Monday, September 18, 2006

Positively Disgusting

Time Magazine interview with Ahmadinejad, quoted in part from LGF page:

TIME: Why do your supporters chant “Death to America”?

Ahmadinejad: When they chanted that slogan, it means they hate aggression, and they hate bullying tactics, and they hate violations of the rights of nations and discrimination. I recommended to President Bush that he can change his behavior, then everything will change.

I'm reminded of the scene in The Simpsons when Bart's arch-nemesis Sideshow Bob is (I believe) at his parole hearing, or on trial, or something. The prosecutor, or whoever, asks why, if he has reformed, Sideshow Bob has a tattoo on his chest reading "Die Bart Die" -- to which he responds, "Oh, that's just German for "The Bart The" (to which somebody responds "Oh, anybody who speaks German can't be evil!").

Seriously, if the reporter who was interviewing Ahmadinejad didn't spew milk out of his nose, or bust out laughing incredulously, or something, when he said this, that reporter is a shameless shill. This is beyond the pale here.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Et Tu, Foxnews?

Intentionally vague and dissimulating headline of the day: "Religious Leaders Rage Against Pope Comments". That's the front-page headline at Fox News today, regarding the brilliant, oh-so-necessary, and probably soon-to-be-retracted-or-at-least-qualified speech by Pope Benedict XVI. So of course I expect to read an article about how Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and of course the great Reverend Al Sharpton are shocked, shocked that the Pope would speak out against both extreme secularism and extreme (Islamic) fundamentalism.

Of course, upon click-through, they add a bit of an expanded title: "Religious Leaders Across Mideast Rage Against Pope's Comments on Islam". Gee, that clears it up a bit -- obviously, nobody cares that much of his speech was dedicated to the rise of secularism. But still, thank goodness we're going to hear from all the Eastern-Rite Catholics and Jews and Baha'i and Chaldo-Assyrians about how mean and nasty that Pope guy was.

Oh wait. Turns out, it is about Muslim leaders. Color me surprised! I suppose the pithiness quotient of "Muslim Leaders Rage Against Pope Comments" was just too high for them to consider as a headline.

Now, why on earth would Foxnews want to be so bashful about what was going on? I'm just askin here...

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Underestimating Suitcase Nukes?

Dean Barnett, posting at Hugh Hewitt's blog, states some of his criticisms of the hype over so-called "suitcase nukes". He divides the post into three parts: first dismissing their effectiveness, second their existence, and third, the possibility that Al-Qaeda has them. It's worth a read, but I take issue with one of his main points.

Barnett first compares the estimated yield of a "suitcase nuke" to that of conventional explosives, and standard-sized nuklear weapons, pointing out that a "large" nuke has around a 1-megaton yield, compared with an expected 0.01 kiloton yield on a suitcase nuke (I think he is purposely quoting only the minimum estimated yield here, which seems to actually range from 0.01 - 1.0 kilotons), roughly equivalent to the MOAB "daisy cutter" conventional explosive weapon (which, to my recollection, corresponds to the highest-yield non-nuclear weapon in our arsenal). He then mentions that the Oklahoma City bombs were around a quarter to a half of this yield.

Here he misses the point by a mile. Yes, conventional explosives can be "just as bad". However, the OK City bombings were accomplished by truck. Security measures can be taken quite easily to avoid such attacks, particularly when the three or four trucks required to achieve a similar yield to a suitcase nuke are used simultaneously. A portable "suitcase" nuke -- on the order of 60 lbs, it seems -- is so deadly because of its portability. No one could drive several vans full of explosives into, say, a crowded stadium. However, sneaking in a 60 lb. box, while far from simple, is even farther from impossible.

While he does mention a "dirty bomb" later in the article, he neglects to mention the secondary death toll caused by radiation in a nuclear explosion that is not present in a conventional explosion, which is another aspect of such an attack that would appeal to terrorists in particular.

His other two points, that nukes may not be usable even if they do exist, and that it is highly unlikely that AQ would even have one, mitigate the threat of suitcase nuke attacks; however, this first point really fails to support his argument.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Later...

Both CNN and Foxnews were running all-day streaming video of their 9/11 coverage, as it unfolded. I chose to watch the Foxnews broadcast because, among other reasons, it was what I watched when it actually happened five years ago. I caught about an hour of the broadcast this morning, immediately after the first plane hit, up until the time when the first tower collapsed. I took a few notes that struck me as interesting from an after-the-fact perspective:

  • ~9:20 am: FNC interviews a man who claims to have seen a plane "without windows" from a ground-eye-view. I think this is what spawned a number of conspiracy theories. The planes that hit the WTC towers were both Boeing 767s, and from looking at some Google images of such planes, I can easily see how such tiny windows, given their position on the plane, would be invisible to a ground observer. At the time, the commentator speculated that perhaps then it was a freight plane that had been hijacked.
  • 9:33 am: OBL has already been indicated as a prime suspect, less than an hour after the events have transpired.
  • 9:36 am: Talking over the phone, John Fund, who was very near the WTC towers at the time, described the sound from the impacts as "sonic booms". I only comment on this because it shows a gross lack of understanding about what a "sonic boom" actually is. Never trust a journalist to even have the remotest understanding of any scientific concept.
  • 9:43 am: The pentagon is reported as having been hit. It is interesting to note how quick the reporters are to pick up on the "WTC towers == financial symbol, Pentagon == military symbol" aspect of the attacks.
  • 9:50 am: speculation by FNC commentators that the pentagon plane was shot down before it ever reached the pentagon, based solely on poor footage of the smoke. It is rash, uninformed speculation like that that has spawned the vast majority of the conspiracy theories, I think.
  • 9:53 am: "They have not struck at America, but at individual places in America". FNC news caster attempts gravitas, falls flat.
  • 9:58 am: The first tower collapse occurs. The anchors were too busy talking with some guy on the scene at the pentagon to notice for a full minute, while us viewers watch the freakin' tower collapse on the screen! They describe it as "the tower is beginning to crumble", rather than the complete collapse that it actually was.
  • 10:02 am: some FNC fellow named David (Marshall, perhaps -- I forgot the last name before I could write it down) who had been on the scene at the time of the attack mentions that there is already talk "on the street" of a "third attack" that brought down the first tower. This seems to be based on the notion that there was a lot of noise as the tower collapsed. Because, you know, collapsing towers tend to be... silent?
  • 10:08 am: Intrepid FNC reporter Rick Leventhal (sp?) is harassing interviewing those soot-covered individuals fleeing the dust/ash cloud. He gets one man's attention, who mentions that he was on "the lower east side" when the attacks happened. Mr. Leventhal then inquires "You came here to check it out?" The man replies: "No, to see if I could help!" This once again proves that reporters are insensitive jackasses. Interestingly, it is only after this rebuke that Mr. Leventhal points out a clearly injured man to EMTs for help.
I stopped watching at this point because somebody came into my office to talk to me, but I think that was enough. It was not cathartic to watch, but it certainly sparked some additional anger to watch again, and reminded me (as if I needed reminding) why we fight. It is also interesting to note a number of common threads: first, how quickly people attempt to "explain" what has happened based on little or no information. This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I actually tend to be a very intuitive person when it comes to finding explanations for events, but this is always based on an examination of evidence. I will never seriously suggest an explanation or solution to a problem when I know I have insufficient information. Many, many people lack the ability to even know when they have insufficient information, and it aggravates me to no end.

Second, it was interesting to notice how certain off-the-cuff remarks in the immediate aftermath spawned ridiculous conspiracy theories in the years to come.

Finally, reporters are jackasses. If you see someone in trouble, and your first reaction is to "keep the cameras rolling" while you stand there and comment, rather than rush to aid that person, you are a vile human being. You are also probably a reporter. This was evident on 9/11, and this was evident in the Katrina aftermath.

I'll close by linking the two most interesting comments I have read today: first by Peggy Noonan (via Mazurland), and second by Steven den Beste (via Instapundit).