Saturday, October 26, 2002

ZoNotes: Stop, What's That Sound...

The Anticlimax
It's Saturday afternoon and I should be outside enjoying the fair kisses of this fine fall afternoon here in Washington. Now that Beltway assassin John Allen Mohammed is in custody in Montgomery County, simple things like standing at the gas pump and stopping by the grocery store for a jug of milk and some bon-bons become celebratory, expressive acts.

I have a sense of relief that my prediction that Mr. Mohammed would be shot dead in a gunfight unprecedented in American history did not come to pass. The 3 AM takedown earlier this week was a masterstroke for law enforcement, especially after the joint task force was maligned at the beginning of the week and characterized as ineffective in the face of, shall we say, a faceless threat.

All that said, we need to stop and realize that the principals involved in setting up and executing these attacks can be easily duplicated and applied to other major cities. Mr. Mohammed played upon a previously unexploited dynamic in post-9.11 Washington, shutting down schools, extracurricular events, and disrupting the lives of the body politic in a way that the Al Qaeda attackers did not achieve. The threat, bundled and amorphous as it seems to be in this world of Code Yellows and grainy videotapes of puny men proclaiming apocalyptic doom, also comprises the lone maniacs of the world.

And now, what happens next, you ask? The upcoming trial of the Mohammed/Malvo pair should be interesting. Many jurisdictions want to dispense justice. The page now turns from lonely intersections and parking lots to the courtroom.

"Saturday Isn't Worth It If You Didn't Build Up To It All Week..."

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

ZoNotes: All The Work That's Fit to Blog

The sniper has made it clear to us that we aren't safe wherever we go or whatever we do outdoors. That isn't very promising, and I am irked by the combination of firepower and arrogance that has the populace of the District, Virginia, and Maryland looking over its shoulder when it stops for gas and goes grocery shopping.

Montgomery County schools are on Code Blue, which prohibit outdoor activities. Sporting activities in northern Virginia are being moved southward as a preemptive measure.

Such is the way of the new normal in the DC area. If this murderer isn't affiliated with Al Qaeda or some other terrorist cell, he is providing a textbook lessons learned session to terrorists in how to intimidate the citizens of the U.S. with the absolute minimum in manpower, weaponry, transportation, and logistics.

Buffy Recap: Xander's Folly
Last night's episode centered on the evolution of Anya's character from wronged Swedish girlfriend to unrepentant vengeance demon to happily engaged fiancé to Xander to wronged and angry vengeance demon again. This was not as strong an episode as the first batch of Season 7 chapters, but it did magnify Xander's deeds (misdeeds?) over the life of the show. The three-way discussion among Willow, Xander, and Buffy about the necessity of killing Anya resurrected old wounds from Season 2, when Buffy sent Angel (Angel is now a spinoff show on the WB network, which started after Season 3) to Hell. It's a pretty involved story, but the scene last night rewarded long-time viewers of the show and reaffirmed the Buffy creative teams' faithfulness to continuity.

Plus, Anya would not have returned to the vengeance "work" if Xander had not left her at the altar in one of the most wrenching episodes from Season 6 last year. Much of what is of their relationship is because of him. Again, the writers have portrayed Xander pretty consistently since Season 1 in 1997 -- well-intentioned, but aloof and even harmful with his excesses and failings with the opposite sex.

The episode also did a solid job of reminding the show's fans that Buffy can be at times selfish and merciless. Given her powers, that can be a destructive component. Remember her line justifying her decision to slay Anya: "I am the law." That echoes the common lament of the powerful hero or, in this case, heroine -- who watches the watchmen?

Geeky overanalysis has now concluded. We can now return to the other stuff.

Saddam Hussein, taking a page from Cuba's Fidel Castro, opened the gates of his prisons and let free people he had incarcerated over the past few years. Is this a flagging PR move designed to head off an American attack? Perhaps it is. What it does is muddy the waters for people who sit on the fence and are naive enough to believe that this step does anything to alleviate the current threat. It's a parallel move, and does nothing to address the existing stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Today's Wordplay comes courtesy of Ernesto Cortes in Kingsville, TX:
"Why read if you already know how?"

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

ZoNotes: No Comment

Many of your in the ZoNotes readership residing in the central, mountain, or Pacific time zones are likely awakening to news of a shooting in the Aspen Hill area in Montgomery County, Md. It appears that the sniper has reestablished his original operating portfolio of operating closer to Maryland, but perhaps all he is doing is demonstrating that our law enforcement, deployed en masse, still can't catch him.

Should law enforcement ever isolate the murderer's location, it is unlikely that he will be captured alive.

Which makes you wonder why I tempted fate so stupidly last night when I stopped for gas in DC right off Key Bridge on the way to a dinner meeting hosted by our nation's defense industry in Washington. I saw a woman in a black Honda sitting in her car after she installed her pump in the fuel port, waiting it to click on its own when full. I asked myself why I wasn't duplicating that activity. So I scanned the area. But what the hell am I looking for? And, what could I do if the sniper is shooting from between 200 and 500 yards? Duck?

"A team effort is a lot of people doing what I say." -- Michael Winner, British film director.