them Jewish-sounding. "Excellent, but he's Jewish", responded Saddam's daughter. "You must understand that my father would never allow it. I don't judge people, but I cannot cooperate with Jews".

So, here you have her giving what amounts to an exclusive to an Israeli reporter, but she "cannot cooperate with Jews."


I can't tell the players with a scorecard.

By the way, another Maariv article claims that "a leading member of one of the Arab world’s most prominent royal houses" is conducting secret negotiations that will supposedly bring an end to the Ba'athist attacks. It's a very long, seemingly detailed story, but it sources DEBKA, so I'm taking it with three or four boxes of salt. Perhaps Wretchard can comb his news sources and see if anything comes up.

And in yet another Maariv article, we see the kind of name-calling we could only wish for in American politics:

Shas Chairman MK Eli Yishai has declared a concerted campaign against Shinui Chairman and Justice Minister Yossef Lapid. “I recommend that the minister of health send the chief psychiatrist to examine the chairman of Shinui, Minister Yossef Lapid “, Yishai declared on Tuesday.

At a meeting of Shas activists, Yishai said that the campaign would begin in the coming days and continue until the elections, whenever they might be. He explained, “A person suffering from panic, who seems unable to focus and who is unable to choose his words should not continue as a member of the government. I pity him. It seems that his intellectual abilities have been damaged. His policy gives the people a very dangerous feeling of deja vu”.

That kind of talk would certainly have raised the ratings for the DNC last week. | |

Why the world hates Israel

Here are four news service articles on the latest palestinian deaths in Gaza. The bias is laid on thicker than ever. The first two are by Reuters, whose bias I am used to seeing. I think these four articles speak volumes on why the world opinion is so much against Israel. Unless you are a discerning reader with the ability to find the news from the other side, you have to deal with things like this:

Three Palestinians Killed in Gaza Explosion-Medics
GAZA (Reuters) - Three Palestinians were killed in an explosion in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on Tuesday, medics said.

Witnesses said they believed the blast was caused by a missile fired by Israeli helicopter gunships. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.

For some reason, Reuters no longer thinks the Israeli army is made up of people. Notice how there are no longer IDF spokesmen telling Israel's side—just "the Israeli army." Notice also that there is no denial by "the Israeli army," just that they're checking the report—implying that it's true and they need to confirm.

"There was a big explosion, bodies fell on us and there was shrapnel flying," said one witness.

The incident took place near the border with Egypt, a frequent scene of fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

No context here. It's as if the Israelis and pals simply fight along the border with Egypt for no apparent reason. In fact, if the pals weren't smuggling weapons in tunnels along the Egyptian border, there would be no fighting.

Rafah residents said they believed the explosion occurred among a group of people milling near the border.

Israeli helicopter gunships have frequently fired missiles at militants in Gaza. Palestinians have also sometimes been killed when their explosives detonated prematurely.

That last line is the only line that even hints that it may not be an Israeli missile that killed the, ah, innocent civilians who just happened to be hanging around the Israeli army. (See next story.)

Three Palestinians Killed in Gaza Explosion

Notice how the headline still does not identify the pals as terrorists, excuse me, "militants." In fact, you don't get that they were "militants" until the third graf. The headline makes the reader think Israel killed more innocent civilians.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - A bomb planted by Palestinian militants killed three people in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday during clashes with Israeli troops and tanks on a raid to find weapons-smuggling tunnels.

Witnesses and Israel's army said the Palestinians had been trying to detonate the bomb against the troops in Rafah when it blew up as an Israeli armored bulldozer rumbled across a pile of rubble.

Two of the dead were militants. The third was an off-duty policeman who owned a shop in Rafah, a militant stronghold near the Egyptian border which has been the scene of frequent clashes.

Actually, all three of them were claimed by terrorist groups (see below). Palestinian "policemen" are frequently part of the bombing attempts. But you have to salute al-Reuters for keeping to the program: Poor innocent off-duty cop, who owned a shop, was killed by his own people's bomb—inadvertently, of course.

Also notice that the pals have "witnesses," but the Israeli side has "Israel's army." It is a way to completely dehumanize the enemy other side. And now, it's time for the traditional Blaming of Israel:

Violence has surged in the Gaza Strip ahead of a planned Israeli pullout next year from the territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Militants want to claim a withdrawal as a victory, while Israel is determined to smash the armed groups.

The situation in Gaza has been further complicated by a wave of unprecedented internal unrest spearheaded by gunmen demanding anti-corruption measures and reform of the security forces by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Clashes broke out in Rafah overnight when Israeli tanks and troops moved in to look for tunnels used to smuggle arms from Egypt during nearly four years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That's the third-to-last paragraph before you get the context for the IDF's presence. The average newspaper reader reads three paragraphs, top. Most read just the headline and the first paragraph.

"During the operation, four bombs were detonated toward the troops," Israel's army said. "There was helicopter and tank fire earlier ... but not at the time of the explosion."

Once more, "Israel's army said." I would say, WTF is up with that? But I know. Dehumanize, dehumanize, dehumanize. And use palestinian spokesliars for stringers and reporters.

Several buildings were destroyed during the raid. Palestinians said they were houses. The Israeli army said they were uninhabited and had been used by militants to launch attacks.

The last graf. One more blast at "the Israeli army" and one more chance at bias. When you're reporting two sides of an issue, the side that goes first is given the greater weight of truth by the reader. The side that is credited with a denial is the one that is considered to be lying. There is always palestinian accusation followed by Israeli—sorry, the Israeli Army—denying the accusation. Al-Reuters is very good at what it does.

Now let's look at another example:

Explosion in Gaza Strip Kills Three

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - An explosion Tuesday in a Gaza Strip area where the Israeli army was operating killed at least three people and wounded 10, Palestinian witnesses said.

It was unclear what caused the explosion that shook the Rafah refugee camp, but the Israeli army has been conducting an extensive operation in the Gaza-Egypt border area since before dawn Tuesday.

Witnesses said at least three people were killed and several others were wounded in the blast. A Reuters TV cameraman suffered a shrapnel wound to his hand, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

The army did not immediately comment.

Right away, the blame is placed on IDF activity, which is "an extensive operation" on the border. Not, "an extensive operation to find weapons-smuggling tunnels." No context, again. And the fact that the army did not immediately comment is another journalist's trick to make it look like they're covering something up. The IDF generally will not comment on an action until it investigates it.

However, in the next graf, there's context: The evil Israeli army fired on innocent palestinian civilians.

Witnesses said the explosion went off when Palestinian residents gathered to inspect the damage caused by the army, which demolished six homes and damaged three others.

As they gathered - along with several journalists - an explosion rocked the area, throwing people to the ground, their bodies covered in blood, residents said. Three people were killed immediately, including one who was decapitated.

"We went to inspect the area in which the army was operating," said Raouf Ahmed, 23, a resident of the area.

"Suddenly an explosion shook the land ... Tanks were positioned along the border with Egypt and Apache helicopters were in the sky as well but I did not see what caused the explosion," he said.

Look at that statement. It's a non-accusation accusation. The witness didn't see what caused the explosion, but he did note that there were tanks and helicopters all over the place. The implication is clear: The IDF did it.

Israeli troops backed by tanks and armored bulldozers entered the Yebna refugee camp early Tuesday. Soldiers demolished six houses along the border and damaged three others, municipality officials said.

Once again, no context whatsoever. The buildings destroyed were used to hide smuggling tunnels.

A few hours later, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into an open field. No one was hurt in the missile strike.

That's the last paragraph. Translation: Look, the Israelis are firing missiles into fields! They must have done it!

A few hours later, the same news service ran this article:

Three Militants Killed in Gaza Explosion

Notice how there's still no explanation in the headline, other than "explosion," while in the first paragraph, the fault is clear. Once again, you can infer from the headline that the IDF killed them.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Militants attacking an Israeli armored bulldozer inadvertently killed three other Palestinians Tuesday during an Israeli operation to destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels from Egypt.

The roadside bomb in the Rafah refugee camp went off a few yards from where the bulldozer was piling up dirt in a crowded residential area, according to Associated Press Television News. No Israelis were injured but three Palestinian men 200 yards away were hit by shrapnel, one so severely it took off half his skull.

Notice the use of "inadvertently." You inadvertently leave your keys in the car. You inadvertently take a pen home from work. It's such a soft word. Has the IDF ever "inadvertently" killed palestinian civilians?

Also notice the phrase "three palestinian men." They are still not identified as "militants." And also note how the bulldozer was "piling up dirt in a crowded residential area." And the phrase "No Israelis were injured." Subtle, subtle ways of making the reader hate Israel.

Ten people were wounded, including a Reuters TV cameraman, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

The violence came a day after vigilantes killed three Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel - two of them in their hospital beds - highlighting the progressive breakdown of law and order in Gaza.

The Hamas militant organization said two of the casualties in Rafah were its members, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed one of the dead men. Neighbors confirmed they belonged to militant organizations, but were not involved in combat units.

There we go. Five grafs in, Hamas and Al Aqsa claim the pals. Try not to get too agitated over the use of "vigilante" for the murderers who killed three suspected collaborators. After all, it's due to the progressive breakdown of law and order in Gaza, which, of course, is all Israel's fault. Funny how the suspects are suddenly convicted, too. This article is the only one to call them that. But then, it's the only one to also call them spies.

Moments before, masked militants were filmed putting a detonator in an alley near the road. Palestinian ambulances were already standing by, as people in nearby buildings waved white flags to show the Israelis the buildings were inhabited by civilians.

This is despicable. It shows how civilians are clearly aiding and abetting the terrorists, and it was filmed. Journalists were already there, filming it.

The extensive Israeli army operation in the Gaza-Egypt border area began before dawn Tuesday. A spokesman said the bomb was one of four that went off during the night.

The Rafah border area is strewn with land mines and other roadside bombs planted by militants. The bulldozers and minesweepers scour the area to destroy tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle arms from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli article says at least ten bombs were exploded in the area of the troops. Once again, though, we see the context for the Israeli "operation" buried deep within the article—where the average person will not read it.

Now let's look at the authors of the articles: Al-Reuters: Ahmed Jadallah. AP, which seems to be gunning for Al-AP: Ibrahim Barzak. Think it doesn't matter when palestinians write articles about the Israeli-palestinian conflict? Think that journalists are objective no matter what their origin?

Think again. | |



On Second Thought

Some lowlife kidnapped an old man's Yorkshire Terrier and then demanded—and got—a $10,000 ransom for it. Harrison has the story, as well as whether or not his Alpha Human Female would ransom him if he got dognapped.

Rahel has a blog. She still doesn't have a cat (too bad, allergies), but she has a blog. Feel free to steal any and all Tig and Gracie pictures, Rahel.

My pal Jay has a website that's partly a blog. In the meantime, it's a place where he displays his artwork, and he's pretty good. I'd start with the introduction, first, then move on to the blog.

The Banterist, the guy who wrote about the 17 photos of a cat's butt, is a very, very funny guy. This one about the ways his wife could kill him is a hoot. And his Grammar Cop posts are wonderful. (Brian, your permalinks are supposed to go to the entry, not the comments. You might want to check your MT settings.) My favorite post so far, however, is this one, which offers advice to Igor of Igor's Unisex Hair Salon. A must-read, and yes, put down your drinks.

You know whose blog (and writing) is really starting to grow on me? Cathy Seipp's. I've read her from time to time before, but the more I read, the more I like.

I owe a lot more people links, but that's all I have room for now.

So yesterday I had dinner with G. again, as the poor guy is all alone in the house (except for the three dogs). Worf is sad. Worf's AHF (see Harrison entry, above) has been away for more than a week, and won't be coming back until Friday. His sun, moon, and stars have gone out. His mood lifted some as he smelled the London broil I was bringing in, and stayed up while we cooked and then when the dogs got some scraps, but then he was Sad Worf all over again.

Poor Worf. Even beef can't cheer him up. Nothing but Heidi will do.

I had the creepiest, lousiest dream last night. I had an extremely restless night to begin with, and I kept going in and out of this dream. I was on an alien planet where humans were basically slaves, and I was one of the people involved in leading the uprising against the alien overlords. Thing is, the alien overlords could cough up fireballs. Not pleasant. And yet, they looked so human.... Anyway, that dream is still bothering me, and it's been some fourteen hours. Brrrr. (And what was Joanna Kerns doing in it, anyway?)

I'm starting to think Michele's catching.

[Insert snarky comment about something that only three or four people will understand here.] [[Because I can.]]

First there was the Milky Way bar, and it was good. Then there was the Milky Way Junior, and it was better, because you didn't always want an entire bar. Then there were Milky Way Miniatures, and they were evil, because you think you're not eating the equivalent of a whole bar as you eat them one by one by one by one.

Now, there is the devil's own tool, Milky Way Popables. I tried and tried and tried to avoid them. But there they were, at Kroger's tonight, and I'd just gotten a big tip at work, and they're on the points-to-collect-free-groceries list, and, well, now they're six inches away from me. The ones that are left, that is. [pop!] Yum.

Y'know, if they keep on miniaturizing food this way, we're going to be eating Milky Way Nanos.

By the way, whoever ordered the rain for Richmond this summer: You ordered too much. Please stop.

Further to the above: If you have to keep the rain, can you lose the thunder? I really don't need thunder that shakes the walls. And shakes the walls. And shakes the walls. Jeez. It wasn't just Tig that jumped on that one. | |

Terror alerts

One subject that comes up over and over again on certain blogs and in the comments of many others is the contention that our terror alerts are either exaggerated or politically motivated. Every time Bush is in trouble, this segment says, he raises the terror alerts. Howard Dean only yesterday implied that they're bogus.

The Washington Post has the information on why the terror alerts were raised in New York and New Jersey.

The fresh intelligence that led to yesterday's extraordinary terror alert comes from documents discovered after Pakistani and U.S. forces broke up an al Qaeda cell in Gujrat, Pakistan, eight days ago, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday.

One of the men arrested in that raid led authorities to the documents, which contained the startling details of al Qaeda surveillance of corporate and government targets in Washington, New York and New Jersey.

Officials from several U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies huddled virtually round-the-clock Friday, Saturday and Sunday to discuss the fast-emerging information, government sources said, assembling intelligence from the arrested al Qaeda operatives and translating and culling through the documents.

"This is definitely a nail-biter," one law enforcement official said.

The information that emerged appears to confirm that al Qaeda continues to plan operations and conduct surveillance against targets inside the United States. It buttresses the warnings of law enforcement and intelligence officials that al Qaeda has operatives in the United States and that U.S. financial institutions -- particularly ones in New York and Washington -- remain favorite targets of the terror network.

The article also goes into details of how the surveillance is being done.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials interviewed yesterday stressed that although the new documents reveal a great deal about the plot against the Citigroup Center in Manhattan, the World Bank in Washington and other financial institutions, equally valuable insights were gained about how al Qaeda operates in the United States and around the globe.

"This greatly advances our understanding of the al Qaeda leadership that has slowly been coming into focus," one ranking intelligence official said. "It gives us a specificity . . . that we've never seen before."

Another senior U.S. intelligence official said the new information comprises a virtual playbook of the tradecraft al Qaeda surveillance teams use. It details, for example, the use of phony couriers and delivery people to get inside the buildings, intelligence officials said.

It also provides fresh insight into the roles of high-ranking leaders who provide overall direction and facilitators who handle logistical details.

Intelligence officials said the al Qaeda surveillance began before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and continued perhaps until recent months.

They've been watching us all along, completely unobserved. It appears that some bloggers' complacency over how well our security services are handling the Al Qaeda threat are misplaced. Spoons and Michele Malkin are right: We're still behind the curve.

"This confirms what everybody has known for a long time, that al Qaeda operates on a very long lead time," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist with the Rand Corp. "It's also proof of their resilience, since they were able to be doing this even after all that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement has done for the three years after 9/11."

Surveillance, the first stage of a planned terrorist attack, is followed by planning and operational phases, Hoffman said. "The challenge now," he added, "is to determine when in the attack cycle al Qaeda is. . . . Are the planning and operational cells here also?"

I haven't written anything at all about the already infamous "Terror in the Skies" article about Northwest Flight 327, where a group of Syrian band members' behavior frightened passengers and crew. I think I would have reacted similarly to Annie Jacobsen, though, and it bothers me no end that not a single member of the flight crew made the band members obey the airlines rules and national laws. Every single time I've been a moment too slow sitting down when the captain tells everyone to get back to their seats, I've been told by a flight attendant to sit my ass down, and this was all pre-9/11, when I used to fly frequently.

No, we can't guard everything at every moment. But I think we are still deeply unprepared for more terror attacks. My mother takes Amtrak to visit me. I've already told her she can't visit me from the end of August until after the elections. Because I don't think there's any way we can prevent another Madrid.

When I saw that the terror alert included the Prudential building in New Jersey, my first instinct was to write a humor post about how New Jersey simply doesn't have any landmark building to be blown up. Then I read the WaPo article.

I'm not laughing anymore. | |

Old Faithful

Woke up to a power outage, called the electric company, found it my power will be restored by 12:30 p.m. Three hours without the news or the web, and no portable phone. So I broke out Old Faithful: my old Lucent model that requires only a phone cord, no batteries or radio waves necessary. And I'll be borrowing my friends' AOL account. I'll have to use a 56k modem, but hey—it's better than not having any access.

But I'm hoping they take less than three and a half hours to fix my power, because I just bought a new package of Fudgesicles, and my fridge doesn't take kindly to power outages. And I really don't want to take a shower by candlelight. And then there's that whole Virginia in August thing.

Update: And five minutes after I post this, the power's back. Obviously, somebody at Dominion Power reads my blog.

On the other hand, I did get to see the AOL-only article on the cast for the Fantastic Four movie. Now, here's a film where, unlike the Hulk, you need to spend 45 minutes on the origin of their powers. The Hulk movie could have been condensed by at least that much, and people would be talking about a sequel. Bummer. | |



Palestinian power struggles

It appears that the struggle for power in Gaza is still going on, and it's between two major players: Mohammed Dahlan, whom Arafat fired as Security Minister, and Yasser Arafat. So it seems that the show of force at yesterday's Fatah meeting (see the previous post) was also a signal to Dahlan.

Abu Jihad, one of the leaders of the group, said his men decided to break up the meeting after receiving information that the purpose was to attack Arafat. "They claimed that the meeting was held to demand reforms, but in fact it was directed against Arafat," he said. "But we know that Dahlan organized the conference."

However, Bilal Dweikat, a top Fatah official in Nablus and one of the organizers of the conference, denied that Dahlan was behind the meeting. "In light of the anarchy and lawlessness, we called for a meeting to demand elections and reforms in Fatah," he said, pointing out that the conference was supposed to last for one week.

Dweikat also denied that the meeting was directed against Arafat. "We are with President Arafat, but we are against all the corrupt officials around him who want to hold on to their posts and make more money through commercial monopolies," he explained.

Notice that the word that Dahlan is trying to attack Arafat has been sent out via Arafat's security guards, a.k.a. thugs.

A Palestinian legislator in Nablus, who was at the scene, said the gunmen told him senior officials in Arafat's office ordered them to break up the meeting. "This is an attempt to intimidate Palestinians who are seeking reforms and transparency," he added. "It shows that Arafat is under intense pressure."

Dahlan has been trying to establish himself in Gaza for some time now. And he apparently feels the time is ripe to challenge Arafat's authority. I think there are a few things that will tell if Dahlan backs off or not. He's threatened a march of 30,000 Gazans to protest corruption. If that comes off, the struggle continues. If there's no march, or a small march, Arafat has managed yet again to stifle all opposition. In any case, guaranteed that Dahlan is keeping a very low profile right now, and letting only relatives and close friends near his person.

But even if he manages to survive this round, I think Dahlan's face is on a wanted poster at the Mukata. Strange. I find myself rooting for Dahlan. But I don't believe he's strong enough to defeat Arafat. | |

Around the world in 30 minutes

Because that's all the time I have before I get ready to go to work.

Yasser Arafat is asserting his power and control over the PA again.

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) - Gunmen loyal to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat opened fire Sunday at a conference of Arafat's Fatah movement, in the latest sign of factional infighting among the Palestinian leadership.

The Fatah conference was convened to discuss reform in the Palestinian Authority and to call for elections to the Fatah leadership committees, which have not been held for 15 years.

The meeting of about 70 legislators and senior Fatah officials followed weeks of demonstrations against the disarray in the security services and corruption in the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

About 20 armed men broke into the conference on the first day of the weeklong event, firing into the air and above the stage where speakers were seated.

No one was injured, but the meeting broke up. Several delegates met with the gunmen to discuss whether the conference could continue.

The gunmen identified themselves as members of the Al Awda Brigades, a small militant group. One member told the Associated Press they believed the meeting was part of a conspiracy against Arafat.

A letter to Arafat drafted by conference delegates denounced the lawlessness in the territories and corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

"President Arafat, this might be the last chance for reforming our situation before reaching the end. We need a revolution within our Fatah movement," the letter said.

The incident occurred a day after members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent Fatah offshoot, torched the governor's offices in the West Bank town of Jenin, demanding financial support from the Palestinian Authority.

Let me interpret for you: They shot in the air, not at anyone. This wasn't a sign of "factional fighting." This was a show of strength by Arafat. This is his way of saying "Over my dead and buried bones" to the calls for reform. He has done this before; he did it just a week ago, causing one critic to lose his leg after being shot by Arafat's enforcers. Arafat is the Mafia don of the Arab world, with the added benefit that people are afraid to take him out because so many schmucks bought into the image he created—that he is the only one who can lead the palestinian people. As long as the rest of the world buysinto that lie, there will be no reform in the PA.

This link may only work for a short time, but the BBC has a translating service and one of the sample articles is from an Iranian newspaper saying that they have the "God-given" right to nuclear power, and that if anyone should be sanctioned, it should be Israel.

Fars News Agency, 1 August: The spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has stated that the necessary decision on the presence or absence of Iran in the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] will be made by Iranian officials who are responsible for dealing with the matter, including those in the Islamic Consultative Assembly. He stressed: The decision on our presence or absence in the NPT will not be made at the negotiating table with the Europeans.

Speaking in an interview with the political affairs correspondent of Fars News Agency, Jazayeri stated that the regime occupying Quds was involved in activities to produce weapons of mass destruction. He stressed: Europe and America are lying about fighting against weapons of mass destruction. They are only referring to Iran and Arab countries minus Israel.

Jazayeri added: European countries and America claim that they are philanthropists and that they support human rights. However, they could only make such claims if at least they made a statement saying that the regime occupying Quds was producing nuclear weapons and that it had to be put under pressure.

The spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps pointed out that Iran had made peaceful use of nuclear energy, adding: More than anyone and before anyone, the Islamic Republic of Iran called for creating a nuclear weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.

Jazayeri stated that under no circumstances would Iran give up this God-given resource, stating: There are certain groups that are trying to argue that Iran's use of nuclear energy is aimed at producing weapons of mass destruction. However, they will not get anywhere. That is because Iran was not interested in pursuing this objective from the very beginning. It believes that it can further its own interests through means other than the use of weapons of mass destruction.

He stressed that Iran will not stop using nuclear energy in order to further its national, scientific and industrial interests. He said that the position of senior state officials on this issue was clear and explicit.

At the end of his remarks, Jazayeri said: As long as the source of corruption in the region, namely the artificial country of Israel is not supplanted by the real owners of Palestine, a nuclear-weapons-free zone will not be created in the Middle East. In the talks held last week in Paris, the three European countries negotiating with Iran called on Iran to accede to and act upon new commitments.

The list of commitments, which is four-pages long, calls upon Iran to make a commitment that it would never withdraw from the NPT under any circumstances. Moreover, as a result of such commitments, Iran would agree to inform European countries of all its nuclear activities regularly and systematically.

A tiger got loose in New York City and scared the crap out of supposedly unflappable New Yorkers. Hey. I thought you guys were supposed to just yawn and get on with your activities over stuff like this.

NEW YORK (AP) - After escaping from the circus, a white tiger alarmed picnickers and motorists Saturday on what for him apparently was a calm, half-mile stroll through an unfamiliar urban jungle.

The animal, named Apollo, was safely recaptured in the Queens section of the city - but not before the sight of him on the Jackie Robinson Parkway caused a multi-car accident. Four adults and one child suffered minor injuries.

When the tiger lay down on a nearby street, six police officers with guns drawn created a perimeter around it, Capt. John Durkin said. The tiger's trainer arrived and coaxed it back into his cage.

[...] The 7-year-old, 450-pound tiger is part of the Cole Bros. Circus that was performing in Forest Park.

The cat was being transferred from a small cage to a larger one when the two enclosures separated, creating an opening big enough for him to get out, police and parks officials said.

Apollo calmly prowled through a section of the park, walking past Mary Mason and other people at a church picnic.

"We were all in shock," Mason said. "Here we are, out on a quiet Saturday afternoon picnic and all of a sudden, a tiger is walking past like he was on a quiet afternoon stroll."

Durkin said police followed the animal for about a half-mile from the park to a residential street near the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The tiger had apparently strolled through some streets and stepped on to the parkway before settling in on the street where the police found him, police said.

Damn, I'd have paid money for video of six cops following a tiger through Queens.

This is great news: 90 percent of Afghans are registered to vote.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - About 90 percent of the Afghan electorate has registered to vote in October's landmark presidential election, the United Nations said Sunday, as it began winding down a registration effort marred by bloody attacks on election staff and voters.

According to the latest U.N. figures, 8.7 million of an estimated 9.8 million eligible voters have collected ID cards that will allow them to cast a ballot when polling begins Oct. 9 in Afghanistan's first-ever direct national vote.

The enthusiastic turnout is a relief for the world body, which has overcome misgivings about Afghanistan's readiness for elections under strong pressure from the United States. The vote had been delayed from June because of slow progress disarming warlords. A vote for Parliament was put off until next spring.

It is also a welcome surprise for President Hamid Karzai, who is widely expected to defeat 22 rivals to secure a new five-year term. The U.S.-backed interim leader was still saying in June that registering 6 million people would have been sufficient.

"The participation is amazing," U.N. spokesman David Singh said. "There was a lot of skepticism about this process at the beginning, but the targets have been fulfilled."

In the picture accompanying the article, there are burka-clad women registering to vote. Here's hoping that next election, they can lose the burka.

Last, but not least: Terrorists are still planning on gunning for New York. Yeah, we knew that.

NEW YORK (AP) - New intelligence that the al-Qaida terrorist network plans to attack financial or international institutions in New York City has prompted police to urge extra security precautions at various city buildings.

The warning, announced Saturday night, didn't say how the attacks might be carried out or when they would occur.

But ABC News, citing anonymous sources, reported Saturday night that al-Qaida planned to send terrorists across the Mexican border into the United States, and that suicide attacks were being planned in the city, possibly using trucks.

The network said attacks may be planned between now and Election Day. The Republican convention begins in New York on Aug. 30.

Bin Laden did not understand Americans in 2001, and his followers don't understand us now. We aren't Spain, and we're not the Phillippines. An attack will not cause a bump for Kerry in the polls. An attack on America will only quiet partisan bickering and bring us together again. A suicide truck bombing like we see in Iraq would be horrendous. But it won't make us turn tail and run.

It will, however, make the doubters realize that the overwhelming issue of the 2004 election campaign is the Terror War. And John Kerry has pretty much lost me since his speech Thursday night. The line that did it for me?

Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.

It's Jimmy Carter all over again. And I don't make the same mistake twice. | |


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary is also a good bet if you've never been here before.