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May 6, 2011

bin laden's snidely whipash plot

One of the stories bouncing around this morning is the inevitable Osama bin Laden follow-ups as the Feds slowly leak harmless bits and pieces of the intel gathered from the Abbottabad compound, alleging that Al Qaida planned a train attack on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  The info on the planned rail attack was released in a FBI/Homeland Security bulletin to law enforcement.

This may or may not be the case (and always important to keep in mind the precepts of "terrorists scuba divers armed with almanacs"), but if it is the case, then I think we can stop talking about Osama entirely: if there is an American target that would least panic Americans other than a choo choo train then I do not know what it is.  Even is successfully, tens of people would be killed, most of them hippies and vacationing Europeans, and the story would be splashed all over page A18.  Check this shit:

According to the bulletin al-Qaeda operatives planned to derail a train so that it would plunge into a valley, or from a bridge, AP reported.

That's a plot from someone that's supposed to be good at terror?  Oh come now.  Can't they at least tie a blonde to the rails first?

Posted by mrbrent at 7:51 AM

May 5, 2011

a david barton kind of crazy

There's an interesting "Get to know the person that you will be hearing a lot about!" piece in the NYT this morning, about a gentleman named David Barton.  (He is also known as No Not That David Barton The Other One.)  Barton is a self-anointed expert in American history and the Christian aspects thereof, and the topics he addresses run along the lines of how the Founders never intended there to be a separation between church and state, with some no-tax and small-government issues thrown in.  He's been at this for more than twenty years, and is considered influential by the GOP establishment, keeping an effective mailing list of the God/Guns/Gays crowd.

The thing about Barton is, he's no expert in nothing but close reading.  His expertise is nothing than the patience to read reams of source texts, find one out-of-context quote that supports his position and then ignore the rest.  The NYT being the NYT, they do not come right out and say this (though they do mention that Barton's detractors accuse him of cherry-picking.  But I do believe that this passage is dripping with a little more judgment than the NYT would admit to:

[Barton] also cites biblical passages that, he says, argue against deficit spending, graduated income taxes, the minimum wage and costly measures to fight global warming.

Anyone that's spending time combing through the Bible to address the wrongness of the minimum wage is one that is impervious to mockery, let alone criticism.%  But that's the kind of crazy that GOP nominees are depending on!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

May 4, 2011

henry blodget has nothing to do with osama bin laden

This is not about Osama bin Laden.  Henry Blodget, proprietor of slideshow king Business Insider and a cat with an interesting life story, tells some truths concerning the economy.  The GOP talking point is that business are leery of hiring because of looming regulations and uncertainty about taxes.   Blodget, a businessman himself, begs to differ:
Business Insider is a healthy, growing business, and we can tell you from experience that, when we make our hiring and investment plans, we don't devote one single second to thinking about the possibility of "higher taxes." We also don't make decisions based on the likelihood that we might face increased regulation.

(To be clear: We don't want higher taxes or more rules, but the possibility that we might get them isn't holding us back.)

It's funny how flimsy that little bit of rationalization is in the grand scheme of things.

I don't mind that interested parties would lobby against higher taxes or more regulation.  I believe that there should be both, but I'm just one dude, and opinions are what make the cheese more binding.  What I abhor is the rote recitation of an obvious and easily disprovable dodge.  What I abhor is the cynicism of repeating something you know is untrue because it seems politically opportune.

So thanks, Henry Blodget, for telling it like it is.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

day 3: it gets bleaker

I checked the paper to be sure — Osama bin Laden is still newsworthy.  I feel like I'm in an episode of The Twilight Zone.  But just because I'm nauseated doesn't mean that I don't get to have opinions!

The "Torture Was Right In The First Place" chorus rose to new heights yesterday, which just goes to show that it's always gotta be something, right?  The logic behind it is that all the detainees we tortured back in 2003 produced some kind of intelligence that ended in the May Day assault on the Abbottabad compound.  (No less than leading light douchebag torture-apologist John Yoo is chiming in on this.)  The thing is that the charges, originally reported by the AP, are not true.  They're just not.  If you want to split hairs, one dude who was tortured gave up the name of a bin Laden courier, while a whole bunch of dudes who were also tortured gave conflicting names for the courier.  Also, this happened in 2003, so if the intel was so good, why was it not acted upon in the intervening five years before Bush left office.

This is even more annoying than the utter and constant 24-hourification of news about ObL, the constant political pushback, trying to refight arguments lost years ago.  Not only must George W. Bush be vindicated, but also LBJ must be villified as a Communist, while blame for the Great Depression must be reassigned to FDR.  It's not just partisanship; it's fanaticism.  And it's buried in a circular logic that is impossible to engage in any intellectual way.

But if we have to go there: the Bush Administration response to terror was to start two unilateral wars, and to conduct counter-terrorism activities with armored divisions and bombing campaigns.  The Obama Administration does detective work and conducts small-scall missions on moonless nights.  None of us have sufficient military experience to be in the position to be able to know for sure which one of those strategies are "better", but if you line up the pros and cons of both, it's not really close, is it?

So as long as we're going to wade around in this swamp for another couple days, can someone please tell me what the exact last thoughts of ObL were?  What is the government trying to hide?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

May 3, 2011

it's an osama-tsunami

America has found a topic that has shattered the twelve-hour collective attention span!  And it's just nauseating!  I certainly don't get to pick it, but the percentage of readable bin Laden stories is shrinking.  (But here's two!)  I guess the conversation over the appropriate amount of elation to show is interesting, but it's also predictable — my fellow-travelers unanimously agree on one end, and everyone else feels that fist-pumping is just the start, and at the end of the conversation no minds will have been changed.

Of the conspiracy threads (all of which were inevitable and will be with us for the rest of our lives), let me add one of my own.  The official version of the raid states that one of the Blackhawks carrying/supporting the assault team stalled out over the compound, and was then destroyed prior to evac.  Urm, I find it an extraordinary event that a Blackhawk helicopter piloted by some of the most-trained, committed hard-asses on the face of the planet "stalled out".  This doesn't exactly rise to, "Show me the death certificate!" but it's worth a wonder, in the interest of the elasticity of the "official version".

But here's the good news: as the media keeps their eye on the ball and spreads the coverage on the still-dead terrorist icon thinner and thinner, we can look forward to who will have the better Osama bin-coverage in this week's NYT: the Styles section or Dining in/Dining Out?

Posted by mrbrent at 8:59 AM

May 2, 2011

osama bin laden

Not gonna miss Osama bin Laden, nope.  And he left the world in the way that I'd hoped: taken down by soldiers, not bombs/drones, and body seized and disposed of as to prevent the maximization of any martyr activities.

As far as the partying in the streets goes?  I'm not sure I get that.  Well, actually I get it, but I don't approve.  There's not a whole lot different today than tomorrow, except that that one shitbag is no longer with us.  And remember that this shitbag has not exactly been a very effective terrorist for a long time — a long time before we killed him, we destroyed his livelihood.  It was a great moment for the President, for sure (and I'm also sure that Karl Rove was throwing things at his TV), but it was a mostly symbolic (and justified) gesture.

Though I guess if a person is the type to think that the sole reason for nearly a decade's worth of two unilateral wars is one terrorist leader, some be-turbaned Lex Luthor, then U-S-A! U-S-A!s are definitely in order.  But icing bin Laden didn't end any wars and it definitely didn't bring anyone back.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:44 AM