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October 31, 2002

A touching story

An ethicist acts stupid, and Colby Cosh is there to call him on it.

If you need a summary, it involves an Orthodox Jew, a feminist and competing philosophies. The ethicist makes the wrong choice when asked his view. Cosh slaps him around.

I should write for TV Guide.

Posted by susanna at 06:20 PM | Comments (1)

Thanks, Page, I really needed to see that

So much for the pumpkin pie I was thinking of baking tonight.

Or pumpkin anything.

Maybe forever.

[That girl is so twisted. I like that in a person.]

Posted by susanna at 03:49 PM | Comments (5)

This is classic

Just when you get tired of the Russians, they do something that makes you proud:

According to the Moskovski Komsomol newspaper, Russian security forces have decided to bury the terrorists from last's week's hostage siege wrapped in pig's skin. The aim is to deter potential Islamic terrorists from future attacks.

Shahidi (Jihad martyrs) believe by their nefarious acts that they ascend immediately to heaven. Using their beliefs against them, wrapping their corpses in 'unclean' pigskin prevents them from entering heaven for eternity.

I love it. I propose that we make it known everywhere that any jihadist who dies within our borders will be cremated (which I understand from zionblogger is also a no-no), their dust made into a paste with pig lard - by women - and the resulting goo bundled in rancid pig skins before being dumped overboard into the ocean somewhere unmarked.

I would personally donate a portion of my salary to help pay for that treatment.

[Link path tracks from Israpundit to Misha to Spoons.]

Posted by susanna at 12:04 PM | Comments (6)

I am a sick woman

Dr. Weevil, in the course of smacking around a particularly smelly bit of bloggish slime, used the phrase "fellatio and other non-Euclidean sexual acts". As you can imagine, the comments and further conversation were rather...interesting, centering on the first of those two listed. A number of people had their little stories to tell, and it even devolved into a lesson on etymology (educational, those blogs). In the richness of potential in that cluster of subject matter, what did I do?

I read up on non-Euclidean geometry.

Yep. I got all tangled up in thinking about angles and why this would be Euclidean and that would be non-Euclidean... you get the picture. Or not. The main point is, I hate math.

I am a very sick woman.

(But I do understand now. And no, I won't explain.)

Posted by susanna at 10:43 AM | Comments (7)

Patton piety

Remember Kentucky governor Paul Patton, who was caught with his pants down when his former lover took the affair public? Well, he's now saying that he isn't going to pay the cost of the security details that followed him on his trysts because it's not fair to future governors:

Gov. Paul Patton said he does not believe he should pay for the costs of his executive security detail when he secretly met with his former mistress, Tina Conner.

Patton said paying such costs would require future governors to reimburse the state for every private, personal trip.

"And then it would be very difficult for the state police to provide security for teh governor," Patton said during an impromptu news conference Wednesday. "So I don't want to start any precedent that would improperly limit the activities of the governor in the future."

Um, thanks, Paul. Certainly we wouldn't want to set a precedent that a governor who plays around on his wife should in any way suffer consequences for that behavior. Why, future governors might want to cut illegal deals, cavort with party operatives on state time and generally cut a swath through the darker side of life, and we wouldn't want them to feel constrained by the knowledge that if they're caught they're going to be personally responsible financially for the commonwealth having to pay for their protection during their bad behavior, now, do we? And of course in the future, personal trips like, say, going on a family vacation in the state and taking security would likely be confused with secret trysts with your lover in a (not so cheap) hotel.

I do agree, though, that not taking responsibility for your actions and not being willing to pay the just consequences is business as usual for politicians like you and your philosophical mentor, Bill Clinton.

Posted by susanna at 10:04 AM | Comments (3)


Well, since all the kids are doing it, I should too. I thought about it when the original thing came along - people were googling their names, and had to clean up the list themselves. This gizmo does the hard work for you:

susanna cornett is talking about when she asks susanna cornett is taking a week off susanna cornett is a former journalist susanna cornett is "keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media susanna cornett is no sissy susanna cornett is right susanna cornett is quite sensible on this subject susanna cornett is taking a vacation susanna cornett is breathing fire about the georgia crematorium operator crying racist susanna cornett is my muse this has been true since she was kind enough to give me this link susanna cornett is running updates on the sniper case at cut on the bias susanna cornett is back susanna cornett is a one susanna cornett is making changes in her weblog organization and focus susanna cornett is a low

Well. The difficulty with my name is that it's not particularly common, especially both together. So all of these likely are from actual links to me somewhere, so there's nothing interesting like a girls track team (well, I'd take the boys, preferably college age. mmmm...), or being a military pilot, or even getting viagra. Some of those I like a lot, though - like, susanna cornett is right. Well, yes. And you needed someone to tell you that? Or susanna cornett is quite sensible on this subject. I think that goes without saying on pretty much any subject, but if you want to say it - repeatedly - I won't object. I like being a muse, and I'm certainly no sissy. But I have to question the "susanna cornett is a one". One WHAT?! If we're talking scales here, I'm a one if it's descending in value, but if it's ascending (so 10 is the best), then I'm NOT a one. We'll assume this scale puts one on top.

And what's "a low"? A low what? I'll have to ponder that a bit. To get a little more action, I googled just my first name. The list was way too long to use all of it here, so I just picked out my favorites:

susanna is cute susanna is a heroine susanna is a heroine susanna is a lovely weaving together of threads from the ancestral past to tell a story of the present and future susanna is belligerent susanna is too intelligent to fool herself for long susanna is clearly misunderstood by her peers as well as the authority figures in her life susanna is stuck for the long haul susanna is trying on new hat susanna is crazybrave for having written this book susanna is accosted by two old lechers; they falsely accuse her publicly of seduction; daniel proves susanna's innocence susanna is just a mixed up young woman who simply is succumbing to the pressure of sorting out susanna is contained within this page susanna is trying on a hat before the mirror susanna is not there susanna is in there susanna is indeed having a tryst with the count and goes to cry on his newfound mother's shoulder susanna is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder by her psychiatrist (maybe that had something to do with susanna being not there but in there, at the same time, you think?)

And the very best:

susanna is more depressed and unmotivated than truly mentally ill

Startling how accurate this nonsense can be.

Posted by susanna at 09:19 AM | Comments (2)

October 30, 2002

Not at the NY TIMES??

Apparently a NY Times photographer posed a photograph of a young boy with a gun that later ran in the paper to illustrate a story on the al Qaeda terrorist cell in Lackawanna, NY. While posing photos is accepted, when it's done the newspaper will typically label it as "photo illustration", as opposed to "news photo" - the latter implying that it was a "found moment", plucked by the camera from the unmanipulated flow of life. It was caught because other photographers watched it happen, complaining to their newspapers and, eventually, to the Columbia Journalism Review. The NY Times had this to say:

On October 25, the Times published an Editor’s Note that says [photographer]Keating acknowledged “that the boy’s gesture had not been spontaneous,” and that the paper “regrets this violation of its policy on journalistic integrity.”

Seems to me they could have said "the boy's gesture was posed" or "our photographer lied to our readers deliberately by passing off a photo illustration as a news photo", but maybe that was too direct, and none of their famed sources were willing to substantiate that wording, even as deep background. Of course the photographer was incensed:

Keating, for his part, says the accusations are “totally false,” but declined to elaborate or address the Editor’s Note. Times editors, when asked about Keating’s denial, said only that “The Editor’s Note speaks for the paper.”

Sounds like Keating is channeling Bellesiles. One wonders just how prevalent this behavior is there, what the "climate" of honesty is at the Times. This was fascinating too:

The incident gets at an ongoing debate in photojournalism. Kenny Irby, who teaches photo ethics at the Poynter Institute, says that there has been a broadening of what is considered legitimate in photojournalism. The key, he says, is the photographer’s intent, which should be made clear to the reader. “What is the purpose of the photo?” he asks. If it is to illustrate, he says, then there is more creative license. If the purpose is to report, he says, then the photo must accurately and honestly represent the experience as it was revealed to the photographer. The Times apparently concluded that in this case that standard wasn’t met.

I don't know what he's referring to as "broadening" in what is legit. When I was working for a newspaper, doing both photo illustrations and news photos, as well as designing pages (thus responsible for determining how to characterize the photos), it was clearcut: If the photo was a "found moment", then it was news. If the photographer was involved at all in making it happen, then it was a photo illustration. The wiggle room there, as far as I knew, was limited to saying "do that again" to someone flinging a frisbee, as long as (s)he was already playing frisbee. It was fudging a little to ask someone who had been playing frisbee to get up and play again, so I could photograph it. If I went over and got someone not even in the space I wanted to photograph, told them how to present themselves for the camera, then snapped the photo - it was an illustration.

I don't get what's so hard about that. Maybe the fact that a professor teaching photo ethics does seem to have a little difficulty with it, and a photographer on the street has a lot of trouble with it, speaks to why the public continues to be more and more cynical about the media.

Especially the New York Times.

[Link via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 06:26 PM | Comments (1)

Starting a conspiracy theory

Is it possible that the Democrats had Wellstone assassinated because it looked like he might lose, and they couldn't have another New Jersey?

[No, of course I don't believe it. But it really has more validity, if your mind is going to go on that kind of path, than the accusation that Bush had him assassinated. Furthermore, if they did, then the perfect thing to do would be to follow it up with an emotional political rally at the funeral, where all the Big Guns showed up in tearful defiance of The Republican Machine, and noxious little conspiracy theorists chatting up a "Bush assassinated him!" agenda online, led by Chief Noxious Ted Rall. Then any genuine efforts to learn the truth on the part of anyone would be shouted down by the "justifiably outraged" Democrats as Republican heartless politicizing of a tragedy....]

[Why is this suddenly sounding plausible to me?]

[maybe those weren't portabello mushrooms i had for lunch??]

UPDATE: Hmmm. Apparently I'm psychic. I hadn't read this when I wrote my own theory, but it sounds eerily similar.

Thanks, Kevin, for the link.

Posted by susanna at 04:28 PM | Comments (2)

Go get'em!

This was just too good to append as an update to either of my two earlier posts on the same subjects. Cold Fury Mike has turned up the heat to boiling hot, burning down the house around the Democrats' funeral-political rally combo and Ted Rall's noxious accusations of assassination against the Bushies.

I bet he doesn't wear pearls!

Posted by susanna at 01:07 PM | Comments (1)

I really really do try

Well, I'm at it again. Notice below where I trounce Pad for his anti-police/military comments? Well, because it's courteous to do so, I sent him an email heads-up that he'd been trounced. He sent one back saying, essentially, "Fair enough." So then I sent him another email saying, I hated to do it but, you know, sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. And he responded, logically, why the guilt? (Undertone: get over yourself, girl!)

That's actually a very good question: Why the guilt? Here is my response to him:

Well, I have this genetic defect called a "nice" gene. It's a flaw, I know, but I really do struggle with stomping people even when they richly deserve it. I have to disconnect my "nice" gene, which is hard. For example, when I talk about a former friend of mine who harassed me and my family for literally five years, I still have to say, somewhere in there, that "she has a lot of good qualities". If you read my writing consistently, you'll notice (if you care to) that somewhere in most critical pieces, I'll have a "she has a lot of good qualities" type of statement, like, "there are a lot of good journalists" in a post trouncing the media.

So. You have a lot of good qualities :).

This "nice" gene thing is a curse, I tell you, a curse! It's a big source of amusement to friends, most especially my friend Melody who has placed a moratorium on my ever saying again, "(s)he has some really good qualities, though!". Sigh. I talked to another blogger yesterday who is my rant-idol, and he encouraged me to get in touch with my inner, um, witch. So I did, and life is good, look for more of the same in the future. But if you're the object of it, don't be surprised if you receive an email from me saying, "I'm sure you have some other really good qualities..."

UPDATE: Yes, another one of those updates before it's even posted the first time. Pad has assured me in email that my "nice" gene was switched off completely in the below rant. There's still hope.

And he does have some good qualities...

It actually is kinda lame of me. Seriously. I want to have it both ways - spray the world with my Uzi and come out with everyone saying, but other than her tendency to strafe the room she's a ray of sunshine! Clearly this is a personal flaw. I really need to buy that handgun and practice scowling in the mirror, snarling, "Get out of my face, scum!"; you know, toughen up a little.

But what will I do with my little pearl necklace?

UPDATE: Pad asks a reasonable question. The answer, Pad, is "no". You obviously don't get the whole southern woman thing. But I promise in the future not to be so angst ridden when I rant. I'll just whip out the brass knuckles, do what has to be done and go toss back a cold one (Pepsi, in my case) when I'm done, taking care to shake the blood off my hands first.

Posted by susanna at 12:06 PM | Comments (9)

Ted Rall is a lame-brained idiot

The latest idiocy from Ted Rall isn't a cartoon, although it's cartoonish in its mean-spirited, hallucinatory ranting. He apparently actually thinks that there is a possibility the Republicans had Paul Wellstone assassinated:

Talk of foul play began hours after Senator Paul Wellstone's plane went down over northeastern Minnesota on Oct. 25, killing him, his wife and his daughter, along with three staffers and two pilots. "Please tell me I'm wrong to be thinking what I'm thinking," a self-described "liberal Democrat" from St. Paul e-mailed me that evening. "I want to be wrong, but I wouldn't put it past the Republicans--THESE Republicans--to sabotage Wellstone's plane." Internet discussion groups and e-mail in-boxes quickly echoed her sentiment.

People expressed similar fears after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan ... died in plane crashes--the latter weeks before facing an election challenge from future Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft ... but the whispers of assassination following the Wellstone tragedy are more widespread and gaining mainstream currency far beyond the usual conspiracy nuts.

Ted, you need to lay off those mushrooms, although I realize they enhance what few brain cells you can usually muster. They just make your idiocy flare up into neon hysteria. If you want to do some real investigations, check into all those people who died around the Clinton administration. That'd keep you busy a while.

[Link via The World Wide Rant]

UPDATE: Well, I was late to the party, but at least I'm in august company. Both Andrew Sullivan and Rand Simberg have thoroughly destroyed these idiot conspiracy theorists. Why is Ted Rall still employed?

[Links via Instapundit]

UPDATE: Steve Quick, who knows about planes and has flown ones like the one Wellstone was in, says it is unlikely the crash was weather-related. He says it was probably "CFIT - controlled flight into terrain". From his post, sounds somewhat similar to what happened to JFK Jr. But what do I know. (That's right, thank you - nothing.)

Posted by susanna at 09:57 AM | Comments (4)

What he said

I was on the page with James Lileks right after Paul Wellstone's death - lay off the crowing and dancing on the grave for at least a couple days. Show a little respect - he's dead. We can discuss how his influence was harmful a little later. Well, many of us did lay off, which apparently served only to give the Democrats more room to dance on the grave themselves. Sleezy. And Stephen Green says everything I think about it, only better than I could.

I have no problem with turning a memorial service or funeral into a party if it's a celebration of the person's life, and everyone is there for that purpose. While I want people to miss me when I'm gone, I want to be remembered with humor, with music and with people reconnecting with what family and friends mean. This business of making it a political rally just reeks of the rankest cynicism and emotional exploitation. I'll shut up now. Stephen really does do it better.

UPDATE: Well, here's more on the Wellstone "memorial":

The event that began as a poignant farewell to the late Senator Paul Wellstone Tuesday evening culminated in a furious series of partisan speeches.

Wellstone's family and friends exhorted supporters to help his ballot replacement to victory next week.

The first eulogies were tender remembrances for the seven people killed along with Wellstone in a northern Minnesota plane crash Friday as were the initial remarks for Wellstone.

The late senator had been locked in a difficult re-election battle with Republican Norm Coleman.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin called Wellstone "the soul of the Senate."

But by the end of his remarks, Harkin had shed his jacket and was imploring the crowd of about 15,000 to work on Wellstone's behalf.

Wellstone's friend and former student Rick Kahn whipped up the crowd before Harkin took the stage by adopting the late senator's fiery speaking style.

He chopped the air with his hands, as Wellstone often did, and exhorted the crowd to keep Wellstone's dream alive.

Kahn's comments, which came more than an hour into the planned two-hour tribute shocked media outlets across the state which were carrying the event live. Viewers and listeners were outraged. By 10:15 p.m., KARE TV's operator had logged more than 100 calls. It is unknown how many call went to the station's overflow voicemail system...

The remembrances turned political when the first of four speakers to talk about Wellstone, campaign treasurer Rick Kahn, took the podium.

"We are going to win this election for Paul Wellstone."

Several times throughout his speech, Kahn begged the Democratic crowd to vote on November fifth to keep Wellstone's legacy alive.

Kahn even called on Republican senators in attendance to stand up in the election's final days and to urge others to keep Wellstone's dreams going forward.

Kahn told the crowd: "We can redeem the promise of his life if you win this election for Paul Wellstone."

Kahn's speech has raised anger in Democrats and Republicans alike.

One Republican official said Kahn's speech will benefit the GOP. He said call were flooding in to party headquarters, with many callers offering to donate money.

The Sons Speak
The Wellstone's two surviving sons also spoke. David Wellstone said his parents "changed untold lives forever."

...Mark ended his speech by leading the crowd in a chant — we will win, we will win — in a style that was hauntingly like his father's.

Harkin Continues
After brief, mostly sentimental, speeches by Wellstone's two sons — Iowa Senator Tom Harkin continued the politicking with a fiery speech.

Nice. If you want, there's links to the actual speeches as well.

Posted by susanna at 09:21 AM | Comments (2)

I'm a hobbit

In my morning cruise through Brent's The Ville, I noticed he had found a site which generates prison names (which Dodd says in Brent's comments that he blogged about 18 months ago, so this is not cutting edge here). Anyway, when I put in my name, the response was something anatomically impossible. Well, improbable, anyway, and impossible without major surgery. So I tracked down one a little more my style. I am:

Ruby Cotton of Overhill

Works for me. I actually have some ruby cotton in my quilt stash. Cool.

Posted by susanna at 08:29 AM | Comments (3)

It's 40 degrees F outside...

It snowed last night, not much north of here.

I saw a car on my drive in to work that had about half an inch of sleet on its trunk.

Now, why is it I don't have socks on?

Posted by susanna at 08:16 AM | Comments (4)

Teen shot in Jersey City high school

One teen shot another teen - he says accidentally - at Lincoln High School in Jersey City yesterday. Could have been an accident, but what's he doing with a gun at school? That's a tough section of town, although there's a lot of good people in the neighborhood, and some really gorgeous old homes. I've worked in that section on a special project for over two years, driving by Lincoln all the time. The high schools here have open lunches, which is to say they don't have a cafeteria, but rather disgorge all the students at lunchtime to go get their own somewhere. It's a policing nightmare, to have hundreds of high school kids congregrating in a pretty narrow space in front of the school (they constantly block the street) every single day. Drug problems are huge there - I worked with the cops to get a prostitute nest in an abandoned house cleared out, just right around the corner; the floor of their room was covered with crack vials and melted wax. A few blocks from there, a man was killed in a drive-by shooting a couple of years ago. It's not the worst part of the city, but it's bad enough. So it's not surprising the kid had a gun in school, or that he shot someone. Even by accident.

Posted by susanna at 06:57 AM | Comments (1)

Carnival of the Vanities

The latest edition of Carnival of the Vanities is up for your reading pleasure. Bigwig, a fine blogger in his own right, has outdone himself this week by giving a taste of each linked post so you can at least know as much as if you read the back of a book at the bookstore before buying.

Take a moment to thank and admire Bigwig - he took a good idea, he developed it, and now he's consistently following through and doing it extremely well. Thanks, Bigwig - sometime when I'm not scattered like pickup sticks in the hands of a three-year-old, I'll remember to suggest one of my posts.

Posted by susanna at 06:47 AM | Comments (2)

Did I hear that right?

Just after I turned on the radio this morning, before both my eyes were completely open or my brain fully engaged (don't even go there), I think I heard this on the radio:

Some councilmember in the NYC area is wanting to pass legislation requiring that people who purchase kegs must register with their name and address before being allowed to take it home. Or wherever.

I'll keep an eye out for this. I looked for it in the NY Post, the Daily News and the NY Times; all I found was this article on the prevalence of teenage drinking in the suburbs. It doesn't mention the registration idea, but does mention that locals are getting together to try to alleviate the problem.

Of course no one makes a huge point of the fact that if the parents were actually raising their kids instead of working 80 hour weeks or weren't more concerned about themselves instead of their kids, maybe this wouldn't be such a problem. I can't pretend to offer a solution, because I don't drink and I'm really not around it all that much. I wouldn't be bothered if it wasn't around anymore (if it wasn't around just because nobody wanted it). I am bothered by the continued encroachment on individual rights - an encroachment that is increasingly sending the message that individuals cannot and should not take responsibility to live their lives in a reasonable, at least marginally disciplined way, but rather should submit to a nanny state.

People, there's lots of folks who do drink responsibly. Why don't a few of you get out there and smack around these lamers instead of letting another piece of individual freedom get sucked beneath the waves of paternalism? Get some ideas that work - like, maybe, arresting a parent who's underage kid winds up wasted and passed out on somebody's front lawn.

Posted by susanna at 06:39 AM | Comments (5)

October 29, 2002

Military and police - arrogant and brutal?

I’ve seen comments from Pad a few times, here and there, and he seemed a nice enough guy, so tonight I meandered on over to his blog to check it out. The sports stuff was marginally interesting, the anti-gun stuff nothing particularly new, so I was going to just meander away and leave him alone to his naiveté and misunderstandings. Then I got to this:

…most people go into law enforcement and military life for the power trip. And the chiefs are the biggest swinging dicks of all.

What’s the problem, Pad - are you jealous because yours won’t swing?

I get pretty tired of the gratuitous slams at cops and the military; the part about cops was especially annoying because just below that post, Pad had this to say:

…the cops walk a beat that I would never walk myself. I trust them to do this work for me so that I may be about my own business. I am willing to pay a goodly amount of tax for that, and they are willing not to have to do their own retirement plan funding, or their own butchering, or their own millinery. It's a fair trade…

Not surprisingly, he’s more than content to use their services, admitting he would never do their job, while raining contempt on their heads. I’ve been around a lot of cops for more than 20 years, and yes, there’s quite a few who are jerks, lazy slobs, idiots or just plain criminals, but that’s not true of most of them. The average cop shovels a lot of shit so you can go to work every day, find your car still there when you leave, have a reasonable expectation that your wife and children won’t be butchered on the kitchen floor when you get home, and generally create an environment where society can have the stability it needs to function well – and in the United States, we function very well.

The context of Pad’s comment was the release of the prisoners from Gitmo, or, rather:

…the incompetence and arrogant brutality of the American military forces doing the capturing [of those in Gitmo]

Whoa, Mr. Swingless, would that be the military that’s on some power trip over in another country, away from their families, some of them dying, a lot of them sick of dust and heat and military food, willing to do it, volunteering for that duty so that you, Pad, have the freedom and security to bring your fiancee cinnamon rolls for her 30th birthday? They’re swingin’ wide, there, Pad, aren’t they?

Did you stop for, oh, maybe one entsy fraction of a millisecond to ponder whether they may have had a reason to take the old men? It seems a bit odd to me too, but then I have more faith in the military than to think they’re hauling off grandpas just because they enjoy inflicting humiliation. I’m thinking maybe there were some old men who preached death and destruction in their places of ‘worship’, some old men who incited younger ones to kill. Do we leave them in place because they’re, well, old, so they can become the geriatric equivalent of drug runners using kids as mules because the law leaves them alone? And isn’t it possible, that in the prosecution of a war, a few innocent people get caught up in the net?

It’s people like you, Pad, who would stay the hand that saves because sometimes saving most requires losing some. If we can’t all win, then we should naturally all lose. But somehow that losing doesn’t include you, Ellen and the cinnamon rolls. You’re happy to give up your hard-earned tax dollars to pay those lug brained military and police neanderthals slavering over their firearms, yearning to wreak havoc, just so long as they don’t intrude on your pristine love-everyone philosophy. I heard someone else like you today on the radio, and I nearly came through the dashboard at him. The talk show host got him to admit that Saddam getting nukes would be a bad thing because he would either use them for blackmail or discharge them, but the guy couldn’t stop there. The host said, if Saddam has them, won’t he use them? And the guy said, you can say that about any country.

You can say that about any country. Obviously he was indicating that nukes in the hands of the US are as likely to be used for evil as those in the hands of Saddam. And you’re saying our military, because they’re macho peabrains, are going to harm people for the joy of it. I say, both of you should place yourself somewhere that the US does not offer you any protections, and see how long the cinnamon rolls last.

You prefaced your cop and military comment with this:

It's like I used to say, then stopped saying for about a month, then started saying again when it was safe to do so…

Pad, it’s still not safe, not in my world. Try again when you can make reasoned and valid criticisms without spraying noxious hatefulness over the people who make your lifestyle possible.

UPDATE: Dodd hits the high points of gun ownership, although not in response to Pad's comments. But it does the job, nonetheless. And I must say this is one of the hottest things I've seen in a while. Do I get to play with that too when I visit Kentucky, Dodd?

UPDATE: Pad responds. And Pad - didn't you know, tomorrow never comes?

Posted by susanna at 08:11 PM | Comments (10)

A moment of beauty

The Timekeeper, proprietor of Horologium blog, has been complaining about the weather in Germany, where he's currently stationed with the US military. However, when he sends me photos like this I can't work up much distress for him:

Afternoon[1] copy.jpg

He took this the last week of September, just north of the Austrian border, at
Schloss Neuschwanstein. Nothing I can say other than, it almost hurts to look at it. Great job, TT. And thanks for letting me post it.

UPDATE: How does the resolution on this photo look to you all? It's huge, I cut it down to post originally and then it was still too big, made it smaller again and now on my computer it has some weirdness going across the horizon. Is that just my computer, or is the resolution screwy for you too? It's a poster-worthy photo, I hate to have it look yucky here. But then if no one can load it because it's huge, that's a problem too...

The trials and tribulations of a webmaster. Sigh.

Posted by susanna at 10:25 AM | Comments (10)

Dick Morris is a creepy jerk

I watched some of Hannity & Colmes last night, and had to change the channel after about five minutes of an interview with political mouth Dick Morris. He is such total slime and reliance on him by the conservatives is bizarre to me. But last night he outdid himself in the slime department, not because of his political views, but because of how he was discussing the Minnesota Senate race. As we all know, Walter Mondale is being hauled out of mothballs to run for Wellstone's seat. And Morris kept saying "they're exhuming dead bodies over there!" and "it's like necrophilia!". Disgusting enough, but with the reason for Mondale's candidacy being the death of Wellstone, it was just beyond awful. I couldn't watch it after the third or fourth such reference. Even Hannity remonstrated with him about the language, and Morris just plowed on.

I don't get why anyone puts up with him.

Posted by susanna at 08:53 AM | Comments (6)

At least they're honest

How's these apples:

We wish we felt better about the race for Lexington mayor, we really do...

What we are seeing is a slugfest between two people whom we pointedly did not endorse in the May primary -- in fact, they were our bottom two choices in a field of four -- for reasons that have not changed since then...

So, we take the highly unusual step of not extending the Herald-Leader endorsement to either candidate.

We do this to say that Lexington deserves better candidates and better campaigns.

Well, Lexington deserves a better newspaper, but they're not getting that either. Actually, I've worked for both of the two candidates running, and they do both have some serious weaknesses as candidates. But so did the other two who fell out in the primary, one of whom - a very liberal candidate - the H-L endorsed and was crushed to see fail. The races for council and mayor in Lexington are supposedly non-partisan (wink-wink-nudge-nudge), so the H-L slams the more conservative candidate - Scott Crosbie - for who gives him money:

He accepted an unprecedented amount of Republican Party money in a non-partisan race, paying for a lot of negative ads and misleading polls.

It really dings them that a candidate the Democrats want to support is not running so the Democratic machine can't dump its own money in; it means the H-L doesn't have a clear choice for endorsement. Teresa Isaac is one of the more personable women I've met, always very warm and friendly, but much of the H-L's criticisms about her are valid. And quite frankly, a number of the criticisms of Crosbie are as well. So what's my problem? I just find the sniffing condescension of the newspaper to be laughable, given their consistent and intense political agenda and game-playing. You can bet that they've already discussed with "community leaders" a game plan for the next election in four years, to make sure a candidate more palatable to them "has a shot" (i.e. wins).

So do they make any recommendation at all? Sure:

...since there is no write-in candidate, one of these two will be our next mayor. So, the issue facing voters is which one will do the least damage in the areas of greatest importance to the future of the community.

Naturally they choose Isaac, who is liberal enough to qualify as a leftist. I like Teresa, but she's wayyyy over the liberal line. It's clear that, to the H-L, a leftist is least-harm when faced with a candidate who openly prays and makes a deal of Christian values (whether or not "faked" as they imply). Which makes their own closing line quite curious:

We urge you to vote your conscience for the betterment of Lexington and pray that whoever wins turns out to be a better leader than our worst fears.

Do let's pray - that Lexington eventually gets a newspaper worth a dime. Or 50 cents, at current market rate.

Posted by susanna at 08:42 AM | Comments (3)

Who'd a thought it

Three prisoners have been released from Gitmo and shipped back to the Middle East. And they're saying the imprisonment was not a nightmarish scene of humiliation, exposure to the elements and cruel captors. No, it was imprisonment with questioning and overall good treatment. How disappointing!

Well, at least to those who want the treatment to be awful, so they have some justification to stomp on the US with both feet. We'll see how this is spun in the next few days.

UPDATE: What a difference a perspective makes. Here are the leads from CNN – hardly a conservative shill of the White House – and from the NY Times on the Gitmo detainee release:


Three Afghans released after months of captivity at a U.S. military base in Cuba said Tuesday they were chained up during frequent interrogations but were treated well overall by their American captors.

Now, the NY Times:

Three members of the first group of prisoners to be freed from indefinite, secret detention at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba complained tonight that prisoners are locked for days at a time in sweltering 8-by-8-foot cells and are denied contact with their families.

Curious, isn’t it?

The NY Times story pounds a familiar drum, with the interviews with the released prisoners as merely a context:

In an interview tonight, the three Afghans said they were not tortured or abused by their American interrogators, but that the prospect of being trapped in endless isolation wore away at them.

They weren’t abused, but they were bored stiff! Oh the humanity! And then, on top of that:

Jan Muhammad, one of the Afghan prisoners, said that he was completely cut off from the outside world for 11 months and did not receive a letter from his family until three days before his release.

Shocking, that someone suspected of being involved in a conspiracy would not be allowed to send or receive mail. Why, the next thing you know, they’ll be denying guns to prison inmates.

Halfway down, we learn this:

The men's accounts could not be corroborated tonight.

I’m not quite sure what corroboration they’re looking for, but since it’s a boilerplate piece it really doesn’t need more than a consultation over the water fountain.

Mr. Muhammad and the other men criticized the methods the United States has used to determine who will be sent to Guantánamo Bay, accusing American officials of relying too much on faulty information provided by Afghan warlords. Over the last year, some warlords have been accused of providing faulty information, leading to American bombing raids that killed dozens of Afghan civilians.

You know what? It’s a war. Duh. I have confidence that our people did the best they could to, um, “corroborate” their information – certainly better than, say, prominent newspapers stateside. Oh, and here’s a little tidbit four paragraphs down from Mr. Muhammad’s criticism (wonder what his exact words were? Probably, “I don’t know why they got me!”, followed by this next information):

He concedes that he fought with the Taliban around Kunduz, but said he had no choice — Taliban soldiers conscripted him.

Interesting. Apparently he was detained because he fought for the Taliban. Sounds like a specious reason to me. He then says the warlord referenced above falsely identified him as a leader in the Taliban, but we’re given no reason why a warlord would randomly pick out people to sic the US soldiers on. The implication is that the US was blindly following the edicts of the aforementioned warlord and, one assumes, other warlords as well. No evidence, just implication. Water fountain dry?

In both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the issue of the detainees is fueling accusations of American heavy-handedness. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is being pressured to speed the release of dozens of prisoners whom Afghans say have been wrongly arrested.

All I want to know here is, accusations from whom? Can’t corroborate, don’t ask so many questions, move along. We’re just a newspaper, we’re not the freakin’ government, we don’t have a responsibility to be accurate or even to attribute accusations which in themselves can be harmful. Go away.

Near the end of page one of this long rambling anti-US screed, we get this:

Mr. Muhammad, if his story is to be believed, was a victim of circumstances.

Why this sudden fit of self-righteous questioning of Mr. Muhammad? You certainly rely on him a bit much earlier in the article to raise this now. One former detainee did have something of praise to say, but he has to be painted as a blithering senile old idiot before he’s allowed to be quoted:

One of them, Faiz Muhammad, said he was 105. Babbling at times like a child, the partially deaf, shriveled old man was unable to answer simple questions. He struggled to complete sentences and strained to hear words that were shouted at him. His faded mind kept failing him…

He was asked if he was angry at the American soldiers who arrested him. "I don't mind," he said, his face brightening. "They took my old clothes and gave me new clothes."

And on the second page, near the end, there’s this:

He said photographs showing blindfolded and chained prisoners depicted the screening process prisoners went through when they first arrived. Mr. Muhammad did not complain about the food or medical care, and he praised his American guards for respecting his religion. "When we were standing for praying they were walking very slowly to not disturb us," he said.

Sounds like he didn’t find it quite the ordeal the NY Times did, although you wouldn't really know it from the first part of the article. Interesting. I propose a new slogan for the NY Times, instead of “all the news that’s fit to print”. It would be this:

Perception is reality. Just ask us.
Posted by susanna at 06:25 AM | Comments (5)

October 28, 2002

Ooohhhhh....!!! good one

John Cole at Balloon Juice has a pithy point to make about recent Democratic choices.

What state does Jesse Jackson have residency in? Oh, wait, that doesn't matter either, does it, Hillary?

UPDATE: Scrappleface reports that at least one old white man can't get a gig anywhere.

Posted by susanna at 08:54 PM | Comments (1)


Sorry, was having a flashback to my old days as a journalist - you know, one of those people who can't even spell hypocrisy (unless applying it to a conservative), much less admit they're riddled with it. It appears that Patricia Cornwell, the mystery writer, donated $25,000 to a reward fund set up to help find a murderer in Louisiana. Problem is, she was interviewing the family of the murder victim for an ABC show at the time she decided to donate. ABC, of course, got its knickers all in a wad and puffed up like an adder. (yes, I know it's a mixed metaphor, but work with me here - can't you just see some pompous, poisonous adder nearly puffed out of his wadded up knickers, which are stamped all over with the ABC logo?)

Stephen Gordon of Pundit Tree, who called my attention to Howard Kurtz's column today where the story appears, does a nice job of pointing out the idiocy of ABC's position. I just have to add my little tweak - what kind of hypocrisy is it to flagrantly use the deaths of people in Louisiana as a money-making scheme by doing some huge show on it, winning the willingness of the families to cooperate by no doubt pointing out how much the coverage may help solve the case, rope in famous mystery writer Cornwell, rake in no doubt hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising sold at a higher rate because everyone likes to watch crime shows... and then get all high and mighty about a many-multi-millionaire dropping $25,000 in a reward fund?

Well, if you're not sure, let me help you - it's rank hypocrisy.

Posted by susanna at 08:01 PM | Comments (2)

On a different plane

Dodd at Ipse Dixit found this article about a WW II plane rescued from under a glacier and restored. Its post-restoration maiden flight was Saturday.

And the best part? It now lives in Middlesboro, Kentucky, just a hop, skip and jump from where I grew up. I've watched my high school basketball team whomp on the Middlesboro Yellowjackets [yellowjackets?! please! that's almost as bad as (pick any of those snotty Louisville teams)] many times. At any rate, for anyone who cares, here's a photo of the plane at the Middlesboro Airport (such as it is); you can see the terrain of my childhood, except we didn't have valleys that big. Still don't. But I'm not there anymore.

I bet you can rent guns in Kentucky.

Posted by susanna at 04:01 PM | Comments (6)

Now, why is it I live in NJ?

I've mentioned before that I'm in the market for a handgun - solely for sport shooting purposes, of course. I finally decided, on the advice of virtually everyone, that I should go to local shooting ranges and try out various handguns to see what feels best to me. So today I called a local shooting range, thinking I'd go out this Saturday and puncture some paper.

They won't rent me a gun.

That's right, in NJ, the range guy told me, they won't let me rent a gun. Anywhere. No range. Not even if I stay right in their shooting range and I'm having an official lesson from a certified teacher. It's an insurance liability thing, he said, and (he thought) state law too. Is he loony? Is the whole state loony? Is this the case in other states and no one saw fit to mention it? Of that list, I vote for (2).

So here's the logic: we don't want you to learn how to use the gun before you buy it; we don't want you to know what kind of gun is best for you. No, we're idiots.

Why was it I'm living here?

Posted by susanna at 02:25 PM | Comments (10)

I may as well shut down my blog

In the newest issue of City Journal, Harry Stein tells a detailed and chilling account of how the media bias machine works - an account he knows intimately because he was the object of it. Everything's there - the truth of what was said, the mechanisms of distortion, the spread of disinformation, the undercurrent of motives and, finally, the disconnection from reality involved in defending that worldview which many professional journalists call "objectivity", in truth nothing of the kind.

This article should be required reading in every journalism class in the nation. It's so good, I don't know that I'll ever have anything useful to add to it. I may just leave up a permanent link to it, take my toys and go home.

[Many thanks to Media Minded for the link.]

UPDATE: Well, I might not have anything useful to add, but Mike at Cold Fury sure does, with his trademark scorched-earth approach. Don't miss it.

UPDATE: And it just keeps on coming. Robert Prather has skewered the reporter, the media in general and just PC stupidity in this excellent piece. Go, Robert!

Posted by susanna at 01:28 PM | Comments (5)

They just can't resist

Editor and Publisher has chosen the top entries in their photography contest for this year; it's a worthy collection, although as always those types of decisions are subjective. For the most part the photographs and descriptions are straightforward presentations, but someone - I don't know if it was the photographer or someone associated with the contest - saw fit to append this to a photograph (scroll down, there's no direct link) of a woman who's child had been killed in a drive-by shooting:

The sniper killings in Virginia and Maryland have received all the attention lately, but thousands of other Americans have suffered death by bullet this year. Here, a Los Angeles-area mother reacts to the slaying of her daughter, a victim of a drive-by shooting.

Emphasis mine. "Death by bullet"? What, they're just pinging out of nowhere and striking people down? I don't think so. Why couldn't they at least say, "thousands of other Americans have been shot by disgusting criminal slime"? Can't quite seem to grasp that action requires an actor, can they? Neat how they dump every "death by bullet" together too, without parsing out what is accident, what is self-defense, and what is criminal action.

No bias there. Nope. Nothing to see. Move along.

Posted by susanna at 11:54 AM | Comments (3)

Laying Everyman to rest

The Last Page takes time to mourn the victims of Muhammad and Malvo, and says she's afraid that justice will not be served to those who deserve no less than what they meted out.

Posted by susanna at 09:40 AM | Comments (4)

No dancing, please

James Lileks says everything that needs to be said about the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, and the reactions to it on the right.

Posted by susanna at 09:10 AM | Comments (1)

When is a terrorist a terrorist?

I’ve not commented much on the sniper since John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were arrested last week, beyond saying I obviously missed some major points in my efforts to describe the killer. I do, however, think I did pretty well given the information that I had. While it would be interesting to go point by point through it (interesting to me, anyway – I’d probably dump it in one of those “continued” boxes so only those who really cared would have to deal with it), I don’t think we know enough of the truth about the killers yet to make a comparison useful.

Something I’ve found interesting, however, is the rush to judgment about Muhammad’s possible connections to terrorist organizations or terrorism in general. Some of the very people who were quite snarky about anyone with the audacity and arrogance to profile the sniper before he was caught, are now ranting on about how he’s an Islamic terrorist, of course he is! And anything new we learn about him becomes morphed into that view of him, even if it means that the term “terrorist” is stretched all out of shape like a cheap turtleneck after ten washings. All we’re lacking to confirm their labeling is, well, compelling evidence. And we may find it, should certainly aggressively investigate the possibility. But it’s no less audacious of them to make the claim so definitively now, in the face of what we know, than they thought the profilers were being in the past few weeks.

I think the media is, as some have claimed, trying desperately to disconnect Muhammad from any views that he is part of mainstream Islam, using his birth name or constantly identifying him as connected to some bastardized version of Islam, like the Nation of Islam. But that is not prima facie evidence that, conversely, Muhammad must be a member of mainstream Islam, or even organized Islamic terrorism, nor is it evidence that his motivation had much if anything to do with Islam. I think (if I may be so bold as to step off into the abyss of speculation again) that the religious influence on his crimes was about the same as the religious influence on the crimes of any white supremicist group that claims Christian connections – which is to say, a rather hallucinatory and ill-informed one, where what he saw in his religion was what he wanted to see, to support what he wanted to do anyway. And I say “he” instead of “them”, because I think that’s one point where my profile stuck – if it was two, I said, one will be very submissive and under the control of the other. So the motivations for the crime, I think, center in Muhammad, even though I also think it very possible that Malvo was an active and willing participant – certainly enough so that Malvo desires the same punishment as Muhammad.

If we’re going to go down this terrorism road, where in this new world order any harming of others by someone who has an ideology tangled in his or her psyche becomes “terrorism”, then we need to be clearer about definitions. Perhaps we could divide the umbrella term “terrorism” into “organized terrorism”, “guerrilla terrorism” and “terrorist sympathizer”. The genesis of, and thus the response to, each type is distinct. And if we make definitions clear, I may even jump on the bandwagon and join in the “Muhammad is a terrorist” song.

UPDATE: A coda to what I say above, partially in response to comments: Any series of killings causes terror. In his day, Ted Bundy was a terrorist, by that definition. So was David Berkowitz. The spread of this terror was because no one could discern a pattern in the victims that would allow those who did not "match" the pattern to relax and go about their business. And it appears that Muhammad and Malvo meant it to be that way, that (as I said previously) the point of the deaths was not the process, but the response. I'm not denying that the shootings created widespread fear; I would have been very apprehensive myself, if I lived there.

But when we use the word "terrorism", we are evoking a range of meaning that, historically, did not include this type of creating fear. If we want to use it, fine, but make it clear precisely what part of the existing meanings this new use encompasses. My concern is that the same narrowing of vision will occur by trying to force this situation into preconceptions of terrorism, that occurred when police thought they were looking for white men in a white van - resulting in missed opportunities to stop what was happening before ten people died.

Posted by susanna at 08:40 AM | Comments (11)

October 27, 2002

Millions thousands attend anti-war protests

Brent at The Ville puts the anti-war protestors in perspective; Michelle at A Small Victory has a precision takedown of Susan Sarandon.

Posted by susanna at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

It's always been enough

This article in the NY Times, about whether John Allen Muhammed was a terrorist vs one who caused terror, carries this headline:

When Just One Gun Is Enough

In a sense, it's right. And the article itself doesn't emphasize the gun, just the fact that a lone person without formal ties to terrorism groups can create a lot of terror. But seeing that kind of statement in the NY Times always makes me nervous, because it seems a way to emphasize that as long as anyone has a gun in this country, we're all at risk of this type of thing.

Well, yes, we are. And always have been. The question is: At what point does the cure become worse than the disease? And, if you - like the CDC - consider guns a pathogen, what makes you focus on this above other pathogens that are objectively worse? Or does it, again, come back to a utilitarian evaluation of cure vs disease?

Rachel Lucas points out in her recent fine takedown of Michael Moore that a number of other "risks" in society are greater than the "risk" associated with guns - cars, for instance, kill many more daily. And that's important to know. But in the final analysis it comes down to principle, as do most things in the political sphere: it's not about how many guns are out there, but whether the future of our country's freedoms are endangered when our citizens are disarmed. The Founding Fathers said "yes" by amending the Constitution to protect the right of citizens to be armed.

One gun will always be enough, just as one dram of poison, one packet of anthrax, one person with bare hands roaming the country with intent to kill will be enough to create terror. It's about context, not tools. Ours is not a utopian world - but the more important point is, it cannot be. And efforts to make it so through taking guns away from law-abiding citizens will move it inexorably down the scale toward hell on earth.

Posted by susanna at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

Another one who deserves to die

An 18 year old man in Oklahoma has killed two people and injured seven others in a shooting spree after neighbors complained to him about his reckless driving. He killed two of the ones complaining, injuring another, before heading down the road stopping various places to shoot people. He was finally caught when he wrecked his truck (some justice there) near a police roadblock.

He apparently stole the gun from his grandfather's house.

Posted by susanna at 07:35 AM | Comments (5)

October 26, 2002

First in my heart

A few weeks ago I visited with Fred First of Fragments from Floyd and his wonderful wife Ann, she of the generous welcome to strangers and scrumptious pumpkin bread sent home with a traveler heading out on a long road. Today I received from the Firsts the recipe for the bread (I’m going to make it tomorrow), a photo of the road near their house (posted below), and a CD of Alison Krauss and the Cox Family. Fred and Ann, thank you! You’re sweethearts!

While I was at Fred and Ann’s, he played guitar and we sang on Saturday night; he and I even harmonized with a few songs on the radio, so he knows my love for singing harmony – thus the CD. Of course it’s playing now. It must not have been too horrific for him to encourage me with the CD. I grew up attending a country church where we knew five tunes and ten songs (an exaggeration, but not by much). We always sang a cappella, which is still my favorite; among my most-played CDs and tapes now are those with songs I can harmonize with. At church now (still a cappella) I sing high tenor, mainly because I need to sing within a certain range and it offers the most opportunity for the juxtaposition of notes that sometimes can give me goose bumps. One of my dreams is to sing with a professional band for a while, if only for one performance. I’ve sung in weddings, and a few variety shows, but if I was in a band I wouldn’t want to sing lead. I want to do harmony. My voice isn’t strong enough for a professional career, even if my musical talent were, but a girl can dream. And for hours and hours as a teenager, I did dream, singing with all the musicians on the stereo of my darkened room, imagining the moments when all the voices came together, and mine was one of them.

Another thing that can give me goose bumps is color, especially fall colors. October is my favorite time of the year, and sometimes seeing a landscape awash in melons and golds and deep indian reds just makes my chest hurt with delight. Here is the photograph that Fred sent me:


Pure bliss. That is the kind of place I want to live. My color preferences also tend to show up in my quilting; this wallhanging is one I made using just fabrics I already had – none of the fabrics in the stars are repeated, so you can imagine what my fabric stash looks like. I chose the colors of this site based on the wallhanging, which I intend to post on the sidebar soon:


Because I haven’t a lot of time, I’m impatient and mercurial, and I like to move quickly from project to project, I tend to make small things – especially miniquilts designed by me to create moods more than reflect specific patterns: a fall day, or a snowy winter evening. However, here is the largest quilted piece I’ve finished, shown here hanging on my parents’ carport, where my dad hung it using great honking board nails when I told him to put it on the wall (moral: if you want a delicate piece of textile art hung anywhere, don’t give it to my dad to do). The occasion was my mom’s 60th birthday, thus the cake (which I also made):


So what is the point of this meandering through music and quilting and pumpkin bread and nothing of world moment? There is no point beyond it’s Saturday, it’s my blog, I’m tired of the harsh things of life and want to have a day where they aren’t foremost in my mind or on my blog.

Now I’m going to go finish writing the racy little romantic short story I started last night, and no, you can’t read it, it’s solely for my own delectation, thankyouverymuch. Have a lovely day.

Posted by susanna at 12:56 PM | Comments (1)

Fall back position

It's that time of year, apparently. Don't forget to turn your clocks back by an hour tonight, if you live in a part of the country where they do that kind of thing. I do, so it means another hour of sleep. Yay! Well, practically speaking it probably means another hour on the phone, but we'll be optimistic.

Posted by susanna at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

About accents

I went to a meeting last week which was probably one of the most boring I've been to in a while. It was a technical conference where a program we may participate in was being explained; you know you're in trouble when the lead speaker says, "I'm going to read this to you, and I repeat everything three times because I think three times is enough for anyone to get it." Naturally, I muttered under my breath, "Reading it one time is enough for those not brain dead.". But then that's just me.

So instead of listening to two of the three repeats of everything, I listened to her strong Jersey accent and took notes. She kept saying that this thing or that thing was a "floor" in the statute, and I thought, huh? Is she meaning that it's a baseline? But that didn't make sense. So after jotting down a few other of her words phonetically, it came to me:

She was saying "flaw".

That's right. She was saying "flaw", only it was "Flow-er", sounding exactly like how I would say "floor". I listened more closely the next time, and yes, it was "floor", so that when I left I was still uncertain if maybe, the whole time, she did mean "floor", not flaw. But her other pronunciations matched it. "Law" was "low-er" (say it fast for the full effect), etc.

This is the Jersey talk that is most easily mimicked. Among my favorites is how they say "talk" - it's "toe-awk" - always say it fast. And "mountain" - it's "mao-ann". Now most Jerseyites don't talk this way, and I can't say where the epicenter of it is, although I think it's Newark. But it's very distinctive.

Of course, where I grew up they have their own regional dialect. "Coffee" there is "cahw-fee" (drawl it out), vs "coe-AH-fee" (say it fast) here. Naturally this is not an issue for me, as I don't drink cahwfee or coe-AH-fee, as it tastes like licking the bottom of a burnt-to-a-charcoal saucepan (not, of course, that I've ever actually licked one, but how I imagine it to taste, if ever I was so moved, which I won't be). I'm sadly lacking in the beverage vices, I'm sorry to say - no coffee, no adult beverages, rarely even caffeinated pop (not even once a week). I do on occasion drink hot tea, and sweetened iced tea is nectar of the gods, especially with the orange-spice flavor I always add. Mmmmm.

Maybe I should go make some tea now. At least that's difficult to mispronounce.

Posted by susanna at 11:38 AM | Comments (2)

Public Notice

This is to make public notice that I am not responsible for my Weather Pixie. She chooses her own clothes, so any displays of bare flesh are beyond my ability to control. In addition, the stupidity of wearing midriff-baring tops when the temps are in the low 50s is also solely her own. The Celsius temperature has proven beyond my skills to change to Fahrenheit.

She is an evil and wilful Pixie, and I have nightmares about her coming after me with a sharpened umbrella. I won't mess with her.

Posted by susanna at 11:00 AM | Comments (9)

Not that I needed confirmation, but...

Recently a ossuary - a stone burial box from the first century - with the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" was discovered in the private collection of a Jerusalem antiquities collector. Experts have confirmed that it is an authentic First Century ossuary, and believe it highly likely (and statistically probable) that it was the storage place for the bones of James, the brother of Jesus Christ, for a few brief years in the 60s A.D. If so, then it's proof of the life of Jesus, contemporaneous with the lives of those who followed him - the earliest known proof.

I've seen this discussed in blogland here and there, so it's not news, but I hadn't really tracked it down until my brother sent me links this morning. I love seeing this kind of proof, although (and I know it galls those who like to think I'm at least marginally driven by touchable, proveable premises) I didn't need it. And of course this doesn't prove that Jesus is the son of God, just that he lived and was a prominent figure in that era.

The TV show Archaeology was always one of my favorites, so I know there's much proof out there confirming Biblical statements. It's not perfect proof, but, in my judgment, convincing proof. And (joking aside) proof does matter to me. Faith can't be blind or it's not faith but wish - it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And this ossuary is pretty compelling evidence.

Posted by susanna at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

Straight talk

Only a week late, here is a link to my brother's latest column on religion in his local newspaper, The Jessamine Journal; this time it's on homosexuality.

He has both links to other columns and links to sermons on his church website.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber brings the Light of Reason - by his lights, anyway - to the discussion with this post. I appreciate the dialogue, but I can say with confidence that my brother does not believe in Original Sin (nor do I), which Silber is skewering here. I'd be more than happy to skewer right along with him. One additional comment about faith, though - it is not wishful thinking, it is an expectation derived from an examination of evidence. You may not arrive at the same expectation from an examination of the same evidence, but it is inaccurate to say there is no evidence or fact at its base. Any belief system by definition relies to a degree on faith - otherwise there'd be no reason to call it a "belief system", it would merely be fact.

Posted by susanna at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

Smarter Harper's

The Smarter Harper's Index is up.

And man, that Eric is way smarter.

Although one wonders if his name shouldn't be "Alec".

[Smarter Alec - get it?]

(i know, i shoulda stayed in bed another hour. i think i'll go remedy that.)

Posted by susanna at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2002


Jennifer Capriati in 1997.

Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

All I can say is: Brawny commercial .

[2002 photo via Fred First at Fragments from Floyd]

Posted by susanna at 07:25 PM | Comments (2)

Hope to see you later...

My computer at home is having difficulties - it keeps freezing up, and I have to turn it off and do a cold reboot. I'm going to poke around at it tonight, trying to avoid things like, for instance, opening the box and vacuuming it with my mini-vac to get all the dust off those delicate parts. Yes, I did that once. If I can't get it to behave, then I'll likely spend a lot of the evening being charming and stern by turns with the Micron people until it gets fixed.

So, you ask, why do I care? You mean, other than the fact that everything that happens in my life is of surmounting importance in yours? It means that if the computer freezes up four times in the middle of a post, then likely you won't be seeing any more until it gets all better. But I am valiant, and will do my best.

At any rate, have a great weekend, and at least I will see you on Monday with, undoubtedly, the most insightful, well-written post of the new millenia.

Posted by susanna at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

Sen. Paul Wellstone dies in plane crash

Wellstone, a well-known liberal Democrat, was killed with his wife, daughter and five others while flying to the funeral of a father of a state legislator.

An untimely death is always very sad. My prayers are with the families.

Posted by susanna at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

Autopsy photos, open records and journalistic integrity

Lex Alexander, an assistant editor at the Greensboro, NC, News & Record, has written me to disagree with what I said in this post about the photographs taken of racecar driver Dale Earnhardt’s autopsy. Here is Alexander’s email, in its entirety; he quotes the pertinent section of my original post:

I wanted to take issue with one point in this post, the one regarding photos from Dale Earnhardt's autopsy and how the public wasn't upset that the Florida legislature banned access to autopsy photos. You wrote: "I don't know that obtaining the autopsy photos for a celebrity would advance the public's need to know; I'm assuming there was a review by the proper officials regarding whether Earnhardt's death came through any mechanical failure. The public isn't upset because the journalists have no business there - and maybe the journalists should consider what's wrong with them, not what's wrong with the public."

With all due respect, you're wrong.

Obtaining autopsy photos in this particular case could well have advanced the public's need to know because they could have been instrumental in determining not only how Earnhardt died, but also whether NASCAR, which has a long record of downplaying safety concerns, was being forthcoming in its reports on the case. Earnhardt was the fourth racer to die within a year of a basal skull fracture (one of the others was Richard Petty's grandson, Adam). Although equipment has been available (the so-called HANS device) that would greatly increase the driver's likelihood of surviving even the type of crash -- 180 mph head-on into a wall -- that killed Earnhardt, NASCAR has refused to mandate its use.

Racin' aside, it's not hard to see how autopsy photos could become pivotal in homicide cases, especially cases in which someone dies in police custody. The public most definitely has an interest in seeing that those photos remain public records. Of course no one wants to see autopsy photos of their loved ones on the Internet, but IMHO there's a greater danger to society here that comments like yours gloss over.

And here is the bulk of my response to him, which I will expand on below:

(W)hat I want to address is your contention that in the situation with Earnhardt, the photos were a legitimate investigative journalism target. I'm open to that; perhaps I just don't know enough about the situation. I used to work as a newspaper reporter myself, and even used the Open Records Act to get information I needed on occasion. However, I think there does need to be a legitimate public need, not just a desire for knowledge about a famous person's death. My assumption was that there would be an independent investigation of the death by an agency not associated with NASCAR that would address the concerns you stated. If that's not true, then it is cause for concern.

Another of my issues is that the media often shoots itself in the foot by specious requests and self-dramatization, cloaking itself in "the public's right to know" when the point is really "I want the scoop that people want to read". If the media were, generally, more responsible, then the whole industry would have a better reputation. Please understand here that I am not impugning the character and quality of all journalists - I think a strong media is essential to a strong democracy, and many many journalists are all any reader could hope for. But can you deny that the behavior overall of the media itself has contributed substantially to the skepticism of the public? And that this skepticism damages the media's ability to gain sympathy for efforts like trying to get Earnhardt's autopsy photos, even when it's legit?

This issue is very important, and one I do think gets lost sometime in the dialogue – almost because the foundation of it is an “of course!”. That is – of course we need an active, vigorous and independent media. The problem is, few Americans have a very clear idea of what precisely that means, or what legal tools the media need to accomplish their job. The Open Records Act and the Sunshine Law (here’s an index to these laws in all the states) are among the most important, but not just because the media can use them – they are tools all of us can use. The media typically uses them most, but they are doing so in proxy for the rest of us, as Alexander alleges is the case in the Earnhardt autopsy photo request. His point is: A pattern of deaths has pointed to a possibility of a fixable flaw in racecar configuration. NASCAR hasn’t required the fix. The public has a reasonable interest in whether the apparent pattern actually indicates a systematic flaw, and if so they also have an interest in first knowing why NASCAR won’t require the fix, and then in seeing that NASCAR does it anyway. If the media don’t get their hands on the photos, they are impeded in their efforts to make the case, in proxy for the public. Even other agencies who might have investigated could be operating with their own agendas which have blindered them to the pattern and the need for a fix.

If all of that is true, with that context, as I said, I would agree that they should get the photographs. But let me ask this: if the photographs were made available, would they wind up in widespread distribution, far beyond the realm of legitimate need as expressed by Alexander and other journalists? Most likely. So that raises another question: Is the harm caused by that distribution overridden by the public’s need to know? The circuit court judge in the Earnhardt case thought so. And many in the public did too.

I think the problem is that the media is caught on the horns of a dilemma – they have a professional edict to provide citizens with news, information that they need and can use, and, in proxy for the public, to keep an eye on public institutions. At the same time, they have a need to be entertaining, to be first with the biggest, to advance their paper or station or magazine by drawing readership. Too many journalists have skidded into the mud, then stand in their pigsty mess, pushing straggly hair out of their eyes, and swear up and down that they’re clean as new straw in their intentions. It just won’t work.

So what’s the solution? Well, we hear endlessly about how Islam as a religion can’t change its rapidly developing reputation as a religion of violence until those within its ranks show not only with words but with actions that they do not support those who behave in heinous ways. In a similar fashion, the media cannot slow the trend toward public distrust of their integrity and disinterest in their access problems until the responsible and reputable media outlets clearly state their principles and then follow it up with action. It has to be a part of the daily decision-making process, on every single story. Does this meet the smell test? Are we going to be scooped even though we got this first, because we refuse to sink to that level?

And I haven’t even touched on the issue of objectivity, which I think is not only unnecessary but impossible. An adherence to the principles of fairness and accuracy, including not only admitting political bias but also in seeking to have closed records opened, would go a long way to restoring the media’s credibility. Yet we see a trend in the opposite direction. I share the concern of some that the access to government and other documents may be limited beyond what is healthy for our country. But I think they have only themselves to blame.

[I will have more to say on this at a later date. But for now lunch is over and I want to post this today. We’ll get back to it, maybe in response to the plethora of comments I’m sure you’re all going to leave.]

Posted by susanna at 02:41 PM | Comments (4)

Oh, yeah!

This is just what a sweet and gentle type like me needs on the NJ roads. For about a week a month, I’d probably regress to this. And a few times a year – when I’m down to my very last nerve – I’d take this out for a spin. Then just let me see someone passing in the emergency lane!

Posted by susanna at 10:28 AM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2002

Media bias reads

I'm having One Of Those Days at work, but that doesn't mean I can't give you a little something else to read. CPO Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker's place has an excellent piece what he says is the media's wilful repetition of Iraqi propaganda in the name of comprehensive coverage. He has links, he has details, a bit of a scary read.

In addition, reader Martin Knight has written in with a nice little screed about the prevalence of the term "moderate" in the media, used whenever the media want to present someone in a politically favorable light regardless of where their politics would be on any more objective scale. He hasn't any links, but I think they're good thoughts; I'm assuming his information is correct, feel free to object if you disagree. Here's his email, in its entirety:

Dear Susanna,

Am I the only one who has noticed the incredibly disingenuous (not to mention Conservative-sabotaging) use of the word "moderate" in the Press over the past few years? Granted, this has long been a pet peeve of mine but surely someone else must have noticed this, right?

Every election season since 1996 (when I started taking note) I've noticed that almost every Democrat running in a competitive race gets called "moderate" (synonymous with "Centrist") in the press, particularly in the national papers. But when I look at their voting records, it's very much to the Left of anything resembling the Center. Let's look at one of the latest media "moderate Democrat" darlings (a prototypical example); John Edwards, who is (1) Anti-School Choice (2) Pro-Gun Control (3) Pro-Abortion (4) Pro-Racial Preferences (5) Pro-EnvironMENTAL Non-Science, etc. On practically every question, including Tax Cuts, John Edwards is way Left, yet he is celebrated by the Press as a "moderate". Joe Lieberman matches up exactly the same as well.

Now let's look at some of the most celebrated "moderate" Republicans of recent times, i.e. James Jeffords (he was called a "moderate" long before he jumped - in fact, he's still called a "moderate"), Lincoln Chafee, Christie Whitman, etc. They're all (1) Anti-School Choice (2) Pro-Gun Control (3) Pro-Abortion (4) Pro-Racial Preferences (5) Pro-EnvironMENTAL Non-Science, etc.

Notice anything wierd?

A few months back, a breathless "reporter" (AP or NYTimes) wrote that Hillary Clinton had proven herself to be a "moderate". Practically all of us on the Right were simply stunned. But considering the way "moderate" is defined by the Press, Hillary actually is a "moderate" and so is (if you think about it) Ted Kennedy. In other words, the only thing a traditional (Left-Wing) Democrat need do to earn the "moderate" label from the Press is to simply refrain from calling for a 300% tax-hike (or to have voted 'Nay' against a tax hike once or twice in your career). And judging from the fact that Zell Miller is called a "Conservative Democrat" ( hardly ever "moderate"), actually sponsoring a tax-cut means you've gone too far to the Right.

For a traditional (Conservative) Republican, you apparently have to abandon your views on abortion, school-choice, racial preferences, the Second Amendment, etc. before you can be a "moderate", John McCain excluded. He did it by attacking and undermining his own Party to applause in the Press. Which is, come to think of it, another way to go. Of course, this only works if you're a Republican who routinely attacks Republicans and take your cue from the New York Times. If you're a Democrat who attacks your party, you'll be overshooting the "moderate" mark, landing yourself in "Conservative Democrat" territory.

Dan Rather once asserted that while the Wall Street Journal's editorial page was on the "Far Right", the New York Times editorial page was "Middle of the Road" i.e. "moderate"... maybe this display of political astigmatism explains why the Press seems a little confused about what defines a "moderate".

That's something to think about - how terms are used regardless of their validity, solely to create a specific tone or to cast a person or situation in a particular light. Sometimes the term is justified, but that is a judgment you need to make independently of the journalist's designation.

Meanwhile, in an article in today's Editor and Publisher website, journalism executives are whining:

Gerald Boyd said the war on terrorism means journalists have to become experts in such topics as bioterrorism, and should ask questions about the countries aligning with the United States in its fight against al-Qaida, and about the need to battle Iraq.

"Everything about our daily role has changed," Boyd said. "We have to understand and explain and put it in context. It means a high responsibility. There's no doubt it's harder to get information. The difference for us is some people are not exorcised over this. They feel it's unpatriotic to raise those issues."

Not to be nitpicky, but I think that would be "exercised", not "exorcised" - unless they do think that people should have Catholic priests tossing out their demons so they can get with the NY Times's terrorism agenda. But the main thing here is Boyd's assumption that they have to be an activist about it - he doesn't say, we have to present both sides of the war debate, but they "should ask questions" about "the need to battle Iraq". Seems a bit one-sided to me - no hint of a need to "ask questions" about "why we aren't already kicking ass in Iraq".

Even on a local level, it is becoming harder to obtain information, said Melanie Sill, executive editor of The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., who shared a panel with Boyd and several other top newsroom executives.

Following the death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, the Florida Legislature in 2001 voted to limit access to autopsy photos. Sill said the public is not upset over such efforts. "The loss of our standing with ordinary people is a problem," Sill said.

I don't know that obtaining the autopsy photos for a celebrity would advance the public's need to know; I'm assuming there was a review by the proper officials regarding whether Earnhardt's death came through any mechanical failure. The public isn't upset because the journalists have no business there - and maybe the journalists should consider what's wrong with them, not what's wrong with the public.

Overseas, journalists are increasingly becoming victims of violence. Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was killed earlier this year in Pakistan as he was working on a story.

"You see forces throughout the world who do not want truthtellers in their midst," said Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger. "They don't want the service we provide."

It's true that "forces throughout the world" aren't too high in having "truthtellers in the midst". But fortunately they don't mind having some US journalists in there (see CPO Sparkey's post for more details) - does that tell you anything?

Also, now that the Maryland/Virginia shooter case seems to be solved - or well on its way - the gloves are coming off between the media and the main prosecutor in the case:

Just hours after police arrested two suspects in the Washington-area sniper case Thursday, a key prosecutor in the investigation accused the press of contributing to the public's fear surrounding the case, hinting that news reports may have actually spurred the sniper to continue his shooting spree.

"The argument can be made that each time [the press] came out with [a theory of] someone they thought was the killer, someone else would be killed so that the killer didn't think he wasn't getting credit," said Douglas Gansler, Montgomery County (Md.) State's Attorney, who spoke Thursday morning at the Associated Press Managing Editors conference.

Gansler blamed print and broadcast news outlets for heightening the panic around the case, and even accused editors of seeking to "sell newspapers" while investigators worried more about public safety...

Editors both on the panel and in the audience of about 300 were quick to respond to Gansler's charges, with most defending newspapers' right and need to report what they can.

"The press is not responsible for the fear that comes from shooting 13 people," said Susan Svihlik, executive editor of the Manassas (Va.) Journal Messenger, who slammed Gansler from the audience. "We did what we were supposed to do."

I'd say there'll be a lot of self-examination in the media about this - expect sidebars and feature articles on, "Did we cover it too intensely?" and "Are we as wonderful as we think?" To save you time, the answers will be "no" and "yes".

And on an amusing note, the SFSU (yes, thatSFSU) News Watch director got her panties all in a wad over a recruitment poster for journalism internships at the Lexington (KY) Herald Leader which shows an intern not only interviewing a Miss Kentucky pageant participant, but saying it was the highlight of his summer. Two women in charge of the program for the H-L responded with their own umbrage, saying he covered many substantive issues and was on the front page a number of times (scroll to "Beyond the bikini beat"). And they add this, which makes me think maybe some folks at the H-L are worth their money (most, IMHO, aren't, much):

Yes, our intern poster includes a quote from a 20-year-old college journalism student, praising the fact that he interviewed a bikini-clad woman or two for a story about the Miss Kentucky pageant. At your urging, we have asked around and determined that the student's quote doesn't represent anything he was taught by the Herald-Leader. He apparently learned to enjoy this sort of thing all by himself. He also had a fully developed sense of humor when he arrived on our doorstep -- a wonderful thing for a journalist to have, don't you agree?

Zing! And on that note, enjoy your day.

Posted by susanna at 01:25 PM | Comments (9)

They may be caught

It looks like the ones responsible for the shootings in the DC area have been captured. At the least, John Allen Muhammed (aka John Williams) and his stepson Lee Malvo are involved, given the information on evidence that the police have given out so far. Are there more? We'll know soon.

Obviously my analysis was off in some, if not many, respects. When we know a little more I'll go through and point out where I was wrong. For now, I'm just thankful that the shootings may be over.

I'm also very interested in how the shooters were tracked down. Apparently the communications tipped the balance, gave the police more information, and the request for money was the biggest break because of the information the shooters gave in trying to receive the money.

And there may be an al Qaeda link, at least in the mind of Williams (Muhammed). Now that they're caught, the unraveling part will be very interesting.

I just wish they'd been caught in Virginia.

UPDATE: [9:15 a.m.] I'm watching a news conference right now with the police chief in Montgomery, AL. Some media were reporting that a credit card taken in a robbery-homicide there was the one Muhammed and Malvo tried to have the $10 million transferred to. The chief said a credit card was not taken at that robbery, that a note was not left at the scene, and that he had been told by an ATF agent that the gun used for the Alabama robbery was not the one used in the Maryland and Virginia shootings. In fact, it seems the only connection is that a caller to the shooter hotline in Maryland/Virginia said he did both the M/V shootings and one in Birmingham. That connection is still under investigation.

The chief said his department first heard from the M/V task force on Sunday night, so the task force has been working it for several days.

I like this chief. A reporter just said, "The national media reported..." etc., and the chief said, "A lot of things have been reported in the national media, and that doesn't mean it's accurate." Smart man.

And yes, the reason I wished they had been caught in Virginia is because Virginia is aggressive about carrying out the death penalty.

Posted by susanna at 07:23 AM | Comments (11)

October 23, 2002


I've been taken to task for using "Maryland" in my description of the person killing people in the DC area. The appellation "Beltway" is more geographically accurate, I'm told. And, in addition, Brent at The Ville is haranguing about this guy being called a sniper, which he says dishonors the men and women who serve honorably in the military and law enforcement as snipers.

So, I'm officially changing my designation - with every hope that I won't be using it much more except to say "He's caught" and then "He's fried". Henceforth, here at least, he will be called "the Beltway killer".

Posted by susanna at 12:22 PM | Comments (11)

Media covering up for the Gores?

Brent at The Ville does a great job of taking apart the media about the differences between their coverage of alcohol (and drug) problems in the Bush family vs the Gore family.

My question is - if you smoke marijuana in a school cafeteria, shouldn't you be charged with stupidity as well as using?

Posted by susanna at 12:16 PM | Comments (17)

Better than the NY Times

The Minuteman has posted two editorials written as a seventh grade class assignment by his daughter. She had to write one from the perspective of an American newspaper editor in 1776 just after the Declaration of Independence, and one from the perspective of an English editor. I love this girl! If she's this good at 12, what's she going to be in 20 years? Scary. My favorite bits:

The American editor:

The lousy scum bags who call themselves Englishmen received our Declaration of Independence. They claim that their unfair taxes were fair, the liars, and that we are using them. Ha! As if!

The English editor:

The lazy, good-for-nothing colonists claim that we are over reacting about their "civilized" Boston tea party, and that we are putting unfair taxes on them to pay for our war. What war? We fought it for them. Why should we, honest, respectable citizens of England, pay for a war fought for them? They used us. They used us to get our land, food, money, support and protection. Then they turn around and say that we are bad people who mis treat them. They are all criminals, every one of them.

This girl has a future.

Posted by susanna at 11:56 AM | Comments (2)

Can we afford freedom?

Certainly some people don't seem to think so. Here are a couple of article excerpts, the first from AP:

President Bush is getting the tools he wants to wage an expensive, no-end-in-sight global fight against terror. Winning it, he says, is "a duty to future generations of Americans."

First a hint that it's extravagant foolishness, followed up by a "he says" little quote, indicating a "yeah, right" attitude from the reporter. Or, to be fair, the editor, as sometimes what comes off a reporter's computer bears little resemblance to what winds up in publication.

Now, MSN. The headline set on their front page (which may change throughout the day - it tends to) says this:

The Price of Battling Iraq Can the US afford a war? How a conflict can affect your pocketbook

Clicking there takes you to a list of articles on the Money page; one, by Hampton Pearson, has this headline:

Can the U.S. afford a war against Iraq? The war with Iraq could cost America up to $274 billion, which would inflate the deficit and possibly hinder economic growth.

It's a snarky little thing:

For George W. Bush, this will not be "his father's Gulf War," where America's allies paid 80% of the $61 billion cost for a battle that lasted about six weeks.

I'm not going to take the time to shred it. But it's a disgusting attitude - either it's the right thing to do, in which case we do it regardless, or it's the wrong thing to do, in which we don't do it even if all it costs us is pocket change. It's about the principle, stupid!

And George W. says the right thing, as you can see when the AP opening quote is put in context:

"Any time the United States of America sends our youngsters into harm's way they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. ... It doesn't matter how long it takes to defend freedom, we'll do it. ... We have a duty to future generations of Americans to make this land secure."

Yes, we need to be concerned about the economy. But if our founding fathers counted the cost, would we be here? When do you count the cost of the right thing to do? You don't.

Remember when everyone was hysterical over Enron and the other major corporate scandals? The liberals waxed eloquent about the evils of capitalism, the focus on money, how you should do the right thing even if it means your company makes less. So...? How about now? Is freedom from oppression for a country far away, and more safety for our people at home, worth a little hit in your pocketbook, if it's the right thing?

Argue the morality of the war, but don't talk to me about money.

Posted by susanna at 09:30 AM | Comments (4)


Diane E. and Rachel Lucas both are intrigued by the possibility that the French military school student now apparently AWOL in the US is actually the Maryland serial sniper. Jim Henley is pretty annoyed at the media and law enforcement for an elitist approach to releasing information about the sniper; he has excellent updates daily, so he's a good place to start for the latest.

I find the French military student a not very likely option - he wouldn't know the area of the shootings well enough to move about easily, as the sniper apparently does, and he also wouldn't know the American policing mode very well, which, again, the sniper seems to. Besides, if he was French, wouldn't he have surrendered to the police already?

In the mainstream media, Christie Blatchford has an excellent column in the National Post on how the "blame America" crowd will be in full cry on the serial sniper:

...there's a sizeable number of folks -- both in this country and in Canada -- for whom an NRA link to the person or persons who have thus far killed nine and wounded three would be cause for almighty celebration and wondrous proof that Americans have invited such random viciousness by failing to regulate the gun-friendly culture here that has its origins in their Second Amendment right to bear arms...

It is becoming more clear by the day that one way or another, Americans will wear it for this sniper: If he turns out to be a foreign national, the prototype of some new version of a homicide bomber, apologists will trot out the old 9-11 root-causes rationale to explain him, and blame them; if it turns out he is a home-grown assassin, he will be pronounced the inevitable product of a country in which there are an estimated 222 million firearms and they will be blamed for that.

She goes on to skewer Bowling for Columbine, the anti-gun movie made by Michael Moore. Worth your reading.

[Blatchford link via Rob Lyman]

Posted by susanna at 08:46 AM | Comments (2)

October 22, 2002

Carnival of the Vain, er, Vanities

Sorry about that, my fingers stuttered. At any rate, this week's Carnival of the Vanities is posted, full of Bloggish Goodies for Your Perusal. A good way to do a summary hop through some of the best of the blogs. I did a scan of the current crop, and I must say it's a fine group. Sans yours truly, but maybe they'll let me play next week. Unless I'm busy in my humvee popping SUVs off the road, instead of blogging (see next post to make sense of that reference).

Posted by susanna at 09:13 PM | Comments (2)


Some stupid jerk in a maroon SUV nearly had a little Nissan Sentra right up his tailpipe tonight after he made his own lane and passed me in heavy traffic on my way home. We were on a wide yet one lane exit onto a busy road with a hidden curve just prior to where our exit connected to the road. He came up on my right, talking on his cell phone, and I laid on my horn. For about two minutes. He muscled in front of me (I shouldn't have given way!), but I hung on his back bumper, and (yes, I am one of those BAD DRIVERS that Reader's Digest tells you about) turned on my brights, angling my car so they shined in his driver's side mirror. Yes, this is on a very tight four-lane road going into a traffic circle through a construction area with cars merging behind us, cars merging in from both sides, and a split ahead. Oh, I was mad. Yes, I know, my response was the vehicular equivalent of a kitten mewing angrily at an oblivious bulldog. But I felt better.

And I had fantasies all the way home of him scraping that shiny SUV against a concrete barrier trying to pass someone, or running into a bridge abutment (not head on - I'm not that bad) driving wildly while on the phone. At the very least getting a 65-in-a-35 mph ticket with sufficient points to take his license away for a while.

Okay, full confession: I also wished on him a broken right leg that prevented him from driving so he had to get everywhere on public transportation for the handicapped, driven by a geriatric Jersey curmudgeon with a hearing problem, for at least three months.

Yes, I do have very detailed fantasies. And no, I won't tell you any others.

Naturally I had to turn this into a, "What, Susanna, is really bothering you here?" moment. I hate it when I'm my own Oprah. "Was it really his passing you that made you angry? It didn't delay you. Or, Susanna, was it that he could, that you felt powerless as a consequence, that you had some urge to retake control? Wasn't this reaction more about you than him?"

Yes, darn it, it was, and go stick that reason where the sun don't shine! I hate that.

I'm one of the most polite and courteous people that I know. It's a genetic thing - I was born this disgusting little ray of sunshine, which I have managed to firmly contain for the most part. But I do think the wheels of society turn much more smoothly when courtesy is paramount - we'll all get there faster if everyone stays in their lane, merges neatly, let at least one person in front of you if you're on the main road, let women with babies have your seat on the subway... But that isn't how the world works. It's all me me me!, which unfortunately brings out my snarling side. It'd be pretty funny if I wasn't so mad about it.

So, you ask, how have I managed to live in New Jersey without being killed, either in traffic or by someone deep in the throes of road rage? The answer is... that's a really good question. Probably because nobody takes very seriously a woman with a strawberry-blonde pageboy driving a little silver Nissan.

And a change in that circumstance is the subject of my most recent fantasy: A humvee with a gun turret, with me in long black hair and thigh high black boots. Yeah. I'll clear those NJ roads and make them safe for the polite.


Posted by susanna at 08:54 PM | Comments (15)

Something a little lighter

Book Worm Meter for susanna
Shut In 71%
. .
29% Out Of The House
Intellectual 77%
. .
23% Moron
High Attention Span 95%
. .
5% Low Attention Span
Bookitude 96%
. .
4% Book Burner
Book Worm 84.75%
. .
15.25% Bug Stomper
Take your bookworm readings.

I refuse to discuss the results of the others.

[Link via Flickernoise]

Posted by susanna at 04:45 PM | Comments (11)

Bus driver dead

The latest shooting victim in Maryland, a bus driver, is dead. Police are investigating whether it is the work of the Maryland sniper.

[Link via The Last Page, who is keeping up with things on her blog.]

Posted by susanna at 12:11 PM | Comments (2)

Definitions, questions, and efforts at answers

One of the issues I think hasn’t been addressed very much is definition of terms; I know it sounds boring, but it’s really not – it’s a necessary part of any investigation. It’s how we initially organize information. After my little riff on that, I’ll address a number of the comments and questions from my post yesterday, since to do them justice would turn into too large a thing for a comments section.


When I was writing my master’s thesis on mass murderers, one of my first tasks was to decide precisely what a mass murderer consisted of. Would it be anyone who caused the deaths of two or more people? Did the people have to die? Should the number be larger than two? At the time (1989), there had been fewer mass murders, and fewer people had opined on definitions. I settled on mass murderers as anyone who killed, or injured with the expectation of killing, two or more people – specifically including the injured. I thought that was important, because what I was interested in was the nature of the person who would commit such acts – not so much in whether he (or she) was successful, or whether medical assistance was nearby.

This morning, in the television media coverage, someone commented that if the man shot this morning had been shot the same way a few years ago, or in another place, he may be dead rather than injured – not because the bullet would have hit him differently, but because medical assistance was close by. If this sniper had not killed people – only injured them – would we consider him to be of a different sort than a killer? We shouldn’t – the intent and effort would be the same, the only differences would be skill, luck and location.

When I listen to discussions of this killer, I continually hear him described as a serial killer. My question is – on what basis? Well, the sole criteria appears to be that he is continuing to shoot people in a series, obviously enough. But it appears to me that this is not a sufficiently nuanced evaluation. Specifically, the sniper began his killings with a cluster of attacks, as I mentioned yesterday; if he had stopped there, he would be defined most likely as a mass murderer, possibly a spree killer. Why does this matter? Because this definition of “serial killer” is being used as the basis for the assessment of the killer’s activities and motive, at least by the media and their “experts” (one trusts that is not the case with the investigative task force).

In case studies and research done on serial killers, it’s been learned that typically the point of the killings is the process, again as I pointed out yesterday. Integral to the process in the case of most serial killers is sexual arousal – or, more narrowly, a deep feeling of power and control experienced sexually. However, that’s not the case with mass murderers. The killings for them are the means to an end - escape from a situation, sometimes, but more typically revenge, sending a message to someone, even if the someone is an amorphous society, that by God, I will not be tampered with or ignored!

There have been numerous reports of communications between the police and the sniper, from the Tarot card to the latest telephone calls; this morning I heard some reports that the latest note, left near the Ponderosa in Ashland, VA, on Saturday, contained a demand for money and threatened a great deal more violence (the report was credited to the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, but I couldn’t find it on their site). The television experts seemed uncertain just how that meshed with the serial killer profile. With good reason – I don’t think it does. It fits the profile of a mass murderer type, though, fairly neatly.

Perhaps we in criminal justice need to fine-tune our definitions of “serial” vs “mass” murderers, to focus more on motive than on behavior. It would be useful to say “sexually predatory killers typically kill one or no more than two victims at a time, in a serialized fashion, focusing on the pursuit and process of killing for their gratification, making often elaborate efforts to avoid apprehension”, or “revenge killers tend to kill or injure several people at one time in one or more closely related locations in a narrow range of time; the nature of their activity tends to make it difficult (but not impossible) to escape the scene alive”. It would release us from this false association with time frame as integral to motive; in this instance, like the victims he’s tried to kill but who have survived, the sniper is still around because of luck and location, not because he is a traditional serial killer.

As for the request for money – if there is one – it seems to me to fit the lone angry nutcase profile, because if I’m correct, this man has a strong sense that he has not gotten “his” – money, respect, whatever. He’s been feeling his way along since the initial cluster of killings, and this is just the latest in his mixed bag of jabs at the community, another way to get what he thinks is coming to him. I don’t think it was a necessary permutation, but it’s also not a departure from his overall approach.

Answering questions

I'm putting this in the "more" section so people who aren't interested don't have to wade through it to find the other posts. For ease of connection, I’m just going to list the name of the person whom I’m responding to, and trust you can go find their comment below for the full information.

AC, I basically agree with you. One of the reasons why I don’t think it’s al Qaeda is there’s not enough visual carnage. But, Rita, having al Qaeda sympathies does not make someone a collaborator, as you know. I’ve seen numerous discussions about white supremacist groups seeing al Qaeda and other such terrorist groups as at least useful tools toward their own goal; there’s been quite a bit of talk about whether Timothy McVey had any connection to Middle Eastern terrorists. This sniper may have sympathies, but I don’t think he’s associated with them.

Stuart, I discussed somewhat in yesterday’s post what I thought about it being two people – the risk involved in bringing in someone else, and the internal psychology of that kind of partnership. It just doesn’t feel like two people to me; the behaviors seem pretty linear, and the written communications also, in my view, support a single sniper position. As for witness accounts, I don’t have all the information the police have and I agree I’ve heard what you’ve heard about it being two, but witness accounts are notoriously unreliable. I’m sure, as an attorney, you are well aware of that fact. People are highly suggestible, and tend to telescope events or scenes in their minds. In building a case, it’s best to be able to triangulate accounts to see what’s common, what keeps coming up. Maybe they’ve established it’s two, but I don’t get that feel from the press conferences. I guess ultimately it comes down to my intuitive sense after absorbing all the information. I hope we learn, very soon, whether I’m right – because that will mean we’ve got him (or them).

RB, I’ve never claimed to be engaging in hard science; I’m dealing in probabilities, trends, long term familiarity with data on similar events and gut instinct. That’s all. I could prove to be miserably wrong, and have to eat boxes and buckets of sushi. And that’s where I get the “white male” thing – statistically, it’s more likely to be a white male. And again, based on where he’s going, the areas he’s targeting, it just “feels” like a white person to me. May be another sushi moment.

Martin, you ask about the precipitating event. It’s important to understand that what may seem like a trivial thing to you or me may assume tremendous proportions to someone else; one of the first mistakes we humans make is to project our motivations onto someone else’s behavior – “What would have to have happened for me to do that thing?” Rarely is it an accurate method of determining motivation, although that kind of projection is (very unfortunately, IMHO) even used heavily in people’s justification for what punishments should be applied to various crimes in our court and corrections systems. In this particular case, given what I know of motivations for other similar crimes and what I think I know of this sniper, I’d say it was something that really ruffled his feeling of control and value – he’s felt dismissed, disrespected, possibly dumped. It could be a relationship gone bad, but I doubt it. More likely economic, or even something more specific like being turned down by the police department for a job. It seems to me he is trying to reestablish his sense of control and of being someone to be reckoned with. I’d say he’s someone who is pretty much a malcontent anyway, so the right mix of circumstances would render him volatile and waiting for the final nudge. The event that provided that last nudge could be, from our perspective, relatively minor.

Steve - ever heard the saying, “When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail”?

Desiree, we’ll debate it next time I’m down there ;).

And Vickie and Llana, you are sweethearts. I’ve not written a book, but hope to, sometime, when I get my sorry backside out of grad school.

Posted by susanna at 09:30 AM | Comments (6)

Man bites dog

This is one for the record books - the NY Times company accused of conservative bias, and supporting the Bush administration:

A Washington, D.C.-based group working to ease marijuana laws is criticizing The New York Times for creating and distributing a handbook with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that the group claims is full of distortions and misrepresentations about the drug.

The Marijuana Policy Project, in an Oct. 17 letter to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., obtained by E&P, called the 85-page booklet on marijuana distributed through the Times' Newspaper in Education program "a succession of distortions, exaggerations and strategic omission of relevant data." The non-profit group also complained that the timing of the handbook, released on Oct. 15, is improper because it occurred just weeks before Election Day, when marijuana ballot measures will go before voters in several states...

MPP's letter...claimed that the handbook had purposely avoided using Times articles that challenge the government's position on marijuana. "The articles included have been selectively chosen," the letter stated. "Using only those that tend to support the federal government's view of marijuana."

Beautiful. And this is pretty funny too:

Although the handbook included previously published articles from the Times, no reporters or editors are involved in its creation.

Looks like the media version of "No animals were harmed in producing this product". What's more, it's clearly saying, "You can't blame us for conservativism!"

I'm sure the editors of the pamphlet appreciated that terminology too.

Posted by susanna at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

Interesting point

Reader Tim Hartin wrote me late last week (yes, just before that weekend where I slipped into the ether for a while) to make an excellent point based on this article:

...can you imagine the NYT being this blase about cops randomly rounding up and arresting anyone but gun owners? "A steady run of arrests continued as agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms pursued tips and found individuals with illegal rifles, but no prime suspect."

I don't know exactly how Tim feels about this part, but if they have the guns illegally I'm not very concerned about their being arrested, as long as investigatory integrity is maintained. However, I do agree with Tim that if the ones being arrested were of some NYT protected group, even if they were behaving illegal (say, illegal aliens), there would be an outcry. Since the arrests support the picture the NYT would like to paint (guns are dangerous and dangerous people have them), it's mentioned and left to stand.

Note: Tim also called to my attention that I've fallen off in reporting on media bias lately. A true thing about me is that my interests are both cyclical and mercurial. While I may shift off for a while, I will always come back to media bias. I'll make an effort to mine for it more in the next while. It's just been a busy world lately.

Posted by susanna at 08:34 AM | Comments (1)

Sniper strikes again?

A man has been shot getting on or off a commuter bus about 6 a.m. in Montgomery County, MD, and police are investigating to see if it is the Maryland sniper. It seems a different kind of case, from the descriptions - including one witness saying there were three shots.

At this point, the man is reported to have been shot in the chest and is at a trauma hospital nearby.

Posted by susanna at 08:21 AM | Comments (3)

October 21, 2002

Who the sniper is, why he isn't al Qaeda

(I've been asked by several people why I think the sniper fits the profile I constructed, and why I don't think he's al Qaeda. This is an effort to make that clearer.)

I’ve been following the Maryland sniper case since it first caught national attention on October 2. I’ve done numerous posts, and my message has been consistent: it’s a single person, with an anger about something that was nudged into action by a precipitating event sometime recently, who is targeting people for the sense of power it gives him. While I’m less inclined now to think he may have white supremacist leanings, given recent events (my reasoning there had to do with the proportion of minority victims, and the paramilitary approach, which to me suggested someone tending toward survivalism and anarchy, especially if he has not had military training), I stand by my repeated and vigorous claim that it is not al Qaeda.

I didn’t post on the sniper after the witness descriptions last week of an olive-skinned man, Hispanic or Middle-Eastern. It just didn’t fit my idea of this at all, and I was, frankly, frightened by the implications. I had to think about it, and what it meant. As it turns out, that description has proven false and the man who gave it has been charged with impeding the police investigation. That returned the case picture back to roughly what we had before, with little additional information.

So why do I think that the profile substantially still stands? Why specifically do I not think it is al Qaeda, despite the widespread suppositions suggesting that it is? And why do I think I have any ability to look at this with insight?

Last question first, as it seems an issue with some. As I’ve stated before, I’ve been studying killers for over 10 years. No, I’m not an FBI profiler, nor am I a sworn law enforcement officer. What I am is someone trained in research, an academic type who did a master’s thesis on mass murderers and has sustained an interest in mass killings throughout my career. I’m going to open up my analysis to you, and you can take it for what it’s worth.

What we know
(This timeline is taken from The Baltimore Sun website.)

The earliest confirmed shooting by the Maryland sniper occurred at 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday, October 2. A bullet careened into a Michael’s store in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of Washington, DC – a suburban bedroom community. No one was injured. Less than an hour later, at 6:04 p.m., James Martin was killed in a grocery store parking lot just over two miles from the first shooting. There were no more reported shootings that night.

The next morning, three people were killed within the space of an hour – James Buchanan as he was mowing the lawn at an automobile dealership, at 7:41 a.m.; Prem Walekar at 8:12 a.m. as he filled up his tank at a gas station; and Sarah Ramos at 8:37 a.m. as she sat at a bus stop outside a post office. These shootings began about 4 miles from both the previous day’s shootings – forming a triangle – then moved north, the shooting of Walekar occurring very near the first, non-injury shooting from the previous day. Over an hour went by, then Lori Ramos was killed at 9:58 a.m. at another gas station due south, on the same road, as shootings one and five.

News coverage kicked into high gear. Everyone was fearful. Was it over? What was the purpose? Was it organized terrorism? No one knew, but one question was answered that night – it wasn’t over. Pascal Charlot was killed as he walked down the street, just over the Montgomery County line into DC, at 9:20 p.m.

Things were quiet the rest of the night, and through the next morning. At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4, a woman was shot in the parking lot of a Michael’s near Fredericksburg, MD, some 50 miles south of all the other attacks. She survived.

Panic in the community was strong, for good reason. The authorities, led by Chief Moose of the Montgomery County police department, announced that they were making efforts to keep the community safe – especially the children. There were no more shootings over the weekend, but that ended on Monday morning – at 8:09 a.m. on October 7, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a 13-year-old boy was shot as he headed into school. He did not die. At this scene, a Tarot card was found near a flattened area of grass near the school. On the card were the words, “Mr. Policeman, I am God”. While there was apparently an additional message on the card, that was not released.

It was quiet for two days, then at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday, October 9, Dean Meyers was killed at a gas station in Manassas, VA, south and west of the biggest cluster of shootings yet not as far out as the shooting in Fredericksburg. Two more days passed before Kenneth Bridges was killed on October 11 at 9:30 a.m. at a gas station outside Fredericksburg. Again, nothing over the weekend. Finally, at 9:15 p.m. Monday, October 14, Linda Franklin was killed in the parking garage at a Home Depot in Falls Church, the second shooting inside the beltway.

On Saturday, October 19, nearly a week after Franklin’s death, another shooting occurred near Richmond, VA, far from the original shootings. Police have yet to confirm that it belongs to the Maryland sniper, although external indications are that it does.

Beyond the bare facts, evidence has been scarce, at least as reported by police. A large white vehicle of some sort – a box truck, or a van with a ladder rack, possibly both – recur in witness interviews. A shell casing was discovered at the school shooting, along with the Tarot card. Ballistics have shown that the same bullet – a .223 – has been used consistently. Since law enforcement has been able to connect the shootings through ballistic analysis of the bullets, it is a safe assumption that the sniper is using the same gun. We do not know what specific make the gun is, other than it has the capability to hit a target accurately at a distance of several hundred yards; this bullet can even be used in other cartridges, such as the 5.56mm NATO, the .22-250 and .220 Swift, making analysis on the basis of bullet alone relatively unfruitful.*

Who is doing this?

The shootings began with a missed shot; shortly thereafter, the first man was killed. (There is some speculation that another shooting earlier is associated, but I’ve not heard evidence that it is being officially included.) There was a respite overnight, then four were killed in fairly rapid succession the next day. Another was killed that night, a seventh shot – but only injured – on the third day.

I think this initial clustering is a significant part of the analysis of who this sniper is. It fits the picture of someone who has reached a decision to do harm, significant harm, but doesn’t want to get caught. In my mind’s eye, I see this sniper making a test shot, then actually killing someone shortly thereafter. He’s pumped, but fearful. Was he seen? Will they come after him? The next day, when law enforcement seems to have no pointers to him, he reemerges for additional shootings, feeling tremendously powerful. He kills three, and watches the area go nuts. He’s on edge, apprehensive but starting to feel that he is so much smarter and better at this than even he suspected. He takes out one more, and then heads off to whatever obligations are in his regular life. When, by that evening, law enforcement again is no closer, he goes for the sixth victim. By now he realizes that his original hunting ground is too dangerous, so he heads south, into a neighborhood that is likely somewhat familiar yet not his usual context. By the next afternoon he’s pumped again, and thinking he will show the police – the whole region – who’s boss. He shoots again, at a significant distance from his original sites, but this time only injures – possibly he is again not at the top of his game, because this is new territory for him. He goes home to lie in wait and think about it.

Most of the weekend is spent following the news. By Sunday he’s out scouting for his next victim. His original plan – to shoot and kill people until he’s caught – has morphed into a strong feeling that he’s invincible. His technique is changing to accommodate this new knowledge. From this point on, his killing sites are scouted out, chosen as if he were casing a mission, as if he were special ops. I think at this point, the locations become less important as a means of determining who the sniper is.

In an article by Caleb Carr** advancing reasons why this could be al Qaeda, Carr indicated that the method of choosing victims in this case is fairly strong evidence that it is not a single shooter without connections to some formal terrorist organization – it doesn’t fit the typical pattern of a serial or spree killer. I’ve seen other references to this as well. I think that indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of these killers, and a less than comprehensive look at their history. I think this killer begins with the characteristics of a mass murderer, but because he is not caught he becomes by definition a serial killer – solely by virtue of his long success rather than the characteristics of his crime. Mass murderers typically die in the commission of their crime, either by their own hand or by that of the police, therefore making it difficult to determine whether they would in fact continue offending over a span of time if they were not caught. I’ve often wondered what would happen if a mass murderer got away with his initial crime; the only other case where we have some idea is that of John List, who killed his family in 1971 and then disappeared for almost 20 years before his arrest in 1989. But a killer of family is, I think, materially different from a killer of strangers. I think we’re finding out what happens when the first volley doesn’t result in the killer’s own death, in cases where strangers are the victims.

Mass murderers tend to offend in specific places that have some association with them (such as Patrick Sherrill or John List) or in a place where people the killer wants to target congregate (James Huberty). One exception occurred during the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when a man drove down a sidewalk near one of the venues, injuring several people; his intent was to kill, and he had no connection to the victims. (I don’t have a link for the last case – it’s one of the subjects in my master’s thesis research, but I can’t find the list of subjects right now. I’ll keep looking.) While I don’t think the Maryland sniper’s primary motive was to kill one of the victims specifically and kill the others as cover, I do think, again, that the initial cluster of victims has some meaning to the killer, if only because of where they were. He was sending a message of some sort to someone, even if that person(s) was not aware of his anger. He wanted to cause fear, and he was doing it near his base of operations.

The motives behind mass murderers’ killings and those of serial killers have, as far as we know, been very different, and that is reflected in the victim choice. Serial killers typically choose their victims as part of the enactment of a fantasy, and the process of killing is their primary source of pleasure – and pleasure is the point of the exercise. They enjoy choosing a victim, knowing they have his/her life in their hands, they often prolong the death itself with torture or sexual assault (or a torturous assault), and they go through an emotional cycle similar to the one we’re familiar with in instances of domestic abuse – an increase in tension and irritation that can only be assuaged through attack. The more successful ones, like Ted Bundy, aren’t caught until they become more disorganized and less functional, what is called “decompensating” in psychological terms. I agree with Carr that the Maryland sniper doesn’t show typical serial killer sexual motivations – but I think that’s because he’s a mass murderer type who has been successful in surviving his initial killings, rather than because he is a professional killer or a trained terrorist.

As for the other aspects of the Maryland sniper’s profile, those are based to some degree on statistical probability. If you look at mass murderers in the United States, they tend to be preponderantly white, although there have been exceptions. Similarly, the age range – which I think here is 28-32 – is partially about statistical probabilities. However, I think there are other clues. The relative control and ability to escape that this sniper has shown indicates a certain maturity, as well as a discipline that I would associate with someone with some type of military, law enforcement or paramilitary interests – which isn’t to say he was ever formally a member of either the military or the police. On the other hand, the level of self-aggrandizement that his pattern exhibits indicates a young person – for instance, I think the shooting of the young boy was at least in part a response to media coverage of the police statement that the schools were safe , and the leaving of the tarot card was an arrogant swipe at police. In the most recent shooting, on Saturday, it appears the sniper may have left another message, additional indication of either a need for acknowledgement or a latent desire to be stopped (without knowing the content of the message, there's no way to speculate), both of which again I would associate with relative youth. Thus, a not-too-young, not-too-old age range of 28-32.

I also still think the sniper is working alone, especially as the shootings continue, because I think this type of activity is difficult to persuade another person to participate in for a length of time, especially since the shooter is likely a very domineering personality in the lives of those close to him. The type of person who would accompany him would be submissive toward him, and a weak link. This sniper has been all about minimizing risk from the beginning, and a partner is one of the biggest risks you can take on for several reasons: one person is easier to hide; the weaker person in a duo is usually less invested in the activity; and the weaker person could become frightened and rat out the stronger one. And, again, I go back to the initial shootings – I don’t think they were particularly well-planned (note the clustering), and it would take planning to involve a partner.

As for the white box truck/van, I think it unlikely the shooter is still using it, unless – as some posit – he is committing his offenses from a work vehicle. I think over the weekend between the first spate of shootings and the remaining ones, his modus operandi – and motive – shifted. He began paying more attention to media coverage, and learned from it. He is not stupid. Continuing to drive a white, highly identifiable vehicle – if he ever did – would be stupid unless he had no other choice. And even then, it would increase the risk of his activity exponentially.

That is who I think it is, and why.

So why isn’t it al Qaeda?

Caleb Carr’s article, mentioned above, is a good summary of the contention some have made that the Maryland sniper could be al Qaeda. The first section is devoted to why Carr believes it can’t be a “traditional” spree or serial killer; I have addressed that by pointing out that the sniper most fits a mass murderer profile, but one who was successful with his initial attack and thus has settled in for a longer round. But what about Carr’s other contentions, and those of others who think it could be al Qaeda?

The general thoughts on why it could be al Qaeda tend to follow these lines:

This sniper fits no current multiple killer profile of the lone or team wacko type.

The focus in the Washington, DC, area indicates an interest in disrupting and threatening the area of the nation’s capital, specifically.

The type of approach used by the sniper is in harmony both with trained sniper behaviors and with training tapes captured from al Qaeda camps.

The victim choice seems to be random, but actually is not. Instead, the sniper is very specifically targeting a range of races and ethnicities, and doing so in public spaces that are places of commerce where Americans are going through the daily rituals of their lives.

As the number of shootings increase, the activity is circling around Washington in a menacing manner.

We know al Qaeda activity has increased elsewhere, and it’s only reasonable that they would instigate additional disruptions and attacks in the US.

The very fact that al Qaeda has not claimed responsibility is, paradoxically, possible evidence that it is al Qaeda.

Given the profile that I’ve outlined above, several of these points fall on hard times and certainly are not proof that the Maryland sniper is al Qaeda or another terrorist organization. The selection of victim is a good example –you can read into it what you will about hitting America in the apple pie, but there is no justification for saying that the sniper is attacking America as an entity versus attacking for efficiency and safety for himself - in places that are likely to be hectically busy, offer many opportunities for shooting someone, tend to create a maximum amount of fear in the community and challenge to the sniper, and are close to easy avenues of scouting and escape. The more mundane explanation tends to be the more likely.

The “ever-thickening ring”, as Carr describes the locations of the sniper’s attacks around Washington, could be construed as a terrorist’s effort to create contained panic, but why that more than a sniper who is learning his game becoming more savvy and reaching out further into the field, to safer places, as it gets hotter close to home? Again, the mundane is more likely the true. As for the location in general – Washington – what’s wrong with saying it happened there because the sniper lives in the area?

And is the sniper highly trained? I don’t know, and that is not my area of expertise so I hesitate to comment. I have heard from what seemed to me the most credible sources that the shots themselves were not so spectacular, but the planning and implementation of the shootings does show some knowledge of how to approach such situations – thereby indicating training. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s possible that this sniper had some military background, but if he did he did not rise in the ranks or serve on any elite force. He’s too much of a loser for that. I think it more likely he’s practiced by himself to be “combat ready”. But I can’t say much along that line, other than from all I’ve heard, it doesn’t seem necessary to conclude from the shootings so far that the sniper has elite training.

We now get to what I consider the crux of the al Qaeda speculation – that we have been attacked by al Qaeda, repeatedly; that terrorist activity has been increasing lately around the world; that training tapes show they have sniper training; and that they would be interested in disrupting the US in this manner.

It’s true that al Qaeda wants to disrupt the US, and if they didn’t know before that this type of shooting would do it, they know it now. It’s also true that they have attacked us repeatedly. But I don’t think this is an example of it.

Look at the types of attacks that al Qaeda and their associates have done: the attack on the USS Cole, the first WTC attack, 9/11, recent bombings in Bali and other places. All of these are the equivalent of an attack with blunt objects – maximized for effect and heavy damage. The sniper attacks are, conversely, of a precision nature, engaging primarily in psychological damage rather than physical – although the deaths of nine people are horrific, we have instances in the US yearly where that many or more die at the same time in fires or car accidents. The numbers here are not meant to intimidate; the method is. Al Qaeda generally attempts both.

In addition, in the al Qaeda operations the perpetrators typically are not concerned about survival; their point is damage. That’s true of the 9/11 hijackers, of the USS Cole bombers, and of the man who attacked the El Al counter in LAX earlier this year. In this instance, the sniper is intensely focused on survival, to the extent that – in my judgment – he is scouting his locations now before shooting. Again, the facts of the case do not fit the al Qaeda mode.

But what about the training tapes? The only one I know about specifically was discussed by Bryan Preston in this article in National Review. It describes scenarios where terrorists trained in areas constructed to specifically represent developed countries – most especially the United States – and focuses on small-scale attacks with the goal of spreading terror in the communities. However, notice again that these are blunt-instrument attacks, not clean precision ones. They are to maximize physical damage in very ugly ways in the course of spreading more general terror. Even the instance of the shooting on a golf course exercise, the episode began with a rocket-propelled grenade into the car of the VIP’s security detail before killing the VIP.

Overall the speculations of al Qaeda do not hold up, neither by positing that characteristics of the attacks are more like al Qaeda than a lone home-grown gunman (the reverse is true), nor by showing how or why al Qaeda would depart from its attack profile thus far to engage in one so materially different.

Why is it frightening that it could be al Qaeda?

While I don’t think it is al Qaeda, I think if it were we would be in trouble beyond what we can imagine now. The type of panic that would spread nationwide if this type of assault – a series of seemingly random killings with a very elusive perpetrator – were to recur in several settings would surpass anything we’ve faced before. It is this kind of precision psychological assault that we have reason to fear more than the actual number of deaths – sad as they are – because that type of campaign could truly bring this country to a standstill until it was contained. In addition, if that type of campaign was begun – especially if it were proven in some fashion to be al Qaeda – it would be very difficult to prevent attacks on or fear of any Muslims or those of Arabic descent in the nation, especially given that there has been an apparent reluctance of the Arab/Muslim community to expose these deadly terrorist cells themselves.

I think it unlikely that this type of attack will be launched against the US by a terrorist organization – it does not fit their psychological profile, their desire for grandiose statements written in running blood. But if they ever do come to a point where they can institute such a campaign, it has the potential to create a tremendous panic.

*Details on the bullet and cartridge possibilities comes from Toren Smith at The Safety Valve
**Thanks to Dodd Harris at Ipse Dixit for the link to Caleb Carr's article.

Thanks to Jim Henley, Toren Smith and the inimitable Page for reading drafts of this post and offering useful commentary and encouragement.

Posted by susanna at 09:46 AM | Comments (19)


Awesome blogcake.

May I have some more?

(Not that the last two shots couldn't be improved by, say, having more than just a back in them. But the tattoo's very cool, and you take what you can get.)

Posted by susanna at 09:17 AM | Comments (2)

I am indeed Charlie Brown

This morning, after a weekend where I literally did not leave my apartment for three days except one trip down the stairs to check the mail on Saturday, I emerged to go back to work. Ew. I lugged my backpack, tiny purse and lunch sack up the steps, put my lunch in the refrigerator, turned to go in the office... and the door was locked. Usually I'm not the first one in, so it gave me pause. I have a key, but when I looked for my tiny purse... it wasn't there in my backpack or the food bag (still holding salsa and baked blue corn tortilla chips). Last I remembered, I had put it on the trunk of my car. Hadn't I picked it up? Maybe not. Since it's Jersey City, and unattended buildings are at risk of being stolen, I raced down the steps and into the parking lot to find... nothing. Oh dear. Back upstairs. Maybe I'd missed something? I reviewed in my mind what I'd done... and a light went on.

Sure enough, when I opened the refrigerator door, there my purse sat on the top shelf.

I clearly needed to stay home one more day.

(And the first person to give the reason why this episode makes me like Charlie Brown wins... well, nothing, except my admiration and concern about whether you have a life.)

Posted by susanna at 09:15 AM | Comments (2)

Is Little Green Footballs racist?

MSNBC's Blogspotting website has modified its link to Little Green Footballs to reflect criticism from those who dislike LGF, with the following caveat:

This site is the focus of considerable controversy for its focus (and particulary the focus of the constituents in its comments section) on Islamic culture and dogma as the source of Islamic terror. As a popular, active, and well presented site, it is worth checking out, but some may find its content hateful or even racist.

While I don't read LGF on a daily basis, I do read it frequently and I've not seen anything there that deserves this appellation. It seems a blind case of moral equivalence on the part of Blogspotting. The comments get heated at times, but I've not seen from Charles Johnson any sign of hatefulness or racism. Anyone who accuses him of such must just be disturbed by the highlighting of the hatefulness of some Muslim regimes and sects.

Posted by susanna at 06:30 AM | Comments (7)

October 19, 2002

Gee, thanks for the heads up

Don't miss James Rummel's explanation for why people who really know something about guns and crime aren't wasting their time posting on the Maryland sniper, but limit themselves instead to snarky comments about the baseless inanities of those (like me) who do.

Posted by susanna at 02:04 AM | Comments (6)

October 17, 2002

So just how witty are you?

I need your help!

Each week Dodd Harris hosts a Caption Contest at his site. Now, I have been entering every week for months, with only a few exceptions, and have yet to win. I even sent him cookies, for goodness sake, and did it help? NOOO... In fact, I deeply suspect he ate them while judging the contest without so much as a quiver of a qualm.

So if I can't win, maybe I can inundate! But this will require you, dear reader, to assist me. Now, last week he got a total of 47 entries from 16 people. Manageable. My goal is to get at least 30 people - and more would be excellent - with at least 75 captions. CAN WE DO IT?

Don't be shy. This week's photo is pretty cool, and safe for children. Just go look at it, then email Dodd. Has to be by about 5:30 p.m. (he says by the time he gets home, but the private detective hasn't been able to give me a consistent time yet, so for now we'll wing it).

Can we do this? Are you game?

UPDATE: Okay, apparently I wasn't very clear. My goal is not to win (Dodd - :P) by having more competition. What I'm going for is one, or both, of the following:

1) Cause sufficient entries to make Dodd spend a significant amount of time reviewing them - call it the aggravation factor;

2) Win by proxy when one of my faithful readers slips through Dodd's Humor Defense Shield.

That's all. CLEARLY I am dealing with a bunch of literalists here. But very nice ones. Except for Dodd. Did I remember to say :P?

Posted by susanna at 12:17 PM | Comments (12)

Tough question

Page has a tough question for you about the Maryland sniper.

Fox News just noted that concealed carry permit applications are up 500% in the DC area. So I have another question:

You live in the DC area. You are licensed to carry a handgun, and you have a good one on your hip that you know how to use. You are in the parking lot at the local shopping center. You see a man get out of a white van, sight along a rifle, and fire. You hear a scream. The shooter calmly starts lowering his gun. He doesn't see you.

Do you pull your gun and shoot him?

Posted by susanna at 09:15 AM | Comments (30)

Where did I put my turntable?!

I clearly need to stop watching morning television. First it was Matt's hair; now, it's a strong inexplicable need to dig out my Paradise Theater album by Styx. Yes, they were on Fox&Friends this morning, shilling for their show this weekend to benefit the Port Authority police. Now, where was I when this was advertised? I would have gone. Too late now.

It's really a blast from the past - REO Speedwagon too. I'm getting all nostalgic. Where's my Sheriff single? My Moody Blues album?

I think I'm reduced to my greatest hits CDs of Aerosmith, Foreigner and (genuflect, please) Lynard Skynard.

I really need to get another turntable.

Posted by susanna at 09:03 AM | Comments (8)

Hi, Ron!

I love my referrer logs. This morning (right now, in fact!) I had a hit from Google on a search for "Ron Kuby", a local talk radio co-host for WABC Radio 770 who teams with Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa; they're even on MSNBC now. I love Ron, even though sometimes I want to shred him into little teeny bits for his wildly liberal views.

But I digress. Not only was the Google search for "Ron Kuby", but the ISP it came from is "". Welllll - WABC Radio is owned by... Disney! Yes, they whine about Disney all the time, and Ron does a great Mickey voice. So, does that mean that Ron Kuby is googling himself at work, and winding up on my site? Or does he have a minion do it? Or is Disney scoping to see how its star liberal lawyer is doing in the Internet chatter?

Kuby is even as we speak on the air. So if you're reading this, Ron - HI!! Love you, man! Get over that communist thing, marry Marilyn! Lose the ponytail! If I'm ever in legal trouble, you're first on my list to call.

Posted by susanna at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)

Paging all readers!

Miss Page of The Last Page is a fine and witty writer, not to mention a fine and witty friend and IM buddy. She's now added two new leaves to her blogbook, and you should check them out.

The Next Page is a wonderfully cool design - I love that crumpled paper thing - and it promises to live up to the design in content. It's a page for literature of the non-bloggish type - poems, short stories, etc. She kicks it off with an excellent short story about murder in retrospect, by New York writer Dan Rychlec. Sources say you too can be published there. Well, unless your writing sucks.

Her other new effort is The Same Page, a spicier, lighter version of her main site. I personally am too young and innocent to read it. But I hear it's really good.

So spend some time paging through them today.

Posted by susanna at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

What's up with that?

Why does Matt Lauer suddenly have some type of freako buzz cut hairstyle instead of his usual Man About Town look? I got to see the lights shining on his scalp this morning, and I didn't want to.

Don't get me wrong, the hair on a guy's head is amongst the least of my concerns. There's some pretty hot guys* out there with the friar wrap even, and shaved (or bald) is nice too. But this buzz thing on Matt just isn't doing it.

Why did he do it?

Not that in the grand scheme of things it matters, but I'm not fully awake yet and it's cruel to make me look at it.

UPDATE: Okay, I know I updated this before posting it the first time. Get over it. I found the answer, which shows you how often I watch The Today Show - Lauer got this new 'do in July. Headline to the article:

Shorter haircut brings out stud appeal in older men

I'd like to suggest my own headline:

Men in their 40s go lame rather than admit age

I'm sorry. It doesn't look studly, it looks precious. When I see a guy in my age range (35-45) with that gel-spiked short 'do, I want to grab him all right - to put his head under a spigot and get rid of that abomination! SHEESH!

I'm clearly railing here, but please. If you ain't got it, a new 'do ain't gonna give it to you. Besides, how you gonna run your fingers through hair that's gel-spiked! I dated a guy who wouldn't let me touch his hair, and it made me nuts.

Okay, I'm done. Geez. Matt Lauer with some kind of hip do. Not.

* I know they're older, get over it. Best photos I can find. And anyway I've had a thing about Gerald McRaney since Simon & Simon. Live with it.

Posted by susanna at 07:45 AM | Comments (4)

October 16, 2002

Just desserts

It's not often that two of my favorite bloggers pile onto the same deserving little piece of crap, but both John Cole and Dodd Harris eviscerate the petty viciousness of Hesiod in his post on Jeb Bush's stance regarding his drug-addicted daughter Noelle. Warning: not for the faint of heart.

And Hesiod, blithely immune to his own hypocrisy, later comments on an Instapundit post about Glenn's column today on traditional media, blogging, and making money on the Internet. The IP post says that bloggers serve as a check to the distortions of a liberal media. Hesiod begs to differ:

Au contraire. I would argue that the Chickenbloggercoop, in particular, and "conservative" bloggers in general are a POSITIVE feedback loop for disinformation, bias, propaganda, and half-truths. They are incestuous, and rarely, if ever, cite to intelligent criticims of their dominant paradigms.

Their usual modus operandi is to cull the weakest link from the opposition hurd, and savage that statement or individual, magnify its importance in the opposition heirarchy, and then spend all of their time meta-blogging congratulations on their fine work of ganging up on a weak opponent.

And when that won't work, they just make shit up.

Well, Hesiod, truth is we don't often see intelligent, um, "criticims", and when we do, typically they are treated with the respect they deserve. I will, for instance, point to Amptoons, with whom I have some strong disagreements, but who I always respect. Perhaps you are merely distressed, Hesiod, that you are often "the weakest link" culled from the - um, I really hate to use "sic", but should I? - "opposition hurd (sic)" to be savaged? Certainly the Cole/Harris tag team effort would constitute just such a culling, don't you think?

And I didn't even have to make any of that up. Do I get a cookie?

Posted by susanna at 06:45 PM | Comments (18)

Almost got it right

I've been reading the columnists in The Australian, writing about the Bali attack and the Iraqi war plans. Emma Tom, in particular, makes a good case for why the media should show and describe the true extent of the horror and pain at the Bali attack site. In fact, her whole column was excellent.

Until the last line:

when we've gained an appreciation of what it might be like to sift through the shattered remains of decomposing corpses in an unrefrigerated, makeshift morgue looking for a missing husband, wife or child, we'll realise we must do everything in our power to prevent other human beings having to endure a similar hell.

Iraqis included.

Now, she doesn't comment beyond that, but I don't think it's a stretch to conclude that she's against an attack on Iraq. What she's not getting, and what seems to be the state of most doves, is that the best way to minimize that kind of carnage in the future - including Iraqi carnage - is to excise the cancer of terrorist regimes. I'm not quite sure what beautiful bubble she lives in, but I do know that it will take military might to keep her, and her philosophical friends, in it.

Posted by susanna at 06:43 PM | Comments (3)


Congratulations to my friend David Abner, who graduated from the University of Louisville law school this year. He found out this week that he passed the Indiana bar - although he lives in Henderson, KY, he works in Indiana. Next up - the Kentucky bar.

Great job, David! Not a surprise, however. You've always been pretty sharp. (And I'll even forgive you for becoming a lawyer.)

David has been my brother's best friend for a long time; I've known him since he was 15, and it's a pleasure to see him do so well. He and his wife Mary Ann are two of my favorite people. Mary Ann, I'm still holding you to that trip to the quilt museum in Paducah, when I get moved back to Kentucky. We'll have to rent a U-Haul so we can bring back all the fabric we're sure to buy.

And now that David is a bona fide lawyer admitted to the bar, does that mean I have to call him "Esquire"?

Posted by susanna at 05:50 PM | Comments (1)

It's terrible, but...

I feel a great deal of sadness for the families of the victims of the Maryland sniper, and I know how fearful the whole community is. But I just came across this article in The Seattle Times that reminded me that sudden, senseless and preventable deaths happen, well, a lot:

Last Oct. 26, [Roy] Gursli struck down Naval ensign Carrie Shoemaker while driving through downtown Everett with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. Then he drove away. Ever since, "We live our lives laboriously and slowly, walking through a thick fog," Shoemaker's father, Michael, said in Snohomish County Superior Court.

"Our world has collapsed upon us."

...Michael Shoemaker noted that no one in his family would ever be paroled or free. The Philadelphia-area father spoke of shutting his office door and sobbing after the death of his oldest daughter.

He read a letter from his younger son, Carrie's 20-year-old brother Matt, who could not bear to attend the sentencing and face the man who killed his sister. He read another letter from his other son, Carrie's twin brother Mike, who couldn't come because he's stationed on the USS Nassau somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Mike wrote about being scared of his birthday, secretly hoping it would pass quietly because for the first time, he would be older than Carrie.

...Carrie's fiancé, Travis Williams, a Naval Academy graduate who has signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers, said he wanted to marry her from the moment he met her on a summer cruise on the USS Paul F. Foster.

"We had an amazing love," the tall, handsome 24-year-old said, sobbing. "It's something that you see out of the movies."

It's a different thing to go hunting humans, than to get tanked and not care in that moment if someone dies as a result. The culpability is certainly different for the killer. But the pain of the families is the same.

When you're thinking about the families of the dead, say a prayer for Carrie's family too.

Posted by susanna at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

Hypocrisy in the Big Media (shocking, right?)

Recently, Columbia's "scramble band" dissed Fordham University during a halftime of a football game between the two. According to columnist Allan Wolper, the band's pre-scripted introduction given over the PA caused a furor amongst Fordham fans and subsequently showed the media for both PC addicts and hypocrites.

So what was the introduction?

The public-address announcer gleefully greeted the bawdy band members: "As well as the Mets' season going up in smoke, Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy, and the Fordham football team with a threat rating of a cute, neon pink, the band now presents an all-star gala halftime salute to more Columbia news."

In the midst of the Catholic sex scandal, it was a low blow. Naturally a lot of newspapers covered it but... they wouldn't print the offending joke itself, saying it wasn't necessary to the story. Excuse me? Wolper goes into the tortured reasoning behind their choice, and it's an interesting look at journalistic decisionmaking in this politically correct era. You can bet that if, say, Dick Cheney said that, the papers would have printed it in the headline. But here's the kicker for me:

...for The New York Times, it was a joke unfit to print.

"It was a pretty vicious, ugly slur -- and we don't print vicious, ugly slurs," said Times Metro Editor Jonathan Landman. "We are pretty adamant about not printing ugly, vicious language of this kind."

Have they read MoDo lately, where she maligns a good doctor for her own political agenda? Ever perused Krugman? Or even took a little stroll through their own "hard news" section in its coverage of anything Bush? I've seen little evidence that they have a policy against printing "vicious, ugly slurs".

Have I mentioned lately that the New York Times is a sanctimonious, hypocritical rag?

Posted by susanna at 08:51 AM | Comments (2)

Good stuff, all in one place

The fourth Carnival of the Vanities is up for your reading pleasure. If you've not checked this out, it's a "best of" list of posts from blogs, nominated by the authors and compiled by the Inestimable Bigwig.

I love that kind of thing. I have a tendency to buy anthologies of stories in genres I like, because it's an easy way and relatively cheap way to discover new authors. I see the Carnival as a similar thing - there are so many blogs, and you never know when you're hitting them on a good day even when you land on a new one. So with sample posts, chosen by the authors as their best - well, you know then, don't you? Pretty cool.

And thanks to Bigwig for his work on this. (I promise, BW, next week!)

Posted by susanna at 08:13 AM | Comments (1)

October 15, 2002

Woman confirmed as sniper victim

Police have confirmed that last night's victim of a shooting in Falls Church, Virginia, was killed by the Maryland sniper.

The woman was Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington.

Police seem to think there are good leads emerging from the shooting, which took place at 9:15 p.m. in a strip shopping mall near the Beltway. No word yet on the race of the victim.

UPDATE: Jim Henley has more information. He also has an Action Item for retail businesses in the DC area - he thinks it's a retail worker and wants a hot sheet of what behavior to look for available to those who may work with this person. So go check it out if you work retail in the area, know someone who does, or own a business there. Can't hurt.

UPDATE: Franklin, last night's sniper victim, was FBI:

A senior law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were no indications the sniper targeted Linda Franklin because of her job. Sources said she worked for the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center which assesses threats against major structures and cyber networks.

Whatever stops weren't pulled yet, just got yanked.

Posted by susanna at 10:04 AM | Comments (6)

Is smallpox really that big of a risk?

I heard Richard Preston, author of The Demon in the Freezer, speaking about the subject of the book - smallpox as a biological weapon - this morning on FoxNews. He thinks it likely that terrorists will use smallpox on the US military, possibly in our country and others. And certainly it's possible. A big concern is that the vaccine itself may have sufficient side effects for up to 10% of the US population that it's dangerous to generally administer it.

My question, which may be answered in the book but wasn't asked this morning, is this: If we in the US are at such a risk of infection and death, with our health care system and generally more healthy population, what would smallpox do to the populations of the countries using it as a weapon? I would think it would be impossible to infect our troops without also infecting the local populace wherever it's used. Wouldn't it be more likely to kill as many or more - I think many more - locals than military? If you lose two, three, ten citizens for every one enemy (us) that you kill, is it a weapon that truly accomplishes your purpose? What, for instance, would Saddam have left to rule if he loses two-thirds of his population to diseases that he unleashed, and the remaining third is so crippled from surviving the disease or the pain of losing all those close to them that they can't function? He would gain some purchase in the loony leftie world because the US "forced" him to use biowarfare, but that's small comfort when there's nothing left to rule.

I need to read more on this, because it seems a major component of the issue and I haven't seen it discussed in what little reading I've done on it. Do any of you know?

UPDATE: Curt is On The Case! He works at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), and posts this link in comments, which is Smallpox Central for the CDC. I've not had time to browse it yet, but will.

My friend Desiree (D. Watts in comments) is anti-vaccination in general and has sent me over the years quite a bit of information that makes me question the utility of vaccinations as currently done. I'm not anti-vaccination, I just think it can't be seen as a casual "oh, just vaccinate everyone!" approach. It's a health issue that has to be approached with caution and conservatism. OTOH, I generally trust the folks at CDC (their anti-gun biases aside). So read, think about it, and recognize that this is not an issue that can be deliberated at length once biological warfare has begun.

Posted by susanna at 07:36 AM | Comments (6)

October 14, 2002

Sniper may have struck again


More info here and here.

UPDATE: The woman is dead, shot in the upper back while loading packages into her car. Her husband was right with her. It appears several witnesses may have seen the shooter. Here's praying he's caught soon.

UPDATE: I couldn't have said it better myself:

“This looks like somebody who has had some exposure to sniper skills,” says Derrick Bartlett, who runs Snipercraft, a Florida sniper school. “But I can guarantee you that every legitimate sniper in the United States would love to have the opportunity to put a bullet between this guy’s eyes.”

Amen and pass the ammunition.

UPDATE: Some people are still coming here from the MSNBC weblog link, and others may be interested in what else I've said about the Maryland shootings. Here are all the links, from the initial one:

The first shootings, including a profile of the sniper.

After the child was shot last Monday.

Why it's not al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization.

Additional comments last Monday.

After the tarot card was found.

A few more comments.

The Wednesday shooting and information on team serial/spree killers.

Praying for rain last Friday morning.

The sniper hits on Friday anyway.

The media and the sniper coverage.

Thoughts after today's press conference with Chief Moose and the task force.

Posted by susanna at 10:31 PM | Comments (3)


I'm watching Forensic Files on Court TV (one of my favorite shows). The current episode is about a surgeon in Cincinnati who was killed by his second wife, who tried to make it look like a suicide.

One of the companies advertising on the show is the dating service Great Expectations. The commercial for it features Chuck Woolery telling a woman that 60% of people who join online dating services lie about themselves. The solution? Contact Great Expectations, for real dates with real people.

All well and good. However, earlier in the show we learned that the surgeon had met his second wife through a dating service. After they married, he learned that she had lied about a lot of things, including having apparently tried to kill several previous boyfriends and husbands. He was afraid for his life. He had reason to be. She's now serving time for his murder.

And the dating service that put them together?

Great Expectations.

(I know you saw that coming.)

Posted by susanna at 09:30 PM | Comments (2)

Don't mess with police with nothing better to do

Scott Chaffin at The Fat Guy had a pretty funny encounter with a bored and over-zealous cop this weekend; funny in an all's-well-that-ends-well kind of way.

Now, I'm about as pro-cop as you can get without either wearing or marrying the blue. I've spent a lot of years writing about cops, hanging out with cops, reading about cops, digging for money for overtime for cops, you get the picture. That doesn't make me blind to their quirks, however. One of my favorites is "clustering", which Scott ran into Friday night. Basically, if nothing much is going on, if one cop raises some action all the other cops out who can get to the location are going to descend on the scene as "backup". Now, backup can be a good thing, and there are a number of ways that Scott's situation could have gone bad that would have made backup for the lead cop a good thing. But usually that's not the case, so you get some hapless, mortified and totally undangerous motorist sitting on the side of the road getting a ticket (bad enough) with three cop cars surrounding them (horrific). Most cops are cops because they like to be in the action, so of course they cluster. Unfortunately for Scott, he was the action Friday night.

Cops are also taught that the best way to stay alive is to assume control of a situation immediately and maintain it throughout an incident. Veteran cops, or ones with a decent shoe size, know the difference between a real threat to their control and the normal bristling of a traffic stop. Insecure cops, or rookie cops, sometimes don't get the difference, which can be either amusing (in this case) or, sometimes, quite tragic because it escalates a situation somewhere it didn't have to go.

So Scott's story has the best of both - clustering and an insecure cop with, fortunately, a normal basically law-abiding citizen. I guess that's one way to learn about new law, Scott.

Posted by susanna at 04:44 PM | Comments (2)

Why I love our military

As you know, last week a Marine was killed and one injured by terrorists shooting at them during a training exercise. Since then, there have been two more similar shootings, although no one was injured in them. The military didn't even return fire in the latest one.

I heard a commander of one of the units speaking on television earlier today (I can't remember the show). He described the most recent shootings as "nuisance shootings", and in response to questions about whether they would change their training exercises as a result, he said (paraphrased):

It shows they don't like what we're doing, which is enough reason to keep on doing it.

We are so going to whip anyone our military gets turned loose on. Just let 'em off the leash and give 'em all the support they need.

Posted by susanna at 12:58 PM | Comments (4)

Thoughts on the Maryland sniper case

I just watched the midday press conference with Chief Moose and the media about the Maryland sniper case. The big news is that there is no big news. But some observations:

Chief Moose handles himself really well in front of the media, for the most part, given the pressures of the situation. As it turns out, Moose has an outstanding law enforcement resume, including a stint as police chief in Portland, Oregon, and a PhD in urban studies/criminology. Not an incompetent man, nor an unambitious one. However, he needs a speech coach – it does not enhance his presentation to say “wiff” for with, “gaver” for gather, or “day” for they and “dat” for that.

The media are idiots. I’m sorry. They just are. Some of the questions were inane in the extreme, and the analysis of the press conference afterward pretty much the same. An example: Moose gave a mail box address for people to send mail to the investigation, to separate it from the normal office mail. Smart. Immediately some dip reporter says, are you hoping that the sniper writes you? Moose said, I told you why we gave the address. Afterward, the FoxNews reporter recounted the exchange, then said: A week ago a tarot card saying, Dear Mr. Policeman, I am God was found. The next day at the press conference, Moose said, I hope some day we will know why these shootings are happening, please God. So some are speculating (you know what that means – bored reporters waiting for more to happen) that he was trying to send a message to the sniper. (Idiots)

The investigation sounds like it’s moving along pretty well. Those types of task forces generate reams of information, and the hard police work is just doing the numbers – interviews, analyzing evidence, putting pieces together, chasing down leads. Often a break in the case comes from tips, or just dumb luck – Ted Bundy was caught by a traffic cop making a routine stop. I think the case is proceeding as well as possible just because Moose and company didn’t seem frantic.

Dodd Harris sent me a link to a post on Clayton Cramer’s site that suggests the sniper was meaning to kill one particular person and the rest of the shootings are cover. Well, maybe. If they had stopped with that first 16 hour flurry, I’d say it was possible. But this is too big for that to be the case now, especially since the sniper apparently responded to coverage of the shootings.

Speculation is that the sniper isn’t active today because it’s a holiday. I hope we don’t find out tomorrow that it’s true. Sometimes offenders just stop, and it could happen here. And sometimes killers aren’t caught for a long time – like the Green River Killer, a case where officials made an arrest more than 11 years after the original task force disbanded.

I still think the essentials of my original profile is true: A white male between 28-32, a blue-collar type job, who if married or living with someone does not have a close relationship with her/them (if parents). I think he’s working alone, but if not the companion is another, younger male who is quite under the sniper’s thumb. I think there was a precipitating event, possibly some weeks before the first spate of killings. I think there is a racial component, with the sniper having white supremicist leanings but not on any kind of official “mission”. Criminal profiler Pat Brown on FoxNews this weekend (and I didn’t agree with all her points) said she thinks the shooter is an opportunist – shooting who’s there – but with options, is choosing a minority victim. He loves guns and has for a long time. His point is the power, not the process of the killings, and he is adoring the coverage. I think he may kill or try to kill a police officer soon if he doesn’t stop of his own volition or is stopped. He is a major loser, and while he may have military training he will have never gone above a private and possibly had a dishonorable discharge or at least was a soldier no one regretted losing to private life.

And it's not al-Qaeda.

For what it’s worth.

Posted by susanna at 12:47 PM | Comments (12)

Journalistic navel-gazing

As some of you may know - or not - my undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I was actually a newspaper reporter for four years before going to graduate school. I was a very teeny tiny itsy small fry in a huge pool, but quite an opinionated one. Which you probably picked up.

So that gives me standing to comment on these two pieces - an E&P article on the compatibility of journalism with business, and a post by The Last Page on the uselessness of journalism graduate degrees. Not that I need standing to comment, as I'm sure you've noticed. But this is a special case.

First, E&P whining. A group of Very Important Journalists got together in New York City last week to discuss Can Great Journalism Coexist with Big Business? It was a fairly stupid question, as Journalism has always been marshalled by Big Business - what were William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer? Altruists? I'm not thinking so.

But the journalistic navel-gazing is pretty funny. They bemoaned that readership is falling, that business types are directing the energies of the media conglomerates toward entertainment instead of tough journalism, and that the number of real journalists are dropping (we'll talk about that in a minute). What is their solution?

Wait for it...

Journalist value committees

That's right! We can return to the (non-existent) glory-days of journalism by "(f)using "journalistic DNA" into the corporate governance of media companies and making journalistic excellence an oversight responsibility of boards of directors".

Now, class, do we need to know much more about why these jerkwads are clueless about how to "fix" journalism?

And don't miss this one:

Some participants suggested an industry-wide campaign to educate the public about the important of journalism in civic life.

Um, yeah, THAT will fix it! If people don't think they need your product because often it's crap, why, of course the answer isn't to improve the product (objectivity, anyone?), the answer is to convince them they need it just as it is!

It's another example of misunderstanding what's important about journalism, and a sign of the arrogance of the policy makers of the industry toward their (presumed stupid) audience. If you ask the average American, I doubt any of them would seriously question the importance of a vital and active media to democracy. I do think most of them would say the current media has its head so far... well, you know... that it can't see the sunshine of truth and fairness. With some notable exceptions.

And that's where Page comes in. If you don't read her regularly, you should, because she is a keen observer of life who pulls no punches, and she nails the problem with journalism school and the attitude of editors doing the hiring. Basically, you aren't taught the daily grind of journalism in school (as I can attest), and you sure aren't ready for zippo nada pay. In my last job in journalism, in 1987, with four years of college, four years of newspaper experience and the trademark brilliance with which you are so familiar, I made $14,500. Any wonder that graduate school didn't seem like a drop in standard of living? This consistently low salary (and my situation was not unusual) often sends people with good sense and without family money scurrying. From Page:

Shelby, a talented minority journalist, left journalism after 18 months to get her law degree. I have to note she was a minority journalist because at that point, I had only worked with two minority journalists and because she offered some honest opinions about minorities in journalism. Shelby was one of my best friends and we could talk openly about racism, perceived racism, and the pros and cons of Affirmative Action. Mostly we talked about cheap beer and cute boys, though. Once, over a couple of really cheap beers, I asked her why she thought there were not more black journalists in the newsroom considering the fact that we lived in a predominantly black county. Her answer was: "Journalism doesn't pay enough. Ambitious blacks don't want to be in a profession where they live paycheck-to-paycheck, and they don't understand why white folks, like you, want to. We're sitting here drinking cheap-ass beer because we can't afford anything else. So ask yourself, why do you want to do something that doesn't pay?"

Why, indeed? There is some truth to what I've heard a number of writers say about their work - I can't not write. I'm a good example of that - even though it's been many years since I made my living as a journalist, I continue to make my living writing, and my ultimate goal is to return to professional writing from the safety of an academic position with benefits (and dozens of empty young minds to turn into mindless robots of my own making). But the incredible demands of journalism require that someone who sticks with it for a long time have a high threshold for poverty and a deep need for three things: an audience, immersion in the written word and always being among the first to know the latest. When any two of those seriously palls, you're gone.

So how is that connected to the E&P whining? It's top down and bottom up stupidity. The people at the top are forming committees to drum journalistic values into the business types when they should be focusing on paying the grunts enough to live on to encourage the kind of diversity they say they want, and then attract an audience for those people by emphasizing fairness and accuracy over piety and thinly-disguised agendas. They just don't get it. Americans don't need to be convinced of the importance of journalism in civic life; they just need to see some reason to think that what they get now is journalism.

So here are my recommendations to the Great High Muckity Mucks of Journalism:

Hire good people and pay them a living wage.

Hire people with a broad range of backgrounds and turn them loose after instilling strict standards of accuracy and fairness.

Climb off your lame objectivity horse. Return to "conservative paper" and "liberal paper" acknowledgements.

Show your civic relevance by being, well, relevant.

Stop whining about the entertainment emphasis of journalism when it's always been there, always will be, and isn't a problem as long as someone doesn't try to say that it doesn't exist. Then make the hard decision that some situations (Maryland sniper) shouldn't be treated like coverage of which part of her body J-Lo will expose next.

Stop having meetings run by "a nonprofit global forum that promotes morally responsible leadership" unless they are not interested in being paid to do it, and they view conservative principles (capitalism) as having the potential to be morally responsible.

And my number one recommendation:

Hire Page to run the whole industry

The process wouldn't be pretty, but man, we'd have an awesome journalism industry in no time flat.

Posted by susanna at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

Bali bombing

Tim Blair continues to be Australian central for the Bali bombings, including Australian reactions.

He points out that with 18 million Australians, the initial victim count - dead and injured - is large enough that "many people will have connections to even this preliminary list". Some are calling it Australia's 9/11.

He also reports that the attitude in Australia and elsewhere is moving toward where many Americans are:

READER ARVID MALM, of Sweden, sent this e-mail last night:
Just wanted to let you know that eight Swedes are missing at the moment in Bali, with at least three wounded. I sincerely hope that you Aussies send us a thought when you blow those barbarian fu*kwits even further back into the stoneage. You do have some sort of special non-sensitivity-trained force for that kind of job, right?

The latest reports now have ten Swedes listed as missing. Thankfully, there is no confirmation as yet that any Swedes were killed.

Either way, the time for sensitivity has passed.

Yes. And this:

BECOMING PRO-WAR. Darwin blogger (and regular Bali visitor) Ken Parish notes: "I don't know whether my good lady wife provides a valid microcosm, but she has undergone a remarkable attitudinal transformation in the space of 24 hours, from a Phillip Adams-ish peacenik stance (although without the pomposity) to a passable imitation of the most rabid warblogger you could imagine."

I bet Mrs. Parish is one of thousands.

I would think so.

Posted by susanna at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

October 13, 2002

Fisking Fisk over Bali terrorism

Tim Blair pulls out the blunt instruments to pummel Robert Fisk, who says the Bali bombing was a natural consequence of Indonesia's support of US aggression against Iraq.

Don't go if strong language bothers you, but it's a fitting treatment of Fisk's idiocy.

(If you have trouble getting to the archive, go here; it was at the top at 10:16 EST)

Posted by susanna at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

What it’s like to be me

Tonight on the way home from church, I stopped to get groceries so I wouldn’t have to emerge from my lair tomorrow. This is what it’s like to be me whenever I come home later than 5 p.m. on any given night (especially with groceries):

Drive around for five minutes looking for a parking space.

Talk on the cell phone the whole time.

Snag a spot a block and a half away from apartment building, parallel parking while still talking on the cell.

Stand on the street finishing the conversation because there’s too many bags to carry while talking.

Carefully allot eight plastic bags of groceries into two hands, blessing the handle on the zipped Bible cover, and thankful for a tiny purse.

Walk a block and a half feeling like a milkmaid with a two-cow load.

Open the lobby door, frantically trying to remember if that was the bag with the eggs that just hit the door really hard.

Put down all the bags in the elevator-sized lobby, dig out the keys, unlock the door.

Stand with one foot in the door because it closes automatically, twisting around to get all the groceries picked up and reallocated.

Allow the door to push me up the first two steps as it closes.

Carry the groceries up five flights of steps, 13 steps per flight, two flights per floor, to the third floor.

Wonder in the middle of the third flight precisely why I felt the need to take advantage of the buy one get one free sale on half-gallon cartons of orange juice.

Dump it all on the landing while digging for keys again.

Dump it all on the floor of the kitchen.

And yes, most of it is put away now. Even the %#@ orange juice.

UPDATE: George, the eggs are fine.

Posted by susanna at 09:28 PM | Comments (4)

Sniper choosing low technology?

A columnist in the NY Times has speculated about the technology used by the Maryland sniper, and why it's not higher tech; Kevin McGehee thinks the sniper may be using it deliberately just because it is comparatively low-tech and thus both commonly used and difficult to trace.

I have no knowledge in that arena - what do you think?

Posted by susanna at 02:17 PM | Comments (3)

Bombing in Bali could be al Qaeda connected

The Sydney Morning Herald has major coverage of the bombing in Bali, where seven Australians have been confirmed dead and 113 hospitalized; overall, nearly 200 are dead and dozens more injured.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said a Muslim terrorist group named Jemaah Islamiyah (and known as Jl) with "quite a lot of links to al-Qaeda" is suspected.

Posted by susanna at 09:14 AM | Comments (1)

Ambrose dies

Historian Stephen Ambrose has died of lung cancer. He was 66.

He was known for writing, among his more than 25 books, Band of Brothers. In recent months, he had been accused of plagiarism in some of his work.

Posted by susanna at 09:08 AM | Comments (1)

October 12, 2002

Too many cooks...

Psychologist Harvey Goldstein has an excellent article in The Washington Post about the probable effect of the media coverage on the Maryland sniper.

I've mentioned before that this sniper's point is power, not the actual killings themselves - that is to say, the process of killing isn't the source of his pleasure, in contrast to many serial killers. This whole business of actively engaging him by calling him names, or the ceaseless press conferences, are feeding his need.

I don't watch television a lot, so I've missed most of the press conferences and other coverage; much of that is deliberate, because I just get angry at the entertainment emphasis it takes. So it's interesting to see Goldstein's perception, which sounds right on the money to me.

One of the things I'm interested in as a researcher is the intersection of media and policing. It is, in my view, a somewhat symbiotic relationship in that they need each other. Street crime is one of the most dramatic real-life events that happens consistently in our society, and the apprehension and prosecution of offenders easily engages an audience. Thus, the media need law enforcement to feed the endlessly grinding mill of stories about this most human of dramas.

Conversely - and aside from their legal responsibility to supply public records to the media in proxy for the public at large - the police often need the media, as the sniper case shows. In this instance, information such as the newly released graphic of the box truck suspected as the killer's vehicle can only receive broad dissemination if the media agrees to distribute the image. Shows like America's Most Wanted are a mix of law enforcement and entertainment that has a very real value to law enforcement. And police also need the assistance of the media in non-dramatic instances, such as press releases about Halloween safety, about initiatives to improve seatbelt use, and other programs.

But the foundational purpose of each organization is diametrically opposed to the purpose of the other - the media are about collecting and disseminating information to draw an audience, the police are about collecting and protecting information to solve crimes - and an audience is rarely something they want involved.

In a case like the Maryland sniper, you find the two institutions reacting like magnetic polars - both attracting and repelling each other. The media entertainment imperative and 24-hour news cycle requires intense scrutiny of police activities to produce any new nuggets of information to show their audience panting at home for more details. The police, while needing some media dissemination of facts, find the scrutiny often hampers their activities, as Chief Moose mentioned today when pleading with the media to let his investigators do their work without being followed by reporters, or having reporters lying in wait.

As Goldstein mentions, the media is not fully at fault in this scenario. The politicians and some law enforcement media hounds are holding press conferences with dizzying regularity, far beyond the actual need and possibly to an extent that fuels the sniper's need for feeling Very Important. In addition, the audience at home who watches this drama as if it was a Law & Order mini-series prod the media to even greater heights of intrusiveness. But still, the media does carry a responsibility to behave in a responsible manner, and has not - as the release of the information on the tarot card early this week clearly shows.

I don't know that there's a conclusion to draw from this, right now, other than - this uneasy symbiosis does have an impact ultimately on how policing is done. And do we want that? The media gives us what we want, collectively - railing against the industry doesn't help if we're still turning on our televisions and buying the magazines and newspapers, without comment.

[Goldstein link via Instapundit]

Posted by susanna at 09:36 PM | Comments (2)

I'm so proud!

I have a new blogchild!

Everyone, welcome Lauren Coats, newly of Loyal Peon. He just started today, so we'll keep an eye on his progress.

Yay, Lauren!

Posted by susanna at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

Did Carter deserve the Nobel?

I've skewered Jimmy Carter repeatedly on these pages, to the dismay of some readers. In fairness, and because I don't claim any measure of objectivity in this discussion, I will direct your attention to Daniel Drezner's reasoned defense of Carter's selection. Drezner doesn't fawn over Carter, but makes cogent and compelling points about good Carter's done.

I still don't think he deserves it, but I'm a little less rabid after reading Drezner's post.

Posted by susanna at 07:46 PM | Comments (4)

A slow, lovely weekend

I had dinner last night with fellow blogger Megan McArdle; we wound up escaping the rain by going into an Irish pub & restaurant near my PATH stop. Irish in name only - I had a hard time finding an "Irishy" thing to order, winding up with the only one I recognized, shepherd's pie. Which was good. And you'll be happy to know that the world is now safe, as Megan and I solved both the economic and crime problems currently extant.

I found out yesterday (yes, I'm not the brightest bulb on yon Yuletide tree) that I have Monday off from work, as it is Columbus Day. I determined immediately to make this a slow weekend, getting done the needful things but not getting het up about things on my blog, or doing much running around. I'm going to straighten up around here and then focus on my school work.

Speaking of which, I met with my major professor earlier this week, to discuss the ill-fated core area proposal that was rejected by the PhD committee last spring. He has given me advice and encouragement, and I plan to have a new draft ready for review in two weeks. That means, likely not as much going on here. We shall see. I might bore you with more summaries of academic articles.

I do have a few things percolating around in this so-called mind of mine: the media and the police in this current crisis; a column sent to me by a reader that desperately needs fisking; and a link - courtesy of Dodd Harris - to a Chomsky-ish indictment of bloggish bias that also needs a brisk demolition. Everything's read and on the burners, I just have to dish them out.

So enjoy your weekend, take a nap (I'm going to, repeatedly), and come back to visit occasionally to see if I've re-emerged.

Posted by susanna at 02:54 PM | Comments (1)

Yesterday's shooting belongs to sniper

I think we all knew this, but the shooting of a man in Virginia at a gas station was indeed the work of the Maryland sniper.

There's not a whole lot to say about it. I still think this guy is going to escalate to shooting/killing a law enforcement officer if they don't get him soon.

Posted by susanna at 02:39 PM | Comments (1)

October 11, 2002

On the lighter side...

Kevin McGehee has unveiled the new Alabama state quarter.

Or has he?

(I know, we'll ask Page's mom!)

Posted by susanna at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

That hell-spawned scum may have struck again

Reports are coming out right now that the Maryland sniper may have struck again, at a gas station in Woodbridge, VA. Police have closed down the interstate nearby to search for a van reported seen leaving the scene.

That is fast action, and smart, if the sighting is credible. Here's a little more information.

I was afraid it would happen again today. I'll add more as I learn more.

UPDATE: The shooting victim this morning was critically wounded, not killed. Officials haven't yet definitively connected it to the sniper.

UPDATE: Now Fox News is saying the man has died.

Posted by susanna at 10:32 AM | Comments (5)

Congress votes on Iraq

Martin Devon at Patio Pundit has the definitive list of who voted how. Excellent table, and a fine prediction too!

Incidentally, Hillary voted for it. I heard part of her speech last night, and it gave me cold chills because I liked it. Not all of it - she skidded off the rails a couple of times - but she gave the right reasons for voting for it, and she spoke with a passion that I appreciated. So mark your calendars for a red letter day - I agreed with Hillary, at least partially. And I'm more than happy to give her credit for it. I just hope she keeps up that support and good attitude about being behind the military (something her husband was never able to do).

UPDATE: The Timekeeper at Horologium thinks the Democrats' votes are tracking their re-election bids with a suspicious closeness.

Posted by susanna at 08:44 AM | Comments (4)

Maryland sniper

I hope there won't be many updates today, unless something big breaks. It's been two days since the last shooting, and it was two days between it and the one prior. Let's hope the police presence and public awareness are too hot for the shooter to get out for a third attack this week.

Pray for rain. I think that would dampen his drive, and spoil his shot.

Take some time to read this article on the victims; it is a fitting memorial to them to acknowledge their lives. I'm backing off some on the white supremacist thing somewhat (not completely), after seeing it - three of the first six victims are clearly Caucasian, and Ms. Ramos was quite fair-skinned, so there could be little mistaking race even from a distance. Will be interesting to know the race of the latest victim, Dean Harold Meyers, and of the woman who was injured.

Also, authorities are saying that the white van seen at the site is probably not related to the shooting, which again also takes out the two assailants as a probability based on evidence.

Just... pray for a weekend of heavy rain, and a crisis of conscience in the minds of those who suspect they know who the shooter is, but have yet to come forward.

Posted by susanna at 08:35 AM | Comments (6)

What a pathetic joke

And he won a Nobel Peace Prize too.

Bleh. With peacemakers like him, who needs enemi..

Oh yeah. We do have peacemakers like him. They're called "leftists".

Wonder if ole Jimmy's handing out the Cuban cigars in celebration?

UPDATE: My brother had this to say:

He's probably been the only full-time candidate for the Peace Prize that there's ever been.

Well, Clinton came close, but I think my brother's right on this one.

UPDATE: Tony Woodlief goes after Carter, but then eases up in his conclusion. I then wade in with both feet to correct this brief (and, in Tony, startling) lack of judgment, in Tony's comment section.

I sincerely hope that Tony remembers how much he loves me, especially since I also dismember one of his commenters who managed to somehow find in Tony vestiges of the cruel inhumanity of the Maryland sniper. Said commenter has since replied.

UPDATE: Someone please give me something to rant about before I vent my spleen on all comers today.

UPDATE: Idiots.

Posted by susanna at 08:19 AM | Comments (4)

October 10, 2002

Amazing photo

Fred First takes the most interesting and unusual photographs; while his technical skill is excellent, it's not enough to do what he does. It takes the ability to see the unusual in the very usual, and make us see it too. And that he does very well.

Thanks, Fred :).

Posted by susanna at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

No usual horse tale

Fritz Schranck has discovered a little effort by Churchill Downs to race a lame argument past the Sixth Circuit Court, which refused to be party to it.

Posted by susanna at 10:11 PM | Comments (1)

Sniper confirmed killer in latest death

Ballistics have proven that the man shot last night in Manassas was killed by the same sniper - or same gun - as those killed and wounded last week and Monday in Maryland and Virginia.

Where next?

Posted by susanna at 09:44 PM | Comments (2)

Bravo, Miss America!

The new Miss America is sticking to her message, even though it's unpopular with the pageant officials.

Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, yesterday said pageant officials have ordered her not to talk publicly about sexual abstinence, a cause she has advocated to teenage girls in Illinois.

"Quite frankly, and I'm not going to be specific, there are pressures from some sides to not promote [abstinence]," the 22-year-old woman from Urbana, Ill., told The Washington Times.

In her first visit to Washington since winning the crown Sept. 21, Miss Harold resisted efforts by Miss America officials to silence her pro-chastity opinions.

"I will not be bullied," Miss Harold said yesterday at the National Press Club, as officials tried to prevent reporters from asking questions about her abstinence message.

She's a strong woman, and I admire her greatly both for her message and her determination. Certainly the message of abstinence is not very popular, but it's effectiveness is irrefutable - if you don't have sex, you won't get pregnant, you won't get AIDS and you won't get STDs. The likelihood of teens or others following that path is a different issue, but not one that empties the message of its truth.

I don't know why people froth at the mouth so about abstinence outside of marriage being taught as an appropriate approach to the problems of unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual diseases. It's an absolute prevention that can't be disproven. The question always gets back to the reasonableness of expecting that people will stick to that discipline or choice, and what education needs to happen to make sure those who are sexually active are as protected as possible from unwanted pregnancies and disease. Somewhere in there, religion always enters the picture, with each side beating up the other about sin and freedom of choice. I personally don't have a problem with students being taught about all types of birth control and disease preventions in health class, in more detail than I was (no one offered me a banana and an unopened condom package with instructions to figure out how they went together). I do think those preventions need to be taught in a context broader than "if you have sex, do this first", because sexual activity has many implications beyond the physical - and thus should not be discussed as a wholly physical act.

So where's the reason for hysteria? Miss America isn't saying, "Don't teach about methods of preventing pregnancies and disease," she's saying, "This is a method that always works in preventing them, and it has a lot of very positive side benefits as well."

I say, well done, Miss America. I may even declare a moratorium for a year on dissing beauty pageants.

[Link via I Am Right!]

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert at Number 2 Pencil has a few good thoughts on Miss America too.

Posted by susanna at 07:19 PM | Comments (9)

Self-defense for women

Just came across this on Cold Fury - an article on self defense for women, by Sekimori's husband Dan.

It's great. And he's right, if you don't think you can or would kill to protect yourself, don't even bother to read it.

Sekimori also has it on her site.

And I also agree with Mike and with Toren - buying a gun is a good thing. But only if you're going to learn to use it, and carry it where you can get to it.

Posted by susanna at 05:44 PM | Comments (5)

Another shooting - is it the sniper?

A man was shot and killed last night at a service station in Manassas, VA, about 30 miles southwest of Washington. Authorities are investigating to see if it is the same sniper who killed and wounded others in the Washington/Maryland area in the past week.

A white van with two men inside was seen leaving the scene.

Since the man who was killed was not from the area, it seems more likely that he is a victim of the sniper.

UPDATE: Like yesterday, I'm going to put all the sniper updates in one post. Here's the latest, from a CNN article and a reporter on WABC Radio 77 out of NYC; she was reporting from Maryland:

The victim of last night's shooting was Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

A witness saw a white Dodge Caravan leaving the scene with two men inside it; this matches an earlier sighting of a similar van. It's somewhat different from a third sighting, two men in a white box truck.

The tarot card mentioned in news reports yesterday apparently contained additional messages, including a request that the card's existence not be released to the media. That could be the source of the Montgomery County police chief's meltdown about it.

It looks like two may be involved, which I think makes it a little less of a white supremicist thing although I still think it's a factor. And I also still think there is a dominant personality, the shooter, and an acolyte, the driver.

We shall see.

UPDATE: Minuteman Tom Maguire asked me in comments whether there are instances of other serial killer duos, and the answer is, several. Here are a few:

Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate – Starkweather is immortalized as the quintessential spree killer, but people tend not to remember as much that teenager Caril Fugate traveled with him during his days of killing in 1958; in fact, her parents and baby sister were among those killed. She served time for being an accessory, but always claimed she was forced to go with him. (More info here.)

Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole – Lucas was notorious in the 1980s for claims of killing several hundred women; the estimates have come down now to only a few murders, which is bad enough. Toole was his sometime traveling companion who was supposedly involved in some of the killings. (More info here.)

Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi – Also known as the Hillside Strangler, these cousins raped and killed several young women in the late 1970s in Los Angeles before they were caught. (More info here.)

Lawrence Bittaker & Roy Norris - These two traveled around in a van pulling in teenage girls, who they tortured, raped and killed. They recorded the torture sessions for later listening pleasure. Their killing ground was also California.(More info here.)

There are many others, including teams of men and women (for more information, the Crime Library site has a whole listing of team killers). And certainly in the past there have been killers who had procurers. The difference in this instance is that the killing is the point. In the killings of those above, the killing itself was not always their point – they enjoyed the hunt and they also enjoyed the process of killing, which they often prolonged because of the pleasure they got from the control. I know you’ve heard how rape is not about sex, but rather about control expressed sexually. Well, for most serial killers, the rush is the control, not necessarily the sex or even the actual killing point. In fact, the killing may be anticlimactic because then the person is lifeless and control is no longer a challenge. (Although that’s not always the case – some killers, Ted Bundy being one, have kept the bodies of their victims around for a while to either feel that control rush again or to actually use sexually).

For the Maryland killer(s), I’d say the control is paramount too, but not the control of the victims beyond the god-like feeling the killer has that he can pick off anyone at a whim. He has no desire to control the victims beyond that. His sense of control comes, I think, from the fear of the community, the frustration of the police and the rabid coverage of the media. HE is causing this, and it makes him feel Very Important. For someone to need this type of control, he must feel very impotent in his daily life.

The profile of the sniper fits more of a David Berkowitz, as some have compared him to, although I think it is a comparison with limited validity. Berkowitz chose his victims with specific purpose, while they were engaged in specific activities. In contrast, the Maryland sniper is choosing his victims (in my judgment) in a deliberately random fashion – in other words, his pattern is the specific lack of pattern. I am interested, though, in the race of the man killed last night, if he is the latest victim of the sniper. I think it is significant that the proportion of minority victims, or those who fit a stereotypical image of a minority even though they are not (i.e. dark skin), is greater than a truly random pattern would suggest.

And isn’t it interesting, if the Manassas shooting is by the Maryland sniper, that the swing out into a distant territory follows intense coverage of the geo-profiling, just as the shooting of the child followed coverage of police assurances that the schoolchildren were safe?

I hope someone calls in with an identifying clue on this sniper, because otherwise I think only more killings are going to give the investigators the information they need to catch him.

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz weighs in on the media's role in the sniper investigation; I'll have comments about that later today. Jonathan Gewirtz at Chicago Boyz has some thoughts on the sniper and the media's role.

Posted by susanna at 10:09 AM | Comments (15)

A banjo joke

My brother plays mandolin, and collects all manner of bluegrass and mando music. He has a bit of a disdain for banjos and banjo players, as they have a tendency to... be loud. I personally love banjos, a la Dueling Banjos, etc., but I have to admit that this joke from my brother (which he got from a mando listserv) amused me:

A banjo player parked in a bad neighborhood and left his banjo in the back seat of his car. When he got about a block away he remembered he hadn't locked the door. Panicked, he ran back, but it was too late...

(click MORE to see the rest)

Someone had already put a second banjo in the car.
Posted by susanna at 08:53 AM | Comments (5)

October 09, 2002

Rolling back taxes, one person at a time

Tony Woodlief has some advice on how to improve your life and roll back a major hidden tax that he's identified, with the same wry humor as usual but lacking a full measure of misanthropy.

Must have had a really good lunch, with really good service.

Posted by susanna at 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

More Maryland sniper info

This will be the Master Post for Maryland sniper information the rest of today; there's lots more below, but since I keep finding more things to point out, or say, I decided to put the rest in one place. So if you check back later in the day, come to this post.

I'll start it off by linking to The Minute Man, who thinks the Blogosphere should jump in with all possible ideas on the sniper, and centralize the discussion (or at least the tracking of the discussion). Tom, I already jumped. He also suggests here as a good place for that centralization. Fine with me. Check out his post for starters.

He also points to this post by Diane E., discussing the possible interrelation of white supremicists, the IRA and Middle Eastern terrorists in this. I've mentioned that I think the shooter has white supremicist leanings, and I still think so, but I don't think he's part of an organized group (at least not on a mission from them). Diane's post is cogent and very interesting.

More later, I'm sure.

UPDATE: They've detained a woman they think may have dropped off a man carrying a long case (like a rifle case) near a high school in Prince George's County today. Seems odd that he would risk that.

UPDATE: They've now detained a man who's mother reported he was shooting out the window of his home. He's apparently someone they'd talked to before in the investigation. The police found a large cache of weapons in his home.

In my considered opinion, this is not our guy. It would require too much decompensation between Monday and today to go from that calculated cold sniping of a child to shooting out a window with apparent abandon.

Posted by susanna at 04:53 PM | Comments (3)

Al Qaeda may be involved in Marine's death

The Pentagon is saying that the two assailants who shot at US Marines yesterday, killing one and wounding one, may have been al Qaeda terrorists.

Not surprising. What is odd, and annoying, is that the first official reports out of Kuwait said that the shooters may have been locals who were unaware of the military exercises and kind of wandered into them. Later information about the exercises and the isolation of the island makes that seem almost deliberately wrong. Something to think about.

Posted by susanna at 01:26 PM | Comments (2)

Borders coming back in lower Manhattan

I've mentioned several times in my posts about the WTC that I used to shop in the Borders there, and when I went to Ground Zero a month after the attack, one thing that caught my attention was the Borders sign clearly visible through the scorched glass of what remained.

Now Borders is planning to reopen in lower Manhattan. I for one will be a regular customer; after all, sources say Borders beats Barnes & Nobles hands down.

Posted by susanna at 01:18 PM | Comments (4)

Carnival of the Vanities

Yes, it's back! It's bigger! It's... well, it's back and bigger!

So go read.

Posted by susanna at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

I clearly need a keeper

Any volunteers?

Those of you who slogged through my post from Monday about my weekend in Floyd, VA, know that my car is guzzling oil and I managed almost to lose the oil case lid this weekend by not putting it back on after adding oil. I drove about 30 miles before discovering it – and discovered it only because oily smoke was pouring from my engine.

Well, folks… I’m a ditz. This morning, yes, I added more oil, and even thought about the cap thingy, laughing to myself about how silly I was. Then I drove off. Without putting on the cap. About a mile down the road I heard a “clunk… clack clack clack”. I froze… did I…?! I stopped at the light. “Clack clack cla…” silence. Oh no. *&^!%$ I pulled over after going through the intersection, turned off the car (leaving the lights on – sheesh), popped the hood… no cap. I poked around the engine. No cap. Oil dripped off the underside of the hood. Not as much as on Sunday, but a reminder.

I saw something black lying on the road next to the sidewalk at the light. Could it be…? I walked over. YES! The cap lay there, with what I distinctly perceived as insouciance, innocently awaiting my discovery. I snagged it, screwed it tightly in its place and continued on to work. Late. As usual.


Posted by susanna at 11:01 AM | Comments (5)

How lame

I've got to stop watching the media on this case. The interviewer on Fox News, talking to a Maryland investigator, just said, "There can't be that many people out there with Tarot cards, that would have to limit the search, wouldn't it?"

What alternate dimension does he live in?

There's been another shooting near the kill zone in Maryland, but officials think it was a domestic - a man was shot in a motel there, and is in the hospital now.

Posted by susanna at 09:49 AM | Comments (8)

Nice to see the pols care

The two senators from Maryland are speaking now at a press conference in Maryland. Yadda yadda. I suppose it's a good thing that they're showing their support, but I think with this guy less media is better. Right now Senator Barbara Mikulski is laying praise on the FBI with a trawl. Yech.

These cases bring pols out of the woodwork, which always makes the actual investigation more complex. Hard to tell a US Senator to just shut up and go back to spending tax dollars on urine-art.

Of course this press conference followed another press conference by the Montgomery County police chief where he yelled at the press for covering the case so intensely. Can we have his photo next to the dictionary entry for "irony"?

Posted by susanna at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

Death comes for a lady killer

Or perhaps not so much of a lady. Aileen Wuornos, who killed six, possibly seven, men in 1989 and 1990, will die today in Florida's electric chair.

It's about time.

In the recent discussions about killers with multiple victims - whether serial, mass or spree - some have wondered about women killers. Wuornos is a good example of that category. She killed men she met as a prostitute in Florida - men she "knew", who represented something to her. She didn't, to my knowledge, stalk to kill.

Women tend to kill family, intimates and those under their control - their children, elderly relatives, husbands/boyfriends,or hospital patients under their care. One advantage of this is that it's more difficult to spot, if the woman is careful. Are there as many women as men who kill multiple people? I think it unlikely, but probably more than we realize.

Wuornos will die in about five minutes. She wants to die. I think she should.

UPDATE: She's dead.

Posted by susanna at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

A new toy

I just found a site via my referrer logs that checks weblogs for books they've mentioned - it's called All consuming. Here's the entry for my site. You can search for yours there too. It also lists "Google friends". Neat.

Posted by susanna at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

Killer may have left a message

The Washington Post is reporting that the Maryland sniper left the tarot card "Death" at the site where he shot the 13-year-old boy on Monday.

On the card were the words "Dear policeman, I am God".

Officials aren't confirming it on the record, but apparently have done so off the record. There's this interesting quote in the WaPo article:

One officer close to the case told a Post reporter that describing the message would severely impair the police investigation.

So naturally all the media run with it. Look later today for a post on the media coverage of police work.

If the killer really did leave that message, I would make three conclusions: He's on the younger end of my identified age range (late 20s rather than in his 30s), he's totally about proving his cleverness over police, and he plans at some point to kill a police officer.

I'm also leaning toward saying he's never been a police officer, and if he was in the military it was as a grunt with no advancement before discharge. He's such a loser it's amazing. But very very dangerous. I don't think he's done.

I'm curious about the search for where the shots were taken. One of the more advanced crime scene techniques is determining bullet trajectory to trace it back to where it originated. The shape and pattern of blood spatters at the scene is used in conjunction with the position of the victim when the bullet hit to draw a line. Basically, the further a blood spot is from the bullet impact, the longer and more elongated it is. If a bullet hits someone straight on versus at an angle, the blood will emerge from the wound in a more even pattern. The question is the extent to which the blood stains were compromised by efforts to save the victims, or whether they were of clear enough pattern to give direction.

There's some possibility they could determine trajectory from the wound itself - did it, for instance, enter in the upper left of the body and lodge in the lower right of the torso. Although apparently these bullets fragment on impact - which makes them much more deadly - some measure of trajectory can be determined just by where the damage is. I think this is why they've been able to quickly find, for instance, the site of the shooter on Monday.

The possibility of another shooting on September 14 as part of the pattern raises some interesting questions. It would definitely indicate long range planning, and would also indicate that any precipitating events (which I still think were the catalyst) were either of long standing or some months in the past. It makes sense that he would do a "test run", and the shootings on Wednesday of last week were another "test run". Now he really does think he's God.

While I think police work is going to narrow down on this guy, I also think the definitive clue is going to come from someone who knows him and calls the cops. I'm not quite sure the reward will work, but I suppose it doesn't hurt.

I just want them to get him before he kills a cop.

UPDATE: For those here from the MSNBC weblog (or who just found this site), here are links to my earlier posts on this, in reverse chronological order:

The original "profile" mention by Will Femia on the MSNBC weblog

The 13-year-old is shot - is it a white supremicist?

It's not Islamic terrorists

Still thinking it's someone with white supremicist leanings

UPDATE II: Curtis & Kuby on WABC 77 are discussing the Maryland case right now, noting that the authorities in Maryland are furious that the tarot card clue was released. The WaPo article indicated that as well. Difficult to keep that kind of thing under wraps in an investigation of this magnitude, especially with such a range of law enforcement agencies involved.

Curtis & Kuby are saying they think it's stupid for law enforcement to taunt the sniper, which is what all this "coward" commenting is about. I agree. When I first heard it yesterday, I just winced. It's standard practice in these types of cases to guide your engagement with the killer by the recommendations of psychology types - either criminal psychologists or profilers. If you read the work of John Douglas or Robert Ressler, retired FBI agents who were intrumental in developing the FBI's profiling unit, you'll see a number of instances where they advised the local authorities on how to engage the killer publicly.

I think in this instance they're wrong, but I don't quite know what's right. This guy is definitely sucking up the media coverage like crack cocaine. So which is worse? Do you take away the cocaine and hope for a melt-down? Or do you jump up the cocaine and hope for a wild flame-out?

If I had to choose, I would have gone the way of cutting off the crack as much as possible. I hope I'm wrong and they're right.

Posted by susanna at 07:43 AM | Comments (6)

Happy birthday, Brent!

Today's the birthday of Brent at The Ville, one of the most patriotic and fun bloggers out there. So, in his honor, I just have to post Brent Cheesecake.

Yes, I know. But you'll get over it.

Here's a hot number all in black.

This one looks just like something Brent would do himself.

And, well, this is the real cheesecake.

Happy birthday, Brent! And I'm glad you're back in the saddle.

[All images copyright by Michael Lichter, a professional cheesecake photographer who has some amazing work on his pages. If this kind of thing does it for you, I'd recommend checking it out.]

Posted by susanna at 07:15 AM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2002


My recent discussions of the Maryland shooter are highlighted in today's entry on MSNBC's blog, Blogspotting, by Will Femia. Thanks, Will.

I hadn't been to the blog before Will wrote to me, but it's pretty cool; not just political stuff, so a nice way to see what's going on in other corners of the blogosphere too.

Posted by susanna at 07:30 PM | Comments (5)


Jordana and Justin Adams have a new addition to their family - Philippa Jane Adams, born September 28. With any luck, she'll be as bright and curmudgeonly as her parents.

Are you going to call her Pippi?

Posted by susanna at 05:58 PM | Comments (1)

How did they know?

I've been discovered:

cut on the bias is a handgun that looks like a pot-plant and can be used on the move.

That's right! The only weapon you'll ever need. If you want to know what you are, enter it in the box.

[Link via Spleenville.]

Posted by susanna at 03:45 PM | Comments (3)

Gearing up on the media

Tony Woodlief dissects the media and politicians' responses to the shootings in Maryland.

Posted by susanna at 11:41 AM | Comments (7)

Marines shot in Kuwait

I just heard on the radio that two assailants drove up to a site in Kuwait where American military were conducting wargames, and shot and wounded two Marines; the radio newsman said one died. This article says they were just injured. In any case, both the assailants were shot and killed.

It's a dangerous world out there both at home and away. Send good thoughts and prayers to our military.

UPDATE: It's been confirmed that one of the Marines died, in surgery, after the shooting.

The MSNBC article says that the assailants were Kuwaitis who apparently "didn't know" about the wargames exercise. That seems pretty unlikely to me. We'll see what the investigation turns up.

UPDATE II: The Kuwaitis have just said that the attack this morning on the Marines was a deliberate act - terrorism - and that the two assailants were shot down as they were running to attack another group of Marines. Thirty-one civilians have been detained for questioning about it. The wargames exercise has been suspended for now.

I think we can expect more of this as the move toward attacking Iraq gathers steam. President Bush's speech last night was pretty straight and serious. I noticed that he paused and looked straight into the camera when he made definitive statements - the first gave me cold chills: "We will prevail."

And we will. We've lost a Marine, I would say the first casualty in the war on Iraq. He probably won't be the last. We need to make sure that in our support for this war that we remember who it is fighting it. Like the letter said that Glenn Reynolds posted today from a reader in the military, we must make sure our military has what they need to go in there and get the job done. We can't let them pay the price for the lily-livered bleeding hearts stateside. If we go, go full bore with all our resources behind our military. If we can't do that, without reservation, then don't go. They may die, like this Marine did, because our enemies will stop at nothing to win. They shouldn't die because we've not done everything we could to make sure that didn't happen.

Posted by susanna at 09:36 AM | Comments (3)

Religion in the wake of 9/11

People flocked to the nation's churches after the attacks on America last fall; a year later, attendance has returned to pre-9/11 levels. In this article, my brother Alan Cornett, a preacher, looks at that phenomenon and draws some conclusions.

He also deals with perfectionism in Christianity in another column.

And, lest he chide me in MSN IM for not fully endorsing his conclusions, let me say that in both these columns, I do.

Posted by susanna at 09:05 AM | Comments (3)

Arts & Letters Daily has ceased publication

They will be sorely missed.

Posted by susanna at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

October 07, 2002

What was that again?

Colby Cosh finds that Canadian advertisers are not very statistically savvy. Or maybe are very statistically savvy and are trusting most Canadians aren't. Well, they didn't reckon on Colby! An amusing reminder that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

Posted by susanna at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

Today's shooting connected to last week's

Police in Maryland have definitively connected the shooting of a 13-year-old boy today to the killings by a sniper last week. It was originally reported that the boy was hit twice, but the latest report is that he was hit once, fitting the MO of the earlier hits. The bullet apparently fragmented and caused extensive internal damage. He could certainly use any prayers you can give.

While I haven't seen photos of the boy or his family, both women in a photo identified as "friend and neighbor" were black, which indicates a good chance the boy himself is. I'm leaning more and more to a white supremicist type, along the James Huberty line.

James Huberty is the man who went into McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, on July 1984, shooting and killing 21 adults and children before being shot by police. Huberty, an arrogant and angry man, had a series of reversals which on more than one occasion involved Hispanics. He came to blame Hispanics as a group for his own failings, and on the day of the massacre told his wife he was going "hunting humans" when he left his apartment. As San Ysidro was a border town, many of the McDonald's patrons were Hispanic. Huberty didn't kill just the Hispanics, but they were apparently the source of much of his anger.

I think this shooter is similar in his personal incompetence and racist rage, but is in much better control of his moods and actions. His goal is not just killing, but enjoying the pain he's causing.

He's the kind of man capital punishment was meant for. On the other hand, one reader said he hopes the shooter tries to escape when he's caught.

Me too.

UPDATE: Kathy Kinsley at On the Third Hand still thinks there's a good chance it's Islamic terrorists, and she's studied them more than I have. I do respectfully disagree, however.

UPDATE: Kathy's added a few more thoughts on her reasoning here.

Posted by susanna at 06:43 PM | Comments (8)

Cuba - doing the right thing where the US won't

Shocking headline, but it's true.

Last week the African and African Descendants Conference Against Racism voted to toss out all Caucasians - including those there as interpreters - because it was "too painful" to discuss slavery and other "black" issues in front of white. The chairwoman of the conference, an American, defended the decision on the measure, which was introduced by the British representatives.

On Friday, the Cuban delegation pulled out, followed by Russia, South Africa and France's overseas territories, because it's wrong to exclude the Caucasians:

"Cuba will never support any action aimed at segregating a group of people. Furthermore, Cuba believes that such a decision is intolerant and contrary to the purposes of this conference," Maria Morales, the Cuban delegation's spokeswoman, told the conference.

Amen! It's distressing to see communist Cuba leading the way to the right thing while the United States and Great Britain are wrong on every count. But based on the article, that's exactly what's happening.

And of course the conference is going to focus on getting money out of the US for slavery that's been gone for well over 100 years, rather than slavery happening now:

Also Friday, delegates heard an impassioned plea from Mauritanian Bakary Tandia for the conference to denounce slavery in the African countries of Mauritania and Sudan.

He said such conferences lay too much emphasis on demands for reparations from former white colonizers and "hardly focus on what is happening on the continent, where slavery is alive in some places."

Human rights groups say slavery is continuing in both those African nations. Even though the practice has been outlawed in Mauritania, estimates of the number of people currently in bondage range up to 100,000, with most of them black.

Human rights groups have accused the Sudanese government of abducting civilians and forcing them into slavery. There also are claims the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army is involved in abducting people.

Conference organizers said they planned a resolution of condemnation before Sunday's end to the meeting, billed as a follow-up to last year's U.N. anti-racism conference in South Africa.

That's right, they're going to tuck in a little slap on the hand to those countries that still have slavery, after they're done beating up on the US. It's at least refreshing to see that they aren't trying to hide their avarice and hypocrisy.

Posted by susanna at 06:08 PM | Comments (4)

A question

I have a question for you guys: You've dated someone a few times, and you want to keep it going. You see this person frequently in non-date settings. You don't know it yet, but this person doesn't want to date you any more. How would you prefer to find out? Through a gradual realization that this person no longer has time for you (I can't go, I'm sorry! I'm doing [whatever]) or directly the next time you ask her out (You're a really good guy, but I don't think we should date anymore). The dating hasn't gotten to a stage where it could really be called "breaking up"; that's too grand a term.

This has always been a puzzle to me. I can avoid initial dates, and actually breaking up, while not fun, is pretty straightforward. The middle ground, though, is not.

So what do you think? A face-saving gradual realization, or a quick ending?

Posted by susanna at 02:31 PM | Comments (24)

It is not Islamic terrorists

Repeat after me:

The Maryland shootings are not by Islamic terrorists. The Maryland shootings are not by Islamic terrorists. The Maryland shootings are not by Isl...

After I wrote the last post, I went to Instapundit, then to those he'd linked. I've read other things around the Blogosphere too about this. All I can say is:

The Maryland shootings are not by Islamic terrorists.

We're all anxious about what's going on in the world, so naturally we want to connect this to the general unrest and violence. I don't think it is; if it has a connection, it's only going to be in the mind of the shooter, and loosely at that. This is not the work of an organized terrorist group originating in the Middle East.

Yes, you see the caveat. I'm willing to accept that possibly the person is associated with a terrorist organization here, most likely white supremicist, but even then I don't think he's on an assigned mission. I think he's a sociopathic thrill killer, out for jollies. End of story. We're trying to give him some big motive that's just not there. This is what is there:

He is evil, arrogant, and a pathetic loser in his own life, someone who turns to guns to feel competent and who is acting out some type of deadly fantasy. He is loving this media attention. It makes him feel Very Important. And that's who they'll find, when they do find someone.

And if I'm wrong, I'll eat a meal of at least six pieces of sushi. If you knew me personally, you'd know what a level of confidence that conveys.

Why do I think it's not an extension of al Qaeda or something similar? I think it's too isolated and clustered - it would be in more cities if it were organized terrorism. I think the victims are too non-descript - someone making a statement would go to a big building or a group of people, not pick them off one by one. I think this as the implementation of a careful plan presupposes a sophistication in planning and a deep psychological knowledge of Americans that the Islamist terrorists don't have.

This guy is going home after each of his forays into death. Like I mentioned before, he's eating sandwiches, watching television, getting off on the news about his "work". And he's as deadly as an adder, with about the same amount of the milk of human kindness.

This guy is a very bad person, especially if he's also the one who shot the boy this morning. But (repeat after me):

The Maryland shootings are not by Islamic terrorists. The Maryland shootings are not by Islamic terrorists.

Let's all hope I don't have to order sushi soon.

Posted by susanna at 11:53 AM | Comments (13)

Child shot in Maryland - sniper again?

A 13-year-old boy was shot outside his middle school this morning in suburban Maryland, not far from where five people were killed by a sniper last week. According to reports, he was hit twice soon after his mother let him out of the car at school. She immediately put him back in her car and took him to the nearest hospital; he was airlifted to a trauma unit where he's in critical condition, with a major loss of blood.

Is this part of the same scenario as the shootings last week? If it is, then the shooter is just randomly picking victims, almost whimsically. For a child to be a randomly chosen victim, the shooter must be a sociopath - no attachment to others at all, seeing everyone as threat or fodder.

I have yet to see the race of the child. A white supremicist was arrested this weekend in connection with the shooting, although he was not being looked at as the shooter, according to the report I read (which I can't find right now, still looking). Certainly most of the victims were non-white, and given the distance perhaps the white victims could have been thought non-white by the shooter. Interesting, though, that the profile I posted on Thursday seems to have been echoed pretty closely by the preliminary one released by the Maryland police this weekend.

The newest tool they're using, geographic profiling, is not one I'm strictly familiar with, although crime mapping has progressed these days to have the capability of analyzing the spatial pattern of offending of a particular offender; I'm working on an analysis of that type now for our department. Interesting that the geoprofiler is with The Police Foundation in Washington; I was there for crime mapping training just before 9/11 last year, although I did not meet Kim Rossmo. I did speculate in my profile of the offender that he lived in the area of his crimes, and I still think so, which of course means I think this method of searching for the killer is a good one. Not all they should do, but definitely a useful tool.

I'll be tracking this through the day, and will be looking for the article I saw this weekend on the white supremicist. I'm starting to wonder if it was an hallucination brought on by the outdoor ecstasies of Goose Creek.

UPDATE: Here's some more discussion of profiling in WaPo; they're tending to settle in on a thrill killer, which is close to what I said before. I still think there was some precipitating event, but that's not something we'll know until we know who it is (obviously).

UPDATE II: Fred First came through! Here's the link he showed me this weekend; here's the text:

Maryland Police Say N.C. Man in Custody Not a Suspect By Associated Press Authorities say a former North Carolina man they're talking to in connection with the shooting spree in Maryland and Washington, DC is not a suspect. Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose says a 33-year-old Rockville, Maryland man who had been listed as missing is in custody in Virginia on an outstanding auto theft warrant.

Moose says no weapons were found with the man, who used to live in Raleigh and was described as affiliated with militia and white supremacist groups.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had issued a bulletin for the man.

FBI Agent Chris Swecker in Charlotte could not immediately confirm details about the man.

Police have now linked a shooting near Fredericksburg, Virginia, to the killings.

Posted by susanna at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)


I mention in the post below that I really belong more in a Goose Creek setting than a New York setting. Confirmation: Today it took me an hour to get from my apartment the seven miles to work, bumper to bumper traffic along most of it, having to repeatedly merge in heavy traffic across two or more lanes to where I needed to be. Nearly getting run over by a semi as I laid on the horn of the car my dad fondly (ha) calls "a peanut hull". Crocheting in those long moments when we were sitting still. So bored at one point that I found and pulled out two gray hairs (there no doubt thanks to similar traffic in the past). Thankfully, despite temptations, the hair I pulled out was my own, not someone else's.

Now, why is it again that I'm living in New Jersey?

Posted by susanna at 10:03 AM | Comments (4)

Floyd thoughts from New Jersey

Yesterday morning, I began the day sitting on a second story porch off the bedroom where I stayed the weekend. The only sounds were insects and the rustling of the wind through the trees, and the creaking of my rocking chair on the wood of the porch. The smell of fall was in the nippy air.

I finished the day in a traffic jam on an eight-lane highway almost 500 miles away, sucking down exhaust through my open windows, longing for the oasis of my tiny apartment.

I think you know which one I preferred.

I spent the weekend as a guest of Fred and Ann First, outside Floyd, Virginia. (And Fred has a little something to say about the weekend too.) Their home is tucked at the head of what we call a holler back home, and it reminded me forcibly of where I grew up. Meryl Yourish, she of the latkes, arrived five minutes before me, and we shared the Firsts’ hospitality until she had to leave on Saturday afternoon. Her bedroom had a narrow stairway inside; mine had the porch off the side. With the beauty of their home, and the warmth of their hospitality, the Firsts would be ranked top-notch amongst bed and breakfasts. I’m fortunate that I was invited to share it for a couple of days.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t manage to have adventures. But just a couple.

I spent most of my drive time Friday on I-81 through Virginia, a major north-south tributary. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find New Jerseyites at the rest area halfway through Virginia. I was innocently walking back to my car when a man in his 60s, looking quite normal, fell into step beside me.

The man: Beautiful country, isn’t it.
Me: Yes. Beautiful.
The man: They’re trying to take it away from us!
Me: (thinking “they” meant “terrorists”) They won’t succeed, we’ll take care of them.
The man: They control everything!
Me: (confused now) Um, who?
The man: The Jews! They run the media, all businesses… (off he went)
Me: Oh.
The man: What country do you live in?
Me: (knowing that somehow it’s a trick question) The United States?
The man: The JEWnited States! They run everything!

And so it went. He was clearly not just off his rocker, but down in the ravine below. Not having run into this live before, I just listened with an occasional question like, “Who are the ones who control everything if everyone is controlled?” He could never identify “they”, although apparently the people who run Seagram’s have major influence. Also, just so you know, the war with Iraq is not about terrorism or even whether Saddam has WMD – it’s because Iraq is threatening Israel so the Jew-controlled US is going to whip it, whip it good. His son finally packed him into his car (with Jersey tags, ugh), just as I was about to offer him some tinfoil for his hat. I waved him off with a, “Watch out for the Mossad!” He didn’t know who they were.

When I asked Meryl about all this, she agreed that he was a nutcase, but there was nothing he said that she hadn’t heard before. Now, that was sad. I wanted to tell him I was Jewish, but I’m afraid I look a little too Scots-Irish to carry it off. But then on the other hand he was not precisely thinking clearly.

So it was a double relief to get to the Firsts’s home, where Fred was all the fun and smarts you’d expect. The three of us sat and chatted until Ann came home, then we chatted some more. Actually, long complex conversations were the order of the weekend, on everything from politics and religion to photography and music. Wonderful. And yes, I did shut up occasionally. Rude of you to ask.

It was one of those weekends that was a delight from beginning to end. We walked up the gravel road, chatted on the porches, and sat with awe and appreciation in the cool cathedral of Fred’s “place of solitude” deep into the holler, where the rhododendrons clustered at the side of a rock-strewn creek, the trees reaching up into beams of sunlight far above. Friday night was dinner with Meryl’s latkes, my fried corn, Ann’s salads (she makes great salads) and steaks Fred tossed on the grill. Saturday night Fred pulled out his guitar, and we sang John Denver and James Taylor tunes; he sang others too, in a resonant baritone. I carried my little sewing box from room to room, hand-piecing a doll quilt.

It made me long for Kentucky even more than I already do.

We talked a lot about blogging, although none of us blogged much. (And Meryl’s claims that I checked my stats repeatedly are scurrilous… um.. truths.) It reinforced my belief that meeting people online can lead to good friendships offline, despite my mother’s oft repeated concern that I will wind up dead and buried in lime in someone’s basement if I persist in hauling out to actually stay in the homes of people I’ve met only online prior to the trip. I’ve been chatting online since 1994, and have met many people that way. One year I did a “Steel Cities Tour”, driving from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Dayton meeting folks from online. The next year I was off north again, this time to Detroit, central Michigan and southern Canada. This weekend’s visit to Floyd was the best of a good lot – I told the Firsts that I am desperately afraid they’ve let themselves in for many more Cornett treks to Floyd.

Yesterday morning, I began the day sitting on the second story porch off my bedroom there. Soon I was doing my physical therapy exercises under the eagle eye of Fred, Mr. PT himself, in the family room, while Ann agreed from the kitchen that he is indeed a PT sadist. Afterward, we checked the oil in my car, putting more oil in, I showered and packed, we ate breakfast and then prayed together holding hands, and finally with hugs all around the Firsts waved me off down the gravel road.

I went to church in Salem, VA, 30 miles away. I was loving the weather, loving the scenary, singing John Denver tunes and hymns as I drove. When I parked at church, suddenly smoke began billowing out of my engine. This, I thought, is not a good thing. I popped the hood, checked inside and... oil was everywhere! Glistening from every surface and dripping from the underside of the hood. ACK! I had not checked to make sure the cap was on the oil case well, and it had come off (but fortunately was still there). It was, really, the very best reason there could be for all that smoke, but it smelled noxious and was a huge mess. I had to laugh, though, at the image of me as obliviously singing Pollyanna, driving down the road as the oil in my engine boiled over and sprayed all over everything under my hood.

I do have adventures.

After church, I replaced the oil, hit the road, and eight hours later wended my way through traffic jams and people-packed urban streets to get home. It was hard to come back, but the peace of Goose Creek will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you, Fred and Ann.

Posted by susanna at 07:26 AM | Comments (3)

October 05, 2002

Malicious crossover voting?

Supporters of Cynthia McKinney have filed a lawsuit alleging that crossover voting gave Majette the primary victory, and that it was "unconstitutional":

Republican voters who crossed over to help Denise Majette beat U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney in August's Democratic primary interfered with voting rights and their votes should be declared invalid, a lawsuit filed Friday contends.

Five DeKalb County voters were named as plaintiffs in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. It says the "malicious" crossover voting was unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act, and asks that McKinney be declared the winner.

"The issue is that black Democratic voters in the 4th District had their voting rights interfered with and violated," said Atlanta lawyer J.M. Raffauf, who represents the five African-American plaintiffs: the Rev. E. Randel T. Osburne, an official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Linda Dubose; Brenda Lowe Clemons; Dorothy Perry; and Wendell Muhammad, a McKinney campaign official.

Raffauf, who has represented McKinney, said the congresswoman supported the litigation. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

So the Dems go for the courts again. Are we surprised? I don't think so.

Even if the suit had some traction - which I don't think it does - how would you determine materially how many crossover votes there were? And how would you know who voted for whom? It's a logistical impossibility to determine, I would think.

In a way, though, this whole exercise has been useful. It's starkly highlighted that the goal amongst the "black leaders" isn't to get black politicians elected - because Denise Majette is black. It isn't to get Democrats elected - because Majette is a Democrat. It's to get their person, their politics, elected. And isn't that what the democratic (little d) process all about? We just need to make sure their outing is widely noticed.

[Thanks to Curt Coman for the link.]

Posted by susanna at 08:15 AM | Comments (13)

October 04, 2002

And she's off!

I'm heading down to western Virginia to visit with Fred and Ann First; Meryl Yourish will be there too, so it's a blogfest in the woods! I'll be blogging some but not a lot. Have a great weekend - I know I will.

And yes, Fred, I didn't leave until this morning. Should be there by 1 p.m.

Posted by susanna at 05:01 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2002

The killings in Maryland - some thoughts about the killer

The first man was killed last night at 6:04 p.m. The second died at 7:45 this morning; the third at 8:12 a.m. The first woman was shot at 8:45; the second at 10 a.m. Three men, two women. Two whites, two Hispanics, one black. As far as the police are aware, the victims did not know each other.

Some patterns have emerged. The shootings are geographically clustered, and occurred in outdoor settings where, in all but one instance, the victims could not be assured to remain for long – gas stations, a bus stop bench. Each victim appears to have been killed with one bullet, cleanly placed from some distance.

So what’s happening in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC? Who could be doing this? And why?

It’s a puzzle to me, and homicide is an area I’ve spent some time thinking about. I developed a typology of mass murderers based on their relationship to their victims as my master’s thesis; I’ve studied Ted Bundy’s case, and homicide in general. For over a decade I’ve been studying crime, crime patterns and criminals. This is all I can make of this so far.

There are three kinds of multiple murderers identified in the literature: serial killers, spree killers and mass murderers. Sometimes the lines can blur, but generally speaking a serial killer kills one or two victims at a time over a relatively lengthy period – months or even years – think: Ted Bundy. A spree killer kills in more than one geographic location and in a wider time frame, although generally no longer than a few days or a week. Charles Starkweather in the late 1950s is a good example. Mass murderers kill two or more people (the number of dead or wounded necessary to get that classification varies by researcher) in one place or two closely related places (for instance, home and work) in a tight time frame. Examples there would include James Huberty, who killed 21 at the McDonald’s in San Ysidro, CA, in the 1980s, and Charles Whitman, the Texas Tower sharpshooter who killed 14 people on the University of Texas campus in the 1960s.

This killer or killers shows a variety of characteristics that are typical of each of these types, but which falls cleanly into none. Consider:

The first victim was killed last night, the other four today. What was the killer doing between 6 p.m. last night and 7:45 this morning? If the killings resulted from the killer reaching some type of breaking point, for whatever reason, that lag seems odd. It’s possible that he (and it is highly likely to be a he, statistically, from the characteristics of the crime) boiled over, killed, went home and stewed all night, then erupted again this morning. Possible, but I don’t think likely. The precision of the killings speaks against it.

The victim demographics are highly mixed. Both sexes, three races. That means that the killer was not angry toward a specific race or sex.

The locations where the victims were killed are settings where they could not be expected to be for very long, and very likely were unplanned stops. While I may say to someone, “I’m going to get gas,” if I have a number of errands to run it would be difficult to predict when I would be at a specific station, or even which one I would be at. This makes it likely that the victims were opportunistic – chosen because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than because they are who they are. The possible exception could be the man on the lawn mower, who was at home. This says to me that the point was the killings, not the victims; thus, the motivation has to be to make a point, to himself or someone else.

The locations are tight geographically. This makes it possible that the killer is either from there or is familiar with it because he works there or has associates there; he wants to cause disruption in a specific place. That rings especially true given that he killed once at night, waited over 13 hours to kill again, then waited over an hour between his fourth and fifth killings – yet the fifth was in the same area. He was waiting, possibly for a clear shot, as the police scrambled.

The killer is clearly interested in getting away with it – using a vehicle of a common, non-descript type, shooting and hurrying away, killing with one shot - yet he’s staying in the same area. This reaffirms a desire to disrupt right there, and wanting to get away with it for long enough to cause greater harm.

So the killer is wanting to disrupt a familiar place, that means something to him, like a mass murderer. He is spacing his killings like a spree killer, but the killings seem to be without any kind of purpose related either to the victims or the specific locations (except the community as a whole). The victims are chosen opportunistically, like a mass murderer, but are picked off one at a time without harm to others nearby, like a serial killer.

While the possibility of terrorism has been raised, I think it unlikely it will be Islamic extremists; if it is, it will be someone like the man who attacked the El Al counter in LA. But, given the mix of victims and the location, it seems to me that the most likely terrorist type of organization to attack in this way would be one focused on economic issues – it is supposed to be an affluent community, so it could be that. But then why a woman waiting on the bus? I don’t think terrorism is likely, but it is a remote possibility.

So who is it? Clearly it’s not someone in a mad rage; he did something between 6 p.m. yesterday and 7:45 this morning, and it could be anything from going to work to sleeping to watching movies to cleaning his gun. Certainly the types of victims he chose would have been available during the time he was quiescent, so that also was apparently not an issue. Thus, the killer is likely not agitated at all, in a visible way, by this situation, and approached it with some measure of control.

Given the precision of the killings, in skill of shooting, in selection of victims (people not in groups), and in selection of location (not somewhere he would likely be chased), it seems likely he has some tactical training – he’s a current or past police officer or soldier, or possibly someone trained in a militia type setting. Certainly, at the very least, an intense gun hobbyist.

Here is my guess, some of it based on the statistical probabilities for this type of killer: I think it’s a man, between 25 and 40, most likely over 30, who is white and has military or paramilitary training. He is very intelligent but likely holds a blue-collar or trade kind of job, where he is accustomed to engaging things physically. He is something of a loner, but relatively functional socially – he may be married, or have a girlfriend, but it won’t be a warm relationship. He feels cheated by society in some way – either by a specific thing that triggered his action, or more generally feeling that he hasn’t gotten “his”. I think there has been a triggering event – lost his job, his girl, something. The manner of his killing seems to be designed to send a message. The question is, to whom?

I think it’s unlikely that it’s two killers, again given the nature of the crime. If there are two involved, then I think it’s much more likely the reason behind it is an ideological rather than personal one. This is too coolly done for it to be the result of two buddies deciding to go out and cause trouble together.

I could be all wrong about this. But that’s what, so far, the information indicates to me. I just hope we find him before he decides he wants to take out a few more. And that the officers seeking him are very careful – I don’t think this guy will hesitate to shoot police officers.

For what it’s worth.

(Information on the shootings came from articles here and here.)

UPDATE: Dean at Blogs4God lives in the area where the shootings occurred, and has updates, and the names of the victims. Please say a prayer for the families. Scott Koenig at Indepundit has put together his thoughts on the killings, and thinks it could be terrorists.

UPDATE II: This article has a photo of a white truck - not a van - like what they're looking for, and it also has details on the victims. Link via Instapundit.

UPDATE III: 4:45 a.m. Friday - I've received several emails about this, and wanted to share their thoughts:

Bigwig at Silflay Hraka thinks that the first killing was the key, and the rest were grisly window dressing. This is an idea that Dodd brought up in comments too.

James Rummel at Hell in a Handbasket thinks there's for sure two involved, and that the shooting skills necessary are no better than the average deer hunter would have. That would really open up the possibilities. He also is fearful that the gun control crowd will jump on this, a fear that is of course well-founded.

Dean of Blogs4God writes with a correction I had seen myself but hadn't fixed yet: The man killed on the lawn mower was not at his home, but rather the owner of a lawn care company mowing at a business.

Dean also adds that the shots were from 25-50 feet away, angled downhill; the first hit was across from a police station (interesting in light of Bigwig and Dodd's theory of the first killing being the point); there is a strong rumor that two of the shots were between the eyes of the victim, which speaks to skill again; and there was a loud report in at least one instance, indicating a hot round. That also speaks to the theory that a silencer was used.

Dean is also concerned about the use of the truck - he wonders if it's full of something dangerous that the killer will use when the police round him up. Not a good thought.

I'll be tracking this over the weekend, but in a desultory way as I won't be home. The folks linked above, especially Dean, will likely have all the new stuff as we go. For the official view, check out The Baltimore Sun, which Bryan Preston - who lives in Baltimore - says is doing a better job following this than the other papers.

Posted by susanna at 06:27 PM | Comments (23)

More al Qaeda attacks were (are?) planned

CNN just came out with this:

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- John Walker Lindh told military and FBI questioners he believed the September 11 attacks were the first of three waves of terrorist strikes against the United States, according to secret documents obtained by CNN.

Walker Lindh, the first American taken prisoner in Afghanistan as a Taliban fighter -- and scheduled to be sentenced Friday -- also said he turned down an offer to take part in suicide attacks against the United States, and that he believed as many as 50 operatives had been sent on missions against the United States and Israel.

Are we surprised? This information came from Lindh's interrogations last fall with the military and FBI, so it's not precisely new. But apparently al Qaeda planned two more attacks, in November 2001 and in early 2002. If that's true, then it's clear proof they didn't expect a response much different from the one to the attack on the USS Cole.

Al Qaeda cells in Buffalo, NY, and Baltimore, MD, have recently been cleaned up, or at least gutted. Glenn Reynolds today quoted Bryan Preston's NRO article on al Qaeda training camps in speculating a connection between today's shootings near Washington, DC, and terrorism; Bryan says he doesn't think it is al Qaeda because each victim was killed with one clean shot, which isn't the al Qaeda MO. Dean at Blogs4God, who lives within a mile of where several of the shootings took place, says tomorrow he goes for a gun permit.

It's a new day in America, boys and girls. Clean your guns and be alert.

Posted by susanna at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Just what we need - Moseley-Braun considering presidential run

I just ran across this on the Black Press USA site - a fearsome prospect:

Former U. S. Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun, having concluded an ambassadorship to New Zealand, is thinking about running again for a public office, including the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

But that's not all. Look who else is being discussed:

Members of the Green Party, which nominated Ralph Nader for president in 2000, have said the party may nominate Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) as its 2004 presidential or vice presidential candidate. McKinney, who lost her Democratic Primary last month, has not confirmed any intentions to run.

Oh, that's a move in the right direction - from Nader to McKinney. Way to make strides into the mainstream.

However, this should help Moseley-Braun and McKinney:

Future Political Action Committee, a PAC, [was] established Sept. 12 at the Washington headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women for the purpose of advancing Black women in politics.

My question is... will the group support Denise Majette this fall? Will all the members pile on to help Condi Rice if she goes after the brass ring in 2008? Or will we find that it's not the advancement of black women that they're interested in, but the advancement of liberal women who happen to have African ancestry?

I think you know the answer to that.

Posted by susanna at 02:58 PM | Comments (3)

October 02, 2002

Round One goes to the Dems

Just heard reported on the radio that the NJ state supreme court has agreed to let Frank Lautenberg's name be placed on the NJ ballot, replacing Robert Torricelli's. It's going to cost about $800,000, which the Dems will be responsible to pay. The Republicans are appealing.

Posted by susanna at 06:12 PM | Comments (15)

Go get 'em, Natalie!

Natalie Solent hammers former BBC Today program editor Rod Liddle for his attitude about journalistic impartiality or the lack thereof. I haven't read Liddle before, but Natalie's fisking is a lovely bit of comeuppance that hits a number of more universal truths. Worth a look, if only for the pleasure of reading it.

Posted by susanna at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

I don't think he meant to be funny

A reporter for a technology magazine has a column on Editor & Publisher's site about his job search, and the endless rejections because he doesn't "fit" what the hiring person has in mind. He doesn't have enough "experience", or it's not the right kind. I'm sympathetic, having faced various types of job rejections myself over the years. But I had to chuckle when he explains why he feels such a sense of urgency to move into these jobs he considers further along the career path:

All that matters is that, five years down the road, someone will look at my resume and finally agree that I don't need any more seasoning -- my age won't look like a gamble anymore.

And, at that point, I could lack any kind of intellectual curiosity or ambition, and laugh at the better reporters I'm beating out for jobs simply because they're deemed too young and inexperienced.

He apparently thinks that in five years all his interests and talent will have stultified, so he needs his chance now! Or else life will be over! There will be no art, there will be no drive, there will be no hope, only a smirking cynicism that now he gets the jobs, when he's drained of innovation, stomping disdainfully on the faces of those talented and fresh hopefuls down below, where he is now. It's a sad, sad commentary.

Oh, how old is he now?

He's 24.

Looks like I cashed in my chips 12 years ago, since apparently creative life ends before 29. I should just stop inflicting my cynical, over-the-hill self on the world, now, while I can still marginally realize what a blemish on the face of the work world that I've become.

Anyone under 25 want to buy cut on the bias?

(I'm sure he's a nice guy, very talented, a good writer and everything. But please. I mean, really.)

[Melody, that last line was for you.]

Posted by susanna at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)

Tired of Rosie's face

I've never liked Rosie O'Donnell particularly; the few times I saw her show she was amusing but not riotously funny. I just couldn't get past her politics. In September she pulled out all huffy from a magazine deal whereby McCall's became Rosie - horrific enough - saying she didn't have enough editorial control. While I felt sorry for the folks at the magazine, I had to laugh at Rosie. Her arrogance is astounding and so unfounded. Remember what she gave as an example of how little they respected her role? They held a meeting in her office without permission! While she was in Florida! Horrors!

I like some women's magazines, and I used to buy McCall's occasionally. When it became Rosie, I just couldn't buy it anymore. I might have tried to ignore her part ownership except... she was on every cover. Draped all over whoever was featured, usually a woman or three. Sometimes she was way back in the background. But she was always there, like some demented Waldo. I got to where I couldn't even look at the cover, much less buy it.

Now Gruner + Jahr Printing, her partners in the magazine, are sueing her for $100 million for breach of contract. Of course Rosie is going to sue back. And what is listed as one of the bones of contention?

...there had been some concern that newsstand sales were vulnerable, and O'Donnell and G+J had reportedly repeatedly argued about what the magazine's cover should look like.

Apparently I wasn't the only one sick to death of Rosie's face. Just classic.

UPDATE: I hate to do this, you know I do. But it appears that Rosie really wasn't totally at fault in this, that she wasn't completely overreacting. The Fox 411 column gives a little inside scoop on the editor, Susan Toepfer, and it sounds like she and Rosie deserved each other. At any rate, Rosie apparently did try to work with them, and Toepfer did treat Rosie poorly given that Rosie owned 50% of the magazine. So I had to tell you, is all. That makes the lawsuits more interesting though, doesn't it?

And I'm still sick of Rosie's face.

Posted by susanna at 10:10 AM | Comments (7)

LeRoi steps in it

The NJ poet laureate, Amiri Baraka, needs to have his DSL disconnected. A recent poem of his says that the Jews were warned of the WTC attack so they could stay home - a meme that's traveled around the Internet but is patently untrue. Gov. Jim McGreevey is calling for Baraka to resign, and he refuses.

I realize this is serious, but at the same time, that tale is so debunked no one sensible believes it anyway. All I think this does is makes Baraka an embarrassment and emphasizes why people in "the Arts" shouldn't be assumed (are you listening, Babs?) to have any knowledge beyond the end of their pen (or voice). They might, but it has to be independently proven. Baraka just proved otherwise.

Oh, and Baraka's name used to be LeRoi Jones, back in the day.

Posted by susanna at 08:28 AM | Comments (6)

Krugman duped, and isn't the only one

Not that we're surprised. Henry Hanks has the latest on a correction in Salon that guts an argument in a Paul Krugman column.

And about those blondes that are going to be extinct in a couple hundred years? Relax, guys, and ladies, stop buying up the L'oreal. Hanks says it appears it wasn't true. Page has another link on Blogfodder.

UPDATE: Well. Apparently Salon is the gutless wonder, not the article they distanced from. At least that's what the article's author says in a letter to Andrew Sullivan. Thanks to Henry for the heads up.

Posted by susanna at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

Dissing Rall

You have to love an article that has near the top:

In short, Ted Rall is giving dissent a bad name.

Don't miss John Giuffo's Ted Rall and His Web of Half-Truths: A Critique, in The Comics Journal.

[Link via Quae Nocent Docent]

Posted by susanna at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

The Best of the Blogs

Silflay Hraka brings you this week's Carnival of the Vanities, a list of the best posts of the week around the blogosphere, as submitted by the bloggers themselves. It's an excellent opportunity to explore new blogs; I plan to read them all. The selections, that is. Not all the blogs. Even I am not that obsessive.

And if you want to be on the list, just ship off your link to Bigwig by Tuesday afternoon each week. If you hold your mouth just right, and dump something in his PayPal, you might get on.

(Just kidding, BW! See: HAHA! Trying to help you pay for all that psychological counseling Ngnat's gonna need in a few years.)

Posted by susanna at 07:47 AM | Comments (1)

Inside scoop

Scott Koenig has posted an illuminating Iraqi response to UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix's agreement with Iraq on the inspections.

Is it a joke? You decide.

Posted by susanna at 07:33 AM | Comments (0)

The NJ Senate Scramble (don't try this at home)

Former Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg has agreed to run against Republican Douglas Forrester in NJ, replacing Bob Torricelli. The big question today is whether the NJ Supreme Court will allow a name substitution on the actual ballot.

The reporter on Fox & Friends noted this morning that the majority of the justices on the NJ court were appointed by Republicans. I hope that means they make close readings of the law, not that they will favor the Republicans for political reasons. Interestingly, it appears that the Republicans did their own little scramble during last year's gubernatorial race, when they got the Court to reschedule the primary so Bob Franks could replace beleagured interim Gov. Donald DiFrancesco in the race against eventual winner Jim McGreevey, a Democrat. Sounds unfortunately like precedent to me. For more details on the Republicans' history here, go read the comments to this post on Ipse Dixit, where I got that information.

David Nieporent has an analysis of the NJ law and thoughts on what the Democrats may argue today.

UPDATE: Correction from Jane Galt, in comments:

It wasn't the court -- the legislature rescheduled the primary. The court approved the legislation.

She has more there, and also posts about it on her site, here and here.

UPDATE: And Justin Weitz has the NJ cast of politicians, none of the them stellar. [Link via Instapundit]

Posted by susanna at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2002

Don't forget...

...Blogfodder for all your short take needs.

Posted by susanna at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

I've got dibs on midnights

I'm heading off this weekend for a visit; Fred has the details.

And that turtle thing is spooky.

Posted by susanna at 07:48 PM | Comments (2)

Ethics is an issue

This election cycle has brought our nation around to a time of clarity – either we’re going to stand for ethics over political expediency, or we’re not. I recognize that politics in this country have not been pristine, or even close, but at least there was some nod to the law and to ethics in the resolution of the various scandals and electoral hiccups over the last few years, most especially those dealing with Clinton’s shenanigans and the 2000 presidential election.

Now we have Bob Torricelli’s withdrawal from the Senate race in New Jersey causing serious scrambling amongst the Democrats, and efforts to circumvent or even overpower by main force the NJ statutes covering candidate inclusion on the ballot. If it’s not already happened, some Democrat will respond to criticism about it by saying that it’s no worse than the 2000 election (which is patently untrue, but that’s for another post). Today on Rush, I heard about a race in Hawaii where a winning Democratic candidate, Patsy Mink, died after the primary. Here is the article in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Democrats are urging voters to vote for Ms. Mink posthumously, out of respect, even as a tribute, so that the governor can then appoint a replacement. That kind of psuedo-piety is disgusting.

And now we get to Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, a Democrat recently exposed for his affair with married Democrat party county chairwoman Tina Connor, including allegations that he both greased the state government wheels for her when they were involved, and sicced state inspectors on her nursing home when she broke it off. According to Caleb Brown, a Louisville, KY reporter, on his Kentucky weblog, Connor has just today been given immunity from prosecution for informing on Gov. Patton and, I suppose, any others involved. Immunities aren’t given lightly so, as Caleb says, the question has to be: What does she know? It could well be very serious, to the point where Patton will be faced yet again with the decision of whether to resign – a decision he made in favor of staying in office when faced with the scandal over his affair with Connor.

In my earlier post on Torricelli and Patton, I said Patton should resign. Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit, a native Kentuckian like me, and someone much more involved in and savvy about politics than I, strongly disagreed with me in comments:

We most emphatically do not want Patton to resign, for any reason. If he stays in office, we'll be electing his replacement next year and, should he run (which I expect he will), Steve Henry will be just one more guy (except that he'll share a bit of the Administration's taint). If Patton resigns, Henry will be running as the incumbent and will have had almost a year to distance himself from Patton.

On one level I agree with him – it would make things easier for the Republicans to win back the governorship if we have a severely tainted Democratic governor in the office during the election. It certainly would damage Henry, who isn’t without his own problems. But on another level, I disagree, and my friend Melody – who also lives in Kentucky - put it best when she emailed me this:

While I didn't want to openly disagree with Dodd, with whom I generally agree, about the Patton situation, I question his statement in your Torricelli is Toast comment section: "We most emphatically do not want Patton to resign, for any reason."


For any reason?

As a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, I am sympathetic with Dodd's viewpoint. No one wants to see the current Administration including Steve Henry fade into oblivion with greater enthusiasm than I. However, it seems that Dodd is using the same tired political expediency argument that the Clintonites used -- the greater good of the party (read: the party's agenda) outweighs the wrongdoing of any particular elected official.

In my judgment, this type of blind advancement of partisan politics is seriously flawed. Whether a Democrat or a Republican sits in Frankfort during the next four-year term is secondary to the larger issue of maintaining a standard of ethical integrity and lawfulness in local, state and federal government. If an elected official's misdeeds are, in fact, proven to be unethical or illegal, then expeditious resignation should follow.

And let the political chips fall where they may.

Giving Steve Henry "almost a year to distance himself from Patton" and the luxury of "running as the incumbent" is, frankly, irrelevant to the larger issue of restoring the public's confidence in our damaged post-Clinton political system.

Perhaps then the term "politician" will not be synonymous with "politics as usual", and political parties will be able to recapture the trust of the American people and get some real work done as well.

Imagine that.

I would like very much to not just imagine that, but to see it in action. We have to take a stand for what is the most ethical thing to do, not seek to pass the ethics line by the skin of our teeth on our way to advancing the party agenda. I think Dodd would agree with me in principle, I just think it likely that we may draw that line a little differently. In fact, in a post today about the Torricelli manuevering in New Jersey, Dodd criticizes Matthew Yglesias for putting party politics above the law and the Constitution, specifically outlining five "principles" of Yglesias's including:

1) Ethics are less important than results (so long as the results benefit the Democrats).

3) Partisan advantage matters more than principles.

Dodd correctly calls Yglesias on those points. I want to make sure that in the future, the Republicans can't be called on similar grounds. I want Republicans to be not just the party of the politically right, but the ethically right as well. To that end, I think the Republican party in Kentucky needs to be making contingency plans for a scenario where Patton must be asked to leave office, and to accept that sometimes expediency must take a backseat to the dictates of integrity.

UPDATE: Well, it didn't take long. The very Matthew Yglesias that Dodd linked previously came through for me by referencing the 2000 election as a justification:

I really wish conservatives had demonstrated this sort of passion for seeing electoral laws upheld back in November 2000. Sorry boys, if you get to cheat in a presidential election, then I don't see why we can't bend the rules for a Senate race.

I should have a television show like Crossing Over, only I'd call mine "Channeling Democrats". Think I'd get any viewers?

UPDATE: Alex Whitlock at RAWbservations has some interesting cogitations on the Torricelli mess.

Posted by susanna at 06:30 PM | Comments (9)


Bryan Preston of JunkYard Blog has a very chilling piece on NRO today about how Al Qaeda operatives train in their camps. The part that got me was training conducted on road configurations that match ours, but not theirs. What does that say about intent?

And, while this is certainly not anywhere near the most important thing about the article, I have to say that the writing is excellent. Bryan's writing career seems on a strong upward trajectory that's well deserved.

UPDATE: Bryan has posted a reader email, and both there and in his comments it seems one solution favored is citizens arming themselves. A good thing generally, I think, but the possibility of vigilantism - also discussed - is very real.

Posted by susanna at 12:35 PM | Comments (1)

Why are you here?

One of my favorite things to do is cruise through my own referrer logs, because I find so many new blogs that way. Today I came across Dancing with Dogs (or Those Crazy Asians), a blog by a cadre of Asian Indians living in the US. Shanti is the main proprietor, and ends her first post with this bloggish mantra:

I am not a writer, just an extremely opinionated person with lots of time on her hands.

She is, actually, a pretty good writer, getting off to a great start by ripping the magazine "Asian Week" for its bad attitude about America. I'll let you read it for yourself. All I can say in response is, Shanti, I hope you stay and bring your whole family over. You're good people.

She also posts this terrific Dave Barry riff that always cracks me up, about how men and women are different. It's so true.

Shanti comments on politics in India and Pakistan in this post: is very important that Pakistan reconsiders it's raison d'etre. It cannot forever live as an anti-India. It needs to remake it's identity as Pakistan and concentrate her energy on making her people better than on trying to one-up her neighbour.

And that's some of the best insight I've seen on that subject.

She's joined by friends Geetha and Kaylan, her spiritual and cricket correspondents respectively, and is "in discussions" with a few more specialists.

I love blogs in general, but I'm very happy to see this one in particular. A number of years ago I was close friends with a guy from India, and became fascinated with the country. Since that time, I have the same kind of immediate warm feelings toward hearing Indian-accented English as I do hearing the Southern accent, and anything about India piques my interest. So I'm excited to find this blog, and I know I'll be a regular reader.

Check it out.

Posted by susanna at 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

I have statistical training

I wonder if Jyoti Shah needs a research assistant.

I'm very good at measuring hands.

[Link via Just One Minute]

UPDATE: Scrappleface dispels another, related fallacy.

Posted by susanna at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

Prisoner questioned again in Levy murder

The investigation is continuing:

Detectives in the Chandra Levy murder case are focusing on a man convicted of assaulting two women jogging in Rock Creek Park last year -- a suspect who was initially discounted after he passed a polygraph test that investigators now believe was flawed.

Ingmar A. Guandique, 21, has been in prison for the assaults on the joggers since July 2001, two months after Levy disappeared.

Guandique was interviewed before but was dismissed as a suspect by the always-excellent Washington, DC, police:

When Levy's body was found eight months later, Guandique's name surfaced as someone who had attacked women in the park. High-ranking police, knowing that detectives had discounted him because of the polygraph, played him down as a suspect, with Ramsey scolding, "The press is making too big a deal of it."

Ramsey's then-deputy, Terrance W. Gainer, was more blunt: "He wasn't our suspect then. He's not our suspect now."

He apparently is a suspect in this "now":

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey cautioned that investigators don't know whether Guandique was involved, but said, "He's someone we're interested in."

Hmmmm... Certainly, based on what the articles say about the other attacks, he's a strong candidate. But he's not a shoo-in. I'll have to track this one.

Interesting side-note - Guandique is currently incarcerated in the federal prison located right outside my home town of Manchester, KY. It's a small world.

Posted by susanna at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Did we need to go there?

The conversation about the Civil War at Sgt. Stryker's and Cold Fury continues in the comments, and if you have any interest at all in the topic, you really should read everything.

Now the discussion at Sgt. Stryker's has veered into comparing Islamic jihadists with Southern apologists; it goes there in the comments at Mike's as well.

I'm rather speechless about that. As Sarge states it, there are some parallels, but then Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein are both carbon-based bipeds too. I really can't say anything right now without frothing at the mouth, so I'm going to get ready for work and stay in the moment until I calm down.

Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog adds his views, as a history major, landing more on Sarge's side.

Have a nice day.

Posted by susanna at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

Life in Iraq?

Stephen Gordon at Punditree says Reuters is providing fodder for pacifists with a slide show of life in Iraq.

Posted by susanna at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

The Empire strikes... first

North Georgia Dogma (aka Count de Moneyshot) has uncovered a new conspiracy - or would that be, conspiracy theory? - deep in the dank slimy pages of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, committed by their assistant editorial page editor Jay Bookman. Read it and groan:

This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.

There you go. The point is not ooiiiiiiillllll, it's nothing short of explicit global domination. Fortunately, the Count is on the job, and does a fine brisk fisking of Mr. Bookman and his waking hallucination.


Posted by susanna at 06:57 AM | Comments (2)