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9/29/2003

TBM: China's Space Program

Ok folks, here it is, blog it and quote it - an official Anticipatory Retaliation Prediction™.

China will launch it's first man into space between October 10th and 15th.

High probability that their first manned launch will carry three astronauts (or taikonauts, in the current popular Chinese parlance) - as to set a record for a first manned launch.

Pass it on. I'll either show up as geen-yus or fuckwit.

9/26/2003

TBM: A Diaspora of One and the Five Fingered Bitchslap

Just indulging in a bit of personal blogging - I hate to bitch and piss and moan, but hey, what else is vanity publishing really for?

For those paying attention to my ongoing wanderings, I have found a nice pasture to let my yaks and horses graze and to set up my yurt for the upcoming weeks when the cold winds blow across the steppe and snow flakes singly float down through the chimney. As of right now, my peculiar housing arrangements have resulted in a few days at a hostel until my move this Saturday. This won't be a permanent move, but a short-term arrangement to give me a room to myself through the end of the year when I hope to pull down the poles of my yurt and lay strong timbers and a good sod roof on my homestead, so to speak.

I was watching the debate last night, amongst a whole raft of Kucinich supporters, simply to avoid hanging out in a hostel all damned night.

Those guys got under my skin but royal. Not because their policies are, let us say, perhaps, better intentioned than informed, but because of the overweening arrogance that informed their good intentions.

As a guy who has spent a lot of time between broke and shit broke, I wanted to smack these folks upside the head for the truly sincere, earnest way they wanted to help "the poor." Those poor, unwashed, illiterate, huddling masses. Pity them. Those poor fools, stuck in State Housing Block 432, slaving away for their paymasters at Consolidated Coal and Gruel.

First of all, don't give me crap about income tax cuts for the poor. Seventy percent of Americans view themselves as middle class. I certainly do. I always have. I will until the day I think of myself as upper class. Why? Because I am the master of my own goddamn destiny. I have the skills, will, and ability to strike forward and find my own future, assistance be damned. Full stop. I'll do this my own goddamn self, thankyouverymuch. I know I can't eat pride, but even an exquisite meal without pride tastes of ash. If you really, really, really want to do something for the poor - axe the social security tax. The damn thing is a posterchild for regressive taxation - particularly for the self-employed and subcontractors who get the double whammy. Don't try to help the poor by disrupting trade and causing the collapse of our trading partners. Yeah! And stop this gibberish about made in the USA and sold overseas. That's great if your idea of helping the common man is by keeping sweatshops churning away 24/7.

Second pretty frikkin' nice idea - that Department of Peace, eh? I thought that the State Department was already tasked with trying to engage with other nations through mechanisms other than war.

Third, how does somebody who is convinced that the best way to deal with other nations is through the constructive dialog square that with pulling out of ... umm ... the World Trade Organization? NAFTA? Bueller? Bueller?

Four, if you want to tell me how you'll just negotiate things until it's all smiles and flowers in this Hobbsean hell we call Earth, could you kindly explain how you'd respond to a war with China over Tawian? That's a matter that will be decided almost entirely by domestic Taiwanese politics - but neither the US nor China really have a way of backing out of whatever decisions guide Taiwan's future. [ed. This wasn't the original point four - yes but I had to collapse points one and four together to cut down on whining].

Five, when will people (of all stripes) twig to the notion that the social security trust fund is, as P.J. O'Rourke put it, "There is no money in the Social Security trust fund, and there never was. Money is a government IOU. Government can't create a trust fund by saving its own IOUs anymore than I could create a trust fund by writing 'I get a chunk of cash when I turn 21' on a piece of paper."

That being said, they were nice, earnest folks, who actually had strong enough convictions to actually try to engage on policy issues and didn't seem too discomfited (or at least hid it well) by sitting next to a ranting lunatic from the VRWC, yours truly. So oddly enough, my overall opinion of the debate was favorable, because it at least reaffirmed my belief (hope) that political discourse isn't dead and it doesn't always degenerate into ranting and raving.

UPDATE: Edited this to cut down on the piss and moan whine factor. Now - more snarky, less whinging,

9/24/2003

TBM: Saddam Surrender?!? Holy Signal-to-Noise Ratio, Batman!

(Courtesy Michael J. Totten)

This report, most recently appeared in the Mirror discussing a report that U.S. forces have been negotiating with Hussein. As reported:

"The Iraqi dictator is demanding safe passage to the former Soviet republic of Belarus. In exchange, he has vowed to provide information on weapons of mass destruction and disclose bank accounts where he siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in plundered cash.

President Bush is being kept abreast of the extraordinary talks by his National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice. She is co-ordinating negotiations in Baghdad which are led by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American forces in Iraq.

The United States has vowed never to negotiate with Saddam and want to take him dead or alive, but the White House hopes the clandestine talks will allow them to pinpoint the tyrant's exact location."


Naturally, a number of people have been reacting to this story differently. There are a few things that need said on this. First of all, it is probably becoming increasingly apparent to Saddam that while he is a thorn in the side of the U.S. - the thorn won't kill the tiger. At this point, he has been moving roughly every two hours since April. The simple strain and fatigue without end or the prospect of any end other than capture must surely be wearing on him. Conversely, the U.S. has been under growing pressure for results, so he knows the WMD bargaining chip carries with it quite some weight.

The calculation he must be making is that the U.S. gets a boost if they either capture (or kill) Saddam or find the WMD. The question for him is then whether or not at this point the WMD is a bigger boost to the US than getting Saddam. Second question is how this equation will change over time. This depends on a few issues - the likelihood of the U.S. unraveling the WMD problem, what the odds are that the U.S. forces will get Saddam and whether or not the WMD are a major domestic political factor. It seems that the WMD are dropping off as the primary bone of contention, but it would pave the way for justifying the Iraq War and hence getting the UN onboard.

This is all predicated on the notion that the report is true.

That's the second bit for the day. Any intelligence source can be thought of as behaving kind of like a radio. Some event puts out a signal. Various collection methods can pick up that signal, but also pick up a lot of noise. Now, if you want to pick up a very subtle signal, that might not be possible unless you turn the "amplification" way up to make the signal loud enough to hear. This also has the effect of making the background static awfully loud. If, on the other hand, you turn down the "amplification" to keep the static and garbage down to a minimum, you'll only be able to hear the strongest of signals. In terms of any intelligence source, this basic principle applies. This particular report can be examined in terms of signal-to-noise ratio in open source intelligence.

An outfit like the Mirror is at one end of the signal-to-noise ratio. They'll print a whole lot of anything, which means they'll generate junk, but from time to time, they can pick up something interesting. In the middle, you have mainstream newspapers like the Washington Post or the Standard. At the other end of the spectrum are government reports like the American National Intelligence Estimates - which have very low "amplification" but you can more or less be sure that everything you read in one of those is a "signal" rather than noise.

The exercise in this particular case is to hop on Nexis and cruise the internet and see two things: if this is being reported elsewhere. If so, how long has the story been circulating. Secondly, if it has been floating around, have any substantial additions or changes been made to the story? These thing don't necessarily mean anything, in and of themselves (witness any of the billion scandal stories floating around inside the beltway) but help the analyst at least get a feel for two things. Whether or not anyone else has been contributing to this story. If the story is taken and evolves through different journalists, you can start looking at whether or not they cite any additional information or sources. Additionally, when you start tracking back to the source journalist (or for that matter, news outlet), over time, you can get a feel for how far off the mark the guy usually is.

That process of developing your own assessment of the source's reliability ties into one of many models of intelligence in which the reliability of information is gauged on two levels: how confident (or how strong a signal) the source returns, and how reliable (or what the signal-to-noise ratio) of a given source is. To put it in other terms, we all know someone who is prone to tall stories and wild exaggerations. That person might be absolutely confident in their statement, but has low reliability. Conversely, when an absolutely reliable person says "I saw it." you can take it to the bank.

So in this case, you can look at the story as being only somewhat probable based on past behavior of both Saddam and the US and not entirely unlikely based on the current circumstances. In terms of whether or not it fits Saddam's personality, I leave to your judgment. I also leave the business of tracking this down through Nexis and determining the history of the story and journalist to the reader, as well.

Another option is to file this as "possible" and something to keep an eye on. The reason being is that flagging such a story can be used as a way to become receptive to other similar reports. Should other similar reports, but from different sources come in, then that can serve to bolster the credibility of a story in some cases. In these cases, it does help to watch the specifics reported very closely, as sometimes reporters will "recycle" a certain amount of content - you're trying to determine how much is recycled and how much is new stuff. It's a reasonably effective way of keeping abreast - but at the cost of being on the leading edge of events.

For my money, this will either disappear or blow up so quickly that tracking this over more than another two or three weeks will most likely be fruitless.

Happy Hussein Hunting!

9/22/2003

EBS: Whittle Alert!

As some of you may know, Bill Whittle has been considering launching forth across this land to speak in front of people and say stuff. Many folks have responded quite warmly to having the Whittle's Own Personage Holding Forth in their very own communities. Some folks have even offered food and a bed, although presumably not to keep his mouth stuffed or lull him to sleep so prevent him from speaking.

At any rate, I've put up a link to a guestmap so all y'all can actually mark where you are and other various whatnots.

Cheers.

9/21/2003

TBM: If even that...

Quick question - and I would really, really, really, really appreciate it if anyone could find me an incident in which a person who was opposed to either George Bush or the Iraq War was called either un-American or unpatriotic. I'm not talking about blanket statements here, but a genuine quid pro quo kind of trade.

Something along the lines of:

Moonbat A: "George Bush is an evil imperialistic money grubbing fascist warmonger who has illegally invaded Iraq against the will of the Kurds, Rosicrucians and a handful of Tibetan Monks."

Nutjob B: "Moonbat A, not only are you un-American, but you are also unpatriotic."

I just don't (maybe because of the degenerative Tequila disease) remember that kind of direct tit-for-tat direct linkage. If I think real hard, I seem to remember a few blanket statements about the anti-American sorts being opposed to war, but I just can't recall that opposition to the war ever was used as prima facie evidence of unpatriotic leanings. Even for all the folks who marched around with the Bush=Hitler signs being branded or chastised.

I assume this all due to my failing memory, so I was hoping that some of the Denizens of the Peanut Gallery could just smack me upside the cabesa.

Thanks.

EBS: Lobbing a few more warheads hither and tither...

Ok folks, stick your heads out of the shelters and put down the radcounters and give a warm round of applause and welcome to....

Da Fearful Symmetry - the founder of the Axis of Martini and a grad student. Methinks he has chosen a good academic program - one that recognizes the fundamental intersection of political science and ethanol.

Meanwhile, we also extend a latex-covered, hygenically sealed welcome to Big Hominid's Hairy Chasms. An astonishing blog from a student of religion and the father of the Anus Tongue residing in the land of "pants-splitting Kimchee farts."

Likewise, a warm welcome to the Marmot Blog del Korea. I'm not entirely certain why I keep billing him as a Marmot from Korea. Far as I can tell he was a Marmot before Korea ever arrived on his horizon. Similarly, how many other Marmot blogs are there, really? Anywho, The Korean Kimchee Marmot has migrated from a simple first strike to a full-fledged Retaliatory Strike candidate. The Marmot-meister is also a sometimes Korea guy over at Winds O' Change

Ok, now for my next trick!!

We've just received authorization from the National Command Authority to launch two new first strikes. Well, somebody sat on the button... but I would like to welcome:

Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping - sort of a Tennessee Artillery Preacher Zen kind of gig.

And the much talked-about and long-awaited link to the Belmont Club. Where they actually say intelligent stuff, rather than making it up, like me.

UPDATE: One Fine Jay has classified me as a loyal member of House Atreides. I just need to find out if this is pre- or post- Arrakis deployment, 'cuz that'll change whether or not I need sunscreen and a fishing pole, or sunscreen and a stillsuit. Or for that matter, if it means I'm gonna be hangin' with the God Emperor. Timing is crucial for this particular packing list.

9/19/2003

TBM: Carpet versus suicide

There has been a lot of discussion and consternation about suicide bombing over the last few years. One of the biggest failures of most analysis on suicide bombers is the failure to look at the phenomenon in military terms, rather than solely political terms.

First of all, there is just about no more precise targeting and munitions release system than a suicide bomber on foot. Even the kamikazes were limited in their ability to loiter and select targets, and truck bombers have fundamental access problems. The problem with the suicide bombers is their limited payload. The have a very small payload, particularly when compared with the mass of the guidance and propulsion systems. This is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Small Diameter Bomb (which is about 20% explosive filler by mass).

The reason that munitions designers have put so much emphasis on precision is that it is the easiest way to increase lethality. Doubling the accuracy of the weapon doubles it's effectiveness, more or less. To double the effectiveness of an area weapon (such as unguided cluster munitions) one must increase the number of munitions by a factor of four. To increase the effectiveness of a conventional dumb bomb, one must increase the explosive power by a factor of four. Thus, suicide bombers could conceivably be a very effective means of conducting high-precision attacks.

In this sense, suicide bombers are not unlike demolition teams. The advantage to suicide bombers being that the training cycle is low, and long-term logistical support is, by definition, pretty easily taken care of. Similarly, they create an increase in effective combat power without the corresponding increases in medical support and supply demands.

Politically, careful exploitation of the urge to do one's self in can be a powerful dramatic tool. Like the Japanese Kamikaze pilots (to name but one example) can serve a very effective propaganda function.

Overall suicide bombing is a very effective terrorist tactic, when compared to other traditional modes of terrorism. Adam Wolfson writes about suicide bombing in the National Review.

(Suicide bombing) "... is more destructive than regular terrorism -- from 1980 to 2001 suicide attacks made up 3 percent of total terrorist attacks but produced 45 percent of all casualties -- and that's not even counting the immense carnage of September 11. Moreover, suicide terrorism more often than not achieves its strategic goals. By Pape's accounting, of the eleven separate suicide campaigns from 1980 to 2001, six produced 'significant policy changes by the target state toward the terrorists' major political goals.'"


However, the choice of targets assigned to the suicide bombers is just piss poor. Since the dawn of artillery and more dramatically, air power, people have assumed that it's been possible to bomb or shell people into submission. There were predictions early in WWII that unrestricted bombing of civilian targets would cause the collapse of Britain and/or Germany and/or Japan (depending on who one is reading). The bombed cities received far, far higher tonnages than it was thought they could "withstand" without much particular loss.

The basic argument isn't without precedent: Sherman proved that carrying the fight to the enemy's populace could be effective. Similarly, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki catalyzed the end of the war in the Pacific. However, relying on the enemy to buckle (while one's own citizens are expected to stand boldly in the face of the onslaught) simply reflects simple-minded provincialism.

"Pape uncovers another startling and vitally important pattern: Every suicide attack in the period under study was launched against a democracy. Hezbollah used this weapon to force the United States and France from Lebanon in 1983; Hezbollah and Hamas have used it repeatedly to force concessions from Israel; Tamil terrorists have used it against the Sri Lankan government; the Kurds against Turkey; the Chechen rebels against Russia; the Kashmir rebels against India; and perhaps most infamously, on September 11, al Qaeda launched its suicide -terrorist attacks against America.

This is an extraordinarily important finding. Clearly, the terrorists have reached certain conclusions about our own 'regime.' They think we are 'soft,' and they surmise that democracies in particular are vulnerable to nihilistic coercion. "


This past effectiveness, in addition to American withdrawals from Somalia and Russian withdrawals from Afghanistan, has permitted some of the organizers in that region to assume that they have a monopoly on will. Historical examples have shown that rising body counts, particularly those delivered more or less willy-nilly, do not always result in the desired political effect. In fact, the most effective military campaigns to make effective use of wholesale slaughter have largely achieved their goals by simply shocking the other side into abject systemic collapse (e.g. Hiroshima and Nagasaki versus Dresden and Cologne) rather than creating ire over dribs and drabs of dead civilians.

Although it is one of the most foolish of analytical errors, I ask my reader's indulgence for a minute to play "What if the tables were reversed?" In other words, what if the U.S. were using F-15Es to drop laser-guided munitions steered onto target by U.S. troops holding laser designators, on to busses or cafes in, let's say, Pyongyang? Not many, maybe just one every week or so, with an occasional sniper attack. Would we expect their regimes to buckle? Would I be waiting around with baited breath for Kim Jong Il to call me saying "Well, hell, we didn't think you were so serious you wouldn't be willing to blow up a bus!! Of course we'll get rid of our nukes, renounce our claim to power and end our illegal occupation of North Korea!" No. I probably would not be waiting for that phone call.

So, at the end of the day, the biggest problem with effectiveness of suicide bombing is not necessarily the tactic itself - for it has worked in the past, but rather the problem of "Refighting the Last War" and failing to understand the fundamental psychological shift that is in progress. Once the populace tends to regard this as a warfighting exercise, the utility of civilian casualties drops markedly.

Oddly enough, attacks on military targets seem (at least from this Wild-Assed Guess) to have a better potential for creating political change, even though the targets are better protected. Witness Somalia and Lebanon. For that matter, witness Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

Just a thought.

9/18/2003

TBM: Light blogging, heavy weather and a deft screed

Light blogging today. If anything interesting falls out of the skies I'll post. Otherwise, I beg you, implore, plead and generally ask y'all to go read Lileks today. I very seldom link to him, simply because it's a coals to Newcastle scenario, but this time he expresses what it would take my cramped finger and arduous verbiage to express with wit and clarity. Using only one half of his daily column.

9/16/2003

EBS: Greetings

Quick greetings to all followers of things NorKish and other denizens of Winds O' Change and the blog del Marmot. There is also a post here discussing deterrence within the framework of ideology here.

Cheers and enjoy!

TBM: Asymmetries and terrorism

Use of force between organizations falls into two categories, deterrence and compellance. Deterrence is the use of the threat of pressure to influence another party's actions. In other words, it makes the costs of a course of action outweigh the gains. Compellance is the application of pressure on an opponent to influence their actions (rather than the threat of pressure).

In this sense, warfare is a very specific subset of communication in which deadly force is used in either a deterrent or compellant role to influence behaviors of an opponent.

Good so far? Ok.

In any strategic contest, the contest may be either symmetric or asymmetric. In a symmetric contest, both parties are choosing to prosecute the contest of wills on the similar terms and in the same arena (e.g. Syrian and Israeli jets slugging it out over the Bekaa valley in '82). In an asymmetric contest, opponents choose to engage each other on dissimilar terms in the hopes of obtaining a decisive advantage in the contest of wills. The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an example of this - Israeli AH-64 attack helicopters performing strikes against Hamas leadership targets versus suicide bombers blowing up cafes. Another example of a warfighting asymmetry was the use of longbows at Agincourt to defeat French knights. Or the use of bulls to repell the Spanish invasion of the Azores. Or the use of nukes to creat a shock and awe effect in the Imperial Japanese government. Historically, asymmetric conflict has been far, far, far more common than symmetric conflict.

Ok, I just cut a whole lot of history out here. But even I get tired of my bloviations.

By the dawn of the twentieth century, two things had come to light - soldiers fought soldiers on the battlefield and soldiers attacked means of production behind the front lines (sort of like the distinction between tactical and strategic bombing). It is important to note, however, that even then creation of civilian casualties (collateral damage) was never considered an objective, in and of itself. People were attacked directly with the intent to kill individuals when they were soldiers, while behind the lines, attacks were centered on production.

As conventional warfare has become much more lethal in the last several decades, sensitivity to collateral damage has become much higher (in the conventional warfare arena). First, with the increasing lethality of modern warfighting, the entry cost for those wishing to fight a conventional symmetric war has gone through the roof. No longer can you convert a tractor factory to a tank factory and produce tanks with a prayer in hell of standing against top-line armored formations. As a result, the gulf between the combatant and non-combatant has increased in modern armies. Combined with the ability of modern weapons to start racking up body counts, civilian casualties have become a very, very big no-no.

So people have resorted to pursuing more asymmetric responses, such as low-intensity, low-tech conflict (like VietNam), low-intensity, high-tech conflict (like the no-fly zones and "cyber terrorism"), and high-intensity, low-tech war (like Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, et al.) These asymmetric responses have in some cases dropped some of the traditional conventions of warfighting.

Part of this has been the advent of terrorism. Now we all are more or less familiar with Guerilla Warfare, in which either troops or irregulars conduct high-mobility attacks on military forces. That's considered fair game and part of the cannon of modern warfare.

The new twist is terrorism. Terrorism has been around for a while (e.g. Jewish terrorist attacks during the British occupation of Palestine). State-sponsored terrorism, however, didn't really come into its own until after 1967. It became a mechanism for states who recognized their marked conventional warfighting inferiority to continue to prosecute war through proxies against various targets. (Guerrilla warfare carried with it a much higher risk of evolving into conventional war, which is just the thing some states really wanted to avoid).

What makes terrorism such a hot-button issue is that it violates two of the "customs" of modern warfare. First, the practicioners do not distinguish themselves as combatants. That is frowned upon, but happens, as in VietNam or Somalia. Second, they target civilians for the simple sake of killing civilians. That too is frowned upon, as in Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, et al.

Terrorist attacks are a form of compellance that directly, with forethought and intent, does two of the "don't do" things. Full stop.

Why do we get so darned exercised about it?

Because in this particular asymmetry, we "play by the rules" we try to make sure our soldiers marked clearly as combatants and we try to avoid collateral damage. The "bad guys" try to make their combatants blend in and have no, and I mean absolutely none whatsover, concept of collateral damage as being distinct from intended damage.
One can see how this clearly gets some folks rather exercised.

But here's the kicker, while we continue to prosecute our strategic conflicts according to "the rules" - the other guys don't, but are held as being equally moral in the prosecution of their grievance.

The reason this is bad is the kind of human behavior we saw in the Pacific in World War II. Originally, American soldiers both felt that they were able to surrender and accept surrender if the situation demanded it. Just like in Europe or North Africa.

After the, ahem, "cultural misunderstandings," that attended surrender in the Pacific, the entire theater essentially went to a "Take No Prisoners" status for both sides. In other words, an asymmetry or prisoner treatment very quickly developed into a symmetrical treatment.

Taking that historical analogy, those supporters of terrorists may very well encounter the day that the U.S. cares as much for civilian Arab casualties as the Palestinian street cares for the dead of 9/11. That, clearly, will result in a losing strategy for the Middle East and Islam as a whole. While currently the entire Arab world has a GNP lower than that of Spain, the U.S. spends roughly 45% of the world's defense budget. If the terrorists' insensitivity to civilian targets doesn't change (and they consider paying U.S. income tax a sufficient reason to kill you) then this does stand some chance of metastasizing into a something that will look a hell of a lot more like genocide than the many on the Arab street can possibly even begin to fathom.

And not because westerners are racists or this that and the other, but simply that every time one opponent adopts an asymmetrical approach, they damned well better understand that their opponent may choose to break that asymmetry and may just do it better than you. And don't scoff, that very same mechanism is exactly what kept the Cold War cold, chemical weapons out of World War II.

9/15/2003

EBS: Marathon Headless Chicken Run

Ok, as many of you know, there's been more than a few headless chicken impressions in this neck of the woods. I've been meaning to write, but that's been a smidge difficult as a transient. Gotta a few schemes on how to lick that, but we'll just have to see.

And I'm mighty overdue for some blogroll maintenance. I've not been dissing or been inappreciative of the links, but my poor head has been tossing and turning for a while.

As a result, I've been wound up enough to comment elsewhere, but not enough to mind my own blog and actually write. I was going to get clever and use some of the comments from elsewhere as starting points for actual writing. That ain't gonna happen soon.

So, I'm going to do a bit of cut and paste editing and give you all a brief primer on asymmetric warfare and terrorism. Someday when I'm grown up I'll turn it into an actual readable article. Until then, take the slop 'cuz that's all the chow we got.

9/12/2003

TBM: National Stiff-Upper Lip Day

Well, welcome to 9/12. Getting back on track and rediscovering purpose in the world. Take a peak at this short (?!) Bill Whittle essay.

A lot's been said and written and I really don't feel like adding to it right now, save this:

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.


- Herman Mellvile

9/10/2003

TBS: 9/11

It's creeping up to the anniversary and I'm just too damn tired and too choked up to write.

I'm not a poet or a writer or a pundit.

I've been reading articles and looking at the pictures again and I only wish I wrote well enough to say what my heart is screaming. I'm not shocked - that ended after a couple of days. The deep abiding hatred and furious anger ended after a few weeks. The agony was gone in a month or two. But there's a splinter of something wedged in my heart and it'll never leave. I don't know what its called, but beneath the scars it still sits. And I'm afraid I'll carry it with me to the grave.

I'm not generally one to get weepy.

I buried my father almost 9 months ago today. I didn't cry at the funeral or when I learned of his death nor when I saw him 4 hours before he died knowing he wouldn't last the night.

But goddamit, this is two years after 9/11 and I've had to close my goddamn door because I still can't get through this day dry-eyed. I don't think it's going to get better. Ever.

I'm not particularly angry at the political crap that surrounds the day. The protests. The blogs. Whatever. It's all pretty much crap. Like worrying about the fate of housepets during the firebombing of Dresden, I think people focus on those things because the central issue itself is and will always be too overwhelming.

I don't know what to tell you folks. I can't see the keyboard right now and it just hurts. I'm not a frikkin poet and I just don't have the words. Or at least the right words to either give voice to whatever this lump in my soul is. Or make it go away. God it hurts. It just hurts.

9/05/2003

EBS: Keeping Order in One's House

Ok, I might actually have a house to keep in, so the Snarkinated Boojum's Good Luck Wish may have worked out or I might just be that damn good. Other than that, I am dead beat tucker out.

I want to welcome the Mighty Accidental Jedi to the fine and honorable list of those moved from Anticipated Retaliatory Linkage to Regular Ole' Retaliatiory Linkage. The Mighty Master Yoder has also confounded me recently by mentioning that they were purchasing sportsbras and panties three years ago for OCS - which I must admit caused my internal perception of the world vis a vis the assumed identity of Yoder and/or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on its ear.

Similarly, greetings to the Tobacco Road Fogey, who has chosen to sneak directly onto the blogroll del the Retaliated. I presume the denizen of Tobacco Road is the voice of the nicotine street. Other than that, he's got buried somewhere or another an good post on making RSS suck much less.

Hmm... Elsewhere - I finally was able to get back my little scribbling files, so I can resume pounding out nonsense on Space Colonization (although I suspect all y'all have let that drop off the radar). The Zero-Sum Game essay is going to take a darned long time, as it keeps blossoming and I've been to tired to prune it down to a reasonably-sized topic inside my crusty cabesa. Long story shrunk, things should be stablish in a few weeks, so I'll get cracking on the heavy verbal lifting shortly thereafter, I hope.

Oh yeah! This is worth checking out. The Mudville Gazette is in the process of conglomerating an epic post. Much longer in total than even a Whittle essay he is building the behemoth chunk at a time and expects to be finished shortly. I've no idea how long it is altogether, but it is quite worth the read. To be forewarned, it's not a overtly political piece, per se, but rather appears to be a rumination and reflection of the post-9/11 world. Don't take my word for it - I'm flakier than an entire box of Special K right now, but take a look and spend the time to digest it.

Finally, I'm dumping some folks off the blogroll - and not as a comment on their content or quality. I'm just not getting around to reading them as often as I'd like, so I'm indulging in a bit of "creative destruction".

9/04/2003

EBS: I really don't like whining about stuff,

but...

Ok, folks. The reason that I've not been doing a lot of posting this last 48 hours is because I am now in the uneviable position of trying to find a place to live by midnight Saturday and/or a place for all my possessions. On an entire $150 in my account right now. Discuss.

Well, y'all discuss. Me? I'm doing my running headless chicken impression.

I friggin' hate character building experiences.

9/02/2003

TBM: Open-Source Intelligence and North Korea

Over at Asymmetrical Information, there is some chatter in the comments about the latest antics of Nuclear Elvis. In the comments box, there is some back and forth about information found on the web and its veracity. I wanted to share a little bit about this (without actually being dilligent enough to write), so I've posted more-or-less my comment. It will make a lot more sense if you actually go follow the thread, but my comment is sort of a postage-stamp sized introduction to open-source intelligence:

There is an entire world of open source intelligence - it does, however, require some skill to extract useful information. If you take a story, let's say, Pakistani sale of nuclear technology to North Korea, and start doing the Nexis searches of news sources around the world, you can usually trace the story back to one specific leak. The "leaks" are generally "unnamed sources from the intelligence community". The process by which a government disseminates information on things it doesn't want to draw attention to is through leaks to the media.

On occasions where they do want to draw attention to something, they issue something like a National Intelligence Estimate, White Paper or announce something during a Congressional Hearing. These reports are most assuredly based on magical classified evidence, but tend to be very judicious in what they'll announce. This is primarily because once it becomes an official pronouncement the information gets put fully in play. As a result, the official releases also tend to be based on numerous sources - the shaky analyses tends to stay in house.

The vast majority of the time, open-source material confirms the official announcements, plus a small amount of additional information. This information should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt, since it is unconfirmed. Sussing out the legitimate from the hysterical, and comparing it with official documents, is one the particular skills involved in open-source analysis.

As far as FAS (and globalsecurity.org) go, they tend to be very thorough in their analysis, but tend to have a very definite analytical viewpoint. This is not to imply in any way, shape, or form, that they deliberately skew their analysis, but we might be able to say that they are quite sensitive to a certain analytical perspective. To answer an implied question, they are open-source in their analysis, but generally are very, very good at doing their homework, especially facility information and satellite photos. In particular, John Pike (of globalsecurity.org) is generally on top of things as the size of his shop will allow.

Jane’s on the other hand is a trade journal. When they write of industry happenings, they tend to be very spot on. When they depart from that narrow path, they become less reliable quickly. Much of this is due to two factors - one is that they need to present information not found in the major news dailies (otherwise, why publish?) and the circles they and their reporters inhabit. As a result they hear a lot more chaff and are compelled to look for the bigger leads. Generally Jane's is a good place to start one's research, but shouldn't be taken as the final authority, especially if not heard elsewhere.

What does all this mean w/r/t NoKo? Well, the early nineties report was an alleged leak from State. Very little has been heard about that report in recent memory. Take it or leave it as you will. Does NoKo have a nuke program? Almost certainly. Do they have nukes? My guess is yeah. More significantly, whether or not they have nukes at a given time is becoming increasingly irrelevant since they've pretty much taken out all the stops on their nuclear program.

With the reprocessing of all 8,000 rods, they'll have enough for roughly 6 devices, in addition to the 1-2 they already have. They could have a lot more and certainly have a complete fuel cycle. Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are just for the Plutonium devices, and doesn't include the Uranium bombs. Those are a lot harder to get a count on, simply because we have a much poorer idea of where the enrichment facilities are (which are critical to guesstimating production capacity). One thing that is for certain, however, is that North Korea maintains uranium mines with some 4 million tons of high-quality exploitable ore.

Other tidbits mentioned elsewhere in the comments: Japan is within range of some 650-700 shorter range ballistic missiles. The U.S. is thought to be in range of the Taepo-Dong missile, this is based on the unsuccesful North Korean attempt to launch a satellite.