It was brought to my attention that last week’s column — in which I suggested that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin might be using his energy resources as a foreign policy weapon, and possibly, just possibly, might not be the most democratic sort — was replayed in the Russian press.
I’m not sure how well some of the column’s phrases and slang translated (what is the Russian word for “corn dog”?), but I did hear from several good Russian friends of mine who suggested I shouldn’t poke fun at Putin.
In a striking coincidence — or was it? — two days after the column appeared, the U.S. State Department came out with a series of strong remarks directed at the Putin administration, suggesting that he had engaged in bullying and was taking steps that were weakening democratic institutions in Russia. I am not taking any credit for the State Department’s newly located pair.
But let’s not disappear down that old Cold War rabbit hole just yet. We’ve got important business to attend to, such as not ending a sentence with a preposition.
Eyes forward, pick up your No. 2 pencils and on we proceed with the semi-annual People's Weekly Brief Current Events Quiz. There is no time limit, and we encourage you not to look at your neighbor's answers, unless your neighbor seems smarter than you.
Compile your responses from the knowledge currently rattling around inside your own melon (don’t turn to the Internet or any other research tools invented by Al Gore for assistance). The Patriot Act has in fact given us the ability to monitor your integrity when taking this quiz.
Forward your answers to the PWB’s secure underground command center (address firstname.lastname@example.org), where a team of former Soviet-era nuclear scientists, now woefully underemployed, will tabulate the results. And yes, we are talking valuable prizes.
Section I: Famous Gasbag Quotations — Match the Quote With the Person Who Said It
1. “The War on Terror is a slogan designed only for politics. It’s a bumper sticker, not a plan.”
2. “If the American nuclear potential grows in European territory, we have to give ourselves new targets in Europe.”
3. “I want to be a good example for young people.”
4. “God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier regime.”
a) Vladimir Putin b) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad c) John Edwards d) Paris Hilton
Section II: Name that Terrorist — Pin the Threat on the Donkey
1. Alleged ringleader of plot to attack JFK airport’s fuel infrastructure
2. British-Pakistani arrested in Pakistan in mid-2006 for alleged plot to attack airplanes flying from the UK to the U.S. using liquid explosives
3. Ethnic Albanian residing in the U.S. and involved in plot to attack the Fort Dix military base
4. Saudi-born Al Qaeda lieutenant, raised and educated in Florida, with possible ties to the JFK plot
a) Eljvir “Elvis” Duka b) Adnan Shukrijumah c) Rashid Rauf d) Russell Defreitas
Section III: Multiple Choice
1. “Holy Islamville” is:
a) just south of exit 14 on the Turnpike.
b) an exclamation last uttered by Robin on the old "Batman" television program starring Adam West.
c) a Muslim commune in South Carolina founded by radical Pakistani cleric Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani.
d) a Broadway musical.
2. Which of the following organizations is not included within the Department of Homeland Security?
a) Transportation Services Authority
b) The U.S. Coast Guard
c) National Security Agency
d) Holy Islamville Air National Guard
3. The administration of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf is facing internal pressure and unrest as a result of:
a) the dismissal of the country’s popular Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
b) the possible return of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan to challenge Musharraf’s hold on power.
c) continuing tribal rule and support of Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in the North-West Frontier of Pakistan.
d) Musharraf’s continuing support of the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
4. Bonus Question: How many times was Benazir Bhutto’s government dismissed for corruption charges?
a) Never b) Twice, plus her husband served several years in prison c) Corruption? Really? d) Let’s get her back in office; I’m sure it won’t happen again
5. The USA Patriot Act, originally signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, was enacted to allow for which of the following?
a) To increase law enforcement’s ability to search records including telephone, financial and email correspondence
b) To brazenly give Vice President Dick Cheney the ability to run roughshod over our civil liberties
c) To improve our ability to coordinate, collect and disseminate foreign intelligence to domestic law enforcement agencies that just might need the information
d) To act as a smokescreen so people wouldn’t catch on to the fact that the War on Terror is simply a bumper sticker … albeit a very catchy one
Section IV: Name that Current Dignitary, or Who’s Who in John Edward’s Non-Existent War on Terror
1. U.S. Secretary of Defense
a) Alberto Gonzales
b) Robert Goulet
c) Robert Gates
d) Don Rumsfeld
2. Director of National Intelligence
a) Michael Chertoff
b) Michael McConnell
c) Michael Baker
d) Michael Nesmith
3. Director of U.S. Secret Service
a) Louis Freeh
b) Louie Louie
c) Mark Sullivan
d) Robert Mueller
4. Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
a) Tip O’Neil
b) William Jefferson
c) Jay Rockefeller
d) Josiah Bartlett
5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
a) Frank Rock
b) Peter Pace
c) Steve Rogers
d) Omar Bradley
Section V: Analogies
1. Hugo Chavez is to “Democracy” as Vladimir Putin is to:
a) open-minded reformist
c) old-school autocrat
2. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to “hammer” as Bashar al-Assad is to:
Section VI: Tiebreaker — Essay Question
In 100 words or less, explain whether you feel more or less safe from terrorism since 9/11.
Ladies and Gentlemen, pencils down. That concludes our test. Results and winners will be announced next week. Remember, if you cheat while answering the questions, you, the NSA and I will know.
Till next week, stay safe.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.