March 4, 2003 edition

aye spy;
the Pearl Harbor sequel; and
re-visitation rites

mercury rising

We’re not talking about the planet Mercury, but the chemical element Mercury, aka Hg. Mercury, as in the liquid housed in tubular glass thermometers. Now stick a lubricated rectal thermometer up the bunghole of the current world political scene and you’ll note the mercury is rising. Fast.

focal point one: AYE SPY

News of the recent brush between North Korean fighter jets and the American spy plane showed up in my e-mail Monday evening. While reading the story I noted that the encounter took place Saturday night, so what the hell is going on with the reporting of this story? Why was the story held for as long as it was? Could it be that the government held up the news in the hope of forcing some kind of positive spin on it? Stranger things have happened in Washington, DC.

This most recent “Oops. You caught me!” by United States government adds yet another spot of egg yoke on an already stained foreign policy shirt.

Government employees and management in agencies involved with spying on anything and everything sure are slow learners. It’s as if U-2, Powers, Downey, Pueblo and EP-3E don’t ring a bell with anyone in the “intelligence” communities. Perhaps I’m being harsh and these faithful (or fateful) public servants (or savants) merely have short attention spans or were all hired under the umbrella of the ADA.

After much searching, I couldn’t find the exact quotation, let alone its author, but here’s the paraphrased adage that’s appropriate here. It goes something like: Those whom do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. Apparently such is the case with the present intelligence communities.

On Tuesday afternoon, CBS radio news quoted Bush administration mouthpiece Ari Fleischer as saying that North Korea had committed “a reckless act” in sending out these MiG fighters against an unarmed American spy plane.

EXCUSE ME? A reckless act? With all due respect (which you haven’t earned a hell of a lot of) Mr. Fleischer, please explain how defending the borders of one’s airspace is reckless?

Had a North Korean spy plane been cutting the international airspace a little thin around the United States border, you can be sure as the Sun shines that the USAF would not only have fighters in the air, but the aero-snoop in the crosshairs.

Ari, dude: are you trying to say that it’s okay for the United States to defend its airspace borders, but it’s a reckless act for other nations to protect their own? Is that the American way?

If so, then it’s no wonder so many of the world’s nations are pissed off at the United States. No wonder the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001.

And if anyone in the Dubya Administration wants to know why the United States is so despised by so many, I have the answer boiled down to two-words: American arrogance.

To readers that doubt the mercury is rising, I refer them to the lead story on the 5:30 P.M. news on NPR (National Public Radio) this Tuesday, March 4, 2003:

Two dozen U.S. long range bombers are being deployed to Guam to “act as a deterrent” to hostilities by North Korea.

Can you say “two front war?”

For any gaming enthusiasts out there, it was also reported on NPR this evening that there’s a website that is taking bets on when the war in the middle east will start. Direct your web browse to . Once there, click on the box on the left hand side of the screen marked “Betting Lines”. Then scroll down and click “Politics.” You’ll quickly find that it isn’t just the start of the war that you can bet on.

A necessary aside in the form of a question: since when is war classified as a sport?

Wouldn’t you just love to tap into the government’s Carnivore database and see how many feds in the know are placing their bets – much like those low-life insider traders on Wall Street. I’ll bet there are plenty.

In that this is the second blunder for the current administration where an Asian nation has caught Dubya and Uncle Sam with their intelligence pants below their knees, apparently the American spook community hasn’t learned anything from past foul ups.

So shouldn’t there be a box to click on that on-line betting site to place bets on the next spying faux pas?

focal point two: THE PEARL HARBOR SEQUEL

Hollywood knows that if something sells, it can be sold over and over again. With a large portion of the American movie-going public being gluttonous pigs, Hollywood is more than happy to reinvent their cinematic wheels and shovel the recycled slop into the theater troughs.

A recent news story revealed a thwarted real life sequel. One of my Sunday night rituals is to catch the Drudge Report on AM radio. The lead story in this week’s program featured Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz and his scoop on how Al Qaeda had planned to attack Pearl Harbor. Hijacked planes from Honolulu Airport were to be flown into ships, nuclear subs and other military installations.

According to Gertz, when the US government caught wind of this, they decided to ratchet up from lemon-yellow to orange-orange on the Trix Terrorist Alert chart.

All is well, according to government officials, Hawaii is in tact, and we’re back down to lemon-yellow. And our very own U.S. Attorney Genital John Ashcroft said today that “we’re winning the war on terrorism.” Uh, okay. If you say so, John. Then while basking in the dubious warmth of Ashcroft’s assertion, let us ponder this:

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Hollywood made a number of movies depicting that day of infamy. Had Al Qaeda attacked the same target, wouldn’t it be considered a real life sequel to the Japanese attack?

With the Hollywood film industry being what it is, there would have be a movie in the works, post haste. In other words, this new film would be a movie drama based on a real event that is a sequel to an earlier real event that another movie was based upon. Now there’s a daisy chain for you.

focal point three: REVISITATION RITES

It is with great sadness I write this follow up to the West Warwick, RI, nightclub disaster story from last week’s edition of Trifocal Rearview Mirror. Sometimes when chasing news, we discover things we would rather have not found out. Such is the case here.

While cruising through the living room to my writer’s nook, I caught the tail end of a news segment on the television. A young woman was introduced and said she was still holding out hope that her mother wasn’t one of the victims of the devastating and tragic fire at The Station. Though I didn’t catch the woman’s first name, I did hear the last name.

“Couldn’t be!” I tried to convince myself. Though not as common as Smith, Jones, Williams or Johnson, the young woman’s last name is heard or seen frequently enough to not be considered rare, at least in New England. A couple of days past before I gathered the courage to check the Internet to see if there was list of victims’ names available – all the while still holding on to hope that the old saying “it’s a small world” just couldn’t apply to this situation.

But as my investigation that afternoon proceeded, pieces of the puzzle started fitting together. As each piece fit in and added to those already joined, my heart dropped another notch. It turned out that I did know this victim.

Newscasts that followed this realization were strikingly different than those prior. Images from video clips of the tragedy unfolding and pictures of the charred ruins of The Station now slowly and painfully screw themselves into the psyche. It’s no longer dislocated news – there’s an association now. And it’s far more sad and tragic than before.

However, time provides a retrospective view. After hearing various reports on the extent of the inhalation injury sustained by some survivors, I can’t help but wonder which fate is worse.

The shadows cast from the afternoon’s setting Sun seem longer ...

Copyright © 2003 by Jeff Bauer

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