Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Film Clips From Baghdad

The Chilcot Report detailing Britain’s role in leading us and them into the war in Iraq is over 800 pages long, but there are some interesting little bits that tell us a great deal about the people who dug up the “intelligence” on Saddam Hussein.

“Valuable intelligence” found by MI6 about Saddam Hussein’s alleged nerve gas arsenal may have in fact been stolen from a Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage action film, the Chilcot Inquiry has disclosed.

Intelligence officers circulated a report of deadly nerve toxins being held in glass spheres, until it was noticed it bore a marked similarity to scenes in the 1996 thriller The Rock.

The Secret Intelligence Service reported details in September 2002 from a source saying the regime had produced VX, sarin and soman nerve agents at Al-Yarmuk, in Iraq.

The source had said the agents were loaded into a variety of “containers”, including “linked hollow glass spheres”.

The source commented that there had been “accelerated production of chemical warfare substances at Al-Yarmuk for several years”. MI6 described the detail as “valuable intelligence”, though it arrived too late to influence the dossier published to make the case for war.

However the Chilcot Inquiry found the glass detail raised alarms inside MI6 soon after it was circulated.

It was pointed out that: “Glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions; and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres.”

Sir John found: “The questions about the use of glass containers for chemical agent and the similarity of the description to those portrayed in The Rock had been recognised by SIS.”

MI6 later discovered the source had been lying “over a period of time”.

We would have never gone to war if Sean Connery had been available to disarm Iraq.

The report does not reveal if MI6 was able to find Saddam Hussein’s stash of gold by finding a hidden treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

Short Takes

The U.S. Justice Department will investigate the shooting by police of a black man in Baton Rouge.

President Obama says he will slow the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The Chilcot Report says Britain’s involvement in Iraq was basically a complete botch.

Two potential Trump V.P. candidates bow out.

The Tigers finally won one from Cleveland, 12-2.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Short Takes

Transgender men and women will now be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Iraqi airstrikes hit 200 vehicles carrying ISIS fighters.

Turkish police arrested 13 people in connection with the attack on the Istanbul airport.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson dropped his bid to run for prime minister.

R.I.P. Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock that basically predicted where we are now.

The Tigers rallied in the ninth to beat the Rays 10-7.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.  Oh, and happy new (fiscal) year.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Short Takes

Senate confirms Eric Fanning, first openly gay Secretary of the Army.

TSA apologizes, promises hundreds of new staffers at O’Hare.

Senate passes bill to allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia.

Human error, high speed blamed for deadly train wreck in Philadelphia last year.

Better late than never: Court orders Mississippi school district to desegregate.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau introduces bill to protect transgender rights.

The Tigers beat the Twins 7-2.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Terrorized By Al-Gebra

We have gotten to the point here in America where math is equated with terrorism.

On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater – a look he would later describe as “simple elegance” – but something about him didn’t seem right to her.

She decided to try out some small talk.

Is Syracuse home? She asked.

No, he replied curtly.

He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own.

The note informed the crew that she was afraid that her seatmate was scribbling was some Arabic terrorist code.

The woman and the man were escorted off the plane and quizzed by security.

What do you know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man.

Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied, but she didn’t seem visibly ill. Maybe, he thought, they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with her.

And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.

That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed.

He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code. They were math.

Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

And the woman is an idiot.

Well, to be fair, I do know that a lot of people — myself included — who were at one point terrorized by math, especially algebra.  (Which, by the way, was invented by the Arabs.  Ah ha!)  But it also says something sad about the state of mind of people — not to mention the state of our educational system — that we get to the point where we think that differential equations are the same thing as a ransom note from ISIS.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

They’ve Already Won

If America is supposed to be the beacon of freedom and human rights in the world, Americans have a very strange and dangerous way of showing it.

On April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland, get to campus and go to class. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.

Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Iraqi refugee, left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His family fled to Jordan, where they lived until the United States granted his family asylum. Today, Makhzoomi helps his mother care for his younger brother, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

One day prior to the incident, Makhzoomi attended a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

Minutes later, an airport employee arrived to remove Makhzoomi from the airplane. Makhzoomi was escorted onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was met by three security officers.

He learned that the passenger thought she had heard the word “Shahid,” meaning martyr, which is associated with jihad and has been associated with terrorists.

The conversation between Makhzoomi and the employee became complicated and political. The employee informed Makhzoomi that he was not allowed to return to the plane.

Then Makhzoomi heard one of the security officers radio for the FBI.

We have gotten so freaking paranoid about anything that might be “furrin” or different that something as simple as a standard hang-up phrase in another language on the phone is a threat.

I blame the butch tough-guy talk from the wingnuts who are so full of false bravado but won’t let us move the last remaining corpses from Gitmo to the same supermax prison that’s holding the rest of the September 11 perps because they might look funny at someone.  They’ll talk about carpet bombing and then trash their shorts if the ghost of Osama bin Laden says boogedy-boogedy.

Forget about dirty bombs and shooting up nightclubs.  I truly believe that if ISIS really wants to conquer America, all they have to do is get a bunch of people to recite “Jabberwocky” in Arabic on the subway and the nation would grind to a halt.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Short Takes

Belgian prosecutors: France was actually the intended target.

CIA Chief Brennan: The CIA won’t waterboard again even if ordered to.

Cruz wins Colorado caucuses; Trump throws tantrum.

Danny Willet won the Masters after Jordan Spieth folded like a lawn chair on the back nine.

Ah, springtime: dangerous storms hit the South while cold hits the Northeast.

R.I.P. William Hamilton, 79, cartoonist for The New Yorker.

The Tigers and the Yankees were rained out.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Short Takes

British PM Cameron admits to being involved in offshore banking.

The man in the hat did something terrible, according to Brussels police.

Mexico shuffles diplomats in retaliation for Trump’s bloviation.

Michigan faces a ton of lawsuits over the Flint water crisis.

At least four people say they were abused by former Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Short Takes

Capitol Hill shooting — One police officer slightly wounded, gunman in custody.

Prosecutors in Belgium released the one suspect in custody in the bombing last week for lack of evidence.

California goes for the $15 an hour minimum wage.

Idaho allows those 21 and older carry a concealed gun without a permit within city limits.

Now we have “induced earthquakes.”  I wonder what the frack is causing them.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Short Takes

Merrick Garland is President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court.

American ISIS fighter is a “gold mine” for U.S. intelligence.

U.S. hits North Korea with new sanctions for nuclear tests.

Denmark regains its standing as the “happiest nation.”

What if Fox had a debate and nobody came?

R.I.P. Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016