Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

An editorial: Is it time for totalitarianism?

November 9, 2011

Much is made by some conservatives of the assertion that President Obama is actually a communist, a would-be dictator along the lines of Josef Stalin except with a better three-point shot.

While it might be true that the state apparatus has necessarily grown during his tenure as a response to the economic crisis, most regard this charge as an exaggeration. Bailouts and stimuli have worked to restart the economy but, at best, it’s only lumbering along. Liberals call for even more intervention, while the right wing counters with claims that the poor could learn better grooming techniques in unused prisons and that masturbation is a sin.

If an activist federal government is the answer to our current malaise, maybe we just haven’t taken it far enough. Instead of heeding calls to move to the political center, perhaps what is needed is even more control by the feds.

With this editorial, I’m calling for the institution of a complete and brutal autocracy here in the U.S. We’ve tried just about everything else; let’s give totalitarian tyranny a shot.

Total control of all aspects of society by the government has been attempted in the past with limited success. The French monarchs of the late 18th century tried it, but few people could take them seriously, what with their immense powdered wigs and totally gay wardrobes. Hitler eliminated the bad fashion sense and gave it another go in the 1940s, yet he too failed. Stalin in Russia and Mao in China staged purges and cultural revolutions to force their personality cults into every aspect of every citizen’s life, and ultimately all it got them was a lot of headaches.

So why might authoritarian rule suddenly be effective at rebuilding America’s fortunes and getting its people back to work? What is it that we have now that we didn’t have in the past that will suddenly make despotism a practical alternative to democracy?

The answer lies, as it usually does, in computers and online social networking.

Smart phones and Facebook and Twitter and interactive video gaming have given us the infrastructure that will make a dictatorial one-party state work more effectively than it ever could before. Mussolini had to stand on a balcony and rant for hours to get his point across to fascist Italy. President Obama would merely have to post a daily video on YouTube, maybe send out a few threatening tweets and organize the occasional flash mob to inject his agenda into every corner of our daily life.

Imagine, if you can, a utopian paradise where you didn’t have to make any personal decisions for yourself, where you were told what to eat for breakfast, how to get to work and when meet in the central square to worship our mighty leader. You don’t have to decide what shirt to wear today; there’s an email waiting each morning describing which jumpsuit is prescribed for that day. You don’t have to debate the merits of Burger King versus Wendy’s at lunch time; an order has already been placed by a government bureaucrat for your required combo meal. If you need to take a leak, simply consult the appropriate website (WhenToPee.gov) about your appointed schedule in the john.

And it could all be monitored with existing webcams, security cameras, Skype and the Kinect for Xbox 360.

Unemployment would be a thing of the past, as the government at all levels went on a hiring spree to find enough people to monitor everybody’s every move. Foreign threats would be neutralized when the likes of al-Qaida got an eyeful of what the all-powerful state does to crush its own citizenry. The baser elements of popular culture would be eliminated by fiat. Real Housewives are herded into federally run re-education compounds and entertainers like Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne are given new jobs in the propaganda ministry, writing dancebeat-heavy regulations on the operation of the heavy construction equipment.

True, there might be some opposition to my plan from the more libertarian elements in the Republican Party. I can imagine the objections they might raise to the perceived assault on certain basic liberties we’ve enjoyed for over two centuries. Too bad for them. They’ll all be rounded up and sent off to the gulag, where they can do all the complaining they want as long as they do it in solitary.

This might seem like a radical proposal to some, but I would counter that it’s the kind of fundamental change needed for desperate times. We might not like it when our Big Brother is constantly borrowing our stuff and always getting to sit in the front seat and punching us in the shoulder and holding his hand two inches from our faces while claiming “I’m not touching you.” Yet deep down inside, we know he cares for us and will provide us everything we need, as long as we submit to his authority.

Now that we have the technology to put the total in totalitarianism, let’s give it a try.

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Herman Cain on line one

November 2, 2011

So the phone rings last night about quarter till 7, and it’s Herman Cain calling.

Normally, you’d expect a call at that time of the evening, right in the middle of the dinner hour, to be someone asking if I’m happy with my wireless service. Instead, it’s pizza executive, motivational speaker, Republican presidential candidate, accused lady’s man and all-around black guy Herman Cain, asking if I’m happy with my presidential service.

I don’t think it was the actual Herman but rather a virtual one, a recording of his voice. The surprise leader in many national polls is ramping up his campaign in South Carolina before that state’s January primary, and part of that effort involves calling up voters and offering them a thick, topping-loaded slice of his odd recipe for fixing America.

It was pretty sophisticated for a robo-call, I thought. It sounded like the Hermanator was talking directly to me, rather than reading a script in some distant sound studio.

“Good evening, I’m Herman Cain and I’m running for president,” he began.

I thought about hanging up right away. Not only do I object in principle to telemarketers interrupting my home life, so too do I oppose just about every hare-brained scheme the fiery Cain has proposed. But I was curious about his pitch so I stayed on the line.

Cain spoke for a minute or so in general terms, hitting the same themes that he does out on the campaign trail. He wants to get government off the back of business. He wants lower taxes and lower government spending. He wants to take our country back. He longs for old-fashioned values, like the time when it was okay for an executive to ask his female co-workers if they’d mind taking off their shirts.

Actually, he said nothing at all about recent reports that he’d been accused of sexually harassing two women he worked with back in the ’90s. (Cain has claimed he only “joked about the women’s height,” teasing that he wished instead of coming up to his chin they stood about as tall as his zipper). He kept strictly to the issues.

Then he offered me a question: “Would you mind if I asked where you stand on a number of policies important to my campaign?”

There was a long pause. I hadn’t expected this to be an interactive call, but apparently Herman’s camp has invested in voice-recognition technology that allows him to gauge Americans’ sentiments on important questions of the day, as long as they could be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.

“No?” I answered tentatively.

Within moments, Herman was off on a vigorous round of interrogation.

“Do you agree with me that life begins at conception?” he asked. After accidentally saying he endorsed a woman’s right to choose in a recent TV interview, Cain has retrenched to the far right. His position now is that even victims of rape and incest should be denied abortions, and that if a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy, tough toenails.

“No,” I answered.

“Do you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman?” he pried.

“No,” I said.

“Do you believe that the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans the rights of gun ownership?”

“Well, I don’t think it’s quite that simple,” I answered. “True, the Constitution does seem to endorse private gun ownership, though many legal scholars believe it’s in the context of a ‘well-regulated militia’. Now that we have a standing army, a militia is no longer necessary.”

The other end of the line was silent. This was a little too much detail and nuance for a candidate who prided himself on a black-or-white, us-versus-them world view.

“No,” I simplified.

Herman asked a few more questions, but these were mostly to identify my individual demographic. He asked if I was male (“yes”), if I was white (“yes”) and if I was Republican (“God, no”). He asked if I wanted to work for or donate to his campaign. I laughed, which I hoped would register as a “no”.

Cain thanked me for my time and wished me a good evening. The line went dead.

Hey, wait a second, Herm. I had a few questions I wanted to ask you:

Don’t you think it will be confusing to future history students if there’s a “Cain” running for president in 2012, so soon after a “McCain” ran in 2008?

Do you think we’re headed for a “Miss America situation” in national politics? Remember how, after the first black Miss America was named, that we had other African-American winners for several years following? Is that where we’re headed at the presidential level in this post-racial nation?

Can I get you Kim Kardashian’s phone number?

But Mr. Cain was gone. All that was left was a dial tone where once there had been a vital voice for a return to conservative American values, except the ones that prevented people like him from coming to political power.

Hopefully, we’ll all get the opportunity in the general election to learn more about how a future discounted down to $9.99 is the right choice for America.

Hello, it's me

GOP continues its move to the right

October 19, 2011

You expect Republicans vying for the presidential nomination to stick to the far right lane of American politics, chugging along at 10 m.p.h. under the speed limit, flashers flashing, hands tightly gripping the controls as they peer fearfully through the steering wheel at the nation passing them by.

What you don’t expect is that the slow lane isn’t quite extreme right enough, that virtually all the candidates feel the need to veer farther right, over the rumble strips, through the guardrail, into the grass, into the woods, down an embankment and into the river.

The fundamentalist Christian governor of Texas — a man who presides over hundreds of executions and makes veiled threats about secession and lynching the Fed chairman — is criticized as too moderate because he allows the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition.

Building a fence along the border with Mexico isn’t enough for these yahoos.

“Build two fences,” urges Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“Electrify the fence,” suggests pizza guy Herman Cain. “And put up a sign warning that anybody who touches it will be killed.”

Each candidate is afraid his or her reactionary credentials aren’t quite backward enough to appeal to their Tea Party base. Each continues to lurch farther outside the mainstream. Each is afraid of being one-upped by an opponent with ideas even crazier than theirs.

Well, I’m here to help. After watching last evening’s Las Vegas debate, I stayed up all night trying to come up with some new hare-brained policies that Republicans can use to prove how right they are. When the lack of sleep proved insufficient, I took some peyote. When that wasn’t enough, I gave myself a Class III concussion. When cogent thoughts still plagued me, I watched late-night infomercials.

By 4 a.m., I had become warped enough in my thinking that I was ready. Now, before the light of day returns me to sanity, I’m prepared to offer new, even-farther-right policies that will guarantee no candidate gets outflanked by a constituency of bizarre biddies, pre-rapturous Bible thumpers and gun-loving high school dropouts.

Here are positions on all major issues in the 2012 race that I’m offering free for the taking to any candidate trying to find a place on the right that represents the ultimate in lunacy.

Immigration — Fences and walls, no matter how doubled or how electrified, will not be enough to stave off the crowd of Mexicans looking to take those landscaping jobs that native-born Americans so  desperately crave. These people are at their best when they’re outside, trying to figure the best way to conquer uncut grass and unblown leaves. And they’re supposed to be unable to figure their way over a fence? My solution: invade Mexico, and kill all 112 million of them.

Jobs — Create a force of jack-booted thugs to roam the streets and tell everybody what to do. Allow them to make money by threatening young children for their lunch money. But, God forbid, don’t make them government employees. Allow them to free-lance, and let the market decide what amount of extortion is appropriate.

Taxes, deficit and debt — Permit the ranks of the poverty-stricken to swell to the point where we can tax each individual $1, and still have enough to run the federal government. Tell the Chinese they can collect on our T-Bill obligations, but we’re going to pay them in tea. The debt ceiling should be replaced by a compression device you might see in old Batman episodes; the ceiling is slowly lowered until — SQUISH!!! — all Democrats are crushed.

The environment — Declare global warming is real, and that it’s a good thing. Promote the additional burning of fossil fuels, and market the resulting smog as a “smoky, chipotle-flavored atmosphere.”

Terrorism and defense — Expand the use of Predator drone strikes to track down jihadist sympathizers like Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie. Preemptively strike any nation that even looks funny at us. Increase troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until the weight of boots on the ground causes those nations to sink into the Earth’s mantle. Invade the nations of Abkhazia, Albania and Andorra, just to make the rest of the world think we’re working our way down to them in alphabetical order.

Entitlements — End social security and Medicare as we know it. Instead, issue block grants to the states. Require that these be fully funded by current revenue streams, and that they can only be used to buy actual blocks, preferably the heavy, concrete variety. Drop these blocks on the heads of the sleeping elderly.

Education — Abolish the Department of Education, and expunge all references to the fact that it ever existed. Start leaving some children behind, especially the fat ones. Fire all the teachers and replace them with church elders who can just make stuff up. Offer vouchers to students attending religious schools, and 50-cents-off coupons to those who prefer to remain in the public system.

Gay marriage — Pass a Constitutional amendment barring the possession of more than one penis per couple. Pass another Constitutional amendment prohibiting lisping. Pass one forbidding stylish dressing by men and flannel shirts on women. In fact, make it Congress’s full-time job to think up stuff that gay people do, or want to do, and pass a law against it.

Abortion — Life begins not at the moment of conception, but at the exact second when a couple agrees to dinner and a movie. During the act of coitus, there should be no semen allowed to go to waste. Remove your dirty sheets when you’re done, and insist that nearby women rub these into their privates.

Energy — Drill, baby, drill! Then hire all the babies that result from the above-stated abortion ban and put them to work on mid-ocean rigs. Continue the search for home-grown natural gas, expanding the use of fracking to release the resource. If the water from your faucet erupts into flames as a result, too bad. Just be glad you weren’t taking a shower.

Healthcare — Sickness is for the ill and infirm. Strong, right-thinking Americans are too busy looking for the faults of others to consider what might be wrong with themselves. Implement the use of a barter system for patients to pay their doctors. A schedule of fees could include “one appendectomy = 4,000 iced lattes” for a Starbucks barista, and “one heart catheterization = cleaning the floor of your physicians’ office by licking it with your tongue for the rest of your life” for those in the janitorial trades. Repeal ObamaCare and replace it with DoNotCare.

Government regulation of private enterprise — A totally free and unencumbered market is the answer to everything. If you don’t like e. coli in your food, trust that restaurants serving it as an appetizer will soon go out of business. If you don’t want defective hip replacements implanted in your body, you should keep your mouth (and all other orifices) closed. If you’re concerned about worker safety, don’t get a job.

Crime and punishment — Pass a federal ban on the use of Sharia law, which allows stoning, amputation and beheading as acceptable forms of punishment. Return instead to the laws of the Bible, where stoning, amputation and beheading are merely suggestions. Don’t allow condemned capital prisoners to order a last meal, unless it includes heaping portions of potassium chloride and a side of high-voltage electricity.

Republican hopefuls are ready to think up some crazy shit.

Herman Cain. For a President You Can’t Refuse.

October 14, 2011

From an overheard telephone conversation …

Godfather’s Pizza: Godfather’s, can I help you?

American People: Yes, I’d like to order a President to be delivered, please.

GP: Go ahead.

AP: Yes, I’d like a medium … uh, I mean, a moderate. I want someone with both government and private-sector experience. Someone who understands that the poor and middle-class need more help than the rich do. Someone who isn’t locked into rigidity by their religious beliefs, or because they signed some anti-tax pledge. And no onions.

GP: No onions? Are you sure? You don’t want someone with the onions to stand up to the Washington insiders who have stolen our country from us?

AP: Uh, yes, that’s right. No onions.

GP: And what kind of crust do you want?

AP: I want extra-crusty. I think we need a cantankerous, grumpy sort, so we can negotiate aggressively with other countries.

GP: Okay, extra-crusty. Got it. How about a heartless immigration policy that will punish innocent children by denying them education?

AP: No. No, thanks.

GP: What about widespread deregulation of banks and other businesses that contributed to the financial meltdown?

AP: No.

GP: Would you like to deny affordable health insurance to all Americans?

AP: No, that gives me heartburn. Oh, and no anchovies.

GP: Okay. Do you need any drinks with that?

AP: Yeah, let me get a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Does that come with the price of the President, or is that extra?

GP: No, it’s extra. We’re through with entitlements. That’s what got this country into such a mess to begin with. We can sell you tea instead, if you like. Our Tea Party makes a great brew.

AP: No, that’s okay. Now, what sorts of side orders or other extras do you have?

GP: We have the 9-9-9 tax plan, a way for the poor to pay more while the wealthy pay less. We have a promise to veto any bills that are more than three pages long. And we have the fact that our man is a black guy.

AP: A black guy? Oh, that sounds good. What about wings?

GP: No, he doesn’t have wings, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he sprouts some in the afterlife.

AP: I meant buffalo wings.

GP: No, we’re getting those next year. After widespread oil drilling in the West wipes out the habitat of the wild bison. Then, we’ll have all the buffalo meat we can handle.

AP: Alright, just the medium President then, I guess. Oh, and I have a coupon for $2 off.

GP: I’m sorry. Those are good on takeout only.

AP: Really? That’s not what it says on my copy.

GP: Oh, you’re going to get a lot of unexpected surprises with this order. But you do want delivery, right?

AP: Yes. And how long do you think that’ll take?

GP: Let’s see … the Iowa caucuses are in early January, then comes the New Hampshire primary, then the South Carolina one … I’m guessing it’ll arrive at your house in a little over a year.

AP: A year? That’s an awful long time to wait.

GP: Well, there’s always the chance that the Far Right will rise up in armed insurrection against the bloated, illegal, unconstitutional federal government some time before next November. So you might get your man earlier, but I can’t promise anything. No “30-minutes-or-it’s-free” deals from us.

AP: Alright. Maybe I can snack on something light while I’m waiting. There’s a Michele Bachmann around here somewhere.

GP: Now, you know you can track the making and delivery of your President online.

AP: Yeah, I was looking at that on my smartphone. It shows you’ve taken the order and you’ve started making it. That’s cool.

GP: You’ll be able to keep up as your President rises in the polls, then makes an offensive comment about gays, then falls behind in fund-raising, then releases financial statements showing he’s paid no taxes for five years, then exits the race in shame when it’s found he hired an illegal alien as a nanny.

AP: That’s pretty neat. And now I can see that you’ve accidentally dropped him on the floor.

GP: Don’t worry. He was topping-side-up. There’ll be dirt on the bottom but it’ll just look like marks from the cooking.

AP: Okay. So how much will that be?

GP: Let’s see … there’s the negative impact on our image around the world, there’s the fear from our allies that we’ve elected a simplistic hothead, there’s the bond agencies that will lower our credit rating, there’s a sharp drop in federal revenues … It’s going to cost you about $500 billion. And remember, our delivery guys don’t make change.

AP: Got it.

GP: Now, what is your name, address and phone number?

AP: Gee, I don’t know if I want to give out that kind of personal information. I thought Herman Cain was against unnecessary intervention in the life of average Americans. I’m not sure I like the idea of Big Brother knowing that much about me.

GP: Well, if you don’t give us your address, how do you expect to get the President delivered to your house?

AP: I think maybe I’ll come pick it up after all. So I can use that $2-off coupon?

GP: Yes, you can. So that reduces your total to $499,999,999,998.

AP: And you do take credit cards, right?

GP: No! No more credit! No more deficits! No more debt! We expect you to pay in cash and in full, not leave the bill for your children and your children’s children.

AP: Never mind. Cancel my order. My temporary fascination with Herman Cain is over. Maybe I’ll give Rick Santorum a call.

GP: That’s fine with us. But you might want to Google him first to find out about one particular topping I don’t think you’ll like.

AP: Such awful choices this year …

The man who could be our next president (right)

‘Targeting hassling’ is new Obama strategy

October 4, 2011

President Obama’s success in killing off al-Qaeda leaders contrasts vividly with his inability to counter attacks from his political rivals. Now, however, the White House has begun using the same strategy that eliminated Osama bin Laden to blunt Republican criticism of his administration.

No, the president won’t be dispatching Predator drones to correct misstatements from right-wing opponents by dropping Hellfire missiles on their motorcades. But sources say he will soon begin using the CIA and its remote-control-warfare capacity to “hassle” potential rivals for the presidency in 2012.

“We’re not talking about anything that approaches the brutality of 100-pound missiles,” said an intelligence source who asked not to be named. “We just want to give them a hard time. The campaign will be more like what you might expect from a crazy ex-girlfriend than a full-on military effort.”

Similar to the “kill or capture list” that targeted bin Laden in May and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki last week, the “pester or annoy list” will inconvenience Republicans with anonymous strikes by computer-guided robots.

The effort may have already begun. Yesterday, one-time front-runner Mitt Romney reported to local police that somebody scratched a large gash on the door of his car while he was grocery shopping.

“It was the weirdest thing,” reported witness Jim Michaels of the incident in suburban Boston. “One of those motorized shopping carts for the handicapped came flying out of the store on its own and zeroed in right on his Mercedes. It left a pretty big mark.”

Romney was not hurt in the incident, though he missed the rest of the day campaigning while waiting at the Maaco shop for the gash to be buffed out.

In another apparent attack, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked his state highway patrol to investigate a rash of late-night phone calls that have awakened him and his wife several times in recent days.

“We must’ve had 50 calls since Sunday asking if ‘Jose’ is here,” said Perry’s wife Anita. “Then last night, ‘Jose’ calls and asks if there are any messages for him. It’s not funny.”

“Yeah, that one’s a classic,” said the source familiar with the operation. “They set it up through one of the president’s campaign offices, using their robo-call software.”

Other episodes that seemed unconnected at the time are now being checked out by officials with the Republican National Committee.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has reported that a “souped-up Roomba” vacuum cleaner skidded all over her front lawn Monday night, “turfing” large sections of grass.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul had pictures of an apparent impersonator posted on his Facebook page. The ersatz Paul was shown passed out and drunk on the floor of a fraternity party, then is later seen handing spare change to a homeless man.

“It’s obviously been Photoshopped,” said Bill Welch, Paul’s campaign manager. “Still, it does take time away from his campaigning to have to deny something as scandalous as giving money to the poor.”

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum told friends that during a recent appearance at a Philadelphia-area school, someone put a sign reading “KICK ME” on his back. Surveillance video shows it was done by a glassy-eyed teenager who approached the Tea Party favorite from behind.

“Okay, technically, that wasn’t a drone,” said the CIA source. “But we did entice the kid with some crystal meth, so he was pretty much a zombie at the time.”

Officials in the Obama White House denied knowledge of the apparently widespread effort. Targeted killing has come under considerable criticism from human rights groups, though “targeted hassling” seems less likely to present legal obstacles.

“If we had a guy on a Segway, just riding in circles around (former House speaker) Newt Gingrich, getting up in his face and chanting ‘I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you,’ I think constitutional scholars would agree that’s not illegal,” said one anonymous White House insider. “I’m not saying we’d do that, however. Especially considering how his campaign is fading on its own, and how the battery would run down about the fifth time around Newt.”

Former Senator Rick Santorum meets with a supporter

Obama happy to be of service

August 2, 2011

Gently massaging Rep. Michele Bachmann’s migraine-ravaged temples as he spoke, President Obama announced Sunday that a deal had been reached to avoid default on the nation’s debt, “if that’s okay.”

Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite who has said there’s virtually no chance she would vote for any compromise that doesn’t destroy the American financial system as we know it, quietly moaned as the president spoke to the nation.

Obama said later he knew the right-wing radical was unlikely to support the plan but “a massage is the least I can do to thank her and others on the right for not demanding even more than they did.”

Obama said the final draft of the bill to raise the debt ceiling “is not perfect but is a great example of how compromise — giving one side everything that it asked for while winning no concessions for yourself — can be achieved when there’s a gun held to your head.”

“The system has worked, just like most hijackings work,” Obama told the nation. “We landed the Airliner of Fiscal Responsibility safely at the Airport of Terrorist Demands and all aboard are safe.”

“And, best of all,” the president added, “we don’t have to put the hijackers on trial because we don’t have any money left to run the court systems.”

The president said he had to cut his address short because he was heading down to Kentucky to clean out horse stables as a favor to GOP Sen. Rand Paul. The freshman Republican, another Tea Party stalwart, said he too would not likely vote for the measure, but would promise not to scowl if Obama ever ran into him in the halls of Congress.

“That’s an important concession,” Obama said, “because I want him to like me.”

Most on the far right will likely end up voting against the bill that basically gave them everything they wanted, in part because they want to challenge the business-as-usual politics of Washington, and in part because they wanted the measure delivered to the House floor on a silver platter, with whipped cream on top.

“And a cherry,” demanded Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “Don’t forget that we considered that cherry as a critical part of this new era.”

With passage of the agreement expected today, Obama will head out next week on a nationwide tour to build support for other crackpot ideas the Tea Party has put forward. Flexing their new-found strength, the conservatives have called for a diverse package of reforms that the president said he’d be glad to support, as soon as he finds out what they are.

One proposal already made by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, pairs a change to the name of the country — from “United States of America” to “United Christian States of America” — with an initiative to repeal the Third Law of Thermodynamics because of its “pro-science bias.”

“Yeah, yeah … that sounds like a good one,” an eager Obama told reporters after the national address. “I’ll have my administration getting on that one right away.”

“Are you sure there’s not anything else we can do right now?” the president asked. “Just let me know if you think of anything, and I’ll be sure to do it, and do it with a smile.”

"Can I freshen that up for you?" Obama asks Tea-Baggers.

Exclusive: Inside SEAL Team 6

May 19, 2011

Few first-hand accounts have emerged from the recent operation to take out terrorist mastermind Osama bin-Laden. The Navy SEAL team that conducted the raid has been sworn to secrecy, and the few details that have become public are murky, as most are based on hearsay and suppositions.

Now, for the first time, an insider has come forward to offer precious insight on how the heroic team prepared itself for the mission, then carried it out in nearly flawless fashion. A CIA contractor, not covered by national security restrictions but who nevertheless has asked to remain anonymous, offers the following first-person narrative.

I was a copy editor for SEAL Team Six.

In September of 2010, I got a call from Langley, Va., offering me a six-month stint of freelance work. I was asked to provide an estimate of how much I would charge to make the daily drive to CIA headquarters, where I would review a confidential training manual and offer editorial suggestions on how its readability might be improved. They quickly accepted my rate of $40 an hour, which makes me think I should’ve asked for $50.

Soon I discovered that the booklet I’d be editing was the complete operational instruction guide for the elite squad of soldiers known as the Navy SEALs. The manual had been compiled from several sources — the Army Rangers, the Green Berets, an unnamed “black ops” outfit — and needed a consistent editorial voice. I pulled out my red pen and set to work, knowing that the fate of our war against terror could lie in the balance.

A quick scan of the document revealed that it was a grammatical disaster area, a virtual Ground Zero of misplaced modifiers, subject and verb disagreement, and inconsistent punctuation. The serial comma was used in some lists and not in others, creating the potential that trainees studying how to “kill, capture, or neutralize” the enemy might be confused or distracted. The usual inadequacy of spellcheck was apparent throughout; one reference to a contingency that would cover unexpected events mentioned plans that might go “a rye,” while elsewhere an attack on the enemy’s lair was written as an “a salt.” I wondered, was this a blueprint for knocking out al-Qaeda or a cookbook?

Word choice was not appropriate for the reading level of most soldiers with a high-school education. The terrorist hideout, for example, was called a “redoubt.”

“Redoubt?” asked one particularly gung-ho soldier. “We have no doubt at all.”

As my work on the manual unfolded, I got the opportunity to expand beyond the original specifications of my duties. I don’t consider myself a graphic designer, but I was able to point out that a serif font would be much more legible in the field than the Helvetica sans-serif that was the CIA’s standard. I suggested they use more call-outs with bullet points, something you’d think a gun-toting military writer would have already considered. As the editing process neared completion, I was even able to squeeze line leading to eliminate a short page, reducing the page count from 65 to 64 so the CIA could save on its paper purchase.

On what was to be my last day of work, the bureau chief stopped by my cubicle with an offer I couldn’t refuse. He asked me to accompany the SEAL team on its secret mission deep into Pakistan, to make sure any written communications needed during the assault were unambiguous and to offer a generalized “quality assurance” to the operation.

“I can’t tell you who we’re going after,” he said cryptically. “Let’s just say I don’t want our men encountering a typo that will send them after ‘Obama’ instead of ‘Osama.'”

Next thing I knew, I was getting off a troop transport plane in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. I could tell already my assistance would be crucial, as the passenger list carried a heading with one too many “ala’s” in “Jalalabad.”

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as we prepared for the May 1 D-Day. I met with top brass on the code name for the operation, guiding them away from “Uranus Spear” and toward the ultimate title of “Neptune Spear.” I suggested they brand themselves as “SEAL Team Six” rather than the clunky “United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (or DEVGRU).” I came up with a great hook of a name for the technique of firing two kill shots, one to the chest and one above the left eye.

“How about ‘double tap’?” I asked the lieutenant general in charge of preparation.

“Fabulous,” he said. “Where would we be without you? You’ve saved us again!”

On the night of the attack, I joined the 24 SEALs as we loaded our gear from the helipad onto the choppers. I suggested a last-minute switch that would employ Black Hawks instead of the harder-to-spell Chinooks, concerned that newspapers around the world might inadvertently obscure the message of might we were bringing down on the perpetrators of 9/11.

We came in low over the Pakistani countryside that night, certain we had done everything necessary to prepare for a successful mission. On the approach into Abbottabad, I learned the disappointing news that, as a civilian contractor, I would not be allowed to slither down the descent ropes and join in the expected firefight. I could watch everything unfold from my perch above the action, vigilant against any miscommunications that might lead to failure. Also, I was asked to clean up after Cairo, the now-famous tracking dog that would ultimately help to corner bin-Laden.

Explosions and flashes of light filled the hot evening air. We lost one of the choppers when a rotor came too close to the wall of the compound. As the wounded Black Hawk settled into a soft crash landing, I offered a quiet prayer of thanks that I’d made the right decision to leave the larger and bulkier Chinooks behind.

After about a half hour into the operation, word came via radio that a man believed to be Osama bin-Laden had been killed. Soldiers on the ground were unsure how to positively identify the body. They had a photo of the victim’s bloodied face, but were unsure that facial recognition software back in CIA headquarters would be able to make an ID.

“Take another photo, and this time, position the head so the face is more in profile,” I suggested. “That angle is a lot more flattering for most people.”

The Navy SEALs heeded my word and, within another few minutes, it was confirmed: the hated bin-Laden was dead.

We high-tailed it out of Pakistan as fast as we could, heading for the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea. Plans to bury bin-Laden’s corpse at sea were finalized, and I was brought forward for one last piece of editorial advice. Could I look over the traditional Islamic service that would be delivered as the body, now wrapped in a white sheet and placed in a weighted plastic bag, was slid into the sea?

“I don’t know Arabic,” I protested to the vice-admiral of the fleet.

“Just give it a quick once-over to see if any typos jump out at you,” he said.

The squiggles looked about right to me, and I signed off on the proof just before it was delivered to the chaplain.

Later that afternoon, I was put aboard another transport plane for the 20-hour return flight to the U.S. After an exhausting several months on the front line of history, I slept most of the way back across the Pacific.

I had made a significant contribution to America’s efforts in ridding the world of Islamist terrorism. Justice for the thousands of innocent victims had been served. And whether you spell it “Usama bin-Ladn” or “Osama bin-Laden,” whether you spell it “al-Qaeda” or “al-Qaida” or simply “Qaeda,” there was now a little less evil in the world.

Thanks to me and Navy SEAL Team Six.

Inside bin-Laden’s computers

May 5, 2011

As analysts pore over the captured computers and storage devices found at the Osama bin-Laden compound, they are beginning to unlock a treasure trove of information about the late terrorist leader and his al-Qaeda organization.

The verdict: Far from being a newbie, the world’s most-wanted criminal knew his way around a laptop, especially for an old guy.

U.S. forces brought five computers, 10 hard drives and about 100 storage devices out of the Islamabad suburb where bin-Laden was killed late Sunday. Initial reports that the location had no internet service appear to be true, though that apparently doesn’t mean the murderous madman wasn’t able to go online.

“Surveillance reveals that a man fitting bin-Laden’s description was often seen driving out of the compound to a Panera Bread located about a half-mile away that offered free wi-fi,” said one insider who asked to remain unnamed. “He’d sit outside in the parking lot with his netbook for hours at a time. One witness said he mostly seemed to be hanging out on Facebook, though information still stored in the machine show he also visited the occasional porn site, despite Panera’s stated policy against it.”

“The witness said he didn’t even go to the trouble of buying a cup of coffee, that he just sat there and poached the wireless,” the analyst said. “Truly, he was a man with no sense of ethical behavior.”

Among the discoveries made so far:

  • Not surprisingly, bin-Laden was a big fan of the game Angry Birds. His IT staff had modified some of the features so that instead of launching baby birds against a house of sticks built by pigs, his version catapulted suicide bombers against soft Western targets like train stations, shopping malls and sporting venues. “His tech guys were very inventive and surprisingly responsive to their boss’s requests,” the insider said. “They knew that if they pulled the usual IT garbage of stalling and not returning emails, they’d be beheaded.”
  • Bin-Laden used an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of his extensive family, which included numerous wives and children, not to mention almost a hundred brothers and sisters and their families. “He had it set up in a way that makes us think he was competing with his brothers to have the most kids in the extended bin-Laden family. One bar chart he constructed showed him in third place, but the numbers were constantly changing, and it looks like he eventually turned the project over to an intern.”
  • The hundred or more thumb drives captured by the Special Forces team held information about which of his aides had their thumbs cut off, according to Sharia law, for minor offenses around the compound. “If you stole someone’s lunch from the common refrigerator, or neglected to contribute to the coffee fund, this typically was punished by the removal of a finger,” sources said. “Bin-Laden could then pull out the thumb drives at performance review time, and go over these transgressions with the offenders. It not only affected their ability to grasp objects. It also affected their merit increases.”
  • A PowerPoint presentation bin-Laden had prepared shows that he was indeed “franchising” his terror network throughout the world. But a surprising discovery revealed he also had plans for launching a fast-food sandwich franchise, to be called “O-Sammich.” “We found a very professional presentation he apparently put together for potential investors,” the analyst reported. “He used clip art and everything.”
  • One of the cellphones captured in the raid was an iPhone. CIA forensics experts are still going through the data recorded in the phone’s memory, but can already report Osama played a lot of Words With Friends, the popular Scrabble-like crossword game. “The pattern of fingerprints on the touchscreen show he spent a lot of time dragging letters into play on the board,” sources reported. “It also reveals that he ate a lot of greasy Sammichs.”
  • Bin-Laden was a big fan of YouTube, with his favorites being LOL cats, funny baby expressions, and videos of killer tornado outbreaks. He also enjoyed AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, which apparently made him feel better about his own complicated family life; EpicFail.com, which comforted him in the days after thwarted attacks by the Shoe Bomber, the Underwear Bomber and the Times Square Bomber; and Sporcle.com, a popular online trivia quiz. “He appeared to do especially well with geography questions,” said the source. “He could name every country in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, but he had a little more trouble with the Western Hemisphere. He kept getting Paraguay and Uruguay confused, for example.”
  • His online banking account showed numerous transfers in and out of Swiss bank accounts over the years, and that he had made enough “Extra Points” with his debit card transactions to earn a $100 gift card, redeemable at any establishment in the Darden family of restaurants, including his favorite, Red Lobster. “Oh, how he loved their cheese biscuits,” revealed one Guantanamo detainee who disclosed the detail only after he underwent enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding.
  • The architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. fashioned himself to be an aspiring screenwriter. His Word files contained the draft of a “fan fiction” treatment he was writing based on Fox’s popular TV hit “Glee.” “He knew there’d eventually be a ‘Glee’ movie, and he wanted to get in on the ground floor with Hollywood producers who would be shopping the concept to the major studios,” one insider said. “Those who have read it, though, called it amateurish at best, with many of the musical numbers replaced by hours of ululation.”
  • An extensive collection of DVDs was also found in the compound. Some were training videos to be used in al-Qaeda camps, but there were also a surprising number of popular Western films, including boxed-set collections of the entire oeuvres of Nicolas Cage, Ben Stiller and Michael Caine. “Because of their size, these catalogs had to be kept in their own dedicated outbuilding at the back of the compound,” a source said. “Many of the security features found at the site — the 18-foot walls, the razor-wire fences, the security cameras — were really put in more to protect these DVDs than they were to protect the terrorist kingpin. He absolutely loved Nic Cage.”

“We expect that once our intelligence experts have combed through all the information, we’ll have an accurate picture of where we need to counter potential threats,” said a CIA official closely involved with recovering all the data. “Until then, we’d advise the public to avoid any rickety wooden structures built by pigs.”

Bin-Laden dead, but still a class act

May 3, 2011

Lost in all the celebration yesterday of the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin-Laden was one very important question.

What does Donald Trump think of it?

“Osama bin-Laden, whatever else you might be able to say about him, was a class act,” Trump told reporters gathered outside his office late Monday. “He was a first-class killer, a superb enemy and — really — among the most magnificent madmen of his generation.”

The real estate mogul and reality-TV star has vaulted to preeminence in the Republican field of would-be presidential hopefuls. In light of this, his opinion is now sought on virtually every important matter of state. As you might expect, he had quite a bit to say about Sunday’s dramatic capture of the al-Qaeda leader.

“I gotta tell you, when I first heard the news in the middle of the night, I thought they said the Navy Seals took out Obama,” Trump said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘At last, we’re rid of that guy’. Then I realized they said ‘Osama’ and I figured, ‘OK, well he’s pretty bad too.'”

Trump said that first impressions of the success of the operation may not be completely accurate. He wanted to take the time to read a few more accounts of the mission before he became too convinced that the architect of the 9/11 attacks had finally been eliminated.

“Where is the death certificate? It’s very important that we see that,” Trump said. “Our president doesn’t have a very good track record on producing the necessary documentation to prove what he says are facts. I’d just like to see the official word. Also, I want to see the school records of all the CIA guys that were involved.”

The New York billionaire said he was a little skeptical of how the body was disposed of.

“A burial at sea? That sounds a little fishy,” Trump said. “Ha-ha. Fishy — get it? So now, bin-Laden sleeps with the fishes. Which reminds me, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be some kind of mob hit rather than the military attack it’s being made out to be.”

Trump said a “burial at sea in accordance with Muslim law” did not have the ring of truth about it.

“Those guys, they live in the middle of a desert. How can they have any tradition of burying a dead body at sea? In a sand dune or a pyramid — that I could understand,” Trump said. “Frankly, I think we were flying him back to the U.S. and someone just ‘accidentally’ left the cargo door open on the C-130. ‘Oops, there he goes. Bon voyage, you scumbag.'”

The TV star said he doubted the Pakistanis had tried very hard to locate bin-Laden, who turned out to be hiding in plain sight about 30 miles from the capital of Islamabad.

“If I gave that assignment to one of my Celebrity Apprentice teams, and they failed to spot a guy so different from all his neighbors that he didn’t even have internet access, I’d say that team failed,” Trump said. “This isn’t selling energy drinks on a street corner or preparing an ad campaign for Omaha Steaks. It’s not that complicated. He lives behind 18-foot walls, he burns his trash, he has no telephone, he’s obviously an international criminal. I’d say to the president of Pakistan, ‘you’re fired.'”

The moderate-Democrat-turned-Tea-Party-Republican still showed some of his old wimpy compassion, second-guessing whether bin-Laden should’ve been executed on the spot.

“I’ve got to find something wrong with the operation, so I’ll pick this,” Trump said. “I’d like to have seen the guy brought back to serve time in a U.S. prison. I think there was a real potential there for rehabilitation. Teach him a marketable trade — say, medical transcription — and he’d be back on his feet as a productive member of society when his term was up. For all his faults, you gotta admit the guy had outstanding management skills. I’d even hire him in my organization. He’d make a great executive in charge of my casino operations.”

Revisited: Tea Party reaches out to the young

February 19, 2011

MIAMI, Fla. (Feb. 18) — Organizers of the conservative Tea Party movement are looking to the future by recruiting more young people to join the anti-government cause.    

One such example can be found in “Lady Ann and Lady Diane’s Teas,” a group of Libertarian 6-to-12-year-old girls who fondly recall an America where ladies could dress in gloves and pearls, enjoy tiny flower-shaped sandwiches and celebrate the days when Queen Victoria was president.    

“Dressing up is so much fun!” said chapter president Lady Diane. “In our party, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back to a time when only the gracious held power in this country. Each of our elegant soirees will provide an atmosphere of refinement and charm in which to rail against the socialist Obama and his Stalinist henchmen.”    

The collection of lace-bedecked young ladies espouse the same anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-stimulus position as the national Tea Party organization, but do so in a setting festively decorated with pink bow sashes, antique china plates, minks, wraps and fans.    

“It’s time to get the Washington bureaucrats out of office and let real Americans take their country back,” said a 7-year-old who identified herself only as Madelyn. “And while you’re up, I’d like another scone, if you please.”    

Unlike the boisterous crowds that often heckled congressmen during town hall meetings, this new generation of arch-conservatives and white supremacists are mindful of the proper etiquette necessary to stage a reactionary coup with poise and style.    

“I just adore the old country roses and the Lady Carlyle fine English serving pieces,” said 11-year-old Addison. “And the sterling silver tongs would be just right to impale (former House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi.”    

Members are careful to stress that despite their fondness for all things crystal and gold-rimmed, they remain committed to the cause of a smaller government that stays out of private enterprise, offers no health care to its citizens, and detests all who are not as darling and precious as they are.    

“And we’re dead-set against any liberal reform of immigration law that lets more undesirables cross over our borders,” said Chloe, age 8. “Especially boys.”    

Dressed in a lovely hat with netted veil and carefully holding a tasty tea savory in one hand and a placard reading “No Publik Opshun” in the other, 10-year-old Caitlyn described herself as a former Republican who grew disenchanted over the party’s close relations with Wall Street.    

“I prefer a tea cozy, not a cozying up to the big banks,” the delightful little lady said.    

“Show us the birth certificate,” demand (from left) Abigail, Hannah, Leah and another Abigail. “Or get the hell back to Kenya.”