Friday, June 23, 2006

The One Percent Doctrine

Yet another damning book on the Bush "presidency": The One Percent Doctrine, by Ron Suskind.

Via Bob Harris, a New York Times review:

Keeping information away from the president, Mr. Suskind argues, was a calculated White House strategy that gave Mr. Bush "plausible deniability" from Mr. Cheney's point of view, and that perfectly meshed with the commander in chief's own impatience with policy details. Suggesting that Mr. Bush deliberately did not read the full National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was delivered to the White House in the fall of 2002, Mr. Suskind writes: "Keeping certain knowledge from Bush -- much of it shrouded, as well, by classification -- meant that the president, whose each word circles the globe, could advance various strategies by saying whatever was needed. He could essentially be 'deniable' about his own statements."

And via Talking Points Memo, a Washington Post review with this story:
Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be... Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States."...

Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Onion Vol. 42 #25

Decent Onion this week.

  • Report: U.S. May Have Been Abused During Formative Years
    "In its adulthood, the U.S. displays all the classic tendencies of a nation that was repeatedly mistreated in its infancy—difficulty forming lasting foreign relationships, viewing everyone as a potential enemy, and employing a pattern of assault and intimidation to assert its power," said Dr. Howard Drexel, the report's lead author. "Because of trust issues stemming from the abuse, America has become withdrawn, has not made an ally in years, and often resents the few nations that are willing to lend support—most countries outgrow this kind of behavior after 230 years."

  • Devastated By U.S. World Cup Team's First-Round Loss, Nation Grinds To Halt
    "I take full responsibility for losing the game," said Claudio Reyna, whose shot off the crossbar of the Czech goal as the U.S. trailed 1-0 in the opening half of play has been shown to coincide with a significant bump in the suicide rate, a momentary increase in reports of domestic violence, and a $0.45 increase in the per-gallon price of gasoline. "But we still have games to play in this opening round. I realize that the United States, more than any other country, loves this game. But that is no reason for so many people to cancel their weddings."

  • What Do You Think?: Gates To Leave Microsoft
    "Now maybe he can finally buy one of those new black Dual-Core MacBooks without everyone crawling up his ass."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fruit Salad and Getting Laid

Saw this pretty funny HOWTO on Dive Into Mark: HOWTO make the perfect fruit salad and get laid. This was a light and humorous diversion after reading his essay Juggling Oranges (which, despite the title, has nothing to do with fruit or fruit salad). Mainly the data preservation issues he raised in "Juggling Oranges" were creeping me out pretty bad, so I was more than willing to be distracted by this funny bit.
Whether you know it or not, you will be judged tonight on exactly how well you can put fruit in a bowl. Sound easy? It’s not. Sound trivial? Your chances of getting laid tonight are surprisingly dependent on exactly how well you can put fucking fruit into a fucking bowl.

...A small box of raspberries. I have only ever seen raspberries sold in a small plastic box, slighter larger than an iPod and costing just as much. Suck it up. You’re trying to get laid, remember? Raspberries are important.

...Throw the good stuff [from cutting up the nectarine] into the bowl and the center core into the trash can. Do not throw it in the garbage disposal! You will hear an angry ker-klunk, ker-klunk, ker-klunk, followed by a quiet whirring sound, followed by an awkward silence for the rest of your relationship.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Joel on BillG

Via Daring Fireball, a link to Joel Spolsky's new story, "My First BillG Review". Kind of programmer-technical, but as always with Joel, well-written and entertaining.
In my BillG review meeting, the whole reporting hierarchy was there, along with their cousins, sisters, and aunts, and a person who came along from my team whose whole job during the meeting was to keep an accurate count of how many times Bill said the F word. The lower the f***-count, the better.

Bill came in.

I thought about how strange it was that he had two legs, two arms, one head, etc., almost exactly like a regular human being.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Married To The Sea

Married To The Sea comic
Via Mimi Smartypants, an awesome new comic site: Married To The Sea. It's basically just captions on old, usually Victorian era, prints.

I haven't read through all the archives yet, but some favorites so far:

Update: Okay, I'm figuring this is one of those things that I think is funnier than hell, and which makes me laugh so hard I can hardly breathe, but which other people see and just shake their heads, seeing nothing humorous whatsoever. That's fine with me. But here are some more that I loved.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grisly Bears

Via Grist, more evidence that global warming is diminishing the food supply of polar bears so much that they're turning to cannibalism: Let's Feed Them Some Oil Execs.

The original source is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Scientists: Longer seasons without ice may cause polar bear cannibalism:
"During 24 years of research on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region of northern Alaska and 34 years in northwestern Canada, we have not seen other incidents of polar bears stalking, killing, and eating other polar bears," the scientists said.

..."It's very important new information," she said. "It shows in a really graphic way how severe the problem of global warming is for polar bears."

Deborah Williams of Alaska Conservation Solutions, a group aimed at pursuing solutions for climate change, said the study represents the "bloody fingerprints" of global warming.

"This is not a Coca-Cola commercial," she said, referring to animated polar bears used in advertising for the soft drink giant. "This represents the brutal downside of global warming."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Asymmetrical Warfare

You may have heard that the three Guantanamo Bay prisoners who killed themselves were not just protesting, they were waging "asymmetrical warfare":
"They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," Admiral Harris said. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

At A Tiny Revolution, Jonathann Schwarz has the scoop on Other Ways They Are Waging Asymmetrical Warfare Against Us:
1. Crying
2. Begging for Mercy
3. Getting Tuberculosis
4. Forcing Us To Torture Them
5. Not Being A Terrorist
6. Being Four Years Old

Meanwhile, Jesus' General has advice for Admiral Harris: We must destroy Gitmo in order the save it.
Dear Adm. Harris,

I don't envy you. Commanding the Gitmo Center for Eternal Detention has to be one of the toughest jobs in the military. You constantly have to match wits with the meanest, most devious goatherds, falafel vendors, and taxi drivers on the planet.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This Modern Peanuts World

Lucy and Charlie Brown in This Modern World
This is from a couple weeks ago, but it's a good one: Good Grief!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Firefox Fantasticness

Here's some Firefox goodness for you today.
  • The latest update,, was just released, featuring "stability and security fixes". Download it from, or if you already have a recent version (anything greater than 1.5, probably), you can choose "Check for updates" from the browser's "Help" menu.

  • Here's a Firefox extension I just discovered, that may well be my single favorite thing about Firefox now: Flashblock. It simply keeps embedded Flash animations from automatically playing. If you want the animation to play, you simply click the "play" arrow icon in the middle of the displayed square. It's as sweet as pop-up blocking on some obnoxiously Flash-laden sites (*cough* Onion *cough*). This one will change your life.

On the off chance that you're not using Firefox yet, and that you're still using (god forbid) Internet Explorer, now's the time to upgrade. Granted that IE on the Mac (may it rest in peace) was even worse than IE on Windows; but I still defer to Dooce's words of wisdom (from her FAQ, #5):
Q: Why does this website look like crap in Internet Exlorer on the Mac?

A. Because you’re being a pussy and not downloading a better browser. You should download this better browser...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Real Goal of Violent Right-Wingers

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution has had a series of posts lately that make and underscore an important point. He bemoans several times never having this point taught to him, or realizing it much earlier. He's right to bemoan such, and I wholeheartedly join his bemoaning.

His point is this: terrorists (and others) attack people not for the direct result of actually doing those people harm, but rather for the less direct but more important result of increasing their (the terrorists (and others)) own power.

His first post about this theme was How To Not Get It, And Not Get It Hard (emphasis in original):
[Members of al Qaeda] don't care about destroying our freedom. In fact, they give no thought whatsoever to us. Their goal is the same as the goal of political bozos the world over: they want to have more power than their "domestic" rivals.

Think of Bush. If you could listen in on every White House conversation, you'd find his central, overriding goal is not to reorder the Middle East or seize the world's oil. It's to have more power than Democrats. They invaded Iraq because they thought it would help.

Likewise with al Qaeda. If you read the 9/11 report, you'll find the central, overriding concern for al Qaeda had nothing to do with us. Their goal was to triumph "in their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements," and splashy suicide attacks seemed like the way to make that happen (p. 191).

...[bin Laden] pressed to go forward because he "thought an attack against the United States would benefit al Qaeda by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greatest donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logistical assistance" (p. 251).

Note the lack of desire to destroy our freedom. Nor was there gloating over all the Americans they were going to kill, just complete indifference. Instead, they were focused on the same crap the political bozo genus is always obsessed with: money and footsoldiers, so they could stay in power within their own societies for a few more luscious minutes.

In a follow-up post, Let's Be Sure To Do Exactly What Bin Laden Wants Us To, Schwarz quotes the 9/11 Commission Report, talking about the aftermath of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole (emphasis Schwarz's):
...Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation. He ordered the evacuation of the al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled...

There was no American strike. In February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to bin Ladin) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.

That was from the report, page 191. Schwarz continues:
I've long been amazed that the news bin Ladin really, really wanted retaliation from the U.S. has gotten so little attention—even after it appeared in the most official report imaginable...

REMEMBER: As I wrote yesterday, al Qaeda's real goal has nothing to do with "our freedom." As the 9/11 report also says, what they're trying to do is win "their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements." Having a gigantic military response from the U.S. has helped them do just that.

Lastly, in a post titled I Wish I'd Gone To A School Where They Taught Us Stuff, he excerpts a passage from a new book, Guests of the Ayatollah, about the Iran hostage crisis (emphasis Schwarz's):
The young Iranians envisioned having to subdue and confine members of the American mission for perhaps a day or two, but they had no intention of holding them for any length of time... The hostage-takers' immediate goal was to put pressure on the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. This interim authority had been appointed by Khomeini after the fall of the Shah to preside until a new constitution could be written. Bazargan favoured a Western-style state, but in the eyes of extremists - both Islamists and Marxists - he was watering down the revolution. They saw the provisional government's efforts to re-establish ties with the rest of the world as a sell-out.

The opportunity for radical change appeared to be slipping away. So extremists fanned fears of an American-led countercoup' the plan to seize the embassy grew out of these fears. Khomeini was not informed about the takeover in advance, and by the time it was presented to him it was a fait accompli, and hugely popular. Hundreds of thousands of gleeful Iranians celebrated in the streets around the embassy night and day, burning Carter in effigy and chanting: "Death to America!" Khomeini had little choice but to embrace the brash gerogangirha, and to officially anoint them as national heroes. Bazargan's government resigned two days after the takeover, and the revolution tilted permanently into the arms of the mullahs.

Schwarz summarizes:
There you have it: the main goal of all political actors, particularly violent right wing ones, is almost always to make themselves more powerful than their rivals in their own country. They are trying to beat their "enemies" on their own "side." However, they always always always claim they're it doing for everyone in their tribe.