Monday, September 25, 2006

Bill Clinton Gets Testy

Chris Wallace interviewed Bill Clinton on Fox News Sunday.

Chris stayed cool while Bill looked like a fool.

Bill got mad because Chris asked him "a legitimate question".

I tried, I tried, I tried...Bush did not try, no he didn't, he did not try...

Bill pointed his finger at Chris, tapped his notes with it, got in his face with it.

Remember the last time Bill waved that finger at us? Yep.

I'm thinking it's about like that this time, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"The Pope Must Die!"

And so it continues.

The Muslim world continues its whining over the "insult" to its precious religion by the Pope.

The Pope, while giving a lecture in Germany, quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II as he spoke to a Persian scholar:
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
The exhange between the Emperor and the scholar, of which this quote is but a part, was used by the Pope to introduce his larger examination of faith and reason. A provisional text of the speech can be found here. It's worthwhile to read the entire speech; only then would someone see how absurd the Muslims' "offense" really is. Honestly, it's not even a question of context. When seen as part of the larger speech, any objective reader would have to conclude that Pope Benedict was not insulting anyone's religion. However, within the context of a speech on faith and reason, surely it's appropriate to question whether certain actions carried out in the name of faith are...well, reasonable. Pope Benedict's ultimate point was that radicalism, in any religion, would be against the will of God.

Why would the Religion of Peace be against that?

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Outrage from the Religion of Peace

Honestly, is there anything that doesn't offend these people?

From the article:
[Pope] Benedict quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'" Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it.

The comments raised tensions ahead of his planned visit to Turkey in November - his first pilgrimage to a Muslim country.
Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, compared the Pope to...

no, no, wait for it...


"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," he said. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini."

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every day someone else is being compared to Hitler. Bush, Cheney, the Jews, Republicans, and now the Pope. I can't help but think at some point that comparison will begin to lose some of it's sting. But my favorite quote comes from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam:

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence,"

Intolerant: adjective. a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : BIGOTED

Encourages violence from whom? The oh-so tolerant followers of Islam?

Surely not.

Like the old joke says, just gotta love 'em. No, seriously, you've got to or they'll kill you!

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

It was Tuesday.

I awoke to a beautiful, sun-filled morning. I set about getting ready for work. Showering, getting dressed. I walked downstairs, grabbed my to-go cup of coffee, kissed the wife and the infant daughter, and headed out the door. My commute was nothing special, just the usual Atlanta rush hour traffic. I arrived at the office prepared for another uneventful day.

It was 8:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001.

I worked for a small company; only eight employees, with a couple out of the office on vacation. As was normal for a Tuesday morning, we hurried to prepare for our weekly staff meeting.

8:46 a.m.

The first hint that something had happened. My phone rang - it was my brother-in-law. He was calling to tell me a plane had crashed into the World trade Center.

"Oh, my God!" I exclaimed. I didn't think I had said it that loudly at the time. But later, coworkers would tell me that there was something in my tone that captured their attention. I assumed (I think we all did) that he meant a small plane, a private jet or single prop plane. Regardless of what it was, we naturally assumed it was an accident. I sat down at my desk and pulled up my internet browser. I typed in CNN's address - the site was down. Fox News. Down. ABC News. Down. Site after site after site...nothing. The entire Internet was gone. For the first time that morning, I knew something was very wrong. For the first time, I was afraid.

A few minutes later, the second plane hit.

A colleague in our sister company downstairs called up and reported the news. For the first time, we heard those two frightening words: terrorist attack. Not knowing what to make of things, we did the only thing we could - we went on with our work. As we gathered in the conference room for our meeting, everyone was subdued. As we started to go over business, the phone rang again. It was the same colleague, calling again.

"They just blew up the Pentagon."

Stunned and more than a little afraid, we wrapped up our meeting in short order and drifted back out of the conference room to our desks. We gathered around, trying to get some sort of information on what was going on. A couple of people went downstairs where there was a television set. Others got on the phones and started calling friends and family. Me, I turned to the Internet, trying to get some sort of news site to pull up.

All too soon, the situation escalated.

Three planes had crashed, but supposedly there were five others that were unaccounted for. One was rumored to be heading towards Atlanta.

Somebody heard there was an emergency at the Atlanta airport; I was worried, since my father worked there.

Rumor had it the Bank of America Tower downtown was a possible target, and was being evacuated.

The Centers for Disease Control was a target. People were being evacuated, and area hospitals were put on alert, preparing to receive casualties. My wife worked an one of those hospitals, and confirmed the alert status.

Two of our coworkers were travelling that day - one in Los Angeles, the other in Wisconsin. We desperately tried to find out if they were okay. Fortunately, they were.

And then the towers fell.

For the rest of the work day, we waited. Waited for the next wave to come. Eventually, we realized that we had been through the worst of it, at least for that day. All too soon, it was time to go home, home to our families.

I don't remember how the drive home was, but I suspect it was different than other days. Too much had happened for that not to be the case. I got home, gathered my family to me, and spent the evening watching the news, hour after hour of reports. Watching the destruction unfold before me on the TV screen, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

I could have never imagined something like 9/11. Not in my wildest, most fevered dreams. We were Americans. Things like this never happened to us. Who could have done this? Who would dare? We would learn the answer to that questions all too soon.

It was later that night. I laid down to sleep, thinking about the events of the day. I worried about what I might wake up to in the morning. As I finally drifted off, I couldn't help but wonder if the only thing more frightening that September 11 would be September 12.

2,996: Server overload

The response to the 2,996 Memorial project has been tremendous. So tremendous that the original site's server was overwhelmed earlier today. There have been several mirror sites set up. One of the latest is I encourage you to go there and read some of the wonderful tributes which have been posted.

Remembering Matthew M. Picerno

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11. On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11. Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.

We will honor them by remembering their lives.

Matthew M. Picerno was a limited partner and head of the New York municipal bond desk for Cantor Fitzgerald. Every day, he would commute from his home in Holmdel, NJ to his office on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center. Sadly, Matthew lost his life on September 11, 2001. He was 44 years old.

So often in tragic situations, a victim's life is reduced to a short series of sentences, each one trying to convey some sense of the person they describe. We take in these brief descriptions and move on. This time, however, I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to learn more about Matthew Picerno and the life he lived. For that, I am grateful.

By all accounts, Matthew was a vibrant and energetic man with a tremendous zest for life. A devoted husband and father of three children, Matthew loved spending time with his family. Matthew was the kind of father who would ski down a mountain backwards just so he could videotape his kids’ progress. He joined six other fathers in a “Dancing Dads” troupe at his daughter’s school, rehearsing for months for their recital. The routine? A contemporary version of “Macho Man”. Matthew was a coach for a local youth activities association, where he was involved with basketball, soccer, and baseball. He was also a diehard Giants fan. Matthew’s wife Petrina said:
"He was larger than life. He made everyone feel at home, part of the party. He was so very personable."
Matthew was born and raised in Jersey City; he attended Marist and St. Mary's High Schools. After marrying Petrina, the young couple moved to Bayonne, where Matthew worked as a longshoreman. A self-made man, Matthew graduated from Taylor Business Institute with an Associate's Degree. After taking his bond trader's test, Matthew began a successful career in finance. He began working for Titus & Donnelly in New York in 1985; he would stay there for ten years before moving on to Cantor Fitzgerald. Despite his success on Wall Street, however, there was another passion that Matthew wanted to pursue – winemaking.

Two years before, he and Petrina had opened the Bacchus School of Wine in Jersey City. For six months of the year, he would leave his day job at Cantor Fitzgerald and head over to Jersey City, where he would often work until 11:00 pm. The school was housed in a former two-truck garage, dressed up with Italian flags and piped-in Frank Sinatra music. "This was a hobby," said Petrina, "but he really enjoyed it. Municipal bond broker at day, winemaker at night.” Matthew planned on pursuing winemaking fulltime when he left Wall Street. It was a passion he was fortunate enough to share with many friends through his school. One of those friends, Scott Clarke, wrote in memory of Matthew:
"Matt, You were a good friend. I followed your dream and continued to make wine in your honor. You and my dad are my true wine tasters. With every glass everyone enjoys, may your true spirit and larger than life attitude bless them."
Husband. Father. Friend. Matthew was all of these, and much more. After reading about him and his remarkable life, I can’t help but feel inspired by his example. Matthew lived his life and lived it well, with passion, love, and a deep commitment to his family and friends. Such a person can never truly be gone. Petrina Picerno again said it best:
"He is here; he is in everyone’s hearts. He’s going to be on the mountain, when we are skiing, and he’s going to be with us forever… Matthew was just too much of a live spirit. You can’t bury something like that. He had a huge zest for life. He’s still here — he will always be here."
Matthew, my thoughts are with you and your loving family this day.

You are missed.

The Path to 9/11

I watched the first part of Path to 9/11 last night, and I'm watching the second half this evening. I'll probably switch over to Fox at 9:00 to watch Vanished (I'm addicted to that show - it's this season's 24). So far, I've found the miniseries to be engaging and a sober reminder of how woefully unprepared we were for what happened on that day.

I paid some attention to the controversy surrounding the showing of this program, although not too much. I know the basics, though. I know there were some scenes which Bill Clinton and his camp claimed were fabricated, casting an unfair shadow on his efforts to combat terrorism. ABC edited those scenes amidst an avalanche of criticism from people on both sides of the political spectrum (although primarily from the left). I can't say if those protests served to boost the program's viewership, but I can say it made me more interested in watching.

Having watched a goodly portion of the program, I regret that the producers of this film felt the need to "dramatize" certain key events. I believe the truth would have been more than sufficient. Detractors naturally claim the fiction was politically motivated. I honestly don't think that's the case; after all, we live in a society where the most popular programming on TV, so called "reality" tv, is anything but. Face it, if ABC really wanted to appeal to the mainstream, they would have cast Flavor Flav as the intrepid FBI agent, and Cabinet members would have been voted out at a tribal council.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not as "up" on the intricacies of the path to 9/11 as I could be. I haven't read the 9/11 Commission report, and I know as much about terrorism in the 90's as can be learned from a moderate awareness of current events. Frankly, I have other, more important matters to occupy my mind. Perhaps that's not a proper mindset, but it's the truth. I'm not a scholar or historian, but I do have an opinion on the subject.

For me, the issue isn't whether the Clinton administration dropped the ball on terrorism during the 90's; it's obvious they did. I don't say that maliciously, but the fact remains that 9/11 did happen. They pulled it off. And we did nothing to stop it. It's easy to lay the blame on President Bush; the attacks happened on his watch, blah, blah, blah. But that's a technicality, and a lame one at that. The planning of the attacks - all of the training and preparation - surely didn't start the day after Clinton left office. It started long before that. So where was the intelligence? Where were our contacts, our assets on the ground, and all that other spy shit we rely on to keep a step ahead of the bad guys? If we can hold President Bush accountable for the eight months before the attack, then surely we can at least question President Clinton's efforts in the eight months before that...if not the entire eight years.

It seems to me that the Clintonistas' objections had less to do with dramatized scenes and more to do with wanting to avoid any negative feedback on his adminstration's actions. One thing which Path to 9/11 does do, fictionalized scenes notwithstanding, is spotlight how political considerations were a factor in every decision, often to the detriment of decisive, positive action. Fine, politics is a nuanced business. But any suggestion that Clinton acted authoritatively in every instance, political fallout be damned, would be as much a fantasy as anything else in this movie. But it seems that's what they want us to believe. It's not about not looking incompetent, it's all about looking heroic.

It's about looking Presidential.

Friday, September 08, 2006

To Boldly Go - Star Trek Turns 40

September 8, 1966.

Star Trek airs for the first time. Hell, yeah!

Ever since I was a kid, I loved curling up and watching the valiant crew of the Enterprise travel the galaxy, boldly going where no man had gone before. In elementary school, we would always play Star Trek at recess. Lucky for me, my black hair always meant that I got to be Spock. As the years went by, I fed my appetite for Trek with the cartoon, assorted books, all of the movies (Khaaaaaaaaaan!), and of course the subsequent series (full disclosure: I never got that into Voyager or Enterprise).

I was in my 30's when I finally bought all of the Trek toys that I had always wanted when I was younger. I have two tricorders, two phasers, and a couple of communicators. I was nutting out when G4 started showing Trek all the time. Weeknights at 11:00 pm, Saturday marathons, and Next Generation episodes during the week. And, thanks to J.J. Abrams, we have another movie to look forward to.

Set phasers on action!

Forty years later, I'm getting to introduce my daughter to Star Trek. She's not quite there yet (okay, she's not into it at all). She's only five, though - I've still got lots of time to get her hooked.

Happy birthday, Star Trek!

Schadenfreude, thy name is Paris Hilton

Alert the media. Paris Hilton is having a bad week.

Oh, never mind.

According to every news and gossip outlet ON THE FREAKING PLANET, Paris Hilton was arrested for DUI on Wednesday night. The "official" story is that Paris, tired and hungry from working harder than anyone else in the history of history, was thrown for a loop by a single margarita she imbibed at a charity function mere moments before getting in her car and going for some drive-thru. Paris was handcuffed and taken to the police station, although she was released a short time later. There was no word on whether Paris blamed the Jews for her trouble.

Earlier today, Paris went on the Ryan Seacrest radio show to discuss the incident. She claimed the entire affair was "nothing". Her publicist issued a statement opining that the DUI, rather than hurting Paris' image, would probably boost it.

Uh huh.

Contrast this with another incident which took place last week. Apparently, Paris and her pals were denied entrance into a Video Music Awards after-party at Bungalow 8 in New York. It seems the ruckus was enough for the police to be called out. Paris and the gang were forced to go to another club to get their party on.

Here is a picture of Paris on the fateful night:

Paris was reduced to tears over the incident. Tears.


Get busted for DUI...ain't nothin but a thing. Get denied entrance to a hoo hoo.

God, life can be so cruel!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I survived another Dragon Con!

Another year, another Dragon Con. As predicted, it was four days of crowds, comics, and all kinds of women in all kinds of skimpy costumes.

One of the largest comic conventions in the country (20,000+ attendees), this was also Dragon Con's 20th anniversary. I myself have attended for the past 13 years. There's a lot to do and see, and my friends and I usually have a pretty good time.

Of course, it's not hard to see why.

Fun, fun, fun!