Archive for March 2nd, 2005

For What It’s Worth

ø

Ratchet
up the terror alert level again folks. No, not the
multicolored Spectrum of Alarm, just the nagging, red-lining awareness
that the Bad Men are out there and ready to strike, at us, here in the
homeland, although we cannot
know when, or where, or how.

Osama bin Laden recently asked the Jordanian militant Musab al-Zarqawi
to consider planning attacks outside Iraq and possibly on American
soil, a United States intelligence official said Monday.
(New
York Times
)

We are sure the threat is real. We choose to believe
the government on this one. Even paranoids have real enemies. The terrorists
exist, although
if they did not the present administration would have had to invent them
or inspire them somehow. But
are we
alone in feeling that there is a risk of Calling Wolf in these repeated,
disquieting, non-specific warnings and advisories?

Quite
frankly, we are surprised that Al Queda has NOT struck us in the
heartland since 9/11.  Lord knows it wouldn’t be hard.
We are still an open society, although that is starting to change. People
can still move freely within our borders, and cops can’t even ask for
our IDs unless they see us breaking a law. Our borders themselves
are
as porous as chicken wire in a cyclone, unless you are a foreign student
who wants to support American higher education.

Perhaps Al Queda is searching for a new blow on the level
of 9/11, or wants to somehow surpass it, and therefore will not deign
to lower their standards with the kind of heartless mundane murder inflicted
by their minions regularly
in
the Holy Land. Certainly, the 9/11 attack surpassed all reasonable
expectations, in its precision and results. It is the clockwork execution
which strikes true terror in the hearts of thinking Americans. Anyone
who has ever organized a tour group knows it is almost impossible to
get 19 people in the air at the same time, even if they are all booked
on the same flight.

But it is no secret that we are vulnerable to a pandora’s box of
wicked tricks which would have potentially disastrous effects on the
American economy, culture and psyche. For example (and here we are
only imagining the imagining of our enemies, in order to get a handle
on the threat and in the process scare the begeezus out of ourself
and our readers). Frankly, we are surprised
that the following avenues of attack, none of which would be very expensive
or difficult and all of which would
produce
serious
damage to the U.S. in one way or another, have yet to be tried.

First, we are surprised that no one has tried to shoot off one of
those shoulder-fired missiles at a commercial airliner.  Hell,
you wouldn’t even have to hit the damn plane.  Just the confirmed
fact that people were actually firing missiles at airliners would gut
the
air
travel
and tourism
industries. The media would be all over it like black on Rice.
The public would panic. Airlines, many already walking the thin red
line towards insolvency,
would be
pushed over the edge.

There are hundreds of thousands of these rockets in circulation
around the world, many produced right here in the USA and sold or swapped
out to our "allies", only to somehow end up
on the international black market. You could hide one in a golf bag. How hard
would it be to mount, maybe a heat seeking model, below-decks on
a private
yacht,
set
to
fire
by remote control
from somewhere else?

Second, we are surprised no one has tried to leave a few backpack
bombs under benches in shopping malls around the heartland. Similar
to the attacks on trains in Spain last year, although Amtrak is such
a disaster already that bombing it would be redundant. Attacking malls,
on the other hand, would have cato strophic effects
on retail
sales
and the shopping habits of the grand majority of Americans who frequent
shopping malls. Because of the rabid enthusiasm of mainstream media
for stories like
this, even when there is no truth to them, if there were even a few
real bombs the story would be on every channel and site in the land,
and the malls would empty like the twin towers after the first plane
hit.
At
the
very least,
we would have to install metal detectors and armed guards at every
entrance to every mall in America.

Third, it is surprising that no one has yet tried to compromise
the American food supply.  Food is something we already obsess
over, without the complication of terrorism in the mix.  Look
at the over-the-top reaction to a couple of Mad Cows – we slaughtered
and
destroyed thousands of head of cattle, meat that could have fed hundreds
of thousand of
hungry children in India, if cows weren’t sacred over there. Imagine
the panic if it were discovered that some or all of the soybeans, chickpeas,
or maple syrup on the market , had been poisoned, or adulterated, or
diseased? If
people lost trust in the safety of the food in their supermarkets,
all hell would break loose, and any serious interruption in the food
supply would be deadly, as almost no one has a vegetable plot to fall
back on anymore.

These three avenues of attack are relatively easy, open, and could
be organized on the cheap, and without even risking the lives of the
planners and executers. Frankly, it surprises us that they haven’t
been tried before now. So the questions becomes, what is the government
doing to protect us?

Since the only possible justification
for mulling these macabre possibilities is to analyze and evaluate
our preparedness and possible prevention we must ask ourselves
where we stand in combating, forestalling or avoiding these specific
areas of attack, and what the results would be should our efforts
fail.

The bad news is that, given a determined and wily enemy fully prepared
to make up to the ultimate sacrifice for his or her cause, and given
the relatively available hardware, software and wetware needed to do
the job, we can’t really do bupkiss
to avoid the blow. Don’t forget, the guys trying to kill us are the
guys who invented chess, hashish, assassination cults and suicide bombings.

The good news is that, given the proven resilience and economic
power of the American character, we believe the country can survive
all three of these kinds of attacks, although perhaps not without significant
structural change.

The airline industry, for example, has been in trouble for a long time.
The days of freewheeling competition and cheap airfares are coming to
an end,
one way or another. El Al has shown that it is possible to protect
commercial airliners against both internal (hijack) threats and portable
missiles fired from the ground, but it costs many millions of dollars
PER PLANE. It will be a massive and expensive effort in the United
States, and will change the face of the travel industry forever. The
question the players are trying to figure out now is who will foot
the bulk of the bill, and how many people will have to die before the
public will swallow the new world travel order.

As to the shopping malls, although the retail industry is in the
midst of a vicious cycle of cannibalism in a desperate but doomed attempt
to regain profitability, the retail giants of the past may not be worth
saving.  This
is old money. Everyone know the future of retail is on-line. The malls
are doomed except as exotic dating domes. Who will really miss the face-to-face
sight of
our fellows
caught
up
in the commercial underbelly of craven capitalistic consumerism? Better
to exercise our avarice and greed in the privacy of our own virtual spaces.

Finally, the American food supply has been vulnerable and largely
uncontrolled for decades; produce pours in from Mexico, Asia and Latin
America, uninspected and undetected. This is one area we should be
paying attention to because of disease, pesticides, spoilage and labeling
fraud, quite apart from the terrorism angle. If an attack on the food
supply brings attention to this critical area, it might not be entirely
a bad thing.

More attacks on America are inevitable, at least according to our
government and its experts. But due to the resilience of American culture,
which really hasn’t been tested in over a generation, and the hidden
preparations of the forces of law and existing order, the Dowbrigade
does not believe they will spell the demise of the American Empire. They
will, however, spawn changes that will make America in the 21st century
feel
more
like Israel at the height of the Intafada than the freewheeling, pre-9/11
homeland
during
the
good old days of the twilight of the 20th century. People, get ready.

 

Choose Your Poison

ø

Ratchet up the terror alert level again folks.  No, not the
multicolored Spectrum of Alarm, just the nagging awareness that The
Bad Men are ready to strike, here in the homeland, although we cannot
know when, or where, or how.

Osama bin Laden recently asked the Jordanian militant Musab al-Zarqawi
to consider planning attacks outside Iraq and possibly on American soil,
a United States intelligence official said Monday. (New
York Times
)

We are sure the threat is real, although if it were not, the present
administration would have to find another one somewhere. But are we
alone in feeling that there is a risk of Calling wolf in these continual
disquieting non-specific warnings and advisories?

Quite frankly, we are surprised that Al Queda has NOT struck us
in the heartland since 9/11.  Lord knows it wouldn’t be hard.
We are still,an open society, although that is starting to change.  People
can move freely within our borders, and cops can’t even ask for ID
unless they see you doing something wrong. Our borders themselves are
as porous as chickenwire in a cyclone.

Perhaps Al Queda is searching for a new blow on the level
of 9/11, or to somehow surpass it, and would not deign to lower their
standards to the kind of heartless mundane murder inflicted
by their minions regularly
in
the Holy Land. Certainly, their last attack surpassed all reasonable
expectations, in its precision and results. It is the clockwork execution
which strikes true terror in the hearts of thinking Americans. Anyone
who has ever organized a tour group knows it is almost impossible to
get 19 people in the air at the same time, even if they are all booked
on the same flight.

But it is no secret that we are vulnerable to a pandora’s box of
wicked tricks which would have potentially disasterous effects on the
American economy, culture and psyche. For example (and here we are
only imagining the imagining of our enemies, in order to get a handle
on the threat and in the process scare the begeezus out of ourself)
were we in charge of Al Queda strategy), we are surprised that the
following avenues of attack, none of which would be very expensive
and all of which would
produce
maximum
damage to the U.S. in one way or another, have yet to be tried.

First, we are surprised that no one has tried to shoot off one of
those shoulder-fired missle at a commercial airliner.  Hell, you
wouldn’t even have to hit it.  Just the confirmed fact that people
were actually firing missles at airliners would gut the air travel
and tourism
industries.  The media would be all over it like black on Rice. The public would
panic. Airlines, many already walking the thin red line towards insolvency,
would be
pushed over the edge.

There are hundreds of thousands of these rockets in circulation
around the world, many produced right here in the USA and sold or swapped
to our "allies" around the world, only to somehow end up
on the black market.  You could put one in a golf bag. How hard
would it be to mount one, maybe a heat seeking model, below-decks on
a private
yaught,
set
to
fire
by remote control
from somewhere else?

Second, we are surprised no one has tried to leave a few backpack
bombs under benches in shopping malls around the heartland.  This
would have
catostrophic
effects
on retail
sales
and shopping habits of the grand majority of Americans who frequent
shopping malls. Becasuse of the rabid enthusiasm of mainstream media
for stories like
this, even when there is no truth to them, if there were even a few
real bombs it would be on every channel and site in the land, and the
malls would empty like the twin towers after the first plane hit. At
the
very least,
we would have to install metal detectors and armed guards at every
entrance to every mall in America.

Third, it is surprising that no one has yet tried to compromise
the American food supply.  Food is something we already obsess
over, without the complication of terrorism in the mix.  Look
at the over-the-top reaction to a couple of Mad Cows – we slaughtered
and
destroyed thousands of head of cattle, meat that could have fed hundreds
of thousand of
humgry children in India, if cows weren’t sacred over there. Imagine
the panic if it were discovered that some or all of the soybeans, chickpeas,
or maple syrup on the market , had been poisoned, or adulterated, or
diseased?  If
people lost trust in the safety of the food in their supermarkets,
all hell would break loose, and any serious interruption in the food
supply would be deadly, as almost no one has a vegetable plot to fall
back on anymore.

These three avenues of attack are realatively easy, open, and could
be organized on the cheap, and without even risking the lives of the
planners and executers. Frankly, it surprises us that they haven’t
been tried before now.

Now, the only possible justification for mulling these macabre possibilities
is to analyze and evaluate our preparedness and possible prevention.  So
where do we stand in combatting, forestalling or avoiding these specific
areas of attack, and what would be the results if our efforts fail.

The bad news is that, given a determined and wily enemy fully prepared
to make up to the ultimate sacrifice for the cause, and relatively
available hardware, software and wetware, we can’t really do bupkiss
to avoid the blow. The guys trying to kill us are the guys who invented
chess, hashish, assassination cults and suicide bombings.

The good news is that, given the proven resilience and economic
power of the American character, we believe the country can survive
all three of these kinds of attacks, although perhaps not without significant
structural change.

The airline industry has been in trouble for a long time. The days
of freewheeling competition and cheap airfares is coming to an end,
one way or another. El Al has shown that it is possible to protect
commercial airliners against both internal (hijack) threats and portable
missles fired from the ground, but it costs many millions of dollars
PER PLANE. It will be a massive and expensive effort in the United
States, and will change the face of the travel industry forever. The
question the players are trying to figure out now is who will foot
the bulk of the bill, and how many people will have to die before the
public will swallow the new world travel order.

As to the shopping malls, although the retail industry is in the
midst of a viscoious cycle of cannibalism in a desperate but doomed attempt
to regain profitability.  This is old money. Everyone know the future
of retail is on-line.  The malls are doomed except as exotic dating
domes. Who will really miss the sight of our fellows caught up
in the commercial underbelly of craven capitalistic consumerism?

Finally, the American food supply has been vulnerable and largely
uncontrolled for decades; produce pours in from Mexico, Asia and Latin
America, uninspected and undetected. This is one area we should be
paying attention to because of disease, pesticides, spiolage and labeling
fraud, quite apart from the terrorism angle. If an attack on the food
supply brings attention to this critical area, it might not be entirely
a bad thing.

More attacks on America are inevitable, at least according to our
government and its experts. But due to the resilience of American culture,
which really hasn’t been tested in over a generation, and the hidden
preparations of the forces of law and existing order, they will probably
not spell the demise of the American Empire.  They will, however,
spawn changes that will make America in the 21st century look more
like Israel at the height of the Intafada than the freewheeling, pre-9/11
homeland
during
the
good old days of the twilight of the 20th century. People, get ready.

 

 

Educause Moves into Blogging

ø

Educause the venerable (in internet years) higher education news service, is getting into the blogging business. The have created a beta sitewhich includes free blogs for members, and free posting for everyone.