Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Command and Control

Eric Schlosser has followed his hamburger book, Fast Food Nation, with a book about another product of World War II, atomic weapons. Command and Control intersperses a history of the development of atomic weapons, the subsequent cold war arms race, and efforts to prevent the mistaken, unauthorized, or accidental detonation of nuclear weapons with a detailed account of the Damascus Incident, a 1980 fire and explosion at a Titan II missile base in Arkansas.

This book is replete with dichotomies such as the arms race between god-bless America and the evil empire, the USSR. A big one is the crux of civilian control of the military and its arsenal versus military control of the same. And then there are the weapons themselves; early on there was a choice presented between having the bombs being safe to handle and having them be potent weapons, (not duds.) This goes back to at least the first ‘Trinity’ test, where the scientists of course wanted the device to be a success, (they were trying to save the world, after all) but they still wondered whether the blast would ignite the earths’ atmosphere. The question of whether the weapons were safe to handle was answered on a trial and error basis, as the devices went into service on planes, boats and missiles and were variously dropped, crashed, struck by lightning, and burned in fires. These were not exactly “rare occurrences,” with tens of thousands of weapons deployed around the world, a ‘one in a million chance’ could happen in a matter of decades. In the years between 1950 and 1968 the US recorded over 1,200 “Broken Arrow” incidents (accidents involving nuclear weapons.) Hell, by 1968 US nuclear weapons had been struck by lightning seventy times.

Schlosser had lots of stories I’d never heard of; I didn’t know we had a shoulder fired nuke, the Davy Crockett Atomic Rifle, part of the US tripwire in cold-war Europe. And, I had never heard of the “Demon Core,” a plutonium sphere a little bigger than a baseball that killed two atomic scientists in incidents a year apart when they accidentally shielded the core enough for it to go critical, into a chain reaction emitting lethal radiation. The core was finally used to detonate a 23 Kiloton device at Bikini Atoll in 1946.

I hope this book has at least as much effect as Schlossers’ Fast Food Nation, which was serialized in Rolling Stone before it sold over a million copies and was adapted into a film by Richard Linklater. This all–important subject gets too little attention; we need to remember that nuclear non-proliferation or de-proliferation isn’t just for other countries. As I heard Valerie Plame say on Fresh Air this week; “If we don’t get this right, nothing else matters.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat:

Now that the Seinfeld Shutdown is finished (at least until after the New Year) I would like to tell you about a couple of items in the Houston Chronicle this week.

A Stewart Powell article Wednesday, Shutdown a win for Cruz, but at what cost to the GOP? Notes that even as GOP poll numbers fall, and Democratic approval ratings rise, Texas Senator Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz has seen his stock rise in the 2016 Republican presidential race and has been raking in the cash at his campaign fund and leadership PAC, garnering almost $1.2 million in the last quarter.

Inexplicably, this Canadian-born and Harvard-educated lawyer has, in his eight-month career as a U.S. Senator, broken the Senate tradition of being unseen and unheard in his first term to be cited as a leader in the House of Representatives (?) of the movement to repeal the Affordable Care Act and “relieve the millions of Americans who are suffering under Obamacare.”

Excuse me, “suffering under Obamacare?” I’m not exactly suffering by knowing that my insurance carrier is now required to send out refund checks if they fail to spend at least 85% of premiums collected on actual healthcare, or because I’m able to cover my 20-some-year-old children on my family plan, or knowing that my elderly relatives no longer get stuck paying exorbitant prescription drug bills when they reach the Medicare part D donut hole, or that I could shop for insurance knowing that I can't be denied coverage because of any pre-existing condition.

The partial government shutdown may have cost us $24 billion and put the countries credit rating at risk, but it has served Cruz’s ambitions well. Public Policy Polling in North Carolina found that Cruz has jumped from fifth to first place in GOP voter preference for the 2016 presidential nomination. The Family Research Council poll of people who don’t think that Gary Bauer is a greedy little weasel gave Cruz the top spot with 42% of the vote, leading loons Rick Santorum and Ben Carson.

A Chronicle editorial this week asked Does anyone else miss Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison?,” saying they “miss her extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary. Neither sitting Texas senator has displayed that useful skill, and both the state and the Congress are the poorer for it.”

Well, that’s funny coming from the Chronicle, who endorsed Cruz in the general election last year over Democrat Paul Sadler, notwithstanding “his demonstrated ability to reach across the aisle and work productively with his political opponents for the good of Texas.”

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Saw this post from Dirty Water Dan yesterday and found it amusing:

“If you ever wanted to say something to someone electronically, and didn't because you are afraid of the NSA, maybe right now is the right time? Or is spying on American citizens something that is continuing to be funded during the shutdown?”

But, of course this morning I heard this story on NPR about all the Snowdens getting furloughed by the shutdown caused by the teabagger caucus balking at a clean continuing resolution.

We can’t know for sure what federal operations are hamstrung though because all but a few of the 2,500 employees at the Bureau of Labor Statistics have been idled by this federal lock-out.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I see that today’s google doodle commemorates the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park, established by an act of Congress signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. Today, Yosemite and all National Parks are closed due to the petulance of the tea bag wing of the Republican party.

Heard something funny on NPR this morning, someone suggested this was analogous to, say, gun-control Democrats refusing to vote for a continuous resolution unless they got background checks at gun shows. But seeing as we're still trying to recover from the Crash of '08, we should be grateful that the left isn’t playing like that too.

Again, if I was the paranoid type that buys into conspiracy theories, might I not think that GOP strings were being pulled by shadowy plutocrats looking to pick up cheap securities when the economy crashes?