Hawking Flip-Flops About Universe

Ken AshfordRandom Musings1 Comment

After almost 30 years of arguing that a black hole swallows up everything that falls into it, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking backpedaled Thursday.


Does this mean we can all get rid of "A Brief History of Time" which none of us ever read anyway?

P.S. On second reading, it occurs to me that "backpedaled" might not have been the best word for MSNBC to use . . .

How To Correct Mistakes

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

You bury them. And the bigger the mistake, the deeper you bury the correction.

From Tuesday’s Washington Post on page A02:

A story in the July 12 Sports section should have indicated that the top four finishers in the men’s 100-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic trials were separated by eight-hundredths of a second.

A story in the July 11 Sports section should have indicated that Katie Hoff won the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

The Web Watch column in the July 11 Business section misstated the name of a new business partner of the Evite Web service. The company is TicketWeb, not TicketNow.

A July 10 story on a new Senate report on intelligence failures said that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV told his contacts at the CIA that Iraq had tried to buy 400 tons of uranium from the African nation of Niger in 1998. In fact, it was Iran that was interested in making that purchase, but no contract was signed, according to the report.

Obviously, you can see how eager WaPo was to correct a story which confused Iran and Iraq — the correction was prominently placed after two separate corrections relating to stories about the U.S. Olympic trials, and after a correction about the name of a web-based ticketing service.

Nice mea culpa, boys.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

The scene is a courtyard adjacent to a police station in Baghdad. Saddam is there with several prisoners. An eyewitness tells the story:

"The prisoners were against the wall and we were standing in the courtyard when [he] said that he would like to kill them all on the spot. [He] said that they deserved worse than death – but then he pulled the pistol from his belt and started shooting them."


Re-enacting the killings, one witness stood three to four metres in front of a wall and swung his outstretched arm in an even arc, left to right, jerking his wrist to mimic the recoil as each bullet was fired. Then he raised a hand to his brow, saying: "He was very close. Each was shot in the head."


The Herald has established that as many as 30 people, including the victims, may have been in the courtyard.

Except — you guessed it — I lied. It wasn’t Saddam; it was Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq . . . just a few days after we handed control of the country to him. Will some moral absolutist explain this to me? Read more.

What Is Rove Doing?

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

That’s the question that has been plaguing me for a while. I see Bush going out to states where he is already doing well, and talking about issues that merely mobilize his base, rather than trying to attract the crucial swing voters. How can he hope to win an election THAT way, I constantly ask?

Well, according to this analysis, Bush can win an election that way.

Therein lies an important key to understanding Bush’s reelection strategy. Although age-old campaign rules dictate that the general-election candidate must emphasize moderate "swing" voters and political independents, Bush strategists are predicting that this election, more than previous ones, will be determined by the turnout of each side’s partisans. Although not discounting swing voters, Bush is placing unusual emphasis so far on rallying the faithful.

Mmmmm. So maybe he does have an actual campaign strategery (other than cheating, I mean).

The problem that I see with that strategy is this: while Bush may be mobilizing his base, he unwittingly mobilizes Kerry’s base at the same time. For example, when he speaks on subjects that please the social conservatives, he invigorates the progressive movement and others who really hate that moralizing shit! In other words, Bush motivates his no-base to vote against him just as much (if not more) than he motivates his base to vote for him.

Anyway, it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in political campaigns.

No Respect For One’s Elders

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

"Trying to eliminate Saddam…would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible…We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq…there was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern of handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

– From "A World Transformed" by Former President George Bush

"Step outside and let’s you and me have at it, mano a mano, old man!"

– My paraphrase of a young, drunk Dubya confronting his father around Christmas 1972, in a widely-underreported incident

I Love Stats Like These

Ken AshfordRepublicans, Right Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

They’re rich and chock full of meaning. This I lifted from Eric Alterman’s site. This is, in fact, part of the new afterward to the paperback edition of his book "What Liberal Media?", and it is sssoo-wwweeet:

An in-depth study undertaken for the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes and published around the time of the second anniversary of the attacks found that over sixty percent of Americans believed one of the following misperceptions:

* There’s clear evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists.

* U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

* People in foreign countries generally either backed the U.S.-led war or were evenly split between supporting and opposing it.

Moreover, the researchers discovered a direct correlation between these misperceptions and the consumption of television news as opposed to newspapers or National Public Radio. According to its figures, 80 percent of Fox News’ audience and 71 percent of CBS’s bought into at least one of the above falsehoods.

Meanwhile only 47 percent of newspaper and magazine readers and just 23 percent of those who said they relied on PBS or NPR found themselves similarly misled.

And lest we forget, phony ideas have consequences. Support for Bush’s war reached 53 percent among those who believed one of the lies, 78 percent among those who accepted two of them and a full 86 percent among those who embraced all three.

Meanwhile fewer than a quarter of people who understood the truth of the situation–rejecting all three phony canards—were willing to take a trip on Bush and Cheney’s not-so excellent adventure.

(Emphasis mine) So, where do YOU fall in this little statistical paradigm?

More America Haters

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

”Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of U.S. lives,” it reads.

Oh, geez. Not Moore’s website again. Doesn’t that guy EVER get tired of making light of dead American soldiers???

Actually, it’s not Moore. It’s Fox.

It’s a memo from Fox Senior Vice-President for News instructing Fox News not to report TOO much on dead American soldiers. Read more and/or buy the DVD.

Decision 2016

Ken AshfordDemocratsLeave a Comment

For those of you who want a sneak-peak of the man who will be elected President in 2016, you can read about him here, or just watch the Democratic convention keynote speech on July 27.

I’m not kidding. I already got $100 bucks riding on this guy in a bet with my Mom. (In 1974, she bet me $20 that Howard Baker would be President by the end of the 20th century — I just collected on it last year when I remembered).

Reasons’ Reasons

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Libertarian magazine Reason gives its list of ten reasons why Bush has got to go. The article endorses Kerry. Sort of. I mean, it clearly states that Kerry sucks, too, but it places him as the far lesser of two evils.

Not That There’s Anything Right With It . . .

Ken AshfordRepublicans, Sex/Morality/Family Values1 Comment

Regarding the recent conservative push to resurrect the same-sex marriage issue, Paul Waldman has the best tagline:

I can’t say for sure, but it does seem that some Republican senators spend more time thinking about homosexuality than any gay person I know. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I don’t know how often Republican senators think about homosexuality and gay marriage, but what they think about it is . . . well, pretty bizarre sometimes. In trying to explain how traditional marriage is being "assualted", some of these morons offer the most nutball arguments to come down the pike. Cue Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) with this analogy from outer space:

"It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right….Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."

Mmmmm. Gay person = box turtle. Marriage to someone of the same gender = marriage to an animal. (The joke going around is that Mrs. Cornyn apparently isn’t upset that she married an ass, so why should anyone else be?)

Tell, you what, Sen. Cornyn. If the day comes when people are marrying turtles, I’m right there beside you. Whatever amendment or law you want to pass to stop the scourge of man-amphibian weddings, count me in. Or EVEN man-reptile weddings. But until then, shut up. And just when you thought it couldn’t get sillier, along comes Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa), always good for a laugh on this topic. Today, he was assuaging the fears of us heterosexuals. What will happen if gays are allowed to marry?

"Will heterosexuals continue to – you know – copulate, to have sex?" the Senator asked. "Sure! But will they build families?"

Thanks for the reassurance, Rick, but what moron thought that heterosexuals were going to stop copulating because gays (elsewhere) are getting married?

And the answer to your second question – "But will they build families?" — is also "Sure!" What does Santorum think is going to happen? "You know, honey, I WANT to have children with you and raise a family, but — well — gays are allowed to marry, so . . . let’s just stay childless."

The nice thing about the same-sex amendment being discussed in the Senate is that it forces these goons to put their bigoted ignorance into the public record, and perma-sealed into history. Someday, future generations will look back and wonder how people could be that ignorant — kind of like the way most of us look at the 27 morons who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Voting While Under Attack

Ken AshfordElection 2004, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

I’m only half-following the story about the balloon being floated regarding the suspension of elections (if there is an AQ attack or something). And my thoughts on it are in the formative stages. Still, my initial reaction is that the Constitution does not permit the President to suspend presidential elections.

Why not? Quite simple.

Article II, Section 4 says that "Congress may determine the Time of chusing [choosing] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States." That’s it. End of story.

Would it be NICE if the Framers gave the President the power to override Congress’ ability to select election day, in the case of a national emergency? Maybe, but they didn’t.

Here’s the nightmare scenario, as I see it. Bush gets on television around noon of election day, and says they have credible evidence of an attack, and suspends the election. So some people don’t vote. But some people don’t know that Bush lacks the authority to suspend the election. The days ends in confusion. So are the votes counted or not? Big ugly fight. It ends up in the Supreme Court again. *Shiver* What a mess.

So I’m telling you now, without any bias as to whether it helps or hurts any particular candidate. The President cannot suspend the elections. So if election day turns into another 9/11, you vote! Got it? We all clear?

Children in Iraqi Prison

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

I saw this story two days ago, and figured it would be a U.S. news story in a day or so (instead of just in Germany, and Norway, and elsewhere in Europe). But maybe I was wrong. Anyway, depressing as it is . . . .

Norwegian authorities reacted with shock and disgust Tuesday to a documentary on German TV that American soldiers allegedly have been holding children in prisons in Iraq, and abusing them as well. The Norwegians joined the Red Cross and Amnesty International in calling for an immediate end to the abuse, and release of the underage prisoners, some of whom are as young as 12 years.

Maybe it’s not getting played because it is nothing new:

New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh indicated as much earlier this week, saying that the videotapes depict sexual abuse of minors. Several reports also cited the existence of videotaped rape involving female prisoners. “There was a special women’s section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It’s much worse,” Hersh said during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday.

(from 5/7/04 Intelwire report). Or, maybe it doesn’t register with Americans until we see pictures . . . .

Who Al Qaeda Wants For President

Ken AshfordElection 2004, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

I normally don’t like to cut & paste wholesale from other blogs/sites, but this comment from Atrios makes too much sense to ignore:

The entire debate over the past three months about how Al Qaeda really wants to influence the election is collectively the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and that’s after a year of mainlining campaign coverage from the Internet.

First of all, everybody predicting what Al Qaeda wants, could they concentrate real hard on their Ouija board and find out something else for me, like where the hell is Osama, and where is Al Qaeda going to attack next so we can warn some people? Could they get some useful information from whatever magic toaster oven is sending them messages these days?

Second of all, Republicans, figuring out the motivations of terrorists and then trying to thwart those motivations is one of those fuzzy things you accuse liberals of doing. You’re supposed to be the ones that just want to blow them up. We’re the ones who want to understand what the hell their problem is before we blow them up. Keep your gamepieces straight, guys, it’s the only way to win at Chutes & Ladders.

And Your Point Is . . . What?

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Drudge is concerned that Kerry and Edwards touch each other too much. He’s displayed a montage of nine photos, 5 of which look like there were taken within a span of two to three seconds. The message — apparently — is that Kerry and Edwards are . . . what . . . gay???

My take: Homophobia is a sure sign of male insecurity. Paranoid homophobia (seeing "gay"ness where it doesn’t exist) is male insecurity to the Nth degree. And bombing the fuck out of weaker countries, too. So what’s next? Are Bush and Cheney going to start driving around in male menopause cars — like Mazda Miatas — to show that they are "real" men?