Sunday, February 29, 2004


an accident

Jack (it would have to be Jack) ended his day out on the year 7 trip to the hands-on science exploratorium in Bristol in casualty: we had a call from his house master around 2.30 to say he'd got his hand caught in some display and could we meet him at the BRI asap?
turns out he'd been fooling around and got caught off-balance in a revolving treadmill-kind of thing that's supposed to lift weights through two-child-power - Jack had ignored the notice saying ONLY TWO ON THIS APPARATUS AT ONCE and had joined them inside the revolving drum, only to find that he had nothing to hang on to, so when it started to tip him over he'd reached up and grabbed the lip of the drum, only to find that his hand was being dragged into the gap between the drum and the external sleeve that it was revolving in. his two friends stopped treadmilling when they realised he was caught, but by then his hand was braking their combined weights, and had become completely stuck. nightmare scenario for anyone involved in that sort of thing, of course, and, as far as I can judge, a very efficient team swung immediately into emergency mode, supporting his weight and comforting him as they struggled to realease him without causing further damage. eventually they had to partially dismantle the drum, and his hand was freed, and they whisked him off to A&E.
by the time I arrived - it's an hour's journey - he had been examined and X-rayed and they were awaiting the results. he was in shock, and his hand was seriously contused and bruised, but there wasn't, it seemed, any serious damage. he had clearly fallen in love with the dark-skinned hero who had supported his weight throughout his ordeal and supplied him with energy drinks 'to keep his blood-sugar up' (?) and was beginning seriously to enjoy all the attention.
the X-rays were all clear, but apparently there's a vulnerable bone in the wrist called the scaphoid that's very vulnerable to fracture in these kind of accidents and which is very difficult to X-ray properly, so they decided to put his arm in a cast just to be on the safe side.
so now he's the super-cool dude with his arm in a cast, and he's milking it mercilessly.
"no washing-up for the next three weeks, hey, dad?"
"hmm, methinks you can still heft a vacuum-cleaner left-handed, dude."
"awww, daaaaad!"
he was lucky. I shy away from thinking what might have happened. if the drum had been powered, for instance. but he was lucky. if anything, it's been more a pleasurable experience for him than a painful one. obviously, I'm not denying him his half-hour or so of what must have been very severe pain - but, once rescued, it turned into a fine adventure, and it's given him tremendous kudos amongst his schoolmates.
I'm sure I'd feel very differently if he'd been more seriously injured, but it seems to me that this is a fair example of a true accident - something that just happens, from time to time, for better or worse. eleven-year-old boys are always going to ignore safety notices and fool around. there is no situation in which anyone can feel perfectly safe. a place such as this one in Bristol - that attracts thousands of children - is subject to a seriously heavy set of meticulously policed Health and Safety regulations. having spoken to the guy in charge this morning, it's clear that they take an accident like this very seriously - that it has revealed a flaw in an otherwise completely clean safety record which they are going to have to address, but, equally, as I gladly acknowledged, it found that the emergency and first-aid procedures in place against such a contingency worked impeccably.
there's no question of us taking this to litigation - the boys were horrified at the idea, and it only came up in the course of idle chatter about how differently we behave (it seems to me) than the majority of Americans, who, as far as I can judge, would automatically sue in a situation like this.
I'm very glad we don't yet inhabit that kind of culture, although increasingly there is lowlife pressure (tabloid-and TV-advertising personal injury lawyers, the appalling example of every film- and pop-star parent) to follow, in this as in so many other ways that reflect a deep distrust, not only of one's fellow man, but of one's own humanity. a life without risk, it seems to me, is not a life worth living, and one can't define well-being as a function of security only, to the exclusion of all that is unknown and unpredictable. shit happens. sometimes the only ones to blame are ourselves, just for being unlucky enough to be there when the rock falls out of the sky.

Friday, February 27, 2004


(it snows once every four years or so here, and then - because of the Gulf Stream - melts within twenty-four hours of falling - and TODAY WAS THE DAY! WAHAY!!!!)

sweet bloody jesus

when I was a child of ten or eleven or so, when television was still in its infancy and there was only one channel - the BBC - which only broadcast between around mid-day and midnight, there emerged a relatively brief, golden age of television playwriting which, it could be argued, began and ended with the career of the late Denis Potter, who died (some will think of it as almost dying on-camera) in 1994, shortly after giving a final interview, most memorably marked by his frequent resorts to a hip-flask of morphine (he was dying of pancreatic cancer), in which was discussed, among many other things, his play 'Son of Man'. first broadcast at Easter, 1969, with that formidable Irishman, Colin Blakely, playing Jesus, this TV drama remains one of the most shocking pieces of drama I have ever seen, and its effect on the agnostic twenty-two-year-old I had by then become remained with me for many years. I had been brought up a Christian - a Methodist - in a family which went to church sometimes twice (morning and evening) every sunday, and I had sunday school in between. we were not 'fundamentalist' by a long stretch, but we were fairly fervent (my father was a lay preacher - a very good one - I inherited my own easy ability to time a rhetorical pause to perfection from him), and I knew my bible back to front and inside out by the time I reached secondary school age. think rod and tod flanders. so it wasn't as if any element of the Easter story was any kind of surprise. what potter's 'Son of Man' demonstrated to me, though, was that if, as we were to believe, Jesus was a man as well as the son of god, then his final suffering - his Passion - had to have been an actual event, not a metaphor, the human horror of which had been transformed by historic process into a series of iconographic images - the Stations of the Cross - which are the visual accompaniment to a set of prayers and meditations intended to keep the Christian congregation mindful of the greater truth contained in the symbology - that He took upon Himself the Sins of the World as a sacrifice, in order that we might be absolved of the Original Sin and thus Saved from the Tortures of Everlasting Hell. phew. 'Son of Man' was a first, in that it shocked little england to the core to be presented, not only with the image of a Christ who was racked by doubts over his own mission and plagued by the fear that he had been forsaken by God, but also, and so nakedly, with something approximating the real brutality and horror and pain of Christ's Passion, albeit in terms which would seem graphically tame now. Christianity was still (isn't it still?) about politely intoned prayers, badly-sung hymns, and recitations of the ten commandments and the Lords Prayer. to have it spiked with blood and violence seemed, at the time, not just shocking, but vaguely sacrilegious. there was a media furore, naturally (par for the course with anything dear old Dennis ever did).
I still recall the feeling of suppressed rage I felt when the camera cut away from the shot of the first nail being adjusted (with clinical historical accuracy, I remember, to pierce between the ulna and the radius at the base of the hand - the Romans having learnt from long experience not to suspend the entire body-weight from the too-easily-torn pierced palm) to the face of Jesus - my Jesus, my doubtful, my sweet existential Irish Jesus - and his full-throated scream at that first sickening thud of the hammer striking that dreadful nine-inch nail home. I had no way of assimilating that rage - how to direct something so supposedly irrelevant? - other than to mentally replay those images, over and over again, and try, yet again, to make sense of those final words - "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." such impossibly challenging words - invented, most probably, by some fourth century priest rewriting the matthew gospel for submission to the third Council of Nicaea for reasons best left unexamined - which unequivocally absolve the transgressor whose transgression emerges from ignorance, and which, under a supposedly Christian administrative system, subsequently necessitated countless man-years of interpretative contortion in order to turn it on its head and make of its opposite - that ignorance of the law is no defence - one of the cornerstones of western jurisprudence.
the atheist I have now become is fully able to share dennis potter's love of Jesus the man - the great teacher who (whether he proposed them or not matters less than that his story embodies them) offered, in the form of the Beatitudes, some of the most concise, appropriate, and elegant instructions in living at peace with ourselves and our neighbours that have ever been codified. the Christian I once was is betrayed, daily, at the way the message of love was subsumed, in the name of political expediency, to the message of hate, and to the historical adoption of images of torture, to the exclusion of all else, as the brand image of an entire religion.
which is why mel gibson is a wanker.
clearly, the man is a traditional hollywood sectual wacko of the travolta ilk. whatever brand of christian catholicism he subscribes to it's evidently a long way removed from the healy-feely sort, and more akin to the kind that mourns the passing of the good old days when taking the family to watch a few dozen heretics burnt alive was the equivalent of a trip to Madame Tussaud's. and he clearly enjoyed the fifteen minutes of graphic disembowelling he achieved in Braveheart so much that his big idea for his next movie was that it should have nothing but torture in it, and, of course, there it was staring him in the face - the Dolorous Passion of His Sweet Jesus.
what does it tell us about the current state of play in the world's champion of democracy that, faced with the supposed constant threat of terrorist attack by dark-skinned folk who are religious fanatics, the mainstream hollywood response should be to mount an evangelical revivalist platform vaguely disguised as a movie whose single, hours-long reiterated, slow-mo lingered, aramaic-inflected message is that They Tortured Our Sweet Jesus to Death. all this discourse about the movie's supposed anti-semitism is a misreading of a much darker subtext (intellectuals always think higher than the frame). the bottom line is that the majority of the pig-ignorant bible-bashing bush-lovers who drag their traumatised kids out of that hysterical auditorium will be busy making the same connection they were duped into making about Saddam - that Evil is dark-skinned and devious and talks arabic, and the guys who attacked the twin towers are the direct descendants of those guys who Tortured Our Sweet Jesus to Death (not the guys who were in uniform - they were just following orders, after all - the other ones), and boy, have they got it coming to them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Sunday, February 22, 2004

a hole in the clouds


this is a clumsy example of how impossible it has become, sadly, to trust photography. one of these photographs comes from a very reliable source, and I myself manipulated the other in adobe photoshop. (guessing which is the 'real' one is not the point, of course.)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

ground temperature in a park near you

"Then during the last part of July one of the Park geologists discovered a huge bulge at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. The bulge has already risen over 100 feet from the bottom of the lake and the water temperature at the surface of the bulge has reached 88 degrees and is still rising....

...The American people are not being told that the explosion of this 'super volcano' could happen at any moment. When Yellowstone does blow, some geologists predict that every living thing within six hundred miles is likely to die. The movement of magma has been detected just three-tenths of a mile below the bulging surface of the ground in Yellowstone raising concerns that this super volcano may erupt soon."

(from the idaho observer)

and in support, some seriously heavy - if a tad conspiratorial - science here.

(via bifurcated rivets)

Sunday, February 15, 2004

University Ordered to Turn Over Records on Anti-War Activists


as you will have noticed (if your browser of preference is either mozilla or netscape) my home page has been suffering from a glitch that I've had to patch in a rather heath robinson way. briefly, I've introduced a behavior - constructed in dreamweaver - that should permit the appearance of a text notice of updates from a mouseover on any of the three sections, 'sporadic updates', 'music', and 'blog', into a layer immediately underneath the pencil-surrounded block of indexing text. however, this seems only to be working in Internet Explorer (I have 5.0 so I assume it works thereafter), and whereas in opera it just doesn't show (I haven't been able to test it yet in any other browser), in netscape/mozilla it has the disastrous effect of the rollover skipping on to a new window that's entirely empty apart from the text of the update. I have therefore included a link, for netscape/mozilla users, to the original home page without the behavior modifications.
the relevant section of javascript (which I don't pretend to understand) looks like this:

function MM_setTextOfLayer(objName,x,newText) { //v3.0 if ((obj=MM_findObj(objName))!=null) with (obj) if (navigator.appName=='Netscape') {document.write(unescape(newText)); document.close();} else innerHTML = unescape(newText);

now, I know from my stats that several of my regular visitors use mozilla and netscape - and I much prefer to use mozilla myself - so if any of youse happen to have the skills to consider a way of tweaking this snippet of code so that I could include this immortal behavior - ooh - for the netscape engine - or know of another way I might achieve this - I'd be eternally grateful. you can mail me here. thanks.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

the snow show

this wonderful snow house constructed by pernille louise klausen and halldor arne ulfarsson is one of the student winners at the glorious finnish
snow show.

photo: camille moussette

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Taliban 2001

so you're striding up to the doors of some elegant Manhattan art gallery and, after wafting your invitation - 'History', in this case, is the modest title of the exhibition - at the bouncer and collecting your glass of Bollinger and wad of canapés and waving to all the currently useful darlings on your rolodex and checking once more to make doubly sure you haven't missed anyone important, you finally drift through to look at the art, and you're confronted with this photograph

it's printed to 8' x 4'. that's big. that makes you think - oh, hit them with your credentials - Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth, Philip-Lorca diCorcia. big. impressive. technically superb. large-format panoramic camera. polaroid film? luminous texture. reminds you of a whole catalogue of western painting - religious, even. but what do you feel? well, you feel fairly overwhelmed, of course, so you do what everyone else does, and check out what you're supposed to feel from the catalogue. and this is what you read:

" From a higher vantage point, we ponder the beardless beauty of a dead Taliban soldier, printed to appear nearly life-size.
The wound and peaceful posture deepen our sense of intimacy. Events subsequent to the solder's death, materializing through objects, to the same, dusty clothing, a searched and abandoned wallet, feet without shoes.
The camera's clear precision does not detach. It embeds the soldier in a deathly geography. Our privileged access to this enemy surpasses all frontiers and national boundaries. As in a dream, we feel the boy's grandeur slowly unfolding within ourselves.
History, in these tableaux, is an art of intimate immensity. Recording the real, they ask us to contemplate cool, secret, silent, universal phenomena, belonging to no age, perpetually recurring throughout time's long duration."

(I'm not making this up - I couldn't if I tried - this was written by one Eugenia Parry, god bless her)

Luc Delahaye is the latest photographer to make that meretricious leap from the rarefied world of the Magnum photojournalist to the even more rarefied one of fine art. he's in illustrious company, of course: Magnum has been the benchmark of photojournalistic standards for the last fifty years. legendary names: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Josef Koudelka, and - a personal favourite - my countryman (and exact contemporary) Chris Steele-Perkins, whose own 'Afghanistan - Kabul - 1994' portfolio bears interesting comparison with Delahaye's. the photograph on the right is his 'Mujahadeen play volleyball in a park. 1994.'

however, times are hard for photojournalists - few hardcopy publications are now prepared to let a retained photographer loose on a story that might take months to acquire, and fewer are prepared to devote a dozen pages to that story once it 's filed. so Luc Delahaye has now officially declared that he is no longer a photojournalist - that he is an artist (don't scoff - these distinctions matter in some circles).

although the copyright icon for 'Taliban' says 2001, this is actually one of a series made during Delahaye's period of roaming around Afghanistan (he's a little vague about how exactly he did that - the word 'embedded' had yet to be coined) during 1994, when the Taliban was in process of becoming the nexus of disaffection for those muslim extremists who felt betrayed by the political events subsequent to the succesful removal of the Soviet occupation: as mujahedin they had been vaunted as heroic freedom fighters, supported in both matériel and training by the United States to the tune of many billions of dollars. by 1994, however, they were becoming a perceived nuisance to western interests in the region (it goes without saying, of course, that this was always about oil and the routing of pipelines) as their particular brand of Islamic fundamentalism was proving to be a powerful ideological bridge between the various local tribal factions jostling for power in the vacuum caused by the Soviet withdrawal, and their control over Kabul was not what the US had had in mind when they were bankrolling the war.

however, although few in the west were comfortable with a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, they remained a local, and relatively trivial problem on the international political stage.

until the eleventh of september 2001

the notion of 'military intelligence' has been so effectively discredited in the last twelve months as to merit that phrase's position close to the top of the top ten list of greatest oxymorons of all time. however, 'military intelligence', by identifying the al-Quaida network as perpetrators of the 9/11 atrocity, and by asserting that its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living under Taliban protection somewhere in Afghanistan, effectively demonised the Taliban overnight, and sealed its fate, for the time being, at least.

all war photographers are naïve, in the sense that naïveté is a precondition of heroism, and all war photographers are either cast in or aspire to the heroic mould, but most, consequently, are unwitting commercial if not political stooges. they go risking their own lives in pursuit of the photograph that will secure their reputation - as another Matthew Brady, another Robert Capa, or the next Don McCullin, or Larry Burrows, or James Nachtwey - perhaps subscribing to the Magnum myth about revealing 'the truth' in 'the decisive moment', but truly careless that what they are really doing is nothing more noble than feeding the insatiable public appetite for authentic images of horror - of real death, of real destruction, of real suffering ('jaded' is entirely too genteel a tint for this state of desensitivity - 'j.springered' gets closer). provided 'the enemy' has been effectively demonised by the media arm of the political machine (the word 'evil' is frequently invoked in this context) then he becomes legitimate fodder for the vengeance-driven need for proof of his subjugation, and the war-photographer is the willing forager for that fodder.

if there's a man or woman left standing who doesn't know, by now, that war is man-made hell, and that, once unleashed, the dogs of war wreak unspeakably dehumanised and indiscriminate acts of merciless violence on men, women, and children, then no mere photograph is going to help them understand that. the archives are stuffed to bursting with the screaming ghosts of millions of burnt, blasted, mutilated, agonised human beings whose individual dyings and deaths, dispassionately recorded and filed, have taught us nothing - absolutely nothing - about how to co-exist. and nothing any young gung-ho upstart off to the latest war zone with a bandana round his head and a bag stuffed with state-of-the-art kit might have to say about 'witnessing' or 'dispassionate reporting' or 'capturing the truth' is really worth a bucket of beans - what he's after is sexy war-porn which will sell, sell, sell.

'Taliban' is a war-trophy - one wrapped, to be sure, in a cloak of pseudo-patrician decency - but actually an image that belongs in a long line of totemic images - of the vanquished paraded before the victors. it appeals to a regressive political instinct, but one whose provenance is identifiable - Ancient Rome. the Roman Triumph was a spectacular treat for its citizens - a reassuring demonstration that all was well in the homeland - that the captured barbarians, paraded in chains through the streets, would no longer represent a threat - the latest to be subdued to the Pax Romana in the ever-expanding outlying reaches of empire. decimation was another characteristic Roman technique. the ongoing paroxysm of revenge against the 9/11 murders has seen at least a hundred Afghanis and Iraqis killed for every one victim of that attack. (despite there being even less proof of Saddam's support for al-Quaida than there is for his possession of wmd's - indeed, his link with 9/11 was not even in contention as justification for the Iraq war - more than fifty percent of Americans have been persuaded to believe that the invasion of Iraq was justified on those grounds.)

differently titled - 'The Unknown Soldier' perhaps - this photograph would have been generic and would have been quite differently perceived and regarded. but it is titled 'Taliban 2001', and it was exhibited in the ghost-shadows of the Twin Towers. it is therefore generic by default - by dint of the kind of cynical disinformation that characterises all propaganda. the juxtaposition of the word 'Taliban' with that date - '2001' - ineluctably enmeshes this image in the shameful catalogue of political manipulations that has led to the pulverising of two Islamic countries in the wake of that dreadful day. this soldier was killed seven years before the attack on the World Trade Center in a firefight with fellow Afghanis - one of thousands of similar casualties in a local civil war. to describe him as 'the enemy' is as disingenuous as calling water snow. furthermore, there is a kind of inverted glee in evidence here at the fact that this photograph was not taken by an American - so no-one can point and accuse anyone of gloating. even better - it was actually taken by a Frenchman (the French opposed the war, you know). double whammy! up yours, Taliban! up yours, Jacques Chirac!

under whatever delusions he might have been fighting, one thing is certain - the dead young man who is the subject of this photograph believed in what he was fighting for. he was a devout Muslim who died believing he was fighting for the one true faith. to appropriate the image of his corpse as subject matter for what we call 'art' is absolutely no different from displaying stuffed aboriginal corpses in museums as objects of anthropological curiosity. actually, it's worse, because copies of this image can be acquired ($15,000 per print - I am honestly not making this up - from the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in NYC) for further flaunting of your own personal taste or wealth - and there was a limited edition (100) of smaller prints available in a book for $1,000, but they're long gone - and, doubtless, in process of accruing already.

did someone mention something about 'dignity', about 'intimacy', about 'humanity' in connection with this image?

had a small copy of this photograph been offered as a gift, say, to the soldier's parents in a spirit of compassion, then, and only then, might it have been considered as being imbued with 'dignity': one can (just) imagine a grieving parent clinging to this last, albeit bleak, albeit horrifying image of their beloved son as if there were a kind of comfort to be shared between them in this visual cradling-by-proxy. however, as soon as it's extracted from such a (just) comprehensibly humane context and translated, via the cash-hungry machinery of the Fine Art Asylum, into ein Kunstwerk - printed to a grotesquely bombastic size, mounted on a gallery wall, and offered for sale at a price which represents more than this young man could ever possibly have hoped to earn in his short lifetime - then it forfeits the right to be considered in terms which include notions like 'dignity' or 'humanity' or 'intimacy' (and god help her if those demented ravings quoted from the catalogue above actually reflect the reality that woman inhabits).

consider - had this soldier been a GI (when did you last see an image of a dead American?) this photograph would never have been seen - anywhere.
consider - what sort of moral cowardice shields its gluttony for cheap (or, in this case, very expensive) aesthetic sensationalism behind the confidence that the parents of this dead young man will never be able to muster the financial resources to file a lawsuit against the photographer, his agents, or the gallery (I will mention only the 1964 Helsinki Accord and the 1948 Geneva Declaration of Human Rights)?

the incorporation of the dead human body into art has been an enduring theme - from the memento mori of religious painting to the more recently contentious uses of actual corpses.

a fellow-photographer in the Ricco/Maresca catalogue - Joel Peter Witkin - is responsible for this beautiful image called 'Cadaver with Necklace 1980' in which - crucially - the eyes of the cadaver are covered by a delicately draped black silk blindfold.

in 1918, when this photograph was taken in the Trobriand Islands, there was a strange complicity at work - between the photographer (an anonymous ethnographer), to whom 'art' was of no consideration at all in using photography to document what he or she found, and the recently-bereaved young man whose wife he holds up proudly so that she might be recorded - and remembered - as the beauty he married. almost a century down the timeline, our reading of this photograph can't help but be informed by our current understanding about falsely sentimentalising 'primitive' cultures' relationships with western mores and technologies. for all that, however, the unguarded openness of those faces bespeaks, not only a very different attitude to death, but a genuine cooperation between artist and subject: in discussing this image, it's perfectly appropriate to use words like 'dignifying' and 'immortalising' and 'human', despite there being, even to a sensibility as jaded as ours, something very weird about this situation.

the exhibition of Luc Delahaye's photographs continues its world tour in the UK at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford until the third of May this year. 'Taliban 2001' is only one of many equally arresting images by a photographer whose aesthetic consistently reflects a sense of detachment bordering on ethical autism.

I can think of only one way in which this particular image - 'Taliban 2001' - might be elevated to the status of true art, and that is if, interposed between the spectator and the display, were discovered standing the silent figure of a middle-aged Afghan woman, burkha removed, holding a hand-written placard reading simply, 'My Son.'

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Nothin' Fancy Cafe
Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q An answer.

Q Can we buy some questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?

THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.

END 11:29 A.M. MST

straight from the horse's mouth

Sunday, February 01, 2004


before we get too carried away with this question of rogue nations' weapons of mass destruction, let's refresh the knowledge base about which nations really do possess them. it looks like this (detailed analysis at the center for defense information and the national resources defense council (NRDC):

total number of nuclear weapons possessed by

Pakistan ........................ 24-48
India ............................. 60+
United Kingdom ............. 185
Israel ............................ 200+
France .......................... 350
China ............................ 400
Russia ........................... ~10,000
United States ................. 10,656

and let's throw in a few random expenditure figures for good measure

$3.5 trillion: amount the United States spent between 1940 and 1995 to prepare to fight a nuclear war.

$27 billion: amount the United States spends annually to prepare to fight a nuclear war.

$2.2 billion: cost of one B-2 bomber (21 were authorized by Congress).

$2.5 billion: the lifecycle cost of each B-2 (RDT&E, procurement, operations, maintenance, and support).

these indisputable statistics bespeak a pathology of folly - the terrible, craven acceptance of a great nation's literal descent into insanity, the toll of that decades-long inhabitation of the crypto-hallucinogenic atmosphere of paranoia that drew the leaders of the world's two superpowers into an ever-escalating face-off. the bald truth is that the west's 'victory' in the cold war was simply a function of its limitless credit: the former USSR was forced to bankrupt itself to keep step with the MAD (mutually assured destruction) numbers game. in consequence, the fate of the entire planet has come to rest on the shoulders of a series of mediocre men whose policies have been dictated by the multinationals who bankrolled that nuclear insanity. the current incumbent - this Texan dilettante with a very limited grasp on reality - is hardly bothering to conceal the real purpose behind his presidency: to plunder the entire globe in order to make the richest men on earth even richer.
as a citizen of the country with, literally, infinitely more wmd's than have been discovered in the country we helped invade in order to pre-empt its 45-minute-imminent (for that's what they told us) capacity to use them on us (a slight - ahem - exaggeration?) I ask this of my great leader: what, exactly, are you defending me and my family and friends from that justifies the continued presence in my backyard of 185 armed, active, excruciatingly vulnerable, and exorbitantly cash-absorbent nuclear warheads?
(citizens of the US already know the answer, of course - all 10,656 of yours are targeted on Nusquam and Ubique, the twin capitals of the People's Republic of Terror)