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Monday, July 31, 2006

John Solomon Will Never Work In This Town Again 

It's freedom fighers, John. Freedom fighters. Confess the error of your ways:

Gitmo guards often attacked by detainees
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

The prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay during the war on terror have attacked their military guards hundreds of times, turning broken toilet parts, utensils, radios and even a bloody lizard tail into makeshift weapons.

Pentagon incident reports reviewed by The Associated Press show Military Police guards are routinely head-butted, spat upon and doused by "cocktails" of feces, urine, vomit and sperm collected in meal cups by the prisoners....

Guards currently stationed at Guantanamo describe a tense atmosphere in which prisoners often orchestrate violence in hopes of unnerving their captors, especially with attacks using bodily fluids.

"I mean, seeing a human being act that way, it's terrifying. ... You are constantly watching before you take your next step to see if something is about to happen," Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Mack D. Keen told AP in an interview from Guantanamo.

"You see little signs. They kind of show their hand every once in a while. They'll take their Quran and they'll cover it up," he said. "When you see a group of detainees taking their Quran and putting it away, you know something is about to happen."

But there are claims that all is not as it seems:

Moazamm Begg, 38, a prisoner for more than two years at Guantanamo before being released to Great Britain, said he was suspicious of the Pentagon's description of incidents, especially allegations that Muslim men tore their Qurans or used sperm in attacks. The Pentagon continues to publicly question Begg's claim of innocence.

"This just doesn't make sense — especially since for Muslims this would be something that was disgusting, something that just wouldn't be done," he said. He added that some detainees told him they had mixed toothpaste and spit in the cocktails to make it look like semen.

And be advised that the mild-mannered spork can be used as a weapon:

Tensions likewise flared during Christmas week 2004, with inmates frequently spitting on guards. On Christmas Eve, a prisoner who was angry that he couldn't finish his meal was said to have used a plastic fork-spoon utensil — called a spork — to attack a guard collecting his tray.

"Detainee stabbed the MP guard ... in the hand with his spork from chow meal," the report said, adding the prisoner later "made a slicing motion across his neck" and vowed to kill the guard.

The Landmark Legal Foundation fought the Pentagon to get these reports released. They have an agenda to counter the agenda of others:

The Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group that fought to force the Pentagon to release the reports under the Freedom of Information Act, said it hopes the information brings balance to the Guantanamo debate.

"Lawyers for the detainees have done a great job painting their clients as innocent victims of U.S. abuse when the fact is that these detainees, as a group, are barbaric and extremely dangerous," Landmark President Mark Levin said. "They are using their terrorist training on the battlefield to abuse our guards and manipulate our Congress and our court system."

And the American Correctional Association has waded into the debate:

James A. Gondles Jr., executive director of the American Correctional Association that sets standards for U.S. prisons, said much behavior inside Guantanamo mirrors that of civilian prisons though the attacks with bodily fluids seem more numerous.

"It happens from time to time at facilities here, but it seems the majority of ... assaults at Gitmo were either spitting, or bodily fluids being thrown on the guards," said Gondles, who has visited Guantanamo twice at the Pentagon's invitation and reviewed the reports at AP's request.

The bodily fluid attacks are so numerous that guards now frequently wear specialized shields to protect their faces.

But imagine being a Muslim chaplain in such a situation. This report is from 2002:

Tensions were high. Prisoners complained of prolonged sessions in frigid, air-conditioned interrogation rooms, music blaring, forced by chains to squat on the floor. Even some FBI agents assigned here were growing squeamish, writing secret memos questioning the military's tactics.

For their part, guards complained of being pelted by urine, spit and feces as they patrolled the cellblocks.

It was an uneasy place for a Muslim chaplain, or any service member who shared the faith of the "enemy combatants." Inmates viewed them as traitors to the faith. Guards, made up almost entirely of Army reservists and National Guardsmen, looked on them as sympathizers of the fanatics who had spawned the 9/11 attacks.

Each of the three Muslim chaplains who had served at the base before Yee had run afoul of the guards to some degree, and one had been investigated on the false suspicion that he had helped prisoners send messages home.

But Yee seemed to have something his predecessors did not. He was a chaplain who had studied in Syria, spoke Arabic, yet had the military bearing of a West Point graduate.

In the year since the 9/11 attacks, he had become the military's most prominent chaplain while stationed at Fort Lewis, briefing soldiers, generals and the media on the tenets of Islam and calling for tolerance within the ranks.

In the fall of 2002, he received orders to report to Guantánamo....

Yee settled into Guantánamo life, making friends among his Muslim co-workers. He pushed to have a classroom in the base chapel converted into a mosque for the dozens of Islamic translators and service members deployed there. And he continued the mission he had begun back at Fort Lewis in the days after 9/11 — to educate troops that Islam was a religion of peace.

But issues eventually went south:

When returning from duty at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, he was arrested on September 10, 2003, in Jacksonville, Florida and charged with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage, and failure to obey a general order. He was then transferred to a United States Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The government did not name the country or entity for whom it suspected Yee was spying.

All court-martial charges against Yee were quietly dropped on March 19, 2004, and he was released to resume his duties. In April the noncriminal charges of adultery and storing pornography on government computers were dropped. He retired from the US military with an honorable discharge in January, but he is also seeking an apology.

In October 2005 Yee's book, For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire (ISBN 1586483692), was published. In it Yee wrote that he was kept in solitary confinement for seventy-six days, and that he was forced to undergo sensory deprivation.

But there's no record of him throwing poo at anyone.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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A pleasant Sunday afternoon 

All times are Pacific, but I wasn't.
  • 12:00 noon: We are at a Starbucks in Henderson, Nevada, getting ready to head back home to Ontario after a weekend in the Las Vegas area. We're going home!

  • 12:20 pm: We pass the St. Rose hospital on the south side of Henderson, Nevada. We're going home:

  • 12:30 pm: We're on the southbound Interstate 15. We're going home!

  • 12:40 pm: Traffic is really slow. We aren't going anywhere.

  • 1:00 pm: Time to check the desert's radio source of information, the empire of Highway Stations broadcasting between 98 and 100 MHz in the Mojave Desert. Turns out there were two fatal accidents earlier in the day. One is cleared, but one (4 miles north of Primm) is not cleared yet, and all but one lane is blocked. We are approximately 15 miles north of this accident. It's gonna be a long day - even BEFORE we get to the California state line.

Later I found out the details:

Four people were killed in two traffic crashes within hours of each other on Interstate 15 near the California border early Sunday, authorities said.

The first wreck occurred about 3 a.m. and involved a wrong-way driver.

A Ford Explorer was northbound in the southbound lane of the interstate when it collided with a Dodge Dakota pickup about three miles from the state line, said Kevin Honea, spokesman for the Nevada Highway Patrol.

The Dakota burst into flames, and a woman and a boy -- 11 or 12 years old -- were inside the truck and were killed....

The man driving the Explorer was pulled from the SUV by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper and a member of an ambulance crew before the SUV also caught fire, Honea said.

But the driver of the Explorer also was pronounced dead at the scene....

About 5:20 a.m., as traffic was backed up on the southbound side of I-15, a blue Jeep SUV slammed into the rear of a stopped tractor-trailer, about two miles north of the first wreck, Honea said.

The driver of the Jeep, a man, was killed, Honea said.

"The guy never stopped," Honea said, explaining that the Jeep left no skid marks so the driver apparently didn't brake before hitting the 18-wheeler....

  • 1:15 pm: An idea pops into this emperor's head as he glances to the east. Looks like Las Vegas Boulevard goes all the way down to Jean. Perhaps it goes all the way down to Primm.

  • 1:20 pm: Hey, traffic's getting faster. We're going 20 miles an hour on occasion. The radio reports that all lanes are clear, but that traffic will continue to be backed up.

  • 1:25 pm: Traffic slows down again. Looking forward to that Jean exit. Even if Las Vegas Boulevard DOESN'T continue past Jean, we're stopping.

  • 1:30 pm: We take the SR-161 exit at Jean.

  • 1:35 pm: Hundreds of others are taking the same exit. We've gone under the freeway to the east side, headed toward Las Vegas Boulevard.

  • 1:40 pm: Reached Las Vegas Boulevard. Turns out it ends at Jean.

  • 1:45 pm: After approximately 20 miles of traveling in the last hour and forty-five minutes, we're stopping at the Gold Strike casino in Jean, which is the one on the east side of the freeway. (There's another casino on the west side.)

  • 1:50 pm: The casino is very crowded. The bandits are making out like...bandits.

  • 1:55 pm: Bathroom break.

  • 3:35 pm: After a line, a bathroom break, a long line, a shorter line, lunch, and another bathroom break, we're on the road again.

  • 4:15 pm: We've passed the scene of the accident, but traffic is still slow. For those who aren't aware, a TON of people return home from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on Sunday, so even if there aren't two fatalities on the road, Interstate 15 can get very crowded.

  • 5:30 pm: We - and the rest of the world - are in Baker at a Shell/Jack in the Box. The temperature at the Bun Boy is 113. I stand outside anyway.

  • 7:45 pm: A delightful dinner at a Taco Bell across the freeway from the Barstow Station.

  • 9:45 pm: Home in Ontario, nearly ten hours later.

Scott Granneman made a similar trip on Thursday, 7 August 2003:

It took forever to escape Vegas. We started getting out of town at a good clip, but then we just stopped. Solid. We could see smoke belching up from behind a hill around a curve in the road ahead of us, but we didn't know exactly what was causing it. Several emergency vehicles raced past us on the median. People got out of their cars ahead of us and looked around, but it was already hot as hell, and no one could really see anything....

Finally, after an hour, cars began to inch ahead. We rounded the curve, and finally saw the cause of the fire and the traffic jam: a burned bus. I said "burned", not "burning", because there was no more bus, just a frame....

It was hours later when we finally hit Baker, California, the last outpost of civilization for quite a while. Baker is an interesting place for several reasons. Gas is about $2 per gallon....

Ah, the good old days. Scott stopped at the Bun Boy, but ate at the Mad Greek. HE reached Los Angeles at 5:42 pm.

Of course, he was traveling on a Thursday, not a Sunday.

So, how was YOUR Sunday?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Friday, July 28, 2006



From Virtual Finland:

In the autumn of 1899 [Jean] Sibelius composed the music for a series of tableaux illustrating episodes in Finland´s past. The tableaux were presented as a part of the Press Celebrations held in November that year. The celebrations were a contribution towards the resistance to the efforts to increase Russian influence in the then autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. The music culminated in a stirring, patriotic finale, "Finland awakes". However, the music made an even deeper impact later in the year, when four of the parts, including "Finland awakes", were performed again in concert. "Finland awakes" soon came to be in great demand as a separate concert piece and Sibelius revised it in the following year, giving it the title Finlandia, as suggested in a letter from an anonymous admirer. (Sibelius later came into closer contact with this fan, Axel Carpelan, who became an indefatigable supporter and a self-appointed fund-raiser).

Finlandia became a symbol of Finnish nationalism. While Finland was still a Grand Duchy under Russia performances within the empire had to take place under the covert title of "Impromptu".

In Finland the Finlandia Hymn was not sung until Finnish words for it were written by the opera singer Wäinö Sola in 1937. After the Russian aggression against Finland in 1939 (The Winter War) the Finnish poet V.A. Koskenniemi supplied a new text, the one that has been used ever since. Sibelius arranged the Hymn for mixed choir as late as 1948.

However, I have never heard any of these versions, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to understand them. Trust me on that one. I'm more familiar with Be Still, My Soul (warning: MIDI automatically plays when you click the link).

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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He Who Has Ears To Hear, Let Him Hear (or are we talking about another part of the head?) 

Mrs. Loquacious has entitled one of her posts Crown Me with Many Crowns.

Perhaps I groaned because that is one of my least favorite hymns. Fairlington United Methodist Church used to sing it all the time, and I burned out on it.

But I still haven't gotten tired of any hymn based on Finlandia.

To be continued.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Ian Curtis the Femme - She Wants Revenge 

I heard the song again this morning on KROQ, and finally decided to figure out who sang it.

Why? Because I'm intrigued by music, and this song is intruiging. While I love the acoustic bluegrass, and I love the dense electronica, I also love the sparse songs that have a little mixture of both.

This particular song hits the minimal synthetica spot. Any time you can combine "three chord" and "Casio" in the same description, you know that you're dealing with a particular genre of music that I'd like to mine myself at one point. (Granted I'd throw in the hip-hop rhythms too, but it should still be an interesting mix.)

In this case I couldn't help listening to parts of the vocals either. For me the great part isn't the way the chorus ends (love is hate), but how the chorus begins - for me, it's just great to hear these cliches delivered in a harsh monotone.

So I did a Google search for the twin phrases "hold you close" and "tear you apart," and discovered that the song is called "Tear You Apart" and is by She Wants Revenge. (Can't imagine why.)

Here's a description of the band from their website:

[A] solitary figure steps onto the darkened stage and makes his way toward a wall of machines and takes a seat. The crowd erupts, then slowly the cheering fades in the distance as an anticipation that could only be described as electric takes hold.

A beat begins - minimal, sparse. A single white beam appears and backlights the man as if right on cue. He wrestles the controls of the machine sitting atop his lap while twisting the knobs of another, and suddenly a bass note pulses and throbs.

Just as we begin to lose ourselves in the hypnotic drone, another figure emerges from the side of the stage; black-clad and hooded he walks swiftly to his amp, flips a switch, removes his guitar from the stand, slings it over his shoulder, and walks center stage.

The two men exchange a glance, and with that, the singer spits out his cigarette and kicks on a foot switch, drowning himself in white light as he stares down the microphone and begins to attack the guitar like his life depends on it.

What could either be hours or minutes later, the kraut-rock intro turns to verse and the crowd begins to sing along: "Sick of trying to find a way inside, sick and tired of all the after." And just about this time a peculiar thing starts to happen, almost viral as it begins to take over the onlookers one by one. People begin to move. These movements take shape, and soon, people are dancing. In fact, the whole crowd is dancing.

And suddenly we are saved. Saved from the legions of samey-sameson throwback bands, saved from another night of being too hip to dance, and saved from ourselves.

She Wants Revenge has come to save us all.

Meanwhile, Gigwise is trying to figure out how She Wants Revenge is derivative (confession: I am not familiar with the work of Interpol):

She Wants Revenge sound like Interpol to such a degree it’s almost as if they’re pastiching the gloomy-rockers. We need to investigate this further… Ah, our reseach uncovers that singer Justin Warfield’s previous incarnation was as a rapper, who released a Prince Paul-produced Daisy-Age rip-off album in 1993. Hmmmmm, interesting. Certainly, whilst Warfield may just be hitching onto another bandwagon that left the ranch some time ago, his monotone, rap-esque delivery of a tale of twisted teenage obsession hints at a dryness of humour which wouldn’t be out of place in the Nevada desert. As Interpol could be accused of pastiching Joy Division themselves, does this then make 'She Wants Revenge' post-post-modern? Er, it’s all getting rather complicated - and, let’s face it, the kids won’t get it anyways – so it’s time to admit that, in a somewhat unlikely turn of events, we’re actually quite partial to the dead-pan charms of 'Tear You Apart' (another subtle clue there, wethinks)....

Me don't think. Granted that I've only heard the one song by She Wants Revenge, but it really doesn't sound like the much lusher "Love Will Tear Us Apart." (Exercise: listen to the short version of Joy Division's "Substance." Then listen to New Order's "Substance." They flow together like a natural progression - or regression, in terms of vocal abilities.)

Frankly, "Tear You Apart" sounds more like a synthetic Violent Femmes. At least that's what I think. Tucson Weekly looks at it slightly differently:

It's been written that She Wants Revenge, the duo's remarkable debut CD--released Jan. 31 on the Geffen-connected label Flawless Records--invites comparisons to contemporary neo-post-punk acts as Interpol (OK, that's fair), as well as lesser acts The Killers and The Bravery.

Actually, Warfield and Bravin are invoking the spirits of the same acts that inspired those contemporary groups: Joy Division, David Bowie's collaborations with Brian Eno, early Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Bauhaus and Pornography-era The Cure....

In the Sheffield Rock Times piece, Warfield said, "Our music is a modern extension of a time in the late '70s and early '80s when music was colliding in ways it never had before. We're talking about New Order hearing what Arthur Baker and (Afrika) Bambaataa were doing in New York and what was going on with Chicago house, then taking that back to the U.K. and incorporating that into their dark Northern view of punk rock."...

But this is intruguing (emphasis mine):

tear you apart has been #1 on la’s kroq radio for 14 weeks the track has been remixed by tiga and ladytron.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Men in spandex and testosterone 

From Yahoo:

Floyd Landis' stunning Tour de France victory just four days earlier was thrown into question Thursday when his team said he tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race.

No comment. But if you're into bicycling men in spandex, go here.

And no, I'm not going there.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Harvey Levin's Unfortunate Incident in Local Television News 

According to what I heard on the Kevin and Bean show on KROQ, Harvey Levin is now working for tmz.com.

This causes me to discount the wisdom of anything that tmz.com ever publishes.

Allow me to explain. First, let me go back over twenty years and reveal my then-current list of completely worthless people: Geraldo Rivera and Margaret Trudeau. Trudeau earned her spot by disco-dancing the night away on the evening that her ex-husband got voted out of office.

May 27 [1977]: Pierre and Maragaret Trudeau announce they are separating....

March 26 [1979]: Newspapers are serializing Margaret Trudeau's autobiography, Beyond Reason. The book, which reveals intimate details of the Trudeau marriage, is said to enrage the Prime Minister. He calls a May election in order, it is reported later, to prove that his estranged wife's confessions do not bother him....

May 22: Mr. Trudeau's Government is defeated by the Conservatives under Joe Clark. On election night, Mrs. Trudeau is photographed dancing in a flashy New York discotheque. “It's still a beautiful world,” Mr. Trudeau tells weeping Liberal supporters as he concedes defeat.

Geraldo earned his spot by being Geraldo.

Over the years, Geraldo has partially redeemed himself (partially). But Harvey Levin took his place on the list.

Before Levin rose to huge prominence in the remake of The People's Court, he was a local TV news reporter in Los Angeles. Local TV news in Los Angeles is like local TV news anywhere - a bunch of noise and everything else to get people to tune in and watch the commercials. It especially gets bad during sweeps months, in which the number of runaway prostitutes covered in special reports increases exponentially.

But the favorite thing for local TV news to do out here is "STORM WATCH." If there's a chance of sprinkles in the San Fernando Valley, all of the news stations will go into "STORM WATCH" mode, and send reporters out to announce that it is not raining yet, but it will be soon. However, the news producers get really excited when the on-the-scene announcers can actually announce that it is raining, and can show puddles of water as evidence. Then "STORM WATCH" becomes deliriously...unexciting.

I'm sure that most of you are laughing at us southern Californians about this whole deal, and how silly we get about it. Many of you are digging out of snow all winter, or dealing with hurricane-force winds, and we get all worked up about a little rain.

Actually, in some circumstances, it is a big deal. Southern California is pretty much a desert, and the desert surface is unable to handle large amounts of rain. Therefore, when we get a significant storm, we get huge runoff problems, which not only results in Malibu and Laguna homes sliding into the ocean, but also causes our few streams to become dangerous torrents. If someone is unlucky or stupid enough to get caught in the flow of a stream, they could become seriously injured, or even die. (In fact, in areas of inadequate drainage, you can even drown in the roads, particularly the north-south roads which receive runoff from the mountains north of the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley.)

Enter Harvey Levin.

As I mentioned, Harvey Levin was in local TV news at the time - this was probably about 15 years ago - and he had been sent out to perform "STORM WATCH" coverage. So there he is, out on location, and he was able to show the rapt TV viewers that the ground was actually wet, the rain was falling, and the stream had significant water runoff.

Here's where the competitiveness of local TV news comes into play. It's not enough to say that the riverbed is filled with rushing water; you have to show it.

So that's why Harvey Levin ended up standing in the riverbed, with water running all around him.

With everybody watching.

And with some people probably thinking, "Hey, that looks like a cool thing to do." And this happens all too often in southern California - somebody sees the rushing water, decides to climb in, then realizes that the current is going faster than expected. By this time, it's too late to do anything.

And Harvey Levin is modeling this behavior, right in front of the Channel 2 viewing audience.

After he stood in the stream for a few minutes, the anchors conveyed a message to Mr. Levin. Basically, the fire department had contacted the anchors and told them to tell Harvey to get out of the stream, pronto.

To his credit, he did. But that act earned him a prominent place in my list of boneheads, and he's going to have to do something dramatic to get off of that list.

Incidentally, imdb.com includes another Levin anecdote:

While covering the O.J. Simpson case for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, Levin reported that prosecutor Marcia Clark had entered Simpson's residence before a search warrant had been executed. When Levin was proven wrong, he attempted to blame his mistake on a techinician who "mis-timed" the video's clock during the editing process.

And here's something from Tabloid Baby:

Harvey Levin, the former local news legal analyst and street reporter turned flamboyant infotainment show reporter and legal analyst, has bitten the hand that feeds him in his new role running the “interactive” Hollywood website TMZ.com....

But Harvey might regret his latest stunt, trying to milk publicity out of a confrontation with a Hollywood good guy— an adult who stumbled into the silliness....

A few nights ago, one of TMZ’s kids with a camera managed to bait Harrelson as he stepped out of a Hollywood nightspot. The actor asked the kid to get the camera out of his face. The kid mouthed off, and while a second TMZ stalkerazzi recorded a wide shot of the scene, Woody allegedly broke the kid’s camera.

That’s showbiz (and that’s probably why the second cameraman was stationed to record the confrontation). From Sinatra to Sean Penn to Tommy Lee, the subject occasionally bites back.

Harvey the lawyer doesn't get it. He sent the kid to the Hollywood Police Station to file a police report. Then he had the kid go to the Cedars-Sinai emergency room and took nice photos taken of the bruises....

What interest would Harvey Levin have in a 44-year-old man? His site dines on celebutards: kiddie stars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton.

The closest connection the site could come up with was Woody’s appearance in the recent movie “A Prairie Home Companion” (which features Lohan).

And that’s the problem for Harvey.

See, TMZ may appear to be a street-level website that allows the people to play celebutainment reporter.

But dig into the site and see it spelled out that “this site is controlled and operated by TMZ.com., a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, 1840 Victory Blvd., Glendale, CA 91201… Please forward any questions regarding other legal matters to legal@wb.com.”

Woody Harrelson’s new movie is distributed by Picturehouse, a specialty film company formed by New Line Cinema and HBO.

Both are divisions of Time Warner.

So a Time Warner company is attacking a Time Warner star, and through the ensuing bad publicity, possibly affecting the bottom line of a Time Warner movie....

TMZ is an offshoot of Extra--you know, one of those shows that vowed not to buy stalkerazzi footage.

The more I learn about him, the better Margaret Trudeau sounds.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No Ontario Vineyard Village Association new stuff yet, but it's gonna come real soon now 

Witness this. I'll insert comments throughout.

Brushing aside warnings from Wal-Mart, the City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday that makes Chicago the biggest city in the nation to require big-box retailers to pay a "living wage."

"It's trying to get the largest companies in America to pay decent wages," said Alderman Toni Preckwinkle.

While allowing smaller companies in America to pay indecent wages, I guess. That must be OK.

The ordinance passed 35-14 after three hours of impassioned debate.

Good. At least 14 City Council members are sane.

The measure requires mega-retailers with over $1 billion in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet to pay workers at least $10 an hour in wages plus $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010....

In other words, a very selective law which only targets a few firms (not just Wal Mart, as we'll see in a moment. If your company has less than $1 billion in sales, and if you build 89,000 square foot stores, then you can pay much lower wages (in the case of Illinois, $6.50 an hour). What is the rationale to have different living wages depending upon the size of your employer?

Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio said earlier that if the measure passed, "We'd redirect our focus on our suburban strategy and see how we could better serve our city of Chicago residents from suburban Chicagoland."

Which is the City Council's intent all along. They don't care about living wages; they care about sticking it to evil Wal Mart. If they truly cared about living wages, then the minimum wage in Chicago would be set to $10 an hour for everybody. Why don't they do that?

Chicago has been at the center of the debate about the wages at big retailers ever since the city's rejection of a proposal by Wal-Mart to open a store on the South Side prompted the company to open a store just outside the city limits.

This is the fallacy of the Ontario Mountain Village Association and all the other do-gooders who prefer a vacant, graffiti-ridden property to a working Wal Mart. A few minutes before I started typing this blog post, I happened to get a call from my wife, who was shopping. She wasn't shopping in Ontario, because the Ontario Mountain Village Association doesn't want that. She was shopping in Chino.

Hope the other citizens of Ontario are happy. Our city is losing revenue.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hezbollah Mystified that Israel Thinks that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev Are Important 

There's a definite difference in understanding between cultures. I cannot understand any culture in which suicide bombing is considered to be a very good thing. And Hezbollah apparently cannot understand any culture in which people's lives are considered to be worth something:

A senior Hezbollah official said Tuesday the guerrillas did not expect Israel to react so strongly to its capture of two Israeli soldiers.

Mahmoud Komati [is] deputy chief of the Hezbollah's political arm....

His comments were the first time that a leader from the Shiite militant group has publicly suggested it miscalculated the consequences of the July 12 cross-border raid in which two Israeli soldiers were captured and three were killed.

"The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati.

He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel.

In the past, he said, Israeli responses to Hezbollah actions included sending commandos into Lebanon, seizing Hezbollah officials and briefly targeting specific Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon.

Komati said his group had anticipated negotiations to swap the Israeli soldiers for three Lebanese held in Israeli jails, with Germany acting as a mediator as it has in past prisoner exchanges....

Ah, but do we care about the five Israeli soldiers? I must admit that I am unable to name any of them. The Jerusalem Post released the names of the two soldiers (or, as far as I'm concerned, hostages):

The IDF released the names of the two soldiers on Thursday. According to the IDF Spokesperson, the two reserve are Ehud Goldwasser, 31, from Nahariya, and Eldad Regev, 26, from Kiryat Motzkin.

Here's some more information:

Regev, a university student who also works for Bezeq, lives with his older brother in the family's home just north of Haifa. His mother died a number of years ago, and his father remarried and moved to Haifa, neighbors said....

"He is an absolutely great kid," said Simona Ada, a neighbor. Ada said Regev had lived there all his life and had grown up with her daughter.

Meirav Shapira, Regev's cousin, who visited the home to console the family, described him as "quiet, sensitive and amazing."...

Outside the apartment building, a group of girls from the Bnei Akiva youth movement prayed for Regev's safe return.

Mordechai Bromberger, a neighbor who came to visit the family, said Regev would sit next to him at the local synagogue, where he prayed daily.

"He doesn't talk much, and he's very modest," Bromberger said of Regev, whom he has known for two years. "He doesn't mention his personal life or his business life. Eldad is a well-built and impressive guy. From my personal knowledge of him, he has great character."

Bromberger said Regev would always sit near the rabbi and liked to discuss biblical and religious issues.

The family "completely believes that he will come home safely," he said.

"I'm sure that wherever they [the kidnapped soldiers] are they believe in God, and they're hoping that not only Israel is going to take care of them but also God as well," he said.

Goldwasser's parents were in South Africa when they were notified of their son's kidnapping. His brother was also overseas, traveling in India.

Goldwasser, a student at Haifa's Technion, lives with his wife in the Haifa suburb of Nesher.

By the way, here's how Aljazeera reported the story on July 12:

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday during clashes with the Israeli army across the Lebanese-Israeli border, BBC reported....

Lebanese security officials said Israeli aircrafts bombed roads, bridges and Hezbollah posts in southern Lebanon, killing at least one Hezbollah fighter, two Lebanese civilians and one soldier.

Reports say more than seven Israeli soldiers were killed and eight wounded in the heaviest cross-border fighting since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon six years ago....

Hezbollah announced the capture of the Israeli troops on its television channel, al-Manar, saying that they want to exchange them with all Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons.

"Fulfilling its pledge to liberate the (Arab) prisoners and detainees, the Islamic Resistance ... captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine," Hezbollah said in a statement, adding that the “two captives were transferred to a safe place.”

The chief news editor of Hezbollah TV, Ibrahim Moussawi, told the BBC that the resistance movement would do everything it can to make the prisoners’ swap. "[That is] because Israelis still occupy parts of Lebanon, and still hold hostages in their prisons. Some of them have been there more than 25 years."

Meanwhile, local media reported that Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon to search for the two kidnapped soldiers.

The Israeli government said that it’s holding the Lebanese government responsible for the fate of the two soldiers, ruling out negotiations with Hezbollah on the prisoners' swap....

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said that Beirut isn't responsible for the Hezbollah operation. "The government was not aware of and does not take responsibility for, nor endorses what happened on the international border," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah Chief Hussein Nasrallah warned that any invasion of Lebanese territory would be met by force. "The prisoners in our hands will not return to Israel except through indirect negotiations and exchange of prisoners and peace," he said.

"If the Israelis are thinking about carrying out a military operation to recover them they are dreaming... We are not seeking escalation, we don't want to lead the region into war. However, if the Israeli enemy wants escalation, we are ready for the confrontation."

Nasrallah also said that the Hezbollah operation was the only "feasible path" to releasing detainees in Israeli jails, adding that the abduction has been planned for several months, long before the capture of Gilad Shalit in Gaza.

Hezbollah seized three Israeli troops in 2000, who died during the operation but their bodies were later exchanged for prisoners.

Meanwhile, Israeli Perspectives responds as follows to suggestions of negotiation:

[Gershon Baskin] is basically advocating that Israel capitulate to terrorist demands any time a soldier is kidnapped, a plane is hijacked, or when the Jewish State is threatened in some other way.

If I was a member of the government, I would explain to every soldier serving in the IDF; their parents; every citizen of the Jewish State - including Mr. Baskin - that the IDF does not and will not capitulate to the demands of our enemies. We will fight our enemies; fight them until they are no longer able to threaten the Jewish People and State; fight them with so much force and determination that our enemies will have absolutely no doubt that should they ever dare kidnap an IDF soldier, or threaten the Jewish State in any way, that they themselves, along with their loved ones are as good as dead - and this will be backed up with action, not empty words.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I believe that most of those living in the Jewish State and fighting in the IDF would prefer my answer, to that of Mr. Baskin's, which calls for capitulating to the demands of our enemies and brings our destruction that much closer.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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From commercials to commercials 

While I'm keeping this blog...um...pure, I've gotten interested in other people who have become famous for no reason whatsoever. But it turns out that those of us in the United States only knew part of the Rula Lenska story.

First, a recap of the part that we know:

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she became famous in the United States as well for her Alberto VO5 hair products commercials that began with a closeup of her stating: "I'm Rula Lenska.." People assumed this was a product endorsement by a celebrity whose name the advertisers expected them to know, but it later was revealed that this was a marketing ploy. It worked, and thus in the United States she became famous for pretending to be famous. Most people there...believed she was just a model. At any rate, the 'discovery' that she was nobody famous in the US led to the eventual demise of her commercial 'starring roles.'

It turns out, however, that she is an English actress with some considerable fame. Enough fame, in fact, that she ended up on a UK Celebrity Big Brother. On that show, she did some role-playing with another celebrity - George Galloway, Member of Parliament:

Cat's whiskers: George and Rula at play

Rula is with George in the living area. He is on the sofa and she is on the rug. Big Brother has suggested they try some animal role play exercises to warm up for the tasks ahead.

George: "Would you like me to be the cat?"

Rula: "Yes please."

[George proceeds to clamber down on to the rug beside Rula, and purrs throughout the exchange.]

Rula: "Here pussy, pussy, pussy, yes ... more tickles it's OK ... Oooh little pussy cat, there there pussy cat ..."

[George slowly licks his lips.]

Rula: "You stay there, I'll get you some milk, you like that don't you ..."

[Rula pretends to get some milk. George is now on all fours, lapping pretend cream from Rula's cupped hands.]

Rula: "Yes, good pussy cat ... that's right, delicious! Good girl, good girl ..."

[George licks his lips and moustache.]

Rula: "You've got cream all over your whiskers."

[She rubs his sideburns and says: "Good pussy cat." George nuzzles into her lap and starts purring. Rula strokes his head and behind his ears.]

Rula: "Oooh yes, has it been a trying day with all those people coming into the house, has it? You just like being alone with your mummy, don't you?"

Hmmm. Never saw Jane Curtin doing that. But even though Lenska was the third celebrity that was kicked off the show, the episode paid off for her:

[Lenska] has now secured a six-figure deal as the new face of a cat food company. Doubt we'll see her in the states, but if you're visiting London and you see Rula in a commercial, you'll know who she is (unlike in the 70s).

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Faulty Experiment Design, And An Attempted Correction 

I made a mistake when I designed my experiment on Saturday, July 22. That was the day in which I discussed the strategy which put Senator William Napoli's website at the top of Google searches for "sexist asshat."

If you read to the end of that post, you probably figured out what my experiment was going to be. In case you didn't, I was (and still am) trying to ensure that the Ontario Technoblog is the first-listed search item when you perform a Google search for the words "top technoweenie blog."

This morning, I realized the mistake that I made in my experiment: I used the term on the target page itself. Granted, after a couple of months (if I behave myself from now on) the term will scroll off the main page of this blog. Still, I've ruined the experiment by repeating the phrase in this blog, so any Google results are naturally faulty.



Superdang. (This won't work; Google says that as of this morning, this term has been used about 242 times.

Superduperdang. As of now, this is virgin territory. We'll try this one.

[UPDATE: No we won't. As Britney Spears famously said 7-8 months ago, "Oops, I did it again." This post was supposed to be in the Ontario Technoblog, not the Ontario Empoblog. The fact that I mistakenly put it in the Empoblog ruins the whole experiment again. And since the rss feeds have already picked it up, deleting it won't return everything to pristine-ness. Argh.]

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Maybe I am trendy after all 

I have often stated in this blog that I am not trendy. However, I realized this morning that simply by virtue of living in California, I am trendy by default.

To wit, the news recently reported that the average price of gasoline in the United States has risen above three dollars a gallon.

To which I say:

Boo hoo dang hoo.

I checked my mileage/gas log this morning, and discovered that (except for a trip to Arizona and Nevada in late June) I have been paying more than $3.00 a gallon for gas since April. On April 19, I paid $2.859 a gallon for gasoline here in southern California. The next week, on April 26, I paid $3.099 a gallon. Since then, all of the gas that I have purchased in California has been up above three bucks/gallon.

Unfortunately, we won't be trendy when the price goes back down, since California gas always costs more than average.

Wanna move out here anyway?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Will a fatwa be declared against Stephen Colbert? 

Loquacious Musings quotes Colbert:

And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

I never thought that any of the Daily Show correspondents could make it on their own, because their characters were so one-dimensional (unlike Stewart, who was able to portray a range of dimensions - witness his comments on September 11).

However, for whatever reason, the character played by Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report" has resonated with a lot of people. And what a character:

By his own admission, Stephen Colbert specializes in playing "high-status idiots," a niche he refined as a venerable correspondent on The Daily Show and perfects as the host of The Colbert Report, a Daily Show spin-off that adroitly satirizes Bill O'Reilly's bullying media-age demagoguery.

Colbert has gone to great lengths in his parody. Here's part of what he says about it:

Status is always ripe for satire, status is always good for comedy. And they have the highest possible status—and that's what we've tried to amplify with everything on the show. Everything on the show has my name on it, every bit of the set. One of the things I said to the set designer—who has done everything, I mean even Meet The Press, he does that level of news design—was "One of your inspirations should be [DaVinci's painting] The Last Supper." All the architecture of that room points at Jesus' head, the entire room is a halo, and he doesn't have a halo." And I said, "On the set, I'd like the lines of the set to converge on my head." And so if you look at the design, it all does, it all points at my head. And even radial lines on the floor, and on my podium, and watermarks in the images behind me, and all the vertices, are right behind my head. So there's a sort of sun-god burst quality about the set around me. And I love that. That's status.

We just try everything we can to pump up my status on the show. There are no televisions behind me, like the way [NBC Nightly News anchor] Brian Williams has, or even [Daily Show host] Jon [Stewart]. At certain angles, there are monitors behind Jon that have the world going on, which implies that that's where the news is, and that's where the information is, and the person in front of it is the conduit through which this information is given to you. But on my set, I said, "I don't want anything behind me, because I am the sun. It all comes from me. I'm not channeling anything. I am the source."...

Sometimes I feel like maybe we should cut back on the burlesque, and really try to do that in a more sincere fashion, and it would really make it stronger. I find the branding that goes on in real news at times funnier than what I do. It's just so shocking to hear descriptions of [Fox Report anchor] Shepard Smith, you know: "Changing the world! He gives 110 percent!" Our problem is, there's no level of hyperbole that can be associated with me that hasn't at least been approached by the real thing.

Colbert even gets in some digs at his former boss Jon Stewart:

AVC: Jon Stewart recently said he sees The Colbert Report as sort of a 30-minute Daily Show segment. Do you see it as an extension of The Daily Show?

SC: I sort of see The Daily Show as a 30-minute preamble. It's like an appetizer before you get to the main course.

Now all that we have to do is wait for him to rename Comedy Central "Colbert Central."

But let's shift gears and go back to Colbert's joke. Or was it?

I was born and raised in a Javanese family, fully Islamic way in Jakarta, Indonesia....I read the Quran regularly and memorised all of the prescribed ritualistic prayers. I tried to obey "Allah" as faithfully as prophet Muhammad did....

Many questions arose and I was not satisfied with my life as well as stumped by the economic crisis in Indonesia. I began to search for the true answers to the questions of life in my heart....

In the year 2000AD a tourist named "Sam" from Singapore visited the shop at the Jakarta International Airport where I worked....I was later introduced to him by my colleague and we began our courtship. Sam and I fell in love and he shared with me from the Bible: "Jesus said, `I am the way - and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6)....

I read that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23), but I did not know what it meant....When [Sam] told me that God demonstrated His love by coming in the person of Jesus Christ to give His life on the cross for our sins, I was amazed. I had never heard anything like that before. It was wonderful, even overwhelming, to think that God is like that and that by trusting in Jesus Christ one could have all of his sins forgiven.

However, I should mention that I found many more web pages along the lines of "Jesus led me to Islam." Here's an example:

My name is Sharon. I'm American & live in Texas. When I was a child, I was taught to worship God at the appropriate times- Christmas, Easter, & Need Help Day. We went to church but we weren't crazy enough to let that affect our lifestyle or anything. After all people who base their lives around God are annoying & need therapy right?

It's interesting to note that her family was practicing a surface Christianity. No wonder Sharon later started searching.

I needed to do something remarkable to give my life purpose & then everyone would remember me. I had trouble motivating myself when I realized I cared very little what others thought of me. I decided to eat ,drink & be merry because I did not have a clue. I had dedicated myself to thrills & merriment AND I WAS GOOD AT IT. My parents declared it Need Help Day and began to pull out their only defence- the Bible. I decided it was time to be on my own my parents did not understand my right to party & they were so boring....

They had a wonderful surprise planned for me- a Christian Reform school just for me! I was soon packed, shipped and on my way. I arrived at the door of this home for wayward girls & was led into an office to meet the evangelist that ran the ministry that ran the home." What's your name ?'' ,he said as he extended a friendly hand shake. I told him my name & shook his hand. Then, he managed to surprise me by biting my thumb, " Don,t you give me that HIPPY handshake! We'll soon run the devil out of you.!"

Now Sharon encountered loveless Christianity. I'm sure that helped a lot.

Amazingly enough, I am very grateful for all of these events because this was the beginning of my search for the true church of Jesus having painfully become aware that this was definitely not it.

Incidentally, Sharon means the word "painfully" quite literally.

While still at the school, she asked Jesus to come into her heart, but the school apparently never got around to explaining the "one God - three persons" theology:


I was finally released from the home back to the loving home of my family. They were eating pig meat & it bothered me.

Again another failure of the Christian reform school. Did the students ever study Acts? Galatians? Apparently not. Sharon received a wonderful dose of Law without Gospel. She then questions the Bible.

The modern day Bible was collected and binded together in the 16th century.

It was supervised by King James who had control of the church at that time. Books of the Bible we have today are books which agreed with the interpretation of the scholars of a particular school of thought. Thechapters they did not feel expressed their point of view were not included in the Bible and called fraudulent. The average man never got a look at those chapters because the matters of the heart were decided for him by the church council which was funtioning under the political wheel of the government.

While I'll agree that there were church councils that settled the books of the Bible, these discussions (with the exception of the questions about the Apocrypha) took place long before the 17th century (not the 16th century; James did not ascend to the English throne until 1603).

Continued here.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Clearing My Mind 

Yes, MySpace is down. I wrote about it at the top technoweenie blog, but my writing didn't resurrect MySpace. So now I'm looking at writings on Interex, a pinheaded twit, and another example of inappropriate use of the word "fascist".

Pinheaded twit. I like it. Really. Sounds better than technoweenie.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Hayley McQueen in the Ontario Empoblog 

Hayley McQueen has been mentioned in passing several times in the Ontario Empoblog, but these three posts are probably the most significant:


In England, it appears that the daughters of sports stars don't become boxers or whatever - they become newscasters (or presenters or whatever they call them over there)....Hayley didn't join Manchester United, but she didn't fall straight into presenting. She has at least one production credit, as producer of something called the Roary Roadshow Summer Special from Boro TV.

While Blogpatrol has been iffy, it turns out that this blog has become one of the major sources of information about Hayley McQueen. (Korpi schmorpi, I guess.) In fact, a Digital Spy thread prominently mentioned a post in this blog....Gordon McQueen actually played much of his career at Leeds before moving to Manchester United. Leeds now regards him as a traitor. And apparently dad has a Sky Sports presence also.

[quoting Hayley McQueen] "The first World Cup I actually remember was 1990, before then I was too young to even realise the importance of it....I wasn't even born in the days when Scotland were a half decent team but I'm aware of the importance of Argentina 78, but there were two extremes for our family in that tournament. My Dad damaged his ligaments just 2 weeks before the team were due to travel to Argentina and was devastated. Like Rooney, he travelled with the team in the hope he was going to be fit for the latter stages but of course they never made it passed the group stages."

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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For God so loved only part of the world?!? (Or, who does God hate?) 

While commenting on the redbluechristian.com article ACLU SUES FOR ANTI-GAY GROUP, I ended up at Westboro Baptist Church's website - the famously named www.godhatesfags.com.

When viewing the main page of the site, I noticed that they had quoted John 3:16. Coincidentally, I had also referenced John 3:16 in my response at redbluechristian.com. However, they had a different take on the verse.

For the record, here's the verse:

John 3:16 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

a. Or his only begotten Son

Westboro Baptist's conclusion about this verse:


To support this interpretation, they reference some other verses:

John 13:1

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.[a]


a. John 13:1 Or he loved them to the last

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
John 17:9

9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Ephesians 5:25

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

So the question arises - Jesus clearly loved His people, but did He love those who did not accept Him?

There is nothing in Ephesians 5:25 or John 13:1 (and certainly not in John 3:16, which stated that God loved the world) that says that Jesus did not love those outside of the church. Just because He loved the church doesn't mean that he hated those outside the church.

So let's look at John 17:9, which states that Jesus is not praying for those His father did not give Him. Rather than look at one verse in isolation, let's look at the entire prayer from which Westboro excerpted this one verse:

John 17:6-19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

6"I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.


a. John 17:6 Greek your name; also in verse 26
b. John 17:17 Greek hagiazo (set apart for sacred use or make holy also in verse 19

So at this point Jesus was not praying for the unbelievers. But what else does Jesus say about the unbelievers and love?

Well, there's this passage from the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:43-48 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[b] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


a. Matthew 5:43 Lev. 19:18
b. Matthew 5:44 Some late manuscripts enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you

And then there's this preface to the story of the good Samaritan:

Matthew 22:36-39 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b]


a. Matthew 22:37 Deut. 6:5
b. Matthew 22:39 Lev. 19:18

Now let's look at all of the verses in the Gospels where Jesus tells us all the people who God hates:

But there are two verses elsewhere in the New Testament in which God talks about His hate. One (Revelation 2:6) can be discounted for our purposes, since God only talks about practices that He hates, not people. But let's look at these verses (note verse 13):

Romans 9:10-18 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger."[a] 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."[b]

14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."[c] 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."[d] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.


a. Romans 9:12 Gen. 25:23
b. Romans 9:13 Mal. 1:2,3
c. Romans 9:15 Exodus 33:19
d. Romans 9:17 Exodus 9:16

Specifically, Malachi 1:2-3 (which are partially quoted in Romans 9:13) says the following:

Malachi 1:2-3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

2 "I have loved you," says the LORD.
"But you ask, 'How have you loved us?'
"Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" the LORD says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals."

Here's what gotquestions.org says about this hate:

[C]onsidering the context, God loving Jacob and hating Esau has nothing to do with the human emotions of love and hate. It has everything to do with God choosing one man and his descendants and rejecting another man and his descendants. God choose Abraham out of all the men in the world. The Bible very well could say, “Abraham I loved, and every other man I hated.” God choose Abraham’s son Isaac instead of Abraham’s son Ishmael. The Bible very well could say, “Isaac I loved, and Ishmael I hated.” Romans chapter 9 makes it abundantly clear that loving Jacob and hating Esau was entirely related to which of them God chose. Hundreds of years after Jacob and Esau had died, the Israelites and Edomites became bitter enemies. The Edomites often aided Israel’s enemies in attacks on Israel. Esau’s descendants brought God’s curse on themselves. Genesis 27:29, “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

A.C. Smith mused on this:

The verb used for "hate" is quite clearly a verb of intense dislike or even attack, so we can NOT explain away this problem by a nuance of definition.

We might take this tactic: G-d doesn't hate "Esau" the person, but rather "Esau" the political system, i.e., the kingdom of Edom. This would leave the door open for G-d to love each individual person in that kingdom, while attacking the political entity.

We could also consider a surgically pin-pointed "hate", i.e., that G-d doesn't bear a long-standing hatred here, but rather at a specific time and place, and for a specific reason, He directed His hate, i.e., in concrete actions, toward Esau.

This use of "hate" parallels equally confusing and troubling uses of the same word in the New Testament. Is there hyperbolic tendency to use "hate" in ANE culture? Is this a Semitic linguistic trait? I don't know.

Enduring Word says the following:

How could God hate Esau? He didn’t hate Esau in the sense of cursing him or striking out against him. Indeed, Esau was a blessed man (Genesis 33:9, 36:1-43). Yet when God chose Jacob, He left Esau unchosen in regard to receiving the blessing given to Abraham.

i. In his commentary on Romans (where Paul quotes this Malachi passage in Romans 9:13) Leon Morris cites examples where hate clearly seems to mean something like “loved less” (Genesis 29:31-33, Deuteronomy 21:15, Matthew 6:24, Luke 14:26, John 12:25). Yet he agrees with Calvin’s idea that the real thought here is much more like “accepted” and “rejected” more than it is like our understanding of the terms “loved” and “hated.”

ii. Remember the reason why election is brought up here: not to exclude, but to comfort and reassure. “A woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob.’” (William Newell in his commentary on Romans)

iii. Malachi isn’t teaching double predestination. “Malachi is not speaking of the predestination of the one brother and reprobation of the other; he is contrasting the histories of the two peoples represented by them . . . Both nations sinned; both are punished; but Israel by God’s free mercy was forgiven and restored, while Edom was left in the misery which it had brought upon itself by its own iniquity.” (Pulpit)

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Andrew Raff and Mysterious Google-Blogger Behavior 

I just wrote a post about how Andrew Raff's temporary cancellation of his MySpace account, as documented in the WebProNews article MySpace Undeletes Ted Stevens Spoof (and at the PSHS-WVC Computer Science Unit blog) was probably not the result of some heavy-handed Murdoch control over MySpace.

And I even mentioned a blonde Fox News anchor parody, along with the top technoweenie blog.

But Blogger ate the post.

Maybe I should be paranoid...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

U.S. Constitution First (and Fourteenth) Amendment 

Good time for a reminder of the actual text of the first amendment to the U.S. constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And before we get all hung up on the word "Congress," here's Section 1 of the 14th amdnement (emphasis mine):

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Here's what usconstitution.net says about the link between these two amendments:

[The 14th Amendment] states that no State shall make any law abridging the rights of any of its citizens without due process of law. The 14th Amendment is important, but the first clause is the most important. Prior to the 14th, states were free to ignore the Bill of Rights; a series of Supreme Court rulings made it clear that the Bill was to apply to acts of the Federal Government only. With the establishment of the 14th, the Bill, or at least parts of it, is made to apply to state law, too....

In the 1900's and 1930's, [the Supreme Court] extended the clause to the protection of workers against state regulations, allowing national standards for work conditions and minimum wage to be set. The due process clause has been used to extend most Bill of Rights Amendments to some extent, and is the basis for the "Right to Privacy" extended in the in infamous Roe v Wade decision....

Note: some have tried to argue that because of the representation reduction clause and the implications on States' Rights, that the 14th Amendment is unconstitutional. However, since it is an amendment to the Constitution, it cannot possibly be unconstitutional. Some argue that it was passed in an unconstitutional way, which is an interesting and plausible argument. The fact remains, however, that it is a part of our Constitution, and deserves as much respect as any other part, unless it is at some point repealed.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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William Napoli and Pictures of Widely Praised Medical Procedures (with a passing reference to the top technoweenie blog) 

The top technoweenie blog includes a discussion of the William Napoli Googlebombing case from a technical perspective. In this post, I'll take a look at what he actually said (emphasis mine).

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Just three-quarters of a million people share a lot of space in South Dakota. They share a single area code and a small capital. But lawmakers in Pierre have put South Dakota in the vanguard of a renewed campaign to outlaw abortion.

STATE SEN. JULIE BARTLING (D): There is a movement across this country on the wishes to save and protect the lives of unborn children. As you know, Justice Roberts and Justice Alito were just favorably placed on that board. There is still another chance that President Bush will have to place another justice on that bench. I think it's time to pass House Bill 1215 and protect the lives of the unborn.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Citing what they see as a more receptive or antiabortion high court, lawmakers easily approved a sweeping ban on the procedure, one that declares that life begins at conception.

South Dakota's law makes it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion unless the mother's life is endangered. There are no exceptions for cases in which a mother's health may be threatened or cases in which the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

STATE SEN. BILL NAPOLI (R): You know, I we are really think we're pushing the envelope on that issue. I'm not sure that the Supreme Court is ready for us yet, but what's that old saying, "There's no time like the present"?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Veteran State Senator Bill Napoli strongly backed the new ban.

BILL NAPOLI: The most important part of this bill is that, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, states' rights are returned to us to decide what to do about abortion....

BILL NAPOLI: My calls have been running 3-1 in favor of this bill.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

In other words, a rape or incest that does not threaten the mother's life is not grounds for abortion, but if the mother's life is threatened, "physically and psychologically," then abortion is OK. Some abortion proponents would take issue with this concept, but the true red flag occurred because of Napoli's terminology: brutally raped, savaged, sodomized. And there was probably some objection to inclusion of the terms "virgin" and "religious," with the subliminal understanding that a brutal sodomization of an agnostic woman "with experience" would be OK.

This statement promtped Stephanie McMillan to draw a cartoon which included the line, "He's a Senator in South Dakota who believes women can't make our own decisions."

Mikhaela B. Reid explains the rationale behind the cartoon, in which a woman calls Napoli at his work and home numbers, asking for cooking tips:

If anti-abortion politicians are so sure they can tell women what to do with their bodies, why not make them deal with the rest of women’s decisions? That was the premise of political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan’s response to South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli’s comments that he could see an exception to the state’s near-total abortion ban for a raped and “brutalized” religious virgin, but not for “simple rape.”...

McMillan, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a “self syndicated” cartoonist: while she recently put out her first cartoon collection, Minimum Security, she says that her work is primarily published in magazines aimed at “radicals and dissenters.” But the “Call Bill” cartoon, published on her Web site, went viral with the help of supportive blogs and e-mails.

A more antiquated technique than Google bombing, but it did result in a number of phone calls to Napoli. Here's part of what McMillan said about the topic:

I’ve never had one of my cartoons go viral like this before. I’ve received hundreds of supportive and encouraging responses. They show me that the cartoon really tapped into a deep well of anger throughout society against attempts to ban abortion, and against Napoli in particular. His recent comments about rape are so offensive that many people are appalled that someone like him is attempting to control women’s lives.

I also received a few negative comments. One guy called me a bitch....

(How would you respond to his complaint that many of the phone calls he received were profane or obscene?)

After his creepy detailed description of rape, I suspect that his sensibilities are not very delicate—he can probably handle rough language. His righteous indignation sounds like a put-on.

What’s really obscene is his effort to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, even if they’re victims of rape or incest, even at the risk of their health, regardless of their desires or circumstances.

Well, to my knowledge Napoli didn't go to Harvard, but some Harvard students discussed ideas about abortion in the case of rape or incest (without distinguishing between non-brutal and brutal cases). Perhaps I should mention that these students were part of Harvard Right to Life:

In October, members of Harvard Right to Life (HRL) put up about 400 posters in student housing entitled "Women Deserve Better," one of which featuring a woman identified as "Candice." "I was raped and therefore 'justified' in my abortion, but it didn't change a thing," she said. "I suffered because I was led to believe that taking my child's life was okay. It was not, and I have been living with that for five years." The poster went on to give contact info for a local crisis pregnancy center, reminding readers that "there is help for unplanned pregnancies."

It was a message many people didn't want to hear. Within a few days half the posters had been torn down or defaced. A student quoted in the Harvard Crimson admitted tearing up one poster, complaining it was "coercive" and imposed on her "personal space." ("That's moral judgement I don't want to look at when I go into my room every day.") And though school officials at first spoke up for HRL's free-speech rights, after a few weeks of emotionally charged controversy — with some students claiming the posters committed "revictimization" by dredging up rape victims' memories — HRL ended up agreeing to submit future materials on the topic to Harvard's Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

Another thing that people don't want to see is aborted fetuses. Priests for Life has some views on that, which are cited in a "sample letter":

Letter 295

An abortion clinic director's letter last Tuesday blasted pro-lifers for passing out pictures of "stillbirths" outside her abortion mill.

First of all, where would these pro-lifers get stillborn babies to photograph? Stillborn babies would either be sent to a funeral home for embalming and burial, or they would be cremated in the hospital. There are, after all, legal and medical requirements to be met regarding stillbirths.

Additionally, if those dead babies are really stillborn children, not aborted children, how does the clinic director explain the wounds?

The best question, however, is this: If abortion is such a good thing that it should be a "fundamental constitutional right," why wouldn't those abortion photos be beautiful to her? Shouldn't they fill her with a sense of pride and satisfaction that the right thing is being done?

If abortions are a good thing, those photographs would be in abortion clinic ads. Planned Parenthood would distribute them door-to-door. The National Organization for Women would have posters of them in their offices.

If abortion isn't wrong, then there is no reason to oppose the photographs. If abortion isn't wrong, the photos should be used as evidence of what an enlightened and progressive society we are.

Of course, the reason pro-choice people are so disgusted by the photographs is that they show a reality they'd rather ignore: that abortion is killing babies, that it is brutal and violent, and that it is evil.

Which leaves me to wonder why pro-choicers condemn the pictures while applauding the reality.
Letter 296

Our mayor is calling for a ban on pictures of aborted babies being displayed in public. He claims that the pictures are a public nuisance.

Next time the mayor sees one of those dead-baby pictures, he ought to think. Those pictures show what abortionists do to babies right here in our city. If someone did the same thing to a dog, we'd be horrified.

The truth is, he and many other people don't want to be reminded that those pictures show a reality that happens every day. It is the height of hypocrisy to object to the pictures of dead babies, but not object to the dead babies.
Letter 297

This newspaper has been full of letters lately condemning the recent pro-life advertising insert. Most letters complain that the photographs of unborn babies are "misleading and emotional."

I'll let a pro-choicer respond:

In her recently released book, Naomi Wolf stated that "those photographs are in fact photographs of actual D&Cs; those footprints are in fact the footprints of a 10-week-old fetus; the pro-life slogan, 'Abortion stops a beating heart,' is incontrovertibly true. While images of violent fetal death work magnificently for pro-lifers as political polemic, the pictures are not polemical in themselves: they are biological facts. We know this." She also said, "How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the height of hypocrisy...And if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making the judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision."

In other words, if you can't take the reality--that abortion is chopping up a live baby--you have no business defending it.

If I were to state that the First Amendment supports the display of pictures of aborted fetuses, would that make me a sexist asshat? Well, there are defined sexist asshats in the administration of Western Washington University who are accused of tolerating hate speech.

Western Washington University student David Janus Zhang was so enraged by a “display showing pictures of aborted fetuses next to images of genocide” that he jumped over a fence and tried to destroy it....

[I]n response to the anti-abortion display, some students at Western Washington University are campaigning to ban so-called “hate speech” on campus. The “hate speech” in question appears to have consisted of the aborted fetus display itself....

Thankfully, the administration of Western Washington University doesn’t appear to want any part of this movement to censor controversial speech. As one administrator said:

“All I can do is explain what constitutes free speech,” Schuster said. “I’m not a lawyer, but I know based on Supreme Court decisions that it’s appropriate to have these dialogues on campus and we can’t restrict peoples’s ability to have them. We can set a time, place and manner although the entire campus is a free speech area.”

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Ah, maybe I'll post this...BEFORE ANYBODY ELSE DOES!!! 

Continuing on the "fired blogger" theme, I looked at Michael Hanscomb's MySpace profile for the first time. I was intrigued by one item in his entry about his high school:

Bartlett High School 1987-1991
Anchorage, Alaska
Graduated: 1991
Student status: Alumni
Degree: High School Diploma
Clubs: German Club, Theater, Yearbook, Apathy Club, Orchestra, Choir, Swing Choir (Bear-A-Tones)

I don't know about you, but "Apathy Club" hit me right between the eyes. Get an intelligent person in an apathy club, and what could happen? Well, Michael told us in his blog:

My junior year, I was part of the infamous Apathy Club. While initially formed by Royce and a couple others as an excuse to hang out after school and watch movies (Monty Python’s Holy Grail, Strange Brew, and other such classic fare), in a feat that called question to our name, we actually managed to collect more cans in the annual canned food drive than the German Club, who had never been beat before.

Which is probably why he was not a member in his senior year.

The Urban Dictionary includes a number of usage examples for "apathy club," but this one is probably my favorite:

I was going to start an apathy club, but then i.....yeah....

There is an apathy club blog. I need another character set to read it, but I don't feel like researching the whole issue.

And someone started an apathy club in college:

I was sitting in a student lounge...reading a booklet from the Campus Life office...it included descriptions of all the available extracurricular activities, campus groups, and so on...I turned the page and found a section titled “How to form your own University-recognized organization”...Turns out, all one needed to do was to submit a form at the Student Activities office.... I couldn’t resist..... I completed the form with my name, address, phone number, and campus mailbox address…..

As the name of the club, I selected, “Apathy Club”..... over the years, I would get mail or phone calls from people asking to join the club.... It was much fun…. why, I bet I easily had as many as 43 inquiries in some months, about how people could join the club.

I eventually sought election as the Student Body President.... in my remarks to the campus newspaper, under a question about previous campus activities, I indicated that I was President of the Apathy club....I could go on with the stories... we had pictures in the yearbook.... one year, it was an empty room.... the next year, it was a gigantic lecture hall with a single guy in the center, fast asleep.... We’d set up a table at Activity Fairs... and put nothing on the table, beyond the sign identifying the name of the group.....

One other university may or may not have had an apathy club.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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An Interesting Blogger Firing - The Christine Axsmith Case and the Future of Robust Intelligence Analysis 

I just wrote (twice) about yet another blogger firing, and now here I am again.

By way of a preface, some of you know that this is not the only blog that I manage. I may have also mentioned that one of my blogs will never be seen by most of the people who read the Ontario Empoblog. That is because this particular blog is behind a corporate firewall. On this corporate blog, I do not post my latest musings on Kiira Korpi or the true visible church or whatever; instead, this blog is used for a particular corporate purpose.

Christine Axsmith, an employee at B.A.E. Systems, also maintained a corporate blog. However, she didn't maintain it at B.A.E. Systems, because she was on assignment at another "firm." I won't tell you the name of the firm, but its initials are C.I.A.

Axsmith no longer works at the CIA, and no longer works for BAE:

Christine Axsmith...kept the “Covert Communications” blog on a top-secret computer network used by American intelligence agencies. Ms. Axsmith was fired on Monday after C.I.A. officials objected to a message that criticized the interrogation technique called “waterboarding”....

Ms. Axsmith, a computer security expert with a law degree, posted the message this month, shortly after the Bush administration decided to grant some protections of the Geneva Conventions to suspected terrorists in American custody. She said that her message began, “Waterboarding is torture, and torture is wrong.”...

“I wanted an in-house discussion,” Ms. Axsmith said in an interview on Thursday in her home in Washington. “Something where I would be educating people on the background of the Geneva Conventions.”

Instead, Ms. Axsmith was fired by her employer, B.A.E. Systems, which has an information technology contract with the C.I.A.

Ms. Axsmith said C.I.A. officials had confronted her and told her that the agency’s senior leadership was angry about the blog, which was housed on Intelink, the classified server maintained by the American intelligence community to aid communication among its employees....

A spokesman for B.A.E. Systems, Bob Hastings, said privacy issues prohibited him from commenting on Ms. Axsmith’s firing. But Mr. Hastings said that company policy prohibited employees from using computers for non-official purposes.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the blogs were intended to “encourage collaboration” on business issues but that postings “should relate directly to the official business of the author and readers of the Web site.”...

Well, shouldn't CIA people be allowed to discuss CIA business? Read on (emphasis mine):

And, she said that she believed that the classified blogs could be a critical tool to allow C.I.A. employees — who are often prohibited from discussing their work even with other agency officials — to vent frustrations....

This, in my view, is a very important point. As I said, I maintain a corporate blog that discusses the industry in which I work. All of the information that is posted in the blog is generally available to everyone, in the form of press releases, articles, and the like. However, in the course of my employment, I come across information that is not generally available; because of the rules by which the blog is set up, this information does not make it into the blog.

On the other hand, Axsmith was not discussing any type of secret information; she was expressing her views on the products offered by another division of the company. I compare it to working for Michael Hanscom's former employer Microsoft; if I worked in the operating systems group, would I be fired for offering internal comments about deficiencies in the Xbox? I think not, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, Axsmith is still blogging, because she didn't confine herself to one blog either:

Though stripped of her security clearance, Ms. Axsmith still maintains her public, unclassified blog: econo-girl.blogspot.com. On that Web site on Friday, there were several messages supporting her, including postings from anonymous intelligence officials who said that they would miss her “Covert Communications” blog.

Ms. Axsmith acknowledges that the posting that got her fired was deliberately provocative, and she said that if she had another chance she might have toned down the language.

“I guess I’m just too much of a big mouth for that organization,” she said.

Now that is true in any organization - cross a particular line, and you're out.

Let's look at Econo-Girl's rationale:

[A] purpose of the blog post was to start a dialog on interogation techniques with the people who are asked to do the interogating. It was to be a public education campaign, of sorts.

And a guard against groupthink. Porter Goss opposes groupthink:

Little was asked or said about intelligence reform at the confirmation hearings. Goss emphasized that we are at war, that our enemies are committed to destroying our way of life, and that we won the cold war through pre-emptive action. He characterized the CIA as not being aggressive enough, and CIA analysis as "groupthink." He disagreed with the idea of separating the analysis and operations functions which currently reside in the CIA...

But what does this mean?

Goss' mission has been twofold: to stop the continuous stream of leaks to the press by disgruntled CIA employees, and to encourage CIA employees to support the President and his policies. According to the press leaks, this has made Porter Goss an extremely unpopular director.

In effect, we're talking about a top-down strategy in which the analysts within the CIA, rather than analyzing the various ramifications of different alternatives for action, are supposed to "analyze" the latest pronouncements from Dubya and act accordingly. So how long will the CIA maintain that their web page Keeping An Open Mind is valuable? Emphasis mine, because I'm emphasizing the whole danged thing:

Major intelligence failures are usually caused by failures of analysis, not failures of collection. Relevant information is discounted, misinterpreted, ignored, rejected, or overlooked because it fails to fit a prevailing mental model or mind-set. The "signals" are lost in the "noise." How can we ensure that analysts remain open to new experience and recognize when long-held views or conventional wisdom need to be revised in response to a changing world?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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