August 2004


USA Basketball
The Olympics are in full swing, and I have been trying to watch as much as I can stomach. Unfortunatly, it seems that NBC and their affiliates seem to want to make the experience as difficult as possible. Although they insist on only showing Americans and American teams, the various announcers seems to delight in talking them down and pointing out every mistake, even when they were doing well.

That said, it was so sad over the weekend to see the USA basketball team get whipped at the hands of Puerto Rico. Not that it was a surprise after seeing them struggle during tune-up games with Italy and Germany. I know that some have said that it’s unfair to criticize the players on the team because they were the ones who actually bothered to show up for the games, as opposed to the rest of the the NBA ’superstars’ who were too busy ‘resting’ during the off-season. And certainly a true All-Star team would have an easier time.

I’ve also heard others predict doom and wish for the return of college players in the Olympics because, in theory, they would be more motivated to win.

But it seems that those are mostly misguided. The current state of the NBA game is so poor and this is just an indication of this failure. Returning to college play will not be successful either, because the college game is being trashed as well. Any time the first round of the NBA draft is dominated by high school players, then college recruiting is moot. If someone stays in school more than two years, then we hear how they are hurting their draft chances. So we end up with a bunch of people who can dunk the ball, but rarely know how to shoot or play defense. In fact, playing defense is really not good because if you keep someone else from getting a dunk in the clear, then they might do the same to you. So no one knows how to shoot or play as a team, because no one plays as a team anymore.

So this is not a failure of these players… they are playing exactly as they normally do. So sad.

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"I am concerned that every time something happens that’s not good for President Bush he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. It’s just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much is politics, and I suspect there’s some of both in it." - Howard Dean, (see The Mirror (UK) : Bush Accused of Spreading Panic) "We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security. Our job is to identify the threat, match that threat information with the, potentially, the targets that have been identified to integrate an entire country, to build partnerships with the state and local government, to invest in technologies so that as we combat international terrorism we can put more people and technology in place to make ourselves safer. But it is, frankly, I would point out that this is the most significant detailed pieces of information about any particular region that we’ve come across in a long, long time, perhaps, ever. This is — and that’s why we needed to share it publicly. It’s always a judgment call, always a judgment call, but here it went above any kind of threshold we might have had previously." - Tom Ridge, (see Dept. of Homeland Security : Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security)

So which is it? Much was made yesterday of the fact that although the intelligence was just uncovered in the last week after the arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in Pakistan, some of the very specific planning was dated years ago. Because of this, in the day after Dean made his terrorism ‘trump card’ pronouncement, there was speculation that the terror alert has been manipulated to offset a pro-Kerry ‘bounce’ after the Democratic National Convention. Suspicious timing, we here. Of course, this rant’s suggestion that the news of Ghailani’s capture would be accused of being ‘a carefully orchestrated leak’ were meant to be completely tongue in cheek. And then it essentially came true only a couple of days later.

So let’s ask ourselves. What’s going on? Although none of us in the public has seen the actual terrorist plotting, it sounds like the information is very significant. Just because there is no proof that the terrorists intend to strike these sites within days, should the information be released to the public, by way of the terror alert ramp up?

I would contend that this is really not an argument about intelligence validity at all. If you want to look at politicization of the terror alert process, look back to those casting these accusations. Why? Because we don’t even really need this specific intelligence in order to justify the alert being raised. With the election approaching, and previous ‘deadlines’ from various terrorist groups coming due, it would seem a likely time for raise the alert anyway. I’ve been holding my breath since July 4th, waiting for the attack to come, but still hoping that it won’t. Why isn’t it time for al-Qaeda (or its allies) to show that it’s still around and kicking? It doesn’t have to be a big splash. A truck bomb at a shopping mall or government office building. A fire at one of the political convention halls. Simultaneous explosions on public trains in several cities. Who knows. Would the American people react the same way as the Spanish voters did when they were attacked - try to hide from the problem and vote out Bush? Would the public and politicians act like other nations and remove the troops from Iraq to try to avoid more damage?

So while there’s moaning that the public is being warned only for political reasons, if a terrorist attack does come on American soil in the coming weeks, these same people will suddenly advance the arguments that the Bush administration caused the problem and should have provided more security. They should have prevented the attack. How much information did they know? Instead of fighting in Iraq, they should have caught these people. Bush caused people to hate America and that’s why they have attacked us. Etc. Etc. A no-win situation.

Of course, that’s all just talk. The war is on-going. We can either fight it or be destroyed by it. We do not have a choice to walk away. If anyone actually does have a crystal ball, then they should use it and lets fight this thing as Americans.

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