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From the transcript at http://www.debates.org/pages/trans2004c.html:

[Question from Sarah] DEGENHART: Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?

KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now.

First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I’m a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

But I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can’t do that.

But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society.

But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.

Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro-abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don’t deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the constitution affords them if they can’t afford it otherwise.

That’s why I think it’s important. That’s why I think it’s important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning.

You’ll help prevent AIDS.

You’ll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies.

You’ll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.

GIBSON: Mr. President, minute and a half.

BUSH: I’m trying to decipher that.

My answer is, we’re not going to spend taxpayers’ money on abortion.

He said a couple more things but I was crushed. I “knew” at that moment that Bush would win the election. We’re not going to spend taxpayers’ money on abortion. It can’t be any simpler than that. It can’t be any stronger than that. It can’t be more righteous than that.

Of course it was no more sincere than anything else Dubya has ever said. I’m certain he does not actually care about abortions one way or another. But he knows a rhetorical opportunity when he sees one, and Kerry dropped this one in his lap, and he grabbed the brass ring with a simple-sounding, strong-sounding, righteous-sounding lie.

What could make Kerry fuck up so badly? He missed it at the very beginning. It was in Degenhart’s question, plain as day, and he missed it — because everyone does.

To this hypothetical “voter who believe[s] abortion is murder,” Kerry should have said: “What makes you believe that? I’m afraid that this is pretty much a religious notion, so it’s irrelevant to discussions of public policy.”

What Kerry did say was not completely wrong. Yes, there was a lot of beating around the bush. But the gist was that even if you have some sort of “faith” you can’t rely on it when making decisions for the whole country. This is a noble sentiment. But the abortion idea is not controversial — not in the way he described it. The idea that abortion is murder comes entirely from religion. It is a religious idea from the very beginning. It has no other basis. But both candidates took the question at face value, as if religious ideas deserve the deepest consideration. This is the hold that religious notions have on the popular imagination. “I truly respect,” Kerry assured Degenhart, “the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question.” Moral responsibility? In holding fast to the dictates of an ancient pyramid scheme? That is not moral responsibility, it is criminal oppression. But no one sees it this way. That’s how completely religious memes have out-competed their rivals.

A couple years ago I was informed during the stupid fucking airport “security” process that I had been “selected” for “additional screening.” Some moments later I was standing in the militarized zone waiting for my personal possessions to be returned to me following their rigorous inspection. A uniformed guard was standing next to me, to make sure I didn’t make a run for it. So pissed off was I that I turned to this guy and asked, quietly, “Man, why are you working for the Gestapo?”

He surprised me. He didn’t shoot me or anything. He said, “Yeah. This place is depressing. I gotta find a different job.”

Having everyone take their shoes off to go through “security” is only slightly less stupid than the war on moisture. So on my last plane trip I tried again to refuse. I watched everyone else meekly obeying and I thought: this is personally demeaning and an utter waste of my time and I’m not going to do it. But when I came to the metal detector a woman in a uniform insisted. “Sir, you have to take your shoes off.”

I feigned astonishment. “I do?”

“Yes, sir.”

Meekly obeying, I put my shoes in a little plastic tray on the conveyor belt. “I don’t understand,” I said. “Why do I have to take my shoes off?”

She beckoned me through the magic portal. “For security,” she said.

I continued to act to puzzled. “I have to take my shoes off… for security?”

“Yes, sir, to make sure you don’t have a bomb or something in there.”

“In my shoes?

“Yes, in your shoes,” she said. Her tone had become contentious. “Don’t you remember? — there was a guy that did that.”

“No, I don’t remember,” I growled. My shoes appeared out of the machine. They had been vindicated.

I do remember, of course. One guy did try it. One guy. And he failed: he was arrested before he could do anything. “But he could have done it! He was in the middle of trying to light the fuse!” He did not succeed, and you don’t know that anyone ever could. After all, no one ever has.

And even if you are certain that the trick “could have” worked (whatever that means), that’s not good enough. Even had he succeeded, it would not thereby have become obvious that every traveler on every commercial airline flight should have to remove their shoes. Don’t we need to ask whether the costs exceed the benefits?

The costs are not trivial. Think about two million people every day taking off their shoes, waiting for them to be analyzed, and putting them back on. Everyone suffers a delay, and that costs everyone money. Everyone risks forgetting their other stuff, or having it stolen, while they’re dealing with their shoes. Many will have bought special shoes to reduce the likelihood of being harassed. And everyone risks the extra delay and the extra mortification of being singled out for a false alarm.

And of course there’s the monetary cost of all those inspectors, and guards, and equipment, and space, and so on.

“But we have to protect ourselves against terrorism!” At any cost? Well, even if you don’t think the money is important, remember: the object of terrorism is terror. Now, which scenario embodies more terror: inspecting everyone’s shoes, or leaving them the hell alone?

Defense Tech: Electric Lasers Shoot Mortars, Gain Strength

Real-life laser weapons continue to inch closer to reality. Two recent examples: Raytheon says its “prototype solid-state Laser Area Defense System (LADS) successfully detonated 60-millimeter mortars.” And Northrop Grumman is opening up a new “directed energy production facility” for building high energy, solid-state lasers.

Note to self: never buy anything from, never entertain any transaction with Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, ever.

Opposition to Bush’s War Plan Is Mounting – New York Times

President Bush met today with a group Republican senators in an effort to shore up support for his war plan.

The Senate is preparing to hold a vote on a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase. The move has added to the mounting political pressures on Mr. Bush — and on the Republicans who will have to vote on it — over his new Iraq strategy, which has met with widespread criticism.

But other Democrats said today that they would press for even tougher measures, such as demanding that the president seek congressional authorization before increasing the troop presence in Iraq.

Wow! Tougher than a nonbinding resolution? — is that even possible??

Seen on the back of a Ford Explorer this morning. Googled this evening.

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