Friday, October 15, 2004

Mixed Messages 

Some people take it too far. Take these soldiers over in Iraq. They get three meals a day, they get to carry around guns, and ride around in Hummers. And now, some of them are refusing duty in Iraq. Talk about sending mixed messages! What kind of a message is that sending George W. Bush in an election year to refuse to go on a suicide mission in his war? Do they have any sense of duty? How do they think that makes George W. Bush feel? Man!
A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.

The platoon could be charged with the willful disobeying of orders, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and up to five years confinement, said military law expert Mark Stevens, an associate professor of justice studies at Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C.

"I got a call from an officer in another unit early (Thursday) morning who told me that my husband and his platoon had been arrested on a bogus charge because they refused to go on a suicide mission," said Jackie Butler of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year reservist. "When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to be something major."

Heathens! I miss the good old days when military commanders would not have to deal with the media in this matter but take this group of seventeen out back and summarily execute them. Man, those were the days.


Kerry Continues 

Viewers across the country actually thought better of Kerry in the last debate than I did personally, with most polls finding the Democrat to have won handily. For me his best answer was the last one, in which he managed to evoke his mother on her death bed, take a dig at Bush for not having any integrity, paint himself as a regular person who needs his daughters and his wife to remind him not to take himself too seriously, and avoided talking too much about his rich wife with a European accent.

But for many voters, I think his resolve in promising to "hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are," was the most reassuring thing. Kerry's taken a beating from the GOP that he's too weak to handle the terrorists, but he's done a good job of countering that. Like Reagan before him, Kerry promised, he would not back down. At a campaign stop in New Mexico yesterday, Kerry elaborated on this theme.
"Let me make it perfectly clear," Kerry told the cheering crowd of supporters, "I do not now, nor have I ever believed that any country has the power to veto America's right to protect itself. America's security comes first for me now, and it always will. I will protect America. I will defend America.

"I will hunt down the terrorists, like rabid dogs, and murder them. Personally if need be.

"Like great leaders of the past -- Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Genghis Khan, Hannibal, Caligula, Vlad the Impaler -- I will show no quarter to these quivering husks of men. And women. Some of them are women. But this is no reason to let up for even a moment, until all the blood is drained from their cowardly bodies. I promise to use every weapon at my disposal, to, in fact, demand that terrorists be brought back to me alive, and laid out on the White House lawn, where I will perform an elaborate sacrificial ritual, mirroring the proud tradition of the Incas, and pray to the gods to damn these evil terrorists to an eternal journey through the fires of hell.

"I will strangle the leaders of al Qaeda with my own hands. I am the only presidential candidate who can say that he's looked a man in the eye and then killed him dead. I have done it before, and I will do it again.

"Not only will I kill the terrorists, I will drink their blood on national television, mocking a marionette puppet of both George W. Bush -- whom I believe loves this country very much -- and Osama bin Laden, who hates it. I will drink their blood and balance the budget. We did it in the 90s, and we'll do it again when I'm commander in chief. Budget, bin Laden, blood. The three B's for the next four years. That's my promise to you, America." Kerry then shot off into the sky with what appeared to be a jet pack, waving to the crowd as fireworks exploded around him.

That's some shit.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Gosh and Gosh 

As to the bulge: it was recently suggested to me that perhaps the President was wearing a bullet proof vest or body armor of some kind (the Kind FlipFlopKerry voted against, presumably). Apparently, lots of people had the same idea. And I also came across one of the best bulge theories I've heard. El Oh El!

But the New York Times -- you know, the newspaper Timothy McVeigh would have blown up if he'd just had Ann Coulter over for dinner -- reports that he was not wearing one at the debate.
When the online magazine Salon published an article about the rumors on Friday, the speculation reached such a pitch that White House and campaign officials were inundated with calls.

First they said that pictures showing the bulge might have been doctored. But then, when the bulge turned out to be clearly visible in the television footage of the evening, they offered a different explanation.

"There was nothing under his suit jacket," said Nicolle Devenish, a campaign spokeswoman.

"It was most likely a rumpling of that portion of his suit jacket, or a wrinkle in the fabric."

Ms. Devenish could not say why the "rumpling" was rectangular.

Nor was the bulge from a bulletproof vest, according to campaign and White House officials; they said Mr. Bush was not wearing one.
Notice how I conveniently boldfaced the important bits there. It doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the White House denies he was wearing a bullet proof vest. Why would they admit to that? What's more interesting is how they claim to own the study of metaphysics. Jedi shit.

Scott McClellan, donned in a long robe, waves his hand toward a reporter: "There was nothing under his jacket."

Reporter, in a robotic voice: "There was nothing under his jacket.

McClellan: "It was just a wrinkle."

Reporter: "It was just a wrinkle."

McClellan: "Not that the President has cheap suits, they're the best suits money can buy. But not too expensive. Not too fancy. He doesn't spend a lot of money on his suits. Not like, um, John Kerry."

Reporter, confused: "Not expensive. Money can buy... the President... Kerry...."

McClellan: "There was nothing under his jacket."

Reporter: "There was nothing under his jacket."


Monday, October 11, 2004

Oh No 

The back bulge just won't go away! My pops just sent me this photo from the second debate. Um...

And on the link from the photo, bobfertik.com there's a letter from an interpreter, Fred Burks, who claims to have knowledge that Bush uses an earpiece. Um...
As a deep insider myself, I have independent confirmation of President Bush using an earpiece to assist him in communicating intelligently with others. I've worked as a contract Indonesian language interpreter with the US State Department for over 18 years. I first started interpreting at the presidential level in 1995...

On September 19, 2001, just eight days after 9/11, I was in the White House interpreting for an important 90-minute meeting between President Bush and President Megawati Soekarnoputri of Indonesia...

This was my first time interpreting for Bush. The previous day, I had been given the 22 points Bush would be covering in this meeting in order to familiarize myself with the topics to be discussed. About half of these "talking points" had to do with terrorism, which was to be fully expected given what had just happened. The other points, however, involved many details of Indonesian politics which even I would have had a tough time addressing, let alone Bush, who I assumed had limited knowledge of Indonesia.

During those 90 minutes, President Bush not only covered all the points, he covered them quite well and without any notes! Not once during the entire meeting did he look at any notes or receive cues from anyone present in discussing the Indonesian political situation with depth and intelligence. I was astonished! "How could this be?" I asked myself.

Having worked directly with President Bush twice since then, and having additionally talked with many of my fellow interpreters who have worked directly with him, I am now certain that he could not have had that much knowledge of Indonesia. He doesn't even read the daily newspaper to keep up with what's being reported in the press. I am convinced that he must have been using some sort of earpiece through which someone was telling him what to say.

Well, that's not exactly irrefutable proof, but it's interesting. He goes on to relay an anecdote in which one of his colleagues witnessed Bush throw a mammoth and foul-mouthed temper tantrum, and then turn around to be nice as pie. No big whoop there.

I'll have to read more on this Mr. Burks.



The other night, I and a few friends were musing on the future of technology, the rapidity with which information is produced, packaged and distributed, and where today's mystifying advances will take us. We figured there would be a day, as has been foreseen in many a sci-fi film, when we all sit around with wires plugged into our heads, thinking and receiving data at the speed of instantaneousness. (One unbeliever would only concede to an advanced iPod that had your TV, internet, and music library all rolled into one -- blah. I want near sentient cybernetic interface devices by the time I'm 50!)

Though we spoke of this with dismay, the worst that would really come of our reckonings is something akin to Space-Age sloth. We didn't even hit on military advances, and then this shows up.
The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter -- in future weapons.

[C]ataclysmic possible uses include a new generation of super weapons -- either pure antimatter bombs or antimatter-triggered nuclear weapons; the former wouldn't emit radioactive fallout. Another possibility is antimatter- powered "electromagnetic pulse" weapons that could fry an enemy's electric power grid and communications networks, leaving him literally in the dark and unable to operate his society and armed forces.

Following an initial inquiry from The Chronicle this summer, the Air Force forbade its employees from publicly discussing the antimatter research program. Still, details on the program appear in numerous Air Force documents distributed over the Internet prior to the ban.

The energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons [the force behind theorized anti-matter weapons] "is 10 billion times ... that of high explosive," [Air Force "revolutionary munitions" director Kenneth] Edwards explained in his March speech.

One millionth of a gram of positrons contain as much energy as 37.8 kilograms (83 pounds) of TNT, according to Edwards' March speech. A simple calculation, then, shows that about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean" superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside.

But talk of "clean" superbombs worries critics. " 'Clean' nuclear weapons are more dangerous than dirty ones because they are more likely to be used," said an e-mail from science historian George Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., author of "Project Orion," a 2002 study on a Cold War-era attempt to design a nuclear spaceship. Still, Dyson adds, antimatter weapons are "a long, long way off."

Experts (Jesus. There are antimatter experts now?!) say the technology is a long way off because it is too hard and too expensive to produce the stuff. One billionth of a gram would cost about $6,000,000,000.00 right now. So basically, it's nothing to worry about, really. Not till you read about an explosion in Beijing from your cranial iPod, anyway.

(Through democratic Underground.


Even Lex Luthor is Sad 

The man who we all knew as Superman has died. I don't know if he was a great man, but he sure made himself look like a role model, and for what it's worth, Superman 2, in which he give up his powers for love, acts as a model for human behavior for me to this day. RIP Chris.
Paralyzed film actor Christopher Reeve, who played Superman, has died of heart failure, a spokesman said on Monday.

Reeve publicist Wesley Combs told reporters the American actor, 52, died in a New York hospital on Sunday.

He said in a statement Reeve went into a coma on Saturday after suffering a heart attack at his home during treatment for a pressure wound.

"The wound had become severely infected...Reeve was admitted to Northern Westchester Hospital on Saturday evening and never regained consciousness," the statement said.

Reeve has been confined to a wheelchair after suffering multiple injuries, including two shattered neck vertebrae, when he was thrown from his horse at an equestrian event in 1995.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Abortion Notes 

We all heard Bush speak so covertly about Roe V. Wade and his people's plans to overturn it at the last debate. He spoke of "sensible" ways to protect life: like the new law that could try a murderer twice when he kills a pregnant mother (once for her, once for the baby), and the ban on partial birth abortion. (We also saw him look like an idiot after Kerry's answer on the abortion question -- which I did think was clear: he can't morally support the practice; but nor can he legislate a personal article of faith that others may not share -- when Bush got up and shook his head in mock confusion and said "I'm still trying to decipher that!")

But then there was that stuff about Dred Scott. I really couldn't figure it out, but I found a link through Political Animal today that may point us in the right direction.

Some people seem to be a bit boggled by Bush's Dred Scott remark last night. It wasn't about racism or slavery, or just Bush's natural incoherence. Here's what Bush actually said:

If elected to another term, I promise that I will nominate Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Bush couldn't say that in plain language, because it would freak out every moderate swing voter in the country, but he can say it in code, to make sure that his base will turn out for him. Anti-choice advocates have been comparing Roe v. Wade with Dred Scott v. Sandford for some time now. There is a constant drumbeat on the religious right to compare the contemporary culture war over abortion with the 19th century fight over slavery, with the anti-choicers cast in the role of the abolitionists.

Further, Bush has to describe Dred Scott as about wrongheaded personal beliefs, rather than a fairly constricted constitutional interpretation because he needs to paint Roe v. Wade the same way, and he wants "strict constructionists" in the Supreme Court, so he can't really talk about the actual rationale used in Dred Scott.

I did look up a few articles to this end, and, though my constitutional law knowledge is a bit rusty, I had a hard time following the relationship. From one piece:
As public sentiment is becoming more and more pro-life, a change in abortion law at the federal level becomes more and more plausible. Before 1972, it was almost guaranteed that some states would have legalized abortion, available to anybody in the country, regardless of national sentiment. Liberals should defend that "states rights" scenario over the possibility of a pro-life law that applies to everyone in the country. We, who defend "state's rights," or the 10th Amendment, are defending the right of the various states to a wide and diverse mix of policies, some liberal, and some conservative...

Dred Scott shows us two things: The mischief that "activist" judges always do, and the fact that people are sometimes willing to resort to a Constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling. If that happens with abortion, liberals will rue the day they championed Roe v. Wade. They will wish for judges that apply the law, and for the right of states to have policy decided democratically by their legislatures. At that time it will be too late.

Gosh, us liberals. I already recognized the undertones in Bush's statements about partial birth abortion, protecting fetuses and a judge who would strictly interpret the Constitution, but this takes it to a new level. By referring so specifically to a code word used only in small circles, Bush sent out a clear message to his base and to rabid pro-lifers that he is on their side and his ultimate aim would be to overturn Roe V. Wade, just as Dred Scott overturned in the 19th Century-- even if he couldn't say it that obviously; if he had, the rest of the country would have heard, scaring off a goodly number of women, moderates and "undecideds."

I also found this letter from Mother Theresa to the Supreme Court after 1973's Roe v. Wade. She was pretty pissed. And this quote sounds familiar to a favorite line of our Dear Leader's:
Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity.

And believe it or not, Kerry's position on abortion is almost exactly how I feel about the issue. There are other ways to discourage and decrease the pratice without legislating restriction on women's bodies.


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