Oct 30 2006

Ominous realization of the day

I’m certain I’m not the first to think of this—so let’s just call this a restatement of conventional wisdom…

I think I’ve figured out the United States’ religious right. They started to read the Bible, but only got as far as Leviticus before they got bored. They skimmed the rest—managing to pick up that Jesus taught, died, and rose again—but totally missed all the wisdom of His ministry. Then, figuring that the last chapter would be a summation of the whole work, they paid real close attention to Revelation.

This would certainly explain why they seem fixated on a few specific Old Testament tales and verses, they have no clue what Christian virtue actually is, and they spend all their time looking forward to the Apocalypse. Their bluster is that of poor students who, not having learned the whole of their lessons, bluff that the bits they did learn are the only important ones—and perhaps the teacher will fail to notice the underlying ignorance.

Aug 15 2006

Three plus one plane-killing things current security cannot stop

(#2 in a series of unoriginal and obvious points I want to be able to say that I made publicly back in August 2006.)

  • Bomb in the cargo hold.
  • Artificial limb containing 460 ml 50% hydrochloric acid and 432 grams of sodium cyanide. When mixed, these form enough gas to contaminate the 703 cubic meters of a 747 with 300 ppmv of hydrogen cyanide—which can kill you by entering through your eyeballs. (With a long enough exposure, it can even enter through your skin.)
  • Sealed glass capsule containing 40 ml GB—which enters through your skin quickly. Assuming 10 ml for the glass itself, this can be carried in the rectum for hours at a time without incurring so much as a funny walk. (VX is worse, on a deaths per gram scale, but is a bit harder to weaponize.) Neither nerve gas requires a government-sized organization to produce—Aum Shinrikyo made (and killed people with) both.

I am not the first to think of these schemes, nor the first to speak of them. Thus, defeating them requires, at a minimum, inspection of all cargo, a qualified radiologist to take and inspect X-rays of all prosthetics, and full cavity searches of all passengers. Any airliner security program that does not include all three things does not protect passengers from threats known to be within the capabilities of private organizations.

Ergo, I argue that the debate is not whether airport security is sufficient. It is known not to be. The only question is why we’re bothering to implement measures that do not solve the problem they’re intended to. What benefit do you figure we derive? Are you sure it’s worth the price?

Further, even if we were to implement all three, there is one last scheme:

  • Corrupt a mechanic to install a bomb on the jet during routine maintenance.

No security measure inflicted on passengers can prevent this. Knowing this, does all the delay and indignity of passenger inspection still make you so much as make you feel safer?

Even ignoring the wasted time and subsequent loss of productivity, the security infrastructure is not free. You understand now that the security measures are pointless. How much of your money are you willing to pay—in the form of taxes and higher travel costs—to buy the props for a fool’s paradise?

Aug 1 2006


I have no new insights. I just want to be able to point to my having made these points out loud way back in August 2006.

There is one solution to the USA’s involvement in Iraq. When I say “one,” I mean that it is the solution we are doomed to implement—whether we plan for it or not, and whether we like it or not.


As in, get everybody the hell out as quickly as possible—where “as quickly as possible” is measured in DAYS. Call it 72 hours. Pull the units out of the cities, form them up into proper field deployments under air cover, and head for a coast or border.

This will be an absolute disaster for Iraq. There will be blood in the streets—rivers of it. There are factions atop factions, and most loathe each other. They’re going to fight it out. Many people will die horribly. Whatever government emerges is going to be a nightmare.

This is bad. The trouble is, this is what’s going to happen sooner or later anyway. The Fall of Baghdad is going to be a bigger disaster than the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single thing the USA can do to prevent it. The fire selector on an M16A4 does not include a setting for “Eliminate ethnic hatred.”

Understand that Iraqization is not going to work any better than Vietnamization did. Supporting a specific Iraqi government is not going to work any better than supporting a specific South Vietnamese government ever worked. As with Viet Nam, these realities transcend specifics of the USAen administration—Republican or Democrat, left, right, or center. No matter who takes power in 2009, 2013, or 2017, no matter what their politics or motives, any plan predicated on these notions will fail.

Further, a pullout with a timetable of months or years is just a slow, agonizing buildup to the finale. Recall Nixon and Ford: they understood the USA had to get out of Viet Nam, but they pursued Vietnamization for years. It didn’t help a soul. The final result—total defeat—was the same. They might as well have pulled out the day Nixon took office: it wouldn’t have been any worse for the Vietnamese, and fewer USAen soldiers would have died.

Sooner or later, that finale comes and it’s 72 hours to have everyone out of the country. Putting off the inevitable just costs money and lives while we sit around moaning about how tragic it all is.

Bite the bullet, cue up “White Christmas”, and hope the door doesn’t hammer our collective ass too hard on the way out.

Dec 24 2004

At least it wasn’t Dick Cheney singing The Little Driller Boy

Shortly after my editor mentioned on her blog how much she hated certain Christmas music, and a commenter reaching for a word mentioned the Infant Jesus “in his crib,” lightning hit my stereo again. I recognized the tune at least, this time: Public Enemy’s Fight the Power. But I don’t know what to make of the lyrics…

Neg three BCE the number another winter (get down)
Sound of the Virgin M, her
Screaming hittin’ your ears ‘cause I know you sin, soul
(Brethren and sistren, hey)
But today, we’re not too sure
Are our motives all pure
Askin’ what Bush knows
While the Guardsmen sweatin’
And the mortar rounds fallin’
Got to tell us why we’re there
Gotta give us an excuse
Well, freedom of faith is freedom for death
We got to bomb the heathens that be
Lemme hear you say
Bomb the heathens


As the rubble designed to bounce
What counts is that the spin’s
Designed to cloud your mind
Now that you’re convinced our pride’s on line
We’ve got to rule Baghdad to make us glad
Close your heart
Rape a tart, set flames to art
To devolutionize roll back change fear the strange
People. Muslims, are they the same?
No, they’re not the same
Hit them with all the blame
What we need is gasoline, small cars are obscene
Rah, rah, SUV
My President, saddle up the horses
Preempt invasion ground forces
(Yo) Smart bomb the show
And maybe nuke them till they glow
Make everybody see, it’s our job to bomb the heathens that be
Lemme hear you say…
Bomb the heathens


Jesus was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me, you meat;
Straight pacifist that preacher was
Simple and neat
Mother fuck him and Saint Pete
Cause I’m White and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped, son of Huns
Most Christian heros don’t appear without guns
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but killers for 1000 years, they’re chillers
“Do unto others”
Was a number one thought
Damn if I say it you can shoot me right here
(Get it) let’s get this purging started right
Right on, c’mon
What we got to say
Power for warriors no delay
To make everybody see
In order to bomb the heathens that be

(Bomb the heathens.)

Nov 4 2004

At least it wasn’t the TV showing Ann Coulter in a bikini

During the storm last night, my stereo was struck by a bolt of lightning. For a few moments, it picked up a broadcast from a hip-hop station in a nearby alternate universe.

John Ashcroft’s the name, and justice is my game
Got some jail cells ready for all those deserving blame.
We’ve got dogs and shotguns and electrodes for your “bits”;
I’m here to protect you from bare naked marble tits.

[A prisoner gets a few notes of “Amazing Grace” out before the power switch is thrown and he fries like a side of bacon.]

Now I go by Rummy, and I ain’t no dummy;
With my war plan goin’ them Baathists call for mummy.
We don’t need many troops, ‘cause our boys are all the best
State fifty-one comin’; them Iraqis sure are blessed.

[Little girl’s voice: “Mom, what does `for the duration’ mean, and who’s that guy standing next to you in that photograph?”]

I’m Big Dick Cheney and I’m here to say
The Democrats can kiss my bootay.
I’m bald and mean and white and phat
With a big Halliburton check to go with all that.
Now, my ticker’s not so hot; that much is true
It’s because my daughter likes girls, and that makes me blue.
Some say I’m a hypocrite, but that nut won’t fit the screw;
Just ‘cause she’s a human being don’t mean others are, too.
Yo. By the way, Leahy: go fuck yourself.

[Muttering: “If I have to sleep with Lynne, I don’t see why Mary can’t take one for the team as well.”]

Well, my name is George, but you can call me double U
I’m a dry drunk rich boy; God tells me what to do.
Got a Stepford wife and and a fresh mandate
Time to clean up the house and bring on the hate.

[Frank Sinatra record scratching: ZOOP ZOOP “Did it my way” ZOOP “My way” ZOOP “Mymymymy My way”]

[A-10 Warthog screeching over Nasiria. Filter, pilot’s voice: “Whoops! That was me; my bad. Sorry, Marines.”]

[Mob beating the crap out of someone with a Middle Eastern accent pleading for mercy. Over it, George is saying, “Need some wood? Do you, punk? Need some wood? Need a little MORE wood?”]

[Everyone, in chorus:]
It’s time to meet the new boss, it’s the same as the old boss
We’re following a prophet, and it’s time for your loss.
We’ve got the Senate and the House, the highest court’s on borrowed time;
If I was you, I wouldn’t think of stepping out of line.

Nov 2 2004

Extremely early exit poll, San Francisco precinct 3915

Or, “How rumors about sinister covert organizations get started.”

This morning, I put on my usual black ensemble and added an overcoat. As it was still a bit dark out, I brought along a flashlight so I could read while I waited. (No need—the sky lightened considerably after I left home at six.)

I figured I’d either be the first one at the polling place, or there’d be a line around the block already. It was the former.

At this point I should probably mention I live down in the Mission District—and not the “nice” part, either. I happen to like it. My neighbors may be poor and not necessarily speak English as a first language—but they’re polite, law abiding, and they work their asses off. Still, they are a bit reserved around me—I grew accustomed long ago to people looking at me and wondering if I was a particularly clueless undercover INS agent.

The group running the polling station gave me the hairy eyeball. I smiled and tried to look nonthreatening—with limited success. Bald six foot fishbelly-white people kind of stand out in my neighborhood.

A few more folks drifted up. Many Hispanics have a foolproof way to deal with suspicious looking white people; a fellow said “Hello,” smiled very politely, and then switched over to high-speed colloquial Spanish to chat with every other soul there but me. But I’m used to that, too.

By the time the poll opened at seven, there were maybe ten people waiting. The fellow in charge stepped out and asked, “Okay, who was here first?” Nine fingers pointed at me.

I went. I inked the appropriate lines, and headed for the ballot box.

The kid manning it was in his mid twenties, I think, although he looked twelve to me. Very softly and very nervously, he explained that since mine was to be the first ballot into the box in precinct 3915, he wanted me to sign the paper receipt scrolling out of the box as it notes each ballot as it goes in. I nodded, and picked up the pen. Thought about the probability of there being funny business today, given that the incumbent routinely disappears people who argue with him to Guantanamo Bay. Now, John Hancock always wrote his signature really big—despite the legend, he didn’t make a crack about King George III’s eyesight—but a legend doesn’t have to be true for it to provide a good example. I signed—big. Then printed—big. Then added my phone number—big.

By then, there were people queued up waiting for ballots—and watching me. The fellow in charge said, “Uh, sir, could you also verify that there are no ballots already in the box before I lock it up?” There were two hatches in the side, both open. “Uh, it’s kind of dark in there, I know…” In fact, it was pitch black; the polling station was a garage, lit by a few bare bulbs scattered around.

“By a remarkable coincidence,” I said, and pulled eighteen inches worth of MagLight out of my vest pocket.

I heard a sigh from the queue. I looked up. A dozen people were grinning at me. I don’t know if they thought I was a paranoid reporting to the Democrats, a Republican saboteur, a junior diplomat dragooned by the UN Elections commission to go in early and then phone in a data point, or what—but all dozen knew just from looking at me that something was up. I looked back at the guy in charge; he was wearing the same grin.

When Fate hands you a role, however minor, you either play it or get off the stage. Ergo, I would like to publicly state that San Francisco precinct 3915’s ballot box had no ballots in it when I inspected it. I also have two grimy spots on the knees of my trousers to add weight to my statement that I knelt and felt all around inside the damn thing. The first ballot cards in there are numbers 471193, 616543, 616545, and 616548; I have the stubs.

If any traitorous maggot feels like gaming this election in my precinct, be warned that one of the few things I’m far to the right about is guns. And my .357 only holds six rounds—so I practice enough to make sure that’s all I’m ever likely to need.


Walking home, it occurred to me that as of 7:20 this morning, I represented 100% of all the voters in my precinct who had cast a ballot in today’s election. So I chased myself down the street, tackled myself, and demanded to know how I voted.

Based on this extremely early exit poll—the sample size was only one, but on the other hand, every single person who had voted to that point agreed to answer this reporter’s questions—precinct 3915 shows 100% for Kerry. (In the local Board of Education race, it’s 100% for a fellow named Starchild—a local escort / exotic dancer.) That’s not enough to call anything just yet—but we can hope.