Archive for the ‘Z—OLD CATEGORIES’ Category

20,000 watts in the snow

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Snow Horn

With all this snow, instead of complaining, one team of students decided to do something constructive — literally. They built a loudspeaker primarily out of snow (although the drivers were obviously more than just frozen water). It was part of a snow statue contest at Michigan Tech, and while they lost on a technicality, it’s still damned impressive.

So y’all quitchyerbitchin’ about class not being canceled and go build a snowman or something. :)

Clinton DOD biggies: let’s whack NK ICBM on launchpad

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

William J. Perry & Ashton B. Carter, former Defense Secretary and Assistant Secretary respectively, now Stanford and Harvard per-fessers :), profess the case for the pre-emptive wallop of Kim Jong Il’s Taepo Dong in a Washington Post op-ed piece today.

A sub-launched cruise missile will do the job nicely, say the boys. First we should threaten it; and then if the North Koreans don’t respond by Defueling their toy and putting it away, we just Take that mother right Out.

Since Our Good Friends the South Koreans will yell to Hell about this plan, they’ll be safe from any Red retaliation, add the lads. Well. Probably. But just in case, they hedge,

…it would be prudent for the United States to enhance deterrence by introducing U.S. air and naval forces into the region at the same time it made its threat to strike the Taepodong. If North Korea opted for such a suicidal course, these extra forces would make its defeat swifter and less costly in lives — American, South Korean and North Korean.

Perry & Carter also opine that if we wreck Kim’s rocket Japan will be pleased, but only Secretly so; whereas Russia and China will be “shocked” but won’t Do squat about it.

Interesting. (OKOK: Intriguing. :) Read the essay. And, as Kat Palmore asks below about the Other kind of global Warming: Thoughts? :|

July 4 alert?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

This vague terror warning sounds like yet another case of sound and fury, signifying nothing… but one never knows:

U.S. intelligence agencies are warning the federal government to be on alert for a terrorist attack around the July Fourth holiday, especially at military facilities and large gatherings, according to U.S. officials.

Officials familiar with an internal report outlining the concern said it indicates that an attack might take place from a high vantage point, although there was no further explanation.

One method of attack could be a car or truck filled with explosives, the officials said. …

FBI spokesman Bill Carter said he has not seen “anything specific or credible at this time” relating to the July Fourth weekend.

Let’s hear it for nonspecific, incredbile threats!

I’m leaving work now; taking a different bus than usual, to Chandler, to meet up with a friend from Newington, Bindee, who is in town. We’re going to watch Shrek 2 (third time for me, first for her). So, no blogging until later.

Iraq power handover today?

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

Sky News is reporting that the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq is being moved up to today. (Er, tomorrow. Monday.)

Memo to the terrorists

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Dear Abu Musab al-Zarqawi & co.,

Is that the best you can do, you callous, inhuman bastards?

You think you’re going to stop the Iraqi people from achieving self-government by killing a bunch of them? You think murdering your fellow Muslims — your own people — will win you public support in Iraq, or anywhere else?

You think we’re going to back down? You think we’re going to cut and run now, to abandon the good people of Iraq and leave them to be governed by you?

Think again.

You’re desperate. You feel cornered. We can tell. You know you’re losing. So do we.

Freedom will prevail.

Sincerely,
America

Talking heads must roll

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Blogger Tom Maguire suggests “a Congressional investigation into the timing and content of John Ashcroft’s press conferences.” Heh. (Read the whole thing to find out what the heck he’s talking about.) He’s not going far enough, though: I call for numerous, overlapping investigations into the timing and content of John Ashcroft’s press conferences. :)

And since I’m stealing that link from Instapundit (not to mention stealing a joke from my dad), I might as well steal this link from Insty, too:

Congratulations, law school graduate! You’ve taken the first step on your path towards fortune and glory, and that throbbing sensation where your soul used to be won’t bother you a bit in the years to come. …

After dropping as much as $100,000 and spending three years obtaining a law degree, you probably don’t know enough law to practice it professionally; most law school graduates don’t. Now perhaps you’re wondering: if the point of law school was not to prepare you for the practice of law, just what was the point of law school? Easy: the point of law school was to make money for the law school. Mission accomplished! Oh, and as a secondary matter, the point of law school was to flatter the egos and delusions of the brainiacs who teach there. And that, young law school graduate, is why you can pontificate at endless length on theories of critical legal deconstructionist realism as touching upon Marxist feminist radical queer Afro-Latino post-structural comparative gender issues, but you still can’t write a damn will.

Heh. It goes on.

Movie-review mania

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

Tim Stevens has four new movie reviews for y’all: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Terminal, and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

Adrienne has a funny joke, but it’s not family-friendly, so parental discretion is advised; click at your own risk. :)

Sovereignty, sir. Ours.

Monday, June 21st, 2004

This can’t be good:

Iran said Monday it had confiscated three British naval vessels and arrested eight armed crew members. …

The three British ships entered Iranian territorial waters not far from the Iran-Iraq border, the Arabic language Al-Alam television reported.

“Iranian forces confiscated the ships and eight military personnel on board,” the report said.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi confirmed the report, according to Iran’s main Persian language TV channel.

“Interrogation of those detained will continue until the matter is clarified,” Asefi was quoted as saying.

Yeah, well, something tells me Tony Blair will “clarify” matters if the mullahs aren’t careful.

The agony of uncertainty

Saturday, June 19th, 2004

You know, I have to admit, I feel a certain jealousy of doctrinaire liberals and conservatives. It must be nice to be certain that you’re right all the time. Ignorance is bliss, they say, but so is arrogance. If you have the courage of your convictions — and your convictions include the unwavering belief that you are right and your opponents are wrong — you may (or may not) be a fool, but at worst you’re a confident fool. And at least psychologically, that has to count for something.

As for me, I find that open-mindedness can be agonizing. Honestly, it sucks to be utterly unsure whether I’m right about stuff. Fact is, there are a lot of smart people in this world, with a lot of different opinions, and it can be damn frustrating to find myself bouncing from one argument to another, finding merit in many of them and certainty in none.

For example, I want to believe that, certain missteps aside, we are pursuing basically the right course in the war on terror. And I’ve read plenty of things that suggest we are. But then I read something like this, and I wonder.

And don’t tell me it’s the Guardian, liberal media bias, blah blah blah, because that’s not the point. The point is, how do you sort out the truth from well-thought-out and honestly believed but ultimately incorrect claims? If you look at everything through a particular ideological lens, it’s easy — you believe the claims that go along with your worldview and discard the ones that don’t. But if you’re trying to logically deduce right and wrong without regard to ideology, it’s tough to have confidence in your answers when the issues are so complex. It’s frustrating to no end.

Okay, that’s my rant for the day. And with that, I’m going to sleep.

Spin control

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

The Associated Press reports:

The number of refugees worldwide has fallen to 9.7 million, the lowest level in at least a decade because of increased international efforts to help uprooted people, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday.

“The statistics are very encouraging,” said Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

A key reason for the drop was the continued return of refugees to Afghanistan. More than half of the 1.1 million refugees repatriated last year returned to Afghanistan; large numbers of refugees also returned home to Angola, Burundi and Iraq.

Um, I hate to play the “liberal media bias” card again, but honestly, if the majority of the repatriated refugees are Afghans and Iraqis, wouldn’t the lede be more accurate if it read:

The number of refugees worldwide has fallen to 9.7 million, the lowest level in at least a decade primarily because of the United States military’s liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as increased international efforts to help uprooted people, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday.

But I guess that particular spin (which also happens to be the truth) wouldn’t fit in quite as nicely with the agendas of either the refugee agency or the reporters covering it.

Flight 93 heroes saved the Capitol

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

Todd “Let’s Roll” Beamer, gay San Francisco rugby player Mark Bingham, and the rest of the United Airlines Flight 93 passengers who fought off the hijackers on September 11 — eventually crashing the plane into a Pennsylvania field — really did save the Capitol (or perhaps the White House) from destruction, according to the 9/11 Commission’s latest findings. The New York Times reports:

The heroism of the passengers was vital because — contrary to some earlier official statements and impressions — the pilots of F-16 fighters that had been scrambled to protect Washington did not have the authority to shoot down a hijacked aircraft, the report said. …

Had Flight 93 not crashed in Pennsylvania [at 10:03 a.m.], it would have arrived in the Washington area 10 to 20 minutes later, the staff report said.

“There was only one set of fighters orbiting Washington, D.C., during this time frame,” the report said, referring to a pair of F-16’s from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. “They were armed and under Norad’s control.”

But they had not been told that they were authorized to shoot down an aircraft, contrary to what Vice President Dick Cheney thought at that time. In fact, the report noted, “the Langley pilots were never briefed about the reason they were scrambled” and did not know that the vice president had ordered that a Washington-bound hijacked jet be shot down.

The F-16 pilots understood their mission as “to identify and divert aircraft flying within a certain radius of Washington, but did not know that the threat came from hijacked commercial airliners,” the report noted.

As the lead pilot F-16 recalled later, “I reverted to the Russian threat…I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”

As has been noted before, the Battle of Flight 93 was the first victory in the war on terrorism. And now we know that, had it not been won in the skies over Pennsylvania, it almost certainly would have been lost.

(more…)

The Iran link, the ICBM plot, and more

Wednesday, June 16th, 2004

The standard Big Media headline on the 9/11 Commission’s report this morning is the lack of “credible evidence” tying Al Qaeda to Iraq. But really, that’s old news. There’s a lot more interesting stuff in the report (as explicated by the Washington Post), like for example, the fact that there is credible evidence tying Al Qaeda to Iran:

The June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 Americans and injured 372 others… was carried out by a Saudi Shiite Hezbollah group with assistance from Iran. Initially, because of the historical hostility between bin Laden’s extremist brand of Sunni Islam and Shiites, analysts had discounted cooperation between [Al Qaeda and Hezbollah/Iran].

“Later intelligence, however, showed far greater potential for collaboration between Hezbollah and al Qaeda than many had previously thought,” the report says. It describes contacts between al Qaeda and Iran, including a visit to Iran and Lebanon by a small group of al Qaeda operatives for training in explosives, intelligence and security.

“We have seen strong but indirect evidence that [bin Laden’s] organization did in fact play some as yet unknown role in the Khobar attack,” the report says.

And here’s a frightning tidbit that’s new to me, at least:

As al Qaeda developed, its terrorist training camps in Afghanistan provided fertile ground for its operatives “to think creatively about ways to commit mass murder,” it says. Among the ideas that were raised: taking over a nuclear missile launcher in Russia and forcing Russian scientists to fire a nuclear missile at the United States, carrying out mustard gas or cyanide attacks against Jewish areas in Iran, spreading poison gas through the air conditioning system of a targeted building and hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into an airport terminal or nearby city.

The report also contains fascinating new details about the evolution of the 9/11 plot:

The terrorist attacks carried out on Sept. 11, 2001, were originally envisioned as an even more spectacular assault involving 10 jetliners on the east and west coasts …

In addition to the targets that were hit on Sept. 11, [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed initially proposed crashing hijacked planes into the CIA and FBI headquarters, unidentified nuclear power plants and the tallest buildings in California and Washington state,” the report says.

“The centerpiece of his original proposal was the tenth plane, which he would have piloted himself,” it says. Instead of crashing it in a suicide attack, Mohammed would have killed every adult male passenger on the plane, contacted the media from the air and landed the aircraft at a U.S. airport. Then he would have made a speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East before releasing all the women and children, the report says.

When bin Laden finally approved the operation, he personally scrapped the idea of using one of the hijacked planes to make a public statement, the report says. …

Bin Laden, the report says, “had been pressuring [Mohammed] for months to advance the attack date,” even asking that the attacks occur as early as mid-2000 after Ariel Sharon caused an outcry by visiting a contested holy site in Jerusalem. According to Mohammed, bin Laden later pushed for dates of May 12, 2001 — the seven-month anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen — and then for June or July, to coincide with a visit by Sharon to Washington.

“In both instances,” the report said, Mohammed “insisted that the hijacker teams were not yet ready. Other al Qaeda detainees also confirm that the 9/11 attacks were delayed during the summer of 2001, despite bin Laden’s wishes.”

The final date was likely influenced in part by the targets chosen, investigators also found. An electronic communication between Atta and Binalshibh showed that Atta finally selected a date after the first week in September “so that the United States Congress would be in session.”

Bin Laden strongly favored targeting the White House, and Binalshibh urged Atta to agree. But Atta was concerned that the presidential mansion was too difficult to hit, and backed the U.S. Capitol instead. The matter appears to have been unresolved as late as two days before the attack.

Also very interesting is the report’s description of Al Qaeda’s financial and operational structure:

“Contrary to popular understanding,” the report says, “bin Laden did not fund al Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses,” and he never received a $300 million inheritance. He actually received about $1 million a year over about 24 years as an inheritance, a significant sum but not enough to fund a global terrorist network.

“Instead, al Qaeda relied primarily on a fundraising network developed over time,” the report says. It says the CIA estimates that al Qaeda spent $30 million a year, with the largest outlays ($10 million to $20 million annually) going to fund the Taliban.

“Actual terrorist operations were relatively cheap,” it says.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, “al Qaeda’s funding has decreased significantly,” the report says. But the group’s expenditures have decreased as well, and “it remains relatively easy for al Qaeda to find the relatively small sums required to fund terrorist operations,” the report warns.

Now, the organization is far more decentralized, with operational commanders and cell leaders making the decisions that were previously made by bin Laden, the panel found.

In conclusion:

Al Qaeda remains interested in carrying out chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks against the United States, the report says. Although an attempt to purchase uranium in 1994 failed — the material proved to be fake — “al Qaeda continues to pursue its strategic objective of obtaining a nuclear weapon,” according to the report.

By any means possible, it warns, “al Qaeda is actively striving to attack the United States and inflict mass casualties.”

Happy Birthday, Becky!

Monday, June 14th, 2004

The love of my life, Becky, turns 22 today.

This means she is “caught up” with me, agewise, for the next 4 1/2 months. :)

Happy Birthday, darlin’!

(More photos of yesterday’s Roosevelt Lake boating/fishing trip to follow later today.)

UPDATE: Photos now online! Behold: boating and fishing in the desert! :)

And here (from the shuttle ride down to the boat) is the obligatory, camera-at-arm’s-length, happy-couple shot:

It’s a good thing I have such a hot girlfriend… otherwise I would have to say that I look totally dorky in that picture. :)

Nanotechnology: the next WMD?

Friday, June 11th, 2004

InstaPundit links to a nanotechnology article suggesting that the much-feared “grey goo” threat — the notion that a single malfunctioning nanobot could self-replicate beyond control and consume all available matter until the world is transformed into grey goo — is vastly overstated. But I am not reassured by this quote:

So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident.

Oh, and there’s no one on earth diabolical enough to deliberately set a grey-goo apocalypse into motion? No group of religious fanatics who might do such a thing assuming that a Higher Power will protect the Chosen People while wiping out the infidels? Nah, there aren’t any radical crazies like that, anywhere on the planet…

But even if the experts are right to downplay “gray goo,” even they forsee plenty of nanotech threats to worry about:

Far more serious is the possibility that a large-scale and convenient manufacturing capacity could be used to make incredibly powerful non-replicating weapons in unprecedented quantity. This could lead to an unstable arms race and a devastating war. Policy investigation into the effects of advanced nanotechnology should consider this as a primary concern, and runaway replication as a more distant issue.

At the risk of sounding alarmist (actually, it’s not a risk, it’s a certainty — but alarmism isn’t always wrong), I’m afraid that nanotechnology is going to become the biggest technological genie-out-of-the-bottle threat since nuclear weapons. Once we develop this stuff, there’ll be no going back. Fifty years from now (or less!), we could be invading rogue states looking for evidence of nuclear, biological, chemical, or nanotechnological weapons programs…

Draft Dean?

Friday, June 11th, 2004

A majority of Americans now think the war in Iraq was a bad idea. Remind me again, why did we dump Dean for the more “electable” Kerry?

Oh yeah, that