Opinions, Etc: 03.17.04


Ah, if only I was home right now, where the river would be green and everyone could consider themselves an insider politician for a day. But I’m stuck here for now, five hundred fifty miles away, mooning over lost opportunities. And what are we going to do for sports entertainment now that the Iditarod is over? I guess I’ll just have to take my Irish temper out on some other subjects. But let’s start out with the non-angry part…


Memo to Haley: I’d have the same problem with Othello if Iago ended up f*cking Desdemona in Act III. They built up a large backstory of motivation for this, especially Christian, and then pissed it all away by using the pat climax of Trish falling for Christian. The setup deserved something better and more interesting.

Ashley still doesn’t quite have me down yet parody-wise. Where were the lines about me bitching that I was in Noo Yawk, and how I wouldn’t be there if Wids wasn’t paying for it?

We’ve put a first and fourth-round tender on Gamble.

Brown is back, and still on that retro kick. Cool by me.

Ortega is in a time crunch, so go help him out.

Of course I got it, Misha. But Logopolis references are too easy for me. Besides, you know me, give the readers a chance first. I think it was the screwed-up formatting on the end that yucked it up. Also, you have to remember the server problems last week.

Katz talks about bands that make me feel older than I actually am.

Tango Charlie came a lot closer to the truth about Vin Diesel and Paul Walker than he thought, if the gossipmongers are correct.

Erhardt has a crisis, but it’s not on Earth nor is it infinite, so you can disregard it and just enjoy him.

And, of course, BAXL…Williams? Oh, well, there goes my extra-zonal pimp for this week. By the way, I’ve heard of free expansion packs for games. It all depends how you define “free expansion packs”. Links Corner did one for Links 2003 a number of months ago that included new golfer animations, MOP modes, and a number of other items. A lot of the bigger NWN and Morrowind user-created modules are essentially expansion packs (new tilesets, new items, new quests, etc.). Maxis packaged a lot of Sims add-ons for free download that amount to a mini-expansion. Dark Side of the Sword Coast was a brilliant user-created expansion for Baldur’s Gate and has a de facto endorsement from Bioware. And let us not forget Counterstrike and Team Fortress, essentially free expansion packs for the Greatest Fucking Game Of All Time, Period that ended up getting bought out by Valve and packaged as non-free expansion packs. And staffers are immune from YAM. You’d know that if you hung around the Wrestling Zone a little more.


Okay, I am not going to be making light of the horrid situation in Madrid last week. Yes, it was a senseless tragedy. What I am going to make light of, and criticize, is the media’s reaction to the situation and how they missed the Fucking Obvious in the quest for getting a “sexy” story, especially from the American point of view.

Let’s go back to Thursday, when the attacks happened. The moment that the news came out, the first name on everyone’s list as per the perpetrators was ETA. Well, sure, why not? After all, it was Spain, and every terror attack that happens in Spain has to be ETA’s fault. Except that to anyone who knows about terrorism in Europe, it obviously wasn’t ETA. This wasn’t their style. They’re rather…well, genteel for terrorists. They actually warn people beforehand and stuff like that.

There’s a good comparison to be made here, and that’s to Oklahoma City. I remember distinctly that after the bombing, everyone in the US immediately blamed anyone and anything Arab. Some Arabs travelling at the time were even detained for questioning. No one suspected in the immediate wake of the bombing that it was homegrown right-wing fruit-loops. In other words, it was the exact opposite of the situation in Spain. In Spain, the homegrown terrorists got blamed when it was the responsibility of outsiders. Or so we think. The ETA line is still being spread around by intelligence people due to the political aspect that has intertwined itself into the bombings since Sunday. I’ll be providing a quote a little later from a US intelligence source given to cnn.com because it fits in with the next observation.

It quickly came out that it was, indeed, outsiders who performed the deed. And it was from here that the sexy side of the story came out, especially for the American media. The name of the Boogeyman was brought into play: “al-Qaeda”. “The bombers had links to al-Qaeda!” was screamed far and wide, to the joy of the Junta. You think they don’t have a vested interest in bringing this card into play again considering the poll numbers showing Kerry in a more-than-the-margin-of-error lead? I am not going to go into the black-helicopter realm of suggesting that the Junta was responsible for the bombings (other than in an abstract sense of guilt in regard to wider world affairs; I’ve said the same thing about September 11th), but you have to admit that it helps. And they’re still making certain that the al-Qaeda story’s being spread, along with some kind of nebulous link to ETA in order to promote the bullshit about a “unified terror movement”.

Here’s that quote from a cnn.com story:

The U.S. intelligence community is considering the possibility the bombings may have been carried out by a number of people with various ties to terrorist groups, the senior administration official said, adding theories include the following possibilities:

Islamic fundamentalists with support from ETA;

Islamic fundamentalists with close ties to al Qaeda, although not necessarily “card-carrying members of al Qaeda”; or,

Members of ETA or al Qaeda.

The most likely answer here is #2, of course. I’ll explain the “close ties” later. #3 is wishful thinking on the part of US intelligence analysts, especially when it comes to the latter of the two. #1 is complete nonsense, of course. The ETA are Catholic with very specific set goals in regard to the establishment of a Basque homeland. Hell, when the Moors dominated Spain, they didn’t get as far as Basque country, so, historically, the Basques have had nothing to do with anything Muslim, and they have no need to f*ck with religious fanatics. ETA is the IRA with better beaches and a slightly less number of world-class golf courses.

Getting back to our timeline, the bombings had a major effect. According to poll numbers, the right-wing government of Spain was hanging on by a thin margin in advance of elections last Sunday. The bombings may (note, MAY) have tilted the undecideds into the other column. Goodbye, Prime Minister Aznar. Hello, Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero. First of all, it’s great to see the Socialists back in power. They did a lot of great things for Spain while they were the ruling party under Felipe Gonzales (he was Bill Clinton and Tony Blair before either of them). And, let’s face it, any departure of any right-wing government is a good thing. But this was the first time in a long time that a government of an EU and NATO country was brought down by FUD.* That always leaves a bad taste. Yeah, it’s good to win an election, but I prefer that it be won on substantive issues.

* – Personally, I’d say that the last time it happened was 1974, when Willy Brandt was forced to resign as West German Chancellor following the revelation that his personal assistant Guenter Guillaume was a spy for East German intelligence. Big f*ckin’ deal. In 1974, you couldn’t swing a dead cat around Bonn without hitting an East German intelligence agent. Besides, the Russians were pissed at Brandt because 1) he was creating a non-confrontational relationship with East Germany and 2) he wasn’t intimidated by the threat of the KGB revealing that Brandt had passed the Russians intelligence during the war, when Brandt was in exile in Sweden (he’d passed the same intelligence on to the British; anything to defeat Hitler). He could have rode it out.

Of course, Rodriguez Zapatero then decided to f*ck everything up and drive this whole argument into the Twilight Zone. Yes, his party was against the war. Yes, his party was against being part of the Force of Occupation. They’d made that abundantly clear during the campaign, and, yes, he got a lot of votes out of that position considering that 90% of the people didn’t want Spanish troops in Iraq. However, by announcing during his victory speech that he was going to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq at the first opportunity, he created a linkage in the minds of the press between the move and the now-connected-to-al-Qaeda bombings. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

As that speech was being digested by the world media, the Spanish police were announcing that they’d captured suspects. And, gee, they were Moroccan Muslims. And, gee, one of them was caught by the Basque police (let’s extend that conspiracy argument while we’re at it). And, hey, look, there might be a connection to the suicide bombings in Casablanca last year. And here is where a masterpiece of Six Degrees was constructed that would impress even Fleabag. The suspect in the Madrid bombings, Jamal Zougam, once was a roommate of a guy named Abdelaziz Benyaich. He’s a suspect in the Casablanca bombings. Benyaich was once a roommate of another guy named David Courtailler. Courtallier once shared an apartment in London with…yep, you guessed it, Zacarias Moussaoui, the only guy the US has put on trial for September 11th. The Weakest Link is, of course, Courtallier, but they’ve been able to connect him to Richard Reid, the Shoe-Bomber, thus tying up all loose ends nicely. The question is, does cohabitation imply guilt? Not necessarily. Expect the Junta to try to tie this whole situation into the Gay Marriage question ASAP.

(Admittedly, there is a two-degree-of-separation link to be made from Zougam to Mohammed Atta, but it’s more tenuous.)

But the fact that Moroccans were involved changes everything, and here’s where the press have fumbled, big-time. They’re all flapping their gums and yapping “al-Qaeda” until their teeth fall out. Why hasn’t anyone concentrated on other motivations for why the Madrid and Casablanca bombings were done? Perhaps the entire reason for the bombings is less geopolitical and more local.

Relations between Spain and Morocco have been miserable ever since Morocco gained independence from France. The issues have remained remarkably stable over the years. Morocco has played Mexico to Spain’s US in terms of drugs and illegal immigration, which has always caused a strain. However, it’s been territorial disputes that have cramped the neighbors-separated-by-Gibraltar since the principles were Franco and King Hassan. The biggest problem has been the territory formerly known as the Spanish Sahara, directly south of Morocco. The territory was in dispute for years between Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania until shortly after Franco’s death. The Spanish pulled out, Mauritania got the lower third of the territory, and Morocco got the upper two-thirds (Morocco got the lower third through a forced annexation in 1979). Of course, nothing can go smoothly. An independence movement started in the Moroccan-claimed territory that is still going on to this day, nearly thirty years later. Morocco has pulled bits from the Israeli Handbook On Claimed Territory by introducing settlers into the region and trying to destabilize international support for the independence movement, including cancelling UN-requested referenda on the subject. Morocco is firmly convinced that Spain is solidly backing the indie-fighters, appealing to the cultural ties stemming from colonial occupation.

If that wasn’t enough, two years ago, the countries almost went to war over more disputed territory, a group of islands just off the Moroccan coast that are claimed by Spain. It got nasty. Morocco sent soldiers to one of the islands, Spain sent marines to drive the soldiers off. Please note that the island in question is uninhabited. This little event was the culmination of some other minor diplomatic differences between Spain and Morocco, including bitching about Spain drilling for oil in disputed waters between Morocco and the Canary Islands and Morocco nixing a treaty with the EU about fishing in its waters that did damage to the Spanish pescado industry. Full diplomatic relations between the two countries still haven’t been reestablished.

This explains, quite nicely, why Moroccans would bomb a target in Spain, much more so than the situation in Iraq. But why the bombings in Casablanca, to which the Madrid bombings are tethered to? Again, there’s a simple explanation that doesn’t deal with geopolitics. Morocco is a secular constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, drawing its governmental structure from France, Britain, and the US. For a Muslim country, they are incredibly progressive in relation to dealings with non-Muslim countries and the rights of women* (they even guarantee seats in the legislature to women and there are women Cabinet ministers). And King Mohammed does it all in the name of his namesake and direct ancestor. How much would that piss off a fundamentalist group with very different views of what the Prophet said in the name of Allah? Enough to suicide-bomb a populace? These days, and in that part of the world, yes.

So where does al-Qaeda come into play? That’s simple. All terrorist groups need funding and training. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided that the US-Israel relationship was too close and too powerful to not take a contrary stand. They began overtly aiding Arab governments in order to provide a counterweight. Of course, nothing in the Soviet Union was ever done on one level. The KGB, in a joint effort with other Warsaw Pact intelligence agencies, decided to support terrorist movements in the Middle East by providing equipment and training (the Czechs were very welcome hosts to members of the PLO).** After the Sovs started to f*ck around in Afghanistan, that relationship fell apart quickly. The Palestinians were pissed because the Sovs invaded a Muslim country, and the Russians finally realized, “Hey, these guys are f*cking nuts.” So the PLO and other groups, including some governments like Yemen and Syria, took what they learned and set up their own schools, training a new generation to take up jihad. But then Arafat got a wild hair up his ass and started to spout stuff about Peace and Coexistence, and Hafez Assad and his kid decided to be Michael Corleone and try to get out. So where would the terrorists go for help when they needed it? Well, how about to some twisted Saudi with more money than he knew what to do with and a bent toward radical Islam? In the early 90s, al-Qaeda was taking good Muslims from every place they could, like Chechnya, and turning them into bombers. So if you were a fundamentalist Moroccan upset about the fact that your government refused to implement Sharia and allowed women to actually have some power, among other things, where would you turn for assistance? To put it in terms any American can understand, the bombers were Barry Bonds, while al-Qaeda was BALCO.

In other words, the tragedy of Madrid happened because it was a local political issue, not anything with geopolitical implications. Don’t let the press try to tell you otherwise, and don’t let your paranoia get to you. You should only be afraid if someone really is after you.

* – A women’s rights bill pimped under the banner of “family rights” (talk about Western influences) was put into law after the Casablanca bombings last year. Good for you, King Mo. That’s giving a nice “f*ck you” to the fundies.

** – It wasn’t only the Middle East either. The KGB did arms drops to the more radical members of the Provisional IRA. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “The Red Green Show”.


Just to show you how the press inflates nothing into something, it’s now apparent that after Madrid, any Muslim who wants to get attention just has to send a threatening letter to someone important over a minor issue. For instance, a letter sent to the Prime Minister of France that threatens violence because of a new French law. Here’s some excerpts from cnn.com’s story:

French police have opened an investigation after a Paris newspaper received a letter from a Muslim group threatening spectacular attacks that would make “blood run to (its) borders.”

The letter, from a previously unknown group calling itself the “Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise,” said it planned to take action after Muslim girls were banned from wearing headscarves in schools.

Okay, you already know this is bullshit. First of all, nobody’s that touchy. Second, France has a long-standing reputation for attempting assimilation by legislation, and it just so happens that its biggest minority group is Algerians and other Francophone Muslims, so they tend to feel the impact of these laws moreso than other groups. The thing is, by and large, the Muslim community in France has been very accepting of assimilation, and many scholars feel that if Islam is to be modernized in order to create an atmosphere of mutual cooperation with the West, that modernization will start in France. Laws like this are business as usual.

“You have let loose on yourself a river of hate and ignorance, not only toward Muslims but toward Islam itself,” the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said. “We will plunge France into terror and remorse, and we will make blood run to your borders.”

The greater the amount of asinine hyperbole, the less chance of there being anything behind it. Any wrestling fan knows this.

Describing France as a country of “wine, pigs, loose morals and nudity,” the group said it planned to use attack techniques imported from Gaza and Chechnya that “have never been used in the West until now.”

Okay, I’m not arguing three of those points, but “pigs” in what sense? “Pigs” as in hogs (they’re unclean to Muslims as they are to Jews), or “pigs” as in “disgusting people with low levels of personal hygeine who won’t curb their dogs”? If it’s the latter, I’ll agree. I was on the Metro on a hot August day with no windows open in the car once. And if they target Atarigrames and the goose-stepper Bruno Bonnell, I, for once, will contribute the cost of another Neverwinter Nights expansion pack.

The group said it was waiting for three signs before moving forward: the headscarf vote; a “clear and explicit” signal from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command; and a third signal it cannot reveal.

My bet is on Return of the King winning Best Picture. There’s got to be something in the Qu’ran about Hobbits.

Last month, al-Zawahiri released an audiotape in which he criticized France for banning headscarves in schools, saying it is: “Another proof of the crusaders’ hatred toward Muslims.”

Come on, that was nine hundred years ago. Let go already.

“When you are France, the land of freedom, you are free to get naked but you are not free to be decent and cover yourself up,” he said.

Look, just because Arabs have decent tans doesn’t mean that there are people who don’t have to work on theirs. Do you know how stupid bathing suit lines make us look? We need to get naked. Besides, Sharia doesn’t apply to everyone covering themselves up, just women. If I was complaining on this issue, I’d go after the old German men who tend to gravitate to nude beaches in Europe like moths to a lightbulb. Dear God, please, cover up.

Yeah, the French are taking it seriously, but they’re virtually the only ones.


So the Ohio freeway shooting suspect has been caught. In Vegas, of all places. Guess that he felt that he was safe if he decided to continue his antics there, because whatever you do in Vegas stays there.

Let’s see, the guy is 28 years old, lives with his mother…anybody else getting the vibe that he’s a wrestling fan? Or that someone’s going to look at his computer and find out he’s running Debian? No matter what, the guy’s a nerd. That strikes a vibe in a lot of us. This is definitely a “but for the grace of God” thing. What scares me more is that he looks a lot like Brian Urlacher, only with a little more hair.

There is one line, though, that cnn.com put into its report that I must question:

He also said the suspect is considered “suicidal with homicidal tendencies,” although he would not say how authorities came to that conclusion.

I lived in Ohio for a year. If anything can drive someone to being suicidal with homocidal tendences, it’s living in Ohio.

Oh, enough of that. On to the next topic…


The Priz! is back and decides to ask this:

I have a question for you: Ralph Nader and Jesse Ventura – political combination from Hell, Independent Party that finally takes the White House, or what?

Political Combination From Hell. That ticket would officially mark the end of Civilization As We Know It. The American body politic has absorbed a great many humiliations (like Florida 2000), but them running together would point out to the entire world that we’re a complete joke. Jesse and Ah-nuld (and the Senile Old Fuck) as governors didn’t hurt us Americans too badly, because there really wasn’t a national stage involved. But that? God, no.

Memo to Regular Cabbageboy316: I have UK going to the Final Four (beating Gonzaga for the berth), and I also have Louisville beating Xavier before getting nailed by Mississippi State (they’ll get it together for one game). So there’s hope.

Semi-Regular Ned Moraghan, a good person to pimp on this day, submits this comment following up from my musing last week on John McCain:

I would like to see McCain run for VP. I am a conservative and with the exception of illegal immigration I agree with McCain on most issues. I agreed more with Bush until he started spending like LBJ and his immigrant amnesty program. I don’t care much for Kerry but I realize he can’t do to much damage since the is a Republican house and Senate. Maybe with the split houses there will be a cutback on spending. We both know there won’t be any tax increases coming through Congress so no worries there. My concern is with national defense. America was attacked several times under Clinton and he didn’t do much. That’s my major concern with Kerry.

You’re spouting Republican canards, Ned, when it comes to spending, taxes, and defense. Remember, we got into this deficit mess because of a Republican jacking up defense spending to unbelievable levels for no real good reason. Clinton cut defense spending, which assisted in balancing the budget tremendously, and didn’t need to raise taxes to supply the rest of the gap. That was wiped out by Dubbaya doing the same thing the Senile Old Fuck did.

Clinton reacted properly to the gnat-bites that were WTC 1993 and the USS Cole (I do, however, criticize him for Bosnia and Somalia). There’s nothing much that you can do against terrorists, as we’ve all found out, and a traditional armed force isn’t appropriate for dealing with such threats. Defense spending needs to be cut to pre-Dubbaya levels and a refocus on the role of the armed forces performed. Terrorism requires a different approach, which the military establishment isn’t willing to take because of their hide-bound mentality. So get off the defense kick.

As for the other issues you mentioned, I’ve made my stand on illegal immigration, a flat tax, and Iraq very clear in the past, and I think that Gay Marriage is irrelevant, just another smokescreen issue emanating from the burning crosses of the Religious Reich.

Jason MIS also contributes to the politics side of things (and I apologize for insulting UIC, but as a grad of that institution, you do realize that as a U of C grad, I have the right to say such things):

You say you’re for free trade and hate tariffs. What would you do to stop jobs from going overseas? We can:

1) Ban certain imports to force people to buy American 2) Use tariffs to encourage buying American 3) Use our influence to stop sweatshop labor worldwide (highly impractical in terms of how long it would take, if it’s even possible) so it isn’t cheaper for corporations to leave 4) Your suggestion here

Would corporate tax breaks be offset by the income tax paid by the workers who still have jobs here and the money they pump into the economy? With little to analyze in the presidential race right now, this would be a good topic for next week’s Black column.

Jason, with the industry you work in, you have a lot to fear about companies shipping jobs off to India or Russia. I don’t, so I haven’t thought about it too much. High tech is going the same route as manufacturing, unfortunately. A couple decades ago, people were freaking out about manufacturing jobs heading overseas, and were wondering what could replace it. The answer to that was high tech. I think that another answer in another new industry will fill the void if nothing is done. I don’t think tax breaks would work, either. There’s no amount of corporate welfare that could compensate for the amounts that companies gain by farming out jobs overseas. So, let the market have its way. America is not short of creative people who will fill the gap left. Besides, we’re also assisting the world economy by helping other nations advance, and the economy has to be thought of in global terms. Of course, macroeconomics doesn’t help feed your family, so I can understand the trepidation.

Of course, to counter this (or maybe to enhance it), Scott Granell wrote me a great line that links into this nicely:

How are Disney and the WWE linked?

They both illustrate the ugly truth Republicans want to hide, that market forces alone are not sufficient to prevent executives from doing some stupid and self-destructive things in the name of ego. Of course, in both cases, who pays the bill?

We all do, either now or in the future.

And I’ll leave it at that for this week. Just want to tell Big Daddy that the column idea you gave me sounds great, and you can use some of that insomniac 2AM feeding time you’re experiencing again to do it. Until next week, let’s hope you’re prepared.