Monday, April 19, 2004

Black Holes

Fighting it out for headline space in today’s newspapers with news of the fallout from Bob Woodward’s new page-turner ‘Plan of Attack’, was the story reporting that at 1:01 P.M. PST this afternoon in California, an experiment 45 years in the making would finally be launched. Of course my first thought was "wait a minute - I'm here in Toronto!" Sadly, the article had nothing to do with my lifelong personal experiment, (theme: will our heroine triumph?) so while the subject of the Cape Canaveral-based mission – concerning Einstein's theories of relativity - are run up some outer space flagpole, I'll continue to languish decidedly un-launched here in Canada.
Einstein! Hasn't he had enough press in the last century or so? Apparently not, as scientists the world over will be straining at their collective leashes as they gaze up toward the Dog Star and beyond, crossing their fingers and hopping from toe to toe in their excitement, to discover if the great man's relativity theory, specifically the part that dealt with Earth's mass, and whether if as it warps both time and space (which according to those in the know, it surely does) if it also twists as it rotates at the same time.
$700-million (U.S.) has been spent to design The Gravity Probe B satellite, and the four 'near-perfect spheres' that will measure whatever it is they need to measure in order to prove or disprove the theory.
What I want to know is, why it’s taken this long to develop (according to NASA) ‘the roundest objects ever made’. Have we been putting up with inferior shapes until now? Balls with flat edges? Balloons with corners? It boggles the mind to think we could have put a man on the moon, but until recently were unable to create something really, really circular. (Though no doubt golfers the world over will feel vindicated for taking six putts on a gimme.)
And then there’s this twisting thing they’re all so fascinated by. Since they’re already aware that there’s rotation involved, pinning down whether there’s a twist in the tail sounds more like an argument over semantics than $700-million worth of meaningful results. (Of course it could be a face-saving gesture – scientists perhaps discovering they’ve spent the last few decades mistaking ‘The Twist’ for ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’. It could happen to anybody.)
But wouldn’t it be something if the powerful space probe could be pointed at curiosities a little closer to home - like, say, the White House? There’s any amount of twisting and turning, not to mention shucking and jiving, and all sorts of the kinds of activities that already have certain people shaking in their hippy hippy boots.
Last night on Sixty Minutes, Bob Woodward was interviewed by ancient 'eminence grise' Mike Wallace (who is finally showing, if not his ‘grise’, then certainly his age - it was like watching ‘The Portrait of Dorian Grey’ speak) on the subject of his new book ‘Plan of Attack’ – the latest in the series of insider accounts relating what was really going on leading up to and following the September 11th tragedy; exactly when and upon whose order the plan for attack on Saddam Hussein and Iraq was hatched.
Woodward reported that the President himself – who agreed to be interviewed for the book – made statements then that would seem to make his current version of the facts less than… what’s the word? Accurate?
Dick Cheney figures prominently in the account which shows a seriously hawkish West Wing with a singular course of action in mind as early as scant weeks following the attack; Iraq would be the theatre of war, Saddam Hussein the star target.
Combining Woodward’s book with former Counter Terrorism chief Richard Clarke’s ‘Against all Enemies’, as well as a rapidly increasing number of dissenting voices in the know, a picture of an administration hell bent on war with Iraq at any cost is clearly emerging; and an administration not particularly interested in disseminating their real reasons to the American people. Bush’s circular argument, launched at his prime time press conference last Tuesday, describing how an attack from Afghanistan turned into a conflagration in Iraq, begins to lose whatever cohesion it may once have had, going from spherical to shapeless in less than a week.
And word has it Secretary of State Colin Powell is nipping athletically behind pillars and hiding out in the White House men’s room in an effort to dodge Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld et al – seems he too was interviewed by Woodward, and his view of the war and his misgivings about the course of action taken by the President and the majority of his cabinet jibes sharply with his subsequent remarks to the U.N… not to mention CNN. His critics are now grumphing and mumphing abut how self-serving his comments to Woodward now appear; an effort by Powell to distance himself from the increasingly negative reaction to the Iraq war – with an “I told you so,” tucked inside for good measure. Self serving it may be – but too late it definitely is; if Powell was hoping to re-write history by telling the truth to Woodward whilst publicly supporting the President, he clearly got the order wrong, as the bodies of the latest 99 dead American soldiers and an uncertain (though certainly larger) number of deceased Iraqis bear mute testimony.
So yes, I do think an even more vigorous probe into the machinations of White House officials is in order. A fact finding to go far beyond the current 9/11 Hearings; something that might also probe into allegations raised by the Woodward book that Bush and his cronies have done a deal with the Saudi’s to lower the price of oil to coincide with the November election.
I believe even Einstein would have to admit that however it measures against other black holes, the one in Washington sure is a doozey.

No comments: