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Chapter one: The World Set Free
Chapter two: Szilardeinstein's Monster
January 29, 2011
To Trinity and Beyond (chapter two: Szilardeinstein's Monster)[Greyhawk]
(Continuing a tale begun here.)
Parts of Paris were still burning, and numbers of people were camped in the fields even at this distance watching over treasured heaps of salvaged loot. He speaks too of the distant rumbling of the explosion--'like trains going over iron bridges.'
Other descriptions agree with this; they all speak of the 'continuous reverberations,' or of the 'thudding and hammering,' or some such phrase; and they all testify to a huge pall of steam, from which rain would fall suddenly in torrents and amidst which lightning played. Drawing nearer to Paris an observer would have found the salvage camps increasing in number and blocking up the villages, and large numbers of people, often starving and ailing, camping under improvised tents because there was no place for them to go. The sky became more and more densely overcast until at last it blotted out the light of day and left nothing but a dull red glare 'extraordinarily depressing to the spirit.' In this dull glare, great numbers of people were still living, clinging to their houses and in many cases subsisting in a state of partial famine upon the produce in their gardens and the stores in the shops of the provision dealers.
Coming in still closer, the investigator would have reached the police cordon, which was trying to check the desperate enterprise of those who would return to their homes or rescue their more valuable possessions within the 'zone of imminent danger.'
That zone was rather arbitrarily defined. If our spectator could have got permission to enter it, he would have entered also a zone of uproar, a zone of perpetual thunderings, lit by a strange purplish-red light, and quivering and swaying with the incessant explosion of the radio-active substance. Whole blocks of buildings were alight and burning fiercely, the trembling, ragged flames looking pale and ghastly and attenuated in comparison with the full-bodied crimson glare beyond. The shells of other edifices already burnt rose, pierced by rows of window sockets against the red-lit mist.- H.G. Wells, The World Set Free, written 1913
How much influence any mere writer has, and especially a 'popular' writer whose work takes effect quickly, is questionable, but I doubt whether anyone who was writing books between 1900 and 1920, at any rate in the English language, influenced the young so much. The minds of all of us, and therefore the physical world, would be perceptibly different if Wells had never existed.- George Orwell, on H.G. Wells (Wells, Hitler and the World State), 1941
Szilard always took great pride in having quickly perceived the barbarism of Hitler's regime. After Hitler came to power in January, 1933, Szilard, teaching physics at the University of Berlin, feared the worst and kept two suitcases packed for flight...
Once in England... [Szilard] indicated that he was tempted to go into biology because physics seemed so boring.
But soon physics came to seem exciting again, full of rich intellectual prospects, when in September or October 1933 Szilard conceived of a nuclear chain reaction. This breakthrough was inspired partly by H.G. Wells's The World Set Free, a 1913 novel that forecast the discovery of artificial radioactivity and of the atomic bomb...
- Leo Szilard, Helen S. Hawkins, G. Allen Greb, Gertrud Weiss Szilard, Toward a livable world: Leo Szilard and the crusade for nuclear arms control (Vol 3 of the collected works of Leo Szilard) MIT, 1987
Every step farther would have been as dangerous as a descent within the crater of an active volcano. These spinning, boiling bomb centres would shift or break unexpectedly into new regions, great fragments of earth or drain or masonry suddenly caught by a jet of disruptive force might come flying by the explorer's head, or the ground yawn a fiery grave beneath his feet. Few who adventured into these areas of destruction and survived attempted any repetition of their experiences. There are stories of puffs of luminous, radio-active vapour drifting sometimes scores of miles from the bomb centre and killing and scorching all they overtook. And the first conflagrations from the Paris centre spread westward half-way to the sea.
Moreover, the air in this infernal inner circle of red-lit ruins had a peculiar dryness and a blistering quality, so that it set up a soreness of the skin and lungs that was very difficult to heal...
Such was the last state of Paris, and such on a larger scale was the condition of affairs in Chicago, and the same fate had overtaken Berlin, Moscow, Tokio, the eastern half of London, Toulon, Kiel, and two hundred and eighteen other centres of population or armament. Each was a flaming centre of radiant destruction that only time could quench, that indeed in many instances time has still to quench.... In the map of nearly every country of the world three or four or more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark the position of the dying atomic bombs and the death areas that men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces, and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine....
As with all radio-active substances this Carolinum, though every seventeen days its power is halved, though constantly it diminishes towards the imperceptible, is never entirely exhausted, and to this day the battle-fields and bomb fields of that frantic time in human history are sprinkled with radiant matter, and so centres of inconvenient rays.- Wells, The World Set Free
My dear Professor,
I want to thank you for your recent letter and the most interesting and important enclosure.
I found this data of such import that I have convened a Board consisting of the head of the Bureau of Standards and a
chosen representative of the Army and Navy to thoroughly investigate the possibilities of your suggestion regarding the element of uranium.
I am glad to say that Dr. Sachs will cooperate and work with this Committee and I feel this is the most practical and effective method of dealing with the subject.
Please accept my sincere thanks.
Very sincerely yours,
Franklin D Roosevelt
It might lead one to think that John Campbell had a pipeline right into the nascent Los Alamos, New Mexico laboratory of the Manhattan Project... But in fact he'd simply been reading the technical journals, where all sorts of articles on nuclear fission and chain reactions had been published since 1940.
Cartmill replied a few days later, asking Campbell a few technical questions: "Wouldn't the consequent explosion set up other atomic imbalances, which in turn-and so on, until the whole damned planet went up in dust? . . . You see, I want to know how to make a U-235 bomb, so that I'll know how to destroy it, because I think that will be highly entertaining reading..."
So Campbell, in the next letter, told Cartmill how to construct an A-bomb, how it would be triggered, and what the probable consequences of an atomic explosion would be. Cartmill wrote the story, "Deadline," and Campbell used it in his March, 1944 issue, which went on sale in early February. It was not a particularly distinguished story. It was, in fact, a klutzy clunker. We have already seen that Campbell was desperate for material in the fall of 1943. (Cartmill had cleverly disguised the Allies and Axis of his imaginary world by calling them the "Seilla" and the "Sixa." The main contending countries were "Ynamre" and "Ytal" on the evil Sixa side and "Acireb" and "Aissu," though not, oddly, "Niatir," among the Seilla.) The readers rated it last, sixth out of six stories, in the monthly story-popularity poll that Campbell conducted.- Robert Silverberg, Reflections: The Cleve Cartmill Affair: One, 2003
Posted at 1800Z
January 25, 2011
Ike's other warning[Greyhawk]
January 17, 1961 - in his farewell address President Eisenhower introduces America to the term "military industrial complex." Eisenhower's own military service went from cavalry-era (in Lieutenant Eisenhower's day the sword was literally a weapon of modern war) to the atomic bomb; from an all-but neglected defense budget between the world wars (contemporary arguments were that all real wars were over) to a post-World War Two world in which Arsenal of Democracy was a phrase in which most Americans still felt a reluctant pride.
Know the world as Eisenhower saw it on that day:
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.
Have no illusions: his farewell was a caution against an economic system built around monolithic defense, but he also acknowledged there was no return to the policies and attitudes common to the democratic nations in the 1920s and '30s that made a second world war inevitable (and left us woefully unprepared for it). It was a call for balance. Read his words carefully, knowing the history of the intervening years and (anti-defense hysteria aside) it's difficult to claim his warning went unheeded. We don't look back at the weapons (or defense budgets) of 1961 as different from today in the same manner those Americans tuned in to President Eisenhower then would view the world of 1911.
But the balance was achieved. That specific hostile ideology he referenced is still with us, but for the time being, at least, it (and others) aren't immediate military threats - in the three decades after that day we progressed enough to bring about their surrender on that front. Nonetheless (hawkish hysteria aside) when it comes to global military might, we are still cutting edge. Well done, my fellow Americans - let's remain vigilant.
However, Ike issued a second caution that day, one that I'd call forgotten if not for the fact that it never attracted much notice in the first place. "But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise," he said. "I mention two only." The first we're familiar with.
Here's the second:
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
"It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system-ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."
I'm far from convinced we've done well in that regard. Though we put a man on the moon before the '60s were done, it's difficult to think of science and politics today without picturing Al Gore - and that's not a pretty picture. (If someone can offer another example, please do.) I believe much of what we think of as "science" today Eisenhower (and most of his generation, who were born before radio and watching him on TV, who'd also witnessed the eradication of multiple diseases, the electrification of America, and advances from horse-and-buggy to at least one car in every garage - this list could go on...) would have seen as "anti-science" (as I do). And while his bottom line ("public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite") seems dangerously (if sometimes absurdly) real now, I don't think it's the exact danger he foresaw.
Regardless, he was right to warn us on both counts, and we'd be right to heed both warnings. It's not too late to begin paying attention to the other one.
Footnote: While certainly no Jimmy Carter, Ike's farewell was not quite a complete farewell.
Posted at 1428Z
January 24, 2011
"Reality-based community" members collide with reality[Greyhawk]...the pair were stopped by military police and Hamsher's car impounded after guards found the vehicle's license plates had expired and Hamsher was unable to produce insurance papers.The Washington Post:Quantico spokesman Col. Thomas V. Johnson says the car was towed after the pair could not provide proof of insurance and guards found the vehicle's license plates had expired.
Yup - you don't get on a military installation with expired plates and no proof of insurance. Even the military members and civilians assigned there have to purchase insurance and license plates if they want to drive on base/post. Yes, that rule is enforced at the gate (if an ID check is in progress they'll bust you for an expired ID, too.)
More advice from experience: how you're treated by those fine folks - who deal with the situation every day and have every legal right to do what I've seen described in the above stories is based more on your behavior than most people think. Don't even dream of getting them to "bend the rules" just for you "just this once." The best you can hope for is to be turned around and encouraged to try again after completing steps to make your car "street legal." But if you expect this...
...other results are more likely.
Posted at 1003Z
January 22, 2011
The story of John and Garett[Greyhawk]
Question from Reason TV: What Happened to the Antiwar Movement?
"They used to be useful idiots," says Glenn Reynolds. "Then they stopped being useful." That's a good short answer. If you'd like an illustration of the point, read on.
Obviously, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the antiwar movement is still around. And it's certainly possible that 2012 - or 2013 - might see its resurgence. But as Reason notes, for now Democrats' involvement in the effort has dropped, and crowds at protests have dwindled. Media interest has vanished, too. All this helps explain why antiwar folks are desperately seeking support from conservative Republicans and
Tea BaggersTea Party people.
How did things get to this point? What follows is an explanation of what happened to the former military component of the anti-war movement. While a very small percentage of the whole, they were arguably the most important. Their participation inoculated other protesters from claims of not supporting the troops; their authentic voices absolved those who were never there, man, from charges of acting in ignorance of what it's really like. (If I recall correctly, the term "ultimate moral authority" was applied.)
Where are they today? I offered up my own short answer last year: they might be up in your attic or down in your cellar right now. (Take a look and come back if you'd like.) That didn't answer the question how the hell did that happen? This post will.
First (although antiwar groups never bothered) you can separate those "antiwar vets" into two groups - complete and total frauds (more here) and authentic veterans. (Some might argue there are degrees of fraud - but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.) Here we're going to examine the careers of two authentic vets - veterans of both the military and the antiwar movement. Their antiwar careers had two decidedly different endings that will serve to answer the question whatever happened to...? for most of the crowd.
We first met them here back in January, 2006 - at that time they were already veterans of "the movement" - Garett Reppenhagen and John Bruhns. Their mission at the time was to stand up at a Town Hall meeting, praise Congressmen Jack Murtha and Jim Moran for their courageous "antiwar" positions, then feed them Democratic Party campaign talking points.
Here's Bruhns, declaring Iraq an illegal and immoral war:
And here's Reppenhagen, speaking for all his wounded veteran brothers at Walter Reed who he says were now questioning the fraudulent war (presumably they would have been there themselves if they could get out of the hospital):
They weren't the only vets participating in denouncing Iraq and praising the pair of Democrats - but you have to wonder what the rest of that audience might have thought if they were told they were witnessing a choreographed event, with at least one veteran brought in all the way from Colorado for the occasion.
Murtha's response to Reppenhagen is particularly odious in hindsight. In January, 2006 the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, and he was implying that if only the Democrats could take over they could stop the war and investigate exactly who was responsible for the fraud in the first place. By the end of that year they were elected to large majorities in both chambers, but 2007 saw no such "investigation." Instead Democrats gave America one of the most pork-filled defense budgets in history - until the next one. (While few matched Jack Murtha's ability to bring home the war bacon, David Obey, one of the big cash winners in that particular bill, later chastised an "idiot liberal" antiwar Marine mom over the issue.)
But by 2007 - the height of the surge - John and Garett were busy with other projects. They were both part of a Nation magazine article featuring first-hand accounts from Iraq veterans of the horrific atrocities they claimed to have heard about or witnessed while there. Slaughtering children, burning villages, desecrating corpses - The Nation called it "the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions." Add "since John Kerry's pre-Senate days" (or "outside of Jack Murtha or Jim Moran campaign events") and that might be true.
But Reppenhagen and Bruhns were also entered in a big contest. Sponsored by MoveOn.org and VoteVets, "the public" was allowed to vote for their favorite anti-war veteran, and the winner would get to appear in an "antiwar" political ad on TV - produced by none other than Hollywood's Oliver Stone.
Here's Reppenhagen's contest entry...
...but he's an also ran - the winning contestant was John Bruhns:
(If both messages sound familiar, it's because they're largely sticking to the same script they used in the Murtha/Moran video from over a year before.)
Here's the press release announcing the contest winner.
Oliver Stone, Born on the 4th of July's Ron Kovic Unveil TV Ad Critical of Iraq War
LOS ANGELES, May 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Oscar-Award winning film-maker and Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone, Born on the 4th of July's author Ron Kovic (health permitting) and former Army Sgt. John Bruhns will unveil a new TV ad critical of the Iraq War Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Ocean Screening Room in Santa Monica. All media must RSVP to Alex@Fenton.com.
The ad is sponsored by MoveOn.org Political Action and VoteVets.org. The ad is timed to coincide with President Bush's expected veto of legislation that would bring American troops home from Iraq. Copies of the ad will be made available at the press conference.
The Stone directed ad, which airs nationwide on CNN Thursday, features an impassioned interview with Bruhns as he attacks the administration's treatment of soldiers. Kovic provides voiceover for the ad.
"I feel that my patriotism has been used and exploited," says former US Army Infantry Sergeant Bruhns. "I am very proud of my military service, but I'm very disappointed in the civilian leadership and administration for sending us needlessly into combat."
Bruhn's interview was selected by the public as part of VideoVets: Bring Our Troops Home. The project features 20 video interviews of soldiers and family members critical of the American occupation in Iraq. Over half a million MoveOn members and others watched the videos. The public voted to select one video to be directed by Oliver Stone.
So, there he was - on top of the heap of anti-war vets and assured of a bright future. But there was a problem, and it was a big one. Not only was he a real veteran, John Bruhns actually was anti-war, and that was about to prove a huge embarrassment to his many supporters and sponsors. Within weeks of his big TV debut, Bruhns would go "off the reservation" - and he did it with a confession titled "The anti-war phonies" in the Philadelphia Daily News. (Now gone - but viewable here). Excerpt:
I traded my convictions for "special interest" groups who sometimes seem to be in place simply to smear those who disagree with their political agenda. But the agenda is not anti-war. The war is used by these organizations as ammunition against political foes - primarily Republicans. They are the enemy despite the fact that many Democrats vote the same way.
It was very hard for me to go "off the reservation." I didn't want to face the fact that these anti-war groups had other aims.
We watched as legislation that had no substantial impact on ending the war was debated. There ARE anti-war resolutions still floating out there that call for a real end to the war, but the groups I worked for wouldn't spend one dime to promote legislation considered out of the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
Any genuine anti-war message was filtered through media consultants who provide politically correct "talking points" to veterans for them to carry out a phony message that is beneficial to the campaign.
We threatened Republicans with "political extinction" if they didn't change their votes on Iraq. It was a partisan tactic that got us nowhere fast.
When I worked with these organizations, I did nothing to actually stop the war. I only put on a good show that would catch the attention of the media. We focused on America's desire for entertainment rather than the core issue of ending the war.
Our troops are still being killed on a daily basis and the main agenda of these well-financed anti-war groups, I think, is nothing short of the prolonged character assassination of all those who disagree with their message. In my eyes, it's just as bad as those who fight for a continuation of the war, and I'm no longer able to distinguish between the two sides.
I was not honest when I walked away and pursued the "lone wolf" route. Instead I painted a rosy picture of my departure in order to preserve my credibility and longevity within the establishment. This confession is the only way to restore my integrity. So I can go on to continue to fight against the war in Iraq with a clear conscience.
I didn't commit eight years of honorable military service to this country to be an indirect proxy of one political party...
And with that, any chance he had at a future in the "anti-war community" was gone. He was still anti war, and he was still allowed to contribute occasional blog posts at The Huffington Post, but within a few weeks of the Dawn of the Age of Obama he was gone - an unperson.
You won't find Garett Reppenhagen at anti-war rallies these days either, but the former E4/milblogger/"first IVAW active duty member" and "chairperson of the board"/"Vice President of Public Relations for Nobel Prize winning Veterans For America"/"associate director at the Alliance for Security"/who-knows-what-else member's fate was decidedly different than that of the once "more popular" Bruhns. Reppenhagen stayed firmly "on the reservation" (from 2008: Reppenhagen confesses to killing innocent Iraqi's here, and speculates on the future of "GI resistance" here) and the payoff was revealed within a month of Obama's November victory.
From: Garett Reppenhagen
Sent: December 08, 2008
Subject: veterans green jobs alliance
I have recently become the Program Director for Veterans Green-Jobs Alliance. We are a new veterans organization setting up campuses and educational programs to teach veterans green collar skills such as renewable energy installation, historic building restoration, energy efficiency auditing, environmental conservation and more. The programs will earn veterans college credits and immediate job training that they can apply to one of the fastest growing markets in America.
We are looking for more allies and any veteran students that might be interested in participating.
If you can forward this out to your network that would be much appreciated. The letter is crafted toward veterans, but this will give you a good idea what VGA is about...
That's from a December '08 issue of the execrable Thomas Barton's communist fraudvet newsletter "GI Special". In reality, "what VGA is all about" is having veterans install insulation in attics and cellars at taxpayer expense."We think veterans are uniquely qualified to lead the environmental restoration here at home," said Kirsten Maynard of Veterans Green Jobs. "Not only have they seen environmental destruction across the world; they also have technical skills and other kinds of work skills that allow them to do the really tough work that needs to be done - like go into homes and crawl in the attic and the basement. They've been trained by the military to do it, and they actually feel comfortable being in that kind of environment."
"VGA has just received a generous start-up grant that will cover roughly half of our total expenses for 2009." Reppenhagen wrote. And more was to follow. In addition to your money (stimulus funds - "Veterans Green Jobs has a contract with the Governor's Energy Office to weatherize 1,700 homes in 18 months, leveraging stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act") Wal Mart gave them 750K to launch an "academy" to train vets how to install that insulation. ("For years, Wal-Mart has been a target of environmentalists who argue that the company's rapid expansion in the last quarter century has destroyed countless trees...") By November, 2010 the group could boast of creating "about 100 jobs." (Or at least "more than 60.")
Mike Flaherty got one of them. Here he is in a New York Times story from August, 2008 - he's protesting the Iraq war at an IVAW-sponsored Rage Against the Machine concert during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
And here he is in September 2009...
...when he was "among four veterans chosen to attend a town-hall meeting on the green economy as part of a task force hosted by Vice President Joe Biden."
Could that be this one? If so, Reppenhagen offered reassuring words for those who might be annoyed by that bogus "middle class bourgeoisie" emphasis: "I've dedicated myself to the antiwar movement and debated tactics and strategies for the most effective way to end armed conflict," he said at the time, adding that in addition to many other Utopian goals it could achieve, his organization was a great "counter-recruiting" tool. "Veterans Green Jobs provides a realistic alternative to military enlistment," he wrote at warresisters.org. "In these difficult economic times, many service members don't recognize stable opportunities outside of military service that can provide for them and their families." [By way of explaining why the peace movement's "rhetoric often indirectly demonizes our troops."]
They'd been "laying the groundwork for two years," Reppenhagen said in announcing his post-antiwar activist career back in December, 2008. "With the Obama administration already vocally promoting green jobs," he added, "Veterans Green Jobs Alliance is well-positioned to leverage resources" to achieve success.
"Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that more of our veterans can enter the new energy economy. They will create a new 'Green Vet Initiative'" the future President pledged during his campaign. While the effort had some rough patches, Politifact calls that "a Promise Kept."
So if you're really wondering what happened to the antiwar movement, check your attic and your cellar. They've been put away for now (with you paying the storage fees), but the wars continue and they're always available - if the need arises in the future.
Posted at 1210Z
January 21, 2011
SOA on WSJ[Greyhawk]
I've met Jim Hake, he's a squared-away, dedicated guy with an authentic desire to help the troops complete their mission. Spirit of America is all about giving Americans a chance to do something beyond sending beef jerky and wet wipes to the guys and gals on the frontline (something else I encourage). Through SoA you can send them the tools they need to win the kind of war they're in over there. (Our war is a good term for it.)
Here's their blog, where you'll find the latest posts from the guys they've got in Afghanistan now. Check it out, help if you can.
Posted at 0803Z
January 18, 2011
Truth and Tucson (Three)[Greyhawk]
(A series begun here)
First reports are always wrong - that old adage can't be repeated enough. In a previous installment we examined the role of several military veterans in the Tucson rampage. Those stories were revealed in reports filed several days after Jared Loughner's assault. Initial reports from the day of indicated he'd killed Representative Gabrielle Giffords and several other citizens attending her public appearance at a local supermarket. Reports of her death proved premature, but soon enough they were replaced by the following hasty narrative: An Afghan vet, driven over the edge by Sarah Palin's Tea Party political hate speech, had opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon. He hadn't acted alone, and at least one accomplice was still at large.
"Hasty" is the key word - "opened fire" and "weapon" are the only accurate portions of that description. Most everything you'd need to know to "understand" Jared Loughner was known within hours of the event - and none of it remotely pointed to "politics" - at least as a rational person would define the term, as motive. Still, national media reports the day of (and day after) the event looked less like what could be found with a one-minute Google search (links to Loughner's YouTube page and reviews of the bizarre videos there were also in my inbox within minutes of the first report revealing his name; links to descriptions by his friends of a guy who was anything but a conservative Tea Party military veteran followed shortly thereafter) and more like this example from that evening by the Associated Press:A gunman nearly unloaded a semiautomatic weapon at a busy supermarket Saturday during a public gathering for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wounding the Democrat and killing Arizona's chief federal judge and five others in an attempted assassination that left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.
Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law.
"For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
Add another unstable veteran to the tale. He had nothing to do with it, of course - had that space been used to provide more descriptions of Loughner by his friends, or more details of the contents of his "Internet postings, including some that express convoluted observations about government" that conclusion would be obvious to any rational reader.
Glenn Reynolds - as usual - collected and presented links throughout the day of the shooting (start at the bottom of the page here and work up). "Sadly, I don't think most of them had to "descend" very far," was Reynolds ultimate take on national media outlets' coverage of Tucson. (Another example: CNN's use of a picture of someone else identified as Loughner.) His conclusion: "local media did better."
But unless you were in Tucson - or on the internet - you had no access to that local news. Among those relying on hours of "national news reports" that substituted rabid speculation for factual details was a Tucson resident making his way home from California:
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was leaving a sheriffs convention in Palm Springs, Calif., a week ago Saturday when he got word of a shooting just outside Tucson.
"Seven people shot. That's all we knew," he said.
"I just got angrier and angrier on my way back to Tucson," said Dupnik, a longtime family friend of Giffords' and her parents.
On the six-hour drive back, he heard more details on the radio. That it was at a town-hall meeting outside a supermarket. That U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head and was clinging to life. That the gunman, young and possibly mentally unstable, kept firing and killing and wounding others before being tackled and disarmed.
He arrived at headquarters and about a half-hour later was standing before reporters to give a briefing. He started speaking about his friend, Giffords, and about his sadness and his shock. Then, he gave voice to his anger.
What Dupnik said next catapulted him into the national spotlight: The killer, he said, might have been influenced by ugly political rhetoric. He called it "vitriol." He blamed radio and television commentators.
Dupnik, a registered Democrat, has won every election since his first in 1980. In 2008, he won with nearly 65 percent of the vote. His longevity as well as his political skill have made him a de facto leader among Pima County Democrats.
His own imagination might have fueled his fever pitch during that race against time (and evening news deadlines) to get home from his convention - but six hours of unrelenting assurances that Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers were trying to kill him and everyone like him could have contributed to his rage, too. One can almost sympathize with him if, by the end of the long ride, he was imagining Palin herself pointing one of those big Alaska Grizzly Bear guns at him from behind every cactus on the route.
And during those same six hours most every claim regarding Loughner, his background and motives were debunked. The irony that Dupnik was right to blame "radio" for whipping up a frenzy - but had opened fire on the wrong specific target - was lost on the sheriff himself. Delivered before his engine had cooled, his press conference statements came in time to be added as further confirmation to many of those same erroneous day-of-the-shooting reports that inspired him to fire them off in the first place. "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government - the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," Dupnik declared. "And, unfortunately, Arizona has become sort of the capital, we have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
That assessment might have surprised combat veteran Dr Peter Rhee, who would later state that Tucson was "embarrassing and pathetic" to trauma surgeons "because violence is almost nonexistent... I know everyone in the country thinks World War III is going on in Arizona, but it's probably still the nicest place I can think of to live." (Part of the reason additional surgeons had to be re-routed from Afghanistan for this horrific event.)
Within 24 hours the remaining elements of the bogus narrative that emerged almost before Loughner's victims were on Rhee's operating table were acknowledged as such. Stars and Stripes ran a story debunking Loughner's "military veteran" status - though local news had it the day before. (Four days later Lopez would acknowledge that she'd "...wrongly reiterated some information told to me immediately prior to the interview that the suspect shooter in the Tucson attack was possibly a veteran of the war in Afghanistan." The Washington Post would simply overwrite their original reference to the claim.)
And that same Sunday morning saw Sheriff Dupnik on national TV assuring America that reports of other shooter(s) were also wrong - "There's no doubt [Loughner] acted alone." But even in the clear light of dawn, when it came to the last vitriolic shred of the Tucson shooting myth - the sheriff would bitterly cling to his guns.
More to follow.
Posted at 1541Z
Truth and Tucson (Two)[Greyhawk]
Contrary to first reports, Jared Loughner was not an Afghanistan veteran - in fact, he'd been rejected for military service. But there were several veterans involved at the scene of his crime and the hospital where his victims were treated. Their stories would emerge in the days following the shooting.
Among them, James Eric Fuller, 63, "a naval air veteran [who] drove himself to Northwest Hospital after being shot," Kenneth Veeder, 75, "a retired Vietnam veteran in the Airborne Infantry division of the Army. According to KVOA-TV in Tucson, a bullet grazed Veeder in the leg. He was treated and released from the hospital in one day," and George Morris, 76, a former Marine who took two gunshot wounds, and whose wife Dorothy was killed in the assault.
The Morrises, though Republican, had attended Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's "Congress on Your Corner" event Saturday because they wanted to ask her about something that was on their minds, friends said. When a gunman, identified by police as Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire on the gathering, Giffords was severely wounded.
Royle said he spoke to George Morris in the hospital. "He's hurting - emotionally and physically," Royle said. "He has some pretty good wounds. He's out of intensive care, but he will need some therapy. The bullet wound went through him. He has a broken rib and punctured lung. And he has a bullet in his right leg. He told me when it all happened, he went to fall on his wife to protect her, but she was already gone."
Also present was 74-year-old retired Colonel Bill Badger:
A 74-year-old retired Army colonel who helped disarm and subdue the gunman who went on the shooting rampage here credits his military training for his ability to respond quickly.
Bill Badger said in an interview at University Medical Center that he was wounded and disoriented in Saturday's shooting but still managed to assist three others in holding the suspect down until police arrived.
"I dropped down all the way to the ground, and I lowered my head about 6 inches. I felt this burning, stinging sensation right in the back of my head," he said.
Then the shooting stopped. The gunman had run out of ammunition. Badger said he was disoriented but saw another man hit the gunman over the head with a chair.
Meanwhile, a woman knocked a second clip of ammunition out of the gunman's hand. Badger said he got the shooter in a choke hold while another man forced his knee into the suspect's neck.
"The guy's face was in the cement, and every time he would move, I would tighten my grip on his throat and this individual would push harder with his knee and all he (the gunman) said was, 'Ow, ow, ow, ow,' " Badger said.
Badger, a military pilot for 26 years, said they held the suspect down for around five minutes until help arrived.
Badger said he had no idea how badly his head was bleeding.
The number of veterans in the crowd might seem surprising at first glance - but it isn't. Though often dismissed as flag-waving suckers (or even perceived as threats - see part one), most of those who've devoted years of their lives to defending the nation simply take a more active (and absolutely non-violent) interest in the political freedoms they've guaranteed. They end up in just about every political party on the American scene, but in this case several ended up in the hospital. Waiting for them there:Rhee's time in combat prepared him for the Tucson shooting, but his time in violence-racked Los Angeles prepared him for combat:
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, gunshot wound through her brain, was fortunate enough to be wheeled into the emergency room of a uniquely qualified surgeon: Dr. Peter Rhee, a 24-year military surgeon who has treated "hundreds and hundreds" of battlefield injuries during stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rhee, 49, chief of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson, said his work in the Navy tending to injured soldiers and Marines and teaching the next generation of battlefield medical personnel unquestionably played a role in his ability to treat Giffords and direct care for the 10 other victims who began arriving in his unit Saturday morning.In 1992, the Navy set up the Navy Trauma Training Center at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California hospital. The idea was straightforward: Navy doctors would work side by side with civilian doctors as the gunshot victims of L.A.'s street violence came through the hospital. Doctors there were seeing wounds from weapons that once were fired only by soldiers.The Los Angeles Times reported that Rhee spent "five years as the director of the Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he typically would treat 30 gunshot wounds a day."Rhee used his experience treating trauma injuries in Los Angeles -- the gunshots wounds, the stabbings, the car crashes -- to prepare military doctors, nurses and other medical personnel for the battlefield.
He described Tucson as "decidedly quieter than his past posts," though according to McClatchy news:That knowledge might explain why for this mascal event a call for outside help was made - with one doctor diverted from a trip to treat soldiers in Afghanistan:
Tucson, Rhee said, was the perfect place for him after his military career, allowing him to teach at the University of Arizona and see regular trauma, in part because of its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border.
"We don't get a madman shooting 20 people but we get mass casualties," he said. "We know we how to handle them."He also called on other military doctors to help treat Giffords. Dr. Geoffrey Ling, an Army colonel and an expert on brain trauma, was on his way to Afghanistan when he was diverted to Tucson. He and Dr. James Ecklund, a retired Army colonel, assessed the treatments and met with Giffords' family, including her husband, Mark Kelly, an active-duty Navy captain and astronaut.
Still, "Tucson is actually, for a trauma surgeon, very embarrassing and pathetic because violence is almost nonexistent," Dr Rhee said. "I know everyone in the country thinks World War III is going on in Arizona, but it's probably still the nicest place I can think of to live."
A trauma surgeon would know - but others would disagree, including a now-well known sheriff. And while there were many individuals above whose actions are praiseworthy, one - following a series of absurd twists in this tragic tale - would lend credence to expressed early fears that political hate speech can push "some folks over the edge." To understand that completely - or as much as possible - we'll have to return to day one and follow those twists and turns from the beginning.
Posted at 1350Z
Truth and Tucson[Greyhawk]
I was traveling over the weekend of 8-9 January, and listening to a book-on-CD instead of the radio, so I missed out on much of the big news from those days. I was confident that just about anything newsworthy I might be interested in (and a lot of what I wouldn't) would be waiting in my email inbox once I got home, and I wasn't disappointed. That Sunday evening I found a friend had forwarded me (at 2:49 PM Eastern on Saturday) an email alert from Fox News (he'd received at 1:21 PM Eastern). Subject: BREAKING NEWS: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Fatally Shot. The text was brief "Rep. Gabrielle Giffords dies after being shot in the head during public event in Tucson". Wrong, I thought to myself a day later - but Fox wasn't the only news organization that would soon retract that erroneous report, confirming the old (military) adage first reports are always wrong is still true enough, and that speed of news delivery has no impact whatsoever on accuracy.
The gap between modern expectation of information and reality is reflected in this immediate "on the scene" report from a bakery across the street from the scene of the crime:
Soon after, several customers rushed in and said that Giffords had been shot at the Safeway across the street.
Rivera didn't believe it at first.
Many customers seemed to be in disbelief at the news, Rivera said. Some whipped out cell phones and laptops to scan the internet for news. At one point, a woman yelled that she had just read on CNN that Giffords had died.
For them the answers were literally just a few steps away, but they likely believed they had good reason to not venture out, as (according to multiple news reports) the search for a second gunman continued.
deadclinging to life and the second gunman still on the loose, the psycho veteran angle came into play:
Smith: Do you know anything about who this person was? Have you heard a description of this person?
Lopez: I have heard, and I don't know this for a fact, that this person was an Afghan veteran.
A veteran of the war in Afghanistan?
Yes. Um hmm...
The above is an excerpt from Shep Smith's interview with Arizona State Senator Linda Lopez - "at the hospital where doctors and nurses are working to save Arizona citizens' lives at this moment." Lopez revealed the initial report on Gifford's death was wrong, and added details on the bullet's trajectory through her head, indicating remarkable skills of surgeons had kept her alive.
Again, early reports are always wrong, but early reports on horrific and senseless crimes like this one - at least since the days of Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Whitman - invariably raise that psychovet issue. Lopez might not have realized the absurdity of creating multiple new rumor-based myths about this case while debunking the obviously incorrect first, but Smith, if anyone, should have known better. While somewhat more cautious in this example, his interview is reminiscent of an earlier episode when he claimed the murder of Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns by 89 year-old James Von Brunn (soon revealed to be a WWII Pacific veteran, journalist and Nazi) proved a DHS report on right-wing groups recruiting combat-trained Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was "prescient." The fury and fallout resulting from speculation and mis-reporting following Von Brunn's attack - like the attack itself, or the initial story of that misguided DHS report - has been mostly expunged from American memory. Like most forgotten history it was soon to be repeated - much louder this time, as Lopez and Smith were about to re-introduce all those themes.
Prior to speculating on Loughner's military service, at Smith's prompting Lopez had offered this guess at a connection to "Tea Party people":
Smith: It would appear that she's been targeted by people for some level of violence more than once. Is this something that was a concern to you and her?
Lopez: "...There's been so much vitriol flung at her by the Tea Party people - you know, her opponent in the election was a Tea Party candidate, and the signs were up around town accusing her of horrible things. You know, when people make these kind of comments it pushes some folks over the edge."
Then, after describing the killer as a possible Tea Party-inspired Afghan veteran, Smith and Lopez concluded by assuring viewers they wouldn't engage in spreading speculation and rumors surrounding the case:
Smith: It's my understanding that this person who did the shooting said something as he was shooting.
Do you know anything about that?
I don't know anything about that.
You heard that as well though, correct?
An early Washington Post report (since vanished from their web site, but still viewable here) claimed others had accepted or promoted that "veteran" story, too: "The [killer] was identified as Jared Loughner, who appears to have left a trail of Internet postings, including some that express convoluted observations about government. Law enforcement officials said they believed he was a military veteran."
In reality Loughner was an Army reject. The Arizona Daily Star debunked the claim on the day of the shooting - using an (outdated?) journalistic technique called "asking someone who actually knows."
First Sgt. Brian Homme, who oversees Army recruiting in Tucson, said Loughner applied to enlist in December 2008 and was sent to Phoenix to take a test and physical. But "he was found to be unqualified so he never joined the Army," Homme said.
He declined to say why Loughner was rejected, citing confidentiality laws.
Though the Army declines to give details in specific cases, 75% of Americans of age are unfit for military service, so in that regard he's in the majority. By sundown that day in Tucson, most of the speculation regarding Loughner's political ties had also been debunked.
There were actual military veterans involved in this story, including Giffords' husband - and Lopez'. In fact, for a nation with a small percentage of veterans in the population there were (fortunately, in some cases) an amazing number of prior-military folks at the crime scene and at the hospital where this interview took place. One of those vets would ultimately prove that many of Lopez' comments ("when people make these kind of comments it pushes some folks over the edge") were indeed prescient - but most would perform nothing but heroics. The real story of their actions would eventually emerge, but as Jonn Lilyea noted "it's more newsworthy when the shooter is thought to be a veteran than one of the guys who ended the shooting is a veteran."
Posted at 1113Z
January 13, 2011
Dear Tea Party Morons[Greyhawk]
Can you idiots lend us a hand here? We're trying to stop the Afghan war, and could use your help. I know, you're probably thinking "piss off - we're too busy inciting people to kill our political opponents." And sure, you don't care about other people's kids getting killed in a war, either, but here's something you are probably too ignorant to know: war costs money, lots of it. You people are against the government spending money, right? So unless you want to be labeled hypocrites you might want to start opposing the war with us. We figure that with your numbers and our brains we'll have
BarackAmerica out of this tar babymess in no time.
You might not like that, but also remember Ronald Reagan did that withdrawal thing in Beirut. I mean, you rubes view him as an infallible, God-like, messianic figure, right? (It's okay - we feel the same way about Obama. Except for his warmongering in Afghanistan which he is only doing to appease you.)
Anyhow, hard to argue that Afghanistan isn't about the shittiest mess of a war in history not counting the worse mess your asshole criminal President Bush got us all into in Iraq while ignoring the real central front in the war on terror which, now that we've thought it over, isn't worth the cost, right?
So if you inbred, slackjawed, sister-humping dipshits could take a few minutes off from cleaning your weapons, watching Glenn Beck, listening to Rush Slimebaugh, and checking for new Tweets from Sarah Palin long enough to join us in an important and grown up national conversation about this topic followed by a few street protests we'd appreciate it.
- The Left.
P.S. don't bring guns to the demonstrations. Or any of those shitty home-made signs you people love so much, either. But if any of you want to learn some giant paper-mache puppet making skills let us know.
(Previously in the "imaginary but honest letters" category: Dear Abby, September 2009.)
Posted at 1600Z
January 11, 2011
Band of Brothers AFC Divisional Playoff Raffle - Patriots vs Jets[Greyhawk]
A great opportunity for football fans (and other patriots!)
Entry Deadline: 11:00 AM EST Thursday, January 13, 2011
Drawing Date: Thursday, January 13, 2011
* Winner and guest will enjoy 2 tickets to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium where the N.E. Patriots will take on the Jets; (January 16, 2011, Kickoff at 4:30 PM)
* Winner and guest will enjoy 2 pregame field passes to game (Valid only for pregame access to the above referenced game)
* Winner will receive 1 night hotel accommodations at the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel (January 16, 2011, single room, double occupancy)
* Winner will receive 2 round trip coach ticket vouchers on Southwest Airlines (Valid for one year from date of issue)
* Winner will receive a $250 allowance for ground transportation and other expenses
* Winner will receive a football autographed by NFL Hall of Fame Guard and Patriots Legend John Hannah
* Winner will receive a photo autographed by New York Jets Quarterback, Mark Sanchez
* Winner will receive a Band of Brothers baseball bat autographed by legendary Easy Company veterans Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron
* Winner will receive a cash prize in the amount of $605.00 to mitigate the Winner's tax liability that results from winning the raffle. This prize is withheld and paid, on behalf of the Winner, directly to the IRS ($600.00) and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ($105)
Raffle tickets are just $2 each (minimum purchase: 5 tickets) - proceeds go to the Richard Winters Leadership Project. Enter here.
Posted at 1342Z
In the company of heroes: Colonel William Bower[Greyhawk]
More on the Raid (and the men who flew it) here.
Posted at 1257Z
January 10, 2011
Fans of Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, Stan Lee's Superhumans, and a host of other programs can breathe easy: your shows won't pre-empted for this:A controversial miniseries on the Kennedy family will not air on the History Channel because the completed multimillion dollar project does not fit the "History brand," the network said.
Maybe MTV will pick it up. (After all, they don't do music videos.)
Posted at 1711Z
In the company of heroes: Dick Winters[Greyhawk]
I didn't know him - but I know a few of this type:
When people asked him if he was a hero, he liked to answer the way his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney, did.
"No," Ranney said. "But I served in a company of heroes."
Following the miniseries, Winters turned down most requests for interviews because he said he didn't want to appear like he was bragging.
There's a project in the works to honor Maj Winters, stories here, here and here. The web site for that effort seems to be unavailable at this time. (I hope because of heavy traffic, will see what I can find out and report back.)
Spent the past week traveling myself, to the funeral of another veteran of the Second World War (and others). A great generation is passing. Should you happen to know one of those who are still with us they might appreciate a moment or two of your time. If you're fortunate they'll use it to tell you stories, the likes of which may not be told much longer.
Update: I'm reliably informed the page for the Dick Winters project is still up - so I'm guessing heavy traffic is the cause of my inability to connect. I'll keep trying. (You should, too.) More details here.
Posted at 1532Z
January 1, 2011
The bestest year in science ever[Greyhawk]
I'm hoping that title will apply to this coming year - but it will be hard to top 2010. Here's one reason why.
Remember this?In Iceland a volcano erupts - embedded in a massive smoke cloud, ash and other particulate matter are flung skyward. An impressive sight if you can get close enough to view it...
Maybe not - it's been over eight months since the most powerful volcano in world history erupted, and lots of other things have happened since. So if you forgot that story don't feel too bad. Besides, thanks to the hard work of government officials armed with science we were all kept safe. Although they can't stop volcanoes from erupting they can - and did - ensure we were all kept safe from the danger. If they hadn't acted fast thousands of people might have died, and then you would have recognized that picture - taken from an aircraft flying nearby - for sure.
I wrote a little bit about it when it was happening, but because it was science - and had big words like "particulate" in it - it might have been too complicated for a lot of people to understand. ("Complicated" is a big word for "hard" or "difficult" or "very tricky." Lots of stuff that governments do is complicated, which is why most people can't really understand it.) When I was in the Air Force I did meteorology stuff. That's a big word for "weather science" which is very complicated. I am not a real scientist myself, I did "operations" which is only applied science. And I sure wasn't perfect - sometimes it didn't rain when I said it would, and vice-versa! But even though I am not a scientist myself I think I can explain things in such a way that it will be obvious to everyone what sorts of wonderful things governments can do for us with science.
I will start my story with a brief look back at the bad old days before we had science. Back in those olden times people thought the earth was flat, and that if they went too far away from land in their boats they would fall off the edge, which would be a horrible fate. Also they thought there were dragons and sea monsters who would get them. Crazy, right? But as people started to understand science more they realized that wasn't really true. So they went farther out in their boats, and found other lands and cultures. And some of those people they found didn't have good science yet, but they had volcanoes, and they would sacrifice virgins to the volcano gods.
Well, that's enough talk about the bad old days. I just wanted to point out that now we have science and don't have to live in fear anymore. Not only can we travel all over the globe via air, land and sea, we have launched rockets into outer space thanks to science. It is amazing when you think about it, isn't it? Here is a picture that shows what the earth looks like from a satellite in outer space orbit.
US Air Force infrared satellite imagery, 18 April 2010
You don't have to pay attention to that writing. And if you don't have maps such as many people who are U.S. Americans, don't worry. This is a map that shows a far away land called Europe. That is where they have castles. But it is not make-believe, it is a real place, I got to live there once, and I have seen it. The volcano is exploding on the island in the upper left part of the map. It is called Iceland.
"They should call it Volcano Island instead," you might say. Maybe so.
This picture is from a time when all flying was stopped in Europe because of all the smoke and ash from that volcano. "I don't see all the smoke and ash from the volcano," you might say. "Just a little bit maybe around Iceland. Or is that just a regular cloud?"
That is where science is very useful. Here is another picture. It is from a few days earlier. It is a very pretty picture except for the volcano death cloud in it. It is in the top part of the picture, headed straight for Europe!
This looks like a regular picture like you could take with the camera you got for Christmas, but it is really a very complicated image that you might not understand unless you are a scientist. Scientists create this image using science to "allow extraction of additional information that the human eye fails to capture with its receptors for red, green and blue." Here are some other examples you can look at.
"Some of those are just crazy colored!" You might say. Yes, but you can make them any color you want. In the picture above they made the water look a pretty blue, the land look a lush green (except for the rocky brown edges) the clouds look fluffy white like bunny tails, and the deadly streak of death from the volcano is brown. That helped people understand it better.
Not only could they "see" it, the scientists were also able to use their weather forecasting computer models to predict what the ash cloud would do next. Here is what they discovered. (You can ignore the complicated writing under the video. The pictures are what matters.)
It was when the scientists showed this to the government officials that the government officials acted swiftly to save us all. They leaped into action and shut down all the airplane flying in Europe before the deadly cloud of death descended. Some people were upset by that, but newspapers and television were very helpful explaining to people why they were in danger from an ash cloud that was invisible to the human eyes.Also (as if that wasn't bad enough!):
A plane passing through a cloud of volcanic ash can suffer damage from nose to tailfin. The ash can sandblast the plane's windshield, hampering visibility. The particles can block fuel nozzles and air intakes for the instruments that detect airspeed. They can also contaminate the oil system and electronics.
Bob McDonald, host of CBC's Quirks & Quarks, notes the sharp particles in the ash are so abrasive they are capable of stripping the paint off the exterior of a plane. Also, when pulled into the plane's ventilation system, ash poses a health threat to passengers, says McDonald.
"Airplanes draw air in from the outside to keep everybody on the inside healthy and happy," said McDonald. "And so then the gases that would be in the cloud would also get inside the plane and people would start breathing it."
But the most serious threat is to the engines.
"Jet engines are like giant vacuum cleaners. If they're in a volcanic ash cloud, they're just sucking in all that ash and that damages the engines," said Tom Murray, director of the Volcano Science Center at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which oversees five volcano observatories in the U.S.
The ash can melt or vaporize in the engine's combustion chamber, said Michael Fabian of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University's campus in Prescott, Ariz.
The molten ash can then coat the turbine blades like spray paint, disturbing the normal air flow and possibly causing the engines to shut down, said Fabian.
The ash can also interfere with the engine's thermostat, causing the computer system to think the engine is running cooler than it is. The computer would then automatially inject more fuel into the engine, causing it to overheat and shut down.
Even worse, Ash is especially dangerous because the particles can't be seen on weather radar and at night, they're invisible to pilots.Such dangerous and costly encounters between aircraft and volcanic ash can happen because ash clouds are difficult to distinguish from ordinary clouds, both visually and on radar.
But guess what? In spite of the horrific danger of airplanes crashing like a ball of fire into your house and killing everyone the airlines all wanted to ignore the scientists and television reporters and government officials and just send people to their deaths - because they were losing money! They claimed they were losing 200 million dollars every day, and lots of other industries were suffering, too. But those are just estimates, not science. They couldn't even agree on how much money they were supposedly losing! But they were still getting angry about the ash cloud that had spread over all of Europe that they couldn't see with their red/green/blue-only eyes! They couldn't even imagine it being there because money, money and money was all they could think about.
"Why didn't the authorities show them another multi-spectral image showing the death cloud over all of Europe?" You might ask. That is an excellent question that shows you are a good critical thinker. The answer is that while I'm sure they could have, by then they were very, very busy trying to solve this problem before the money-grubbing airline idiots sacrificed someone to the volcano gods. And by then the volcano ash cloud of death had spread even farther and was threatening Asia and North America, too! Look at it!
"Met Office" is where the weather forecasters work... "Now wait a minute," you might say, "I've got some more questions..."
"Be quiet! I would be forced to respond. "No one ever got to be a great scientist by asking questions! You learn by listening!"
"I was just going to ask where Europe was on that map," you might reply. "That's just it!" I would say. "It is gone! It is under the part of the cloud so black it would block out the sun!"
And you will be amazed at what these anti-science airlines did next.
Dutch and German airlines carried out test flights over Europe on Saturday and said their planes appeared undamaged by a volcanic ash cloud that has forced airports to close across the continent.
Dutch airline KLM said if further examinations showed its test flight to have been successful, it hoped to fly seven planes back from Germany to Amsterdam on Sunday and get permission to restart partially its operations.
Germany's Lufthansa said it flew 10 planes to Frankfurt from Munich, mostly flying at a 'visual level' of 3,000 meters while also testing conditions through to a height of 8,000 meters, company spokesman Aage Duenhaupt said.
"All airplanes have been inspected on arrival in Frankfurt but there was no damage to the cockpit windows or fuselage and no impact on the engines," Duenhaupt added.
"OMG!" You might say. I know, right? Things were getting out of control! Fortunately other governments found some courageous military pilots who were willing to risk everything for the truth.
Images taken inside one Hornet engine with a fibroscope camera indicated that the heat of the engine -- around 1,000 degrees Celcius -- had melted the ash inside the engine, blocking ventilation channels.
"Blockages of ventilation channels caused by melting ash lead engine components to overheat and material to weaken," it said, adding this could fracture rotating engine parts.
In the worst case, the weakening of component materials could cause "parts to detach and the engine to be destroyed," it said.
A huge cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland has spread over large part of Europe, shutting airports and forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights.
That is incredible science, and incredible courage. As the evidence from the fibroscope camera revealed, those pilots were lucky to be alive. "Where were they flying?" you might ask. But it doesn't matter - as the story points out the huge cloud was was over large parts of Europe. And here's more:
Glass build-up from Iceland's volcanic eruption has been found in an engine of a NATO F-16 fighter plane, a U.S. official said on Monday, underlining the dangers to aircraft of flying through the ash cloud.
The official did not say which nation's aircraft had been affected, where it happened or when, but it was the second air force to report problems from the ash cloud -- Finland, not a NATO member, reported similar problems on Friday.
Wait," you might ask, "is this the first volcano eruption in the history of the world?" But that question is so ridiculously anti-science I won't even answer it.
You would think that would make the Germans and Dutch shut up and quit trying to get people killed, but by this point in time flying had been shut down for days, no one had seen a speck of ash in Europe - on the ground or in the air, and the airlines were claiming to have lost billions of dollars, and other industries all over the world claimed they were suffering, too. But it was obvious to anyone who understood science that they were just trying to use fear and ignorance to get their way (meaning get their money!), and that flying would mean a horrific fiery death in flames and twisted wreckage to anyone foolish enough to attempt it, and perhaps innocent people on the ground, too.
Then people in England were subjected to a horrifying sight - 'German planes are flying over London again': Lufthansa aircraft spotted in UK airspace... as British jets remain grounded - it was like 1940 all over again!
But while the Germans enjoyed mastery of the skies over England, frustrated and grounded British Airways staff at Heathrow and Gatwick were left to look enviously up as their rivals flew above them.
'German planes are flying over London again,' said a Lufthansa spokesman.
'We are using a corridor over England and flying very high - above 20,000ft - to keep above the ash cloud.'
One of the first was a Lufthansa Boeing 747 Jumbo jet with a thin white vapour trail in its wake through clear blue skies.
One irritated BA insider confessed: 'Yes, there are lots of German and European aircraft flying through our airspace at the moment. But we're not allowed to.'
It's like the Germans decided "to hell with this - we just don't care!" and recklessly went off without even waiting as long as they said they would after their so-called "test flights"! Most of us can only imagine what horror the people in England experienced if they saw those planes screaming through the blue skies and the invisible death cloud, knowing science had proven that any minute they might come crashing right down on their heads. (It had to have been as terrifying as the Aztecs seeing men in armor riding horses getting off boats!) Then, to make matters worse, the volcano erupted some more!The Met Office itself said strong high-altitude winds were blowing the new cloud towards the UK more quickly than the one which followed the first eruption.
But then, just when things were looking their worst - a miracle happened!
Haha - I'm just kidding. There's no such thing as a "miracle." What happened was science. The governments announced that scientists had gotten much better at figuring out where the invisible ash cloud was and wasn't, and that they could now identify "corridors" where it would be safe for flying.Ash that had drifted over the North Sea from the volcano in southern Iceland was being pushed back over Britain today by shifty north winds, Icelandic scientists told the Associated Press, but Eurocontrol said it coordinated with meteorologists from across the continent to establish safe flying zones...
There was still danger though. In fact, at almost the same time the RAF would ground some aircraft again to check for ash."These are very high-performance jets so they are just being extra-cautious," a spokesman said, adding operational flying would continue.
The regulator said there had been "only a very few reports from airlines and, of these, all related to visual sightings". A spokesman said: "There have been no reports of damage to aircraft", stressing that military engines were very different to those on civilian planes.
"Now hold on a minute," you might shout, "that's a load of bullshit. What kind of moron do you think I am? If military plane engines aren't at all like civilian planes, why didn't they say so in the earlier story? And there's no way "scientists" could identify "corridors" through "invisible ash clouds" when winds are constantly blowing! And this wasn't the first volcano in the history of the world, it's just the first one that shut down all flying on an entire continent 1,000 miles away. This isn't science at all, it's just another example of what happens when a bunch of incompetent, dipsy-doodle dipshits are put in charge of..."
But I would stop you. "Read this," I would say calmly with just a hint of triumph.
"No, you can't, heretic!" I would say once that puzzled look came over your face. "It is written in the language of science, which you don't even understand. That might as well be Latin to you."
Fortunately you have government officials who can interpret these sorts of things for you, and will always do what's best to keep you heathy and happy, safe and sound. (I know you wouldn't really say such silly things though. In fact, you can print out that equation - that's the big word for it - to keep handy to use yourself when you meet a global warming denialist or some other anti-science wacko and need to put them in their place.)
It's good form to close an essay as you began it. So, back in those olden times people thought the earth was flat, and that if they went too far away from land in their boats they would fall off the edge, which would be a horrible fate. Also they thought there were dragons and sea monsters who would get them. Crazy, right?
Now we have science.
Postscript: back during the global volcano crisis there were many anti-science bloggers writing about it. One of them was Seablogger, who wrote very well but denied the scientific evidence and used something we used to call "common sense" to dismiss the efforts of our government authorities who only acted in our best interest based on the latest scientific evidence. Sadly, not long after that he died of cancer.
That is very sad. In the year ahead government science will be very hard-focused on stopping industrialists from destroying the world with global warming, about which the science is settled. But I hope that after that's taken care of the governments will have the scientists cure cancer. That would be excellent, too.
Posted at 1527Z
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