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Mike's Soapbox - Best 2002 Rants

1/8 - Entertainment:  I'm too sexy for this ad - CNN pulled its ads where it said that Paula Zahn was "just a little sexy".  Man, CNN has really changed.  I remember when they had Bobbie Battista with her freaky eyes (one looked at you, but one looked past you - it very much freaked me out when I watched CNN) - you could never call her sexy.  Greta van Sustren?  Not sexy.  Christiane Amanpour?  Not sexy.  Rudi Bakhtiar?  Okay, she's sexy.  C'mon, CNN - you don't need sex to make people watch your channel, you just need to cover good news!  And speaking of covering, when we say "cover good news", we don't mean for you to add yet another ticker to cover over the increasingly small picture of your anchors, who may be sexy if we could actually see what they look like.  I get better pictures on my low-bandwidth streaming media...

1/11 - Entertainment:  I've only got three of the five featuring Webster - Yesterday, I had to go to the supermarket to buy some green beans for Adele.  I just wanted to buy a $0.79 can of green beans, and all the lines at the checkout counter were huge.  There were all these geriatrics who were buying stuff but either paying with pennies and nickels or writing checks.  Uggggh!  But, that is not the rant.  No, this rant is about something I noticed standing in line for the checkout - an interesting phenomenon that has only occurred in recent years - the TV Guide Collector's Covers series.

So, I was perplexed. I mean, I saw this phenomenon once before - during the Star Trek 30th Anniversary.  Okay, that one made sense.  After all, I've been to Star Trek conventions, and people will buy any crap with the likeness of anyone from Star Trek on it (my God, they even bought Tuvok's CD!).  So, I could understand that one - some loser out there would actually go and buy all four TV Guides and then turn around and try to sell them as a set for like $20.  But since then, I have seen this every couple of weeks.  There was the Star Wars collectors covers, then the Lord of the Rings collectors covers, and then the "Christmas - Pride in America" (or some crap like that) covers.  But now, there are the "Today Show 50th Anniversary Collector's Covers (one of three)".  Is there really a huge market of people collecting these?  Is there such a mass of die hard Today Show fans that would really go and buy three of these magazines at $1.99 each?  Will we see someone on Antiques Roadshow in about 50 years inquiring as to how much their 3 TV Guide Today Show Collector's Cover editions are worth, and then find out that one of them is worthless because someone used it as a coaster?

1/30 - Nation:  State of the Union - I had a bunch of rants ready to go, but I forgot that last night was the State of the Union address.  So, instead, I will carry my review and thoughts and rants about the State of the Union address, and I will bring you the other stuff later.

Okay, first, I watched the address.  I enjoy it about as much as a political convention.  But, there really wasn't anything on - every channel carries this thing (even Fox?!).  Anyway, I have to admit that I didn't see the Democrats' response - I was watching Battlebots at that point.

There were some parts that didn't make a whole lot of sense.  He said at one point, "Yet after America was attacked, it was as if our entire country looked into a mira and saw our better selves."  I was unsure what a "mira" was, but then I thought that maybe he was referring to Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino.  Yes, if we all looked to Mira, we might see our better selves.  I agree. 

Then he said, "We have found diagrams of American nucular power plants" in the things terrorists left behind when they ran.  I didn't know we had nucular plants!  Later he said, "we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nucular weapons from threatening the United States and the world."   Later he singled out Iraq as one of these regimes - "The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nucular weapons for over a decade."  He mentioned that these regimes have been trying to acquire nucular weapons, but he conspicuously left out their alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Why not mention nuclear weapons in the address?

The President also kept talking about "terrists".  I was  not familiar with the term "terrists", but looking at the Latin root of "terra" meaning Earth, I can only assume that these are people who love the Earth.  Since he mentioned all of the evil deeds that these terrists did, I can only assume that they are a group of environmental extremists, such as Earth First. 

The President welcomed Afghan Leader Chairman Hamid Karzai, and praised his support for our war on terrorism on Afghanistan, but I noticed that the President stopped short of asking for Northern Alliance advisors to come to North Carolina and assist the FBI in their search for the terrorist suspect Eric Rudolph.  With their experience in caves in Afghanistan, it would seem to me that the Afghan soldiers could get Rudolph out of his cave in a matter of weeks.

The President mentioned that most of the 19 hijackers were trained in Afghanistan and that terrorists are "often supported by outlaw regimes."  What he failed to mention - that 15 of the 19 hijackers, the Muslim cleric who appeared in the captured video, and even Osama bin Laden himself are all Saudis, which is a regime that we support.  Hmmm.

The President again mentioned "Yet, tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large."  Including, incidentally, the anthrax mailer and Eric Rudolph.  He said, "My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own."  Well said, Mr. President, and so let's send in the 82nd Airborne into western North Carolina and get Eric Rudolph.  Then, let's go find the "anthrax mailer", who it is appearing more and more likely is a domestic terrorist who got his anthrax from an Army research lab.

The President then made a segue to the economy by saying "It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month -- over $30 million a day -- and we must be prepared for future operations."  Yep - that's a lot of money out of the Federal budget.  Then, he said that he wants to improve the weapons used by the military and give military personnel a pay raise, which he summed up by saying "Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay," which means more money out of the budget.  Then, he said "Americans who have lost their jobs need our help and I support extending unemployment benefits and direct assistance for health care coverage."  I agree - but that's yet even more money out of the budget.  How does he plan to pay for all this?  Tax cuts.  Yep, he finally says "For the sake of long-term growth and to help Americans plan for the future, let's make these tax cuts permanent."  Deficit spending, here we come!  He said, "our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term, so long as Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible manner."  Two things stuck out here - one, I've heard the "small and short-term" thing once before and two, if it becomes large and long-term, blame it on Congress. 

The word everyone was waiting for was "Enron".  He never actually said it, but it was there.  I thought he was going there when he said, "Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy."  Yep, I agree.  Then, he said that on the energy issue "the House of Representatives has acted to create jobs, and I urge the Senate to pass this legislation."  This will be good, because there are a lot people who work in the energy business (Enron) who are in need of those newly created jobs. 

Next, he started to go to Enron again when he said, "Americans know economic security can vanish in an instant without health security."  He then listed a number of changes and improvements in health care reform that sounded almost Clinton-esque.  At this point, I had to make sure Bush was still President.

Okay, so finally we get to Enron.  "Employees who have worked hard and saved all their lives should not have to risk losing everything if their company fails."  Yep, this is a known fact, and in fact, I believe it was one of the reasons they set up Social Security.  So, on social security:  "We must make Social Security financially stable and allow personal retirement accounts for younger workers who choose them."  During the election, he wanted to reform Social Security by having people invest their social security money in the stock market.  We'd be screwed if we would have invested our social security money in Enron stock, huh?  I agree we need to make it financially stable, but as Enron has showed, it needs to be kept out of the stock market if it is truly going to be a safety net.

Bush mentioned volunteer service by saying "Through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know we can overcome evil with greater good."  The economy has truly done well since the last Bush administration - the "thousand points of light" has grown into "millions of acts of service".

Another statement that stuck out: "No people on Earth yearn to be oppressed, or aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police."  I couldn't help but think of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the people who have been detained since September 11th and not charged with any crimes.

If there was the one statement that more powerful than anything else, it was this:  "But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance."  Mr. President, I am going to hold you to this promise - you said it, free speech (and the other issues) are "non-negotiable demands of human dignity," so I am going to be confused if you try to negotiate them away (remember the "There ought to be limits to freedom" quote?  I haven't forgotten it).

Another thing:  He said, "America is working with Russia and China and India, in ways we have never before, to achieve peace and prosperity."  I take it China has forgiven us for the spy plane debacle, and also that Russia is going to support us in breaking the ABM treaty.

Now, you may think I am un-American for writing this; on the contrary, I support the President and the war on terror.  I also hope he can follow through on his ideas that he presented in this address.  However, we must keep power in check, and we must exercise our freedom to question our leaders - it is truly the backbone of democracy.  Plus, and probably most importantly, I wanted to bring a bit of humor to a dull speech.

So in closing my rant, I am going to once again mention that this site is all about the freedom of speech.  In exercising that freedom, I am carrying out the President's closing statement: "Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom's price. We have shown freedom's power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory."  What is freedom's victory?  That anyone and everyone be able to have a soapbox...

2/1 - World:  These are the people we're defending? - During Desert Shield, troops were sent to protect Saudi Arabia from an Iraqi invasion.  Since then, we have maintained our presence to protect Saudi Arabia from further aggression from Saddam Hussein.  In fact, right now we have men and women there risking their lives to protect and defend Saudi Arabia.  Maybe that's why this comment from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has me upset:  "In the current environment, we find it very difficult to defend America, and so we keep our silence. Because, to be very frank with you, how can we defend America?"  Way to be a coalition partner and work for peace in the region.  Is there anyone working for peace?  Am I the only one with a peace proposal?  Like I predicted, I think things are going to get much worse in the Middle East before they get any better.

2/8 - Special:  Investigative Report: Let's look at Walker's "rights" - There has been much debate on John Walker Lindh.  (You can check out his indictment on-line.)  His attorney is saying that his Miranda rights were violated, because he did not have access to an attorney when being questioned after being captured.  Hmmm - he was captured in Afghanistan, so he really can't make a claim that he should be covered by American laws and rights any more than if I were to go to England and commit a crime and try to be covered on English soil under my U.S. Constitutional rights; their land, their law.  But then, when he was brought aboard the ship, you could make the claim that as an American citizen, he has the rights given to all Americans.  But my friend Doug, in a Rants in Your Pants investigative report, has uncovered a tidbit that has heretofore not been reported by the media.

Doug discovered while looking at his passport that serving in the armed forces of another country could lead to the loss of US citizenship.  Intrigued, I decided to look into this.  According to the State Department's web site:

Although a person's enlistment in the armed forces of a foreign country may not constitute a violation of U.S. law, it could subject him or her to Section 349(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(3)] which provides for loss of U.S. nationality if an American voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship enters or serves in foreign armed forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or serves in the armed forces of any foreign country as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer.

So, now the question of whether or not John Walker Lindh had the intention of relinquishing his U.S. citizenship.  There is not a whole lot out there about his exact statements, but I think I did find one damning one.  In an story, Walker "dismissed the election of George W. Bush as his mother's president, saying, 'I'm glad he's not mine,' according to the federal prosecutors' papers."  Also, prosecutors have said that he routinely made anti-American statements and had "hostility toward his country."  So, maybe he never made an overt statement in which he relinquished his citizenship, but by his actions and words, he clearly showed his discontentment with being an American, and by his actions of going overseas, joining the Taliban, and then choosing to remain with them after September 11th, he clearly did not choose to remain a U.S. citizen (until things got rough and then he suddenly became an American again).

So, in my opinion, he has no rights as an American.  He should be stripped of his U.S. citizenship according to Section 349(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 USC 1481(a)(3)] and sent to Guantanamo Bay with the rest of the Taliban captives. 

One thing that has always bothered me about people like Walker is that our country goes to great lengths to protect its citizens.  The State Department routinely gives warnings about not traveling overseas to places like Afghanistan or Bosnia, which I think are hysterical, because I watch the news and see the bad things that happen in these places, so I see the State Department warnings as "duh."  But, inevitably, some idiot will go to one of these places, get kidnapped by guerillas, and held for ransom.  Then, the idiot's family comes on the news crying and saying that we should do something for their loved one.  We did - we told them not to go there in the first place

Anyway, Walker should be very glad that he is being held in prison in this country and if he remains in prison for the rest of his life, he should wake up every day glad that he is still alive.  If I were in charge, what would I do?  I would have said that he was no longer a US citizen, and turned him over to the Northern Alliance; I hear that they were shooting non-Afghan members of the Taliban.  I would, too, if I were one of those starving Northern Alliance guys; I would say to him, "What?  You gave up a great, spoiled life in the US to come over here?  I would kill to be a US citizen!" and then I would, under the assumption that someone that stupid shouldn't be allowed to procreate.

2003 Note:   Yes, John Walker Lindh.  He was the most hated man in America after Osama, but with all the attention now on Saddam, everyone forgets about him.  And then there was this post from Doug in response:

I think I figured out why the media hasn't reported what I found about losing US citizenship on the passport. It's so cut and dry, they couldn't milk the story and sell ad space for weeks. Stop playing touchy-feely, send his ass back to the northern alliance, or send him to G'mo Bay Cuba to hang with his new homies.

2/14 - Nation:  Perfect picture - A friend of mine sent this to me yesterday.  Everyone knows I hate cell phone drivers.  It was so classic, I thought it deserved to be posted here:


Thanks for the picture, Joe!

3/21 - Nation:  Next, the round-up of white supremacists, militia members, and mad scientists (hopefully) - In response to where the US wants to interview an additional 3,000 Arab immigrants, I can only guess that we will also have a round-up of suspects the likes of Tim McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and Ted Kazinsky.  But, no, they are calling all the investigators off the domestic terrorists to question immigrants and visitors.  Ashcroft has said that this questioning "has forged stronger ties between law enforcement and these communities."  I am sure it has, just as I am sure that many Japanese-Americans still are in regular and friendly correspondence with their American internment guards. 

Yep, let's go racially profile people, detain them, and tell everyone that it was a voluntary thing.  Here's the deal with "voluntary" - when I was in the military, I was asked to submit to a search of my vehicle when entering a base.  I asked what would happen if I didn't submit.  The answer?  I would be detained, and the commander would order my vehicle to be searched.  I am sure it's the same thing.  "You can volunteer to come in and answer questions, or we can get a court order to have you arrested and then answer questions.  Now, what do you have to hide if you won't volunteer?"  No wonder the report on the investigation released by the Justice Department said, "Not only did very few of those contacted for interviews decline to answer questions, most expressed a strong desire to help law enforcement in its campaign against terrorism."  I would have a strong desire to help law enforcement if I was being interrogated at a police station, too.

Attorney General Ashcroft defended the round ups and questioning by saying it "may well have contributed to the fact that we have not suffered a substantial terrorist attack since September 11th."  I have to agree with Attorney General Ashcroft.  After all, we didn't round up all the white wackos after McVeigh committed the Oklahoma City bombing, and a year later Eric Rudolph blew up several bombs in Atlanta.  Perhaps if a similar racial profiling was conducted after the 22-23 June 1993 bombings by the Unabomber, we could have avoided the Oklahoma City tragedy. Of course, the Attorney General still has not rounded up crazy white guys; perhaps if he does that also, we can made headway towards defeating domestic terrorism.  You know, as long as people like Eric Rudolph are still at large, we can't possibly declare victory on the war on terrorism. 

4/15 - Nation:  Tax rant 2 - I feel I am doing my duty as an American by paying taxes.  After all, who is going to pay for this war on terrorism?  But, there are a number of things that I wish I could choose NOT to pay my taxes towards:

1.  The Federal airport security worker who fell asleep at his post.
2.  The NASA computer that spammed me.
3.  Any of Ken Lay's expenses.
4.  The maintenance of the Capitol building until it is again open to the public.
5.  Any airport worker who forgets to plug in the metal detector.
6.  The Army's shoshkeles ads
7.  Any part of Colin Powell's Middle Eastern peace trips that aren't in the Middle East.
8.  Another ^&$#@ government-sponsored ANWR study that finally won't say that caribou are threatened by drilling. 
9.  Money used to buy porn-filters at public libraries instead of freaking books!
10.  More school supplies for Afghanistan instead of St. Paul, Minnesota.
11.  The dude whose sole job it is to clear the gate of anyone flying to Washington Reagan National Airport.
12.  The war on tourism.
13.  Any foreign aid to help Nigerian computer infrastructure.
14.  Any more color coded charts for homeland security.
15.  Any court costs to determine who gets to claim the tax break from an American flag.
16.  The "Office of Strategic Influence."
17.  The Vice Presidential security guard who lost the "master security plan" while shopping for souvenirs at the Olympics.
18.  The Federal military health care system that is still covering me despite the fact I left the military and I have repeatedly tried to get them to drop me.
19.  More curtains for John Ashcroft to cover up pieces of nude art in and around Federal buildings.
20.  The people who kept paying me for a month AFTER I left the military and the same people who sent me FOUR W-2 forms.
21.  The development of more pointless questions when checking in on a commercial airline flight, such as "Do you plan to commit any violence while on this flight?"
22.  The cruise ship that Senator Lott wants the Navy to buy.
23.  Any more cruise ships for Senator Lott.
24.  Any more boob jobs for waitresses of government employees.
25.  Any promotions for people who defrauded the government.
26.  Any more $70 million studies on "The Sexual Habits of the American President."
27.  Ransom payments to terrorists, which will be used to kidnap more Americans and finance more terror in the US.
28.  The shadow government (can't we use shadow taxes for the shadow government?).
29.  More "voluntary" interviews of Arab immigrants.
30.  Any more clandestine groups that we are funding to overthrow a government who are going to turn on us and commit violence against our own country.

So, I guess that leaves that my portion of tax money can be spent on a highway project near Dubuque, Iowa, or for the purchase of a bolt for the military.

5/5 - Entertainment:  Why do we even have ratings? - So, we went to see Spiderman last night.  It had a PG-13 rating.  So, why was every other seat occupied by a toddler? Well, not every seat - I kid you not, one father sat in the handicapped seat with his kid sitting in a freaking shopping cart; seriously, it was one of those things that just throws your whole karma out of whack - I look over and asked Adele to confirm the strange vision in front of my eyes, and she replied "Yes, it is a kid in a shopping cart in a movie theater;"  I wanted to make sure I wasn't having hallucinations or anything.  Anyway, back to the rant - why do parents bring their freaking four year olds to movies that are clearly not rated for them?  Not only do they have less of an attention span than my cat, they have no idea what is going on.  The three-year-old next to me kept asking "is that Spiderman?" every freaking time Spiderman showed up on screen.  The kid next to Adele had his mom recapping the movie for him every three seconds.  Ahh, but the kicker is the mom behind me who announced to her date that she will take her hand and cover her son's eyes whenever something objectionable appears on screen.  "Really?" the man asked.  "Yes, I do," said the mother.  Now, when I was a kid, my parents sometimes took me to PG and R rated movies.  Rather than cover my eyes and have me obsessed with trying to figure out what I was missing (plus, what does that do for foul language?  You can't cover his eyes and ears, unless you are a mutant with more than two arms!), my parents instead opted to have me watch the whole movie and then we DISCUSSED it afterwards.  Now, I am not a parent, but when I am, if I have concerns about whether or not I should take a kid to a movie that is not rated for them, I will see it myself first, and THEN decide whether or not to take the kid.  I don't know how much of Spiderman this kid missed, but I am pretty sure that he is going to be spending the rest of the summer trying to sneak in to see what he missed while his parents think he is at some Disney flick.  Okay, so if parents aren't going to listen to ratings, then why even have them?  I think it's a tough call as to which is worse at the movies - screaming kids or cell phones ringing.  I plan on seeing Star Wars at 10:45 PM on a weeknight, but I know as well as you that some %$#^& parent is going to bring their %$#& rugrat to that showing - and you know they won't sit there still and quiet and watch the ^@%*# movie!

5/4 - Nation:  Why I don't think we need profiling - There has been an e-mail going around saying that what airport screeners need to do is more racial profiling and less randomness.  Many people seem to be saying saying, "Hey - the hijackers who flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon were Arabic!  Why are we wasting time with airport security searching normal everyday Americans?"  However, yesterday seven pipe bombs exploded in rural mailboxes in Iowa and Illinois that authorities are saying are the work of "domestic terrorists" with an anti-government agenda.  Those bombings weren't committed by Arabs; they were committed by everyday Americans.  Authorities suspect domestic terrorism in the anthrax mailings, and authorities have also charged Eric Rudolph with a number of bombings, including the Olympic Park bombing.  Do you think that Timothy McVeigh wouldn't have hijacked an airliner to take out the Oklahoma Federal Building?  I think he might have.  Do you think that an insane person who shoots up people at a fast-food restaurant wouldn't want to hijack a plane to kill people?  I think he might.  In fact, did Timothy McVeigh get his idea for the bombing from the first failed attack on the World Trade Center, which used almost the same method as the Oklahoma City bombing?  Couldn't there be other domestic terrorists looking at the September 11th attacks and thinking, "hmmm - we never thought of that" and planning similar attacks?  The fact is, yes, we know who the terrorists were yesterday, but we don't know who the terrorists might be tomorrow.  And as we have seen recently in Israel where female suicide bombers carried out their attacks, there really is no gender, race, or age or even a national origin that you can use to identify a terrorist.  And THAT is why we need random airport security checks and NOT profiling!

5/8 - Nation:  Where's the roundup? - So, after September 11th, everyone was convinced that there was a terrorist next door waiting to attack them.  So, there was a backlash against Arabs, Muslims, and basically anyone who even remotely looked like they were from the Middle East.  And then, the Attorney General orders the round-up of around 5,000 people of Arabic origin, just to ask questions in the event that they knew anything about the terrorists (maybe they went to school with them or attended the same mosque, the reasoning went).  It was, as the Attorney General said, all voluntary (and by voluntary, they were sent letters in which they were asked to schedule an interview with the local FBI agents or presumably risk being arrested).  So, on Monday, they announced the profile of the domestic terrorist who was bombing the mailboxes in the Midwest.  They said he was "an educated white man whose native language is English."  So, what I want to know is why there weren't 5,000 letters mailed to all educated white males whose native language is English requesting interviews from us?  Heck, I am a white educated male - maybe I had a class or something with this guy.  Or maybe he went to my church.  Maybe he's a neighbor.  After all, that same logic worked when the Federal government was looking for Arab terrorists, so why doesn't it work when it's a white terrorist?  Or am I sensing a double standard from our Federal government?

5/9 - Nation:  John Walker Lindh, meet your new roommate Luke Helder... - So, why are these morons doing this stupid stuff?  Why don't we take both of them and send them to Guantanamo Bay with the other detainees?  I mean, they showed those pictures of Helder smiling for the cameras as they led him to jail.  I bet that if they send him to Gitmo to hang with the Taliban, he won't be smiling as much.  Plus, if Helder thinks the American government is bad, perhaps some time with the former Afghan government might enlighten him about the real "limitations of personal freedom"... and we'll see who's smiling then...

6/10 - Nation:  And how was he going to get the radioactive material?... - Ashcroft says they foiled an Al Qaeda plot to explode a "dirty" bomb in the US.  But the one question that hasn't been answered: where was he going to get the nuclear source from?  Either he was going to try to smuggle it in to the US, or else he was going to try and attack a nuclear storage facility.  Either way, I don't feel comfortable about the apprehension of the suspect until I know that the nuclear material is secure.  They can bring in other terrorists that we may or may not know about; I just want to ensure that the complete plan is foiled, and that we don't relax because we caught a suspect.

6/12 - Nation:  More on the dirty bomb - Craig sent me an e-mail that informed me about how any radioactive material could be used for a so-called "dirty bomb:"

Love your site, visit it every other day, practically. Anyway, just thought
I'd let you know, in case you didn't already, that a "dirty" bomb can be
made with radioactive cesium, cobalt, or strontium, which unfortunately can
be purloined from any medical care or research facility (much lower security
than a nuclear plant or military installation). It may not be as immediately
dangerous as plutonium, but it is harmful enough to cause widespread panic
and utter disruption in the city where the bomb is set off, not to mention a
very expensive, time-consuming cleanup, as well as greatly increasing the
incidence of cancers and genetic defects (who wouldn't freak out about
that?) And again, this medical-grade radioactive material is relatively easy
to get a hold of, unfortunately (at least compared to the weapons-grade
stuff). Wouldn't be too hard to put it into a powder or liquid solution (with
the right solvent) and incorporate it into a bomb casing. Somebody's gonna
have to figure out how to increase security for this stuff; the last thing I
need is for some butthead to set one of these things off in my part of town! 

Thanks for the info, Craig.  I never considered the panic value, but I am sure that the public would go nuts if they heard that an explosion contained any level of radioactivity in it.  (I used to work with a guy who SWORE he had anthrax and routinely nuked his mail in the microwave before opening it, even though we were never anywhere near any of the anthrax cases, so I can envision all kinds of "radiation hysteria" after an explosion - even if there was nothing radioactive in it.)  I hope that anyone who works with anything radioactive, whether it be at a medical facility, a university, or a laboratory, has taken increased measures to safeguard the material from falling into the wrong hands. 

6/11 - Nation:  Ashcroft breaks his oath - So, I have to speak out against a double standard.  It's much easier to rant about terrorists like Al Qaeda who are considered to be "them" than it is to rant about domestic terrorists like Luke Helder, Ted Kaczinsky, Eric Rudolph, and Tim McVeigh, who are considered to be "us."  I mean, it's so much easier to envision hordes of Islamic extremists out there in some cave in a country ending in -stan than it is to think about the possibility that the guy who lives next door but never talks to anyone might be a terrorist.  It's easy to think that all terrorists are dark skinned foreigners who practice religious extremism.

But, that is not always the case.  Take for example, the suspected terrorist accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb in Washington, DC.  Unlike the suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center, this guy is American, meaning he gets the same rights - probably even more so - than John Walker Lindh.  I mean, you could argue that Walker Lindh, caught in Afghanistan after serving in the armed forces of another nation, can be denied some of his rights as an American by violating  Section 349(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  But, to hold American Jose Padilla (also known as Abdullah al Muhajir) in a military jail without a trial is a very dangerous thing.

Don't get me wrong - I think that if Jose Padilla is a terrorist, he should be punished.  And I am not for going lightly on terrorists; hell, if he was going to do it, I say fry him!  But the one thing I am concerned with is that we can take this guy, accuse him, and lock him away on a military base indefinitely without a trial, without his chance to speak to an attorney, without any rights.  So, if the government suspects ME of being a terrorist, they can also take me, put me in a jail on a military base, and not allow me to speak to an attorney?  This is something that the Nazis do, not Americans!

This weekend, I started thinking that maybe I was too hard on John Ashcroft.  I mean, I know I have been hard on him, and I started thinking, "You know, maybe I was wrong with my Ashcroft-Goering comparison.  I mean, he is only advocating increased surveillance of people, it's not like he is rounding up people without evidence and throwing them to rot in some camp somewhere."  But, perhaps I spoke too early.

I am all for stopping terrorists.  And, I am all for them prosecuting Jose Padilla.  But do we have hard evidence?  If so, let's go to court.  But if we don't, and this whole "declare him an enemy combatant" thing is because we suspect him without having any proof, well, that's where the terrorists win - they have allowed this country to turn its back on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Hey, Ashcroft, remember February 1, 2001?  You took an oath.  In that oath, you swore to, among other things, "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same."  Locking away a citizen without a trial?  Remember a little thing called the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution?  Here's a refresher for you:  "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  Keeping the evidence out of the public view?  Remember a thing called the 6th Amendment to the Constitution?  Here's another refresher for you:  "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."   Are you supporting the Constitution with Mr. Padilla?  Are you supporting the Constitution by depriving Mr. Padilla of his liberty without due process of law?  Are you supporting the Constitution by denying to Mr. Padilla, a US citizen, the equal protection of the laws?  Are you supporting the Constitution by not giving him a speedy and public trial, by not presenting the nature and cause of the accusation, and by not giving him an attorney?

I think you just broke that oath, Mr. Ashcroft.

Oh, and President Bush, as Mr. Ashcroft's boss - and allowing this injustice to occur - you broke your oath as well.

6/12 - Nation:  Defending the Constitution, not terrorists - Don't get me wrong, I am not condoning terrorism, nor am I defending Mr. Padilla.  What I am doing is defending the rights of all Americans.  Let's take a look at this example.  Let's say one of the many other Mike Lewis-es is a suspected terrorist.  We know how good the FBI is at putting things together, so let's say they confuse me with one of the others (could happen - the IRS confused me with 3 other Mike Lewis-es in 1996).  So, they roll in, apprehend me, and I am sitting indefinitely in a military jail cell without a single right.  THAT is what I am speaking out against.  Maybe Padilla did it, but do we really want to set a precedent for violating Constitutional rights of any US citizen?  And you know, the leaders keep getting up and speaking about how things have changed, how terrorism wasn't as much of a threat when the country was founded.  Terrorism was always a threat, it's just that we have come up with bigger and better ways of killing people - that is the only thing that has changed.  Do you know why we have the 6th Amendment?  During the Revolutionary War, the British would round up those they suspected of collaborating with the colonists and lock them up without a trial.  So, the founding fathers wanted to guarantee that such a thing would never happen again.  Little did they know that almost 200 years later...

And you know, I have always wondered how the German people would willingly give up all their rights in Nazi Germany.  They did it out of fear.  To speak out against the violation of Constitutional rights is NOT siding with the terrorists, as our leaders would have us believe.  I counter that speaking out for the Constitutional rights of any and all citizens makes you the ultimate patriot.

I am all for rounding up suspected terrorists, trying them, and locking them up or worse.  But, it is the middle part of that which I am concerned about.  When we round them up, we must give them a trial.  It's the American way.  It's why it is in the Constitution.  It's what separates us from the rest of the world.  Our leaders get up on the pulpit and rally against human rights abuses in China, where pro-Democracy demonstrators were locked up without trial, and then we go and do the same thing with suspected terrorists.

The ironic thing is that even the Nazis held trials for their accused terrorists. On September 21, 1933, a trial opened for Marinus van der Lubbe, a foreigner who was accused of starting a fire in the Reichstag on February 27, 1933, an event which ushered in unprecedented power for Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party. Afraid that Communist terrorists were lurking around every corner, the German citizens allowed their rights to be taken away in the name of security to prevent future Communist terrorist attack. Although the trial was for show and was pretty much a farce, the Germans did hold a trial for the accused none the less.  Are we saying that the Nazis had more respect for the rights of the accused than we do?

7/16 - Nation:  Herr Ashcroft does it again -In yet another throwback to 1930s Germany, the Big Three (Bush, Ashcroft, and Ridge) have come up with a plan to form a "citizen watch" group who will spy on Americans and report suspicious activities.

Yes, this new Gestapo, known as "Operation TIPS" for "Terrorism Information and Prevention System" is part of the "Citizen Corps," which is seemingly becoming more of a "corps" in the military sense of the word. Apparently, Herr Ashcroft has this great plan where maids, utility workers, and truckers can call in suspicious activity directly to the Justice Department, where it will be promptly set aside for several months with probably little follow-up. (Just basing this on their past history.) And, as the Operation TIPS web page says, "The goal of the program is to establish a reliable and comprehensive national system for reporting suspicious, and potentially terrorist-related, activity" - meaning that the suspicious activity need not be terrorist related to be reported.

What is next for Ashcroft - organizing a group of thugs to supplement the FBI in enforcing the laws? Perhaps he can have them wear brown shirts...

And for all of you that are joining Operation TIPS, I will have you know that I am a loyal citizen and a respected party member...

8/21 - Nation: A pre-emptive rant - Ok, I know this might be un-American, but I can tell you right now I am going to be sick of the endless upcoming tributes to September 11th.

Ok, here is the thing - I wish I could forget September 11th, but I am afraid that I can't. Just like how I can't forget the images of the Challenger disaster. Just like my mom will always where she was when Kennedy was shot. Just like my grandparents always remembered where they were and what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Unlike those incidents, though, I had about a week of non-stop coverage on every TV station showing the terrible tragedy from nearly every angle possible.

And now I see it daily on CNN as they are promoting the upcoming anniversary.

But, I have not only had to live through September 11th, but I had to live through the one week anniversary, the one month anniversary, the two month anniversary, the three month anniversary, the FOUR month anniversary, and the six month anniversary specials. It is always just as tragic, but after a while, it just seems - I don't know, hollow?

There are those who tell you "We must never forget." I agree - but here is the thing: for all of us who are alive today, we WILL NEVER forget. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, when there is a new generation who grew up AFTER September 11th, we will need to vividly remind them of the tragedy. But for me, I don't need to reopen old wounds. And yes, I was deeply affected by September 11th and the days and weeks following it.

And there is one thing between a tribute and a media event. Why don't we see the media talk to the families about their loved ones who were lost on that date? But you know as well as I do that we will see the pictures of the planes slamming into the towers and the towers coming down 16 zillion times.

September 11th was a very tragic day. I will never - EVER - be able to think of September 11th without thinking of the attacks, just like I can never think about December 7th without thinking about Pearl Harbor. Don't worry - I will never forget about Sept 11, 2001; but I don't want to see endless media "tributes" to the tragedy that do nothing more than glorify the media's own coverage of the tragic events. It's time to heal and move on and try to do our best to put it out of our minds, although all of us know - we never will...

9/11 - Nation:  One year later - Okay, so it's September 11th and it has been a year since one of the most tragic days in our lives.

We all know what happened on that fateful day, so I won't discuss that any more. Instead, I want to focus on how our lives have changed.

1. The Nazification of our country - Yes, it is sadly true, but I have seen many changes in this country that bear a striking resemblance to the Weimar Republic of the 1930s. We have a President who was given unprecedented power to protect us from future terrorist attacks, just as the Chancellor of Germany was given unprecedented power after the Reichstag fire. Then, just as the German government organized stormtroopers and secret police to stop the Communists, we have organized a Department of Homeland Security and Operation TIPS, an organization devoted to letting average American citizens to spy and report on each other. When Senator Daschle began questioning what the government may have known prior to September 11th and what should be done to improve our intelligence agencies, he was labeled "unpatriotic." We would regard anyone who asked the same questions of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s as a hero, yet when we ask those questions, we are villains. And what does the President want to do with his new powers? Invade Iraq. Just like that other leader did in Poland in 1939. Yes, you can see now why I am concerned. I have my meter readers spying on me, I can't say anything bad about the government without risking being labeled unpatriotic, and I am going to have to face the ramifications of entering into a war with Iraq (like $2.50 a gallon for gas). Now, if they start rounding up Muslims and shipping them off to camps...

2. The vilification of Muslims and Arabs - Oh, wait, I forgot that immediately after September 11th, the Justice Department started rounding up Arabs in this country on the suspicion that they are somehow connected to terrorism. Many of those rounded up have yet to face trial, which is weird, because our rights in the Constitution were specifically set up so that no one would be incarcerated without a fair trial through which they would be found guilty or at which time they could exonerate themselves. But, that is not all. In addition to blaming gays, feminists, and the ACLU for the terrorist attacks, Pat Robertson has said that Islam is a violent religion that wants to destroy and dominate. Then, Ann Coulter goes out and asks why we aren't racially profiling Arab passengers at airport security. I hear Arab-Americans referred to as "them" instead of "us." I know Arab-Americans who have had to change the names of their businesses or disavow and hide their heritage in order to stay in business. I have seen Arab-Americans asked, "Do you love America?" Yes, it is not a good time to be a Muslim or Arab in this country. You know, I didn't know much about Islam. Rather than doing what most others seem to be doing - fear and hate it - I went out and got some books on the subject. I started reading the Koran, just to see if it was as bad as Pat Robertson says it is (it isn't). While I was at it, I thought, "You know, I don't know much about Buddhists, Hindus, or Sikhs, so why don't I learn about them as well?" When you do not understand something, you can fear and hate it; or, you can choose the harder path, which is to understand it. You don't have to like it, but at least understand it, so you can make a better decision. But back to Ann Coulter and her question of why we don't racially profile Arabs at the airports...

3. The terror attacks since Sept 11th - There have been terrorist attacks since September 11th. The first was the anthrax mailings. The FBI has revealed that the attacks were most likely the result of domestic terrorists, not overseas terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda. Interesting. Then, in May, someone started blowing up mailboxes around the country. Was it Al Qaeda? No, it was a stupid college kid from Minnesota. And how about the mentally challenged man who started kicking on the cockpit doors on a flight to Chicago, or the guy who broke through the cockpit door on a flight to South America? Neither was Arab. The guy who flew his plane into the Milan office building? Not Arab (and not even a terrorist). But, let's admit it - when we first heard about all these incidents, we immediately thought Arabic Muslim extremists. Oh, and the dirty bomb guy? A Hispanic-American. Yes, and racial profiling only Arabs and Muslims would not have stopped any of this. And don't forget Tim McVeigh - he likely got his idea for the Oklahoma City bombing from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; what other freaks and weirdos watched the non-stop September 11th coverage and thought to themselves, "Hey I can do that!"

4. The economy - Immediately after September 11th, the airlines began laying people off. It was because of terrorism and people's fears of flying, they said. However, it is interesting that most of the planes involved in the attacks were not filled anywhere near capacity; no one would admit it, but there were a lack of passengers before September 11th. So, as soon as these attacks occurred, the airlines did a major restructuring effort. They laid off thousands of employees and raised the prices and cut out frills (like in-flight meals and carry-on bags), yet I have never heard of a pay cut for their CEOs. No one would admit it, but the entire economy was on the verge of taking a major dump. The economy didn't suffer as much from September 11th as it did from companies like Enron and WorldCom cooking the books.

5. What to do with the World Trade Center - The World Trade Center stood far above anything else in New York City. No wonder the terrorists wanted to take out this building. It served no strategic value, but it stood a symbol of America. Just as this country stands out from so many others around the world, so did the World Trade Center stand out from the rest of the buildings surrounding it. No matter what we do, memorial or new office building, I think that this is important: it should be big. They knock down two buildings, and we will put up three - and they will be taller than the ones before them. Whether they be an empty memorial or living offices, we need to see something big in that skyline - something that stands out from all the rest. And like this country after the attacks, it needs to be bigger and better than ever.

America is the greatest country on earth. Why? For one simple reason - our Constitution guarantees us rights that make the rest of the world envious. Do you think that someone in Afghanistan could have gone and compared Mullah Omar to Hitler? Do you know how many people around the world are in prisons right now for simply speaking out about their government and do you know how many of those people will never see a courtroom? But, the real casualty in this war on terrorism would be if we allow ourselves to ignore our Constitution, to take away the rights of any citizen in this country. If we do that, then the terrorists have won this war. Yes, they could blow up hundreds of buildings in this country, and they will never destroy America; but if they allow us to go against our own Constitution, then perhaps they have destroyed America.

America is not a place; it is us.

10/7 - Nation:  Why Iraq? - I just have one question: why Iraq?

Well, I know the reason, but surely there must be some other people whose asses we want to kick that must rate higher than Iraq.

Here are my thoughts:

1. North Korea - They have been making us look bad for 50 years, far more than Iraq has. Remember the USS Pueblo? Remember the axe murders in the DMZ in 1976? How about Kim Jong Il selling missiles to rogue nations? He has chemical and biological weapons, and unlike Iraq, they have their own missile delivery system, and it's one that just three years ago, the CIA was saying could reach Alaska and parts of the US west coast. Mr. Kim has also starved his own people. I would have to say, I think the threat from North Korea is much greater than that from Iraq! So, why aren't we going after them first? After all, President Bush did call them part of the "axis of evil".

2. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority - So, they don't crack down on terrorism. What happened to that "you are with us or you are against us" stuff? Yasser hasn't really come out and made a stand against terrorism. You know, I am no big fan of the Israeli politics, but at least they are consistent. So why aren't we doing something in this front on the war on terrorism?

3. Saudi Arabia - More Americans died in September 11th at the hands of Saudis than died in Desert Storm. And when we wanted to use Saudi bases to strike back at Osama (also a Saudi), we were denied. "You're either with us, or you are with the terrorists." Then, the Saudis say they don't want us attacking Iraq. Have we found who is responsible for the Khobar Towers incident yet? Funny, that. So is the Saudi telethon that raised money for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

4. Western Africa - Corruption. Dictatorships. Civil war. Genocide. Yep, just last week, American Special Forces were ordered into the Ivory Coast to protect American school children. How come we were so willing to help stop genocide in Bosnia, but not in Rwanda? I guess we don't really have to worry about Africa until some dictator there attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. After all, we cannot wait until Umbibia has a nuclear weapon and is about to use it, either!

5. Colombia - As everyone debates war with Iraq, they always say "Well, we aren't finished with the war on terror yet!" What happened to the last war? I mean, are we finished with the war on drugs yet? I see all these commercials all the time about how drugs are bad, and drug money is being used to fund terrorism. Ahh, I see, so if we fight drugs, we can stop terrorism. But, yet, we aren't really stopping drugs, are we?

Yes, so, as you can see, there are lots of other places we could be fighting instead of Iraq. But why Iraq?

Well, House Majority Leader Dick Armey says, "No American wants to go to war. But the president's proven leadership has shown that the conflict may be our only option to defend freedom." Defend freedom? How many freedoms have I lost to Saddam? I can't name one. How many freedoms have I lost to the Bush Administration? Well, let's see - you no longer have the Constitutional right to due process if you are arbitrarily declared an "enemy combatant" by the Justice Department. Oh, and when I have my gas repairman visit my house, the repairman can submit a report on me directly to the Justice Department without a warrant and without my knowledge. Hmmm, should I fix that gas leak, or have my repairman spy on me? Decisions, decisions...

But still, why Iraq? Why not North Korea? Luckily for the people of North Korea, they didn't fight their war while the President's father was in office...

11/19 - Nation:  George W. Bush - Diplomatic Genius? - So, the big topic in my discussions with people lately has been George W. Bush and the on-going saga of the Iraqi arms inspectors.

"George W. Bush is a diplomatic genius!" a guy announced at lunch the other day. "He threatened war, and got them to get the inspectors back in Iraq."

However, I countered that I didn't think George wanted the inspectors back; he has said all along that he wants a regime change.

"No," he says, "that's where you are wrong. He only wanted everyone to think he wanted a regime change, but all along he wanted the inspectors back in. He doesn't want war; he is a compassionate conservative."

However, I think this guy is full of crap. I think that George is thinking, "Damn, how soon before those inspectors are out of the way, so we can start bombing?" I mean, how many times in the past year have you heard him say that we need inspectors back in Iraq? Not as many as the need for "regime change."

So, anyway, what do you think? Is George W. Bush a diplomatic genius? Will there be a war in Iraq? How long will the inspectors actually stay to work in Iraq? Will Dick Cheney ever find that link between Saddam and Osama that he has been looking so hard for?

And another thing that has been on my mind: would we still be pressing for a regime change in Iraq if September 11th never happened? After all, whether or not Al Qaeda attacked us, that wouldn't change whether or not Iraq was a threat, right?