Today: heaven. Hell. Hewitt & Marshall. Gorgar!

Picnic at the beach at Lake Calhoun; summertime bliss. Sailboats, sandcastles. The new parkbenchs rock, literally; they slide back and forth, and the illiterate pinheads haven’t tagged them yet.

The only flies in the ointment were the wasps. It’s yellowjacket season; they hover around the meat like paparazzi. We’ve all perfected the wasp-wave; you flick your hand with a disinterested languor - just think Oscar Wilde dismissing a jejune insult - and the wind distracts the wasp for a second or two. Or, you take Gnat’s approach, and stab one with a fork.

I blinked, stared: whoa. This is Matrix-level skill on display. There is a fork, Neo, and she just impaled a wasp with it.

“Shoo fly don’t bother me,” she sang. And then she went back to her Froot by the Foot.

What is that stuff called in Europe? Merde by the meter?

A perfect evening, in any case. We’re ticking off all the summertime requisites. The end doesn’t seem near, but it will in ten days. Walking outside at midnight in shorts and a tank top, listening to the sprinklers and crickets - history in a month.

(four minute pause staring at wall, feeling the darkness descend)
(scrabbles in drawer for pistol)
(puts pistol back)

I called Qwest this morning. Could they send someone by to look at my line? See, I have DSL, and the modem holds the connection about as well as a man with Crisco’d fingers can grasp an oiled minnow. I didn’t use those terms, but I might as well have, for all the comprehension I got from the tech on the other end of the line. Without realizing it I had reached the Department of Discouraging You From Requesting a Service Call. I explained my situation clearly - the problem was not the modem, or the line to the house; I’d connected the modem to the box outside, and it was fine. The problem was the jack in my room. Please send a Jack Fixer.

Well, now, hold on there, feller. We’re not about to just send a technician out because you think you need one. She asked question after question, demonstrating that she hadn’t heard a word of what I said. Finally I said “forgive me, ma’am, but it seems as if you’re trying to talk me out of requesting a service call.”

“No,” she said. “I have to ask the questions on my screen here.”

Criminey. Eventually she relented and said that a Jack Fixer would be out today, between noon and eight. He showed up ninety minutes later. <yakofsmirnoff> What a country! In Soviet Union, it takes ten years to get your phone tapped! </yakofsmirnoff> Jack Fixer waved magic wands over the outlets, did some tests; I hovered nearby, keen to learn what was going on. (I like phone stuff. I just do.) His conclusion: it should work. There’s no reason it shouldn’t. I’d have to call the DSL Technicians. He gave me a number.

I called the number. Long prerecorded message about hold-times being longer than usual because Microsoft is run by gibbering fever-monkeys who forgot to close a back door, so everyone’s computer is overrun with WormBlaster. Finally I get a tech support guy. I explain the situation. He tells me that they can’t fix anything, because they’re not my ISP. I would have to go to COVAD.


Because they bought space on the copper and resold it to Earthlink. They would have to initiate a trouble ticket. Yes, a "trouble ticket." Sounds like something a New-Agey parent would give a four-year-old for drawing on the wall with a Sharpie. Ooh, someone’s going to get a trouble ticket for making bad choices!

Screw you, Mom! I hate you!

Now, now, you don’t want a naughty-mouth citation, do we?

(kicks mother in shin)

Well, just wait until coparent gets home - he’s going to use the angry bear voice and reduce your SoyDream frozen confection ration by 15 percent.

(kicks mother in shin)

Someone’s asking for a 20 percent reduction.

(stamps on mother’s foot)

Well, mister, that’s another trouble ticket. One more and you give up your carob sprinkles.

I called COVAD. Five minutes on hold. Finally got through. They couldn’t do anything unless Earthlink initiated a trouble ticket. Call Earthlink.

I called Earthlink. Ten minutes on hold. Finally got through. The tech said they couldn’t do anything about the interior wiring; I’d have to take it up with Qwest. At this point hot steaming gray-matter shot out of my ears and short-circuited the phone. Good thing I was at work.

Finally, a note to iTunes music store: some punk, please. I searched for “Sex Pistols,” and came up with zed - but the search box said “Did you mean: Sea Sisters”

I certainly did not. (wasp-wave.)

Extra finally: GORGAR, the first talking pinball machine. Now available in MP3 format. Bless the web.

Superextra finally, the poltical crap. Bail if you wish. Heed Gorgar!

Put yourself in my shoes. You’re driving down the parkway, heading to the beach, listening to the radio. The station runs a promo for the Hugh Hewitt show, with his theme song as a music bed. And the first words of the promo:

“Lileks just sent me an email.”

I swear the blood drained into my feet: oh lord now what. Why am I a promo. How did this happen. They used a little snippet of Hugh reading my invite to come over for a soiree during fair week; when he finished with my email, he had extended the invitation to everyone else in Minneapolis to Jasperwood, and yes, he said “Jasperwood.” AM 1280, the station that carries his show, snipped it and used it as a promo.

Or so I think. It’s possible, as I’ve noted before, that this is all evidence of psychosis, and when I show up at the State Fair to be on Mr. Hewitt’s show, they will have no idea what I am talking about, and they’ll have to summon guards.

On Double-Aitch’s program today he had Josh Marshall, who produces one of the web’s narrowest websites. They were discussing Marshall’s post about the arms-dealer sting. I wasn’t all that heartened by the news - yes, it’s wunderbar that they caught one of the fargin’ bastiches who deals in these things, but: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/

1. It just reminds you that there’s lots of this going on. I’d prefer that it wasn’t stop-the-presses news that we nailed an arms dealer. I’d like to see a little scorebox on the inside of the paper every day, telling me how many of these scumsacks they’d arrested this week.

2. Arresting them is nice. Arresting them is civilized. Part of me, however, wonders whether it might not be better to dispatch some of the grim men who can kill you with a shoelace and a thumbtack from sixty paces, and have them hasten to hell a half-dozen black-market arms dealers, just to get the point across: Don’t. Or else. Go trade camcorders that fell off a truck; go back to dealing Marlboros with forged tax stamps. Oh, allright, you can sell machine guns. We’re feeling generous. But if you even think the words “surface to air missile” you will meet up with a fellow who not only had his nose sharpened to a lethal point, but can remove the nose and throw it at your jugular if need be.

Anyway. I was piqued by the radio interview, so I went to the website. Talking about the bust, Marshall writes:

Now this is an unquestionably good thing for at least two reasons. First, it's a good thing to have behind bars any miscreant willing to make money by selling terrorists the equipment to bring down a commercial airliner. (These guys are arguably more evil than the terrorists themselves. The terrorists at least think they're pursuing some justifiable, even noble, end. These rogues couldn't care less so long as they can make a buck.)

I don’t quite accept that. In one sense, it’s an extension of the same line of thought that holds the gun makers and the fast food companies for homicides and big bellies. Those who give the terrorists the tools to kill are equally culpable, not less, but certainly not more - who cares if they do it for money instead of Allah? P I don’t want to put words in Mr. Marshall’s mouth here, but I’ve heard this before: doing evil for profit is uniquely bad, because it is selfish; doing evil for a “justifiable, even noble, end” is less evil because they mean well. See also Union, Soviet.

But he didn’t say anything of the sort, so my inference is just a guess - read & judge for yourself. Move along:

Second, and more to the point, you probably can't deter terrorists who are willing to kill themselves anyway. But you probably can deter some people with financial motives from supplying the terrorists with the weapons. And this probably goes some way toward that end.

Yes and no. I think you can deter terrorists who are willing to kill themselves if you make it clear they will be caught before they try anything, that their failure is certain. Check out those two Pakistanis who were arrested at Sea-Tac. We’ll see what comes of this story, but if indeed they had nefarious plans, they were certainly deterred. The Israeli fence will deter a few. I mean, if you sprawl on a beach chair with your eyes closed you can’t deter someone who wants to stab you in the eye, but if you sit up with a pistol in your lap, you probably can. But I agree that deterring people who want to profit from selling missiles to the bad buys is a good thing, and Marshall’s right; this probably helped.

Move along:

But still, there was no plot. And the point is more than just semantic. Look at this sentence a few grafs into the MSNBC report: "It was not immediately clear whether the plot was connected to al-Qaida or some other terrorist network."

All the horrors of terrorism aside, that line really brought a smile to my face. There was no plot. So there really wasn't much of a way al Qaeda could have been involved, right?

When I read this, I summoned my inner Moe the Bartender: whaaaa? How the devil can you assume that, right off the bar? First of all: the arms dealer thought he was buying real missiles. And what would he do with the merch?

1. Give them to the United Way for their upcoming “Pledge Or Else” drive

2. Mount them on the wall, and impress his friends by reprising the “say hello to my leel fren” climax of “Scarface”

3. Sell them to someone who wanted to, oh, I don’t know, bring down a jet

I mean, the fact that it’s “not immediately clear” that there was a connection to al-Qaeda or any other collection of hot-eyed nutballs hardly means there was no connection; it means that the reporter asked his source if al-Qaeda et al was connected, and the source said “no idea.” He goes on:

The reporters who covered the story for the Times seemed to have a better handle on this. This line comes at the end of the third graf of their story: "No real terrorists were ever connected to the plot."

Whew! Sleep easy, America! But no, wake up:

On the other hand, the Times piece also contains this line: "Intelligence agencies say Al Qaeda already has dozens of missiles, many of them American-made Stingers left over from the war in Afghanistan in the 1980's when the United States supplied them to Afghan guerrillas seeking to oust Soviet troops from their country. Hundreds of other surface-to-air missiles are reported to be circulating on the black market."

Ah. Right. Blowback. Our fault. Always our fault. So they have old Stingers they can use against us. So? Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have given them the weapons in the first place. It means they’re ungrateful bastards.

Look. I hate to get involved in intramural bloggy bitchslap sessions, particularly with a big name like Marshall; I’m sure his site today will feature further explication or details - read for yourself. There are conflicting details about the importance of this arms dealer - this MSNBC link, courtesy of the Prof, provides additional info. (OT: Newsweek guys, you need to take new pictures. Seriously. That’s like a Topeka TV station picture for a consumer-advocate segment. And lose the Groucho disguise.)

What mystifies me is the eagerness to declare there was no plot, twinned with the need to remind us that we gave Stingers to Afghan fighters in the TJ Hooker era. It’s the same instinct that will lead a journalist one day to commemorate the first free elections in Vietnam by interviewing the woman who was shown fleeing naked from a napalm attack. It’s the same impulse that will lead some reporter on the day Cuba is free to find an old party member who trots out the Che relics and praises the vision of the revolution - as if that’s the story.

No doubt the computers we leave behind in Kabul will one day be used to coordinate an attack against the embassy in Bumfargistan, proving the utter futlity of ever doing anything anywhere for any reason. Yes indeed. We suck.


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