Accidental Death of an Opportunist?

Arrivederci, Clintons

The PR spectacle of a mute and demure Hillary in Florence last weekend receiving the NYU Global Law School Leadership award was meant to make up for her earlier fuckup with Mrs. Arafat. But it was swept off the front pages by her accompanying husband’s cuckoo “third way” speech, laying the conservative American agenda on his French and German leftist allies in the name of “Progressive Governance.”

The “Renaissance” president then ranted on about the benefits of what used to be called the New Democrats. Lionel Jospin, the French Socialist premier, faced away from Clinton as he spoke, and German chancellor Gerhard Schröder was reportedly “bemused,” while self-promoting Life Is Beautiful actor Roberto Benigni leaped into Bubba’s arms. Not since Bill played golf alone in the dark and rain has there been such a bizarre scene.

As for Hillary, the numbers are getting worse: 47 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable, with 37 percent very unfavorable. And more of the same old same old. Gail Sheehy’s new book, Hillary’s Choice, suggests Hillary and Bill will soon divorce, and provides tidbits about her face job and liposuction to her thighs and ass. Dick Morris’s head-on attack on Larry King made her and Bill look like classless morons for ever hiring this guy to begin with. Reports over the weekend that the entire eastern air corridor has to be put on hold while Hillary rides around in a plane that’s treated like Air Force One makes Y2K seem a welcome relief.

But if not Hillary, then who? Bobby Kennedy Jr., the controversial environmentalist who stirred up a storm dealing with oil companies in Latin American jungles, and more recently exposed New York’s ruination of its watershed? He is a man who has name recognition and plenty of money, and can step into the shoes of cousin JFK Jr., who reportedly was waiting in the wings for Hillary to fall on her face. Kennedy says he won’t run, but the Democrats in New York are already so wrecked by the Clintons, the Kennedy family may just have to step in and save the day. So much for populism.

Navy Sonar Threatens Sea Life

Whale of a Problem

The new user-friendly military is getting a black eye with a navy enemy sub detector program that maims whales and dolphins and drives the inhabitants of the underwater world nuts.

In the early 1980s the navy pinpointed a new generation of silent submarines as national security threats. To hunt down these stalking killers, the military developed low-frequency active sonar, which is the loudest sound ever produced by humans in the water. The navy was getting ready to deploy this sonar in most of the world’s oceans when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stepped in and threatened legal action. Thereupon, the military undertook to further test the sonar and prepare an environmental-impact statement, which is in its crucial public-comment stage before the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Joel Reynolds of the NRDC said the sonar “interferes with species’ ability to hear and be heard.” Reynolds said the navy will have completed an environmental-impact statement by early next year, and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service will soon determine whether to give the navy a permit to let the program go forward.

The navy’s proposed sonar project will reach out in a radius of 300 miles, engulfing an area of thousands of square miles with 140 decibels of sound. Just as humans depend on sight, fish, marine mammals, and other marine species depend on sound to get around in the murky depths. Being subjected to the navy’s sonar blasts has sometimes been likened to standing next to a revved-up 747 just before it takes off.

The lives of fish and whales revolve around sound, writes Linda Weilgart, an expert in sperm whale acoustic communication, in the Christian Science Monitor. Weilgart, whose specialty is studying whales in the ocean deeps, is horrified by the navy’s proposal, which she claims is supported by the most short-term, minimal research. Already sonar tests have sent whales into a panic, causing 13 Cuvier’s beaked whales to beach themselves and die. She is worried that the sounds will screw up the whales’ ability to find mates over long distances, hear the quiet sounds of predators and prey, detect beaches to avoid stranding themselves, keep themselves clear of fishing gear, and keep track of their calves and other whales.

Chinese Army Pushes Cyberwar

Barbarians at the Gate

The Chinese army’s political newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, is calling for a major new propaganda offensive to wage war over the Internet. “It is essential to have an all-conquering offensive technology and to develop software and technology for Net offensives so as to be able to launch attacks and countermeasures on the Net, including information-paralyzing software, information-blocking software, and information-deception software,” reads the article, entitled “Bringing Internet Warfare Into the Military System Is of Equal Significance With Land, Sea and Air Power” and published recently in the newspaper, the official publication of the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department.

“Some of these are like bombs, they are electronic bombs which saturate the enemy’s cyberspace,” the article says. “Some are like paintings, they are electronic scrawls which appear and disappear on the enemy’s pages in chaotic fashion. Some are like phantoms and electronic flying saucers which come and go on the Net and disrupt the enemy’s systems, and it is also possible to develop masquerade technology to steal the Internet command power.”

When reporters asked Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson, the new head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, about Chinese cyberwarfare plans, he appeared a bit undone. “It’s a big part of this asymmetric threat, and it’s probably bigger than all of outdoors in terms of trying to get your arms around it,” he declared.

Still, the seriousness of the Chinese cybercampaign is debatable. “I am skeptical [that these kinds of] ‘offensive information operations’ can be anything more than seriously annoying,” said John Pike, a defense analyst at the American Federation of Scientists. He thinks it’s more of a nuisance than anything else—and that part of the trick of this sort of warfare is to keep it at such a level so the enemy doesn’t get serious and embark on a bombing campaign. “That said,” Pike continued, “the U.S. is more dependent on network systems than any other country in the world. . . . If you want to be a nuisance to the U.S. without provoking us to nuke you, this is one way to do it.”

Over the last several months, the Chinese have proposed employing a range of guerrilla warfare tactics to undermine the West in a “dirty war.” That can involve terrorism, biochemical warfare, environmental damage, and computer viruses designed to throw the West into crisis—hacking into Pentagon computers, rigging the stock market, tricking banks with phony transactions. Chinese military writers think that cyberwar is necessary because it can’t hope to stand up to the West’s military apparatus.

One recent book, written by two PLA air force colonels, lists 24 ways to knock off the U.S. and its allies. They write enthusiastically of George Soros’s attack on the British pound in 1992. One article suggests China should set aside $100 billion to throw its enemies into economic ruin. Colonel Qiao Liang, the author of another book, argued in an article, “All strong countries make rules, while all rising ones break them and exploit loopholes. Barbarians [a Chinese term for foreigners] always rise by breaking the rules of civilised and developed countries, which is what human history is all about.”

Recently Chinese government hackers tried to destroy Web sites maintained by the Taiwan National Assembly, and while they caused enough damage to close down the sites for three days, they never did wipe out data in the computers. Taiwanese hackers struck back, forcing Beijing to disconnect computers from the Web until a new protective “wall” was put in place.

It Won’t Make You Go Blind, But . . .

Debbie Does Disability

Sex workers won a precedent-setting decision last week when Florida’s labor department granted workers’ compensation to a woman who claimed she had to masturbate on the job. The 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale phone sex operator said she developed carpal tunnel syndrome from answering the phone with one hand and using the other to note customers’ names and fetishes and to give herself an orgasm during the conversation. In her claim for $267 a week (based on average weekly wages of $400), the woman said she was injured from “repetitive use of the phone.” She also asked for $30,000 to pay a surgeon for operating on her hands to relieve the pain.

Christian Science

“Regular churchgoers tend to recover faster from surgery, have fewer life-threatening infections and generally enjoy better health than their atheist neighbors. Of course, it is impossible to know whether fellowship and connection to a supportive community accounts for this, or if it’s the hand of You Know Who.” —Mona Charen in the Washington Times,November 18, 1999

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi