Tuesday, October 30, 2001

I'VE JUST CROSSED OVER INTO ... The Anthrax Zone. I don't have the disease (not that I know of), but I haven't received mail since Friday. The post office that handles my mail is one where the spores have been discovered.

I've long held a special disdain for those who can't say "I don't know," and now my government has entered that category. Tom Ridge was great at making sure nobody ever went 56 mph in Pennsylvania, but now he's in way over his head. That whole speed-limit thing tells us the kind of dumb-cop mentality we're dealing with: Never mind safe driving, just make sure the needle stays where I want it to stay.

John Ashcroft is no better. The bureaucratic nonsense that comes out of his news conferences could stun an ox.

Oh, also: I have my new computer, in case you were on the edge of your seat. So far I'm pleased. Windows XP does seem to be more crash-resistant than previous Microsoft operating systems, and the Media Player is very nice.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

A NEW COMPUTER is on the way, for the first time since 1997, my first year at The Washington Post. I'm not sure I really need a new one, but my Gateway 233-megahertz Pentium II continues to balk at the network that allows it to access the household DSL line and Dell advertised an offer that was just too good to pass up.

A 1.6-megahertz Pentium 4 (Pentium IV?) with 256 megabytes of RAM, Windows XP and a 20-gigabyte hard drive for $699. Oh, and free shipping. I tweaked the deal a little, upgrading to a 40-gigabyte hard drive and adding a Zip drive, among other things, and the final price including tax was $896.78.

Yesterday I received an e-mail confirming shipping of the computer. I also saw Dell's newest ad, which offered that formerly $699 configuration -- but with half the RAM -- for $899. It isn't often that my timing is this good.

THE ANGER is setting in at a rather odd time. I find myself obsessed with physical violence. I'm not a big man or a strong man or a particularly well-conditioned man, my faith in the triumph of good over evil isn't all that solid, and I have no intention of joining the military, but I find myself eager to slug it out with the evildoers and eerily secure in the knowledge that, if my dream came true and I had some one-on-one time with Osama bin Laden or Fuckwan Al-Fucky or anyone else in Al Qaeda, I would beat the living shit out of him. Maybe even decapitate him with my teeth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

THE SCHOOLMARMS at the United Nations are patiently tsk-tsking the United States because we aren't doing this food-distribution thing in Afghanistan the way they like it done.

Does somebody have to tell them that this isn't primarly a food-distribution exercise? Does somebody have to tell them this is a magnanimous fricken gesture? Does somebody have to tell them their building could just as easily have been Ground Zero?

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

EVERY DAY John Ashcroft states the obvious -- that more terrorist attacks on the United States are possible -- and every day the news media treat that as headline news, like the fact that Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

I blame my fellow journalists, not Ashcroft, for this nonsense, but this won't stop until Ashcroft shuts the fuck up. So I beg of you, John: Shut the fuck up!

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

IS THERE A BIGGER WEENIE in the public eye than White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer?

I just had to ask, after the limited selection of TV channels on the treadmill-mounted set at my new health club (more on that later) left me watching the Bush flack joust with reporters. As he deflected question after question, he wore the self-satisfied smirk of a freshman-dorm debate king. I kept waiting for him to mouth "Well, now you're getting into cultural relativism!" or start quoting "Star Trek" episodes, or maybe even read a prepared statement about those hilarious oxymorons, led by "jumbo shrimp."

BLOG would be a nice abbreviation for backlog. I'll try to present my dated material in chronological order and, to avoid that Larry King feel, one item at a time.

It used to be that you could trust the conventions of urban legends. A too-good-to-be-true story would pop up, then it would be debunked. Lately, however, there have been at least two examples of the debunking apparatus knocking down true stories. Is this yet another example of how Sept. 11 has changed things?

First there was the infamous list of songs that Clear Channel Communications radio stations weren't supposed to play. The urban-legend-bashing Web site Snopes.com, in an unbecoming little bit of rhetorical trickery, twisted the premise so it could label FALSE a claim that "Clear Channel Communications banned their American radio stations from playing specified songs in order to avoid offending listeners." OK, so people misspoke when passing the story along and made it a "ban." It wasn't a ban; stations that didn't follow it would not face nuclear retaliation. But the advisory list was quite real, and the real story is Clear Channel's Condit-like attempt to deny it. The Snopes people should be ashamed: Fiddle with the wording of any claim and it's easy to slap a FALSE label on it.

But that's nothing compared with the Peter Jennings fiasco.

Jennings came under some harsh criticism for comments he made about President Bush while covering the Sept. 11 attacks for ABC-TV. A liberal Web site called Democratic Underground quotes Rush Limbaugh as saying: "Little Peter couldn't understand why George Bush didn't address the nation sooner than he did and even made snide comments like 'Well, some presidents are just better at it than others' and 'Maybe it's wise that certain presidents just not try to address the people of the country.' "

He said no such thing, according to Democratic Underground -- and my Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz. The debunkers even persuaded Limbaugh to retract his statements, Kurtz reported.

Well, sorry to debunk the debunkers, but yes, he did say such things. I heard him.

I'm neither a conservative nor a consumer of nightly network news, and I've always been amused by the former's comments about the latter. I know that the TV people take all sorts of liberties that print journalists would consider way over the line in the editorializing department, but I never believed in a Rather-Brokaw-Jennings plot against conservatives.

But I didn't need Rush Limbaugh to tell me that Peter Jennings was nearly foaming at the mouth in his criticism of George W. Bush on that sad day. I was incredulous as I heard that Canadian gentleman rant about the American president. I don't even like Bush (and I'm quite fond of Canada and Canadians), but I was screaming "Go back to Saskatchewan!" at the TV screen. Limbaugh's quote might not be word for word, but the substance is precisely what I heard on Sept. 11.

You'd think somebody would have a tape to settle this.

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