Saturday, November 25, 2006

Litvinenko & Polonium 210 

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died last Thursday in a London hospital from massive multiple organ shutdown. British investigators said that traces of polonium 210 were found in his urine.

Although the Brits aren't prepared at this time to call the death a murder, a little research into polonium 210 suggests strongly that the death was either homicide or suicide.

According to Wikipedia, "this isotope of polonium is an alpha emitter that has a half-life of 138.376 days. A milligram of 210Po emits as many alpha particles as 5 grams of radium." Alpha particles are helium nuclei, which are composed of two protons and two neutrons. Alpha particles are heavy but slow and can be stopped by a sheet of paper, but if an alpha emitter is ingested into the human body it wreaks havoc because the particles cause a lot of molecular damage in the short distance they travel.

So the stuff is very harmful when ingested. The question is, could Litvinenko have ingested it accidentally? I don't think so, and here's why, again relying on Wikipedia:
"A very rare element in nature, polonium is found in uranium ores at about 100 micrograms per metric ton (1:1010). Its natural abundance is approximately 0.2% of radium's.
"Polonium is so exceedingly rare that only about 100 grams is believed to be produced each year."
With polonium being so rare, it borders on impossible that Litvinenko could have accidentally been exposed to it. It must have gotten into his body as a result of someone's intentional act.

The only unanswered questions, then, are whether Litvinenko was murdered or committed suicide. Quoting from the Fox News story linked above:

Litvinenko, 43, had told police he believed he had been poisoned on Nov. 1 while investigating the October slaying of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another of Putin's critic.

Litvinenko worked for the KGB and its successor, the FSB. In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill tycoon Boris Berezovsky and spent nine months in jail from 1999 on charges of abuse of office. He was later acquitted and in 2000 sought asylum in Britain.

It therefore appears that Putin and his allies in the Russian government had a motive for getting Litvinenko out of the picture. Former KGB operative Putin certainly would be aware of many techniques available for assassinating, um, "inconvenient" persons, so he certainly has the means. For their part, the Russian government blames exiled Russian dissidents, claiming that they murdered Litvinenko to discredit the government.

I imagine we'll be hearing more over the next few days, but we may never know for sure why Litvinenko died, or whodunit.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Nuclear Teen 

According to this story, a Detroit-area teenager has become the 18th amateur in the world to create nuclear fusion. He uses a home-built apparatus he and his dad put together in the basement or the family home. Whether or not this kid has actually succeeded in achieving nuclear fusion, he has a bright future in science.

Solving the riddle of commercially viable controlled nuclear fusion would provide more energy than the world could use, from a practically inexhaustible source. It would also have untold geopolitical effects, the main one being to make access to and control of petroleum and natural gas resources almost irrelevant.

Go here for more information on this kind of fusion experiment.

Thanks to Drudge for the pointer.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rangel Wants New Draft 

Charlie Rangel (D-people's republic of NY) said on this morning's Face the Nation that early next year he will introduce legislation to reactivate the draft. Rangel says he's concerned that the military is overstretched by its commitments.

In the past, Rangel has said he favors the draft as an antiwar measure, figuring that only a very few will support a war in which his or her son or daughter is conscripted to fight. He said as much today:
"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way"
So Charlie wants to reinstate the draft as a way to turn Iraq into Vietnam.

How long before buyer's remorse sets in among those independents who voted Democratic earlier this month?

Maybe we won't have to wait until March.

Thanks to PowerLine for the pointer.

Also much belated thanks to Dymphna at Gates of Vienna for her gracious compliments on the Bellwether post.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Uglier Aztek 

This is a concept car called the Geely Fengyin. I think it's a new experimental stealth vehicle using F-117 technology. Ugh!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

First Glimmer of Political Good News 

Fox News Online is reporting that the Dems have elected Steny Hoyer as House Majority Leader for the new session. I don't know much about Mr. Hoyer, but it demonstrates to me that there are enough grownups among the House Democrats not to elect an integrity-challenged, earmark-loving, cut-and-runner to their leadership team. One can only hope that the lesson for Pelosi will be heeded in connection with committee appointments, especially Intelligence.

I'm not at all impressed with the choices that the Repubs have made for their leadership, but I hold out hope that their rout at the polls will engender a mood of seriousness on their side of the aisle in both the House and Senate.

The Dems have enjoyed twelve years of being able to decry all the problems with Republican policies while not having much responsibility to come up with alternatives. Now that shoe is on the other foot, and the Democrats may find that it pinches--painfully.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I wonder ... 

how much Ahmadinejad's boasting has to do with the Democrat victory in the midterms.

Y'know, because the Iranians were so happy with the results and all.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day 2006 

I first posted this on Veterans Day 2005. I have decided to make this an annual tradition on this blog (with amendments).

To My Dad: A Veterans' Day Tribute

My dad retired from the US Army in 1972 after 30 years of service to his country. Not too many can honestly wear that baseball cap he has on, and membership in that elite club gets smaller with the passing of each year. I honor him today for his service.

Pop retired as a Command Sergeant Major. He was in the Medical Corps, and achieving CSM rank was probably a higher hurdle for him than for those serving in the combat arms. He achieved much and overcame many obstacles. In his own way, he is as courageous as any combat soldier.

Since retirement he has lived in Japan. This picture was taken (I believe) at Camp Zama in 2003. He will be 87 on his birthday in a week.

Thanks, Pop, and thanks to all your comrades in arms (including my two sons), living and dead, who have given and are giving so much so that we may enjoy our freedoms. God bless you all!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Hmmmm .... 

So the Arab media, including some that are vehemently anti-American, are happy that the Democrats thumped the Repubs in this week's midterm election.

Khamenei says Bush's defeat in the elections is a victory for Iran.

AQ in Iraq says they won't stop until they destroy the White House.

There's an inference to be drawn that the bad guys are happy because they think a Democratic Congress makes reaching their goal easier.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Observation 

One thing I never heard or saw in print during this election cycle was any statement by any Repubs that they would leave the country if the Dems took over Congress. Now, maybe that's because there's nowhere else on earth that is more hospitable to them than the US, but it also may be that the Republican party has a higher percentage of grownups in it.

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When all is said and done in connection with the Pentagon management shakeup, the Baker commission report and the Dems actively taking control of the legislative branch, I for one will be watching the reenlistment rate among the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I suspect many troops will opt to return to civilian life if they feel that they no longer have support from the policymakers, rather than be jerked around by people who think like John Kerry. And if the re-up rate goes down, original enlistments will probably decrease, too. Nobody wants to fight in a war that the movers and shakers don't want to win. That was true in Korea and Vietnam, and it's true now.

Any new trends should be apparent by March or so, if they are to happen. I guarantee you that any such change will be spun by the lamestream media as Bush's fault, probably accompanied by NYT and WaPo opinion pieces bemoaning what a dumb thing it was to get rid of Rumsfeld.

It sure would be interesting if Charlie Rangel's (D-NY) idea of reinstating the draft had to be implemented by a Democratic congress in order to maintain military force levels. I wonder what the political fallout from that would be in '08.

As an aside, I also think that diminished capacity of our conventional forces, especially the Army and Marines, tends to make nuclear war more likely, because weakness encourages the enemy to attack, and when you must fight, you fight with what you have. The alternative is capitulation.

UPDATE 20061110:1335PST:

Thanks to Instapundit for the link. To those of you who followed it, please feel free to stay awhile and look around--I hope you enjoy what you see and come back often.

By way of background, I, like commenter Spade, was unable to serve due to a medical condition. I would be a Vietnam-era veteran if I had served. My dad retired from the US Army after 30 years of service with the rank of Command Sergeant Major. I have a son who is a Navy officer on active duty and another son who served one hitch in the 10th Mountain Division--he got out before 9/11. I am proud of all three, especially this Veterans Day weekend.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thanks ... 

To Bill Whittle for the new Teddy Roosevelt quote at left. Too true.

By the way, I think Bill's Seeing the Unseen post is one of the best essays I have ever read, and at this writing, he's only posted Part 1. Go read it, and be edified--especially you Congressional Democrats, now that you are about to exert some control over the Nation's course. (As if any Congressional anybodies read this blog. Heh.)

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Rummy's Gone: Godspeed 

I saw on Fox News online that Rumsfeld is resigning. The first thing that passed through my mind was that he's quitting because he doesn't want to be nitpicked to death by the likes of Pelosi, et al., now that the opposition has subpoena power.

More later.

UPDATE 20061108:1140PST:

Having watched some of Bush's press conference and listened to some of the pundits, and noting that Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, was named immediately, I believe that the change was in the works for several weeks, and that the only thing that could have saved Rumsfeld would have been a resounding defeat of the Democrats. The opposite happened, so ....

Although I think the timing was poor (allows Pelosi, et al., go gloat), in light of the political realities I think it was the right thing to do, because the Dems have kind of painted themselves into a bit of a corner by tying their policy to the Baker commission's recommendations. Gates is a member of the Baker commission, and as noted by several commentators, it will be somewhat difficult for them not to confirm him while embracing the recommendations of the commission. Aside from the fact that he's a former CIA director and the current president of Texas A&M University, I don't know much about him. I just did a quick scan of his bio on Wikipedia, and refer you there.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What now? 

According to Fox News online, the Dems have achieved a majority in the House and they stand a good chance of doing the same in the Senate. They've spend the last 6 years (with a brief time-out following 9/11) throwing rocks at Bush and the Republicans, but to my recollection, they have yet to say anything substantive about what they would do if returned to power. Lots of glittering generalities, but specifics, not much. For now, the electorate is evidently willing to give them a chance to show what they can do.

They now have at least one hand on the levers of government, and so they'll bear some responsibility for what happens going forward--they won't be able to blame everything on Bush. As I have noted before, the Dems seem stuck in the 1960s. If that's the best they can do, they'll have a hard time keeping their gains in 2008. Hopefully, there are grownups in the Democratic party (along the lines of Joe Lieberman) who realize that they'd better have some workable ideas to put forward and not indulge in a 2-year self-destructive victory orgy. I especially hope they wake up to the clear and present danger of radical Islamism, because all of our lives will be negatively affected if they don't.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Single-Issue Voting 

Donald Sensing, single-issue voter, gets it.

Go ye, and read! And believe!

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

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Wrong Direction 

I just heard a Democratic spokesperson on TV observe that 2/3 of Americans think the country's going in the wrong direction. I'm probably one of them. I think the Republican-majority Congress has been profligate with the public purse and has lost sight of the tenets under which most of them were elected. I think the Iraq debacle could have been, and could be, better managed, and I think the administration has done a lousy job of educating the electorate about the reasoning behind its policies.

The thing is, that doesn't mean I'll vote for a Democrat. I think the Democrats, given the chance, will "declare victory" in Iraq and pull our troops out before the Iraqi government is capable of defending itself against enemies foreign and domestic, and if that happens it'll be a disaster of gargantuan proportions for US foreign policy. The Dems say that they don't want the US to "go it alone" but if we bail out of Iraq prematurely, we won't have the choice. We'll either become a clone of the Euro crowd or we'll have to do everything alone, because no other country will trust us enough to follow us. Ultimately, that may increase the likelihood of nuclear war, as other countries scramble to develop nuclear deterrents.

The point is, just because a majority may think that the country's headed in the wrong direction, that doesn't automatically translate into a majority vote for the Democratic vision.

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The Threat of Islamic Radicalism 

I'm glad that at least one media giant "gets it." I watched "Obsession" on Fox News Channel over the weekend, a documentary about radical Islam, and it was chilling. That kind of program needs to be shown on the lamestream media over and over again. Especially in Europe. But it won't be, because the ABCs CBSs and NBCs of the world, not to mention the Beeb, are all suffering from PC Paralysis.

For those who are interested (and everyone should be) the unedited documentary can be found here in conveniently downloadable segments.

Now, hot on the heels of Fox News' breakthrough, comes a report at The Intelligence Summit Blog on Dr. Tawfik Hamid. Dr. Hamid was once a radical Islamist. Now he warns against the movement, and is no doubt a dead man walking, if the bad guys can ever track him down. Bottom line from Dr. Hamid:
"Stop asking what you have done wrong. Stop it! They're slaughtering you like sheep and you still look within. You criticize your history, your institutions, your churches. Why can't you realize that it has nothing to do with what you have done but with what they want."
Go read the whole thing, and be very afraid.

But let your fear galvanize you rather than paralyze you.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry's "Apology" 

Over the years, I have noted that as a rule, the longer and more complex a statement of apology is, the less likely it is to be a real apology.

Here's the full text of John Kerry's reluctantly given "apology" for his "botched joke" on Monday, from his website:
As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

As many others have noted, this is one of those "non-apologetic apologies" that politicians and other public figures have become so adept at making. There must be a class on this stuff in PR agent school.

The gist of Kerry's statement is in the first sentence of the second paragraph, where Kerry says, "I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted ...." If that's true, then anyone who interpreted his words "correctly" must have been a mind reader. Here's what he actually said:
You know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard, and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

What's to misinterpret? I'm willing to grant that Kerry might have misspoken, that he indeed "botched" a joke (something that he's apparently very good at--botching, that is), but he said what he said, and he's still trying to spin the story to make it seem like he said something else.
Here, in my opinion, is what a real apology would look like:
I want to make it clear to everyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was never intended to refer to any troop.

I misspoke. What I said was not what I meant to say. In short, I screwed up. I sincerely regret that my words implied anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.
Now, that's an apology that a "real man" would make.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

La Shawn Barber's Defense of Kerry 

I tried to post this comment at La Shawn's site, but she's experiencing an Instalanche so I'll post it here in case I can't do so there. By way of background, La Shawn is defending Kerry's comment as mere misspeaking, and exhorts us all to let it go, pointing out several examples of similar gaffes by those on the right. Here are the last three paragraphs of her post:

Think about it, people. Do you really believe that John Kerry, a war veteran, thinks American troops are dumb or would say so publicly during a war in the midst of an election cycle? When I first heard about his remarks, I knew instinctively that he couldn’t have meant that. And I can’t stand the man!

Calm down. Get a grip. Take a pill. Blog about something that makes sense. Kerry’s mangled remarks aren’t worth it, in my view. So you rally your readers against him and enjoy the thrill of yet another blog swarm. But it’s based on nothing.

Are there any voices of reason on the Right???

Here's my comment:
I admit to not having read all the comments, so I may be repeating a thought someone else has posted.

To me, Kerry's sin is not so much making a stupid statement/botching a joke. Rather, when given the opportunity on more than one occasion to apologize to those whom he (intentionally or not) insulted, his response was not to admit his mistake but instead lash out at everyone he could possibly think of who had ever done him political harm. Unfortunately, this is a pattern for him. His ego gets in the way of his ability to think things through and assess the political effects of what he says and does.

I'm glad that he wasn't elected President because the bad guys, recognizing this flaw, would have played him like a Stradivarius.

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