Al Qaeda Job Application

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U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday released a trove of documents recovered during the 2011 raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound — offering a rare window into the operations of Al Qaeda and bin Laden’s involvement in leading the network from his Pakistan hideaway. 

The documents include dozens of letters, some from bin Laden himself, as well as accounting information and even what appears to be an application form for prospective Al Qaeda members. That form, which asks a series of detailed questions, includes the line: “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?” 

 

Why do you hate America? Please limit your answer to 20,000 words.

 

How did you learn about Al Qaeda?
Check one:  Newspaper / Radio / Internet / Lying Propaganda from the Decadent Filthy Dogs of the West

 

Do you have any special skills?
Check all that apply:  Angry Invective / Strapping a Bomb to Myself

 

Please list your desired number of virgins in the Afterlife.

 

Why did you leave your last terrorist organization? (Mark all that apply).
Better opportunity elsewhere / Jihad fatigue / Beheaded my supervisor

 

May we contact your previous cell?

 

Are you allergic to any of the following? (Mark all that apply).
Anthrax / Botulinum / Cyanide / Sand

 

Are you legally allowed to work in this country? (We’re kidding).

 

Are you willing to work the graveyard shift? (We’re not kidding).

 

How Not to Write a PR Statement

Chris Christie

By now you’re heard about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his “Bridge-gate” scandal. It broke yesterday morning when New Jersey and New York news outlets released emails that indicated Christie’s closest aides orchestrated four days of traffic jams in Ft. Lee, as retribution for that town’s Democratic mayor declining to endorse Christie’s bid for reelection. When the story broke yesterday, Christie canceled a public appearance. Eight hours later, his office released this statement:

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

Somebody needs to be fired: the person or persons who assembled (“wrote” is too generous) that statement. Hard to believe it actually took eight hours to create it. In fact if you picked out one of every two citizens of New Jersey at random, put a gun to their head, and said “Talk!” this is probably what would come out… blustery accusation that sounds like toughness but actually blames somebody, anybody else and takes no accountability.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable.” Now there’s a sentence. It casts away everything — context, explanation, setup — in a mad dash to get to the key point that Christie never saw the emails and knew nothing about them. And the mad dash ends in a Splat! ending on the lame, pseudo-censorious word “unacceptable.”

The next sentence is even worse. Grammatically, it breaks down like this:

“I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that A) not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but B) this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”

In other words, “I am [adjective] to learn that this [adjective] conduct was made without my knowledge.” How do you learn that something was done without your knowledge? The Governor is using his second sentence to repeat, in pretzel-like doubled-up fashion, that he had no knowledge of the thing he said in his first sentence he had no knowledge about. That, my friend, is a whole lot of no knowledge.

Oh, and he was “misled by a member of my staff.” Finally, we get to somebody specific to blame. Well, not specific, but you know. Heading in the direction of specificity.

And more adjectives: this completely “inappropriate” and “unsanctioned” conduct. “Inappropriate” is almost as pseudo-censorious as “unacceptable,” and of course you know what “unsanctioned” means… it means he had no knowledge about it.

“One thing is clear.” Well, thank goodness for that. Because nothing has been clear so far, at least in this sorry excuse for a paragraph. What is this one thing that’s so clear?

“This type of behavior is unacceptable.”

Whoa. Think you already said that. Unacceptable, right.

“…and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better.” Okay, well that’s two things that are clear, but who’s counting?

Again, let’s break it down. This is the only reason you won’t tolerate this kind of behavior? The reason you object to snarling up traffic for days at one of the only exits from the island of Manhattan to settle a petty political score is that people in one state (you screwed over New Yorkers, too, but let it pass) “deserve better”? Your staff caused thousands of people to be inconvenienced or worse for days. This is “behavior”?

Okay, well, let’s move on, because as a communications professional, as a former resident of New Jersey, as a human being… I’m losing patience with you.

“This behavior [again with the behavior] is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

Now we get to the real problem for the first time: the fact that the worst part of this scandal is that it seems wholly representative of the Governor and his administration. It’s what Hemingway called the objective correlative, the specific detail that suggests the entire big picture. That’s what is so damaging about this story — it gets right at the thing people don’t like about Christie (they think he’s a bully), and makes it clear and relatable.

And finally, “people will be held responsible for their actions.” This is a cop-out in three ways at once: the use of the passive voice (who is the actor in this sentence? who will be holding these people responsible? nobody, it seems) — the use of the vague “people” — and the fact that this accountability will happen in some distant future. This triple backing away from actual responsibility gives the lie to all the other attempts to make Christie sound like a decisive leader. There is no leader present in this statement; there is only an injured and frightened ego.

“People will be held responsible for their actions.” Does the Governor still not know who is responsible? He had eight hours in which to ask some very direct questions, eight hours in which to get some answers, eight hours in which to fire these unnamed and apparently unknowable people… assuming the entire eight hours wasn’t spent crafting this pathetic, inadequate paragraph.

Torture and Transparency

It doesn’t matter that torture doesn’t provide accurate, actionable intelligence. It doesn’t even matter that it’s illegal, and a war crime. Torture is a moral abomination. A strong, clear light needs to be shone on what U.S. officials did, and those responsible need to be held accountable. President Obama’s desire to “turn the page” is essentially a failure to deal with a cancer that’s eating away at what this country is supposed to stand for.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/obamas-transparency-test.html

Stand Your Ground

Stand-Your-Ground-Law

Anything you do is, by its very nature, justified. Stand your ground.

Other people are very scary. Especially if they look, talk, or act differently than you and your people. Stand your ground.

Don’t explore complexity. Don’t let it confuse you. That confused feeling is very uncomfortable. Stand your ground.

Make judgements right away, before you have all the information. It’s so much easier that way. Stand your ground.

Assume authority, even if nobody put you in charge and you did nothing to earn the right to be boss. Stand your ground.

Anything other than being a bully means you’re a weakling, a pushover, a pussy. Stand your ground.

The world is a terrifying place, and you know deep down you have no personal power. Anger is a good substitute. Stand your ground.

A gun is something you need, and something you have an inalienable right to — not just another product a powerful manufacturers’ lobby wants to sell you. Without it you’re defenseless. Stand your ground.

Refuse to believe that your thoughts and actions create your reality right in front of you. Other people need to take responsibility, not you. You’re not the one causing all the problems… it’s all those other people. You’re just reacting to them. Stand your ground.

Be right at all costs. Because it feels so good to be right. Even if somebody else has to die. Stand your ground.

Hitch

Christopher-Hitchens-007

One thing I won’t say about Christopher Hitchens: RIP.

To a man as combative as he was, that would amount to a curse. Wherever he is now, he isn’t resting. And he wouldn’t want to be.

It’s all a guess where we go after this; he’d have said (in fact he did say, quite often) nowhere. I saw him make this point in person a couple of years ago, thanks to my friend Derek, who took me to see him at the University of Central Florida, debating the existence of God with Dinesh D’Souza. If there’s a more absurd topic to be debating, I can’t imagine it, but that ultimately didn’t matter. This was a show, and it was like watching a phlegmatic old bulldog facing down a yipping little terrier… the bone they were fighting over was much less interesting than the clash of style and personality.

Arriving at the stadium that night, I noticed a large number of buses in the parking lot. They were from local megachurches — the faithful had come, it seemed, to provide a cheering section for D’Souza. Or for God, I suppose in case He happened to be behind at half time. They filled the stands, row after row of earnest white people in sweaters, and at first I was a little nervous for Hitch.

I needn’t have been. The evangelicals were polite to him — they cheered and applauded whenever D’Souza made a point, but they listened to Hitchens thoughtfully and without making rude sounds. For my own part, I disagreed with everything Hitchens was saying, probably as strongly as they did. I’m no atheist. But this wasn’t a man you would dream of heckling. He didn’t mind standing in front of hundreds of people and calmly asserting they were full of shit. In fact, he obviously relished it. Hitchens had an intellect as sharp as a rapier, but he wielded it like a baseball bat.

Dogmatic, arrogant, intolerant, opinionated, often plain wrong and insistent about it. And yet, it was impossible to hate him, or even dislike him. You had to respect his intelligence and his eloquence, but it wasn’t just respect he inspired. He was lovable. He wore his vices beautifully, for one thing: he was an unapologetic smoker, drinker, and  hellraiser. His opinions, even the most provocative ones, were rooted in principles: honesty, freedom, fairness, honor. He may not have been at peace with the world, particularly its fools and scoundrels, but he was at peace with himself. He had a sense of humor, and it was large, inclusive and self aware. He suffered, as we all do, but he never used his suffering for the purpose of self aggrandizement. Instead it made him more reflective, more vulnerable, more human.

He faced his own death bravely and unflinchingly, without flourishes or drama. Some speculated he might experience a deathbed conversion from atheism, a suggestion he waved away with practiced loftiness. He was deeply rooted in this world, in his own time and in the present moment. He was awake; he was, more than anything, alive. His disbelief in God as much of the world conceptualizes Him was really beside the point. To me personally, god is an energy, a force, a power. And Christopher Hitchens embodied it.

An Open Letter to Herman Cain

Dear Mr. Cain:

Congratulations on your spectacular rise to the top of the current Republican presidential field this past week!

I understand that when reporters suggested you’re the Flavor of the Month, you replied that they should call you “Haagen Dazs Black Walnut.”

And that you added this was because “it tastes good all the time.”

As a marketing communications professional, may I offer you some advice? Full disclosure: I am a member of the other Party. But still, I promise you’ll find it pretty solid.

First, you should refrain from comparisons of yourself to any sort of nut, or nut-based item. All things considered this is just basic common sense.

Also: everyone knows you’re black. No need to keep mentioning it. Point taken, sir.

In fact, generally speaking I’d avoid mixing up racial and food metaphors—it’s a slippery slope. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself saying you’re Deep Carob Crunch whereas Obama is Vanilla-Chocolate swirl, or something. And it won’t end well.

In fact, with your background in pizza chain restaurants, you should stay away from food metaphors altogether. Again, you don’t want to get into any kind of “anchovies on the side, hold the pepperoni” kind of thing.

In this same vein, any references to how you taste, no matter how delicious, are just not Presidential.

I understand that reporters are going to try to lead you there. They’re looking for a headline. “Sweet Cain Likes His Sugar on a Stick.” “Poor Get No Piece of the Pie, Says Cain.” “Put a Fork in Him—He’s Done.” That sort of thing. They have no shame. But that doesn’t mean you have to enable them.

Probably you’re wondering, what should I have said when they asked me if I was Flavor of the Month? Well, something like this:

“No indeed. I am a serious contender for the Republican nomination, and I believe voters are ready for some really simple solutions to complex issues.”

Try this new, non food-based approach to answering press questions, and see how it works for you.

Warm regards,

Eddie Selover

Donald Trump, Mon Semblable, Mon Frere

thedonald

Like many of us, I’ve spent too much time lately thinking about Donald Trump. Which is to say, I’ve been thinking about him.

Back when I worked in Manhattan, it was easy enough to ignore him. You just stop looking at the billboards. You avoid his buildings — the giant letter “T” inlaid in the sidewalk is your tipoff. And for the past few years, I could always hit the mute button or fast forward through any commercials that showed him glowering and firing people.

But for the past week or so, the news media has been All Trump All the Time. They shake him in front of me like a squeaky orange chew toy, and I’ve been barking and lunging on cue.

I like to think I’m smarter than a dog, so as of now I’m taking back my power.

In metaphysics, it’s a core principle that when you resist something, when you feel passionate dislike for something or someone, you need to look at it more closely… because it’s some part of you that you’re resisting and hating. You need to identify that rejected part of you, and bring some love to it.

So the first metaphysical step is to ask myself, how am I like Donald Trump?

Is there some part of me that’s a fat, ill-spoken, spray-tanned blowhard with a bad comb-over, cynically appealing to people’s ignorance, fear and racism simply in order to get some attention?

Naturally, the first answer that comes to mind is: No, I don’t think so. I’m a slim, articulate, soft spoken man who wants to share a spiritual perspective and uplift people. That’s a given, right?

Ah, but let’s look deeper.

Trump’s pathetic and transparent attempts to improve his appearance? Well, they show how insecure he is about his looks, that he’s getting older and he’s fighting it. I can relate to that, actually.

The pompousness and the inability to shut the fuck up, long after people have tired of hearing the same old self-aggrandizing bullshit? Um, okay, guilty. Sometimes.

The insatiable need for attention and approval, even to the point of becoming negative in order to get it?

*sigh*

But what about the the disrespect of the President? What about the racism? What about the spreading of lies and the damage to our national discourse?

Well, what about it? There are appeals to the worst of human nature all around us. We’re being sold our own damnation everywhere we look. Nobody is forcing us to buy…. but buy we do. The people selling it just want our money, which in metaphysical terms means they want our energy and our power.

Maybe what’s at the bottom of our obsession with this guy is that there’s a little bit of him in all of us. If you stuck a bunch of microphones in our faces, maybe we’d all say we’re proud of ourselves even if we’d just been total jackasses. Maybe we’d all take out billboards with our faces on them, if we could afford it.

So, Mr. Trump — may I call you Donald? — I’m going to start giving you my real attention and power. I’m going to see myself in you: the scared little boy who wants to be noticed, who needs some approval, who will sometimes do unskillful things to get it.

I’m going to bring some compassion to you. I’m going to love you.

But, you know… with one hand on the mute button.