Defined, in my book, as examples of politicians (and I'll stick to U.S. politicians, given my noding locale) using fairly serious issues to hype their own importance or make a point about a completely unrelated subject, without considering the potential consequences.

Think that's too specific to be a general peeve? Congrats, you win a cookie. Let's start with this week's asshole du semaine. His name is U.S. Representative Curt Weldon, and he's a Republican from Pennsylvania. What's he done to rate this wrath? Read on. (I love alliteration!)

Apparently, Rep. Weldon has decided that the U.S. Navy, the Pentagon and the Clinton Administration are all completely untrustworthy. That's his privilege. However, his latest maneuver to grab headlines and jab at the Clinton Administration is to claim that he remains unconvinced that the sinking of the Kursk was not the result of a collision with a U.S. submarine.

Say what?

I'll give it to you in his own words: ""I'll believe it when I'm given the appropriate data," he said of the Pentagon's position on the Kursk sinking. "I hate to say this but sometimes I have to question my own government and sometimes my own military," Weldon said. "I've seen enough evidence certainly in this administration of tampering with facts." (From Inside the Navy, 9/18/00).

Let's have a look. First of all, questioning the U.S. government, as a U.S. citizen, is not only your right but your duty. Stop mealy-mouthing about it to make it look like you're doing this more-in-sorrow etc.

Next, exactly how does this evidence of the administration tampering with facts have anything to do with the validity of the Pentagon's statement that U.S. forces had nothing to do with the sinking of the Kursk? The only way it does is if you are implying that the Pentagon is a complete tool of the Clinton administration, which seems a fallacious assumption and, in fact, a dangerous one. Otherwise, these two statements are disconnected.

Why does he think they're lying? Well, another quote: "I think we knew exactly when it went down," Weldon said of the Kursk. "I think we knew based on intelligence when it happened. We may not want to reveal that but my hunch is we knew it immediately...We have capabilities that we could have and should have used to save lives."

Hmm. Okay, where has the Pentagon denied that it knew precisely when the Kursk sank? It hasn't made any public statements about precisely when that was, AFAIK, but they did say that we had "assets" in the area, and it has been widely reported that U.S. units returning to port some weeks after the incident were returning with 'tapes' that were to be reviewed. So it's not like it's a revelation that we had units there. We acknowledged that. So what's his issue? Is he convinced that one of these units in fact collided with the Kursk? It seems that it would be a tad difficult to get a U.S. nuclear boat back into port with damage of the sort that it would *have* to have if this was true. In addition, although I recognize the sub force as the Silent Service, there is a lack of any indicators that something was amiss; a boat not back at base, personnel missing on extended duty, etc. etc.

So, back to the point. Let's talk about 'capabilities.' Sure, we have capabilities. Everyone knows that. Thanks to CNN and other media, we pretty much all know what those capabilities are in the area of submarine rescue. We have two ships, called DSRVs, designed to go down and mate up with a sunken sub. But how would that have helped? The British submersible that did assist is roughly comparable to the DSRV in mission and capabilities, and the Russian government didn't even let it join the rescue effort until it was, by all accounts, too late. How would our offering the DSRV (which we did, stating that we were standing ready to render any assistance requested) have changed things?

So, Curt thinks someone's lying. Well, I point him at his own party, specifically, Representative Porter J. Goss (R-Florida), who said in a Sept. 13 interview that he had received "candid information" from the Clinton administration on the Kursk sinking and said he did not believe a U.S. submarine had collided with the Kursk. Goss, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said it was understandable in his position he would receive more information about the Kursk than some of his colleagues.

"I can understand why people who have less information than I do would still be concerned and I would presume the Navy has ways to deal with that," Goss said. So, Curt, your own party colleague is telling you to go listen to the Navy. We know what they say.

In any case, the Russian government has put forth an incredible number of reasons that the Kursk sank, ranging from an 'unexploded World War II mine' to a 'collision with an unidentified submarine' (surprise, surprise!) to 'we don't know' (which is probably the most truthful to date). The US submarine known to be in the area, the U.S. S. Memphis, returned to port with its data. If the collision was enough to sink the Kursk, a much larger submarine (~508 ft. long/ 19,400 tons displacement for an Oscar II vs ~377 ft./7,800 tons displacement for a Los Angeles such as the Memphis) then the Memphis should have been in comparatively worse shape. Yet it made it back home in good time with its records.

So, to continue ranting, this schmuck Weldon has essentially made the statement that the suspicions of the Russian government, an organization on the defensive, not answerable to the U.S. Public and with an extreme vested interest in deflecting any blame for the sinking, carry more weight with him than the statements of the Clinton Administration. Well, that may be his prerogative, but he's also now told us that he doesn't believe our military any more than the administration. Oh, sure. He's happy to take the Russian government's word over the Navy's. So let's start an investigation into the U.S. Navy's conduct, expose classified information on our submarines and in general undermine the public's confidence in the U.S. military...all because some prickless wonder needs to add his high squeaky voice to the hordes condemning an already-lame-duck presidency.

(rant off)