12 -- An Air Force chaplain who complained that evangelical Christians were
trying to "subvert the system" by winning converts among cadets at the Air Force
Academy was removed from administrative duties last week...
I've always loved reading Jane's. Where else can you keep up to date about the latest dates for the "8th Annual Less-Lethal Weapons Conference"? And then there's the news blotter, where the specialized terminology includes ROW for "rest of the world," as in US military spending will exceed that of the entire ROW, or the rest of the world, in the nezxt 12 months.
Just in case you want to read that memo in which Jack Straw acknowledges straight out that Bush had decided on war first and asked for evidence to back it up and that Blair decided to go along with him knowing that the evidence was thin:
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL UK EYES ONLY
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should
be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know
John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment.
Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to
overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was
worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was
not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime
expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that
regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public
was probably narrowly based.
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a
perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as
inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action,
justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence
and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience
with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the
Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the
aftermath after military action.
CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.
The two broad US options were:
(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short
(72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead
time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).
(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000),
continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead
time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A
The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego
Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf
states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for
UK involvement were:
(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.
(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.
(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps
with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down
two Iraqi divisions.
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of
activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken,
but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action
to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell
this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take
military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case
was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD
capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should
work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN
weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification
for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not
a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal
bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation.
The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on
UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might
of course change.
The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference
politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN
inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was
the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies
for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right,
people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the
military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give
the military plan the space to work.
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan
was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day
one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You
said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added
the Defence Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a
military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this,
US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there
could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore
discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with
John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back
in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.
The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK
military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned
that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum
route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the
political context to Bush.
(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in
any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning
before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US
military that we were considering a range of options.
(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.
(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed
military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.
(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the
background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum
He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of
countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member
(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.
(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.
(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)
Ah the quaint old days of thinking Republicans! Remember when they were serious people, students of the world (rather than the Word), with feet on the ground? Sure those were blue-blooded days, but I'll take a little noblesse oblige over a theocratically-inclined laissez-faire free-for-all any day. At least the old guard, the real remnants of the party of Lincoln, were capable of pragmatic political insight. Like old Eisenhower, the general who saved the world from Fascism but remained wary of war and solemnly warned us about what he first termed "the military-industrial complex" in his parting address to the nation? Equally prescient is another another observation of Ike's:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
It's Science sunday, I guess. Here's another photo, more interesting than the Mars Polar Lander crash site:
Look closely, because that's the first-ever actual photo of a planet outside our solar system. The red glow is 2M1207b, slowly orbiting it's brown dwarf sun somewhere along the slithering body of Hydra. The little feller is actually big: five times the size of Jupiter.
These are satellite images of Mars taken just after the Mars Polar Lander stopped communicating with the mission HQ back at JPL in December 1999. They suspect that the spots on the surface may be the spacecraft's parachute and an imprint from the rocket engines. NASA's going to revisit the area with a Mars-orbiting satellite for some higher-resolution photos of the site to make a positive ID.
What they need to do is add planetary photography to Google maps, which I discovered is strictly terrestrial when the first thing I searched for was the Moon. In addition to the possibility of an insurance adjuster in Omaha having discovered the Lander during a lunch break, imagine how many more hours of conspiratorial scrutiny conversation the face-on-Mars crowd would be able to generate with scrollable zoomable maps of Mars' surface.
I hate to sound like the environmental equivalent of the rapture-ready crowd, but it's impossible not to notice that the collapse of the larsen ice shelf, the worldwide retreat of glaciers (a phenomenon that may even cause earthquakes), and emptying aquifers all may suggest that there may be something to what all those pointy-headed scientists say about climate change and its potential catastrophic effects. Of course, if you're at the vanguard of the new eschatological politics, the traditional conservative head-in-the-sand denials and deliberate blind eyes miss the point: environmental degredation should be recognized, welcomed, and even hastened because it is a sign of imminent apocalypse.
We may not have to wait very long. A decade ago, there was a small study of the Colorado river funded by the U.S. Geological survey that tried to model the water shortage caused by a severe drought. The researchers attempted to create a worst case scenario. They took the conditions of a 38-year drought during the 1500's and made them even worse. As one of the principal authors said:
"This [hypothetical] drought that was really perverse.
It was just the worst kind of drought you could possibly contemplate." Except that their simulation of a monster drought turns out to be milder than the one we're currently facing. Revisiting the topic, the researchers discovered that the recent precipitous water level drops in reservours like Lake Powell are worse than the worst case scenario they'd dreamed up ten years ago.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.