Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blog Note

I was very surprised the other day when I happened upon this article: Why Conservatives Should Be Using Twitter And 200 "People" You Should Be Following. I shared it with Google Reader and Tweeted it right away. I intended to return to it later in the day to add folks to follow. It wasn't until returning to the article that I had noticed that I was included on the list. Thank you Duane Lester and all who deemed me worthy of inclusion in this group of talented people.

For new visitors, thank you for stopping by. You may notice that I have a few blog posts that I've accumulated, I hope you enjoy them. But if you haven't noticed yet, most of what I "post" is via the microblogging of Google Reader shares and Tweets. On the upper right I have tried to highlight my Reader Shared Items and its feed (a quick sample is at the top of this blog), and Twitter links. That tends to be the majority of my activity at present.

I am out of town visiting my family and friends in Bismarck, ND this Thanksgiving weekend. So my online time is much more limited, as it should be, and I'm on a borrowed system.

But next week starting Wednesday my activity is likely to be much diminished for a period TBD. I have surgery to remove some tumors from my liver, and I don't really know how fast I'll be bouncing back from that. When I'm around and about, I'll be back to sharing the things I find of interest.

We now return you to your regular surfing!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interesting Times

It keeps coming up, but this time in between the election and inauguration day was the speculated time frame in which one or two nightmare scenarios might materialize: the American Hiroshima (which I've mentioned previously) attack or an EMP attack (or both). Recently, the Wall Street Journal published the article, What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do. Here are a few "highlights":
Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.

But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.

This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions.

Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched.

Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America's finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.
There was this nugget from the Daily Pundit a while ago too:

Little Congressional Interest in EMP Threat - Defense News

Once again, a congressional commission is warning that an electromagnetic pulse attack against the United States could wipe out the nation’s electronics-dependent civilization. And again, hardly anyone is listening.

Only a handful of the 60 members of the House Armed Services Committee showed up for a hearing on the EMP threat July 10, and most didn’t stick around for the whole two-hour session.

…There is “a high likelihood” than an EMP attack would damage the “electrical power systems, electronics and information systems upon which American society depends.” The effect “on critical infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the nation,” Graham said.

…In a March report to lawmakers, the Congressional Research Service said, “the threat of an EMP attack against the United States is hard to assess.” The CRS did not dispute claims about the catastrophic nature of an EMP attack.
And this one from Winds of Change:
EMP, Again

There's a lot of chatter about Iranian EMP again (it seems to come back periodically). here's Walid Phares over at the Counterterrorism Blog:
Over the past seven months I have been interacting with US Homeland Security and European defense officials and experts on a the potential next threat to the West, more particularly against mainland America. The signature of that strategic menace is EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse; a weapon of the future, already available in design, construction and possible deployment. As eyes are focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, and as we began recently to understand that the missile advances are as important then the fissile material development, attention is now being drawn by private sector projects and some in the defense world to what can cause a wider circle of damages and thus more deterrence against US national security.
In short, and I borrow from the Project "Shield," an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could be triggered by a nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude over America. The resulting blast would create an EMP, a shockwave that could "cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure." Even if a high-altitude EMP kills nobody at first, it would paralyze a large section of the United States. The lingering practical and economic effects would take anywhere from hours to years to resolve: when secondary effects are considered, an EMP could be even deadlier than a direct nuclear strike against the mainland. Indeed, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has written: "Where the terrorist airliner attacks of 9/11 killed thousands, a terrorist EMP attack could indirectly kill millions and conceivably cause the permanent collapse of our entire society."
So I'm not the only one thinking about the EMP. But I also wonder what may be up with the Al Qaeda plan. I haven't heard much about it in a while.
Al Qaeda Announces Attack to Rival Hiroshima (Video)

It's a bit confusing that this story did not get more attention yesterday.
Granted it comes from Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that democrats deny is actually operating in Iraq, but the magnitude of the threat should have garnered it a few headlines in the media outlets anyway. You'd think.

FOX News reported on the story:

The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday:

AL-QAEDA leaders in Iraq are planning the first "large-scale" terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.

Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on "a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki" in an attempt to "shake the Roman throne", a reference to the West, according to The Times newspaper in the UK.

Another plot could be timed to coincide with Tony Blair stepping down as prime minister, an event described by Al-Qaeda planners as a "change in the head of the company".

The report, produced earlier this month and seen by The Sunday Times, appears to provide evidence that Al-Qaeda is active in Iran and has ambitions far beyond the improvised attacks it has been waging against British and American soldiers in Iraq.
More on those guys who aren't supposed to be in Iraq.
Even quoting an earlier incarnation of myself, there was this:
Phantom Menace
Given that the US is the biggest problem, I revisited some topics that are apparently on the lighter side.

'Al-Qaida has nukes'

According to a report in the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network bought tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine in 1998.

The report says the terrorists still have the "suitcase nuke" weapons and are storing them in safe places for possible use.

The newspaper said al-Qaida bought the weapons in suitcases in a deal arranged when Ukrainian scientists visited the Afghan city of Kandahar in 1998. The city was then a stronghold of the Taliban movement, which was allied with al-Qaida.

WorldNetDaily first broke the story of al-Qaida's purchase of suitcase nukes Oct. 3, 2002. Paul Williams, an FBI consultant on international terrorism said then bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network purchased 20 suitcase nuclear weapons from former KGB agents in 1998 for $30 million.

His book, "Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror," also says this deal was one of at least three in the last decade in which al-Qaida purchased small nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear uranium.
That same year, according to Williams, bin Laden succeeded in buying the 20 suitcase nukes from Chechen Mafia figures, including former KGB agents. The $30 million deal was partly cash and partly heroin with a street value of $700 million.
I believe I remember an interview of Dr. Paul Williams by Bob Davis back on June 18, 2007, but the podcast is no longer available. The memorable line from the Dr. Williams that has stuck with me: "I saw the check."

But at least it is comforting to know that an American Hiroshima is no big deal to Euroliberals.
Sure it's been "planned" for quite some time with nothing coming of it. But then again, so was 9/11. But what I find most salient is the current time frame. The rising of a nuclear Iran and tensions with Israel also lead folks to predict changes on the horizon:
Bolton: Israel might attack Iran between Election Day and Inauguration Day

Let’s hope he’s right at least about nothing happening before the election, as the paranoia about Israel acting at Bush’s behest to initiate a crisis that might benefit McCain would blow as sky high as Iran’s reactors after an IAF raid.
“The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations.

“They’re also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there’s no telling what impact it could have on the election.”…

“An Obama victory would rule out military action by the Israelis because they would fear the consequences given the approach Obama has taken to foreign policy,” said Mr Bolton, who was Mr Bush’s ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.

“With McCain they might still be looking at a delay. Given that time is on Iran’s side, I think the argument for military action is sooner rather than later absent some other development.”
How would Israel hitting Iran in December after Obama wins spare them the diplomatic “consequences” Bolton warns of here? Any attack after Election Day, or even before if Obama’s out to a big lead late in the race, will result in a major foreign policy crisis being foisted on him as he enters office without his having been consulted. If anything, waiting until after he’s elected but before he’s sworn in would be the supreme insult since it would look like a panic move precipitated by a total lack of confidence in the new administration to handle the Iranian threat. Which, needless to say, may be justifiable, but it’s bound to make for poisonous relations between President Obama and the Israelis. Bolton’s point, I take it, is that an Obama victory will leave Israel with the awful choice of hitting Iran at the price of (potentially) alienating the new U.S. government versus trusting the new government and risking Iran going nuclear — although if that’s true then logically they should want to act as soon as possible, election or no, since that would let them deal with the threat while also minimizing the political implications in the U.S. while we’re still four months away from the election.
Or this:
Would Obama's election mean Mideast nuclear war?

If Obama (already endorsed by Hamas) is elected President in November (instead of someone Israel could trust to support it), between Election Day 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009, Israel, with or without the aid of the United States, may deem military action against Iran essential to its national security.
Much speculation has been about the time frame in which we now find ourselves. I find it most certainly of interest the goings on in the Middle East right now. We don't really know how advanced Iran's nuclear program is, we don't really know to what extent Al Qaeda has any operational capability for its claims, we don't know what triggers might exist for America's enemies regarding Bush and Obama, and we don't know how politics in the Levant will affect things either. It rather looks like a perfect storm brewing.

Soon after 9/11 I realized my generation and those following had come to live the ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

Update: Thanks for the link DailyPundit!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Victory in Iraq Day

Thank you, American armed forces!

Picture Source

And good luck to the people of Iraq.

H/T Zombie

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

VIDay: Spread the Word

See Zombie for details.


And since there will never be a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue in New York for our troops, it's up to us, the people, to arrange a virtual ticker-tape parade. An online victory celebration.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 is the day of that celebration: Victory in Iraq Day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One More 'What If?'

This isn't another "What if Obama wins?" type of thing. That has already been settled.

What if Obama is not good? That is, where might he end up in the historical rankings of presidents? Much attention has been brought to his historic run, but how will he govern and how will history judge him afterward?

Sure it's way too soon to speculate, but overtly or otherwise race has been thrown into this -- arguably by both sides. If he turns out to be a great president then it will indeed be a great thing for this nation and its citizens. But what would be the price if he ended up as a mediocre or poor president? Would that have a negative effect in the future regarding race and the presidency? Or race relations in general?

I guess I'll have to try to be optimistic and believe he will at least be a good president. Anyone is welcome to prove my political viewpoints to be lacking if it benefits this country and its people. And now is the time to prove me wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Next Four Years

One must congratulate president-elect Obama for having done what few would have thought possible. My reasons for framing it that way have nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the policies and politics he represents. But he has indeed won the office by the vote of the American people, and that is no small task.

There has been myriad discussions online that probably go from one extreme to another. A few salient issues have been raised, but at this point it's been a fair amount of gloating from the Left and doomsaying or "here's what we've gotta do now" from the Right. Bleh.

Amid all the campaign promises kept, modified, and discarded, I have absolutely no idea where this country is headed. I do have my concerns, though.

Will he and the Democrat congressional majorities raise every tax they see? I talked to a younger fellow the other day and he seemed to think that the "95% of people will get a tax cut" should be taken at face value. Color me skeptical.

If taxes are raised, how badly will this effect the economy? This same fellow also mentioned some history and that this country has had higher taxes before. True indeed, but aren't we in "the information age"? When this country had more of the manufacturing jobs, and there was far less mobility for people than we currently enjoy, and when trade barriers were stronger, and when banking regulations were stricter, then sure -- it was easier to keep the people rich and poor alike pinned down. I would hope that we aren't planning to return to that in order to tax the rich.

Whether or not the speculation in the last paragraph is fact or my misremembering, I have noted over the years that I work more software folks now located in Ireland and Poland. Have higher taxes in the US already pushed jobs elsewhere?


Wow. It has been one long political season. Now that the election is over, I find myself spent, drained. Surely that is in large part because "I lost". I'm sure things would be different if I were "on the winning team", but alas not this time around.

I've been in various moods in the past 24 hours, but some of my thoughts have about the past year have crept into that. Towards the end of this election I was already growing weary of the sheer volume of items arriving in my Reader.

As you can see, around 1000 items on a weekday were presenting themselves for my perusal. To get down to skimming the 300ish items to find probably 50 to share really lent itself more toward quantity and perhaps less quality. But the season was very fruitful in the thick of things. I also figured that anyone following the feed could pick and choose items of interest and maybe find 5-10 that were worth their while.

So even before the election I was planning on cutting back on the volume a bit. I did some version control backups of some things last night, and I'll be changing things up a little. Of the stray thoughts I've had regarding this blog, one has been how things have evolved over the past year or so. So if you'll indulge me, the following will be a bit of a history of this blog.

A History of High Plains Blogger

The roots of this actually probably started about a decade ago. I'm a programmer by profession, and I'd happened upon Yahoo! Groups, which was at the time an email list "forum". I participated in these basically discussing code issues for several years, learning a great deal.

The next step for me was discovering forums. Very quickly I preferred that medium because I could highlight things, edit my typos, and fix things up to be how I wanted. And I stayed pretty well on the straight and narrow and only got into code discussions. But at the same time I would "eavesdrop" on political issues being discussed on some sites' "General Discussions" or "Lounge" sub-forums. The topics interested me, but I generally did not post my opinions.

This probably brings us up to about 2004-2005. I saw a prevalence of Liberal ideas being presented with a dearth of Conservatives and such ideas represented. And so I branched out into lengthy and wonderful arguments that formed the core idea that this blog seeks to pursue. By 2007ish, I was getting tired of the repeating the same stuff in response to newcomers dredging up older threads.

I didn't really take to blogs right away, but eventually I moved away from a programming forum's associated blog because I wanted more freedom and flexibility in posting. That led me to MyOpera where I started The Observatory. The name in part reflects that I'm not out preach, but rather to observe and offer my perspective.

As I got going with The Observatory, I enjoyed adding pictures, audio, movies, and other gadgets to help dress up the commentary. In parallel, I was discovering new tools and technologies. Among them was the addictive Google Reader, which simplified how I happened upon the things I liked to read.

In this process, I had to get an account with Google, so I had its Mail and soon found its Notebook useful as well. I decided that I might want to take advantage of some of the shared functionality and made by move to this Google blog as well (although I did make an attempt with WordPress to start).

Also during this time, I was separating out "the political me", "the programmer me", and "the friend/family guy me" into separate online presences. If you hadn't guessed, this blog is "the political me". Since I had been exposing myself to these new technologies, I was also experimenting with others as well. A little MySpace here, some FaceBook there, and IRC in part driving and assisting discover. Well, it's notsomuch IRC itself, it's the folks I chat with there that have provided me with arguments, ideas, discussions, and technical help.

I take a little bit here and a little bit there and incorporate bits and pieces into this blog. For a while I had made quite a bit of use of Yahoo! Pipes as well. I've incorporated an IRC channel into this blog. But as the summer months came and went, I was spending almost 100% of my time microblogging, if that, with Google Reader. And then came Twitter, and then Twurl as a tie-ins with that.

I'd like to back away from the microblogging and get back to the more traditional type of blogging -- we'll see how that goes.