Sunday, July 31, 2005

I'm a Tarantula Nerd

Hey, there's a reason I chose Tarantula Lady as my ID. A week ago, I posted that I would try to mate a pair of my Avicularia metallica tarantulas. The female was throwing up, however. I'm serious, tarantulas throw up sometimes. I was concerned she was ill (no, she did not have morning sickness), so I postponed their date. Well, they just did the deed and we saw the male got in some inserts. I took him out and he's cleaning himself off at the moment. I'll probably put them together in a week or so; this will give him a chance to recharge his bulbs with sperm. Want a detailed explanation of the mating process? Go to Arachnopets.com.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Nothing Today

Friday, July 29, 2005

Gulab: Hero or Village Idiot?

I had intended to offer a commentary on this subject but I was distracted by other matters. A few weeks ago, there was heavy news coverage concerning a helicopter rescue mission for four Navy SEALs which went awry when the Taliban fighters successfully shot down one of the helicopters. One of the SEALs managed to survive with the help of an Afghan civilian. My first reaction was surprise. The incident took place in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan where the populace is either sympathetic or scared shitless of the Taliban. Why would a native help an Navy SEAL? Time magazine had a extensive article on Gulab, the friendly villager. Unfortunately, I took so much time to write this story that now Time is requiring actual money to read the article. Damn, don't they know that everything on the web should be free? ;) Oh, well, you'll just have to take my word for what they wrote. Gulab, a Pashtun shepherd, was rounding up his goats and accidentally rounded up a human. To be less flippant, he stumbled across the wounded commando who had the good sense not to immediately kill Gulab. The Navy SEAL managed to make it to Gulab's village where he was given shelter by the community elders. The Taliban came by and demanded they turn over the American but the elders refused since that violated their beliefs for granting hospitality to strangers. The Taliban left. Gulab carried a message to nearby U.S. military base and the soldier was saved. Gulab and his family apparently left their village due to fear of reprisals. This story bothers me. I know that there is a tradition among the Pashtuns called Pashtunwali. Essentially, it's a tradition of helping your fellow man which is similar to the Middle Eastern practice of generosity to your guests. Still, risking your life, the lives of your family and maybe the entire village sounds extreme. Also, why did the Taliban just accept the refusal of the village elders? Were they outnumbered by the villagers? Was it against the beliefs of the Taliban to violate the traditions of the villagers? The Taliban are also Pashtun and they may very well have the same beliefs. Alternatively, they may not have wanted to alienate the local people. Another possibility? The military is lying through their teeth. I may sound paranoid but the U.S. has been caught in so many lies that they don't have very much credibility with me. I'm not too sure how much credibility the U.S. military currently have with the Pashtun, either. Afterwards, as part of their attack on Taliban fighters, they bombed another village and killed 17 civilians . Allegedly, the U.S. attacked a home where several Taliban fighters were located. After the first bomb attack, the local villagers came to help the injured and the U.S. dropped more bombs. I thought it was rather ironic that a humanitarian tradition saved an American soldier while also leading the U.S. to kill 17 civilians.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Haunted By the Ghost of Eric Shinseki

Most news junkies are familiar with Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki; his name still comes up in analyses of the U.S. failures in Iraq. Prior to the invasion, his testimony before congress triggered the wrath of the neocons when he stated several hundred thousand soldiers would be required to invade and occupy the country. Two years before, Shinseki had come into conflict with the Bush administration and Donald Rumsfeld. The congressional hearing was the last big salvo. Since the U.S. didn't have several hundred thousand soldiers to invade and occupy Iraq, Shinseki was actually stating that the war was a very bad idea. He really did know what he was talking about; back in 2000, he gave this interview to Frontline. He spoke about how the military's role had changed to encompass dealing with terrorism, peacekeeping missions, WMDs, humanitarian assistance, etc. and how to restructure the army to meet those needs. He also said that soldiers deserved better than to lose their lives needlessly because of poor planning by their superiors. I guess it's not surprising that he didn't get along with Rumsfeld.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Good Ways to Catch the Attention of Homeland Security

Just how paranoid are you? Have you ever stopped a moment before signing a petition because you thought that would get you on a government watchlist? Do you suspect that the FBI is monitoring your internet usage? I have to admit that I wonder if the government knows that I'm a member of Amnesty International or the ACLU. According to this press release, the FBI is keeping files on the ACLU and other organizations. I think that it is safe to be a member of Amnesty International, though; they won the Nobel Peace Prize several years ago. Last night, I googled how to make homemade bombs. Besides tempting fate and possible FBI interest, I wanted to find out whether or not it was an overhyped media story. Well, no, it's not. In about 15 minutes, I found a website with recipes for different types of explosives, detonators, timing devices, advice for concealing bombs, etc. As I have a B.Sc. in chemistry, I wouldn't recommend trying out any of these recipes without seriously researching the subject since God only knows what kind of loonies wrote this. Still, some of the directions looked plausible. Is there spyware on my computer that is secretly recording every keystroke? Is Microsoft gathering this data and turning me in to the NSA? All countries face the problem of balancing freedom vs. security. The Patriot Act contains a good many provisions to intimidate citizens without providing any gain in safety. However, I am not sure if any government agency is actually using these laws in a substantial way to curtail civil rights. The FBI is pretty lame compared to the Gestapo or Romania's Securitate. They're undergoing massive restructuring, loss of authority and a $100 million botched computer system upgrade. I don't worry that a government agency is out to get me. I'm not important enough. Damned few people are important enough to justify the resources required for surveillance. No security service has ever existed that could spy on everyone all the time. In the grim example of Romania's Securitate, citizens were so indoctrinated and fearful that they reported their own neighbors for suspicious activity, but that still required the government to investigate, arrest, interrogate, etc. It is far more efficient to intimidate the majority of citizens into slavishly obeying the law by making a few well-publicized examples. Go ahead and sign petitions, write critical letters to the media, attend protests, and generally bitch and complain about the government. They can't put everyone in jail. If you don't exercise your rights now, that encourages the government to curtail our freedoms.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nazis: Always Good For a Knee-Jerk Response

According to Godwin's law , "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches [100%]". Yesterday, I was searching around for a topic to blog and having little luck. I thought, "Aha, Nazis, always good to incite strong feelings". :) Well, seriously, I was going to write a timeline on how civil rights were eliminated in Germany. It's an interesting subject and I may still write about it in the future. As I was researching the subject, I discovered that the Nazi party never managed to get more than 37.2% of the popular vote. In 1932-33, no political party had a majority in the Reichstag (parliament) so on January 4, 1933, a coalition was formed between the Nazis and a right-wing conservative party led by Alfred Hugenberg, a wealthy media mogul. I must admit that I flashed on Rupert Murdoch at that point. The rest was horrifying history; Hitler immediately grabbed absolute power and became dictator. I was curious about what became of Alfred Hugenberg since you don't dance with the devil and expect to keep your soul. Unlike many of Hitler's political enemies, he managed to avoid the concentration camps but ended up losing his media companies to the Nazis. Interesting history but BFD, right? Too commonly, there is a tendency to invoke the vast corporate conspiracy which corrupts government and highjacks true democracy. I've done it many times but I admit that's an oversimplification. While Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military-industrial complex which threatened American institutions of government, he did not blame all corporations. Corporate America is not a monolith. They have competing interests and their lobbyists fight each other in the halls of Congress. Although they enjoy the tax breaks and subsidies bestowed by our honorable legislators, they don't determine who we invade and when we go to war. If they did, the Iraq War wouldn't be such a monumental screw-up. Oil company executives did not want to invade Iraq since the risks did not outweigh the rewards. They make huge amounts of money anyway; why risk the entire Middle East going up in flames? Fascist governments have close ties to corporations and ignore the interests of the public. Still, while I.G. Farben may have profited by their Zyklon B contract, how did those executives feel as they watched their cities bombed into rubble? I'm pretty sure that wasn't good for business.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Do You Feel Like a Loyal Patriot? A Political Rant

There's been a torrent of Op-Ed pieces over the red state/blue state split in America. After the 2004 election, the San Jose Mercury News printed a slightly tongue-in-cheek picture of a U.S. map with all blue states attempting to escape to Canada. How divided are we? I'm uncomfortable even writing that last sentence. There is no we; there's only two bitterly divided groups: the blues who consider themselves cosmopolitan and educated and the reds who hold themselves up as the last bastion of morality. One could argue that there's a large group of apathetic centrists who have little interest in even voting, but they're not the ones who drive the poltical debate. Except for our blowhard politicians, when was the last time that you heard anyone say "we Americans"? When was the last time that you wrote "our government"? Most Americans would say that the government is controlled by right-wing Republicans but they would be wrong. The U.S. is controlled by corporations and demagogues who, while enriching themselves and their friends at government expense, seek to distract the general public into fighting one another in a verbal civil war over issues like gay marriage and abortion. This wouldn't matter as much if it was just a question of government corruption. As any historian will tell you, corruption is the price of democracy; only absolute dictatorships can ensure total accountability. No, it's the death and destruction in Iraq that matters. Except for a few yellow stickers haphazardly placed on bumpers, there are few visible signs that the country is at war. The public feels little or no direct effect which would distract from the usual media babble; the pain is primarily borne by a thin demographic section that supplies the military recruits. U.S. deaths are closing in on 2,000 but there is little outcry. Casualty reports have been banished to the back pages of newspapers or relegated to the thin ribbon crawling along the bottom of the television screen. At best, they're worthy of a three-second sound bite, accompanied by appropriately sad music. The Bush administration orchestrated the unseen war by rigorously preventing the press from reporting honestly on the blood soaking the ground in Iraq. The "news" consists of press releases handed out by a military spokesman and some sanitized video taken by Iraqi cameramen, the only news employees who dare to leave the Green Zone. There is no blood, no screaming soldiers and civilians whose limbs lie twisted and mangled; sensitive viewers might complain and real life might become too real. None of this is lost upon the U.S. soldiers in Iraq. I can't bring myself to call them "our" soldiers; my soldiers wouldn't fight a war based on a lie, torture innocents because they might have information about terrorists, or continue to support a president who has cost them lives and credibility. Those soldiers in Iraq are correct when they worry whether the public still supports them. If Iraq is Vietnam-in-a-desert, what will U.S. veterans face after Iraq dissolves into a morass of civil war, terrorism, and butchery? Will returning soldiers be welcomed home with parades? Or will they be scapegoated as failures? That's what happened after Vietnam. It took decades for public opinion to acknowledge that the leadership was the failure; it was far easier to blame the foot soldiers for "not being good enough, not like the dedicated soldiers in World War II". The soldiers will be an easy target for the Bush administration to use to deflect responsibility because the public doesn't really care about them. They may wave a flag on July 4th but how many people care about the lack of body armor? They care more about the price of gasoline and that's because they aren't our soldiers. As far as the public is concerned, they're just a group of people who volunteered to join the military and tough luck that they got sent to war. The United States is not a country. It is a collection of special interest groups with so little patriotism that they don't even blink an eye when they see their politicians commit treason.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I won't be posting on Sunday

Seriously, tomorrow is tarantula feeding day and maybe I'll get around to trying to mate my pair of Avicularia metallica tarantulas. Hopefully, the female will play nice.

Nuclear Japan

Or, how Japan may learn to love the bomb. Obviously, Japan has the technology and resources to build pretty much any military weapon in existence. It does not have the political or cultural inclination to produce nuclear weapons, at least, not currently. As Japan lacks natural resources, it has increasingly turned to nuclear energy for the production of electricity, despite public trepidation over the accidental release of radioactive material. By 2010, 40% of their electricity will come from nuclear power plants. This points out Japan's quite serious energy problems. Although they are the only country to have experienced nuclear warfare, they are still willing to build nuclear power plants in the most earthquake-prone nation on earth. In addition to the "usual" uranium power plants, Japan also built two fast-breeder reactors. These reactors use plutonium and, moreover, produce more plutonium in the waste product. This waste product can be re-processed to obtain more plutonium. Thus, as stated in this link: "By 2003 Japan owned more plutonium than in the United States nuclear arsenal...In 2003 Japan owned 38 tons of plutonium, 5 tons located in the country and 33 tons at its European processors. That is enough for 7,000 nuclear weapons. Japan is also accelerating its production of plutonium. By 2010, the amount of plutonium being stockpiled in Europe will have mounted to 45 tons." While reactor-grade plutonium is not as pure as weapons-grade, it can still be used for nuclear warheads. Of course, there is nothing to prevent the Japanese from purifying their plutonium. The second question is method of delivery. Within a very short time, they could build a Nagasaki-type bomb and use aircraft to deliver it. They also have alternative technology. Japan has had a commercial space program since 1963; starting in 1970, they have launched satellites using solid-fuel rockets. Currently, they have two types of missiles that are suitable for conversion to intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, they would still have to design and build the re-entry vehicle to detonate the warhead. So, why should anyone care? The Japanese aren't going to bomb anyone with conventional weapons, much less start a nuclear holocaust. Although many Asian nations are still quite suspicious of Japanese motives due to lingering memories of World War II, there is no evidence of any type of militarism in Japan. Besides, there's no need for Japan to become a nuclear power; since the end of World War II, the U.S. has guaranteed Japan's security. That is, there is no need as long as the U.S. has the capability and desire to protect Japan. How long will that last? Damned if I know. However, China and Japan are wrangling over the natural gas fields in the East China Sea. This is just a prelude to the increasingly desperate struggle over access to oil and other natural resources that are vital to industrialized nations and the emerging superpower, China. As Iraq spirals into civil war, its oil exports will drop even below its current paltry level and further strain supplies. Bush, aka Bushusuru the Younger (scroll to end to 8 Jan 1992), put the U.S. in hock to the central bank of China, which limits American options; essentially, China can crush the U.S. economy by selling the $200 billion in T-bills/bonds that are held by China's central bank. Plus, in 1994 and 1998, North Korea shot medium-range missiles over Japan which landed in the Pacific; that, coupled with their suspected nuclear arsenal, would make anyone nervous. Japan and the U.S. need each other; for example, Japan's central bank holds $800 billion in T-bills and the U.S. hold Japan's security. They are tied by economic and military necessity, but only an idiot believes that conditions will never change.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Nothing Today, Maybe Tomorrow

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rove & Libby Caught Lying to Grand Jury?

Someone perjured himself to Fitzgerald. See link. Libby told Special Prosecuter Fitzgerald that he learned Plame's identity from Tim Russert. Tim Russert told a grand jury NO, I didn't tell Libby about Plame. Rove told Fitzgerald he learned Plame's identity from Robert Novak. Novak "has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor". The story goes on to detail discrepancies between Matt Cooper's testimony, and Rove's. Perjury: probably. But there may be more serious charges pending. Technorati tags: , , ,

Cooking People the High Tech Way

No, I'm not referring to Islam Karimov, the dictator of Uzbekistan who likes to boil his enemies alive. That's low tech. My subject is the Active Denial System, scheduled to go into service in Iraq in 2006. In development for more than ten years by the Air Force, it is a non-lethal energy beam weapon intended for use against rioters and combatants. The weapon fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam which causes an intense burning sensation within 2-3 seconds. The manufacturer, Raytheon, and military developers claim that the device does not cause permanent damage and, hence, is safer than taser weapons, tear gas, rubber bullets, etc. Unfortunately, there are still a few lingering questions. Test subjects were required to remove their contact lenses, glasses, and any metal objects before exposure. Due to the lack of details provided, possible corneal damage (literally cooking your eye), or very uncomfortably located burns from metal zippers could possibly occur in a riot situation. Since the beam induces extreme pain without apparent lasting damage or scars, it could also be used as a very effective torture device. Raytheon is also developing a hand-held version for use by police and security forces, thus increasing the likelihood of "non-sanctioned" use by official agencies, criminals, terrorists, and freedom fighters (okay, I admit it, I'm being sarcastic). Incidentally, this technology isn't foolproof. Remember how you're not supposed to put metal in your microwave oven? A microwave beam can be deflected by metal plate or foil. Or, have you seen the episodes in Mythbusters when Jaime and Adam painted themselves gold? Protesters might walk around covered in gold and wearing tin-foil hats.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Why Don't They Love Us?

EXTREME SARCASM WARNING! I've never understood how people can ignore reality. I like reality, sanity and logic. Take the neocons (non)plan for Iraq. Why did they think the Iraqi civilians would welcome U.S. soldiers? Twelve years of sanctions resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, plus 500,000 adults through malnutrition, lack of medical supplies, filthy water, etc. Or was it 1.5 million? It's hard to come up with a figure since the greatest press in the free world doesn't like to talk about it. Yes, yes, I know, Saddam Hussein is a Bad Man and he's responsible for everything. And whatever he didn't do, then the Syrians did it, or maybe the Iranians. It's hard to keep up with the Axis of Evil. Besides, the sanctions were a noble attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Denis Halliday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraqi aid, well, he shouldn't have resigned in 1998. It was so insulting when he said,"I don't want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More Fun with Doomsday

The second sarin attack was the Tokyo subway gassing. According to this CDC report,
"On the morning of March 20, 1995, packages were placed on five different trains in the Tokyo subway system. The packages consisted of plastic bags filled with a chemical mix and wrapped inside newspapers. Once placed on the floor of the subway car, each bag was punctured with a sharpened umbrella tip, and the material was allowed to spill onto the floor of the subway car. As the liquid spread out and evaporated, vaporous agent spread throughout the car...The attack was carried out at virtually the same moment at five different locations in the world's largest city: five trains, many kilometers apart, all converging on the center of Tokyo [where key government agencies were located]. The resulting deaths and injuries were spread throughout central Tokyo."
Twelve people died and more than 5,000 were injured. Japanese police agencies believed that the goal was the instigation of Armageddon. Alternate theories held that it was an attempt to: 1) distract the police from a planned raid upon the group's main headquarters, or 2) destabilize the government, which would lead to Asahara's control of Japan. In any case, the attack did not kill as many as one would expect; the sarin they produced probably contained impurities. Also, if they had chosen a different dispersal method that produced aerosolized droplets, for example, far more deaths would have occurred. The Japanese authorities began arresting members of Aum Shinrikyo within 48 hours, although some perpetrators took years to apprehend. Asahara was arrested in his meditation chamber at the group's compound. Since Asahara refused to cooperate with his court-appointed lawyers, his trial lasted almost 8 years. He was sentenced to death by hanging on February 27, 2004. His case is under appeal. Twelve other members of the group were sentenced to death and five others received life sentences for the sarin attacks, the Sakamoto killings, the murders of dissident cult members, and others. More than 190 members have been convicted of lesser charges. In 1999, the group changed their name to Aleph and disavowed violence, although a recruit died on Jan. 3rd, 2005 during a "training accident". Aleph is closely monitored by Japanese authorities. Keroyon, a separate group created by former members, was involved in the Sept. 10, 2004 beating death of a 36-year-old female recruit. Both groups still worship Asahara. So what's the point? Morbid curiosity? Well, yes, but I was interested in the different motivations and capabilities of terrorist groups. Extremist religious groups with delusional leaders may wish to commit apocalyptic crimes for no rational reason. They have no boundaries. If Aum Shinrikyo had recruited biological scientists with expertise in recombinant DNA, they could have produced a lethal bioweapon. For example, genetically manipulate a flu virus, culture it to produce large quantities, spray the mixture liberally in airports and mass transit systems throughout the world, and voila, you've killed more than 99% of the human race. Still, Aum Shinrikyo made many errors, despite their considerable resources. A religious group may be insane enough to want to attack but too insane to adequately prepare and implement the attack. Bin Laden, on the other hand, may be motivated by hatred, but he isn't crazy or stupid; according to his fatwas, he realizes the tremendous difficulty in seeking to undermine the U.S., but, hey, you never know until you try. He doesn't expect to achieve the complete destruction of Western nations but he does want a united Islamic state, the Caliphate, that stretches through Northern Africa, through the Middle East and into central Asia. This state could fight back against the military and economic power of Western nations. First and foremost, al Qaeda is a political group and their activities are crafted to create a political effect. That is why they are less scary than Japanese Buddhist terrorist groups -- or, for that matter, any religiously motivated crazies with money, some technical ability, and a violent theology. My remarks are a short summary of a complex case. A great deal more material can be found on the web. The following are the links I used in researching this blog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_subway_sarin_gas_attack http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aum_Shinrikyo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakamoto_family_murder http://english.aleph.to/ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fd20050327pb.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040228a6.htm http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/aums.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VX http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/45394.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040228a4.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040226b6.htm http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/aum.htm http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1995_rpt/aum/index.html http://www.nasog.net/intelligence/terrorism/organizations/Aum_Supreme_Truth.htm http://www.georgetown.edu/sfs/programs/stia/students/vol.02/chiricom.htm http://www.nci.org/index.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20040529a2.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20041022a6.htm http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?ed20040711a1.htm http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol5no4/olson.htm Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Monday, July 18, 2005

Road to Armageddon

So, last I left off I was discussing Aum Shinrikyo's first murders. By the mid '90s, the group had approximately 40,000 members in New York, Russia, Japan, Germany and Sri Lanka and one billion dollars in assets. They had also managed to attract members with advanced degrees in physics, applied physics, and organic chemistry. They did NOT appear to have attracted many experts in the biological sciences. Some of these people were very successful individuals. So why were they attracted to this rather odd religion? I am Japanese-American but that doesn't mean I have the answer. I will say that the Japanese tend to take things to extremes; if a little bit is good, then a huge amount is desirable, e.g. a very strong educational system, or more pruriently, the management at strip clubs passing out magnifying glasses to their patrons. The extremism of the cult may have appealed to Aum Shinrikyo's recruits. In any event, Aum Shinrikyo was a dangerous mixture of apocalyptic religion, wealth, resources, and technologic expertise. Asahara's motivations are difficult to parse out; his theology changed over the years and madmen are not noted for their organized thought processes. He did preach that a nuclear war between Japan and the U.S. would occur in 1997 and that ultimately, the entire world population would be dead except for a small group of Aum Shinrikyo. At least initially, however, the stated goal of the cult was the prevention of the apocalypse. Apparently toward that end, in 1989-1990 he attempted to gain political power by running candidates for the Japanese Diet (parliament). His party was soundly defeated which ended his goal to become the leader of Japan through peaceful means. The group began to investigate biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, i.e. cholera, anthrax, botulinum toxin, Q fever, ebola virus, sarin and VX nerve gas agents, and the black market purchase of nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. They had some difficulty manufacturing anthrax and botulinum; VX, although highly lethal in small doses, does not evaporate well and works best as an aerosol. The group decided upon sarin and set up a laboratory to manufacture large quantities. The first sarin attack occurred on June 27, 1994, in the Kita-Fukashidistrict of Matsumoto in central Japan. Seven people were killed and hundreds injured. The targets were three judges who were set to hear a court case against the group. To be continued

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I Had a Migraine Yesterday

so I didn't post the answer on how to detonate a nuclear warhead. Sorry about that unresolved cliffhanger. Okay, I'm still under the weather so this will be short. According to Luis Alvarez, Nobel Prize winning physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project: "With modern weapons-grade uranium, the background neutron rate is so low that terrorists, if they had such material, would have a good chance of setting off a high-yield explosion simply by dropping one half of the material onto the other half... Even a high school kid could make a bomb on short order." Luis Alvarez, Adventures of a Physicist (Basic Books, 1987), p. 125. You may not get maximum yield, i.e. biggest bang for your buck, but it would certainly make the evening news and that's what terrorism is all about. Allegedly, a plutonium warhead would require shape charges in order to achieve detonation which is not quite so simple. For more information to keep you up at night, this is a link discussing Aum Shinrikyo, terrorism and nuclear bombs. However, nuclear warheads are not the most lethal weapon in the arsenal, albeit the most spectacular and expensive. I will continue this discussion later.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Religion Can Be a Bitch

While watching the news on the July 7th London bombings, I saw a brief discussion on the methodology of the attack. The speaker stated that terrorist attacks are like theatrical events; the point is the intended emotional impact upon the audience. The number of deaths or injuries is not neccessarily important. After a few days of letting that stew in my brain, I decided that statement was inaccurate since terrorist groups may have vastly different goals. The Japanese religious group, Aum Shinrikyo, also known as Aum Supreme Truth is a good example. They are most famous for the March 20th, 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, 1, 2. The well-coordinated attack killed 12 and injured several thousand. In 1984, Shoko Asahara founded the religious organization later called Aum Shinrikyo. He drew his theology from Tibetan Buddhism, a deity called Shiva, some elements of Taoism, the Book of Revelations in the New Testament, the writings of Nostradamus, physicist Nicola Tesla's so-called death rays, and the science fiction Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Asahara's sanity is questionable at best. Asahara MAY have begun as a sincere practioner of Buddhism, yoga, and meditation. Eventually, his group grew in size and wealth, attracting young and highly educated people recruited from some of the most elite Japanese universities. By 1989, though, Asahara's group had become a cult, requiring followers to turn over their personal savings, cut all ties with family members, and use various drugs to facilitate "proper" behavior. Kidnappings, assaults and threats against recruits and their families were also reported which led a lawyer, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, to work on lawsuits against the group. In November, 1989, members of Aum Shinrikyo murdered Sakamoto, his wife, and their one-year-old child. These first murders were precursors to the terrorist attacks that they believed would trigger Armageddon, a massive war that would kill almost every person on earth. Religious terrorists kill for a goal that is based upon their faith; political terrorists still deal within the real world. While Osama Bin Laden may wish to defeat the western industrialized nations, even he is not willing to risk total annihilation of the human race. Enough for tonight. Coming soon, how to explode a nuclear weapon if you have weapons grade uranium. Hint: it's easier than you think. Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Really, um, Odd Links, Huh?

Inasmuch as I have incredibly few readers, this explanation is unnecessary. But, just in case someone thinks I'm either a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist or a secret al Qaeda sympathizer, be assured that you don't need to call Homeland Security. If you expected some sort of porno page when you clicked on Bare Rump's Diary, you were undoubtedly disappointed when you found my husband's serialized sci fi story about a 10-foot long extraterrestrial tarantula. Incidentally, those are photos of some of my pet tarantulas; hey, I really am the Tarantula Lady. Pen and Sword is written by Jeff Huber, one of the few bloggers out there who actually knows something about the military. 99.99% of all the other political bloggers (including me) are talking out of our respective asses when we discuss combat or war. The Lefty links range from liberal to Ho-Chi-Minh-City left-wing. I don't agree with everything they write but they do present a different viewpoint than the MSM. Occasionally, they will point out an outright error. I didn't include any conspiracy sites like whatreallyhappened.com even though they're sometimes good for a laugh. As for the Middle East/Asia sites, they're more interesting. Aljazeera.com is a bit like CNN for Arabs. They have been controversial in the past, which may explain why the U.S. military bombed their offices twice and are currently torturing one of their journalists in Guantanamo Bay. Uruknet.info is a hardcore Iraqi insurgency information site. They refer to themselves as the resistance; "you say terrorist, I say freedom fighter, let's call the whole thing a bloody mess." It's the view from the opposite side of the universe. It is useful because they post/link to EVERYTHING negative about U.S. involvement in Iraq. I was planning to write about really scary Buddhist terrorists but I didn't have the time to do the research today. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What Else Could Fitzgerald Be Investigating

I posted a version of this in the comment section over at Pen and Sword. This is absolute pure speculation on my part and I'm not saying I believe this. But, is Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent counsel, also investigating the other CIA leak that featured many of the same players as Rovegate? On June 2, 2004, the New York Times printed a story on Ahmad Chalabi, Iraqi sleazeball extraordinaire and associate of the Bush Administration. He allegedly told Iran that U.S. intelligence had cracked the code used by the Iranian spy service on their encrypted communications. Of course, the Iranians immediately changed their codes and the U.S. lost an extremely important source of information. As for Chalabi, he is/was quite chummy with Judith Miller, the neocons and, apparently, President Bush himself. In 1989, Jordan convicted Chalabi in absentia of bank fraud, after he stole $300 million in bank deposits. But surprisingly, on May 11, 2005, King Abdullah of Jordan pardoned Chalabi. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, George Bush himself asked King Abdullah to pardon Chalabi. Like Rovegate, this particular story features CIA leaks, neocons, Judith Miller and George Bush. Of course, there are many sleazy stories floating in the toilet called the White House. Who knows what Fitzgerald is investigating?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Karl Rove Controversy Continued

Point 2 Over on DailyKos.com there is an interesting thread (search for espionage) discussing whether the Espionage Act of 1917 was violated. (If you're a real glutton for eye strain, here is the actual statute .) The MSM is only discussing whether the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was broken. Allegedly, Rove is unlikely to be prosecuted under the Identities Act since that crime is almost impossible to prove in a court of law. As stated today in the New York Times: "The 1982 law that makes it a crime to disclose the identities of covert operatives is not easy to break. It has apparently been the basis of a single prosecution, against Sharon M. Scranage, a C.I.A. clerk in Ghana who pleaded guilty in 1985 to identifying two C.I.A. agents to a boyfriend." If you want to read a discussion on the application of this law, click over here at Tabella . Of course, the controversy is NOT solely a legal question. Even if no one is convicted, the story could catch on with the public and cause real political embarrassment to the Bush Administration. A "successful" scandal is relatively simple, easily explained, and contains a dramatic hook with an emotional appeal. For example, if Valerie Plame's alleged network was exposed and an operative was killed in an excessively gory fashion, that might provide enough drama to hold public interest. Do I sound cold? I go through dozens of news sites each day. THAT would make anyone jaded.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Bit of Trivia on the Karl Rove Controversy

The Karl Rove/Valerie Plame story has reached critical mass and even the mainstream media is discussing it. I won't bother to reiterate the facts or speculate further since everyone is blogging, chatting and otherwise electronically interacting. If you feel the need, simply go to HuffingtonPost.com or DailyKos.com and you'll find as much speculation and discussion as anyone could desire. There are two interesting points that a casual observer might miss, however. Point #1 This story is somewhat controversial (and murky and complicated so bear with me) but Valerie Plame may not be the first undercover agent to be outed by the Bush Administration for political purposes. On July 2004, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a high-level al Qaeda operative, was arrested and "turned" by Pakistani intelligence. Khan had been communicating through encrypted emails with an al Qaeda cell that was planning an attack in Great Britain; his laptop also contained 3-year-old information about a possible attack against financial buildings in the U.S. On July 26-29th, 2004 the Democratics held their 2004 convention and nominated John Kerry with the usual fanfare. Typically, this type of three-day-long political advertisement provides the candidate with a bump in the polls. On Aug. 1, 2004, Tom Ridge issued an alert that al Qaeda was planning an attack on financial buildings in the U.S. and gave some background information to reporters. John Kerry did not get any significant improvement in the polls, possibly due to fear and the public perception that Bush had a "tougher stance" on terrorism. The New York Times printed Khan's name on Aug. 2nd and British intelligence had to prematurely arrest 13 suspects. They had to release 5 of them due to lack of evidence. British officials were really pissed off. The question is, how did the NY Times get the name? The reporters stated in this article that they received the name from a Pakistani source. But how did the reporters know they should be looking in Pakistan? I'm completely sure that Karl Rove had prior knowledge about Ridge's announcement; Rove was running the campaign and this warning had obvious political implications. On the other hand, could Ridge be sure that a U.S. attack was not imminent? If he guessed wrong and an attack occurred, the consequences would be dire. For more info, check here on wikipedia.org, here on cnn.com and here on antiwar.com. It's late so I'll finish this tomorrow. Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, July 10, 2005

So, tell me again, who are the Bad Guys?

In the wake of the leaked British memo describing a possible UK/US partial withdrawal from Iraq, I thought I'd give a short recap of the "good guys" that will be taking over security duties. 1) For starters, there is the Kurdish Peshmerga and related militia who have been accused of sectarian-based murder and torture. The Kurds were brutalized by Saddam Hussein in a deliberate campaign to marginalize them in the oil-rich region around Kirkuk. According to a Human Rights Watch report, the initial Kurdish response in post-Saddam Iraq was to abuse Iraqi Arabs in a similar fashion. This outburst of violence was quelled but soon erupted again, this time also involving the other sizable Kirkuk minority group, the Turkomen. As it stands today, the Kurds, Turkomen and Iraqi Arabs have avoided flat-out civil war but as this May 23rd, 2005 article in USA Today states, 'In January, four Kurds were dragged into the street in Hawija, a mostly Arab town 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, and shot to death. Then in March, an Arab police major and three officers were killed in Kirkuk by a roadside bomb during a funeral procession for a fellow officer who was killed the day before by another roadside bomb. The Iraqi Institute for Human Rights in Kirkuk, an independent group, has documented more than 300 cases of vanished Arabs during the past two months. "Every day, someone is in here complaining about it," says Jalal Ibrahim, deputy director of the institute. Armed Kurdish militia, called peshmerga, or "those who face death," still patrol the streets in pickups. Other members of the militia have joined the local police.' You may notice that USA Today (not my favorite media source btw) tries to put a positive spin on the story but even they can't make death squads sound good. 2) The Mehdi militia. I can't find much current info except for this article from The Guardian stating that some have joined the Basra police force. Moqtada al-Sadr is obviously still an important figure. 3) The Badr Brigade. This Iranian-trained militia has been targeting Sunni religious figures. The above link and this one also contain some information on this group. There has been a good deal of speculation that the Badr Brigade has been killing ordinary Sunnis as a possible prelude to civil war. 4) The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Really not good. There are rather graphic descriptions in this link. The human rights abuses may not reach the volume of Saddam Hussein's regime but the techniques appear to be the same. With friends like these . . . Technorati tags: , , ,

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Interesting Times, Indeed

I've been lurking at HuffingtonPost.com since they have all the latest info on the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame case and tonight, as I obsessively surfed through news sites, this came up. It appears that Rove may really have screwed up, i.e. Bush's brain had a cerebral infarct. Everyone was sure that he was just too damned smart to get caught; personally, I thought he had ordered someone else to do the dirty deed, like Scooter Libby, for example. Recently, however, I noticed a crack in the White House stone wall. If nothing else, most Washington pundits will admit that the Bush Administration has excellent discipline on keeping the party propaganda line consistent. When talking to the media, everyone, up and down the hierarchy, uses the same language to describe the same subjects like good little apparatchiks. This isn't by accident; it's Karl Rove's trademark. (Well, that and incredibly sleazy smear campaigns.) So, a few weeks ago, it was surprising to see Dick Cheney spout off that the Iraqi insurgency was in its last throes while Donald Rumsfeld said it could last for more than a decade. Was Karl Rove sweating over the Plame investigation and blew off the Bush Administration propaganda synchronization?