Archive for July, 2004

New, serious NYC terror threat

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

CNN reports:

New intelligence indicates al Qaeda is threatening to attack corporate and financial institutions in New York City, a federal law enforcement official told CNN on Saturday.

The official said the information suggests “there is a new plan in the works.”

On TV, the CNN reporter specified that this threat is seemingly being taken more seriously than some of the vague and/or uncorroborated threats we’ve heard about before. The New York Times confirms this:

“The information is considered credible,” said another law enforcement official, who insisted on anonymity. The official said the police and federal terrorism authorities, who have received similar threats before, were unusually concerned about the new information.

ABC News, which apparently broke this story, states that “Wall Street firms may be among the targeted U.S. corporations based in New York City. Which corporations or how many may be targeted has not been revealed.”

“It would be right to assume that there is particular concern” about large Manhattan buildings and institutions, according to the a law enforcement source who spoke with the Times. He said the United Nations was considered a potential target, as were large banks, financial institutions and company headquarters.”

Officials suspect a Mexican connection, which is especially intriguing in light of my previous post about possible illegal immigration across the Arizona border in recent weeks by groups of Arabic-speaking men. Says ABC:

Intelligence sources say al Qaeda plans to move non-Arab terrorists across the border with Mexico.

Authorities already have in custody a woman of Pakistani origin arrested after crossing into Texas. She carried a South African passport with several of the pages torn out, $7,000 in cash and an airplane ticket to New York.

The Times says the woman, Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, was arrested on July 19 after “crossing the Rio Grande and crawling through the brush.” According to one official, she is “believed to have been on a terrorist watch list”:

She might have been sent as “a courier” to pass along either a message or documentation to someone in the United States.

A law enforcement official in New York said, “the concern was that she may be part of a team” planning attacks in the city.

As for the possible method, “the attack may involve one or more suicide truck bombings, a tactic never seen in the United States, but one widely used by terrorists elsewhere,” according to ABC:

“I think they want to try and shake our psyche again,” says Jerry Hauer, an ABC News consultant and former director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management. “And I think the easy types of attacks right now are car bombs, truck bombs.”

Law enforcement officials acknowledge such bombs are extremely difficult to prevent.

The Times‘s source “said many companies and institutions had already been contacted, and that they were warned to pay particular attention to their parking garages and heating, ventilation air conditioning systems.”

CNN elaborated on those latter areas of concern, which seem to indicate a fear of possible chemical or biological attack. Companies have reportedly been advised to consider:

* Posting security at the fresh-air intake in heating, ventilation and air conditioning rooms, if they are accessible to the public, and keep the rooms locked

* Challenging maintenance workers when maintenance has not been requested, and watching for unexpected deliveries

* Testing alarm systems, including those on rooftop doors

“As to the timing of any planned attack, sources say it could take place between now and Election Day in November,” ABC reports. Of course, the Republican National Convention is in New York during the last week of August, “but it was unclear yesterday whether the new information” is tied to the RNC or any other specific timetable, according to the Times.

Farewell, fair Nomah

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox‘s All-Star and much beloved shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra–a.k.a. “Nomah” to the Boston faithful–has been traded to the Chicago Cubs as part of a multi-team deal. In return, the Red Sox get two former Gold Glove winners, shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Montreal Expos and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz (pronounced min-KAY-vich) from the Minnesota Twins.

As a die-hard Sox fan, it is difficult to watch the heart and soul of the Boston team make the trip to the Cubbies, even though the two teams aren’t even in the same league, let alone in contention for anything at this point in the season. Heck, if the Cubs and Red Sox made it to the World Series at the same time, I think Hell would freeze over (neither team has won a World Series since before 1920).

This set of trades sent Alex Gonzalez and a set of minor leaguers from the Cubs to Montreal. Minnesota received a few prospects as well, as did the Cubs. Cash was also passed around.

Nomar had reportedly been unhappy at the prospect of remaining with the Sox, since they had tried to deal teammate Manny Ramirez in the off-season for the much-sought-after (and highly overpaid) shortstop Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers (Garciaparra would have then likely been dealt elsewhere, possibly to the Colorado Rockies to free up the shortstop position on the Red Sox). Garciaparra’s contract is set to expire at the end of this season, so it remains up to the Cubs at this point to decide if they want to let Nomar sign elsewhere or if they will compete in re-signing him.

Several other big moves were also made at the last minute today, just before the 3:00 PM EDT trading deadline. I recommend going to Major League Baseball’s homepage for the latest on MLB trades.

However, the most important event to me (after Nomar’s trade, of course), is the non-trade of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ ace, Randy Johnson, a.k.a. The Big Unit. Several teams, most notably the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, the New York Mets, and (especially) the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested in acquiring Johnson, one of the most dominant pitchers in the game today. Johnson, although older than most major-leaguers–he’s 41–is still at the top of his game, and any team with playoff aspirations (which the Diamondbacks do not seem to have this season) would love to have him. Johnson decided that it would be best to stay where he is, however, and is reportedly not interested in any sort of trade.

But the damage has been done. All that’s left now is to see if the trade of Nomah brings a curse akin to the Curse of the Bambino.

Quote of the day

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius:

America is a nation at war. Yet we have no sense, even after Kerry has been nominated, of just what policies he would pursue in Iraq and the Middle East. There’s a three-alarm blaze outside and he’s telling us he supports the fire department.

Heh. Indeed. And, alas, that goes Iran and North Korea, too. (Hat tip: Kaus.)

I will almost certainly vote for Kerry because George W. Bush is just so objectionable in so many ways. But I would very much like to see JK articulate a more coherent policy vision across the board, instead of a hodge-podge of politically calculated rebuttals to Bush’s policies.

Hopefully the debates will clear things up.

Mother Nature’s welcome mat

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

As if to welcome me back to the East Coast, the first tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season has formed.

At 5:00 PM EDT, the National Hurricane Center issued its first advisory on Tropical Depression One — which is forecasted to become Tropical Storm Alex tomorrow — and released a forecast track that looks a bit like the classic “up the coast” scenario which can potentially threaten New England:

The longer-term forecast, though, calls for the storm to “recurve” quickly and head out to sea well southeast of New England. The NHC discussion states:

All guidance shows the cyclone recurving northeastward ahead of the trough…with the biggest differences in the guidance being how fast it moves after recurvature. The official forecast track will call for the system to turn northward at about 24 hr and northeastward after 36 hr…brushing the southeastern U.S. Coast. While the official track calls for landfall in North Carolina… several models recurve the cyclone sharply enough to keep the center offshore.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from Edisto Beach, SC to Cape Hatteras, NC, including Pamlico Sound.

Bush backs out of nuclear treaty

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Let me get this straight. Bush backed out of a nuclear arms control treaty?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t one of the published reasons we went to war in Iraq was because we suspected them of having nuclear (or at the very least biological or chemical) weapons?

The proposed treaty that “we” (I offset “we” in quotation marks, because I am not part of the Administration . . .) just backed out of was supposed to limit the production of enriched uranium and plutonium–the key ingredients of nuclear weapons. So basically, Bush is now telling us that the spread of nuclear weapons is not as much of a threat as we previously thought . . .

To quote the previously-cited article, “While declaring nonproliferation a priority, however, the administration has opposed other arms-control treaties that rely on inspection regimes.”

So can anyone explain this to me? Last time I checked, Bush wanted to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of our enemies (whoever they may be).

The Administration claims that the US backed out of the treaty because it would be “too costly” and “ineffective.”

Right. Like the war in Iraq isn’t costly and ineffective.

Will the real libertarian blogger please stand up?

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

As my test entry, I’ve decided to give a shout out to my favorite blog (ahem, second favorite blog), The Light of Reason. Arthur Silber is a 55-year-old gay atheist libertarian Objectivist. If you want a good source for libertarian thought, it’s the place to be. I find my disagreements with him are mostly minor quibbles, such as points of style. And unlike some other libertarian bloggers I could name, he actually is one.

A Picture Share!

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comIn Providence! Hi, Mom. :)

A Picture Share!

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comSitting next to a baby. Whether he will become a screaming baby remains to be seen. :)

A Picture Share!

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comOn board second plane now, ready for short flight to Providence.

A Picture Share!

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comPhiladelphia is lost; I am here. :)

A Picture Share!

Friday, July 30th, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comOn board plane. [Yawn.]

A Picture Share!

Friday, July 30th, 2004

@messaging.sprintpcs.comI’m at the airport… and all the freakin’ shops and restaurants are CLOSED! It’s only 9PM, people!! And I’m hungry!!!

Again with New Jersey

Friday, July 30th, 2004

New Jersey, a battleground state? (Again?) It’s Kerry 45%, Bush 43% in the 15-electoral-vote, should-be-blue state, according to a new poll. Enter Nader, and it’s even closer: Kerry 42%, Bush 41%, Nader 6%.

On a brighter note, Kerry is now winning West Virginia for the first time since mid-June, according to a new poll there.

Kerryspeech: Further reflection

Friday, July 30th, 2004

Becky has posted her thoughts on John Kerry’s speech, which she says “was like a self-indulgent film with scenes that only a director can love”:

[T]he speech was boring. Political pundits and party stalwarts no doubt hung on his every word, salivating for the next sentence for further gratification. Everyone else wondered if SpongeBob Squarepants was playing reruns on Nickelodeon.

I basically agree, as I’ve already said. I wasn’t expecting rhetorical brilliance from Kerry, but I was expecting him to rise to the occasion and give at least an above-average speech; instead, it was average at best.

Substance-wise, I was very disappointed in the terrorism section of his speech. Andrew Sullivan pretty well expressed what I feel:

There was…no firm commitment to seeing the war through in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is obviously what worried me the most. His goal in Iraq is to bring the troops home. Three words: not good enough. Here’s the passage about the war:

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That’s the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

Here is the reality: that won’t happen until we have a president who restores America’s respect and leadership — so we don’t have to go it alone in the world.
And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us.

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

No mention of democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. No mention of the terrorist forces that are amassed there. No reference to the elections scheduled for January. No mention of Iran. And the whole point is about process – about how to wage a war, not whether it should be waged. This is a man who clearly wants the U.S. out of the region where our future is at stake, and who believes that simply by taking office, other powers can somehow pick up the slack. Memo to Kerry: no other powers can pick up the slack. They don’t have the troops or the technology or the will. His strategy is pure defense. This sentence is his strongest threat: “Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.” So let’s wait, shall we?

As Sullivan added later, “Biden and Lieberman and Edwards and even Obama were more ressuring on the war than Kerry was.” Indeed. I wish — I really wish — that the foreign policy portion of Kerry’s speech had sounded like Biden’s speech. This line, especially, would have been good to hear from the candidate instead of one of his surrogates: “When John Kerry is president, military preemption will remain — as it has always been — an option, when we face a genuine, imminent threat. But… [blah blah blah].” It would also have been nice to hear Kerry invoke, as Biden did, the “death-struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism,” and pledge that “just as Joshua’s trumpets brought down the walls of Jericho — just as American values brought down the Berlin Wall — so will radical fundamentalism fall to the terrible, swift power of our ideas as well as our swords.” Even Edwards’s “you cannot run, you cannot hide, we will destroy you” would have reassured me a lot more had it come from the presidential candidate instead of the veep.

I believe that the Bush Doctrine goes too far, taking something that has always, as Biden says, been a last-resort option, and turning it into a too-easily-invoked formalized policy. But, alas, Kerry’s “swift and certain response” is the opposite extreme: it doesn’t go far enough. If this is Kerry’s real position, I will find myself forced to choose between two options that I believe would both fail to make America safer.

Oh, where have you gone, Senator Joe? :(

On a side note, I find it ironic and even slightly bizarre that a party which devoted so much energy to demanding that “every vote be counted” in Florida and elsewhere this time around, doesn’t seem to have the heart to endorse democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. Memo to the Dems: favoring “stability” over democracy and human rights is not a liberal value.

Curses! Foiled again

Friday, July 30th, 2004

The Brendan Loy Kerry Curse continues: just as I go east, the Kerry-Edwards ticket is going west.

The Nominees John made their stop in Newburgh, NY today — visiting a Wendy’s to celebrate the Edwardses’ anniversary — and are now rolling through Pennsylvania on their campaign bus. A campaign press release states: “This weekend, Kerry and Edwards will continue heading through Pennsylvania and into West Virginia and Ohio.”

Well, drat.

The candidates’ “Believe in America” tour “will take Kerry and Edwards and their families on an historic journey from coast-to-coast… [that] will trace this country’s Westward expansion, highlighting the optimistic American spirit that is at the heart of the Kerry-Edwards plan to build a stronger America.” So now I’m hoping their, uh, trail of optimism won’t reach Arizona till I get back here. Somehow, though, I doubt I’ll be so lucky, given my track record

Incidentally, the reason I’m blogging now is that Becky and I decided to come home for a few hours instead of seeing The Village this evening as previously planned. Becky had a stomach ache, plus I wanted to see the animals one more time before my trip home. :)