Posts from June 2002

Yasser’s boudoir: There’s a great

Yasser’s boudoir
: There’s a great picture in the NY Post today (that is, sadly, too small online) showing a bug-eyed Yasser Arafat staring at his bombed-out bed. (Larger image here.)

On the nightstand is a box of babywipes.

I don’t wanna know what he does with them!

The Short-Sighted Greed Oscars
: I hate taxes too. I really hate them this year, having to pay more than I expected, painfully more. But I just pay them. I’m not stupid.

Can’t say that about the head of Tyco, who’s now out of a job and staring a jail cell straight in the face just because he wanted to avoid New York sales tax on his wildly expensive art.

Can’t say that about Mitt Romney, idiot Republican candidate for governor in Massachussetts, who saved $54k in taxes by declaring Utah his primary residence. Only problem is: The Mass constitution requires that gubernatorial candidates live in the state for seven consecutive years before running. He could find himself out of the race.

Short-term, short-sighted greed.

The OZ Act
: So Michael Skakel is going off to prison. Scary thought. The Tyco guy could be facing jail. Scary, too.

But prison is a lot scarier for me these days because I watch OZ on HBO. Nothing could make prison look scarier than that: rape, murder, drugs, torture, humiliation, pain, and stench.

I want to propose the OZ Act: Play it on broadcast channels for free; make it required viewing for kids — especially rich kids who think they can get away with murder or tax evasion or general law-skirting.

That would be a greater deterrent to crime than the death penalty.

: The most amazing story of the day is practically buried in The Times: Mohammed Atta tried to get a U.S. government loan to buy a crop duster with an extra big tank. Thank God the bureaucrat he saw at the Department of Agriculture didn’t give it to him. But she also did not call anyone to report his beyond-suspicious behavior:

The official, Johnell Bryant, said she told Mr. Atta that he could not have a loan of $650,000 to buy a twin-engine, six-passenger plane, which he wanted to equip with a very large tank. He then became agitated, Ms. Bryant said, and asked her what was to keep him from slitting her throat and stealing money from the safe behind the desk in her Florida office.

“He started accusing me of discriminating against him because he was not a United States citizen,” Ms. Bryant said….

Later in their meeting, she said, he told her he wanted to buy an aerial picture of Washington that hung in her office. He pulled out a wad of cash and threw money on her desk, even after she said she would not sell it. He asked about the White House and Pentagon, and she pointed them out.

In their conversation, he said that Al Qaeda could use someone with her qualifications, and mentioned Osama bin Laden, Ms. Bryant said.

“He mentioned that this man would someday be known as the world’s greatest leader,” she said. “I didn’t know who he was talking about.”

He also asked her about other cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago, she said, and mentioned that the football stadium used by the Dallas Cowboys had a “hole in the roof.”

Mark my words: There will be more to come out. There will be dot after unconnected dot.

: Update. Reader Stephen Berg cuts through this lady’s story like a chainsaw through butter. The timing doesn’t work vs. his world travels; he supposedly said bin Laden would recruit women (ha!); he’s looking for a loan when he just got $100k wired to him (and he doesn’t exactly have long-term expenses)… He concludes:

She could be an attention hound. But, if she reported it right after the eleventh, why’d she wait till now to speak up?

Or, she could be someone the government’s using to deflect attention and stop people asking the questions they have started to ask.

Either way, never ever trust anything that comes out of Florida.

Revenge of the middle level:

Revenge of the middle level
: I’m glued to the testimony of squeaky wheel FBI agent Coleen Rowley before the Senate. It’s not that I disagree with a thing she’s saying. It’s not that I don’t give her credit for having the guts to complain.


With her Fargo drone and her schoolmarm glasses and her willingness to propound her personal recommendations on any topic — even the structure of the federal government itself — I have to believe that every single FBI boss over her — competent or incompenent — is gritting and grinding teeth right now, unable to say a thing, unable to shout: She’s just a midwestern midlevel cog.

You know what’s going to happen afterwards. She has been assured she won’t be subject to reprisals. She’ll have a job forever. I’ll just bet that they’ll move her to Washington. Now that Agent Muldar has left, they have a nice basement office nobody ever visits ready for Agent Rowley.

What, you’d rather have a Queen and her Twit Prince?
: I think I should invite Nick Denton to a good, rousing, all-American Fourth of July picnic and fireworks show.

: So Bush is going to turn the Office of Homeland Security into a cabinet-level organization.

At frigging last!

We need an office that is accountable.

We need to end the bullshit fights over Ridge testifying to Congress.

We need to break up and clean up the FBI.

We need to get our act together.

Zero: Went downtown for the

: Went downtown for the first time in sometime to have lunch with a long-lost friend I used to work with at Chicago Today (the paper that had no tomorrow), a guy who’s as wry as a seeded loaf. He found me here.

He works a few blocks from the World Trade Center and so, of course, after we caught up on everything else, we compared notes of that day. And then I walked to the World Financial Center ferry to head to Jersey. I was no terror tourist. I had a destination.

But I walked by the Century 21 store, where I was standing that day when the second jet hit. And I walked past the boarded-up Millenium Hotel; behind the boards, I could still see the damned dust, thick even now, like ghost shit sticking and dripping over the word “Millenium.”

I had to walk a long way around the hole to get to the river, and along the way, as I stood by the busy highway with trucks rumbling, I looked down at the site and it suddenly struck me. The scene — the site, the sound, the smell — all reminded me of Berlin’s Postsdamer Platz after the Wall fall.

Potsdamer Platz was the very center of Berlin, packed with people and life until it was destroyed in the war and then surrounded by the Wall and turned into the no man’s land with landmines and barbed wire and concrete and death.

Then, after the Wall, it became the biggest construction project in the world. Berlin is still rebuilding it. You can see panoramas of the site from soon after the Wall fell until now at Cityscope.

Berlin did not try to recapture the old Potsdamer Platz. Instead, they tried to fill it with a new view of life, with Sony Center and other aggressively modern office complexes and apartment houses and theaters and malls and restaurants: life.

What I have always liked about Berlin is that its scars are still evident; they don’t try to hide their history or their pain. But once past that, they live.

In attitude, at least, Potsdamer Platz not only reminds me of Ground Zero today but it’s a model of what the World Trade Center can become tomorrow.

Fly naked: The other day,

Fly naked
: The other day, I screamed about the president of American Airlines arguing that we should have less airport security. Now we have managers of 39 airports complaining to Norman Minetta about the luggage x-ray machines he promised to install but has not yet installed in our airports.

The letter says the bomb-detection devices the TSA has ordered installed by Dec. 31 will create crowds of people in terminals who could be targets for attacks; the machines would be installed near terminal entrances and thus create huge congestion there. The devices would quickly become outdated, the letter adds, yet require big construction costs.

I agree with Bill Quick: It’s about money, just money.

And won’t they all feel like greedy jackasses the next time a terrorist sneaks through their torn net.

Jersey boy
: Springsteen was inspired by 9/11 for his new album.

Coast roast
: I just happened upon ABC’s Hamptons show tonight. Quick, Californians, set your TiVos now and watch this. It’ll make you feel good. Back when I lived on the other coast, Marin and Mill Valley were America’s ludicrious laughingstocks. The Hamptons replaces them. What a bunch of time-wasting twits.

Nets! Nets! Nets!
: OK, Layne, we’re on. We’re engaging in the great media cliche: the geographic sports bet, Nets vs. Lakers, Jersey vs. L.A. (see below).

The only thing is, I may not drive to the shore. I don’t like beaches. The sand gets in your socks, you know.

So I’ll drive to another Jersey landmark: mall, refinery, or Turnpike rest station with a Laker’s flag flying … not.

The column-inch is mightier than the sword
: Not sure what I think about this: The Jerusalem Post is trying to get people to buy ads to support Israel.

Help Israel “breathe easier” by joining our “Founders Club”. $720 buys you maximum exposure to demonstrate your support for Israel. In addition to all the standard benefits, “Founders” receive a half page ad to be filled with your name in each of the two special Support Israel Now supplements to be distributed with all Jerusalem Post print products in time for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, two free gift subscriptions to the International Jerusalem Post or Jerusalem Report and 10 trees to be planted in your name by the Jewish National Fund.

OK. But (a) you’re preaching to the choir and (b) you’re really supporting the paper. Now if those same ads ran in al-Ahram and a few select Saudi papers, the sign me up.

Invention is a mother
: We’re one of those households that gets every imaginable catalog and I love to find amazing and ridiculous products. I found the king tonight: The Tingler. Gotta love the catalog copy:

Ten flexible copper tendrils glide through your hair, penetrating right through to your scalp. Smooth tips stimulate sensitive nerve endings, giving you a major-league case of goose bumps

The pause that oppresses: So

The pause that oppresses
: So Arabs are boycotting Coke. Instead, they’re stuck drinking ZamZam Cola with their Yasir Arafat Chips.

Why don’t we just boycott something of theirs — say, oil?

Make that a MediumMac, please
: McDonald’s advertises in France not to eat too much of their food. Fewer customers = fewer chances for frigging frogs to attack Americanism, I guess.

Wrong head
: The Journal wants Robert Mueller’s head to roll. Wrong head. Ashcroft needs to go. He has not managed to catch the bad guys; he has run the FBI badly; he is endorsing a half-way fix now; he has not sense of priorities. Get rid of this ineffectual nut. Replace him with Rudy Guliani.

Winged dork
: The head of American Airlines must be an idiot. No other explanation. He’s saying we should cut back on airport security:

“It will be a hollow victory indeed if the system we end up with is so onerous and so difficult that air travel, while obviously more secure, becomes more trouble for the average person than it is worth,” Carty said in a speech here to the American Chamber of Commerce.

And it will be a hollow profit indeed if you make more money and more people get killed.

Frigging fool. Aren’t you reading the news? The FBI is still a bunch of Friggin’ Bungling Idiots. The Transportation Department has not managed to get promised security in place. Airports are constantly being closed because security guards are about as dumb as you.

I’m not flying. I got my eyes checked today and the sole topic of conversation with the nice doctor was how he hasn’t flown and still won’t fly. Howard Stern won’t fly. People are flying if they have to. If you reduce security, they will fly even less. Idiot.Nobody listen to him. His brain has been affected by bad air and radiation at high altitude.

Smart marketing/dumb marketing
: Now if Expedia had half a brain (and they should), they would read this customer service horror story and immediately email the guy and fix it. The poor consumer would then say that on his site and we’d all be impressed. That would be smart marketing. Not doing anything would be dumb marketing. Not knowing that the post is there would be criminally ignorant marketing. That is the worst

: If I had a brand to manage, I’d go to Daypop every day and enter it. Try Expedia, Expedia.

First, journalists, then J-school… first, weblogs, now W-school
: Richard Bennett points us to a course in Weblogs (where else: Berkeley).

Prerequisites: of course, none.

A little friendly advice
: Ken Layne’s advice to Pakistan and India:

Will you people quit this garbage? It’s 2002. You all need to work on your image, right? The United States and Russia are trashing two-thirds of their nuclear weapons. We just found oceans of ice on Mars. There are Internet cafes in Karachi.

Turns out it’s more fun to be alive than to be crisped by a crude nuke due to some jackalope’s big idea about national pride.

A new pub
: I just discovered Jewsweek [via the venerable HolyWeblog] and it’s a fine piece of work with good reporting and writing. This week, a story on the other battlerground over partition involving Muslims, the hot potato in India and Pakistan — and how Israel and India are allied:

The number of Indians and Pakistanis who died during the fighting, migrations, and expulsions during their countries’ birth-agonies is not less than half a million, and possible several times that