HOW MUCH PENETRATION IS ENOUGH?

Posted in Rants on August 30th, 2007 by Ed

(Editor's note: let's get the giggles out of the way up front. 'Penetration.' Snicker.)

As most sentient beings have realized since mid-2005, war with Iran is essentially inevitable. Our Leader is "not prepared to leave the situation unresolved" and he's now touring VFW halls (ooh…tough crowd!) using the pre-Iraq fearmongering script almost word-for-word. But aside from the generalized concept of "war with Iran" and "another clusterfuck" I doubt many people have considered what's actually going to happen when the inevitable decision to attack is made.

First, let's lay out a couple of basic facts. Iran has no nuclear weapons at the moment. The surest proof is that Israel is not on fire. What they do have is a nuclear energy program, from which the imaginative mind (and thank god we have plenty of those at the top!) could extrapolate that they are enriching uranium (or, less likely, plutonium) for weapons use. Second, thanks to the four years of wasted resources and energy in Iraq, the American military is in no position to sustain another massive ground-war-and-occupation mission in an even more hostile country. So what are we going to see? Airstrikes. Lots of things falling from the sky and exploding. Because nothing says "AEI-funded warmonger with no balls" quite like lobbing cruise missiles from a few hundred miles away.

The linchpin of the Iranian nuclear program is the Natanz fuel enrichment site. I encourage you, rather than breezing past the link, to look at this map for a moment. If Iran is in fact attempting to build nuclear weapons, eliminating their ability to enrich weapons-grade U-235 is the surest way to quickly cripple the program. While enrichment could technically take place at a number of sites in Iran, there is little doubt that any such activity is centered around Natanz. Why? It's a huge and extraordinarily well-defended site. It's in the middle of nowhere and it's hardened. The majority of the facility, as the maps show you, is underground. It is at least 25 feet underground, covered by a thick layer of reinforced concrete and as much as 60 feet of compacted earth.

How would an airstrike reach such a well-protected target? Well, our friends in the military-industrial complex have created some neat toys that the media call "bunker-busting" bombs. Unfortunately, the limits of the most powerful of these weapons mean that destroying Natanz might still be difficult or impossible. The claimed limit of the top dog GBU-28 is "100 feet of earth or 20 feet of solid concrete." I see an "or" and not a "both", and the word "reinforced" is conspicuously absent prior to "concrete." No one can be certain just how hardened the Natanz facility is, but it's safe to say that the Iranians built it with an understanding of American strike capabilities.

So let's call the ability to destroy the site with "bunker busting" bombs questionable at best. For a President who "isn't prepared to leave the situation unresolved" that doesn't seem good enough. Fortunately the military has some other options.

While the "Robust Earth Penetrator" nuclear weapon project was cancelled in 2005, Jane's argues that it was simply continued under a different name or in the black budget. The other less-shadowy option is the B61 mk11 warhead, which has proven able to penetrate deep into the earth and destroy targets "several hundred feet" below ground in the ensuing nuclear blast. These two weapons, one rumored but the other quite real, are the only manner by which a hardened facility like Natanz could be destroyed with certainty.

So. In review.

  • The President is determined to strike Iran
  • The President's stated reason is the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons
  • Iran's nuclear program, assuming it exists, would progress only as quickly as its ability to manufacture U-235 through enrichment
  • The Natanz enrichment facility is the cornerstone of Iran's capability to enrich uranium
  • Natanz is hardened to the point that conventional weapons may not be able to destroy it
  • Weapons in the American nuclear arsenal are capable of destroying Natanz.

    Alright. Now, given that sequence of facts, what do you think is going to happen when we decide to strike Iran? Think we'll just skip Natanz? Or stick with the conventional bombs that probably can't destroy it? Let me call Vegas and get some odds on that.

    So please keep in mind at all times that what we're hearing right now is not a run-up to war, it's a run-up to nuclear war.

  • FAILURE TO RESPECT STALL BOUNDARIES

    Posted in Rants on August 29th, 2007 by Ed

    I feel like ass and I'm psyching myself up for another round of tests, leeches, and bleeding tomorrow. So for tonight all you get is detailed information to assist your mockery of Larry Craig.

    This news item starts out as the garden variety, but be sure to scroll past the story to read the complete, unedited police report at the end. 50 bonus points for whipping out a Senate business card as an ID, Larry.

    What is it with these closeted Republicans and public bathrooms? I mean, for Christ's sake, I can't think of too many places that would preclude erection quite as definitively as the Minneapolis International Airport men's room. Are they aware that there are, you know, gay bars? Not to mention many other ways to practice "indiscretion," some of which are quite private.

    VAYA CON DIOS

    Posted in Rants on August 28th, 2007 by Ed

    I don't really think there's much I can say about Alberto Gonzales or his resignation that hasn't been said repeatedly already. Combined with the fact that I feel like absolute ass today, I'll be keeping this as succinct as possible. Two things need to be said.

    1. As much as firings and resignations in the Bush cabal feel like moral, or even substantive, victories, I find it hard to get excited. Remember when Rumsfeld got canned? It really changed things in the DoD. Right? No, of course it didn't. Nothing changed. Not a goddamn thing. We replaced one Kool-Aid drinking, true believing dead-ender with another. With the entire executive branch essentially being run out of think tanks and the Vice President's office, the names and faces among the cabinet are beyond interchangeable. They'll nominate some other automaton and there's no meaningful chance of getting the Senate to reject him as long as Joe "Yes sir, Mr. President!" Lieberman is the swing vote.

    alberto.jpg

    2. I see no reason why Alberto should get off the hook just because he quit. Lying to Congress and obstructing justice are, you know, felonies. He doesn't get to atone for his behavior simply by getting out of the way. It would be nice to send a message and give Gonzales a legacy…other than that goddamn "I just pumped the neighbor's cat" look which adorned his face for about 80% of his tenure.

    I'd say something about Bush's "Why wait years before engaging in revisionist history?" farewell-Alberto speech, but I think it speaks for itself.

    AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRIS TUCKER

    Posted in Rants on August 27th, 2007 by Ed

    Mr. Tucker,

    I know you're a busy box office star, but hopefully you can spare a moment to accomodate this heartfelt letter. I've not had much luck getting in touch with celebrities – Paul Anka hasn't taken my calls in years – but after seeing trailers for Rush Hour 3 I just had to try. Anyone who hasn't seen said trailer is welcome to find it of their own accord; I will have no part in anyone's decision to view it.

    Chris, do you feel good about what you do? Not "acting," but the roles you choose to take. Are you completely ignorant of how you're portrayed or are you in love with the paychecks while dying a little bit on the inside every time you cash one? I'd like to spend some time around you, Chris. For instance, I would love to be on set while the director of the Rush Hour trilogy instructs you in your stagecraft. How does he explain his vision? Does he say "Chris, are you familiar with the golliwog stereotype? That's what I need here."? Or perhaps he is more direct and omits any higher-level cultural references, i.e. "Make sure you bug out your eyes a lot and pout your lips."

    What do your scripts look like? Do they have actual lines (other than the "jokes") or do they just have vague descriptions like "insert Negro jive-talk here; dance."? Do they use artificial means or post-production techniques to make your voice more squeaky, or are those your natural chops? I wonder what level of improvisation takes place between you and co-star Jackie Chan. Given that the three films consist of exactly one joke played out ad infinitum ("Wow, that colored fellow sure is different than Asians!") it would seem that the director would need to rely on your creativity to continually produce new variations.

    But the most important question, Chris, is my last: is there anything you actually refuse to do in these scripts? Is there some low-water mark of your dignity below which you will not venture? Honestly, given what you do in these films I shudder to think about what you'd refuse. I mean, what is your limit? What's "too far" for Chris Tucker? Was it a scene in which you danced a soft-shoe in a Step'n Fetchit costume to the tune of "Funkytown"? Or was it something about you wearing buck teeth and Tojo glasses while pretending to be Asian?

    I really hope I can get some clarification. I know why you do what you do: the paycheck. When you do have pangs of conscience, you tell yourself that if you refuse, someone else will do it. Undoubtedly this is true; the audience of Rush Hour 3 seems like the kind of folk who'd generally posit that all them coloreds look the same. I understand your motives, but I think they're unhealthy. At this pace it's essentially a foregone conclusion that you'll wake up one morning when you're fifty, ask the mirror "What have I done with my life?", and blow your brains out. It doesn't have to happen, Chris. Being Hollywood's go-to man for aping black stereotypes is a choice, not an obligation. I don't recommend a Chappelle-caliber freak out, but you might want to put a tiny bit more thought into what you're being asked to do.

    Your biggest fan,
    Ed

    MORBID CURIOSITY

    Posted in No Politics Friday on August 24th, 2007 by Ed

    I have a particularly strong and morbid sense of curiosity, and I also have the unfortunate habit of thinking "What would I do in that situation?" as a standard reaction to observing things. This occasionally creeps people out, as normal people apparently don't read a book about the Oklahoma City bombing and think aloud "What would I have done if I was Timothy McVeigh?" It doesn't mean "I would like to be in that situation" but most people hear it that way. Oh well.

    So I'm not going to lie, Dead Man Eating (also in blog form) is sort of my new favorite thing. It's an oddly obsessive compendium of the last meals of condemned prisoners. I often wonder which path I'd choose in that situation. On the one hand, I could attempt to enjoy one last sumptuous, earthly delight on the state's tab. On the other hand, I could have 30 White Castles and 2 gallons of scalding black coffee. Let's just say that would provide a big parting "fuck you" to the correctional system. I'd have people quitting their jobs over me.

    Since Texas executes about 20 people for every one person executed elsewhere, I find that their Dept. of Corrections website is a virtual Wikipedia of creepy execution-related crap. If you go here you can read the last words of each prisoner, although the grand prize in that category (and here's where I bring the entry full-circle) goes to Thomas Grasso of Oklahoma. His last words were "I asked for Spaghetti-O's. I did not get my Spaghetti-O's, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this."

    This is the kind of stuff that entertains me when I can't leave the house for a week. Hopefully next week I will get back to posting as usual.

    I WONDER IF THE SHAH IS STILL AVAILABLE

    Posted in Rants on August 23rd, 2007 by Ed

    The tunes, they are a-changin'.

    George W. Bush: a legacy of spreading democracy….well, um….autocracy, but with security….uh….military strongmen?

    As those of us here in the reality-based community have known for 5 or 6 years, power and authority in Iraq are going to come down to whichever genocidal ethnic militia seems to have the largest proportion of the populace behind it. Those in the minority, well….devil take the hindmost, I suppose.

    If it's any consolation to those who are about to lose the ethnic power struggle in Iraq, the minority in a democracy routinely gets bent over the barrel as well. You're not missing anything.

    GOOD, THIS IS BAD.

    Posted in Rants on August 22nd, 2007 by Ed

    So I got a call from a nice woman at the health department informing me that, in addition to Spotted Fever, I tested positive for West Nile Virus. Next summer I am having my blood replaced with insect repellent. Having fairly well thrashed the Spotted Fever, I was perplexed as to why I still felt like ass. I wonder no more, nor need I wonder why I am going to feel like shit for the next couple of months. Next summer I plan to get the bubonic plague, whooping cough, hysterical pregnancy, and possibly a case of dropsy.

    In light of my stellar health and mood at the moment, I'll merely direct you to this (and please be sure to read all the way to the end) if you've yet to see it. Oh, and they've also got some interesting ideas about immigration. Lest anyone convince you that this person and his organization (Family Security Matters) are just some fringe wackos, they're a public front for the Center for Security Policy. Hi, Richard Perle!

    Ladies and gentlemen, that's neoconservatism. Slavery, genocide, and an American dictatorship.

    WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

    Posted in Rants on August 21st, 2007 by Ed

    This is why I hate libertarians. I did not hate them until very recently, when libertariansim apparently became quite trendy on campus. Nothing irritates me as quickly or as thoroughly as people hopping on ideological bandwagons without really understanding their new Deeply Held Beliefs.

    Check out this neat little idea from the folks at the Ayn Rand Institute. They've solved the problem of long waiting lists for organ transplants. The solution, if you really need me to tell you, is to let the market handle it.

    It's hard to pick out a most idiotic moment in this brilliant essay, so I'll pick out the most telling.

    A person may reasonably decide, after considering the relevant facts (including the pain and risk of surgery), that selling an organ is in his own best interest. A father, for example, may decide that one of his kidneys is worth selling to pay for the best medical treatment available for his child.

    I love how these people's minds work. When we take a hypothetical person who cannot afford "the best medical treatment," do we ask why medical treatment is so expensive? Do we ask why a large segment of society can't afford healthcare? No and no. We bring the out the Howard Roark in said person by letting him sell his kidneys to pay for his child's medical care.

    That's the utopia for which these people strive – a world in which we "empower" the poor to take responsibility for their own well-being by freeing them to sell parts of their body to the Haves. To people like the staff of the Ayn Rand Institute, I assume. Beneath the thin sheen of populism that this "writer" feebly attempts to create is folksy social darwinism which holds that the poor are so useless to society that we can start extracting value from them…literally. What a great day that will be.

    A WORLD OF NAILS

    Posted in Rants on August 20th, 2007 by Ed

    There are some things I prefer to avoid in my quest to dissect/ridicule everything on the face of the Earth that deserves it. Picking low-hanging fruit holds no allure for me. Posting repeatedly about topics like "Sean Hannity is stupid" or "Supply-side economics do not seem to work" would be remarkably tedious for both you and I. It's the political equivalent of "incisive" social commentators who write about how the Spice Girls are crap. If commentary makes every reader with an IQ over 90 say "Well, duh" at its conclusion, it isn't contributing anything to the collective discourse.

    As with all declarations of principle, the preceding paragraph indicates that I am about to violate said principle.

    Rudy Giuliani is stupid.

    If you have 20 minutes and the content of your stomach to spare, check out America's Mayor ™ doing some soapboxing for the usually-respected journal Foreign Affairs. His tutorial on Rudy Style foreign policy, bearing the appallingly inaccurate title "Toward a Realistic Peace," may just be the most intellectually dishonest, factually errant, and flat-out delusional assessment of reality I have ever seen. I don't even know where to begin. Let's start with Rudyvisionist History of the Cold War:

    Our cultural and commercial influence can also have a positive impact. They did during the Cold War. The steadfast leadership of President Reagan, working alongside British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped the Soviet Union understand that it could not bully the West into submission. Although such leadership was essential, alone it might not have toppled the Soviet Union in the time that it did. But it was effective because it came with Western economic investment and cultural influence that inspired people in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Levi's helped win the Cold War by entering the Soviet market. Cultural events, such as Van Cliburn's concerts in the Soviet Union and Mstislav Rostropovich's in the United States, also hastened change.

    Pretty standard right-wing Reagan and the Pope Defeated Communism tripe with a new twist…our Dear Leaders only softened up the Soviets. It was McDonald's and KFC that applied the killing blow. Try cracking a fucking history book, Rudy. If you read about, for example, Able Archer 83 (which I suspect America's Mayor has never even heard of) it would become perfectly clear that Reagan "help(ing) the Soviet Union understand that it could not bully the West into submission" is apparently Conservative Speak for "Bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war as a result of juvenile grandstanding combined with crushing ignorance of Soviet beliefs and motives." And Pope JP2 applauded the nice anti-Communists in Eastern Europe while suppressing enough troublemaking Latin American bishops to remind the world's uppity plebians that the fight against oppression of the soul has acceptable limits that suspiciously resemble the mission statement of the Cato Institute.

    While you have that history book open, Rudy, you might want to double-check some of this:

    America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, we fought a war with the wrong strategy for several years. And then, as now, we corrected course and began to show real progress. Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse.

    Before one starts lecturing the nation on remembering the lessons of Vietnam, it might be a good idea to learn what those lessons actually are. Ignoring the more obvious and "fact-based" lessons about the incompatibility of using a large, mechanized military for counterinsurgency operations or trying to dictate the outcome of indigenous conflicts by winning "hearts and minds," Rudy jumps straight to George Bush's classic "We lost because we quit" trope. The moral of Iraq, according to Giuliani, is apparently that we'll win as long as we stick it out for 20 or 30 years – long enough to kill off the entire adult population and replace them with a generation raised on the Cold War essentials like KFC and Coke.

    But let's get off of history for a moment. OK, Rudy doesn't understand history. What about his vision for the future?

    The U.S. Army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades. It may need more, but this is an appropriate baseline increase while we reevaluate our strategies and resources. We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers. Rebuilding will not be cheap, but it is necessary. And the benefits will outweigh the costs.

    And do what with it, Rudy? Just build up a massive, utterly unrealisitically large military (aren't we having some trouble recruiting?) and then hand it over to neocons. Right. That's what we need: to give these nitwits more troops, more weapons, and more money. Second, note his (typical middle-aged white guy) fascination with hardware. America just needs more toys. More space-aged technological marvels. Long-range bombers. Subs. ICBMs. Laser ray-guns. For what, Rudy? To fight a guerilla enemy? Are we failing in Iraq and Afghanistan because of a dearth of long-range bombers and submarines? No, Rudy doesn't want to spend unfathomable amounts of money (leaving a bill to everyone under 30) on these toys because we need them for any specific "reason" or "objective." It's just the usual suburban conservative obsession with things that fly high, explode and, eventually, make great new episodes of Wings and stock footage for everything else on the Military Channel. Rudy's subs-and-bombers agenda isn't about winning wars. It's about providing shiny erectile dysfunction aids to lard-assed suburban white guys who can't get enough of watching bombs fall.

    In summary, Rudy uses this extended piece to showcase the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about history, the present, or foreign policy…right before he lays out a plan to give himself more military power and capability than any human has ever had. More "long-range bombers" are the last thing we need in the hands of people whose tiny minds already can't conceive of any solutions to problems that don't involve air strikes. When all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

    THE FINAL FRONTIER, ETC.

    Posted in Rants on August 17th, 2007 by Ed

    So I really liked the format of last week's Harry Potter: WTF entry. I bring up something that puzzles me, and the comments leap into the breach to clear the air. I liked it so much I may make a habit out of it.

    Why don't people give a shit about the space program anymore? I understand the obvious arguments about the exorbitant costs outweighing the benefits combined with the lack of "exciting" new developments akin to landing on the moon. But….the idea of sending people into space is really cool. I can't argue that it's productive, efficient, or worth anything at all to society. But I refuse to say that it's not kinda neat.

    I understand why people think it's a stupid waste of money, but I don't understand why spacewalks aren't worth 20 seconds on the news. When I was a youngin' we used to get out of class to watch Space Shuttle launches (and let me tell you, that policy fuckin' backfired when a bunch of 7 year-olds were confronted with an exploding Challenger) and now I don't think anyone even realizes when it happens. It's pretty sad, in my humble opinion, that we're so jaded. I'm not sure what it'll take to impress people these days, but apparently launching humans into the vacuum of space and returning them to Earth safely (most of the time) just doesn't cut it.

    Am I just puerile and easily amused or is the idea of sustaining life in space still, you know, worth an occasional moment of awe?