Posts from March 2002

WYSIWYG blog editing … within

WYSIWYG blog editing … within the blog page
: Follow Me Here discovers a very cool-looking tool that allows you to edit your blog on the blog itself, in the plain old browser (just IE… take that, you Netscape liberals). The Blog “Adminimizer” is explained here. This is more than just a cool blog toy. This is about the wonders of XML: displaying and editing content in any form. We’ve had a drought of cool on the Internet lately. This is cool.

Wages of sin
: A topnotch Ken Layne column at FoxNews today on Saddam’s payments to suicide bombers‘ famlies.

Anthrax culprits
: It’s not every day that I say “amen” to a Wall Street Journal editorial, but I do today. They say that the administration’s domestic team is too quick to assume that the source of the anthrax murders is domestic. They point to the evidence I pointed to in recent days: an apparent anthrax lesion on one of the hijackers and the discovery of more biological warfare labs in Afghanistan.

…the FBI persists in asserting that the anthrax letter writer was probably a domestic nut with no ties to al Qaeda. Maybe so. But it’s also true that U.S. law-enforcement experts have been wrong about the sources of terror in the recent past, and are capable of becoming fixated on one theory of a case, which they then set out to prove. The first World Trade Center bombing, of course, turned out to be the culmination of a coordinated project carried out by a broad radical-Islamic network, not just a few disaffected crackpots living in the U.S.

The FBI, like the CIA and the other government intelligence-gathering agencies chasing terrorists, is a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies tend to operate under their own imperatives. In that context, it’s not reassuring that two senior law-enforcement officials involved in the anthrax investigation are quoted in yesterday’s Journal as saying that much of their work is aimed at ensuring that any evidence they bring forth will survive challenge in a courtroom. Well, we’d all like to arrest, convict and put away the individuals who dropped the anthrax letters in the mail, but the real national priority has to be forestalling more such attacks against the American people.

That means that we must be prepared to pursue the anthrax trail wherever it leads, even if it takes us to places, such as Iraq, that complicate choices about foreign policy for U.S. leadership.

Amen again. [via Instapundit]

Tragedy nuggets
: I get mail from James Archer reacting to my whining about the Oscars turning the Twin Towers into a politically incorrect image we shouldn’t see (below). He writes:

Why is it that every article, every news segment, every documentary, every essay, every song, every event, everything must mention “9-11!” every two minutes or be branded unamerican?

The events of that day have been transformed into a meme, a little postmodern nugget of political correctness that can be passed around like a pet rock, adored and petted and passed on to someone else. It’s no longer a historic event, it’s just an abstract concept. 9-11. Ground Zero. WTC. Firefighters. Flags. Giuliani. Images. Concepts.

: Will Warren at Unremitting Verse takes on Jonathan Franzen‘s hyper-hyped The Corrections.

Airport insecurity: Frightening stats from

Airport insecurity
: Frightening stats from USA Today on the still-miserable state of airport security. Read it and shiver:

In the months after Sept. 11, airport screeners confiscated record numbers of nail clippers and scissors. But nearly half the time, they failed to stop the guns, knives or simulated explosives carried past checkpoints by undercover investigators with the Transportation Department’s inspector general.

In fact, even as the Federal Aviation Administration evacuated terminals and pulled passengers from more than 600 planes because of security breaches, a confidential memo obtained by USA TODAY shows investigators noticed no discernable improvements by screeners in the period from November through early February, when the tests were conducted.

At screening checkpoints, the memo reads, “only the opaque object (such as a film bag) were routinely caught.” Guns passed through in 30% of tests, knives went unnoticed 70% of the time, and screeners failed to detect simulated explosives in 60% of tests.

Perhaps just as troubling, investigators “were successful in boarding 58 aircraft” at 17 of the 32 airports tested. “In 158 tests,” the memo says, “we got access to either the aircraft (58) or the tarmac (18) 48 percent of our tries.”…

“We still have the same people doing the same jobs they did before Sept. 11,” says Reynold Hoover, an expert on counterterrorism who conducts screening seminars.

Towers? What towers?
: I’ll tell you what pissed me off about the Academy Awards last night: The movie industry has suddenly decided that the World Trade Center towers are politically incorrect. They think we shouldn’t show the towers; we shouldn’t talk about them; it would be wrong.

They have Woody Allen come to show how Hollywood loves New York and give us clip after clip of New York from many great movies but what’s most noticable is what they do not show: The World Trade towers.

And we constantly hear Hollywood fret about whether they should edit movies to edit out the towers.

Stop. The Towers were part of the life of New York; they defined our skyline; they now define our history. We are not ashamed of the towers. We are not so tender that we want to act as if they were never there. We are proud of our towers as a symbol of New York’s greatness.

If they had shown the towers last night, I guarantee that the audience would have given them a bigger ovation than Woody got.

But Hollywood has no good sense. Hollywood has a tin heart.

A watched blog never boils
: First Will Vehrs threw in the blogwatch towel; he was doing a great job but he needed to pay attention to his real job. Then Tim Blair — who started this, didn’t he? — quietly abandoned blogwatching. Now Kathy Kinsley has run out of NoDoz and is claiming exhaustion (too bad on two counts: she was a great blogwatcher … and she was watching me). Blogwatching was a good idea but, like the Internet, it had one problem: there’s no money in it. I know somebody who may be working on a solution but I can’t talk about that now….

Tom Ridge is a dork:

Tom Ridge is a dork
: How many ways can we call the guy a dysfunctional idiot? His continuing refusal to testify before Congress is a mark of stupidity, cowardice, and bureaucracy.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge stood firm Sunday in his refusal to testify before Congress about the White House’s anti-terrorism budget, saying his appearance would violate the constitution’s separation of powers.


Speaking of dorks
: Tom Cruise is one, too.

Fly Naked
: Daniel Taylor resurrects my Fly Naked campaign — it being preferable to flying clothed but being exposed in those new X-ray machines that should have been invented by a teenage Woody Allen.

The sound of silence
: I think I’ve been quite tasteful avoiding punchlines about Lady Thatcher being forbidden to speak in public anymore because of her health. I’ll continue my stretch of virtue if for no other reason than that the punchlines are all so obvious.

And this week, David Warren writes:

Baroness Thatcher was taken ill this past week, and I’ve been asked to write her obituary as a precaution. (This isn’t it.) I happily agree to most such assignments, for when I write an advance obituary, the subject invariably survives; lives so many years that my essay is eventually lost in the files. I attribute the longevity of Ronald Reagan, the Pope, and the Queen Mother, to the obituaries I wrote of them back in the ‘nineties. On the other hand, I now deeply regret having written an obituary of Osama bin Laden.

Tacky tourism II
: Below, I lampoon Californians for turning Ground Zero into a tourist attraction. But it turns out New York is not above the sin, witness this NY Times story:

he destruction of the World Trade Center has emerged as a powerful selling point for New York City, invoked again and again over the last six months to make the case that big events like the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards ceremony and a proposed joint meeting of Congress all belong in New York….

The argument goes like this: Bringing an event like the Super Bowl to New York City will stimulate tourism and help the city and the country recover; it will be an expression of solidarity with New Yorkers; it will strike a blow against terrorism; it will enable visitors to share in the New York spirit.

The case being made is striking in its appeal, in part, to sympathy for the purpose of drumming up tourist business. It appears to link notions of patriotism and civic duty to things like hotel bookings. It centers for once not on the glamour of New York, but on its most tragic moment.

Supporting New York is good. Exploiting this tragedy is not.

An improper memorial
: I agree with the NY Times editorial yesterday that came out against a New York State holiday on Sept. 11:

Relieving people of work does not necessarily move their thoughts in a desired direction…. Few people caught up in Memorial Day traffic bestir themselves to remember the Union’s Civil War dead.”

I cannot stand the idea of workers and schoolchildren thinking, “Oh, good, it’s Sept. 11: That means a day off!”

That date should not mean a day off or anything happy. That date should mean solemn remembrance.

The towers
: Paul Morris at Killing the Buddha writes a striking essay on the towers-of-light memorial at the World Trade Center. [via wood s lot]

He doesn’t like the memorial; he says the lights that matter are the flood lights shining “down to the scorched earth, where heads bow in prayer and bend in toil.” He adds:

Don’t be fooled; nothing has been restored. What you see is what you get, a skyline without substance, a tribute that lacks soul. You can find better replicas of the towers from any vendor on the street.

Even so, Morris has many poetic and memorable visions of the towers of light:

You’d be forgiven if, after 9/11, you thought you’d never crane your neck to look that high up again, because there it is, against all gods, a great Babel tower siphoning the light of stars barely visible above lower Manhattan. It’s as though the flood lamps huddling around ground zero suddenly looked up one by one to create an ethereal halo in the sky….

When dust from the debris removal drifts west and enters the columns, the heat from the bulbs forces it to rise and the towers become a swirl of particles. The effect of watching their ascension is dizzying. At a certain spot in the sky difficult to determine, the columns of light begin to destabilize. They seem almost to be tipping, leaning into each other for support while simultaneously buckling outward….

Nearing midnight, Con Edison cuts the juice and the towers collapse. This time they fall in reverse, as the lights that created them shoot like twin rockets reaching escape velocity. And then they’re gone. Again.

Night after night, the towers are extinguished this way, over and over as midnight approaches. And day after day, they are rebuilt anew, photon by photon — today, tomorrow, and the next after that in a series of power surges embraced by a city impatient to heal.

I like the towers of light. But he’s right: It’s because I’m part of a city impatient to heal. Well said.

Terror tourism
: The LA Times runs a tourism guide to Ground Zero. Tasteless Californians. [via Victory Coffee]

Privacy? Crap!: The most overused,

Privacy? Crap!
: The most overused, panicky, paranoid buzzword of the last decade is “privacy.”

Privacy paranoia dogs the Internet. Somehow, it became a sin to use evil cookies to target ads on free Web pages. Y’know, if the New York Times uses its registration data to know that I am male so it doesn’t waste an impression selling a feminine hygiene product tp me, that’s just fine. If Amazon uses my buying history to recommend books I might like, that’s a service. If a smart supermarket learns that people who buy beef buy more ketchup and they sell that data to Heinz, good for them. No harm done.

Now the privacy bugaboo monster is being brought to bear to harm our efforts against terrorism. That’s not only stupid. It’s dangerous.

The feds are planning to put surveillance cameras on national monuments in Washington and suddenly, the amorphous club of “privacy advocates” is whining in stories in the Washington Post and NY Times). “It is becoming more evident that Congress may have to step in and ensure that this technology does not take away our right to be left alone,” Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) said in the Post.

What a bunch of crap! There is no privacy issue here.

First, this is public property. Cops could be standing there watching what you’re doing. Photographers could legally record what you’re doing and air it because you’re doing it publicly. I could watch what you do and tell the world. You don’t have privacy in public.

Second, and far more important, these monuments are likely targets of terrorists. It is a vital necessity of national security to watch and record what happens there so we can perhaps prevent an attack or at least catch the terrorists in the act.

For self-appointed privacy whiners to stand in the way of this is not only stupid, it is obstructing our national security.

I can’t quite grok the ideology of privacy panic. Sometimes, it comes from PC liberals like the frightening Ed Markey; sometimes it comes from libertarians and right-wing government-haters. And the media too often just accept this whining without questioning the wisom or logic or simple common sense of it. No matter: It’s time to call this privacy whining what it is: Stupid.

Yesterday, I had FoxNews on my office TV and watched the high-speed chase du jour — not the dump truck chase, that was Thursday’s high-speed chase, but Friday’s high-speed chase with copters — news and police copters — chasing a bozo in Florida as he drove nowhere and then got out of his car and ran. All the while, those copters kept him in sight, even zooming in on him in the backyard of a house; you could practically read the brand name on his dorky shorts. And I thought: Damn, I wish we could bring this technology — this wonderful, Big Brother technology — to catch criminals other than idiot dorks in fast cars.

I wish we had more surveillance cameras to catch the murderer who dropped anthrax in mailboxes.

The anthrax connection
: Here’s new evidence that the hijackers could have been behind the anthrax attacks. The NY Times reports today that one of the hijackers on the Pennsylvania jet was treated for a skin lesion that the doctor and other experts now believe was anthrax. The doctor in Ft. Lauderdale, Christos Tsonas, reported this to the FBI in October; it’s coming out only now, thanks to a Johns Hopkins report that says this “raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks.” Now add this:

Dr. Tsonas’s comments add to a tantalizing array of circumstantial evidence. Some of the hijackers, including Mr. Alhaznawi, lived and attended flight school near American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., where the first victim of the anthrax attacks worked. Some of the hijackers also rented apartments from a real estate agent who was the wife of an editor of The Sun, a publication of American Media.

In addition, in October, a pharmacist in Delray Beach, Fla., said he had told the F.B.I. that two of the hijackers, Mohamad Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, came into the pharmacy looking for something to treat irritations on Mr. Atta’s hands….

For his part, Dr. Tsonas said he believed that the hijackers probably did have anthrax.

“What were they doing looking at crop-dusters?” he asked, echoing experts’ fears that the hijackers may have wanted to spread lethal germs. “There are too many coincidences.”

But that’s not all, folks. The Times also reports today that we’ve found a biological warfare lab in Afghanistan being built to product anthrax.

I have long believed that the anthrax attacks came from the foreign terrorists — not that I know anything; I’m just another blathering blogger. But I fear that the FBI has been chasing domestic geese when they should have been looking for foreign connections that can still do more damage here with anthrax or with dirty radioactive bombs or just with suicide bombs.

Rocky binBoa
: The apparent ring-leader of the gang that murdered Washington Post reporter Daniel Pearl laughed in court as he was charged with the crime. The Times of London reported on the scumbucket’s youth in Britain with a particulary strange tidbit about his idol:

Former schoolmates in London described Omar Sheikh as a bully who constantly sought attention. As a teenager he would lie about his age so that he could enter arm-wrestling contests with younger opponents. The sport became an obsession after he saw his idol, Sylvester Stallone, arm-wrestling in the film Over the Top, and Omar would tour pubs in the East End of London, winning money in local contests.

What he said
: Ken Layne said it before I did: The “demonstrators” from Anderson “protesting” in favor of the company look like Scientologists: “the same empty slogans, glazed eyes and sweaty fear.”

They also look doughy, too white, and more boring and nerdy than even an accountant should look. They’re not doing themselves any PR favor here. I wouldn’t trust them. Would you?

Burgers sted burqas: I don’t

Burgers sted burqas
: I don’t know why but I’m writing about trivial, meaningless things today — burgers, dogs, Dave Letterman, and the most meaningless of all, Liza Minelli — instead of important things like war and terrorism and mourning and molestation. Feels good.

: I’m jealous of Ken Layne and Matt Welch for many things (and they’re probably jealous of me for one thing: a paying job). I’m jealous of their weather, their cameraderie, their books… but mostly I’m jealous of their ability to dash out and meet at In-N-Out Burger or Fat Burger. And I’m jealous of their ability to eat burgers. I used to eat burgers practically every day; I had personal relationships with my neighborhood McDonald’s staff. But then I (a) got married and (b) got my cholesterol tested. I got old. Well, older.

So now I eat chicken sandwiches (no mayo).

Feel pity for me.

But that’s why I’m happy that Burger King just introduced its BK Veggie. Howard Stern and company made fun of it this morning. But I say it’s not so bad. It’s much better than McDonald’s veggie burger (sold in a few places in New York). McD makes the big mistake of trying to make vegetables into meat; they miss and turn them into rubber. Burger King, on the other hand, lets veggies be veggies. Their burger isn’t afraid to be nutty, even crunchy. It’s unashamed to show the random carrot bit. And they put low-fat mayo on it.

That made me happy.

And when I’m really old and lose all my teeth, I’ll also like it because it’s good gumming food.

With those pathetic caveats in mind, I recommend the BK Veggie.

I should add that I don’t like the BK Veggie as much as my current fast-food fave: the grilled-stuffed burrito (chicken, of course, not beef) at Taco Bell.

Now I know that Layne and Welch will make fun of me for that because they can go down the street and get real burritos from real burrito stands. But I don’t live in L.A. I live in New Jersey, where pasta is the official state food. A restaurant without pasta is soon to be an empty storefront.

But mark my words, boys: You, too, will get old or older. You will find hair growing in your ears and plaque in your arteries. You, too, will lead such a dull life that your day can be brightened by the arrival of a new veggie burger.

Thank God I can still drink.

Man bites man
: Ever since I started running, I’ve developed a new relationship to dogs. I now fear them. They now hate me. I don’t know why; do they presume guilt of some dog law because we’re running (and in my case, not very fast)? Do they think I look dorky in my running togs (I do… but, hell, they’re just dogs)? Whatever, they tend to want to attack me and a few times have.

So I’m glad to see the dog verdict in California. Sure, that was extreme. But I plan to wave it in front of every irresponsible dog owner on my route: Controlling your animal is your responsiblity.

Conan/Dave… Conan/Dave…
: Conan O’Brien is getting his show repeated on cable at a civilized hour (6 or 7p and noon on Comedy Central). I repeat: That’s what CBS should be doing with Dave Letterman. How about 7-8p on VH-1? They could use the boost.

Liza OD
: Rex Reed (who better) reports on Liza’s wedding [via Amy Welborn]: