The Free Associator

The Philadelphia Syndicate is a collection of writers, businesses, artists, musicians, and activists based in Philadelphia, with connections to associates around the world via the internet. This publication is produced by members of the Syndicate's private online discussion forum for the purpose of giving exposure to the organization's thinkers to the public.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Faulty Intelligence=Illegal War


A presidential commission set up to look at pre-Iraq War intelligence says that the intelligence on Iraq's weapons production and capability was "dead wrong." So let me see if I get this straight: We invaded Iraq because of its violation of UN Sanctions. Colin Powell went to the UN and talked in great detail about mobile weapons facitities from a source we now know to have been lying. But if all this information was, in fact, wrong, then our entire pretext for the war was false. Now hold on, I know you're thinking you've heard all this before, but let me give you an analogy: A man runs from a bar, followed by another man who grabs the bouncer and says, "That man stole my wallet!" The bouncer grabs the first man, beats him to a pulp, and then while conducting a search, finds no wallet. His defense? Faulty intelligence. It does not excuse the misuse of force. It amazes me that the adminstration is so brazen they will now admit the reason for war was incorrect, while not admitting the conclusion that if there were no weapons, then we cannot even pretend to have had the backing of international law.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

DHS Planning Scenarios


The Homeland Security Council, along with David Howe, Senior Director for Response and Planning, released in July 2004, a document entitled, Planning Scenarios, Executive Summaries.

The document, which is available for download, states in the Introduction:

The Homeland Security Council (HSC) - in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the federal interagency, and state and local homeland security agencies -- has developed fifteen all-hazards planning scenarios for use in national, federal, state, and local homeland security preparedness activities. These scenarios are design to be the foundational structure for the development of national preparedness standards from which homeland security capabilities can be measured.

The scenarios mentioned in the document include:

  • Nuclear Detonation - 10-Kiloton Improvised Nuclear Device
  • Biological Attack -- Aerosol Anthrax
  • Biological Disease Outbreak -- Pandemic Influenza
  • Biological Attack -- Plague
  • Chemical Attack -- Blister Agent
  • Chemical Attack -- Toxic Industrial Chemicals
  • Chemical Attack -- Nerve Agent
  • Chemical Attack -- Chlorine Tank Explosion
  • Natural Disaster -- Major Earthquake
  • Natural Disaster -- Major Hurricane
  • Radiological Attack -- Radiological Dispersal Devices
  • Explosives Attack -- Bombing Using Improvised Explosive Device
  • Biological Attack -- Food Contamination
  • Biological Attack -- Foreign Animal Disease
  • Cyber Attack

Friday, March 25, 2005

The story of Ibrahim Parlak


For insight into the way immigrants are now routinely treated in this country, you should familiarize yourself with the story of Ibrahim Parlak.

Alex Kotlowitz, the author of this piece from NYT magazine writes:

A D.H.S. spokesman told me, "Ibrahim Parlak will never walk these streets again."

Someday soon, they may be saying this about me. Or you. And you had damn well be ready.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Potter sticks it to the Man


Most days, I love this town. Other times, the traffic gets to me. What are you going to do?

But yesterday, hearing about Mayor Tom Potter's JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) resolution, I remembered why I love this town.

Enough sentiment.

I had a chance to meet Potter on numerous occasions during his run for mayor. He is an ex-police chief, retired 10 years from that post, and the race was dirty in the end. What else is new? Point is, when he entered the race he had a stunt - he would not accept contributions of more than $50, from anyone. This got him the backing of nearly every person under 28. Which in Portland, IS a mandate. He was a huge underdog in a primary with lots of other runners, including this character, whom I will not pretend to flatter.

So, Potter wins in the primary election. This meant he had a run off with #2, a well-financed gentleman named Jim Francesconi. Potter upped his limit to $100, as I recall. After early polls showed Potter had it in the bag Francesconi got real nasty, running attack ads on Air America (which was a horrible idea) and posting dubious information on shoddy websites. Potter kicked his ass in the election in November. That was one of the very few good things about that election. Since then he has riden in critical mass and continued to make himself accesible.

I had turned up at a meet the candidate forum early in his run, before the primary. No one there but me. Seriously. It was wierd. We were just standing there. I had a beer. I don't think he did. I asked him what I thought were hard ass quetions. Questions like - The cops just shot an unarmed black man multiple times and tazed his dead body for over 3 MINUTES. The first thing they did with the body after they shot him was they tested it for drugs. And they found cocaine. Great. My question: why the fuck don't they drug test the fucking cops? His answer: the police union. We had a few conversations like this.

Robert Jordan of the FBI, expressing indignation, has responded to Potter's request: "No other mayor in the country has been granted the top-secret clearance that Potter wants." Well, you're going to have one now.

The Mayor is quoted in his request:

“If our federal partners don’t trust us enough to share this kind of information with us, then we will continue to work with them in any way possible but we won’t use our tax dollars to continue paying for officers on this task force.”

Thanks Tom.

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


Or shall I just be blunt and say: "My God, now what has he done?"

Following GWB's most recent stellar appointment of former personal counsel and White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, a man who condones torture as long as it doesn't cause "organ failure," to the post of Attorney General, Bush has now gone and nominated Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. It seems history always repeats itself.

Think Robert McNamara, and the job he was slated for when the war criminal avoided prosecution at the end of his stint as Defense Secretary during the Vietnam War. It is said McNamara's remorse at the horrible suffering and criminality he engendered made him an effective helmsman for the World Bank.

I think I'm gonna puke.

Wolfowitz, a prime architect of the American Occupation of Iraq, has been after the natural resources of that country for years. It is only natural that he is now poised to take over as head of an organization that functions through financing third world debt through natural resource collateral. Miss your payment and all your forests are belong to us. He should do well robbing the rest of the world blind.

His approval is contingent upon the blessing of the World Bank's Board.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The ANWR issue


I find the issue of arctic drilling to be more complicated than it is generally made out. It seems to me, it is the rare issue that absolutely everyone has an unshakable opinion about. And I mean everyone. For them, it comes down to drilling or not drilling. How much oil is really there? How much damage will it do to the environment? But me, I'm stuck in the procedural legalese. That's the only word I have for it.

The recent vote in the Senate was on a proposed ammendment to an appropriations bill. Got that? It means that a Yes vote would have passed the ammendment, thereby presumably stopping drilling in ANWR, and a No vote prevented the passage of the amendment, meaning drilling. Now, the appropriations bill has not passed yet, but this appears to be of significance nonetheless. The best explanation of it all that I can find is here.

The proposed amendment would "Strike Section 201(a)(4) of Senate Congrssional Resolution 18." Presumably this will allow inclusion of ANWR specific wording during Conference Committee later. All of which is easily understandable, right?

Section 201(a)(4) reads:
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES- The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources shall report changes in laws within its jurisdiction sufficient to reduce outlays by $33,000,000 in fiscal year 2006, and $2,658,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2006 through 2010.

If that means arctic drilling than I can no longer claim to speak the English language. In the words of Barbara Boxer: "Shame on the Senate; that is all I can say." And it seems for good reason.

I guess the point is that the section at issue allows changes in laws pertinent to ANWR that could presumably lead to drilling. Or ANWR specific language will be inserted in the final appropriations bill for 2006. That seems pretty underhanded to me. If anyone else has an explanation, by all means...

None of this is to even address the issue of drilling. And how much it will cost. And how much oil there really is.

And then there are the real questions: where will the oil go? How much will it cost? Will it reduce our dependence of foreign oil? Or, will American companies sell it to China for a huge profit, and continue importing oil from the middle east, as they engage in an incestous relationship with our military bent on economic conquest?

No, the issue of ANWR is not simple. Unless you watch FOX news and believe it. But I just made that part up. I've never watched FOX news. OK, once - It was in mid-March, 2003. The first day of shock and awe. Haven't watched it since. OK, maybe once. Was that a video game commercial or an Army recruiting ad?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

March Madness



I am pulling for Cuse in my heart. My wife went there, they are good and Lafayette couldn't get through the front door of the tournament with an UZI. Besides, Cuse was totally robbed with the 4 seed. Did the selection committee even watch the Big East tournament, or were they too busy giving UConn a fake 2 seed out of nostalgia. I call West Virginia as a sleeper rolling over Wake (like so often happens to them) and Arizona to go deep (Stoudamire). End of the day though, J.J., love him or hate him, Redick will roll with the Blue Devils. He isn't good just because his 3-point % is good (not the best), but because he is a team leader and a clutch shooter both of which are more important than straight numbers in the tourney.

Lucky I got two pools - one for the cold side and one for the warm side. We'll see.

Martha –


Martha Stewart is home from her jail stint stemming from the bogus insider trading/lying to prosecutor charges. She opened her blog up to questions. First question

“Kathyrn_NYC: Can you tell us about the poncho you wore when you flew home Thursday night [March 3, 2005]?”

“Martha: A friend at Alderson made it for me. It is soft and thick and made from Lion Brand Yarn []. The yarn company has posted the free poncho pattern on their website. It looked very chic and everyone was surprised at how graceful it appeared. I was grateful to have something soft and warm to wear.”

Here is the now appropriately named “Crochet ‘Coming Home’ Poncho.” But I do not knit. So what can a lowly free market Martha fan do in support.

I baked some delectable treats from page 511 of my favorite cookbook, the “The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.” (delectable is Martha’s favorite adjective)

Classic Oatmeal Cookies -

3 cups of rolled oats; 1 cup + 2 teaspoons of flour; 1 teaspoon of baking soda; and 1 tea spoon of baking powder. Mix together in first bowl.

Separate bowl - mix 2 sticks of warm butter (unsalted),1 cup of reg sugar and 1 cup of light brown sugar. Whip till light. I did it by hand but she calls for a mixer. I live in Manhattan and thus do not have room for a mixer but the cookies came out great anyway.

Mix 2 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and put into butter mix. Mix again until consistent.

Put the oat mix (bowl one) into the butter mix (bowl two) and incorporate. Add some flavor: dried cranberries, chocolate, or raisins. I use chocolate covered cranberries. Mix again and make 36-40 small cookies. Big table spoon should work. Bake at 350 on parchment paper for about 15 minutes until light brown on top. (You can also do 15 large cookies for 20 minutes with the same amount of batter).

I added cinnamon and left out the wheat germ for my own tastes.

There you have it - Martha has officially done more for me than the government. I know have some kick ass cookies. Glad they feds used the tax money wisely to put a professional homemaker in jail rather than opening up any useful investigations into murderers or serial killers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Philly issues


Front page of drudge report is running this article about 21 homicides in the last 7 days in Philly. Thats not good. How is mayor Street dealing with it?

"Now, CBS 3’s Walt Hunter reports that Mayor Street said under certain circumstances he would consider help from the Pennsylvania State Police and even the National Guard.

Street has declared the violence throughout the city a crisis and as a result has ordered the full review of police department policies and has suggested a full moratorium on the issuing of gun permits.

In addition, Street has requested a meeting with Governor Ed Rendell to talk about possible new gun legislation." (emphasis added)

Hmmm... Lets see. Considering the national guard. That usually calms things down. Declaring a crisis, yup sounding like a politition. Ah then to gun control, who would have guessed. I wonder how many of the 21 killers (assuming a one to one ratio) have permits or licenses for their gun. None? Maybe one? I could be wrong, but probably not.

Can someone explain to me how disarming law abiding citizens, you know, the ones who actually apply for permits in the first place, will slow the murder rate. Oh, and in the middle of murder spree no less. If I didn't know better I would think that mayor Street is making a politcal move rathern than actually addressing the situation. Witnesses are terrfied to testify lest they be shot. The police are ineffective because no one trusts them to supply safety. (and who would blame them?)

Best solution from Philly pols - send a loud and clear message to the gunmen "Keep shooting! I will make sure all of your victims are disarmed to boot."

Guns in the hands of ordinary citizens may not be the only answer, in fact it is a feeble one at best, but it certainly beats forciably disarming them.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Dude, don't Bogart the milk!


Well, the Swiss have thought of eveything now. No more THC for Swiss cows.

Not sure how this will bode for dairy farmers. But I bet it won't be nearly as cool to drink milk in school anymore. Or anywhere for that matter.

And hey, what exactly is the law in the U.S. as concerns the use of hemp in animal fodder? One for the researcher in me...

Friday, March 11, 2005

In the Shadow of No Towers -


So Lafayette College, my illustrious Alma Mater has decided to make Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers required reading for the incoming freshman, for discussion during orientation.

Apparently things have come a long way since my days there (class ’97). My freshman orientation book was Black Water by Joyce Carroll Oates. I think it was related to Chappaquiddick or something, but I can’t remember because I was drunk by day 2 of orientation and didn’t read it, like everyone else.

Lafayette, as I recall, was about into controversy as much as the Queer Eye Guys are into the Swimsuit Issue. The biggest controversy in four years occurred when some idiots on the school student council decided to spend $10,000 on a “modern environmental art” project: a hay sculpture. When the “sculptor” was done we were left with a pyramid of hay bales stacked in the middle of the quad with a flower pot on top. The sculpting apparently consisted of five carefully planned steps: 1) going to a barn and viewing pyramid stacked hay bales; 2) paying $100 for the hay and putting the bales on a truck; 3) taking the bales to the quad; 4) restacking them in the exact same pyramid they were found in; and 5) putting a flower pot on top. Maybe I am just a simple a caveman when it comes to modern art, but my sense was that this was a big pile of crap and and eyesore to boot. Being Lafayette, tolerance central, it was promptly torched within the first day or so over Easter break. Controversy ensued when a handful of profs and students commented that the incident reflected poorly on the student body's attitude towards art. But most people just agreed that it was a shameful waste of beer money paid to idiot who stacked fucking hay.

(For some cool hay bale sculptures, if there is such a thing see here)

Ah college…well anyway I would have preferred to read a comic book during orientation. (btw I picked this story up off of, my favorite source for all things literary).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Dan Rather’s Goodbye


So Dan Rather has officially retired, and I can say with confidence that I made it through my entire life without ever watching a single broadcast of his (in its entirety). This means I am not qualified to comment on the substance of his body of work. But I have from time to time caught a segment of his, and apart from the quality of the work, which I do not judge here, my chief recollection is the overwhelming sense of displeasure I experienced from hearing him talk. I attribute to his grating linguistic style, one that is common among a number of professionals in the broadcast industry. The worst is Peggy Noonan, but I will leave that for another time.

People more experienced with his commentary have been all over the web, talking up his departure with either nice or nasty comments, but my favorite was from everyone’s favorite anally fixated Washington gossip/news woman Wonkette

“6:42: The tone of his voice is all wrong, I swear. Sllllooooow. The vocal equivalent of putting fingernails into the floorboards as they drag you out.”

That about matches my general impression on the guy.

Besides does any watch network television anymore. Its 22 minutes of souped up controlled dribble. American idol is less staged.

Speaking of Diets...


I know my level of skepticism has taken on cosmic proportions lately, but I just can't help but think strange things about this story.

Maybe there just isn't enough information yet, but the reason for this "not being a hijacking" seems pretty skimpy. People who refuse to leave a plane are engaging in a bit more than protesting, no? Say trespassing, at the very least. But if it gives the bad guys a black eye, it is easier to justify a blind one.

Could this be some kind of publicity stunt? You'd better believe it. Considering the number of reported nationals of countries other than Iran, anything could be going on here.

Last time I checked the U.S. doesn't engage in too much official business with Iran anyway, so the timing of this is just a bit suspicious.

And the support for the Shah? Man, I feel a snowball effect here. The Middle East is either going to be a democratic paradise in no time at all, or all hell is going to break loose. Or perhaps, if we leave things up to the Bushies, we can have our cake and eat it too! Now, wouldn't that be good for business?

Diet Relief –


On a personal note, I have been on a diet for a couple of days now for one reason or another. Anyway today was relief day where I got to splurge a bit. And I can’t remember a time I was more influenced in a decision to purchase one form of junk food over another (regardless of my personal taste) based solely on a television advertisement.

How could I resist the Bacon Cheddar Ranch Angus Burger from Burger King. The ad has everything. Darius Rucker (from Hootie and Blowfish) dressed in a gay cowboy outfit singing a modified hobo song (original lyrics here) with Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders dancing the praises of bacon, various other cheap set designs, and completed with the imposition of the word “caboose” in the song simultaneously with a blow up image of a girl’s ass bent over a crank handle on hand rail car.

Here is my review – If you can handle the 750 calories and 35 grams of fat it is Sooooo worth it. The gristle of grade D cheap burger meat is masked by the potpourri of flavors. Ranch dressing tops out the ensemble cementing the delicate raw onion, cheese, tomato and meat flavors into a unified front. Finally, indulgently supplied bacon, smoked to perfection, leaves the palate with gentle oak notes on the finish of each bite. Rinse with Dr. Pepper and repeat.

BTW the last time a television ad actually influenced my purchase was the series of ads for Herbal Essence shampoo with all the girls having “fake” orgasms in the shower. The British site has their new conditioner TV spot for the corresponding conditioner, providing the showerant with a second go around (similar to the original US ads). How the hell else am I supposed to pick a shampoo when faced with 100 equally cheap and equally effective products?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

1st Amendment (-1), 2nd Amendment (+ 1)


Hillary Clinton, after declaring herself an evangelical Christian has now called for government cooperation in what is usually a Conservative's game -- attacking the 1st Amendment.

WASHINGTON New York Senator Hillary Clinton is calling for greater government and parental scrutiny of media children watch and play, saying kids are suffering from a "silent epidemic" from media sex and violence.

I'm almost old enough to remember when Liberals were known for being champions of civil rights. At least in the case of political expediency, that sort of thing can only get in your way of attracting the oh so critical support of suburban trophy wives concerned with what their babysitter is letting their children watch while they are busy screwing their boss in a public restroom. The Bill of Rights be damned when there are five really critical counties in some future version of Florida (2000) or Ohio (2004), filled with soccer moms, that Hillary will need to win over in 2008. Oh, Hillary.... to the right, to the right, to the right...

Although events occurring in the battle being fought to preserve the 1st Amendment don't leave me with the best feeling in my gut (as John Stewart fades in on the TV in the background), there is some good news on the 2nd Amendment front.

What a shocking surprise -- England virtually bans the private ownership of firearms and *gasp* crime sky rocket!

In case you don't detect the sarcasm, this libertarian is not at all surprised. In fact, I would have bet on this happening. In fact, on the listserv I moderate, I probably have at some point.

In a pattern that's repeated itself in Canada and Australia, violent crime has continued to go up in Great Britain despite a complete ban on handguns, most rifles and many shotguns. The broad ban that went into effect in 1997 was trumpeted by the British government as a cure for violent crime.

Crime rates in England have skyrocketed since the ban was enacted. According to economist John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute, the violent crime rate has risen 69 percent since 1996, with robbery rising 45 percent and murders rising 54 percent. This is even more alarming when you consider that from 1993 to 1997 armed robberies had fallen by 50 percent. Recent information released by the British Home Office shows that trend is continuing.

When do I get to see a picture of Hillary duck hunting?

A Bit Gassy


For those of you affected by the price of gas this may be upsetting.

“According to Dow Jones News, a crude oil options contract with a strike price of $100 per barrel traded this morning -- possibly the highest strike price for a West Texas Intermediate contract ever placed on the exchange.”

Via Lew Rockwell Blog


This is up on drudge right now – Oil closed at 54.65.

A little steam, or something more sinister?


Damn, after all that talk of undersea volcanism and moral treachery, Mt. St. Helens has gone and let off some steam. Funny the only thing up already is out of Texas. Funny, or suspicious!

Anyway, I could see it Tuesday for about 30 minutes from the top of the West Hills and the river and then it was gone. Probably related to that activity up off Vancouver Island I noted yesterday.

Too bad I still don't have televison. I could watch it over and over and over and over...give me those Internets anyday.

Personally, I think an ancient ancestor of Donald Rumsfeld is making its way to the surface. You'd better hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Disinformation has a First Name


This is a thought experiment. I read or listened to a series of stories today that have some potentially bizarre connections. Hear me out:

There is a report today showing scientific interest in plate movements and undersea volcanic activity off Vancouver island in British Columbia. Then it gets reported in Rense, which it generally does, with the obvious implication of further HAARP treachery. Just start here if you haven't had the pleasure already.

Completely unrelated story. An Italian journalist, here in her own words, (I assume translated) more than less accuses the U.S. Military of directly targeting journalists. This leads to the obvious conclusion that Rumsfeld is, of course, guilty of even worse crimes.

More: Hunter S. Thompson not only was 'suicided,' he was working on a story that related to a ring of male prostitutes operating with sanction from the White House. Oh, and presumably kidnapped as children.

The final straw was ganglords speaking Aztec operating from prison. I can't even bother to find a link, no pun intended. But a start would be the current administration operating in a criminal manner in plain site.

When the generals are shrouded in veils of secercy,
disinformation quietly tiptoes around the conspiracy.

Much is afoot
that is not good.

You be the judge.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Looking at the odds...


Right, I don't usually do this, but I feel like making a prediction.

Let's beat around Bush for a second though.

The soup du jour seems to be that nation-building is coming along nicely, thank you. From all corners of the arab world, tyrants are sleeping with one eye open.

To many, this shows the vigor of Bush's mid-east policy. The tangible results are seemingly undeniable, and milestones of this caliber aren't often on the menu. So they will be leveraged.

So, here it is: this summer. Fast and hard. The target is flexible. My guess is Damascus, but the USG could just as easily target a half dozen other States. If not this summer, it won't happen in an election year.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Chem Trails Over Kabul?


I have been reading so much about Afghanistan lately that absolutely nothing surprises me. The history of that country is like a lesson in a modified Murphy's Law: whatever can go wrong, does - in Afghanistan.

It was with little wonder, then, that I read this story in Sunday's New York Times. Someone spraying your wheat fields? Blame it on the U.S. military! Afterall, an organization that has a reach anywhere in the world, thanks to "temporary" military occupations of two startegic countries, i.e. Afghanistan and Iraq, has the means and the motive to do so.

An interesting note is that this aerial spraying was actually proposed as a budget line item in December, but was retracted. What you can't pass one way, you send to black-ops, I guess.

To be even more cynical, I venture to guess the U.S. military has nothing to do with this. Maybe it's Britian. The reason I say this is the long suspected connections between Intelligence Services in this country with drug running. It is "economic good sense." If you don't know what I'm talking about try any number of books, from Reefer Madness, to Crossing the Rubicon, for a primer.

In the end, I have no way of knowing where all my tax dollars are going anyway, and so why worry?