PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.
December 2, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 48
Table of Contents:
Thanksgiving in Oregon
This was the biggest production we've had for Thanksgiving in a decade. My parents, both of their sons, and all four of their grandchildren, along with my niece Stephanie's fiancé and his sister. In my parents' small house, it was an overload and then some.
And talk about busy! Vicki and I ducked down to Gleneden Beach to spend two days at our favorite beach rental, across the street from Salishan. Alas, the Salishan dining room is only open Friday and Saturday nights now--another victim of the plummeting tourist economy in the post 9/11-world. Also, our favorite little restaurant, Chez Jeanette, went out of business and was converted into a New Age Crystal store. Lovely store, nice owners, but it isn't an intimate restaurant any more and we missed that. We did discover the Side Door Cafe on the Gleneden Beach Loop, and we can recommend it wholeheartedly, should you find yourself in greater Lincoln City, Oregon.
Then to Portland for Thanksgiving with Marlow and Rae, their cousins Paul and Stephanie, and my folks. Vicki and I stayed at Portland's White House, one of the finest bed and breakfast hotels it has ever been our privilege to inhabit; this year we got the Chauffeur's Quarters, complete with king-size bad. Sadly, the crush of family business kept us from visiting Eddie Frager, or, for that matter, Dr. Swenson (my high school radio station supervisor) or Mrs. Taylor (my second and fourth grade teacher). Family first!
Love that Jon Carroll:
Frank talk about kids, sex and condoms
Let us think all the way back to the Clinton administration, when these same conservative pundits predicted that any minute now the nation would rise up in disgust at a president who had sex with an intern and then lied about it.
And the nation kept failing to rise up. The nation, which is made up mostly of adults, just didn't have enough of those precious reserves of hypocrisy and self-righteousness to care much one way or the other.
Richard Dalton sent me a poem that came to him by way of Martin Elton, an Englishman who splits hi time between the U.S. and Israel. Elton found it in Unspeakable Verse (Griffin Productions Ltd., 1996), but it's been on my journalism quote page for years:
[Note: this is a variation on a piece of doggerel first recited to me by Donald. J. Sterling Jr., editor of The Oregon Journal:
You cannot hope to bribe or twist
--Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940), British poet, author. "Over the Fire," bk. 1, The Uncelestial City (1930).]
The Week In Politics
Some more great political analysis came in over the transom this week. Sorry I didn't have time to flesh out the links; if you're interested, most of you know how to use the Internet.
Hey, once again, it was posting this linkless or not at all, so I chose linkless.
According to The New York Times (p. A1, "9/11 Report Says Saudi Arabia Links Went Unexamined" by David Johnston and James Risen, Saturday, November 23, 2002) (and various other allegedly journalistic outlets) the joint Congressional committee (mainly the negligent Congressional intelligence committees) inquiring into the 9/11/01 events has determined that the FBI failed to inquire seriously into clear evidence that the government of Saudi Arabia sent money to at least two (2) of the hijackers (the money trail is apparently Saudi Arabia to the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. to a friend of the hijackers in San Diego to the hijackers; the so far unsubstantiated excuse being offered for the ambassador's wife sending the money was that she (or the Saudi government) wanted to help pay some of the friend's medical bills copies of which have apparently not surfaced publicly yet). These are the same hijackers who were living with (or renting from) an FBI informant in San Diego. These are also the same hijackers whose identity and connection to the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole was known to the CIA since about January 2001 (or earlier) (as reported in PSACOT on about September 15, 2001). The CIA failed to notify the FBI about these two hijackers until August 2001 when the hijackers were safely inside the United States making plane reservations in their own names and with a listing in the San Diego phone book. For as yet unexplained reasons the FBI failed to find these hijackers prior to 9/11/01. Now the FBI and CIA are using public funds in an effort to force the congressional committee to delete or change its account of the Saudi money trail (and the FBI and CIA involvement).
Some may remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11/01 were reportedly citizens of Saudi Arabia (4th paragraph of the Johnston/Risen article in The New York Times, p. A1, of 11/23/02). The Times reported (p. A9, 11/23/02, More Foreign Men Told To Register, by AP) that "Some citizens of 13 additional countries considered at higher risk for terrorism" must register with the United States government according to an announcement by John Ashcroft. The new 13 countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Earlier in November, 2002, Ashcroft also required registration by certain men from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. What about Saudi Arabia, John? Are you and George more interested in protecting a supplier to Big Oil (which, led by Enron's chairman, financed the 2000 campaign) than in protecting the United States and its citizens?
E.J.Donne observed in his column in The Washington Post, p. A41, Friday, November 22, 2002, that as far as the Republicans are concerned "security should be above partisan politics" except when George Bush or his henchpersons want to win an election, distract public attention from their woeful neglect of national security prior to 9/11/01, pay-off campaign contributors (while knifing ordinary Americans in the back), or take a vacation over the holidays while making sure unemployed Americans lose their unemployment benefits a few days after Christmas (despite the efforts of just about every Democrat in either house of Congress to extend unemployment benefits). Dionne suggest that the next time George Bush or his thugs try to use security issues to deflect attention from his (or their) embarrassing or unsavory activity, the Democrats should remember how they were outmaneuvered in 2002. Dionne's suggestion is of course premised on the extraordinarily dubious assumption that the elected Democrats in a position to act on the suggestion have both the ability to read and comprehend the column and current events.
While we're on the topic of using the cry of "national security" for partisan political ends (or merely to stay out of jail), you may have missed the unremarked (as opposed to unreported) absolutely colossal major security breaches apparently committed by George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and (apparently) others who gave interviews discussing classifed information with Bob Woodward and/or gave minutes or notes of classified meetings to Woodward. There has been no indication that Woodward has a current clearance or a need to know what transpired at the "more than 50 National Security Council and other meetings" which were reported in unclassified form in his new book. There has been no indication that the minutes or notes were ever unclassified. There has been no indication of any prosecutorial action in progress against those who violated their security obligations. There has been no indication anyone has had a clearance revoked. This series of massive co-ordinated deliberate security breaches provides every indication that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Rumsfeld now have somewhere between precious little and no understanding of what is required to protect the actual security of the United States and its classified information. Of course, they are free to prove this analysis wrong by broadcasting live all future National Security Council and other defense and military planning meetings (CNN could probably be convinced to provide coverage). Bear in mind that Woodward is blameless in this matter; he was just doing his job (of course if it develops that he did have a current clearance one might ask precisely what his current job is and who is his employer).
Apropos precisely nothing, one may wish to read a review of Woodward's book (The New York Times, pages B29 and 39, "Inside Bush's War Room" by Michiko Kakutani) in which the following appears: "In the case of Mr. Tenet (n.b. CIA Director George Tenet), however, Mr. Woodward labors to provide a positive picture of the C.I.A., playing down the agency's failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11 while heralding its successful operations in Afghanistan." As a further non sequitur, check out "Silent Coup" by Robert Getlin and Leonard Colodny (St. Martin's Press, about 1992) which reports, among other things, on Mr. Woodward's service as an officer in the United States Navy conducting highly classified briefings in various locations and carrying highly classified documents to and from the White House during the Administration which started on January 20, 1969 (you read the date correctly).
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you. Next week. In the meantime, a couple of brief missives:
The Death Of Comdex
It all started with John Ruley:
COMDEX is dying. The show has shrunk so much that everything-including the show floor, registration, and press facilities-fits in the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), with empty space left over! Attendance is way off-would you believe hotels on the strip advertising vacancies? Rumor has it that a room in the Stratosphere can be had for $35! The one bright spot is that session attendance is actually up, according to other speakers (my sessions not until 1:00pm today) probably because they're in the LVCC instead of across town. Oddly enough, there is some cool stuff here-Microsoft (and partners) are showing production Tablet PCs and prototype "Mira" displays. Mercedes-Benz is offering test drives of various models on a closed course across the street. There's probably more stuff on the show floor, though rumor has it the really cool stuff is in hotel suites as usual. I'm heading off now to walk the show-looks like it won't take more than 1 hr, with stops!
Then Fred Langa piped up:
It's been 5 years since I've attended a face-to-face computer conference, and it's had zero effect on my business. No, that's not right; I've saved airfare, hotels fees, and time, so the net effect of not attending trade shows has been wholly positive.
It's so much easier to ship electrons around than to move human bodies. I'm kind of surprised Comdex lasted as long as it did.
Then I caught this note from David Strom in his WebInformant newsletter:
Well, I am back from the annual pilgrimage to Vegas and a dispiriting Comdex. The show is a shadow of its former glory self, with attendance and the number of booths down from the post-911 depressed last year. Cabbies and attendees alike were talking about how this could be the Last Comdex. (It is interesting how the cabbies identify with the show, and want it to be the biggest tradeshow in the country. Given the number of trade shows that comes through town, it no longer has that distinction, to be sure.) I don't think we've seen the last of Comdex, and think that if the show continues into 2003 it will be a very different beast. It was odd to see such a small show floor, and so little product on display. Four of my six panelists didn't come (five if you count a last minute replacement who also didn't materialize), which has to be a new conference record for all the years that I have been moderating panels and a disappointing one at that. Given that Key3Media, the show's organizers have gone into Chapter 11 and laid off many staff (including closing the original office in Needham), it does seem like a sober time for our industry.
My first Comdex was back in 1986, and my entrance into computer journalism with PC Week. Ah, those were the days.
My first Comdex? It was 1979, the show's second year. I also went to the last few National Computer Conferences, as that venerable trade show died out because of its failure to accommodate microcomputing and attendees desire to do business on the show floor. I'm not sure how the Comdex death certificate will read. Langa's epitaph is probably as good as any: "It's so much easier to ship electrons around than to move human bodies."
Hot Stuff: Clone of the Attack, Hu's On First
The two hottest things on the net both came to me from multiple sources in the last two weeks:
Mad Magazine, it looks like, should get credit for the original creation of the very scary/funny movie poster for Gulf War II:Clone of the Attack. Coming soon to a Persian Gulf near you!
Also hot: a variation on the venerable Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" routine involving a Chinese leader named Hu and our own comedian/"president," Hu's on First, written by Chicago playwright James Sherman.
Die Another Day
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Well, yes, Halle Berry is a sexy bond girl, John Cleese is delightful, albeit tragically underutilized as Q, and Pierce Brosnan, like a fine old wine, just gets better with age. I wish I could say as much for the James Bond series of films. Sometimes, you have to know when to retire. I admire Barbara Broccoli for carrying on a family tradition, but sometimes there's a fine line between tradition and beating a dead horse. The horse may not be dead yet, but it's not at all well. This is an OK to see, if there's nothing better showing where you are, but definitely NOT a must see.
Bowling for Columbine
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
I saw Bowling for Columbine myself last week. Peggy Coquet was right on every count. The movie was funny and distressing, and it is also distracting, detracting and unthoughtful. As a person of the left myself, I wish he'd get a little more serious now and then. But of course, as he'd say if he were here, if he got more serious, he'd cut down his already small audience and would have created a polemic instead of an entertaining documentary. Frankly, I was more entertained by Bowling for Columbine, despite its rough moments, than I was by Die Another Day.
The Cron Also Rises, Dan's picks: Kennedy's Health, Female Heft, State Budget Cuts; Dern Finds Kool Romeo
May readers of this column know Kenny Cron, now a big wig at Vivendi Universal. The New York Times story sent me by Dave Sims (which includes a quote from Jerry Colonna) is headlined Executive Arrives in Shadow of Barry Diller, and begins with a question many of us often asked, "So who is Kenneth Cron? Ken has his blind spots, but I must say he was very, very good to me throughout my career as a non-executive employee.
Dan Grobstein found the Atlantic Monthly article about John Kennedy's medical records, and it makes for some interesting reading. In the New York Times he found Jane Brody writing about Adding Some Heft to the Ideal Feminine Form and Bob Herbert's op-ed column about budget cutting at the state level.
Daniel Dern found a funny online version of Romeo and Juliet.
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