Thursday, March 30, 2006


Hey! The Department of the Army has seen fit to give me a Journalist Award... "In recognition of his outstanding sports articles, features, and photographs, published in the Fort Knox Turret."

They gave me the plaque Tuesday... and the signature on the award is dated October 17, 2005. Better late than never, I guess.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hotel Riders expose more hypocrisy

I'm sure just about everyone is now familiar with the web site The Smoking Gun, which publishes whatever secret-ish documents it can get its hands on. Last week, the site published Vice President Dick Cheney's hotel rider, which goes in a set of riders for famous people -- most of them popular musicians. This week, the site published Senator John Kerry's.

In Cheney's rider were orders to have every television in rooms he stayed in tuned to FOX News, and that all the lights should be turned on prior to his arrival.

FOX's Neil Cavuto defended the Veep Friday on his show, "It's Your World:"

Sometimes you can judge the character of a competitor by the pettiness of his comments.

These are petty.

They are demeaning to the vice president, whose travel preferences shouldn't be anyone's business. After all, nowhere did I see him demanding chilled caviar, at taxpayers' expense. And demeaning to other news organizations, whose attention
should be focused on their business.

Cavuto also couldn't help but gloat over the preference shown toward FOX by our nation's top politicians:

When I started here at FOX News almost a decade ago, most thought I had entered the witness protection program. Little did I know that 10 years later I'd still be witness to the over-the-top, slanted nonsense that makes for news on rival's programs.

The only difference in all that time? Ten years ago, no one talked about us. Today, they can't stop obsessing over us -- or the millions watching us.

Well, petty their competitors' comments may be, but that didn't stop Cavuto's network from latching on to the Kerry rider when it came out -- Brit Hume mentioned it Monday in Political Grapevine, pointing out the senator's several strange requests:
Kerry's campaign travel requests are defined by what the Senator does not like -- including spicy foods or anything with citrus or chocolate. One "confidential" document obtained by The Smoking Gun Web site says Kerry's standing orders were to never to bring the senator Tomato products, celery, or the French bottled water "Evian."

Another notes that the ability to order movies in his room makes Kerry "very happy." Meanwhile, Kerry's wife Teresa had her own set of demands, including a "heavenly" king-size bed in a suite with "good air circulation" -- and water run through a "reverse osmosis filter."

I guess it's only "private business" when it's the vice president who's traveling... other elected officials, such as democratic senators, are open for scrutiny.

It's worth noting that Kerry's requests, while odd, weren't fulfilled on taxpayer dollars, but on campaign contributions, with which he could do as he reasonably saw fit.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Take my daughter! No, please, take her!

As a state, Kentucky has a creepy fascination with dolling up very young girls and entering them in beauty pageants. I don't understand this at all -- why teach a four-year-old girl that there are prettier little girls out there? Can't she wait till junior high for that?

In the same vein, the Louisville Courier-Journal is running a front-page Metro story on the "cheerleading" squads competing at the JAMfest Nationals, a multi-state competition between middle school cheerleaders.

Because the photos that accompany the story are A) copyrighted by the C-J, and B) I'm not interested in running pictures of bare-midriffed nine-year-olds on my blog, I'll let you click the link if you're so inclined. If you're not, suffice it to say that the children -- the little girls who are probably going into fourth grade -- pictured in the newspaper are painted with enough makeup to supply Amsterdam's Red Light district for spring break.

Anyone who's read my blog for any length of time should know that I'm pretty libertarian in my beliefs. But that doesn't mean I'm going to bless off on parents who insist on making their daughters competitively beautiful as soon as they're out of Pampers.

It's interesting, I think, that this is the same state which has voted to overturn the Supreme Court's decision to bar the posting of the Ten Commandments in its courthouses. Oh well -- I guess "Thou Shalt Not Slut Up Thy Daughter" didn't fit onto tablets Moses brought down the mountain.

While I was sports editor, I refused to spend any time covering the local high school dance team. This caused some ire on the part of the girls' parents, but I felt justified. First, dance isn't a real sport -- and we can have that discussion later. Yes, it's athletic, but no, it isn't a sport. Second, the first time I saw the dance team perform at a varsity football game, I made a quick decision that there was no way that I was going to be seen taking photographs of 14-year-old girls shaking their bottoms to Li'l Jon tracks. Sorry -- I'm sure there are plenty of creeps out there who'd be more than happy to do that.

Even as I write this, parents across the country are worried that girls are starting to become sexually active at increasingly younger ages -- and who then drive their daughters to dance team, where the only way they're learning usable job skills would be if they plan on staffing one of the seven "Thoroughbred" strip clubs that litter the Dixie Highway.

I'm not calling for stricter government control -- what I'm asking for is some social accountability. How does it make any kind of sense that I can't listen to Opie & Anthony on FM radio thanks to parents' concern for their children's "safety," but those same parents can dress their toddling daughters up like burlesque hussies and parade them around in front of an audience full of potential pedophiles? The hypocrisy would be hilarious if it weren't so real.

It could be that I'm overly gloom and doom here. But what's the best case scenario for a girl who's placed in beauty pageants from the time the soft spot on her head is closed? As far as I can tell, she's well on her way to becoming a 16-year-old with nothing interesting to say about anything other than herself. And everyone just loves girls like that.


UPDATE: Open Post at The Mudville Gazette.
UPDATE: Open TrackBacks at Argghhh!

UPDATE: Worst columnist ever responds!

Chad Hutchison, the author of the EKU Eastern Progress column "The Hanging Chad," has responded to my email from last week:

I love my ad-whoring fans. If you want a real taste of my writing ability check out my articles called Sometimes I cry, Losing my Innocence, or Spring Breaks Should be Remembered. And you screwed up some of your own copy editing. puncuation [sic] goes on the insides of quotations, and the movie is "Mask" that your [sic] talking about. Give my regards to Falk.


Naturally I was thrilled, so I wrote back immediately:

Mr. Hutchison,

You're absolutely right -- punctuation normally goes on the inside of quotation marks, and the movie was indeed "Mask." My mistake -- but you'll have to forgive me for taking e-mail editing a little less seriously than I would for a piece, say, that's intended for publication.

I read those examples of your so-called "writing ability," and I'm afraid my opinion hasn't changed a bit. Your column is still self-serving, poorly written, and filled with ridiculous accolades for yourself and your girlfriend/fiancee. Guess what: nobody cares.

The point is, if your column is any indication whatsoever, you have no writing ability. And I repeat my request that you immediately cease and desist producing new ones. The fact that you are published at all is a slap in the face to every writer who actually is worth a second glance.


Ian Boudreau

P.S.: When correcting someone's punctuation, it is normally wise to make sure one has capitalized the first letter in the following sentence. Use this in your next column: you are the Kevin Federline of journalism.

Advantage: Gonzo.

It's about the only thing that takes the chill out of my NCAA tournament bracket being shot to pieces over the past week and a half -- Syracuse's Gerry McNamara decided he didn't really want to play and scored a measly two points in the Orange's first-round game, and one by one my final four picks have all choked -- notably the much-hated Duke and the less-hated Connecticut. I hate basketball.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Grammar Nazi

I've been working in or studying journalism for the past seven years or so. Courses in copy editing, AP style, and the task of having to edit material for publication has left me with a bit of a psychosis when it comes to spelling and grammar. Basically, I can't stand it when it gets screwed up.

For instance, the Applebee's right outside post has one of those changeable signs out front -- sort of like the kind you see in front of gas stations advertising their "low" cigarette prices. The Applebee's sign, for about a month, had a misspelling in its advertisement for baby back rib specials. I didn't eat there the whole time the error remained on the board. It's not that I made a conscious decision not to, I would just get angry when I saw the mistake and keep driving.

There are at least two issues that are making me feel the same way today.

First: Does anyone still think that playful misspellings in the names of stores or products are still cute or fun? Why call something "Kidz Korner" or "Kwik Wash"? What's the message you're trying to send? Are these places run by illiterates? If that's the case, I don't want to trust my car's paint job or my (as yet non-existent) child's mind to them. Or maybe they're appealing to an illiterate clientele. In that case, I guess I'll still be taking my business elsewhere.

Second: Why do people -- particularly journalists -- insist on constantly misusing the phrase "begs the question"? Begging the question, or petitio principii in Latin, is a logical fallacy defined by Aristotle in which a proposition is assumed to be true in a proof of the same proposition. Here's a simple example:

"Paul is dumb because he is stupid."

But the phrase "beg the question" is now being constantly used to mean "raise the question" or "demands that this additional question be addressed," as in, "Republicans voted to raise the deficit ceiling, which begs the question, how are we ever going to pay the national debt back?"

Some people liberally sprinkle their speech with Latin or French phrases (anyone who says vis-a-vis is intentionally trying to sound smarter than they are) in order to appear more educated, and I believe using "beg the question" is a sort of "light" version of the same. The trouble is, when you use it incorrectly, you don't sound smarter, you sound like an ignorant troll. Stop it.


UPDATE: For more great info on begging the question and proper usage of the phrase, visit, where you can find these handy-dandy cards to cut out and give to people who screw it up.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Worst column, ever

A co-worker of mine sends me links to "The Hanging Chad," a weekly column that runs in Eastern Kentucky University. It's so consistently horrible that today I decided to take action.

Some quotes from The Hanging Chad:

The Transformer dream didn't pan out either. Closest I got to that was running around with one stuffed in my pocket as a boy. A few years ago while weedeating in my backyard I spied one sticking out of the dirt. I found a childhood treasure I had lost. Talk about nostalgia creeping up my spine.

Another gem:

She isn't a priss and she doesn't always force me to watch girly shows. I love her because she is so well rounded and compassionate. A lot of people might look at her and a see a five-foot-nothing redhead who seems a little prissy, but if they really knew her they would see a girl who can smoke the strongest men in their "manly" activities.

Awful, awful, awful.

Anyway, I wrote the guy this letter:
Mr. Hutchison:

I'm writing you after reading several of your columns for the Eastern Progress. I've never attended EKU, but a co-worker of mine is an alumni, and he regularly sends me links to your work -- and I use the term loosely -- online.

That someone can write a piece like "The Thin, Thin Line" and then continue to have a job pretty much proves to me that the world is about to end. Do you seriously think that anyone aside from yourself and your girlfriend (who I assume must have undergone a prefrontal lobe lobotomy prior to the relationship) is even tangentially interested in reading about your internal flip-flopping between who you think you look like more, Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio? Check out the Eric Stoltz/Cher movie "Rocky;" I think you look more like the title character.

The self-serving drivel that you put your name on is, in short, the hands-down worst writing I have ever come across -- and that's saying something; I once worked as a copy editor for my own school newspaper, and believe me, you wind up reading some awful stuff there. But all that pales in comparison to the "Hanging Chad," in which you repeatedly refer to yourself as a "male model" and talk about your "chiseled abs."

So I'm writing to ask you to quit writing your horrible column immediately, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of me and everyone else who might happen to read it. You'd be doing all of us a favor.


Ian Boudreau

PS - Enjoy the next episode of "The O.C.," freak.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Dumbass gets bitten by tiger

I've been drunk before, and while I've been I've done dumb things. It goes with the territory. Barging back into a closed bar and insisting "I have a room here," for instance, whilst knocking over all the tables in the opening area, is notable among them.

Fortunately, I've yet to make headlines during inebriation... unlike this jackass:


You know, maybe he just wanted to pet the big kitty. Maybe he had some weird Siegfried and Roy hero-worship complex. Whatever.

Evidently, this genius was so drunk on a Sunday morning that he was threatened with arrest if he didn't go back to bed. He agreed, it seems, but on the way back to his carnie trailer he decided to see what Sher-Kahn was up to and maybe give the big guy a scratch between the ears. Said tiger saw what looked like a tasty treat and promptly chomped down on drunkass's forearm.

Surprised? News flash, bozo: tigers are wild animals which, as our buddy Roy found out, like nothing better than to eat the heads of people who want to play with them. If you're among the 0.02 percent of the population who's dumb enough to doubt this, check out your cat, who's probably eyeing you right now. Yeah, he might be cuddly -- but he's just waiting for you to die so he can eat the lips off your face. Trust me.


Susan Sarandon to play Cindy Sheehan

Okay. So, via Drudge, I found this San Francisco Gate story that claims Cindy Sheehan is meeting with actress Susan Sarandon, who is set to play Sheehan in an upcoming movie about "America's most compelling anti-war activist." A couple things are a little off here.

Now, Sarandon doesn't exactly make me feel like I did when I first saw posters for Pretty Woman -- let's make sure we're clear on that count. But having her play Sheehan, to whom middle age, shall we say, has not exactly been kind? Isn't that like suggesting Christian Bale should play the title role in an upcoming biopic of my life?

Naturally, the answer lies in Sarandon's -- a.k.a. Mrs. Tim Robbins' -- personal politics, which are, of course, stridently anti-war. Fine. We'll suspend our disbelief, but barely.

But that plan is ruined anyway, because really, does anyone want to watch a movie about Cindy Sheehan? Maybe she's "America's most compelling anti-war activist," as the SFGate's Vicki Haddock breathlessly writes, but does that mean she's compelling enough to make a movie out of? Pity the writer who's tasked with making this scene "compelling:" Cindy goes to Crawford, Texas, doesn't get to meet the president, and sells approximately three copies of her book. I can definitely see myself in the theater -- fast asleep.

That Sheehan lost a son to the war is tragic, but by no means unique. And Susan should go back to getting people to sponsor impoverished children in Belize, or wherever -- she'd definitely convince me to chip in faster than Sally Struthers would.

(P.S.: AUUGGHH!!!)


Iraq/Al Qaeda link?

Michelle Malkin (and others) are tracking the translation of a mass of documents unearthed during Operation Iraqi Freedom which, they say, might indicate a link between the former Iraqi government and the Afghan Taliban -- and, by extension, Al Qaeda.

Timing is an odd beast. This story started with a "blogswarm" last week, and seems to be getting little, if any, play in national media outlets. The "smoking gun" many are hoping to find may or may not be hidden away in these thousands of documents, but their release brings up an interesting point. Most people, it seems, have given up on the two major claims the Bush administration made for the war -- namely, Iraq's possession or near-possession of weapons of mass destruction and a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda's terrorism.

Maybe "given up" is too weak a term -- most people seem to think that there never were either weapons or link.

They might be right, but here's the point: it's very tough, at best, to prove a negative proposition. The idea is that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," also known as an "argument from ignorance."

That's not to lend any additional credence to the argument that there were weapons or that there was a link. The only thing they can say at the moment is that "we haven't found them yet." However, there is no proof that such weapons or such links did not exist... only the fact that up to now, they haven't been unearthed.

You can see where the Army's at with translating some of the documents here, at Fort Leavenworth's Foreign Military Studies Office Joint Reserve Intelligence Center.

Anyway -- that's all from me for now. Enjoy your Monday. I know I am.


Friday, March 17, 2006

The results from my "What Beer Would You Be" test:


(100% dark & bitter, 66% working class, 66% genuine)

Okay, we all know Guinness is the best possible score on any "What Kind Of Beer Are You" test, so you can just go on and pat yourself on the back now. Like the world's most famous brew, you're genuine, you've got good taste, and you're sophisticated. What else can I say, except congratulations?

If your friends didn't score the same way, get ready for them to say: Guinness is too heavy; it's an acquired taste; it's too serious--and they probably think those things about you at times. But just brush 'em off. Everybody knows Guinness is the best. Cheers.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 79% on dark
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 26% on workingclass
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 31% on genuine
Link: The If You Were A Beer Test written by gwendolynbooks on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Howdy everyone... and happy Saint Pat's day!

Got plans? It should involve some of this:

... otherwise, you're wrong.

Since beer goes great with food that used to roam the plains, the Archbishop of the Military has granted a dispensation for Catholics for the feast day. The rule goes for imbibable spirits as well.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

CENTCOM Posture Statement 2006

CENTCOM just updated with its annual Posture Statement for 2006, signed by Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander.

United States Central Command (CENTCOM) is in the middle of a fifth consecutive year of sustained warfare in its area of operations. The Command remains engaged in three principal activities: (1) defeating al Qaida and associated extremist networks throughout the region, (2) stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, and (3) partnering with governments and their militaries in the region to help them develop the capabilities and institutions to defeat terrorists and extremists on their own. In addition, U.S. and Coalition military forces ensure the flow of global resources and deter hostile powers throughout the region. These activities are mutually reinforcing. Progress in one spurs momentum in others. CENTCOM forces are daily engaged in the full spectrum of military operations throughout a major theater of war. Counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, training of friendly forces, civil affairs and humanitarian operations are examples of the routine joint missions performed with great distinction by our young troops.
Read the whole thing here.


"On Call in Hell" -- Newsweek

Newsweek may be (dis)regarded by some as the most liberal of the Big Three weekly newsmagazines, but they've run one hell of a story about a Navy doctor, Cmdr. Richard Jadick, who deployed with the Marines to Fallujah in the March 20 edition:

On Call in Hell

I'm sure the story's been linked before. But it's definitely what VodkaPundit would call "Required Reading." Heads up for the more tender readers -- the story contains some pretty graphic descriptions of war and combat-related injuries.


Monday, March 13, 2006

BroRizzo has moved

My brother, BroRizzo, has finally thrown his hands up at the antiquated ways of tBlog, despite the site's recent re-vamp. He's made the switch over here to Blogspot, and he's already at work putting his thoughts into words.

Visit him at, the new home of Welcome to Earth.

Glad you made the switch, Rizz.


Num-nums at the ball park!

Ever hear the legend of the "Luther-burger"? Apparently, Luther Vandross loved a certain sandwich -- a bacon cheeseburger with a "bun" made out of a sliced Krispy-Kreme doughnut.

Well, evidently the Gateway Grizzlies, a minor-league baseball team in the Frontier League, have decided that Americans are not dying from congestive heart failure quickly enough and have placed the Luther-burger on sale in their stadium, calling it "Baseball's Best Burger" and charging $4.50 a sandwich.

The sandwiches each contain about 1,000 calories, which means it's still a light-weight compared to Hardee's 2/3-pound Bacon Thickburger, which provides a grand total of 1,127 calories per burger, 720 of those from fat.

Chow down, sports fans.


Friday, March 10, 2006

This just in: Modern kids are wusses

The Seattle Times reports that an Oregon teen was sentenced to four days of juvenile detention for refusing to write a letter explaining why he pinched and twisted another boy's nipple while standing in the lunch line.

Good for him. It's one of those things you're not supposed to explain, and the judge was stupid for having assessed a penalty like that. But another serious issue is that the kid who got nurpled is a wimp for having told his parents, who are wimps for having taken legal action.

It's a good thing LyonDenyit and I weren't looking for possible litigation while we were trading kidney punches in Korea.

Wednesday, I went into a Barnes & Noble for some after-lunch coffee and I saw the new hardcover Calvin & Hobbes treasury. I was very sad when creator Bill Waterson called it quits on what is still the best cartoon around, but I realized why we don't get new adventures any more: few kids today relate to Calvin's (primarily outdoor) adventures. Who needs a Radio Flyer wagon to ride down stony gulches in when there's Xbox to play? Why have an imaginary tiger friend when you can go online and type "LOL" to other imaginary friends?

When my brothers and I were kids around Calvin's age (six), one of our favorite games was called "gorge war." There was this huge dirt pit near where some family friends lived, and it was constantly being dug out by the backhoes and bulldozers developing the area. The result was a 20-foot "gorge" we could play "king of the mountain" on, and the best part was getting tossed off the top and tumbling Rambo-style down the side.

I guess we wouldn't have played much Gorge War if we had had virtual pets to take care of or cell phones to download stuff on.

Okay, that's enough old bastard-style ranting for now.


Stories from this week

Here they are, each weighing in at least at 35 column inches. Click the headlines for the full stories.

Knox hosts vehicle evaluation
International vendors show off unusual systems

For the past two weeks, Fort Knox has hosted several vehicles not normally seen in Army motor pools.

There were a few souped-up armored cars, trucks outfitted with heavily-armored gun boxes, and one vehicle that looked a little like an amphibious landing craft on wheels.

Sexual assault policy offers reporting options
As part of the Defense Department's ongoing efforts to fight sexual assault, the Army has adopted a new set of policies designed to encourage victims to report incidents of rape and other assault.

While the year-old Sexual Assault Prevention and Reporting program has been incorporated into training calendars Army-wide since its inception in March 2005, an often-misunderstood element of the program is the choice of reporting options it provides to service members who are victims of sexual assault.

Experimental brigade tests ideas of the future on Knox

"Magnificent! Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance."
--Gen. George Patton Jr.

A group of about 40 officers, civilians, and senior NCOs from the Future Brigade Combat Team Experimental Element Brigade gathered on Fort Knox Feb. 23 in the back of the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, around a large square laid out in tape and yarn on the floor amid the trainer's many combat simulators.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tricks of the trade

Wonder of wonders, my FCS story finally saw the light of day -- but not before several "talking points" were inserted into the original copy. As a side note, it's funny that the contact referred to them as talking points, since no human being ever has uttered those nightmarish combinations of jargon and dependent clauses. It's English, yeah, but just barely.

But regardless, I was happy with how the paper turned out this week. The front page looks pretty sharp, if I do say so myself. And I do. It helped to have a lot of art to work with, including some great verticals of members of the 233rd Transportation Company returning home from Iraq (fourth deployment) and kissing their wives. You can't go wrong with shots like that -- they've been money since 1942. At least.

Plagiarism is bad. But co-opting good ideas is A-OK. That's why I check out the Newseum before I start any Page One layouts -- it's got pictures of hundreds of newspaper front pages from the current day, and it helps out a lot. Have a severly horizontal photo with action heading to the left? Snoop around Newseum until you find a page layout that works with the same thing.

Out of copy and need some filler, but you don't have a subscription to the Associated Press wire? No problem -- grab some ARNEWS. They've got stories, photos, anything you need... and it's all publishable, since everything the Army runs in its newspapers or news outlets technically is a press release.

Stay tuned for my geek-speak-filled Future Combat System story, an examination of the Army's new(ish) sexual assault reporting policy, and a nice little piece on some new vehicles they demonstrated here last week.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Happy Fish

I whine and complain a lot. But some things really cheer me up. This is one of them:

How can you look at that guy and not be happy, too?

Found at Don't ask me why I was there.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Lucas kills movies, announces their death

Is it me, or does Matt Drudge -- the guy who first ran the Lewinskygate story after it was leaked to him by Newsweek editors -- seem overly preoccupied with entertainment news lately? On any given day, nearly half of his headlines seem to be celebrity gossip... someone claims Kate Moss apparently snorted cocaine minutes before meeting Nelson Mandela, I've just learned.

Anyway, I noticed this story -- George Lucas: Big pictures are doomed -- and followed it over to the New York Post. It seems that Mr. Star Wars, who's made nearly a billion dollars for himself off his sci-fi franchise, thinks that there is no market for big-budget pictures anymore. He cites fellow husky-jeans-wearer Peter Jackson's King Kong as an example.

Hey, George, here's an idea -- maybe if all those $200 million budgets could actually come up with a half decent movie we'd go and see them. This year's Oscars pretty much prove that good filmmaking doesn't have much to do with cramming as many happy, dancing robots as you can into a frame of celluloid.

If big-budget movies are doomed, Lucas would know, since he's helped to doom them.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Quick update

Well, that FCS story I mentioned got spiked. I thought it turned out decent, my editor liked it, but the brass who reviewed the story decided it needed to be "edited" to include more of their "talking points." From here on out, my role will be a concerted effort to keep my name off of whatever they wind up sending back.

Meanwhile, I've got another piece in the works on the Defense Department's relatively-new sexual assault reporting policy, which has been designed with some safeguards for victims to encourage more reporting.

This weekend, I'll be heading out to take pictures of a platform capabilities demonstration -- new vehicles from vendors eager to secure fat defense contracts. I'll post photos as soon as I know they're clear. The word is that these are not a replacement for FCS, but a possible interim measure.

If you need me, I'll be in my barracks room throwing darts at pictures of high-ranking officers and listening to Bad Religion.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Italian commission: Soviet leaders ordered assassination of Pope John Paul II

This seems important, so I'll run the whole thing:

Soviet Union ordered Pope shooting: Italy commission

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981, an Italian parliamentary investigative commission said in a report.

A final draft of the report, which is due to be presented to parliament later this month, was made available to Reuters on Thursday by the commission president, Senator Paolo Guzzanti.

"This commission believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope John Paul," the report said.

"They relayed this decision to the military secret services for them to take on all necessary operations to commit a crime of unique gravity, without parallel in modern times," it said.

The report also says "some elements" of the Bulgarian secret services were involved but that this was an attempt to divert attention away from the Soviet Union's alleged key role.

Both Russia and Bulgaria condemned the report.

A 36-page chapter on the assassination attempt was included in a wider report by parliament's Mitrokhin Commission, which probed the revelations of Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior Soviet archivist during the Cold War who defected to Britain in 1992.

Pope John Paul was shot in St Peter's Square on May 13, 1981 by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who was arrested minutes later and convicted of attempted murder.

At the time of the shooting, events in the Pope's Polish homeland were starting a domino effect which was eventually to lead to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

The Pope was a staunch supporter of Poland's Solidarity union and most historians agree he played a vital role in events that eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall.


At a trial in 1986, Italian prosecutors failed to prove charges that Bulgarian secret services had hired Agca to kill the Pope on behalf of the Soviet Union.

"It is completely absurd," said Boris Labusov, spokesman for Russia's foreign intelligence service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB's First Chief Directorate which operated abroad. "We are tired of denying these assertions."

The report said "Bulgarian authorities at the time lied as did the witnesses they sent" and added that "responsibility of some elements" of Bulgarian secret services "certainly exists".

In Sofia, the government rejected the report's assertions.

"For Bulgaria, this case closed with the court decision in Rome in March 1986," Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said. He also referred to comments made by the late Pope who said during a visit to Bulgaria in May 2002 that he never believed in the Bulgarian connection.

Guzzanti, a senator in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, said the commission decided to re-open the report's chapter on the assassination attempt in 2005 after the Pope wrote about it in his last book before dying.

In that book, the Pope said he was convinced the shooting was not Agca's initiative and that "someone else masterminded it and someone else commissioned it".

Guzzanti said his commission heard from investigators in Italy and elsewhere who had probed both the assassination attempt as well as other Cold War-era crimes.

He said the commission had photographic evidence that Sergei Antonov, a Bulgarian cleared of conspiracy at the 1986 trial, was in St Peter's Square with Agca when the Pope was shot.

The photos first emerged in the 1980s but lawyers for Antonov, who worked in the Rome office of Bulgaria's state airline, said the man was a tourist who resembled him.

(Additional reporting by Michael Winfrey in Sofia and Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow)


UPDATE: My links are suddenly dead. It seems both Drudge and Reuters have disappeared this story. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but if I was...

UPDATE 2: Okay, they work again. Weird.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The H5N1s are coming! The H5N1s are coming!

Why do I do this to myself? I go places like and tune in to the Sean Hannity show, I sometimes check out DailyKos and listen in on Randi Rhoads. It's all to get a grasp on what the lunatic fringe is thinking, since they seem to be in charge of everything now.

But then there's Bird Flu. I've said before that it's a bunch of bullshit, and that's a belief I still hold -- especially since the "killer pandemic" has yet to materialize.

People are still scared, though. Witness this Drudge headline: Health Secretary: Bird flu is coming.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lethal avian flu that is spreading rapidly around the world could soon infect wild birds and domesticated flocks in the United States, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said on Wednesday.

Emphasis is mine, and here's why.

"Lethal" might be technically correct. But so far, everyone in developed nations who's contracted the virus has been "treated and released."

But when you combine "lethal" and "spreading rapidly," readers tend to get images of Dustin Hoffman in HAZMAT gear or monkeys infected with "rage" chomping on the necks of hapless British animal rights activists (a la 28 Days Later).

To date, bird flu has killed 94 people. In the whole world. That's in the story, too... just not in the lede. Instead, it's buried in the fourth graf.

I've said it before. I'm more afraid of the impending zombie apocalypse, or being assaulted by midget gang members, or being run over by a blind unicyclist, than I am the "killer" avian flu.