Saturday, April 29, 2006

Film - United 93

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I was quite surprised by the low turnout on opening night and this had me wondering if perhaps this isn't the right time for films about 9/11.

Director Paul Greengrass, known for the very good Bourne Supremacy film, has made a very realistic representation of what I imagined 9/11 must have been like from the perspective of those involved with United Flight 93.

Thankfully, the film lacks the typical glossy Hollywood sheen. Having no "name"
actors helped keep the focus on the story to me. No one actor is given such a prominent role that I kept on thinking that I can't wait to see them in their next film. There's no nauseating flag waving and no hollow heroics. I felt as if I was a fly on the wall in every scene, whether it took place inside the doomed aircraft, or at an aviation or NORAD command centre.

It's fascinating to watch the story unfold as an air traffic controller picks up on some dialogue which sounds suspicious. This gets relayed around and at the same time, more planes begin to cease using their transponders and begin radio silence. The film soon becomes both an edge of your seat thriller, even though you know the outcome, but at the same time, those scenes are juxtaposed with scenes of eerie calmness aboard United Flight 93, before it gets highjacked.

I have no doubt that there have been many "lessons learned" about how to handle future crisis like 9/11, given the apparent lack of clear communication channels between the civillian aviation authorities, the FAA and the military. Mistakes are made, no one seems to know how high up the chain of command the military has to go to get permission to shoot down an airliner and both the President and Vice-President seem unreachable during an obvious national crisis. Things like this happen much more smoothly in the televison series 24, which makes you wonder how fake the that aspect of the show really is or how ill-prepared for such a crisis the Federal leadership was on 9/11.

There was nothing wasted in this film and little thrown in to try to take advantage of our already raw emotions. Truthfully, I was fighting to stay awake during the opening credits, cursing myself for going to the movies after being so tired. I was jolted awake, however, how the story, and the emotions it touched off inside of me. I was surprised to find myself on the verge of tears during the scenes in which the now hi-jacked passesengers are crouching over and making phone calls to say their goodbyes. The only moment that approaches cheesiness is when seemingly everyone aboard United 93 is praying, passengers and terrorists, alike.

Greengrass doesn't try to make any political statement with the film. He doesn't go out of his way to try and shed some light on Al-Qaeda's rational for the attack. He does show the authorities, and the military and it's highest level of leadership, the Commander-In-Chief, seemded ill-prepared to respond in a timely manner, but that in itself may make for another equally fascinating film and no, I'm not in any way refering to Fahrenheit 9/11.

It's really almost moot to ask whether or not the public is ready for 9/11 films. I suppose the answer for me was yes, otherwise I would have stayed at home. United 93 is a very well made film that almost felt like a documentary with its unresolved realistic ball of confusion and the sickening feeling of helplessness. Despite the horror of this real life story, I found the film to be quite satisfying. I won't say "enjoyable."

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This film has had a stronger emotional impact on me than any other this year. I can't imagine anyone watching it and not being affected in a similar fashion. Oliver Stone is coming out with another 9/11 film this summer, World Trade Centre, about some Port Authority employees trapped in one of the burning buildings.

Friday, April 28, 2006

DVD - Metal A Headbanger's Journey


Heavy Metal - A Headbanger's Journey begins with footage from 1986 with kids gathering for a rock festival. They're partying, playing air guitar, dressed in proper attire of black t-shirts or no shirts at all, but most of all, they just look like they are out for a good time. But, someone is out to ruin their fun...

The film switches to the September 19, 1985 Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Senate hearings. The group published their "Filthy Fifteen" list of songs, along with their interpretation of what the lyrics are about. Artists included Venom, Mercyful Fate, Def Leppard, Prince, Sheena Easton, Vanity, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, among others.

Looking precisely like he just left the stage, singer Dee Snider, addressed the Senate suits, including future VP Al Gore. It's interesting to note that in part of Snider's speech which wasn't included in the film, he explained that he was raised a Christian and follows many of the same ideals, doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs and is a married father of a three year old. In other words, he was showing that beneath his mountainous blonde mane, he's actually not unlike most adults, except that he sings in a heavy metal band.

"Since I seem to be the only person addressing this committee today who has been a direct target of accusations from the presumably responsible PMRC, I would like to use this occasion to speak on a more personal note and show just how unfair the whole concept of lyrical interpretation and judgment can be and how many times this can amount to little more than character assassination."

The hysteria surrounding the interest questionable lyrics was described as being the "moral panic of the day." Despite the farce of the hearings, the music industry adopted the PMRC sticker rating system, which actually caused sales to increase in the case of some artists - forbidden fruit.

Sam Dunn introduces himself. He's earned a Masters in Anthropology and his thesis was on the Guatemalan refugees, but he always wanted to do a study about heavy metal. He's a skinny,long-haired fan and looks indistinguishable from the masses of metal fans from 1986, most of whom also probably grew up to be...responsible, normal adults. Sam's a scholar and his approach to look at metal from an more intellectual point of view, doesn't always work. Take the interview with the band Mayhem. They basically spewed forth swears and boasts about how they are the best band in the world and said absolutely nothing of substance. Dunn included the clip but mentioned that beer and interviews sometimes doesn't mix. A more serious documentary would have cut this footage out. So, don't go looking for something to base a thesis on, but do be prepared to be entertained and mildly educated about various aspects of the metal world.

Mars Bonfire, the stage name for musician Dennis Edmonton (1943), was the person who wrote the Steppenwolf classic "Born To Be Wild" which mentions the term "heavy metal" for the first time. I didn't know he was a Canadian or what his name was. Now I know.

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People weighed in with their opinions of the first heavy metal band. Some cite Blue Cheer but most mentioned Black Sabbath. This led to an interview with Black Sabbath guitarist and leader Tony Iommi. According to Wikipedia, "The tritone, as its name implies, is a musical interval that spans three whole tones or six semitones. The two most basic types of tritone are the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth." They also cited examples of where we hear the tritone, known as the Devil's interval, in songs such as Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath", Metallica's "Enter Sandman", Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Sibelius's Fourth Symphony, Liszt's Dante Sonata, the music of Slayer and King crimson and believe it or not, in the Simpsons theme and the musical West Side Story. Iommi simply thought the "tritone" sounded evil and wrote lyrics to go along with the sound. Later on, Black Sabbath really took advantage of the demonic imagery in order to make a lot of money and have a schtick to really make them stand apart from other bands.

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This led to a discussion of the classical influences in heavy metal, something that was obvious to me but was totally oblivious to a long-time rock fan who i mentioned the film to today. To illustrate the point,they play Bach on a harpsichord and seamlessly seague to Eddie Van Halen playing Bach-like material (if not Bach) on his electric guitar.

The other major influence in metal was also discussed, the blues. Tony Iommi actually mentioned that Sabbath were essentially a blues and jazz band at the begining, and were also influenced by the dire working class, poor neighborhoods that they grew up in.

Other themes and connections to metal, such as sexuality, how dressing like women is actually extreme masculinity, religion, church burnings in Norway, violence and gore. Tom Araya, the lead singer in Slayer, raised a Catholic, quipped that religion was the biggest brain washing tool in America and that art is a reflection of society and that they're just picking up the darker reflections. He also mentioned that "everyone knows what's wrong, the things you do not do. The people who don't understand that aren't connected with themselves spiritually." That's quite a profound statement from someone who likes to have provocative song titles simply because it will get them a lot of attention. Slayer are simply trying to stay in the spotlight just like every other band, and who can blame them?

Alice Cooper was interviewed a few times and he proved to be one of the most interesting people Dunn spoke with. Regarding Satanism, Cooper said, "If you're looking for Satanism, don't look to rock'n'roll. It's all Halloween." He went on to recount how when he meets black metal bands in Norweigian shopping malls, how they seem like the most harmless people, yet he marvels at the one up-man-ship they have between them, to be more extreme than the next band.

Dunn's trip to Norway to explore one of metal's most notorious and recent sub-genres, Norweigian Black Metal, was quite interesting and somewhat sad at the same time. He noted that Norway is 87% Lutheran but their biggest cultural export is, ironically, Satanic Black Metal and he describes it as punk meets Wagner dressed as Alice Cooper. There's no way to discuss Norway's metal scene without talking about the burning of churches by some metal musicians. The bands see Christianity as something that was forced upon Norway about 1000 years ago and it's the big bad guy. They see Satanism as something for people who are born to be kings, strong, and free. It's not for the timid or weak. By this definition, a church minister said that the Satanists will always be in small numbers since most people are not like them. As far as Alice Cooper is concerned, however, it's all so Spinal Tap to him.

Cooper was one of the most reviled performers in popular music in the seventies by those who didn't understand him. He went on to say "There's more blood in MacBeth than in my show,and that's required reading in school."

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The topic of suicide rears its ugly head but Dunn doesn't get too much into the stories about bands being sued for causing kids to commit suicide, which is a pathetic accusation in the first place. It's noted by UCLA musicologist Robert Walser that the most powerful predictor of whether someone will commit suicide is the feeling of helplessness...but no one listens to metal to feel helpless.

The documentary is a terrific starting point to gaining an understanding of what makes metal fans such a brotherhood. It intelligently discusses the differences between the major categories of metal and it may surprise you by how many sub-genres he identifies. There is so much to the world of metal,so many more people who could have been interviewed that I hope more intelligent films of this ilk are made. Dunn also peppered the film with insightful analysis and commentaries from members of academia who are knowledgeable about metal, journalists, a musicologist and industry insiders,including Brian Slagel, Bob Ezrin, and Malcome Dome. Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson were very interesting to listen to as were Cannibal Corpse, Angela from Arch Enemy, Geddy Lee, Lemmy and the world's most famous groupie, Pamela Des Barres. The who's who of who didn't appear in the film is astonishing, such as Metallica, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, and so on. I'm hoping that someone makes a follow up.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's Likely a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon...

Here's a credible analysis of why the author believes a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon. It's very convincing.

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Why it is most likely that an American Airlines 757-223 hit it the Pentagon.
by Joel v.d Reijden

In my complete review of 911, I have taken up many dozens of witness accounts. When put together you get the following story: A large American Airlines jetliner came screaming over the highways with it's gears up, after having circled the Pentagon area. It balanced a little to the left an right, clipped some light poles and other stuff, barely pulled itself straight again and fired up it's engines to full throttle in the last few seconds. Some say it struck the helipad with it's left wing right before it hit the Pentagon and a few others claim it hit the ground with it's nose, only inches before the wall. Just like the two airplanes that hit the WTC; "it disappeared.". A few claim they could see the tail sticking out of the building for about one or two seconds before a very heavy explosion engulfed everything in flames. (Like the WTC) People who were close by, were blown off their feet and some even went flying. Small pieces of airplane, concrete and other rubble was blown out of the building and landed up to hundreds of yards away. The blast was so powerful it blew a few big chunks of the engines hundreds of yards through the air. An intense heat has been described, which melted the back of at least one firetruck which was standing in front of the building. ....

The witness testimonies
Keep in mind that the Pentagon has 25.000 people working there. A lot of these witnesses have high ranks in the army, navy and air force. Some of the witnesses were commercial airline pilots and many people in the neighborhood are familiar with military and commercial airplanes, since there are multiple military and commercial airfields close by. So, if all those witness testimonies form a coherent story, why then do so many people support the "theory" that an F16, missile or global hawk hit the Pentagon? The funniest thing is, that nobody even reported seeing any of those planes (or a missile). ....

I have proven the following things, which seem to make a couple of dents into the works of most of the well-known 9/11 gurus:

1. Claims that the Pentagon hole is (much) too small for a 757-223, are false.
2. Claims that witnesses have said they saw a missile, are false.
3. Claims that witnesses have said they saw a small plane and implying a significant amount did the same, are misleading.
4. Claims that witnesses have said the plane was quiet were an extreme minority and are brought to the public in a misleading way. As usual, the context has never been addressed. (In the car, windows shut, radio on. One person said it was the shock)
5. Claims that a Global Hawk or a F-16 hit the Pentagon aren't backed up by any witnesses. So why have these theories been put forward in the first place?
6. Quotes from the aftermath of the crash site are no proof something else than a 757 hit the building. As you can read in the quotes I gathered, even a few people who saw a large airliner dive into the building wondered about the relatively small amount of visible damage it did.

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And from the Above Top Secret website,
# Review the facts
# Size of 757 matches the initial size of hole in the building - somewhere between 13 and 16 feet (757 is 13 feet wide/high)
# Rims found in building match those of a 757
# Small turbine engine outside is an APU
# Same engine has been clearly stated to not match a Global Hawk engine
# Blue seats from 757 laying on ground in photos
# Part of "American" fuselage logo visible in more than 1 photo
# Engine parts photographed inside match a Rolls-Royce RB211
# Structural components photographed in wreckage match Boeing paint primer schemes
# Large deisel generator in front of building hit by a large heavy object
# Large deisel engine outside is spun towards the building - could not be result of bomb blast or missile explosion
# Multiple eye witnesses say they saw an airliner
# Multiple eye witnesses say they saw an airliner hit the Pentagon
# 60+ bodies, matching the passenger list and flight crew roster identified and returned to families from Pentagon wreckage

Bush Defector To Demolish 911 Lies On May 6

I'm still a believer in the official explanation about 9/11, because to not believe it is to believe that it was an inside job. I can't wrap my mind around hundreds of people keeping something this big a secret.

This is an interesting article. You've got to wonder what his agenda is - if he really has one at all. Who's payroll is he on? He used to work for the White House, so why would he come forward to lie and discredit his own name? One thing is almost certain, the mainstream media likely won't touch this story.

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The former top economist in Bush's Department of Labor, Morgan Reynolds, will speak out on the 9/11 inside job at the State Historical Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison on Saturday, May 6th. The film Loose Change will be shown, and refreshments served, starting at 1 p.m, and Reynolds will speak at 3:00 p.m.

Dr. Reynolds, who holds three U.W.-Madison degrees, and who is currently Professor of Economics at Texas A&M University, will present evidence that top Bush Administration officials orchestrated the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center, and the murder of almost 2,500 Americans, as a pretext for initiating their pre-planned "long war" in the Middle East.

"While more Americans doubt the 9/11 story every week, evidence abounds that many have a mental block against rational examination of the evidence about 9/11" writes Dr. Reynolds in a recent article. This mental block, he thinks, amounts to willful ignorance-not just about 9/11, but about history.

"Governments throughout history have provoked or staged attacks on their own people to serve the powers behind the throne ('the money power'), glorify themselves, engage in vast government spending, reward friends, exert domestic control, stimulate the juices of war, annex neighbors and pursue vast geostrategic rearrangements (the 'global domination project)" Reynolds asserts. He notes that every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on the "Operation Northwoods" plan to murder Americans in fake "Cuban terrorist" attacks in 1962. The planned Operation Northwoods murders of ordinary Americans in fake terrorist bombings and a fake "airliner shoot-down" would have involved hundreds of military and intelligence personnel. Yet the existence of Operation Northwoods was successfully kept secret from the American people for forty years until James Bamford revealed it in his book Body of Secrets, published in January 2002.

Though government officials have historically been able to successfully conceal their fake or arranged war-trigger attacks long enough to avoid being hanged for treason, Reynolds thinks the 9/11 cover-up has already unraveled. "Skepticism about conspiracy, small or large, is somewhat beside the point in the case of 9/11 because the official Osama-and-Nineteen-Young-Arabs (ONYA) conspiracy tale is so farcical and impossible. Nearly everyone in America has easy access to the internet and hundreds of websites expose the 9/11 fraud." (Morgan Reynolds, "Conspiracy and Closed Minds on 9/11": )

Reynolds argues that the Twin Towers and World Trade Center Building 7 were destroyed in a manner that can only be explained by controlled demolition with pre-planted explosives-which should not be surprising, since no steel framed high-rises have ever collapsed in the way the three World Trade Center buildings did for any other reason. In his article "Why Did the World Trade Center Skyscrapers Collapse?" Reynolds writes that among the many features of the WTC demolitions that suggest explosives, rather than jet-fuel fires, are:

1. Fire had never before caused steel-frame buildings to collapse except for the three buildings on 9/11, nor has fire collapsed any steel high rise since 9/11.

2. The fires, especially in the South Tower and WTC-7, were small.

3. WTC-7 was unharmed by an airplane and had only minor fires on the seventh and twelfth floors of this 47-story steel building yet it collapsed in less than 10 seconds.

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4. WTC-5 and WTC-6 had raging fires but did not collapse despite much thinner steel beams (pp. 68-9).

5. In a PBS documentary, Larry Silverstein, the WTC lease-holder, recalled talking to the fire department commander on 9/11 about WTC-7 and said, ".maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it," slang for demolish it.

6. FEMA, given the uninviting task of explaining the collapse of Building 7 with mention of demolition verboten admitted that the best it could come up with had "only a low probability of occurrence."

7. It's difficult if not impossible for hydrocarbon fires like those fed by jet fuel (kerosene) to raise the temperature of steel close to melting.

Professional demolition, by contrast, can explain all of these facts and more. Demolition means placing explosives throughout a building, and detonating them in sequence to weaken "the structure so it collapses or folds in upon itself". In conventional demolitions gravity does most of the work, although it probably did a minority on

9/11, so heavily were the towers honeycombed with explosives.

1. Each WTC building collapse occurred at virtually free-fall speed (approximately 10 seconds or less).

2. Each building collapsed, for the most part, into its own footprint.

3. Virtually all the concrete (an estimated 100,000 tons in each tower) on every floor was pulverized into a very fine dust, a phenomenon that requires enormous energy and could not be caused by gravity alone (".workers can't even find concrete. 'It's all dust,' [the official] said").

4. Dust exploded horizontally for a couple hundred feet, as did debris, at the beginning of each tower's collapse.

5. Collapses were total, leaving none of the massive core columns sticking up hundreds of feet into the air.

6. Salvage experts were amazed at how small the debris stacks were.

7. The steel beams and columns came down in sections under 30 feet long and had no signs of "softening"; there was little left but shorn sections of steel and a few bits of concrete.

8. Photos and videos of the collapses all show "demolition waves," meaning "confluent rows of small explosions" along floors (blast sequences).

9. According to many witnesses, explosions occurred within the buildings.

10. Each collapse had detectable seismic vibrations suggestive of underground explosions, similar to the 2.3 earthquake magnitude from a demolition like the Seattle Kingdome (p. 108).

11. Each collapse produced molten steel identical to that generated by explosives, resulting in "hot spots" that persisted for months (the two hottest spots at WTC-2 and WTC-7 were approximately 1,350o F five days after being continuously flooded with water, a temperature high enough to melt aluminum (p. 70). ("Why Did the Trade Center Skyscrapers Collapse?" by Morgan Reynolds: )

The apparent demolition of the three skyscrapers, and a perhaps inadvertent statement by heavily-insured WTC landlord Larry Silverstein that WTC-7 was "pulled" (slang for "demolished") can be viewed on many 9/11 truth DVDs and web-videos, including Loose Change, 9/11 Eyewitness, 9/11 and the American Empire, (Dr. David Griffin), and 9/11 Revisited (Dr. Steven Jones). Dr. Reynolds' articles on 9/11 and other matters can be found at .

The videos, and further information about Dr. Reynolds' May 6th speech, are available from the event's sponsor, the Madison-based Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth:

Will Vista Be the Last Operating System Microsoft Produces?

Here's a thought-provoking article from Apple Matters that raises some good points. If MS continues to more and more time to release new operting systems, 7+ years and counting by the time Service Pack 1 for Vista is released, one wonders if there is an opportunity for Apple Mac OS and Linux to make inroads. Rumour has it that Google is also developing a web-based OS, which sounds baffling. I plan to write more about the concept of a web-based operating system and its implications. Someone has suggested that the next killer app will the the desktop web server. Sounds again like the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Will Vista Be the Last Operating System Microsoft Produces?

by James R. Stoup
Apr 21, 2006

I don’t think Microsoft will ship another Operating System after Vista launches. I believe that a combination of technical difficulties and changing markets will prevent it from creating a product that is relevant in the market. Consider this, if the latest shipping dates are to be believed, it will have taken Microsoft over six years to get Windows Vista out the door and to its consumers. And based on past events, it is safe to assume that Vista will require at least one service pack before it is truly ready for use. Of course, factoring in the normal Microsoft delays for producing patches, such a comprehensive service pack will probably take another year before it can be released to users. That would mean that it will have taken Microsoft 7+ years to make a usable operating system.

Now consider how long it could take Microsoft to produce Vista’s successor. If the added complexity of this new OS increases the development time by only 25% (not an unreasonable figure) of what it took to make Vista, then it will have been in development for almost 8 years. That means if Vista comes out in 2007, it won’t be replaced until 2015. To put that into perspective, if Apple continues on with its release cycle of OS X (and factoring in increases in development time) they could, counting Leopard, release 4 to 5 new operating systems by the time Microsoft releases one.

But keeping up with Apple won’t be Microsoft’s biggest concern. What will prevent Microsoft from releasing another OS is the changing market. For Vista’s successor to have a hope of selling, the company has to assume that no fundamental shifts in technology will occur for almost a decade! That seems, overly optimistic at best. With Google threatening to release a web-based OS, and Apple potentially using virtualization to run all Windows applications, Microsoft might find that by the time it can cobble something together, it no longer has a market interested in its product.

Microsoft will find itself in this position (or one like it) all too soon, and it has no one but itself to blame. Here are the two biggest factors that are slowly killing Microsoft from within.

Code base
The amount of code that makes up Windows has simply become too large to work with. Now, you can blame this on anything you want (backwards compatibiliy would be high on my list), but ultimately the cause doesn’t matter. What matters is that building new features has become impossible, and debugging this mess has become impossible + 1. This was most clearly witnessed when Bill Gates got up onstage and informed his eager audience that the codebase for Vista had become so large and tangled that they simply had to throw it all away and start over from a point they knew was stable. Guess what? That problem isn’t going to go away by throwing another service pack at it. With each version of Windows released the amount of code grows and the strain gets greater. However, the amount of code isn’t the only problem here. The structure of the OS itself is fundamentally flawed. There are too many antiquated ideas (drive letters, the registry, etc.) and constraining bounds (NTFS) to allow for anymore growth. A drastic rewrite is the only way to solve this problem. The only real question Microsoft needs to ask is how much should we rewrite?

The last few years has seen a flurry of restructuring at Microsoft. Key people have left (most noticably for Google) and even loyal employees who still believe the hype have begun to criticize management and air their grievances on personal blogs. The leadership of Microsoft has failed miserably and Vista is only the beginning in what looks to be an impressive series of embarrassments. It is time for a change. If Microsoft still hopes to be in the OS market a decade from now then those changes can’t come soon enough.

DVD - Derailed


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In this thriller, the Clive Owen character meets an attractive young woman who on a train who is a financial executive. The two hit it off and decide to meet the next day for drinks and fun, by telling their spouses that they are working late. They decide to get a room in a cheap hotel...

The problem with this film is that we've seen it all before. Not too long into it, you can figure out the twist and from there, it's all down hill. This isn't a terrible film, but it just feels too familiar.

Also stars Jennifer Aniston. Clive Owen actually puts in a fine performance. It's the overall story that is the weak link.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Movie - The Sentinel


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Two Secret Service agents who used to be best friends, are tied together with a failed assasination attempt on the President. Based on flimsy evidence, one gets accused of being in a plot to kill the President and he runs, in an attempt to unravel the plot on his own.

Kiefer Sutherland is the hothot investigator agent while Michael Douglas is the accused agent who is also having an unlikely affair with... Also stars Kim Basinger as the First Lady and Eva Longoria a rookie agent.

Story is built on weak premise, even though the book it is based on was written by a former Secret Service agent. You don't get a strong sense of the reasons to kill the Prez and there's not enough "gotcha" when they figure out who the mole is. This could have been a delicous thriller but instead it's half-baked Hollywood crap. In the closeups, Douglas looks every bit his 62 years,which seems too old for an agent. Basinger looks stunning at age 53 but she isn't given much of a role. She's also rumoured to be interested in joining 24. Longoria, 21, doesn't put in a memorable performance.

Is it meant to piggy back on the popularity of the popular show 24 , which also stars Sutherland? The Sentinel lacks the cleverness and pure adrenalin rush of the tv show. 3/5 OCH.

The best part of this film was seeing the trailer for Pathfinder.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Worst President in History?

They've never liked George W. Bush at Rolling Stone magazine. Or, it seems, Republicans.

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One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush.

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole -- a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. One pro-Bush historian said the survey revealed more about "the current crop of history professors" than about Bush or about Bush's eventual standing. But if historians were simply motivated by a strong collective liberal bias, they might be expected to call Bush the worst president since his father, or Ronald Reagan, or Nixon. Instead, more than half of those polled -- and nearly three-fourths of those who gave Bush a negative rating -- reached back before Nixon to find a president they considered as miserable as Bush. The presidents most commonly linked with Bush included Hoover, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan. Twelve percent of the historians polled -- nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success -- flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.

Even worse for the president, the general public, having once given Bush the highest approval ratings ever recorded, now appears to be coming around to the dismal view held by most historians. To be sure, the president retains a considerable base of supporters who believe in and adore him, and who reject all criticism with a mixture of disbelief and fierce contempt -- about one-third of the electorate. (When the columnist Richard Reeves publicized the historians' poll last year and suggested it might have merit, he drew thousands of abusive replies that called him an idiot and that praised Bush as, in one writer's words, "a Christian who actually acts on his deeply held beliefs.") Yet the ranks of the true believers have thinned dramatically. A majority of voters in forty-three states now disapprove of Bush's handling of his job. Since the commencement of reliable polling in the 1940s, only one twice-elected president has seen his ratings fall as low as Bush's in his second term: Richard Nixon, during the months preceding his resignation in 1974. No two-term president since polling began has fallen from such a height of popularity as Bush's (in the neighborhood of ninety percent, during the patriotic upswell following the 2001 attacks) to such a low (now in the midthirties). No president, including Harry Truman (whose ratings sometimes dipped below Nixonian levels), has experienced such a virtually unrelieved decline as Bush has since his high point. Apart from sharp but temporary upticks that followed the commencement of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein, and a recovery during the weeks just before and after his re-election, the Bush trend has been a profile in fairly steady disillusionment.

* * * *

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

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No previous president appears to have squandered the public's trust more than Bush has. In the 1840s, President James Polk gained a reputation for deviousness over his alleged manufacturing of the war with Mexico and his supposedly covert pro-slavery views. Abraham Lincoln, then an Illinois congressman, virtually labeled Polk a liar when he called him, from the floor of the House, "a bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man" and denounced the war as "from beginning to end, the sheerest deception." But the swift American victory in the war, Polk's decision to stick by his pledge to serve only one term and his sudden death shortly after leaving office spared him the ignominy over slavery that befell his successors in the 1850s. With more than two years to go in Bush's second term and no swift victory in sight, Bush's reputation will probably have no such reprieve.

The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk's, suited to the television age -- a crisis both in confidence and credibility. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam travails gave birth to the phrase "credibility gap," meaning the distance between a president's professions and the public's perceptions of reality. It took more than two years for Johnson's disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll to reach fifty-two percent in March 1968 -- a figure Bush long ago surpassed, but that was sufficient to persuade the proud LBJ not to seek re-election. Yet recently, just short of three years after Bush buoyantly declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq, his disapproval ratings have been running considerably higher than Johnson's, at about sixty percent. More than half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy than his predecessor, Bill Clinton -- a figure still attacked by conservative zealots as "Slick Willie."

Previous modern presidents, including Truman, Reagan and Clinton, managed to reverse plummeting ratings and regain the public's trust by shifting attention away from political and policy setbacks, and by overhauling the White House's inner circles. But Bush's publicly expressed view that he has made no major mistakes, coupled with what even the conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. calls his "high-flown pronouncements" about failed policies, seems to foreclose the first option. Upping the ante in the Middle East and bombing Iranian nuclear sites, a strategy reportedly favored by some in the White House, could distract the public and gain Bush immediate political capital in advance of the 2006 midterm elections -- but in the long term might severely worsen the already dire situation in Iraq, especially among Shiite Muslims linked to the Iranians. And given Bush's ardent attachment to loyal aides, no matter how discredited, a major personnel shake-up is improbable, short of indictments. Replacing Andrew Card with Joshua Bolten as chief of staff -- a move announced by the president in March in a tone that sounded more like defiance than contrition -- represents a rededication to current policies and personnel, not a serious change. (Card, an old Bush family retainer, was widely considered more moderate than most of the men around the president and had little involvement in policy-making.) The power of Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, remains uncurbed. Were Cheney to announce he is stepping down due to health problems, normally a polite pretext for a political removal, one can be reasonably certain it would be because Cheney actually did have grave health problems.

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Until the twentieth century, American presidents managed foreign wars well -- including those presidents who prosecuted unpopular wars. James Madison had no support from Federalist New England at the outset of the War of 1812, and the discontent grew amid mounting military setbacks in 1813. But Federalist political overreaching, combined with a reversal of America's military fortunes and the negotiation of a peace with Britain, made Madison something of a hero again and ushered in a brief so-called Era of Good Feelings in which his Jeffersonian Republican Party coalition ruled virtually unopposed. The Mexican War under Polk was even more unpopular, but its quick and victorious conclusion redounded to Polk's favor -- much as the rapid American victory in the Spanish-American War helped William McKinley overcome anti-imperialist dissent.

The twentieth century was crueler to wartime presidents. After winning re-election in 1916 with the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War," Woodrow Wilson oversaw American entry into the First World War. Yet while the doughboys returned home triumphant, Wilson's idealistic and politically disastrous campaign for American entry into the League of Nations presaged a resurgence of the opposition Republican Party along with a redoubling of American isolationism that lasted until Pearl Harbor.

Bush has more in common with post-1945 Democratic presidents Truman and Johnson, who both became bogged down in overseas military conflicts with no end, let alone victory, in sight. But Bush has become bogged down in a singularly crippling way. On September 10th, 2001, he held among the lowest ratings of any modern president for that point in a first term. (Only Gerald Ford, his popularity reeling after his pardon of Nixon, had comparable numbers.) The attacks the following day transformed Bush's presidency, giving him an extraordinary opportunity to achieve greatness. Some of the early signs were encouraging. Bush's simple, unflinching eloquence and his quick toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan rallied the nation. Yet even then, Bush wasted his chance by quickly choosing partisanship over leadership.

No other president -- Lincoln in the Civil War, FDR in World War II, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the Cold War -- faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonized the Democrats. Top military advisers and even members of the president's own Cabinet who expressed any reservations or criticisms of his policies -- including retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- suffered either dismissal, smear attacks from the president's supporters or investigations into their alleged breaches of national security. The wise men who counseled Bush's father, including James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, found their entreaties brusquely ignored by his son. When asked if he ever sought advice from the elder Bush, the president responded, "There is a higher Father that I appeal to."

All the while, Bush and the most powerful figures in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security, one that the White House suggested included nuclear weapons. Instead of emphasizing any political, diplomatic or humanitarian aspects of a war on Iraq -- an appeal that would have sounded too "sensitive," as Cheney once sneered -- the administration built a "Bush Doctrine" of unprovoked, preventive warfare, based on speculative threats and embracing principles previously abjured by every previous generation of U.S. foreign policy-makers, even at the height of the Cold War. The president did so with premises founded, in the case of Iraq, on wishful thinking. He did so while proclaiming an expansive Wilsonian rhetoric of making the world safe for democracy -- yet discarding the multilateralism and systems of international law (including the Geneva Conventions) that emanated from Wilson's idealism. He did so while dismissing intelligence that an American invasion could spark a long and bloody civil war among Iraq's fierce religious and ethnic rivals, reports that have since proved true. And he did so after repeated warnings by military officials such as Gen. Eric Shinseki that pacifying postwar Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of American troops -- accurate estimates that Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush policy gurus ridiculed as "wildly off the mark."

When William F. Buckley, the man whom many credit as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes categorically, as he did in February, that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," then something terrible has happened. Even as a brash young iconoclast, Buckley always took the long view. The Bush White House seems incapable of doing so, except insofar as a tiny trusted circle around the president constantly reassures him that he is a messianic liberator and profound freedom fighter, on a par with FDR and Lincoln, and that history will vindicate his every act and utterance.

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Bush came to office in 2001 pledging to govern as a "compassionate conservative," more moderate on domestic policy than the dominant right wing of his party. The pledge proved hollow, as Bush tacked immediately to the hard right. Previous presidents and their parties have suffered when their actions have belied their campaign promises. Lyndon Johnson is the most conspicuous recent example, having declared in his 1964 run against the hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater that "we are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." But no president has surpassed Bush in departing so thoroughly from his original campaign persona.

The heart of Bush's domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more than a series of massively regressive tax cuts -- a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush's father once ridiculed as "voodoo economics." Bush crowed in triumph in February 2004, "We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket." The claim is bogus for the majority of Americans, as are claims that tax cuts have led to impressive new private investment and job growth. While wiping out the solid Clinton-era federal surplus and raising federal deficits to staggering record levels, Bush's tax policies have necessitated hikes in federal fees, state and local taxes, and co-payment charges to needy veterans and families who rely on Medicaid, along with cuts in loan programs to small businesses and college students, and in a wide range of state services. The lion's share of benefits from the tax cuts has gone to the very richest Americans, while new business investment has increased at a historically sluggish rate since the peak of the last business cycle five years ago. Private-sector job growth since 2001 has been anemic compared to the Bush administration's original forecasts and is chiefly attributable not to the tax cuts but to increased federal spending, especially on defense. Real wages for middle-income Americans have been dropping since the end of 2003: Last year, on average, nominal wages grew by only 2.4 percent, a meager gain that was completely erased by an average inflation rate of 3.4 percent.

The monster deficits, caused by increased federal spending combined with the reduction of revenue resulting from the tax cuts, have also placed Bush's administration in a historic class of its own with respect to government borrowing. According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever -- with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush -- sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" -- insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!

The rest of what remains of Bush's skimpy domestic agenda is either failed or failing -- a record unmatched since the presidency of Herbert Hoover. The No Child Left Behind educational-reform act has proved so unwieldy, draconian and poorly funded that several states -- including Utah, one of Bush's last remaining political strongholds -- have fought to opt out of it entirely. White House proposals for immigration reform and a guest-worker program have succeeded mainly in dividing pro-business Republicans (who want more low-wage immigrant workers) from paleo-conservatives fearful that hordes of Spanish-speaking newcomers will destroy American culture. The paleos' call for tougher anti-immigrant laws -- a return to the punitive spirit of exclusion that led to the notorious Immigration Act of 1924 that shut the door to immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe -- has in turn deeply alienated Hispanic voters from the Republican Party, badly undermining the GOP's hopes of using them to build a permanent national electoral majority. The recent pro-immigrant demonstrations, which drew millions of marchers nationwide, indicate how costly the Republican divide may prove.

The one noncorporate constituency to which Bush has consistently deferred is the Christian right, both in his selections for the federal bench and in his implications that he bases his policies on premillennialist, prophetic Christian doctrine. Previous presidents have regularly invoked the Almighty. McKinley is supposed to have fallen to his knees, seeking divine guidance about whether to take control of the Philippines in 1898, although the story may be apocryphal. But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions -- over stem-cell research, the teaching of pseudoscientific "intelligent design," global population control, the Terri Schiavo spectacle and more -- have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."

Bush's faith-based conception of his mission, which stands above and beyond reasoned inquiry, jibes well with his administration's pro-business dogma on global warming and other urgent environmental issues. While forcing federally funded agencies to remove from their Web sites scientific information about reproductive health and the effectiveness of condoms in combating HIV/AIDS, and while peremptorily overruling staff scientists at the Food and Drug Administration on making emergency contraception available over the counter, Bush officials have censored and suppressed research findings they don't like by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture. Far from being the conservative he said he was, Bush has blazed a radical new path as the first American president in history who is outwardly hostile to science -- dedicated, as a distinguished, bipartisan panel of educators and scientists (including forty-nine Nobel laureates) has declared, to "the distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends."

The Bush White House's indifference to domestic problems and science alike culminated in the catastrophic responses to Hurricane Katrina. Scientists had long warned that global warming was intensifying hurricanes, but Bush ignored them -- much as he and his administration sloughed off warnings from the director of the National Hurricane Center before Katrina hit. Reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security, the once efficient Federal Emergency Management Agency turned out, under Bush, to have become a nest of cronyism and incompetence. During the months immediately after the storm, Bush traveled to New Orleans eight times to promise massive rebuilding aid from the federal government. On March 30th, however, Bush's Gulf Coast recovery coordinator admitted that it could take as long as twenty-five years for the city to recover.

Karl Rove has sometimes likened Bush to the imposing, no-nonsense President Andrew Jackson. Yet Jackson took measures to prevent those he called "the rich and powerful" from bending "the acts of government to their selfish purposes." Jackson also gained eternal renown by saving New Orleans from British invasion against terrible odds. Generations of Americans sang of Jackson's famous victory. In 1959, Johnny Horton's version of "The Battle of New Orleans" won the Grammy for best country & western performance. If anyone sings about George W. Bush and New Orleans, it will be a blues number.

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Virtually every presidential administration dating back to George Washington's has faced charges of misconduct and threats of impeachment against the president or his civil officers. The alleged offenses have usually involved matters of personal misbehavior and corruption, notably the payoff scandals that plagued Cabinet officials who served presidents Harding and Ulysses S. Grant. But the charges have also included alleged usurpation of power by the president and serious criminal conduct that threatens constitutional government and the rule of law -- most notoriously, the charges that led to the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and to Richard Nixon's resignation.

Historians remain divided over the actual grievousness of many of these allegations and crimes. Scholars reasonably describe the graft and corruption around the Grant administration, for example, as gargantuan, including a kickback scandal that led to the resignation of Grant's secretary of war under the shadow of impeachment. Yet the scandals produced no indictments of Cabinet secretaries and only one of a White House aide, who was acquitted. By contrast, the most scandal-ridden administration in the modern era, apart from Nixon's, was Ronald Reagan's, now widely remembered through a haze of nostalgia as a paragon of virtue. A total of twenty-nine Reagan officials, including White House national security adviser Robert McFarlane and deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, were convicted on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra affair, illegal lobbying and a looting scandal inside the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Three Cabinet officers -- HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce, Attorney General Edwin Meese and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger -- left their posts under clouds of scandal. In contrast, not a single official in the Clinton administration was even indicted over his or her White House duties, despite repeated high-profile investigations and a successful, highly partisan impeachment drive.

The full report, of course, has yet to come on the Bush administration. Because Bush, unlike Reagan or Clinton, enjoys a fiercely partisan and loyal majority in Congress, his administration has been spared scrutiny. Yet that mighty advantage has not prevented the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges stemming from an alleged major security breach in the Valerie Plame matter. (The last White House official of comparable standing to be indicted while still in office was Grant's personal secretary, in 1875.) It has not headed off the unprecedented scandal involving Larry Franklin, a high-ranking Defense Department official, who has pleaded guilty to divulging classified information to a foreign power while working at the Pentagon -- a crime against national security. It has not forestalled the arrest and indictment of Bush's top federal procurement official, David Safavian, and the continuing investigations into Safavian's intrigues with the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently sentenced to nearly six years in prison -- investigations in which some prominent Republicans, including former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed (and current GOP aspirant for lieutenant governor of Georgia) have already been implicated, and could well produce the largest congressional corruption scandal in American history. It has not dispelled the cloud of possible indictment that hangs over others of Bush's closest advisers.

History may ultimately hold Bush in the greatest contempt for expanding the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution. There has always been a tension over the constitutional roles of the three branches of the federal government. The Framers intended as much, as part of the system of checks and balances they expected would minimize tyranny. When Andrew Jackson took drastic measures against the nation's banking system, the Whig Senate censured him for conduct "dangerous to the liberties of the people." During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln's emergency decisions to suspend habeas corpus while Congress was out of session in 1861 and 1862 has led some Americans, to this day, to regard him as a despot. Richard Nixon's conduct of the war in Southeast Asia and his covert domestic-surveillance programs prompted Congress to pass new statutes regulating executive power.

By contrast, the Bush administration -- in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" -- threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism. Armed with legal findings by his attorney general (and personal lawyer) Alberto Gonzales, the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim. More specifically, this administration has asserted that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees. When Congress has passed legislation to limit those assertions, Bush has resorted to issuing constitutionally dubious "signing statements," which declare, by fiat, how he will interpret and execute the law in question, even when that interpretation flagrantly violates the will of Congress. Earlier presidents, including Jackson, raised hackles by offering their own view of the Constitution in order to justify vetoing congressional acts. Bush doesn't bother with that: He signs the legislation (eliminating any risk that Congress will overturn a veto), and then governs how he pleases -- using the signing statements as if they were line-item vetoes. In those instances when Bush's violations of federal law have come to light, as over domestic surveillance, the White House has devised a novel solution: Stonewall any investigation into the violations and bid a compliant Congress simply to rewrite the laws.

Bush's alarmingly aberrant take on the Constitution is ironic. One need go back in the record less than a decade to find prominent Republicans railing against far more minor presidential legal infractions as precursors to all-out totalitarianism. "I will have no part in the creation of a constitutional double-standard to benefit the president," Sen. Bill Frist declared of Bill Clinton's efforts to conceal an illicit sexual liaison. "No man is above the law, and no man is below the law -- that's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country," Rep. Tom DeLay asserted. "The rule of law protects you and it protects me from the midnight fire on our roof or the 3 a.m. knock on our door," warned Rep. Henry Hyde, one of Clinton's chief accusers. In the face of Bush's more definitive dismissal of federal law, the silence from these quarters is deafening.

The president's defenders stoutly contend that war-time conditions fully justify Bush's actions. And as Lincoln showed during the Civil War, there may be times of military emergency where the executive believes it imperative to take immediate, highly irregular, even unconstitutional steps. "I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful," Lincoln wrote in 1864, "by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation." Bush seems to think that, since 9/11, he has been placed, by the grace of God, in the same kind of situation Lincoln faced. But Lincoln, under pressure of daily combat on American soil against fellow Americans, did not operate in secret, as Bush has. He did not claim, as Bush has, that his emergency actions were wholly regular and constitutional as well as necessary; Lincoln sought and received Congressional authorization for his suspension of habeas corpus in 1863. Nor did Lincoln act under the amorphous cover of a "war on terror" -- a war against a tactic, not a specific nation or political entity, which could last as long as any president deems the tactic a threat to national security. Lincoln's exceptional measures were intended to survive only as long as the Confederacy was in rebellion. Bush's could be extended indefinitely, as the president sees fit, permanently endangering rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizenry.

* * * *

Much as Bush still enjoys support from those who believe he can do no wrong, he now suffers opposition from liberals who believe he can do no right. Many of these liberals are in the awkward position of having supported Bush in the past, while offering little coherent as an alternative to Bush's policies now. Yet it is difficult to see how this will benefit Bush's reputation in history.

The president came to office calling himself "a uniter, not a divider" and promising to soften the acrimonious tone in Washington. He has had two enormous opportunities to fulfill those pledges: first, in the noisy aftermath of his controversial election in 2000, and, even more, after the attacks of September 11th, when the nation pulled behind him as it has supported no other president in living memory. Yet under both sets of historically unprecedented circumstances, Bush has chosen to act in ways that have left the country less united and more divided, less conciliatory and more acrimonious -- much like James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover before him. And, like those three predecessors, Bush has done so in the service of a rigid ideology that permits no deviation and refuses to adjust to changing realities. Buchanan failed the test of Southern secession, Johnson failed in the face of Reconstruction, and Hoover failed in the face of the Great Depression. Bush has failed to confront his own failures in both domestic and international affairs, above all in his ill-conceived responses to radical Islamic terrorism. Having confused steely resolve with what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "a foolish consistency . . . adored by little statesmen," Bush has become entangled in tragedies of his own making, compounding those visited upon the country by outside forces.

No historian can responsibly predict the future with absolute certainty. There are too many imponderables still to come in the two and a half years left in Bush's presidency to know exactly how it will look in 2009, let alone in 2059. There have been presidents -- Harry Truman was one -- who have left office in seeming disgrace, only to rebound in the estimates of later scholars. But so far the facts are not shaping up propitiously for George W. Bush. He still does his best to deny it. Having waved away the lessons of history in the making of his decisions, the present-minded Bush doesn't seem to be concerned about his place in history. "History. We won't know," he told the journalist Bob Woodward in 2003. "We'll all be dead."

Another president once explained that the judgments of history cannot be defied or dismissed, even by a president. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," said Abraham Lincoln. "We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."


Posted Apr 21, 2006 12:34 PM

The Pentagon's New Spies


The military has built a vast domestic-intelligence network to fight terrorism -- but it's using it to track students, grandmothers and others protesting the war.

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Last October, before the public learned that president Bush had secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without a court order, the Pentagon approached the Senate intelligence committee with an unprecedented request. Military officials wanted the authority to spy on U.S. citizens on American soil, without identifying themselves, in order to collect intelligence about about terrorist threats. The plan was so sweeping, according to congressional sources who reviewed it, that it would have permitted operatives from the Defense Intelligence Agency to spy on dissidents by posing as peace activists and infiltrating anti-war meetings.

Senators on both sides of the aisle refused to go along with the plan. "The Department of Defense should not be in the business of spying on law-abiding Americans -- period," said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. In closed-door deliberations, the intelligence committee blocked the request.

In fact, however, the Pentagon has already assembled a nationwide domestic spying machine that goes far beyond the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of telephone and e-mail traffic. Operating in secret, the Defense Department is systematically gathering and analyzing intelligence on American citizens at home -- and a new Pentagon agency called Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) is helping to coordinate the military's covert efforts with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Those responsible for the military's new spy network insist that it is aimed at preventing another attack by Al Qaeda. "The premise is that there needs to be a nexus to foreign terrorism," says David Burtt, CIFA's director. "In the wake of 9/11, there was a lot of criticism about the ability to collect dots and connect dots."

So far, the military's efforts at domestic spying have caught few, if any, terrorists. But the Pentagon has tracked the activities of anti-war activists across the country who have staged peaceful demonstrations against military bases and defense contractors such as Halliburton. Traditionally restricted to action overseas, America's armed forces -- including the National Guard -- are now linked in a growing domestic spying apparatus which, thanks to technology, has far greater power than the Army units that conducted a massive operation to infiltrate, disrupt and destabilize Vietnam and civil rights protests during the 1960s and '70s. "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America," said Wyden. "This is a huge leap without even a congressional hearing."

* * * *

Intelligence gathered by the military runs into and out of the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Here, beneath the snow-covered summit of Pike's Peak, the Defense Department has set up its first command dedicated to homeland security in a gleaming new $90 million facility. Before Northcom was established in 2002, the facility was best known as the home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the ultra-high-tech war room depicted in the movie WarGames, where sharp-eyed military personnel spent the Cold War watching for a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.

Nowadays, the place is more like a real-life version of the counterterrorism unit on 24. Judging from the bustle of activity at Northcom, anti-terrorism is good for business. The corridors are filled with dust from construction and the smell of paint, and a brand-new wing is nearly ready to open. Over the past four years, Northcom has doubled in size and now boasts a staff of 1,200 and an annual budget of $93 million.

At the center of the operation is a core group of 300 intelligence analysts and staff who inhabit Northcom and its state-of-the-art facility, called the Combined Intelligence Fusion Center. "Intelligence fusion" is a spy master's term of art that refers to melding together data from all points -- including intelligence agencies, the armed forces, law enforcement and other sources -- and analyzing all the seemingly disparate information for patterns. "The fusion and analysis that these kids do is different than anything I've seen in forty years," says Adm. Timothy Keating, the commander of Northcom.

The intelligence streaming into the center can be anything from highly polished analyses from the CIA and FBI to the military's own alerts and warnings. At the bottom are Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by many government agencies, which are often little more than rumors based on unfounded information -- a financial officer who notes an odd money transfer or a military spouse who spots a suspect individual near a base. More official are Threat and Local Observation Notices (TALONs), part of a surveillance program started by the Pentagon in 2003. More than 15,000 TALONs have been collected so far, from sources such as soldiers manning gates outside military bases, law-enforcement agencies, local businesses and the media. The SARs and TALONs -- along with intelligence from the armed forces, such as the U.S. Air Force program known as Eagle Eyes -- are eventually integrated into a single intelligence database called JPEN, for the Joint Protection Enterprise Network.

In its homeland-security role, Northcom has mobilized troops for hundreds of events since 2002, including the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, Boy Scout jamborees and the presidential inauguration. The sixty-four members of its instant command center, including an intelligence team that can be mobilized in hours, have been sent into action at special events nine times in the past two years. In addition, scores of federal agencies -- from the CIA and FBI to the Coast Guard and FEMA -- have officials based at Northcom to coordinate their work. "We're fully integrated with the Special Operations Command," says Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, Northcom's director of operations. "We have people who've done operations from a Special Ops perspective."

Inside Northcom's operations center, where wall-size screens flank rows of computer terminals linked to federal agencies, military analysts monitor everything from the president's travels to routine air traffic. A placard in the war room lists fourteen events that merit immediate attention -- "we call them 'wake me up in the middle of the night' stuff," says Col. Bob Felderman of Northcom operations. Adds another Northcom official, "We get reports if somebody's pounding on a cockpit door in flight, or there's a drunk passenger, or somebody's taped a note in an airplane restroom." But the list also includes a category for "civil disturbances of more than 1,000 persons" -- a directive broad enough to include an anti-war demonstration or anti-globalization protest.

Keating, a gray-haired commander who led the U.S. Fifth Fleet, insists that Northcom does not spy on Americans. "We are not allowed to gather intelligence on U.S. persons unless there is a clearly defined, well-understood terrorist nexus," he says.

Ever since 1878, when the Posse Comitatus Act barred the U.S. military from taking part in law enforcement, the responsibility for domestic security has traditionally resided with the police and the FBI. The Defense Department, for the most part, has been confined to protecting U.S. military bases. But shortly after September 11th, the Pentagon began muscling in on the FBI's turf. In 2002, in a move that received little public attention, the Bush administration created Counterintelligence Field Activity and charged the new agency with consolidating all Pentagon intelligence to "protect DOD and the nation against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, assassinations and terrorist activities."

The agency got another boost last year when a commission appointed by Bush urged that CIFA be empowered to collect and analyze intelligence "both inside and outside the United States." Three of the commission's consultants, it turns out, were employees of MZM -- one of CIFA's primary contractors -- and federal prosecutors are now looking into whether Pentagon personnel have committed crimes in steering CIFA contracts to MZM. Nevertheless, the president agreed last October to significantly broaden the agency's mission, giving it the authority to actually direct military intelligence operations. From a small unit designed as a clearinghouse for reports, CIFA was transformed overnight into a major arm of domestic intelligence. Both its budget and its staff, thought to be in excess of 1,000 people, are classified.

According to a Defense Department strategy paper, military spying encompasses not only "defense critical infrastructure" -- highways, bridges, communications facilities, chemical plants and nuclear reactors -- but also the "defense industrial base," which the paper describes as "a worldwide industrial complex with capabilities to perform research and development and design, produce, and maintain military weapons systems, subsystems, components or parts to meet military requirements." In other words, the Pentagon sees itself as defending the entire military-industrial complex -- a mission broad enough to include intelligence on virtually any conceivable threat.

* * * *

It didn't take long for the pentagon to begin using its new powers to collect intelligence on anti-war groups. In December, NBC News reported that CIFA had collected dozens of incident and threat reports on peace activists and other nonviolent organizations that have nothing to do with terrorism. By matching the unnamed groups in the news reports to specific activities of activists nationwide, the American Civil Liberties Union discovered that the military's spying effort had ensnared the American Friends Service Committee, United for Peace and Justice, and Veterans for Peace, as well as local anti-war groups from Florida to California.

A group at University of California Santa Cruz called Students Against the War was included in CIFA's terrorism database in April 2005, when it staged a protest against military recruiters on campus. Although the protest was peaceful, a TALON report called the demonstration a "threat," an assessment that CIFA deemed "credible." A Florida group called the Truth Project ended up in the database in November 2004, when they gathered at a Quaker meetinghouse to plan a protest against high school recruiting by the military. Five months earlier, ten peace activists in Texas merited a TALON report for donning papier-m?ch? masks and handing out peanut-butter sandwiches to highlight "war profiteering" outside the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney's former firm, the defense contractor Halliburton.

In May 2005, a California group called the Raging Grannies ran afoul of military spies when it helped organize a peaceful Mother's Day demonstration to protest the war in Iraq. Unbeknownst to them, their action was brought to the attention of a new intelligence unit at the California National Guard -- a program that went by the cumbersome title of Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management, and Intelligence Fusion. According to internal e-mails, the Guard forwarded information about the protest "to our Intell folks who continue to monitor."

Asked why the Guard was spying on the Grannies, a spokesman suggested that terrorists might try to take advantage of the activists. "Who knows who could infiltrate that type of group and try to stir something up?" Lt. Col. Stan Zezotarski told reporters. "After all, we live in an age of terrorism, so who knows?"

Joe Dunn, a California state senator, was having none of it. He launched an investigation and helped force the Guard to shut down its intelligence center. "What got us to the point of the National Guard setting up units in which, at least in California, they start down the path of domestic spying?" he asks. "Our fear is that this was part of a federally sponsored effort to set up domestic surveillance programs in a way that would circumvent the Posse Comitatus Act."

The ACLU, which is demanding more information about CIFA's activities, cites a "broad and disturbing pattern" in the military's intelligence gathering, saying the efforts are being used to target legitimate protesters. "The chilling effect of this may be the most significant," says ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner. "There is a real danger when the military is seen as being used as part of the administration's political goals."

According to Denice Denton, the chancellor at Santa Cruz, the military's covert intelligence operation is already deterring dissent. "It has intimidated people," she says. "I spoke to one of the students involved, and she feels intimidated about speaking openly because she is being watched. Students wonder, 'How was this information being collected? Were people standing behind a tree?' "

Some of the military intelligence, in fact, appears to be based on very little intelligence. "These reports are nothing more than a gossip and rumor index," says Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer who exposed some of the abuses by military spy agencies in the 1960s. "A lot of them are filed by paranoid housewives and rabid, retired colonels with nothing better to do than spy on the people around them."

With the military spying on peace groups, some activists say they are on the lookout for moles within their own ranks. Ray Del Papa, who attended the Truth Project meeting in Florida, told reporters that he believes government agents infiltrated the organization. "You could pretty much pick out who are the infiltrators," he said. "It gets you mad. It is wrong for anyone from the government to have to spy on U.S. citizens."

No one disputes that the Pentagon has a responsibility to protect its facilities and personnel. But its broad definition of "terrorism" could easily lead it back into the business of targeting legitimate protesters. In the late 1960s, more than 1,500 Army personnel tracked a wide range of dissident groups and monitored every demonstration involving more than twenty people, amassing files on more than 100,000 Americans.

The Pentagon has apologized for the latest abuses and pledged to clean up its act. Robert Rogalski, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for counterintelligence and security, says a complete review of CIFA's database is under way, adding that any data on dissidents was included by mistake. "We've laid our dirty laundry on the table, we recognize that mistakes were made, and we've done the right thing," he says. "It did cause us to realize that we have to sharpen the focus."

But it may be hard to undo the damage. By law, TALON reports that do not warrant further investigation are supposed to be purged from all databases after ninety days. Yet the information is shared with so many agencies, there is simply no way for citizens to know that their names have been cleared. "It's impossible to know how many databases there are," says Jim Harper, an information-policy specialist at the conservative Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. "And every other week, databases are being combined."

The broader threat is that military spies will gradually expand their anti-terrorist mission to include more and more ordinary citizens. "The danger is that we create an apparatus for spying -- and that becomes the essential apparatus of a police state," says Pyle, the former intelligence officer. "It goes from clipping articles to sending people out to watch protesters to taking video and sending it back to the Pentagon. If some kids knock down a power line somewhere, soon they'll be looking at every member of Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front." The military's intelligence gathering got out of hand thirty-five years ago, Pyle observes. "And my sense is," he says, "the bureaucracy forgets stuff like that."


Posted Apr 18, 2006 8:18 PM

Monday, April 17, 2006

book - The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown


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It's a fun read but not a literary classic by any means. It's interesting to see how Brown incorporated references to art and history. The ending is a let down. I'm not sure I would read another Dan Brown book. I don't care for his writing style. In fact, I am anxious to now read something well written!

Hard to believe he's sold 40 million copies of this mediocre book! Brown's next book, The Solomon Key, is supposedly about the Freemasons.

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I will see the movie, however.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Apocalypse soon?

Ask most Canadians and they wouldn't say we are in an energy crisis, unless the crisis refers to the price we pay for fuel at the pump. If there's trouble looming, you've got to wonder why the mainstream media won't discuss the issue. Note, according to the CIA World Factbook website, Canada produces 2.4 million bbl/day, as opposed to the 1.4 million cited by Frances Russell. This means that Canada is a net exporter of oil, not a net importer.

Apocalypse soon?
Canada is facing an environmental and energy crisis

Winnipeg Free Press, Wed Apr 12 2006

WHEN it comes to political scandals, this is the genuine article. It combines unethical and irresponsible behaviour with lack of transparency and accountability at the top. It's both federal and provincial in scope. It's the biggest yet.

Canada faces an environmental and energy crisis within the next decade. Not only are the politicians refusing to debate it. They are pretending it doesn't exist. Worst of all, they have no plan, no idea, how to deal with it.

Here are just some of its components:

* Canada has less than 10 years of proven conventional oil reserves left, Statistics Canada reports. In 2004, our oil production averaged 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd). We exported 1.6 million bpd to the U.S., requiring us to import some 963,000 bpd to meet our domestic demand of 1.75 million bpd.

* Canada has only 8.7 years of domestic natural gas supply remaining, also according to StatsCan. We produce 17 billion cubic feet per day (bcf) and export 9.7 bcf to the U.S., leaving us with less than half, 7.3 bcf. Even the ever-optimistic and industry-serving National Energy Board now admits Canada's natural gas situation is "unsettling."

* Canada's Prairies face an "impending water crisis with far-reaching" implications, says a new study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Dr. David Schindler, the study's lead author and Canada's most renowned environmental scientist, states the deadly combination of global warming, population pressure and the rapacious demands of Alberta's oil industry is draining all western rivers dry. Summer flows are down by 35 to 40 per cent on the Peace, Slave and Athabasca rivers. The South Saskatchewan's flow has dropped a frightening 80 per cent since 1910. Several lakes have simply dried up. And the glacier that feeds the Bow River is melting so quickly that there may be no water left in it in 50 years.
Not only has not a single alarm bell gone off in Edmonton and Ottawa, federal and provincial politicians have ramped up the looming environmental and economic disaster.

And all with virtually no public debate.

Exploitation of Alberta's Athabasca tar sands, chiefly to serve the U.S. market, is now Canada's Job One.

But every barrel of tar sands oil requires 1,000 to 2,000 cubic feet of natural gas and from three to six barrels of water. By comparison, an average Canadian home burns 9,000 cf of natural gas per month in winter. In full production, Fort McMurray's tar sands plants will demand an additional 175 million litres of water per day above the 138 billion litres a year already allocated.

As for climate change, every barrel of tar sands oil produced releases 125 kilograms of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

What happens when -- and it is when, not if -- Canada, a cold country, reaches a domestic supply crunch sometime in the next decade? Thanks to the proportional sharing clause contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement, we can't turn off the tap on either oil or gas. We can't even turn it down. We will have to go short ourselves.

And there's more, much more, all exposed in a major new report by the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute, the Polaris Institute of Ottawa and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, entitled Fuelling Fortress America: A Report on the Athabasca Tar Sands and U.S. Demands for Canada's Energy.

Most Canadians probably know bits and pieces of this biggest-ever Canadian political outrage. But it's not until they are all pulled together that its staggering impact emerges.
The planned $7 billion Mackenzie Valley pipeline, projected to deliver 1.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas through 1,400 kilometres of some of the most fragile ecosystems on Earth, terminates at a tiny station called Bootis, adjacent to Fort McMurray. The pipeline isn't for natural gas consumers; it's for the tar sands.

Alberta has set its royalty rate on tar sands production at a ridiculous one per cent. Ralph Klein's government collected more revenue from gambling than from the tar sands in 2004-05. Reacting to Imperial Oil's threats to withdraw from the pipeline last fall, Ottawa came through with concessions totalling $2.8 billion. And this at the same time Imperial's parent, ExxonMobil Corp., reported a $10 billion quarterly profit, largest in U.S. history.

There has never been any public discussion about our loss of energy sovereignty, about Canada's energy security, about Canada's environmental and economic future. Why? Because Canada, alone among oil-producing nations, has not had any energy policy, federal or provincial, for over 20 years. Since Brian Mulroney's government threw Canada's storehouse of non-renewable, strategic resources onto the unfettered free market, federal and provincial governments have prostrated themselves before the oil companies and the deep integrationists in the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

The media mainly keep mum.

This scandal is epic. Year after year, it worsens. Year after year, there is no debate, nor even questions.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Norway seeks to reduce dependence on Microsoft through open-source programs

Canadian Press

Friday, April 07, 2006

OSLO (AP) - The Norwegian government said Friday it will increase its use of freely shared, open-source software to reduce its dependency on large computer companies like Microsoft Corp.

"It should no longer be necessary to use software from the major international computer companies to gain access to electronic information in the public sector," the government said in a statement. "Now that dependency will be broken."

Measures to increase use of open-source programs include a specialist panel to set standards for public information.

The project will also set standards to allow various operating systems to communicate with one another, the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform said.

Several countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea, have been moving toward open-source alternatives.

Proponents say open source results in quicker development of software because vast numbers of people can study, update and adapt programs without having to pay licensing fees.

The Linux operating system and the Mozilla web browsers, led by Firefox, are examples of free open-source technology that users can copy, modify and redistribute.

Microsoft's Windows operating system and its Internet Explorer browser are proprietary, meaning the blueprints behind them are closely guarded, though Explorer is distributed without charge.
© The Canadian Press 2006

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Could the US win a war with Iran?

From Blogo Maximo, a great Canadian blog by Steve Struthers, from London, Ontario. Please visit it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The answer depends on what approach the US would take to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program - an aerial bombardment, a ground war, or both.

Many analysts believe the US will use the same weapons it used in the initial salvo of the 2003 attack on Iraq: sub-launched Tomahawk missiles, and F117 stealth fighters dropping GBU-28 'bunker-buster' bombs.

Armed with conventional explosives alone, the GBU-28 cannot easily destroy bunkers located very deep underground. That lack is prompting the US to consider adding on 'mini-nukes', ranging from 0.3 to 300 kilotons (kT). To put things into perspective, consider that one kiloton of nuclear weapons energy equals roughly 1,000 tons of TNT. By comparison, the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki yielded 12 and 20 kilotons.

The US is portraying these tiny weapons as 'safe for civilians', in an attempt to make a nuclear attack on Iran somehow acceptable. The bombs will use kinetic energy to penetrate the bunkers, then detonate well below ground level. The resulting blast, heat and radiation are contained by the earth, thereby reducing civilian casualties.

Would these be enough, given the likely depth of the Iranian bunkers? To assess their possible effectiveness, one must first understand where they fit in the nuclear weapons hierarchy. Weapons yielding less than 2 kilotons, or Sub-Atomic Demolition Munitions, are used by military engineer units to deny bridges and roads to advancing enemy forces. SADMs have a limited effective radius and lack the power needed to destroy or damage deeply buried bunkers.

Bombs this small will detonate at ground level or just a few metres below and will kill or injure civilians by blast, heat, and immediate radiation. Prevailing winds will also carry the resulting fallout to non-target areas, causing still more deaths and acute radiation illness. While the deaths and casualties that would result would still be lower than would be the case if larger bombs are used, the 'mini nukes' are anything but 'safe for civilians'.

Larger bombs of 100kT or more would probably be enough to take out some of the deeper facilities. The Iranians have likely anticipated this risk by building their most important facilities much deeper underground. To really do the job, a bomb of around two megatons, yielding the equivalent of 2 million tons of TNT, is needed.

A two-megaton bomb will generate a crater 500 metres wide and 140 metres deep, enough to reach all but the very deepest bunkers. Unfortunately, a bomb that large is capable of destroying a major metropolitan centre and killing not just thousands of civilians, but potentially millions.

Given the obvious deficiencies of the mini-nukes, is the US telling the truth about the size of the bombs it plans to use? In the wake of a nuclear attack on Iran, actual bomb yield will be hotly debated by both sides. Post-attack rubble, fires and fallout will make getting at the truth even more difficult. For a while, at least. Since most of the targets are in or near urban areas, civilian casualties will be magnified as bombs miss their targets and buildings closest to the targets are imploded by seismic effects of the blasts.

The US has identified nearly 450 potential targets. Most of them could be neutralized, if bombs of sufficient size are used and high civilian casualties are considered an acceptable trade-off.

Then again, if victory is defined by bringing Iran's nuclear ambitions to a screeching halt, then yes, the US could easily win. In so doing it may lose the public relations battle it sought to win with its 'safe-for-civilians' nuclear bombs.

Winning a ground war seems somewhat less likely. Reliable information about the current strength of the Iranian Army is scant. It is believed that most of its ground forces inventory is obsolete or near obsolescent, with nearly 2,000 medium and main battle tanks, and several thousand wheeled fighting vehicles, artillery and anti-tank systems. All of which would pose a problem for US forces. As would the almost 800,000 regular and reserve ground troops Iran has, many of whom are battle-hardened from combat in the 1979-81 war with Iraq. A significant portion of Iran's terrain is rugged and mountainous, thereby posing additional hurdles to overcome.

Consider the 130,000 US troops now in Iraq. Recruiting efforts at home are not going well, forcing the US Army to desperately cling to every one of those troops any way it can. If they were diverted from Iraq to fight in Iran, there would be too few of them to do the job.

Military history shows that an attacker needs a three-to-one advantage over an enemy in order to win a battle. In practical terms, this means that the US Army would need a force some 2.4 million strong to gain that numerical advantage.

Conceivably, the US could win with a smaller force, bolstered by allied troops, air power, and superior weapons. In such a scenario, bigger questions remain. Could the US, with its national budget already being strained by the Iraq war, go on the total war footing required? Would Americans be willing to accept the WWII-style rationing and other privations imposed by such a war, which is likely to be protracted?

Moreover, since Iran lacks the capacity to physically attack the continental United States, what conditions would have to exist before America would enter into a ground war against Iran?

In my next article, I'll look at the myriad risks that a war with Iran would entail.

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