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Let’s say a young white fellow is caught entering a New York subway station by a watchful policeman, who discovers 50 pounds of high explosives in his backpack. Upon interrogation, the fellow explains he was instructed to blow up the station by the Holy Cheendon, whose voice he hears in his head, because for doing so the Cheendon will send him to Paradise located in the Andromeda Galaxy.Such a fellow would not be a Moslem crazy, just plain crazy. But what if there is something specifically screwed up in his brain that’s making him crazy - and it is this same something that turns some Moslems into suicidal terrorists?



There is good news and bad news in the attacks Thursday in London. The bad news, of course, is that the attacks took place. The good news is that they were so clumsily executed. The attacks mirrored those of July 7th. Now as then, three subway trains and a bus were targeted. NBC has reported the Brits have told American authorities that both the backpacks used in Thursday's attacks and the (homemade) explosives in the backpacks were identical to those of July 7th. What was different is that this time only the detonators went off. Just one person -- apparently one of the bombers -- was injured in Thursday's attacks. The fact of the attack, coupled with its ineffectiveness, is more likely to infuriate than to intimidate the British. When an attack inspires more contempt than terror, the terrorists are in trouble.



That the London killers were native Brits surprised a lot of people, which is testimony to our capacity to forget our own history. The 7/7 terrorists were neither the first British terrorists (take Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," for example), nor the first terrorists born and bred in a Western democracy. It is quite easy to compile a long list of native American, British, French, German, Spanish, and Italian terrorists — suicide and otherwise. Mohammed Bouyari, the assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was born and bred in the Netherlands.These facts were known, but got relegated to that part of the spirit that shelters active thought from unpleasant truths. The knowledge that our societies contain people ready to kill us had not penetrated the awareness of the British people, and, with them, countless Europeans and Americans.



It’s a great scam, if you think about it. You bought, say, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John when it came out in 1973 (am I dating myself here?), and you still like it.You even still have the album, although the record player is long gone, and they don’t make them anymore. You liked the album so much, you bought a cassette tape version to play in the car, and later on, a CD.Now you’ve got an iPod or similar MP3 player, and you considering buying the MP3 version.Hmm. Shelling out four times for the same product? There are two no-cost ways you can get the music you want into MP3 format - one using the cassette tapes you already own. The other involves completely legal downloads of popular commercial music, not running afoul ( so far ) of laws involving copying and downloading.



What we may call the "critical mind" is almost non-existent today in the Arabic speaking societies. This is largely due to the meager margin of democracy allowed and to the fact that top positions, in many cases, are concentrated in the hands of a few incompetent individuals whose intellectual capacities and management skills are mediocre at best. When we add to this the current proliferation of a reactionary religious culture, it is understandable that there should be a marked decrease in rationality, a lack of participation marked by extreme negativity, and a prevalence of constant and fixed ideas that cannot hope to hold up against the objective criticism that is crucial to true development. All of these factors actively hinder social mobility, resulting in a general state of incompetence that in turn leads to a decline in standards at all levels. Invariably, rational thinking takes a back seat.



What do you suppose the reaction would be in the American, Chinese, and world press if a Major General in the US Army gave an official briefing at the Pentagon and stated:“If the Chinese attack Taiwan, we will have to respond with nuclear weapons. We Americans would then have to prepare ourselves for the destruction of all our cities east of Kansas City. Of course, the Chinese will have to accept that hundreds of Chinese cities will be destroyed by us.”Can you imagine the media feeding frenzy? Can you imagine the reaction at the White House? The general would be instantly cashiered and sent to a mental hospital for psychiatric treatment, while everyone in the Administration made every possible effort to repair the damage.So why didn’t this happen when a Major General in the Red Chinese People’s Liberation Army - who is also the Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the Chinese National Defense University - said exactly this in reverse on July 15 in Beijing?



Why is special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursuing so zealously the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, since it is all but impossible to prove that the leaker or leakers committed a crime? The Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires that the leaker have learned the identity of a "covert agent" from authorized sources. And it requires that the leak be deliberate. The law defines a "covert agent" as someone working undercover overseas, or who has done so in the last five years. Plame has been manning a desk at CIA headquarters since 1997. So why is Fitzgerald acting like Inspector Jauvert in Les Miserables? The answer may lie in a sentence Walter Pincus of the Washington Post wrote on June 12th, 2003.



It was widely noted, most passionately by the Iraqi blogger Hammorabi, that when Tony Blair reminded the House of Commons that many countries had been scourged by the terrorists in recent years, he omitted Iraq from the list. His speechwriters had Iraq in a different part of their database; Iraqis weren't victims of terrorism in the same way as Brits, Americans, Kenyans, and Indonesians. One's instinct is to let it go as an oversight, but there was another country missing from the list, and this case was somewhat less widely noted: Israel. And at this point, one is forced to do some thinking. What do these two countries have in common, that they should both be ignored in the British government's response to the London attacks?Iraq and Israel are arguably the two major victims of Islamic terrorism. Yet they did not come to Blair's mind. Or maybe they did, and maybe there was a reason they were omitted.



So many of you have asked me about an alleged Al Qaeda plan called “American Hiroshima” - the multiple detonation of nukes smuggled in to the US - that I must respond, even though some very good friends of mine for whom I have high regard have been taken in by the fellow who’s making the claim.That would be Paul L. Williams, who has been peddling this stuff for a long time. The funniest example is Williams’ claim that “documents captured in Afghanistan show that Al Qaeda had plans to assemble nuclear weapons with fissile material purchased on the black market.” A nuclear scientist friend of mine with all the requisite Pentagon security clearances could not stop laughing when I discussed this with him.“I’ve seen those documents,” he told me, “and believe it or not, they are copied from an article in a science humor magazine called The Journal of Irreproducible Results. It was entitled “How to Build an Atom Bomb,” and these Al Qaeda-Taliban idiots didn’t know it was a put-on. It’s full of physics jargon and seems impressive - but when the article instructs you to make the shock wave focusing lens out of Playdough, you’ve got to be a retard not to get the gag. Living in an Afghan cave can do that to you.”



Four months ago, on March 16, I told you about The Real Lockbox - a real fix of Social Security being devised by Republicans in Congress, superior to President Bush’s and designed to drive Democrats up a defensive tree. I then promised I would update you on its progress - and now I can report it is fast becoming legislative reality.