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  • …and our “Allies” Grieved

    Posted on May 10th, 2011 Helian No comments

    The European media don’t flaunt their anti-Americanism the way they did in times past.  I follow the German media, and the level of spite and hatred directed at the United States by the Internet media there a decade ago was amazing.  Der Spiegel was always at the head of the pack of baying hounds.  It was often difficult to find any news about Germany on their website in the maze of quasi-racist anti-American rants.  People on this side of the pond began to notice, and eventually the “respectable” media began to refrain from wearing their hatred on their sleeves.  Apparently some rudimentary sense of shame still existed among them.  However, the phenomenon of anti-Americanism is still alive and well.  Inevitably, it reappears on the occasion of any significant American victory.  The squaring of accounts with bin Laden is a case in point.  Here’s a sample of the headlines that have appeared on the Spiegel website since that happy event:

    Merkel’s Joy Outrages Critics  (The usual cheap shots from the pathologically pious against the German Chancellor for daring to approve of the raid.)

    How a Judge wants to Bring Merkel to her Senses (A terminally self-righteous Hamburg judge wants to sue Merkel for “approving of an illegal act.”)

    Bin Laden, the Victor (Psychobabble deploring the fighting of “evil with evil.” Hand-wringing over an action described as, “an assault by 79 elite soldiers, who shot an unarmed old man, surrounded by women and children.)

    Poll – Germans are not Happy about bin Laden’s Death  (no kidding?)

    American Justice  (Oh my!  It seems there are some questions about whether the operation was justified under international law.)

    Schadenfreude over bin Laden’s Death is Unworthy  (A particularly nauseating display of ostentatious self-righteousness by a “theology professor.”)

    …and so on, and so on.  All this isn’t a purely German phenomenon, of course.  Other bloggers have noted the pervasive grief in the rest of Europe over bin Laden’s demise.  Seen from a purely psychological perspective, it’s encouraging.  Apparently the Europeans still perceive us as “King of the Hill.”  After all, they would hardly have worked themselves into such a lather if Gautemala had succeeded in bumping off its public enemy number one.  It may be that China’s turn is coming, but they’re not there yet.

  • A Nuclear 9/11: Can we Defeat Nuclear Terrorism by Securing the Ports?

    Posted on September 27th, 2010 Helian No comments

    In a word, no.  Anyone who wants to smuggle the key ingredients (highly enriched uranium or weapons grade plutonium, otherwise known as special nuclear material, or SNM) needed to make a nuclear weapon into this country can easily do so, and the installation of any combination of the most sophisticated radiation dectection devices on the planet at our ports will do nothing to alter the fact.  The idea that lots of expensive detection equipment at our ports, or any other ports, will significantly reduce the terrorist nuclear danger is based on a fallacy:  that terrorists capable of securing enough SNM to build a bomb will be brain dead.  They would have to be brain dead to try to sneak SNM past sophisticated detectors when there are a virtually unlimited number of ways one could get it into the country without taking that risk.  It’s not necessary to smuggle a nuclear weapon in one piece.  It could be brought in broken down into small components and assembled at the target.  The SNM could be smuggled across our borders in pieces small enough to be virtually undetectable by backpackers, on commercially available mini-submarines, light aircraft, small pleasure boats, or what have you.  The SNM could then be assembled and easily fabricated into any desired weapons configuration in place.  The whole debate about defeating nuclear terrorism sounds like it’s being conducted in a lunatic asylum.

    For example, The Daily Caller (hattip Instapundit) cites a GAO report to the effect that, ”

    The nation’s ports and border crossings remain vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 despite a $4 billion investment since 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on a number of programs aimed at preventing nuclear smuggling around the world.

    Senators similarly admonished DHS in a recent Senate hearing for failing to uphold its end of the bargain with the American people.

    “Terrorists have made clear their desire to secure a nuclear weapon,” Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said at the Sept. 15 hearing. “Given this stark reality, we must ask: what has the department done to defend against nuclear terrorism on American soil? The answer, unfortunately, is not enough… not nearly enough.”

    The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), responsible for the domestic aspect of DHS’s nuclear terror deterrence, received approximately half of the $4 billion investment, which it spent deploying over 1,400 radiation monitors at the nation’s seaports and border crossings in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    But these radiation monitors have a serious flaw: they can only detect radiation from lightly shielded radiation sources.

    The only problem is that spending billions more to fix this “flaw” won’t help, unless you happen to have invested your nest egg in detection equipment.  The article continues,

    The GAO report uncovered a bureaucratic nightmare involving DNDO and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which resulted in the failure to properly develop and deploy detection equipment that could detect radiation from heavily shielded sources.

    DNDO began working shortly after its founding in April 2005 on what it called the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System (CAARS) and the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP) ̶ intended to automatically detect radiation from heavily shielded sources in a user-friendly fashion in order to screen cargo containers in the nation’s ports and border crossings.

    In the first place, radiation detection equipment doesn’t come in just two flavors; “good for heavily shielded sources” and “not good for heavily shielded sources.”  There are a great number of different types, all with their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of sensitivity, energy resolution, etc.  In the second place, it doesn’t matter what kind are installed at the ports, because terrorists will simply bypass them.  The whole port security paradigm is based on the premise that our opponents, in spite of their ability to acquire SNM in the first place, will be bone stupid.  They won’t, and there are much more effective ways to spend all the money we are throwing down this particular rathole.

    The article goes on to cite Cato Institute budget analyst Tad DeHaven, who plays a familiar broken record to demagogue the sheep:

    They are not subject to market forces and other controls, so they can screw up federal money,” DeHaven said. “There are not going to be any angry shareholders, and in most cases you are not going to lose your job, so the incentives for the federal government to efficiently and effectively procure goods … are poor.”

    One wonders if he reallly gets paid to churn out such hackneyed stuff.  Tell me, Tad, do you actually know anything about the people who work for DNDO?  Did it ever occur to you that many of them might be ex-military, that they might be highly motivated and dedicated to their country’s welfare, and that it’s not out of the question that they care a great deal about working to “efficiently and effectively procure goods”?  You might actually try meeting and talking to some of them.  They work just down the street from you.  Did it ever occur to you that the problem might not be their lack of patriotism and dedication, but the fact that they’ve been given an impossible task?  And BTW, no, I don’t work for DNDO or DHS.

    The article concludes in a somewhat more sober vein,

    Heritage Foundation homeland security analyst Jena Baker-McNeill instead blames Congress for setting what she sees as an unrealistic goal of inspecting every container that passes through the nation’s ports and border crossings. Congress imposed the goal for political reasons without considering its practical implications, she said. Baker-McNeill believes more emphasis should have been placed on increased intelligence aimed at intercepting nuclear smugglers abroad due to the volume of cargo that enters the country and limited resources.

    It seems to me Ms. Baker-McNeill might be on to something.  If we’re going to spend money to defeat nuclear terrorism, I suspect it will be much better spent on finding ways to keep terrorists from getting their hands on SNM in the first place.  Once they do, we can install the most efficient radiation detectors with the most clever software ever devised at all our ports, and it won’t deter them in the slightest.  We will only have bought ourselves a dangerous sense of false security.

  • Homeland Security: The Left and the Right Converge

    Posted on September 8th, 2010 Helian No comments

    We live in an age of political conformity. The orthodoxies of the Left and Right are constantly reinforced in the echo chambers of the Internet and the other media of mass communication. Read a fragment of someone’s opinion on any of the hot button issues of the day, and, assuming they take an active interest in politics, you will know their opinion on every other hot button issue as well. One rarely comes across manifestations of independent thought. The phenomenon is familiar to students of our species. Humans are predisposed to belong to an “in-group,” and react to those who don’t belong, or, in other words, to the “out-group,” with hatred and loathing. Human culture has advanced a great deal in the last several thousand years. Now the in-groups and out-groups are no longer limited to neighboring bands of primitive hunter-gatherers, but can be global in scope, with millions of members. No matter, the basic behavioral trait is still the same, and is as characteristic and predictable as ever.

    It is therefore of surpassing interest to find the Left and the Right agreeing on anything. The neutered mummies of ideas they represent are usually carefully manicured to conflict, not converge. Still, it seems to me I’ve found an example in a recent article about Homeland Security by Fareed Zakaria on the Left, which was answered with all the usual overblown indignation and outrage by N. M. Guariglia on the Right.

    The point of apparent agreement is the excessive and wasteful nature of the government’s response to 911. As Zakaria puts it:

    Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that’s the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That’s more than the rest of the world spends put together. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet—the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. Five miles southeast of the White House, the largest government site in 50 years is being built—at a cost of $3.4 billion—to house the largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs: the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.

    After running on in the same vein for awhile, he concludes with a pro forma appeal to the Founding Fathers:

    Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other … In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended…and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.”

    Guariglia couches his agreement with the fundamental thesis of the article within a furious attack on Zakaria, who, as usual, is found to be both evil and stupid for daring to meddle with the boards of the ideological box he lives in. For example, by suggesting our response to 911 has been exaggerated, he is agreeing with all the fools who don’t realize that Saddam’s finger was within a hairs breadth of the nuclear trigger:

    …nobody believed Saddam had a “nuclear arsenal” in the 1990s. That’s because after we defeated him in 1991, we discovered he was but six months to a year away from developing an atomic bomb.

    He is an honorary dupe of Soviet Communism, even though the Soviet Union has been dead and buried for nigh on two decades:

    Soviet expansionism was real: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, Romania, martial law in Poland. Communist insurgencies had sprung up around the world. Eastern Europe was under the Politburo’s dominion. Dissidents were kidnapped and thrown in gulags. Hell, if it weren’t for a disobedient colonel in 1983 they would have nuked us! (Unsurprisingly, the article he links completely debunks this claim).

    He is a bleeding heart idealist for opposing torture, which must be a wonderful thing, because, after all, the torturers assured us that it was quite effective:

    Obama knows water-boarding worked and saved American lives, and he knows Americans would be supportive of the practice in such a case, so he would therefore rather keep this issue in the dark than vindicate the worldview of Dick Cheney and the Weekly Standard.

    …and so on in response to the similarly fossilized and homogenized pronouncements of Zakaria. However, in the midst of it all he says,

    There’s some truth to these last points. Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security could have been put in the FBI. Perhaps the director of national intelligence could have been put in the CIA. Perhaps the federal government could be fighting this war far more effectively — and cost-effectively. But all this speaks to government incompetence, mismanagement, and red tape. It says nothing of our “overreaction” to 9/11.

    In other words, he’s in substantial agreement with the main point Zakaria is trying to make. He just considers it heretical to admit that the overreaction was really an “overreaction.” Whatever. Surprisingly enough, I, too, concur in this furious agreement. The next time we have to deal with a national emergency, I suggest we resist the usual urge to create another massive government bureaucracy to “save” us. Such efforts are not likely to be any more effective in the future than they have been in the past.

  • The Case of the Contraband Uranium

    Posted on August 24th, 2010 Helian No comments

    It appears that authorities in Moldova seized about four pounds of contraband uranium and arrested several suspects. The material in question turned out to be the isotope uranium 238 (U238), meaning that, unlike the fissile isotope U235, it couldn’t be used to make a bomb. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that whenever I have personal knowledge of what happened in an incident that makes the news, or expertise regarding its subject, the mainstream media, with their layers of editors and fact checkers, manage to botch the story. For example, CNN uncritically quotes Kirill Motspan, a spokesman for Moldova’s Interior Ministry as saying that, “…it was his understanding that 1 kilo of uranium costs $6.3 million on the black market and that is what the smugglers were expecting to get.” I seriously doubt that Motspan meant just any uranium, and especially not U238. If that were the case, the guys who fly A10 Warthog ground support planes armed with Gatling guns that pump out rounds that contain just under a pound each of the stuff at 4,200 rounds per minute must be using caddies to recover them. He was probably referring to uranium highly enriched in isotope 235, which can be used to make a bomb. In other words, the smugglers were intending to snooker their customers. Anyone can Google the fact that natural uranium, which contains at least a little (about 0.71%) U235, is currently selling for just under $50 per pound.

    Not to be outdone, the Telegraph reports that the material seized was “enriched uranium.”  Since the caption of the figure that appears in the article notes that the material was U238, commonly referred to as depleted uranium, none of their “fact checkers” apparently has a clue what they’re talking about.

    BTW, have you noticed that whenever contraband radioactive and special nuclear material is seized, its usually due to good old fashioned police work, and not to those snazzy new radiation detectors that are being installed hand over fist at ports and border crossings?  That’s not a coincidence.

  • Terrorism (and Heat) in Russia

    Posted on July 28th, 2010 Helian No comments

    Yuri at Russia Blog posted this article about an Islamist attack on one of the country’s hydroelectric plants.  Apparently the US media were too busy keeping us up to date on the latest doings of Sarah Palin and the guest list at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to notice. I hope the folks in charge of security at our own energy facilities were not similarly distracted.

    Meanwhile, Weather Underground is predicting temperatures of 100 degrees today and tomorrow in Moscow. That has to hurt in a city with little or no air conditioning, especially when you throw some peat and forest fires into the mix.

  • “Right Wing Terror” vs. the Real Thing

    Posted on July 13th, 2010 Helian No comments

    Remember the recent hysteria on the left about imminent right wing terror and insurrection promoted by subversive institutions such as freedom of speech?  Here’s what the real thing looks like, but I doubt that the “right wing” was involved in an attack on an oil company executive.  It doesn’t fit the narrative.

  • How do You Recognize Anti-Semites?

    Posted on June 3rd, 2010 Helian No comments

    By their double standard, like any other bigots. They react with indifference to the cold-blooded murder of 46 korean sailors.

    But if Jews act in self defense against a violent attack planned well in advance by “peace activists,” they wring their hands, shed torrents of crocodile tears, and start foaming at the mouth about “atrocities.”

  • John Brennan Redefines “Jihad”

    Posted on May 30th, 2010 Helian 1 comment

    According to the ideology of our current rulers, religion is good.  Multi-culturism is also good.  Therefore, as expressions of culture, all religions are good.  Not only that, they are all good to a precisely equal degree.  It is impossible for one religion to be “more good” than another religion.  As a caveat of this, nothing done in the name of or on behalf of religion can be bad.  If someone murders your children and tells you they did it because of their religion, they’re simply the victims of an unfortunate misconception.  If religion inspired something bad, than the law of the conservation of religious goodness would be violated.  It therefore follows that such people are delusional, and don’t actually understand their own religion.

    In keeping with these truisms, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan has done Moslem terrorists the honor of redefining the word “jihad.”  In the process of explaining the “real” nature of their religion to them, he recently enlightened them with the knowledge that all those hours they spent in the Madrassa memorizing the Koran were in vain. Thanks to careful reading of the New York Times, he is now able to inform them that their understanding of “jihad” is flawed. When they blew all those people up, they were the victims of a terrible imposture. Bringing his profound theological expertise to bear, he sets them straight:

    Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.

    Thus spake Imam Brennan.  In order to fact check the presidential advisor and newly minted Islamic scholar, I consulted Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, circa 1968.  It is one of those wonderful old massive dictionaries that used to be mounted on lecterns in the better libraries, and was published by the great ancient ones long before the dawn of the era of political correctness.  It defines “jihad” as follows:

    1) A holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty. 2) A bitter strife or crusade undertaken in the spirit of a holy war.

    Note the guileless use of the now forbidden term, “crusade.”  I thought that was particularly charming.  It is not recorded that anyone at the time, Moslem or otherwise, objected to the above definitions.

  • The Times Square Bomber: CNN Finally Gets It

    Posted on May 8th, 2010 Helian No comments

    After scratching its collective head for ever so long and wondering what could possibly have motivated Faisal Shahzad in his attempt to murder people who happened to be in Times Square at the wrong time, the answer is finally starting to dawn on CNN. He did it because he’s an Islamist terrorist. Who knew?! Congratulations on seeing the light, CNN. You have our deep thanks for letting the rest of us know it wasn’t because he had fallen behind in his mortgage payments, after all.

  • Insight of the Day…

    Posted on April 23rd, 2010 Helian No comments

    “Don’t want things you treasure satirized? Just issue a “prediction” and — voila! Meanwhile, note how entirely real radical Muslim threats and violence are treated as just part of the weather — something you have to adapt to — while nonexistent Tea Party violence is an existential threat to the Republic.” Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

    In other words, never accuse anyone of fomenting violence unless you’re sure they’re nonviolent.