Archive for January, 2005

January 17, 2005

Iranian Invasion Plans

A FOR writes:

Thanks for taking my previous tip to write a column about the upcoming war with Iran. Here is a news lead to further information that this is where Bush’s junta will take things after Iraq: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20050116/ts_nm/iran_usa_newyorker_dc

This needs to be counteracted proactively.

One small point is that “the Left” needs to roll out the slogan: “Support Our Troops. Bring Them Back Home to Their Families Today.” Not to imply that a slogan will have much impact, but that is (yet another) point where the Right has gotten the upper hand back (by equating patriotism with supporting troops to stay in a state of war). Bumper stickers galore with this slogan could change the perspective of the ambivalent middle of the American public.

One other key point is that legislation needs to be pushed through to end the tax exempt status of churches. As the recent election period has shown, these are just sociopolitical organizations, often involved in business-like operations (printing and distributing newsletters, bibles, publications, etc. in exchange for donations, to say nothing of the vast empires of real estate that some churches rent out as landlords or the vast health care systems that they control and profit from).

Thanks for your dedication.

I disagree. The “Support Our Troops” stickers should be replaced with stickers that read “Support Our Wars.” It’s a volunteer military, folks. If there’s no troops, there are no wars–at least not those without widespread support by the American people. I feel badly for the troops, sure, but I feel even worse for the innocent civilians and enemy soldiers they’re killing in foreign lands where we have no business being. This “Support Our Troops” shit is turning the left into fellow travelers in militarism.

January 17, 2005

Iranian Invasion Plans

A FOR writes:

Thanks for taking my previous tip to write a column about the upcoming war with Iran. Here is a news lead to further information that this is where Bush’s junta will take things after Iraq: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20050116/ts_nm/iran_usa_newyorker_dc

This needs to be counteracted proactively.

One small point is that “the Left” needs to roll out the slogan: “Support Our Troops. Bring Them Back Home to Their Families Today.” Not to imply that a slogan will have much impact, but that is (yet another) point where the Right has gotten the upper hand back (by equating patriotism with supporting troops to stay in a state of war). Bumper stickers galore with this slogan could change the perspective of the ambivalent middle of the American public.

One other key point is that legislation needs to be pushed through to end the tax exempt status of churches. As the recent election period has shown, these are just sociopolitical organizations, often involved in business-like operations (printing and distributing newsletters, bibles, publications, etc. in exchange for donations, to say nothing of the vast empires of real estate that some churches rent out as landlords or the vast health care systems that they control and profit from).

Thanks for your dedication.

I disagree. The “Support Our Troops” stickers should be replaced with stickers that read “Support Our Wars.” It’s a volunteer military, folks. If there’s no troops, there are no wars–at least not those without widespread support by the American people. I feel badly for the troops, sure, but I feel even worse for the innocent civilians and enemy soldiers they’re killing in foreign lands where we have no business being. This “Support Our Troops” shit is turning the left into fellow travelers in militarism.

January 17, 2005

As I Predicted Last Year

Well, me and many others. The New Yorker reports that the Bushists have sent troops into Iran. Of course, Iran would be fully justified if it were to delcare war on us for invading their sovereign territory. But we’re big bullies, they’re scared, and most Americans don’t have any problem with that.

Here’s another prediction: If we go to war against Iran, the US will never recover economically or politically. We may not go the way of the Soviet Union, but we’ll give them a run for their lack of money.

January 17, 2005

As I Predicted Last Year

Well, me and many others. The New Yorker reports that the Bushists have sent troops into Iran. Of course, Iran would be fully justified if it were to delcare war on us for invading their sovereign territory. But we’re big bullies, they’re scared, and most Americans don’t have any problem with that.

Here’s another prediction: If we go to war against Iran, the US will never recover economically or politically. We may not go the way of the Soviet Union, but we’ll give them a run for their lack of money.

January 17, 2005

Sometimes Fascists Seem So Polite

Alan writes about last week’s column, “The Normalization of Horror”:

Are you actually suggesting that the current US policy of capturing armed guerilla fighters and holding them as Prisoners of War is the same thing as the Nazi policy of exterminating captured unarmed civilians? I do not possibly think I can explain to you how offensive this is to me, as a Jew, an American and as a former US Army officer.

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re NOT holding them as POWs. Remember? Bush says the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to Afghan prisoners. In Iraq, he said that they did but undermined that statement by endorsing the notorious “torture memo” written by Alberto Gonzales. The fact that Gonzales is about to become Bush’s attorney general tells you how Bush felt about his work.

The vast majority of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and INS gulag inmates were not armed when captured. They were sold to the US by Afghan warlords for a fee. Most are simply someone’s political or personal enemy in the Middle East. According to the US government itself, only about 35 out of thousands and thousands of Muslim detainees held any leadership position in a terrorist organization.

US policy toward Afghan and Iraqi civilians is officially the same as the Nazis in their occupied territories: we don’t. In practice, there is a difference: Nazis were engaged in a systematic program of ethnic cleansing. The United States, on the other hand, drops bombs on civilian targets without care or concern for those living there. The end result is the same: lots of innocent people end up dead who would otherwise still be alive had we never come along. How a “Jew, an American and a former Army officer” could endorse the neofascist Bush Administration is a mystery.

Because I support the decision to fight against Islamic Fascism, you are trying to tell me that I am like a German who went ahead enjoyed life while my Government perpetrated genocide. You are trying to equate President Bush to Hitler and therefore the US Military to the SS and the Gestapo and therefore people like me to a German citizen who happily supported Nazi atrocities.

Lay off the Hitchens. There is no such thing as “Islamic Fascism.” There is radical Islam, of course.

I’m not trying to equate anything. George W. Bush equated himself to Hitler when he seized power in an illegal coup d’état and locked up his political enemies into concentration camps (definition: “A camp where civilians, enemy aliens, political prisoners, and sometimes prisoners of war are detained and confined, typically under harsh conditions”). The US military equated itself to the SS when it began breaking into innocent civilians’ homes during the dead of night and carried off fathers while their wives and children screamed. And we all live like good Germans every day of this wretched post-2000 nightmare that looks like America but is nothing of the sort. If anything, we’re worse than the Germans because we know what’s going on, yet choose not to do anything about it. or worse–like Alan–even make excuses for the neofascists in charge.

Well I suggest that it is people like you, who would rather stand back and do nothing that strengthened Hitler and allowed the Third Reich more time to operate. The Nazi’s did not stop what they were doing because they had a sudden change of heart. The Nazis were defeated militarily. They were destroyed, not persuaded to rethink what they were doing. The Nazi’s were destroyed by the American Military and I am grateful, not ashamed for that.

If Alan had read my work since 9/11, he would know that “doing nothing” has never been my prescription. We should have avenged 9/11, brought the perps to justice and taken steps to make America safer. It is George W. Bush and his neofascists who have done nothing…nothing positive, anyway. One thing is certain: if Bush had been president in 1939, he would have joined the Axis. Hitler was his kind of man, and the Nazis were his sort of peeps.

I believe that I owe my freedom and safety to the people who were and are willing to fight against tyranny. The very least I think we, as people who do not have to go to war ourselves could do, is not send enemy fighters back to the battlefield where they can resume killing U.S. Military personnel. If you think sending Taliban fighters back to Afghanistan to kill more Americans is OK, I would suggest that you are trying to destroy, rather than protect the United States.

Don’t forget, Alan: Taliban fighters weren’t in Afghanistan to kill Americans. They LIVE there. We don’t. If US troops want to avoid attacks in Afghanistan from Afghan resistance fighters, they should leave as most Afghans want them to do.

January 17, 2005

Sometimes Fascists Seem So Polite

Alan writes about last week’s column, “The Normalization of Horror”:

Are you actually suggesting that the current US policy of capturing armed guerilla fighters and holding them as Prisoners of War is the same thing as the Nazi policy of exterminating captured unarmed civilians? I do not possibly think I can explain to you how offensive this is to me, as a Jew, an American and as a former US Army officer.

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re NOT holding them as POWs. Remember? Bush says the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to Afghan prisoners. In Iraq, he said that they did but undermined that statement by endorsing the notorious “torture memo” written by Alberto Gonzales. The fact that Gonzales is about to become Bush’s attorney general tells you how Bush felt about his work.

The vast majority of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and INS gulag inmates were not armed when captured. They were sold to the US by Afghan warlords for a fee. Most are simply someone’s political or personal enemy in the Middle East. According to the US government itself, only about 35 out of thousands and thousands of Muslim detainees held any leadership position in a terrorist organization.

US policy toward Afghan and Iraqi civilians is officially the same as the Nazis in their occupied territories: we don’t. In practice, there is a difference: Nazis were engaged in a systematic program of ethnic cleansing. The United States, on the other hand, drops bombs on civilian targets without care or concern for those living there. The end result is the same: lots of innocent people end up dead who would otherwise still be alive had we never come along. How a “Jew, an American and a former Army officer” could endorse the neofascist Bush Administration is a mystery.

Because I support the decision to fight against Islamic Fascism, you are trying to tell me that I am like a German who went ahead enjoyed life while my Government perpetrated genocide. You are trying to equate President Bush to Hitler and therefore the US Military to the SS and the Gestapo and therefore people like me to a German citizen who happily supported Nazi atrocities.

Lay off the Hitchens. There is no such thing as “Islamic Fascism.” There is radical Islam, of course.

I’m not trying to equate anything. George W. Bush equated himself to Hitler when he seized power in an illegal coup d’état and locked up his political enemies into concentration camps (definition: “A camp where civilians, enemy aliens, political prisoners, and sometimes prisoners of war are detained and confined, typically under harsh conditions”). The US military equated itself to the SS when it began breaking into innocent civilians’ homes during the dead of night and carried off fathers while their wives and children screamed. And we all live like good Germans every day of this wretched post-2000 nightmare that looks like America but is nothing of the sort. If anything, we’re worse than the Germans because we know what’s going on, yet choose not to do anything about it. or worse–like Alan–even make excuses for the neofascists in charge.

Well I suggest that it is people like you, who would rather stand back and do nothing that strengthened Hitler and allowed the Third Reich more time to operate. The Nazi’s did not stop what they were doing because they had a sudden change of heart. The Nazis were defeated militarily. They were destroyed, not persuaded to rethink what they were doing. The Nazi’s were destroyed by the American Military and I am grateful, not ashamed for that.

If Alan had read my work since 9/11, he would know that “doing nothing” has never been my prescription. We should have avenged 9/11, brought the perps to justice and taken steps to make America safer. It is George W. Bush and his neofascists who have done nothing…nothing positive, anyway. One thing is certain: if Bush had been president in 1939, he would have joined the Axis. Hitler was his kind of man, and the Nazis were his sort of peeps.

I believe that I owe my freedom and safety to the people who were and are willing to fight against tyranny. The very least I think we, as people who do not have to go to war ourselves could do, is not send enemy fighters back to the battlefield where they can resume killing U.S. Military personnel. If you think sending Taliban fighters back to Afghanistan to kill more Americans is OK, I would suggest that you are trying to destroy, rather than protect the United States.

Don’t forget, Alan: Taliban fighters weren’t in Afghanistan to kill Americans. They LIVE there. We don’t. If US troops want to avoid attacks in Afghanistan from Afghan resistance fighters, they should leave as most Afghans want them to do.

January 14, 2005

America’s Funniest Right-Wing Emails

Renata asks:

Not only did “Dimitry” (a desperate attempt to americanize a clearly foreign name?) win Funniest Right-Wing Email of the Day, he may also have taken home the prize for Funniest Way Ever to Spell “Massachusetts”, don’t you think?

By the way, I know this may be way too much trouble for you, but how about a

Funniest Right-Wing Email Ever contest? That is, if you do keep track of all

the junk you get. You could post some of your all-time favorites and then

let us, your loyal readers and supporters, vote and pick the best one. (We

could even make a reenactment of the latest presidential elections and

actually pick the guy who LOST as the winner!) And the prize, well, how

about a one-way ticket to Gitmo with the chance to be part of the whole “a

more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions” extravaganza?

Sure would be fun!

You’re right. As fun a project as AFRWE would be, it would be way too much trouble. And my in box just isn’t big enough to store all the idiocy I receive from people who regretably enjoy the same right to vote as the rest of us.

Renata also writes the

Jen and Brad Dish Update

I also hear that Brad’s recent, close friendship with Angelina Jolie

bothered Jen.

Comprise This!

Christine responds to Snotty Dave by noting that he has been wrong since the 18th century:

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

One entry found for comprise.

Main Entry: com·prise

Pronunciation: k&m-‘prIz

Function: transitive verb

Inflected Form(s): com·prised; com·pris·ing

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere

1 : to include especially within a particular scope

2 : to be made up of

3 : COMPOSE, CONSTITUTE usage

Although it has been in use since the late 18th century, sense 3 is still attacked as wrong. Why it has been singled out is not clear, but until comparatively recent times it was found chiefly in scientific or technical writing rather than belles lettres. Our current evidence shows a slight shift in usage: sense 3 is somewhat more frequent in recent literary use than the earlier senses. You should be aware, however, that if you use sense 3 you may be subject to criticism for doing so, and you may want to choose a safer synonym such as compose or make up.

Gitmo Apologist

Using many of the arguments au courrant on rightist talk radio, GOR (Gadly of Rall) Ira writes:

Your compassion for our Gitmo inmates is admirable. However, you should recognize that anyone who was a member of the Taliban participated in

doing to an entire country, the same thing that they are now experiencing.

According to the Pentagon, only about three dozen out of the thousands of Muslims rotting away in US gulags (now, for life!) were leaders of the Taliban regime or Al Qaeda officials. The remainder were grunt soldiers, ordinary tribal militia with no more say in Taliban law than an ordinary American GI has on American foreign policy. By Ira’s logic any US serviceperson, or even civilian as many of the Gitmo detainees are, is legally responsible for the most egregious crimes committed by George W. Bush and other leaders. God, I hope not!

And after 9/11, anyone hanging around to shoot at Americans in Afghanistan already knew he didn’t have a bright future.

Yo, Ira–forgetting something? Americans aren’t supposed to BE in Afghanistan. And if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be getting shot at…there.

These people are very committed to their cause. They are doing God’s work by trying to destroy our way of life.

They don’t give a shit about our way of life. Islamists want to alter the way of life in their countries. Granted, their ideology is something I disagree with. But that doesn’t give me the right to overthrow their government. Afghan women can and should rise up to liberate themselves. And it’s the only way it’ll stick, anyway.

The most amusing thing is that because of their ideology, their incarceration causes them less anguish than it does you.

Right. Because Muslims aren’t normal people. They LIKE having flashlights rammed up their ass. They love being beaten to a pulp, sometimes to death. Just like the Vietnamese didn’t value life as much as we do.

You are right, that it is unlikely any additional useful information will be obtained. However, I think another option is a viable solution. Perhaps you and a collection of likeminded civil libertarians could each volunteer to take permanent legal guardianship of a terrorist and put them up at your place until they are fully ready to resume their terrorist lifestyle. This would unburden the taxpayers, and remove a major headache for the Administration. Sounds like a win-win situation.

First, how do you KNOW that any of these guys are terrorists? Answer: you don’t. The government says they are–well, that a few of them are. Why should we believe them? Governments lie all the time; it’s what they do best. One of the best things about conservatives used to be their healthy distrust of central authority. It’s too bad they seem to have forgotten about that.

Abu Ghraib Began Here

Don’t forget, the Abu Ghraib prison guards started out as corrections officers here in the states. The heinous tactics they used in Iraq and elsewhere are tortures they brought with them from their previous experience in American prisons, as Keith reminds us:

I agree with The Normalization of Horror. When I see Americans shopping and acting like nothing is going on it just makes me sick. I was tortured 3 times by members of Special Operations Unit of the San Francisco Police Department. This happened in the 1990’s to me and several of my friends for feeding the hungry as a protest with Food Not Bombs. Its not to clear what we can do to wake Americans up but I returned to America to see what I could do. I am working on a Walkout for January 20th and March 18th. Anyway thanks for your great work.

A reminder that it is the patriotic duty of any American attending the Inauguration to turn their backs on Generalissimo El Busho.

US to Employ Death Squads Against Iraq

Herb writes:

I thought I heard recently that the CIA wants to employ death squads in Iraq…did I hear right? Did this get any attention from the press? Also, regarding the emailer Dimitry that you mentioned in your blog: I can understand the grammatical and spelling errors, but why does he have so much trouble

with punctuation? I took Russian in college, and I can assure you that commas and periods do exist in that language. The correct usage of said punctuation should

not be a foreign concept to him. Maybe he grew up next to Chernobyl.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Dimitry, but I suspect that similar strangeness exists in every tongue. There was extensive coverage in the progressive and European media about the Pentagon plan to deploy death squads against Sunni clerics and other Iraqi patriots, but the story began with Newsweek.

Lasers in Cockpits

Jim writes:

I think it’s time that someone publicly challenges these claims of lasers being shined (shone?, whatever) in cockpits. The claim is that an aircraft in flight, on approach, etc. is targeted by a laser and that the laser is capable of being held on a small target (pilot’s eyes) long enough to cause retinal damage or to momentarily blind the pilot. This is nonsense. Try this: Buy a laser pointer and take it outside. Find a street sign a block or two away and tell me how long you can hold the dot on a point on that sign, say the center of the O in STOP. Remember not to let the laser point into the sky or you may be charged under the Patriot Act. Imagine trying to do the same thing to an object several miles away. Simple geometry belies the claims.

The displacement of the dot is given by D * tan a, where D is the distance to the target and a is the angle. At one mile, the displacement of the dot by just one degree is 92 feet. You would need some very accurate tracking equipment to maintain a position within less than an inch on a target moving in excess of 200 miles an hour relative to the laser. Note that if the beam spreads out, so is it’s energy spread out over the area. For every laser there is a calculation for the amount of time of exposure required to induce retinal damage. The pupil size

and the beam width at target distance would need to be taken into account. I’m not a laser expert, but have worked with them as part of my physics studies in college. I enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.

I worked with lasers too, whenn I was a physics major at Columbia. I agree; there is zero possibility that these stories are anything more than hogwash. There’s too much diffusion at such a great distance.

Sticker

Matthew writes:

it’s too bad i didn’t see this earlier.. it’s a Bush/Pinochet bumper sticker http://www.cafepress.com/patriotboy.11775480

hey, it’s never too late.

What Should We Do?

Lee writes:

This liberal still thinks torture is wrong, not merely impractical. But what am I to do? I did what I could to stop this well-intentioned evil, but Kerry lost. What can I do that has enough of a chance to succeed that it’s worth taking away time I could spend with my wife and three children?

I wish I knew. Which is why I’m thinking about exactly that. The answer will present itself if good people focus on the problem.

January 14, 2005

America’s Funniest Right-Wing Emails

Renata asks:

Not only did “Dimitry” (a desperate attempt to americanize a clearly foreign name?) win Funniest Right-Wing Email of the Day, he may also have taken home the prize for Funniest Way Ever to Spell “Massachusetts”, don’t you think?

By the way, I know this may be way too much trouble for you, but how about a

Funniest Right-Wing Email Ever contest? That is, if you do keep track of all

the junk you get. You could post some of your all-time favorites and then

let us, your loyal readers and supporters, vote and pick the best one. (We

could even make a reenactment of the latest presidential elections and

actually pick the guy who LOST as the winner!) And the prize, well, how

about a one-way ticket to Gitmo with the chance to be part of the whole “a

more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions” extravaganza?

Sure would be fun!

You’re right. As fun a project as AFRWE would be, it would be way too much trouble. And my in box just isn’t big enough to store all the idiocy I receive from people who regretably enjoy the same right to vote as the rest of us.

Renata also writes the

Jen and Brad Dish Update

I also hear that Brad’s recent, close friendship with Angelina Jolie

bothered Jen.

Comprise This!

Christine responds to Snotty Dave by noting that he has been wrong since the 18th century:

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

One entry found for comprise.

Main Entry: com·prise

Pronunciation: k&m-‘prIz

Function: transitive verb

Inflected Form(s): com·prised; com·pris·ing

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French compris, past participle of comprendre, from Latin comprehendere

1 : to include especially within a particular scope

2 : to be made up of

3 : COMPOSE, CONSTITUTE usage

Although it has been in use since the late 18th century, sense 3 is still attacked as wrong. Why it has been singled out is not clear, but until comparatively recent times it was found chiefly in scientific or technical writing rather than belles lettres. Our current evidence shows a slight shift in usage: sense 3 is somewhat more frequent in recent literary use than the earlier senses. You should be aware, however, that if you use sense 3 you may be subject to criticism for doing so, and you may want to choose a safer synonym such as compose or make up.

Gitmo Apologist

Using many of the arguments au courrant on rightist talk radio, GOR (Gadly of Rall) Ira writes:

Your compassion for our Gitmo inmates is admirable. However, you should recognize that anyone who was a member of the Taliban participated in

doing to an entire country, the same thing that they are now experiencing.

According to the Pentagon, only about three dozen out of the thousands of Muslims rotting away in US gulags (now, for life!) were leaders of the Taliban regime or Al Qaeda officials. The remainder were grunt soldiers, ordinary tribal militia with no more say in Taliban law than an ordinary American GI has on American foreign policy. By Ira’s logic any US serviceperson, or even civilian as many of the Gitmo detainees are, is legally responsible for the most egregious crimes committed by George W. Bush and other leaders. God, I hope not!

And after 9/11, anyone hanging around to shoot at Americans in Afghanistan already knew he didn’t have a bright future.

Yo, Ira–forgetting something? Americans aren’t supposed to BE in Afghanistan. And if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be getting shot at…there.

These people are very committed to their cause. They are doing God’s work by trying to destroy our way of life.

They don’t give a shit about our way of life. Islamists want to alter the way of life in their countries. Granted, their ideology is something I disagree with. But that doesn’t give me the right to overthrow their government. Afghan women can and should rise up to liberate themselves. And it’s the only way it’ll stick, anyway.

The most amusing thing is that because of their ideology, their incarceration causes them less anguish than it does you.

Right. Because Muslims aren’t normal people. They LIKE having flashlights rammed up their ass. They love being beaten to a pulp, sometimes to death. Just like the Vietnamese didn’t value life as much as we do.

You are right, that it is unlikely any additional useful information will be obtained. However, I think another option is a viable solution. Perhaps you and a collection of likeminded civil libertarians could each volunteer to take permanent legal guardianship of a terrorist and put them up at your place until they are fully ready to resume their terrorist lifestyle. This would unburden the taxpayers, and remove a major headache for the Administration. Sounds like a win-win situation.

First, how do you KNOW that any of these guys are terrorists? Answer: you don’t. The government says they are–well, that a few of them are. Why should we believe them? Governments lie all the time; it’s what they do best. One of the best things about conservatives used to be their healthy distrust of central authority. It’s too bad they seem to have forgotten about that.

Abu Ghraib Began Here

Don’t forget, the Abu Ghraib prison guards started out as corrections officers here in the states. The heinous tactics they used in Iraq and elsewhere are tortures they brought with them from their previous experience in American prisons, as Keith reminds us:

I agree with The Normalization of Horror. When I see Americans shopping and acting like nothing is going on it just makes me sick. I was tortured 3 times by members of Special Operations Unit of the San Francisco Police Department. This happened in the 1990’s to me and several of my friends for feeding the hungry as a protest with Food Not Bombs. Its not to clear what we can do to wake Americans up but I returned to America to see what I could do. I am working on a Walkout for January 20th and March 18th. Anyway thanks for your great work.

A reminder that it is the patriotic duty of any American attending the Inauguration to turn their backs on Generalissimo El Busho.

US to Employ Death Squads Against Iraq

Herb writes:

I thought I heard recently that the CIA wants to employ death squads in Iraq…did I hear right? Did this get any attention from the press? Also, regarding the emailer Dimitry that you mentioned in your blog: I can understand the grammatical and spelling errors, but why does he have so much trouble

with punctuation? I took Russian in college, and I can assure you that commas and periods do exist in that language. The correct usage of said punctuation should

not be a foreign concept to him. Maybe he grew up next to Chernobyl.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Dimitry, but I suspect that similar strangeness exists in every tongue. There was extensive coverage in the progressive and European media about the Pentagon plan to deploy death squads against Sunni clerics and other Iraqi patriots, but the story began with Newsweek.

Lasers in Cockpits

Jim writes:

I think it’s time that someone publicly challenges these claims of lasers being shined (shone?, whatever) in cockpits. The claim is that an aircraft in flight, on approach, etc. is targeted by a laser and that the laser is capable of being held on a small target (pilot’s eyes) long enough to cause retinal damage or to momentarily blind the pilot. This is nonsense. Try this: Buy a laser pointer and take it outside. Find a street sign a block or two away and tell me how long you can hold the dot on a point on that sign, say the center of the O in STOP. Remember not to let the laser point into the sky or you may be charged under the Patriot Act. Imagine trying to do the same thing to an object several miles away. Simple geometry belies the claims.

The displacement of the dot is given by D * tan a, where D is the distance to the target and a is the angle. At one mile, the displacement of the dot by just one degree is 92 feet. You would need some very accurate tracking equipment to maintain a position within less than an inch on a target moving in excess of 200 miles an hour relative to the laser. Note that if the beam spreads out, so is it’s energy spread out over the area. For every laser there is a calculation for the amount of time of exposure required to induce retinal damage. The pupil size

and the beam width at target distance would need to be taken into account. I’m not a laser expert, but have worked with them as part of my physics studies in college. I enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.

I worked with lasers too, whenn I was a physics major at Columbia. I agree; there is zero possibility that these stories are anything more than hogwash. There’s too much diffusion at such a great distance.

Sticker

Matthew writes:

it’s too bad i didn’t see this earlier.. it’s a Bush/Pinochet bumper sticker http://www.cafepress.com/patriotboy.11775480

hey, it’s never too late.

What Should We Do?

Lee writes:

This liberal still thinks torture is wrong, not merely impractical. But what am I to do? I did what I could to stop this well-intentioned evil, but Kerry lost. What can I do that has enough of a chance to succeed that it’s worth taking away time I could spend with my wife and three children?

I wish I knew. Which is why I’m thinking about exactly that. The answer will present itself if good people focus on the problem.

January 13, 2005

Pretzel Logic

Lawson writes:

Since the Gestapo hasn’t hauled you away yet, and your still able to write your hate America columns, where’s the similarity to Nazi Germany? All of the articles on Common Dreams, are absolutely unbelievable. Only in America. Please move.

I replied:

In 1936, the Gestapo hadn’t yet taken away all anti-Nazi political opponents. So was 1936 Nazi Germany OK with you?

and I should have added, to make things clearer for his befuddled brain, that an Administration that is trying to turn the United States into a neofascist state is dangerous and well worth commenting upon. The fact that they haven’t yet succeeded is mildly comforting but should prompt increased vigilance rather than somnolence.

Snotty David Redux

Brooklyn Steve writes:

If Snotty David intends to be the unappointed grammarian of tedrall.com, he should know that “Just something to think about the next time you decide to grace us all with your pearls of wisdom” is not a sentence but a fragment. This is, of course, an even more fundamental–even “remedial”–error than your misuse of “comprised.” As a self-proclaimed critic of professional writers, his not knowing such a simple and easily verifiable item calls into question his entire e-mail, perhaps his entire existence.

Myamnar’s WMDs

Nick asks:

Longtime fan; I’ll keep it short.

In the Jan 8th “US Invasion Plans” comic, is Burma green on purpose? I’d expected red.

Yes. Burma is strongly believed (by more reliable sources than GWB) to possess chemical weapons. Not to worry, though–we won’t invade them because they don’t have much oil or gas.

Why Bush Won’t Be Impeached

Wrinkle writes:

…..maybe “rejoinder” isn’t the right word. anyway, I was reading your blog and I felt I had to respond to one of your readers, who wondered why Americans aren’t clamoring for impeachment now that W’s “team” couldn’t find

WMD’s in Iraq. That’s a wonderful dream, and very attractive. Notwithstanding the utter legal impossibility of the prospect, what with Rethuglicans controlling all avenues of impeachment, a successful impeachment of Bush would give us a new, far more horrific nightmare in the form of 2 words: PRESIDENT CHENEY. Yeeeesh. a possible bright side to *that*? the FCC might get more lenient towards dropping the “F bomb” on TV to accomodate Cheney’s yearly press conferences….. love the strip,

Impeachment is a political, not legal process. It’s virtually impossible to convince a Congress controlled by a party to impeach a president of the same party. The founding fathers never anticipated a rigid two-party system; as we’ve seen since 2000, checks and balances fall apart when one party has control over all three branches of government on both the federal and state levels.

January 13, 2005

Pretzel Logic

Lawson writes:

Since the Gestapo hasn’t hauled you away yet, and your still able to write your hate America columns, where’s the similarity to Nazi Germany? All of the articles on Common Dreams, are absolutely unbelievable. Only in America. Please move.

I replied:

In 1936, the Gestapo hadn’t yet taken away all anti-Nazi political opponents. So was 1936 Nazi Germany OK with you?

and I should have added, to make things clearer for his befuddled brain, that an Administration that is trying to turn the United States into a neofascist state is dangerous and well worth commenting upon. The fact that they haven’t yet succeeded is mildly comforting but should prompt increased vigilance rather than somnolence.

Snotty David Redux

Brooklyn Steve writes:

If Snotty David intends to be the unappointed grammarian of tedrall.com, he should know that “Just something to think about the next time you decide to grace us all with your pearls of wisdom” is not a sentence but a fragment. This is, of course, an even more fundamental–even “remedial”–error than your misuse of “comprised.” As a self-proclaimed critic of professional writers, his not knowing such a simple and easily verifiable item calls into question his entire e-mail, perhaps his entire existence.

Myamnar’s WMDs

Nick asks:

Longtime fan; I’ll keep it short.

In the Jan 8th “US Invasion Plans” comic, is Burma green on purpose? I’d expected red.

Yes. Burma is strongly believed (by more reliable sources than GWB) to possess chemical weapons. Not to worry, though–we won’t invade them because they don’t have much oil or gas.

Why Bush Won’t Be Impeached

Wrinkle writes:

…..maybe “rejoinder” isn’t the right word. anyway, I was reading your blog and I felt I had to respond to one of your readers, who wondered why Americans aren’t clamoring for impeachment now that W’s “team” couldn’t find

WMD’s in Iraq. That’s a wonderful dream, and very attractive. Notwithstanding the utter legal impossibility of the prospect, what with Rethuglicans controlling all avenues of impeachment, a successful impeachment of Bush would give us a new, far more horrific nightmare in the form of 2 words: PRESIDENT CHENEY. Yeeeesh. a possible bright side to *that*? the FCC might get more lenient towards dropping the “F bomb” on TV to accomodate Cheney’s yearly press conferences….. love the strip,

Impeachment is a political, not legal process. It’s virtually impossible to convince a Congress controlled by a party to impeach a president of the same party. The founding fathers never anticipated a rigid two-party system; as we’ve seen since 2000, checks and balances fall apart when one party has control over all three branches of government on both the federal and state levels.