Friday, May 28, 2004

TODAY'S TOP FIVE: Our Chief Weapon is Surprise.

Ruckus at the Incident Data Mart A glimpse into the chilling Orwellian future that's already here: The next time you're going to purchase that WWE Divas Swimsuit magazine with your Visa card, bear in mind that there are 52 federal agencies currently using 133 data mining operations looking over your shoulder. With 199 more in the works, and with government employees already swapping your medical, financial, employment, and student records like so many baseball cards, perhaps it's time to reconsider our concept of "privacy."

Terrorists: We Will Fight Them on the Cheap A May 19 memo leaked by Democrats shows that Bush is demanding cuts in the Departments of Homeland Security and Education in his 2006 budget, despite touting them as two of his most important programs on the campaign trail. Bush wants to cut $1.5 billion from homeland security, $1 billion from education, and $900 million from veterans' affairs. The message here: If you see any terrorists out there in America, notify the authorities immediately but please - no collect calls.

Good News fro m Sudan Scenes of jubilation greeted the announcement that the Muslim north and Christian/animist south in Sudan have signed a peace agreement after 21 years of bloodshed that could pave the way for southern independence. But (and there's always a "but" in these things) the north continues its policy of "ethnic cleansing" in the western province of Darfur which casts doubt on whether any of the peace agreement will actually be implemented. Well, hey, it's a start.

Fallujah? That Was Somewhere Far Away, In Iraq... It's funny how things just drop out of the news. For weeks, and even months, Fallujah was a constant news story. As the center of Sunni insurgency, it was the most dangerous address in Iraq for Americans. Then the siege began, and in the Arab press Fallujah became like the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Then, instead of the grisly denoument we were all expecting, the US turned Fallujah over the insurgents. Since then, there's nothing out of Fallujah. So, what's it like over there, anyway? "With U.S. marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state - anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving 'western' hair cuts," writes Hamza Hendawi. Here's looking at your future, Iraq.

Today's "Thank God It's Friday" Special All week, I have been tirelessly scouring the Internet for evidence that a few hardy souls exist who are still willing to take the side of Ahmad Chalabi, who now occupies the same shadowy mid-fall-from-grace netherworld that Michael Jackson does. Additionally, one of my post-9/11 hobbies has been tracking the repulsive, pupa-like transformation of Christopher Hitchens from fat, drunken Trotskyite to fat, drunken Neoconservative. Today, I have combined my chocolate and my peanut butter, so to speak. Yes, the latest addition to the Chalabi Lobby, that model institution of rectitude, is the same man who once wrote a book demanding that Henry Kissinger be indicted for war crimes. At this point, Hitchens' gradual drift toward bellicose American imperialism is as grimly fascinating as the transformation of Jeff Goldblum's character in "The Fly." This column is, I believe, Hitchens' way of asking us to blow his brains out with a shotgun.

-Consider Arms