What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.



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Thursday 06/13/02 06:30pm link

Life is a state of mind. As a tickler, here are some quotes from the sanitized transcript of Mr. Bush's talk at the 21st Century High Tech Forum today. We start with the now-classic lie:

I remember campaigning and somebody said, would you ever deficit spend? I said, only if there was a war, or a recession, or a national emergency. (Laughter.) I didn't think we were going to get the trifecta. (Laughter.)
On to the war:
We fight an enemy which is cruel and heartless and relentless. You just need to know that. And even though we've made some progress -- and we have; as I said the other night, we and our friends have hauled in about 2,400 of them -- there's still a lot of them out there, which means this country is in for a long war. Particularly -- and it's necessary because we're defending freedom. That's what you've got to know.
Wasn't that 2,401 of them? But let's not quibble; George W. Bush has a dream:
We talk about weapons of war, but I want you to know, they are used to keep the peace. That's the dream of this administration, is to make the world more peaceful. And we're going to have to continue to use high-tech means and high-tech equipment to chase the killers down one by one.
Chauncey Gardiner
On the role of the federal government in high tech R&D:
We're also spending a lot of money on research and development, which I believe is a legitimate federal function.
So he's not a libertarian. Computer expert?
We've raised the control limits for computer systems, and I'm eliminating outmoded controls on computer chips.
Not exactly. But he does know a bad, bad tax when he sees one:
The death tax is a bad tax. It's a bad tax for entrepreneurial America. It's a bad tax for people from all walks of life. It's a bad tax if you're worried about urban sprawl. It's a bad tax if you're a farmer or a rancher. And yet they don't want to make it permanent. I don't know why; I guess it's politics.
There's much more where that came from, and if you have RealPlayer then I highly recommend the video or the audio version. It's almost better than Being There.

Wednesday 06/12/02 1:15pm link

Don Rumsfeld
The Rumsfeld way vs. the Ashcroft way. Philosopher and vaudevillian-cum-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is making sense. This is what he said about terror suspect Abdullah al Muhajir:

We are not interested in trying him at the moment or punishing him at the moment. We are interested in finding out what he knows.
It's not that Rumsfeld is forgiving, nor does he seem to have great concern for minor legalisms such as Habeas Corpus. He does, however, clearly realize that gathering critical intelligence is a more important than inflicting punishment.

John Ashcroft
Attorney General John Ashcroft has different priorities. To satisfy what must be an intense lust to convert a living Zacarias Moussaoui into a corpse, Mr. Ashcroft is willing to forgo important information about the accused terrorist. This is information that our Europeans allies would be glad to provide us, but for reasons of law and morality they cannot do so as long as Mr. Ashcroft insists on killing Mr. Moussaoui upon conviction.

Germany is only the latest country to balk at the prospect of cooperating with Mr. Ashcroft's plan to have Mr. Moussaoui legally slaughtered:

The death penalty "does not correspond to the ideals of our legal system," said Thomas Weber, a spokesman for the German Justice Ministry, explaining why his country is reluctant to hand over evidence that U.S. prosecutors in Alexandria want for their case against Moussaoui. "So for this reason it would be largely impossible" to turn over evidence, Weber said.
As previously noted on these pages, Spain and France are also withholding cooperation in the Moussaoui case for the same reason; they are civilized countries. And as Mr. Ashcroft's boss said:
Everyone must choose. You're either with the civilized world or you're with the terrorists.
Mr. Ashcroft's desire to put Mr. Moussaoui to death places him in direct opposition to the civilized world. The terrorists must be thrilled.

06/11/02 12:45pm link

Backing away from a story. While assembling the previous article, our intrepid research team found at the CBS News site a page featuring as its top and only item a report headlined "What Was Terror Suspect Up To?":

(CBS) U.S. officials are backing away from assertions that a man arrested last month in Chicago was plotting a 'dirty' bomb attack on the United States, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

U.S. officials now admit they're not sure what American-born Abdullah al Muhajir's plans were when he returned to the U.S. last month.

But a few hours later, the headline had been changed to "Bush: 'Full-Scale Manhunt' For Terrorists", and the top item was about Mr. Bush promising reporters that "We will run down every lead, every hint". The Jim Stewart story was not only pushed way down the page, but re-written to eliminate Mr. Stewarts' observation that "U.S. officials are backing away from assertions":
But CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports some U.S. officials now admit they're not sure what Padilla's plans were when he returned to the U.S. last month.
Did the administration lean on CBS News to obscure the story? Did CBS realize on its own that this could embarrass the administration? Inquiring minds can find a captured copy of the CBS page as it appeared early this morning (sans images) here, the later version here, and the current version online.
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Evening addendum. That CBS News page has morphed again and surprisingly, it now answers the question posed at the end of my earlier posting (below): why was Abdullah al Muhajir arrested rather than trailed?
(CBS) The FBI gave serious consideration to letting suspected al Qaeda member Jose Padilla walk out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport last month to see where he would lead them and who he might meet. But after determining there was no one to meet him in the airport, and no one waiting outside, agents made the arrest because they simply didn't want to take the chance of losing him, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.
In other words, the FBI gave up on a potentially significant source of information because they lacked confidence in their own ability to trail one guy through Illinois. Couldn't they, like, use the KGB's "umbrella gun" to inject him with one of those rice-sized implantable radio frequency identification devices or something?

06/11/02 10:30am link

Herbert Hans Haupt
Shoe two still due? Both long-time readers of this column may recall that contrary to popular perception, the original WWII secret military tribunal that formed the precedent for the current model did, in fact, try and convict at least one US citizen, Herbert Haupt. This was noted in these pages last November, with the prediction that there may be another shoe yet to drop.

The labeling of the American citizen and accused terrorist formerly known as Jose Padilla an "enemy combatant", and his solitary confinement in a military brig in Charleston, S.C. without access to legal assistance, leaves that second shoe still hovering. But just barely.

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Abdullah al Muhajir
One reason for not handing Abdullah al Muhajir over to a tribunal may be the sheer lack of a case against him. George W. Bush has branded him "a bad guy", Attorney General John Ashcroft declared him to be a "known terrorist" and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that he "was unquestionably involved in terrorist activities". Yet Mr. Rumsfeld also said this:
Our interest is not in trying him and punishing him, our interest is in finding out what he knows.
Fair enough. We're in a war, albeit officially undeclared, and any suspected Al Qaeda collaborator should certainly be thoroughly investigated. But why then, after being tracked for weeks, was Mr. al Muhajir arrested when we knew so little of his specific intentions? From CNN:
Federal officials said Monday that Padilla, 31 -- who also goes by the name Abdullah Al Muhajir -- was captured May 8 as he flew into O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, from Pakistan. Officials described the flight as a reconnaissance mission, saying Padilla had been tracked flying between Pakistan, Egypt and Switzerland in the weeks before he arrived in Chicago.

Officials said the plot had not advanced beyond the discussion stage. Padilla has not been charged with any crime. He is being held at the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, apart from the regular brig population.

"This was still in the initial planning stages," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. "It certainly wasn't at the point of having a specific target. He had indicated some knowledge of the Washington, D.C., area, but I want to emphasize again there was not an actual plan. We stopped this man in the initial planning stages."

Wouldn't it have made sense to continue tailing Mr. al Muhajir until some concrete evidence of an "actual plan" turned up? Could it be that that administration, desperate to display any sign of success in fighting terrorism, has issued a premature incarceration?

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What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.



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