Tag Archives: 9/11

BREAKING: Donald Trump is a hoax

Recently I was pondering Donald Trump’s inexplicable behavior on the campaign trail, allegedly on behalf of GOP nominee Mitt Romney. I was only able to conceive of two possible explanations that would account for his ludicrous Orly Taitz act: either he is secretly working for Obama or he’s actually a covert performance artist working on a long, episodic political satire of some sort.

Then it hit me.

I’m still in the process of nailing down all the details, a process made difficult because the trail is so well-covered, but the inescapable conclusion is this: the man we think is Donald Trump isn’t. The real Trump, the man born in 1946 to Fred and Mary Anne Trump in Scotland, the man who attended Wharton and established a lucrative career as a real estate developer, is lying on a beach somewhere soaking up the sunshine and living the good life.

Available evidence suggests that in the early 1980s Trump was approached by a wealthy, famous man who wanted to buy his identity. Read more

Sunday Video Roundup: a 9/11 special

Today, if we choose to listen, we’ll hear a great deal about America, about the last decade, about the lessons we’ve learned. Football will be played. Flags will be waved. Tears will be shed.

And tomorrow we’ll be exactly what we were yesterday, only moreso. Maybe today is a bad time for critiques. Or maybe it’s the perfect time. Hard to say. But if you find a few minutes today and need a breather, here are some innocent distractions for you.

First, it’s true – we’re all living in Amerika.

Read more

The lesson that bin Laden learned from Reagan

There is a particular narrative about Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War that has always struck me as compelling. I bought the argument at the time and I think I still do, to some extent, even though I’m hardly a Reagan fan.

The story goes like this: Reagan was able to finally win the Cold War and drive a stake through the heart of the Evil Empire because he realized that the Soviet economy was already badly overextended trying to prop up the war machine. All he had to do was accelerate the arms race, dramatically increasing military spending (while also amping up the sabre-rattling rhetoric) and that would force the Russkis to bankrupt themselves trying to compete. Read more

America vs. the Terrorists, 9/11/10: a status report, nine years on…

In September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They flew three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These things we know. Since then, much has transpired. For example:

  • The US invaded Afghanistan, the nation that had harbored the terrorists and their mastermind, Osama bin Laden. The war has not been uniformly well managed and attempts to install a stable self-government have so far failed. Many experts argue that our efforts there have been woefully counterproductive. Read more

Goodtime Charlie Wilson cashes his check

Some months back, I attended a convention on behalf of my employer. One of the honored guest speakers was former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson. Wilson, whose story was Hollywoodized in Charlie Wilson’s War, died today at the age of 76.

Wilson was primarily famous for two things: fucking anything he could catch, and funneling arms to the Afghani mujahedeen during the country’s war against the Soviet Union. Those of us unfortunate enough to be stuck in the room during Wilson’s speech were regaled by tales of how he ignored the law, bullied, end-ran, lied and cheated to get what he wanted, and I mean all this literally. Wilson was as proud of flaunting the law as he was of his lifelong pursuit of women with obvious esteem issues. Read more

9/11 happened on Obama’s watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future

Something wicked this way comes.

There are a number of problems with these assertions, not the least of which is that when Saudi terrorists started flying hijacked jets into large buildings on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush had been president of the United States for the better part of eight months. The lapses in memory noted above are all striking, but especially so in the case of Giuliani, who was, from September 11 until he dropped out of the presidential race on January 30, 2008 (a span of roughly 2,332 days, if my math is accurate), unable to say so much as “hello” without somehow shoehorning “9/11” into the conversation. Read more

Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy’s ten-year review

Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?

Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.

1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Read more

Black swans, butterfly effects, terrorist detectors and marketing research: we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do

Prediction is a big, big business these days, and even those of us who aren’t explicitly in the prediction business probably do all we can to make sense of the future. For example:

  • Does your company do marketing research? (If it’s a business of any size and sophistication, the answer is probably yes.)
  • Do you track the financial pages?
  • Do you keep abreast of the latest innovations in your industry (or any industry, for that matter)?
  • Have you factored in economic considerations when trying to decide whether or not to buy a house?
  • If you have an IRA, have you factored in where you think the damned economy is going in making fund decisions? Read more

Reality is making us sick, and fantasy can’t cure us

You’re honey child to a swarm of bees
Gonna blow right through you like a breeze
Give me one last dance
Well slide down the surface of things

You’re the real thing
Yeah the real thing
You’re the real thing
Even better than the real thing

– U2

Fantasy stories, myths, legends, tall tales, fairy tales, horror, all these have been with us for a very long time. Science fiction, as well, has been with us since Mary Shelley found herself in a bet with Lord Byron about the possibility of writing a new kind of horror, one not grounded in the gothic.* So the presence in our popular culture of stories based in unreality of one form or another is certainly nothing new.

It seems to me that there’s been a lot more of it lately, though. Read more

Time for the War on Terror 2.0?

Two people have been shot at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. The shooter has been identified as James Wenneker von Brunn, a man with ties to various right-wing hate groups. His Web site is here.

At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, we should note that since September 11, 2001, more innocent American citizens have been killed by anti-abortion activists and other fringe right terrorists than by al Qaeda. Oddly, we’re hearing no calls from Republican legislators or party leaders like Rush Limbaugh (or their Vichy Democrat allies) demanding that we invade Coeur d’Alene.

So are we serious about terror or not?

Ward Churchill v. CU v. the people: knee-deep in the muck

In years to come, it seems likely that the ongoing civil suit brought against the University of Colorado by former professor Ward Churchill will provide students in many law classes with a lively case study to debate. If you aren’t already familiar with the details of the clusterfuck story, you can catch up at the NY Times and Boulder Daily Camera. If, at that point, you still haven’t slaked your thirst for data on all things Ward, you can keep on Googling here.

Buff U is pointing to all manner of irregularities in Churchill’s scholarship, asserting that he was fired for plagiarism. Ward’s attorneys have another theory: Read more

Are Americans smart enough to vote?

I recently offended some people, quite unintentionally, with my modest suggestion that perhaps it wasn’t in the best interests of the nation to hand over so much decision-making power to people who aren’t informed about the issues and their own system of government. (Responses ranged from “thoughtful disagreement” to what I believe is referred to as a “galloping hissy fit.”) Honestly, I was a bit shocked by the reaction – when I penned those remarks it hardly occurred to me that I was saying something controversial. On the other hand, it seemed to me that I was merely stating common sense.

Since that post I’ve been ruminating about the assumption embedded in the premise – that a goodly number of Americans aren’t intelligent enough to be safely entrusted with the vote. In order to bring a little more depth to this debate I thought I’d do some research to discover whether or not the nation’s citizens are under-informed, and if so, to what degree. Read more

That Which Makes Us Safe Makes Us Free: Tech and Privacy

The following is reconstructed out of a running e-mail discussion I had with Greg Stene (my old roommate) the other day.

Smith: I’ve been thinking about the question of freedom versus security a bit lately. 9.11 is obviously the impetus for a lot of what drives my pondering, but the fact is that 9.11 really has only coalesced and sped-up the dynamics that were already in place.

In short, are personal freedom and security mutually exclusive? In the last year we’ve heard it suggested time and again that Americans might have to give up some of the freedoms they have come to take for granted (at this point we have to ask people to think about the differences between actual freedoms and mere conveniences), and at a glance it does seem that privacy/freedom and personal/national security are on opposite ends of a continuum. Read more

The WTC Memorial Debate and the End of the Age of the Big Target

(Warning: Reality is never as neat and clean as theory, I’m afraid, but humans are inherently theoretical animals. So bear with me. The following may be a tad obscure in places, but it’s going somewhere worthwhile.)

University of Texas-Dallas Professor Frederick Turner has penned an interesting take on the current WTC memorial debate, and makes some very well-considered arguments about how the whole process is off the mark. In short, he believes the current proposals “express, as clearly as if it had been written all over them, that America was defeated by the terrorists,” and asserts that we should take this opportunity to erect something “more splendid, more beautiful and more truly symbolic of New York and of America than its predecessor.”

To his credit, he offers his own proposal for the memorial, complete with a nice set of sketches illustrating how it would look from various vantage points around the city. I have to say I’m impressed with the power of his vision, especially as it addresses the basic tenets of his larger argument. Read more

The Problem with Post-9.11 Airline Security Policy

Do I look like a terrorist? No, seriously – I’ve been told I look “intimidating,” and cameras all seem to hate me on sight – but if you saw me boarding a plane with you would you worry that I posed a threat to your safe and timely arrival at your chosen destination, especially if I were wearing a business suit?

I don’t know how you answered this question, but I must scare the mortal hell out of the good folks working airport security. How else can I explain the damned-near automatic frequency with which I’m “randomly” selected for secondary security checks whenever I attempt to board a flight?

Since the new year I’ve taken several trips – mostly business – flying to Las Vegas, Anaheim, San Francisco, Kansas City, and Toronto via Frontier, America West, and Air Canada. Early on I noticed I was getting yanked just about every time I hit security, so I started keeping count. Read more