Hello SkyNet

Check out V-MADS, the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System. It's a "nonlethal" weapon in development by the military to control hostile crowds, slated for deployment in Iraq.

V-MADS uses a focused microwave beam to "induce an intolerable heating sensation" on the skin. It is effective at ranges of a kilometer, and can be made autonomous.

Great, a self-guided vehicle that can burn your ass from two-thirds of a mile away. Coming soon to a Blue state neighborhood near you.


Usual suspects

Several years ago, during the reign of Bush 41, I hosted a friend from out of town, an emergency physician. After picking Mikel up at the former National Airport, I had to run an errand to an office located in the Watergate, another notorious DC landmark.

Driving these crazy streets, I overshot my destination and pulled into the driveway of the Saudi Arabian embassy across the street from the Watergate to turn around. Two armed guards at the gated drive snapped to attention and moved towards our car, hands on their lowered weapons. We threw our hands into the air.

"Just turning around," I meekly offered while slowly rolling in reverse. Got our asses away from there, exhaled, and laughed. "I guess they don't cotton to a couple of bearded Jewish guys in a compact car," Mikel said.

5 5 5

That evening, Mikel and I walked along the fence on the east side of the White House on Madison Place, which is no longer open to the public. Today, except for Pennsylvania Avenue, you can't get within a block of the White House on foot.

Through gaps in the tall shrubbery we saw the well-manicured property and that familiar gleaming ivory building. We strolled past the visitor's entrance and stopped at a gated drive gaving us a good view of the southeast corner of the White House.

There, in the middle distance, were several dark-suited men and one very lively Springer Spaniel.

"Look, it's Millie," said Mikel.

"The first dog," I remarked.

We stood with our faces against the heavy gate watching the dog play, presumable with highly trained Secret Service agents.

To my left, from within the thicket of foliage bordering the driveway perhaps five feet away on the inside of the fence, came a distinct rustling sound. Not movement, more like somebody shifting position. I peered into the shadows, unable to discern any shapes.

There it is again. We walked away.

"Did you hear that?" I whispered.

"Was there somebody standing next to us on the other side of the fence?" Mikel asked. "That's fucking creepy."

Got to feel sorry for the guy whose job it is to stand in a bush.


Party politics

Champagne? Check. Confetti? Check. Signed loyalty oaths? Check. Humvee-mounted Stinger anti-aircraft missiles? Check. Contempt for rights and justice? Check.

Let's roll.


Burning desires

Great, just what we need -- a crank in a van at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, threatening to blow up himself and the White House on the eve of an inauguration with the tightest security in history.

Screwing up rush hour.

Dramatic gestures at the White House are a traditional means of drawing attention. Somehow I doubt Lowell Timmers bargained for an indefinite sojourn at Gitmo.

People have flown a plane into the White House, brandished and fired weapons, and set themselves on fire. Leaping over the fence is a perennial favorite, greeted with a swift smackdown.

It's enough to make you long for the days when a guy just wanted to sit in his tractor in a pond on the Mall for a few days.

Timmers, dude -- good luck with the immigration thing.


Here's looking at you

The Washington Metro, which runs the subways, is using a wonderful new system of "behavioral profiling" in which cops stop and question people if they avoid eye contact, look around more than other passengers, loiter, move too quickly through stations, stand too close to others, stand too far away from others, carry suspicious items, or have suspiciously empty arms.

I feel safer already.