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Thursday, December 31, 2009

TV interview on Bomber's Trip to Houston in 2008 - Changes needed

Yesterday I got a call out of the blue from the Houston Fox 26 TV station about the Flight 253 "underwear bomber" who paid a visit to Houston in August 2008. Here is the video, with my 15 seconds of hot air:
video

I was their terrorism analyst on 9/11. Why? Because I was one of the few talking about these threats since the early 90's. I had previously been their Mideast expert during the first Gulf War in '91.

It is obvious that we have to upgrade our technology. It is obvious that the system set up after 9/11 to insure sharing of information between agencies still is not working as it should. This includes getting intelligence from allies - apparently the British have a policy not to share their visa information with the U.S. If they had done so, and our system was computerized, it would have raised yet another red flag.

Now that we survived the train wreck of last year's economic disaster, it is time to focus on fixing this system as well as the financial one (which still needs attention to avoid a repeat of Wall Street recklessness).

Thank God this decade is over. It was a decade that doubled our national debt in 8 short years - by giving tax breaks to the wealthy financed by debt, waging two wars, financed by debt, and in 2004 enlarging the Plan D drug plan, also financed entirely by debt. Imagine running a business that way. It wasn't sustainable. It wasted an opportunity to pay for it when we did have money. That's another reason it all crashed in late 2008.

In the next decade we can't rely on 20th century technology. We will have to advance our technology and our global intelligence. We have to do nation building or continue to fail in Afghanistan. Bush was opposed to nation building; Obama has been cool on it. But nation building is what put Iraq back on the path so our troops can leave. It's what bought Europe and Japan back after WWII. It is the only solution.

We will have to be a lot smarter in the next decade just to keep up. We now face a wealthy China and an empowered India whose economies will exceed ours before this century is out. Even Russia is exhibited some vision - planning on tackling an asteroid on a near collision course with Earth. It's bad when Russia has more vision than we do.

We need a global strategy --militarily, technologically and economically-- to get back into the lead after our treasury was squandered in the last decade.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Americans Who Threaten our Leadership Are No Different than Al Qaeda

I see extremism these days as not just an Al Qaeda problem. We also have a domestic problem. I have seen it in comments on this blog--and in the protests of last summer. When someone says that our leadership should be "hanged as traitors" for the "crime" of supporting social security, that is a threat against our own leadership--and wrong. Who made them God? That is Tim McVeigh thinking. That is Al Qaeda thinking.

We have different extremists, and really more dangerous ones than the guys who can't figure out how to set a trigger on PETN. Tim McVeigh didn't even care that he was blowing away a day care center, his hate was that blind. How American is it to suggest that taking care of Americans is outside the Constitution of our great country? Cars didn't exist when the Constitution was written--so do we not drive cars?

How is it un-American to suggest that providing Medicare to aging Americans is an outrage against our charter? Logic would suggest that a great country does more, not less, to help its citizens, just as others have. I just saw a TV story on an American who went to Mexico to get a new hip, because he couldn't afford the $80,000 to $200,000 it was going to cost him here in the U.S. He had never been to Mexico, but it was the chance to get a new hip that he couldn't get here.

We have had too many people saying too many crazy things about our current government which inherited the mess they are trying to fix–-they didn’t create the mess. Let’s put things in reality.

Bush inherited a $50 billion surplus, a shiny new car; he left Obama an Exxon Valdez piled up on the reef, leaking oil. Lehman’s collapse froze all credit. The economy went off a cliff not seen in 70 years.

Now the crew that put our ship of state up on the reef is complaining about the cost of repairing the damages and cleaning up the mess. The Obama administration inherited the Homeland Security system which had a flaw--lists are not cross checked. That is another inherited problem that became evident on Christmas Day. Fixing TSA is another leftover problem to add to the “to do” list. The Senate could help by approving a new TSA administrator instead of letting one Senator hold it up. We don’t need leaderless security positions!

We need to improve our air security system GLOBALLY, by getting full body scanners in use in FOREIGN locations--like Nigeria and Amsterdam--that feed air traffic to the U.S. Having them everywhere is the solution. Technology has to keep up--and focus on explosives.

Improving our health services is also needed--rather than not changing a broken system that ranks No. 37 in the world. This makes sense for our future prosperity--and our humanity. With many Americans overweight and eating high artery-clogging foods--and moving into retirement age--there will be a huge and growing demand on medical services like never before. As we age, medical care will become as vital to each person’s life as air.

Our founders would have embraced this because they too were visionaries that wanted a better life for Americans.

We don't build a future based on hate. We build a future and prosper only if we are focused on leading the global technology race--and improving our system and the lives of our people.
Mexico is doing a better job than we are in providing medical care for an annual fee of $300/year. Their surgeons have the same instruments used in the U.S. To improve, we need to change what we have been doing.

That includes not tolerating threats against our leadership by domestic sources. If we are real Americans, then we don’t advocate violence against our own government leaders. That is what makes us better than Al Qaeda, who even kills other Muslims in their hate.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day Attack on Northwest Flight 253: The Nigerian and Europe Connection

Has Al Qaida now spread to Africa? A Nigerian suicide bomber would be a first. The evidence points in that direction. If so, what can be done about Africa being used to launch a terrorist attack on the U.S.?

It was an American Northwest Flight No. 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. But the suspect who tried to destroy it on yesterday’s Christmas Day flight boarded in Lagos, Nigeria – not the Middle East. He used a device similar to what Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, used. Reports are that he claims to have gotten the device in Yemen. Fortunately, the device failed and passengers and crew sprang into action – the real heroes in action.

Authorities claim the Christmas flight terrorist was a “lone wolf.” Since when does someone go to Yemen for a bomb and act “alone.” Al Qaida has been building a base in Yemen, and that is connected to international terrorism. But a bigger threat than Yemen is – London! The suspect once lived in London, which is now regarded as where the largest numbers of radical Islamists are living. Why London? What can be done about it?

I know this: even a “lone wolf” who tries to kill is connected to radical terrorism. He was influenced either by an organization spreading hate on the Internet or in London’s streets. Radicalism is a global virus potentially more dangerous than H1N1. It is being spread 24/7 on the Internet. The time has come to see if the “Wild West” Internet should have some international oversight that can block hate websites. But Internet recruiting is being presented like hip hop, sort of a “jihad cool” that generates anger by showing attacks on Muslims as injustice that should be defended. That could also have led to this attack.

I have been to Lagos, London and Amsterdam, not as a tourist but as an international negotiator on major projects. It was on a project in Amsterdam a few years ago that I discovered a multi-million dollar international fraud ring being run, in Europe, by a Nigerian criminal organization (at which point things got very serious, but that’s another story). Nigeria is a country split between two religions: Islam in the North and Christians in the South. Al Qaida would love to dominate the country – and its vast oil reserves. It doesn’t have to be there to recruit. It can do so on the Internet.

Al Qaida seems to have gotten a foothold in the west – i.e. London—from which it can recruit radicals from the third world – and use the lax security in places like Lagos, Nigeria to get into a Europe, a jump point for flights bound to the U.S. In Nigeria, bribing a security official to get cleared is almost routine –and demonstrates how the weakest link in the international security system can be exploited by suicide bomber on a flight. Secondary screening in Amsterdam was not sufficient either.

Al Qaida has a fixation on blowing up aircraft, starting with its attempt to blow up a dozen flights over the Pacific in the mid-90’s. Why didn’t the security checks work in both Lagos and Amsterdam? Why has England become the biggest centerpoint outside the Middle East of extremist Islamic sympathizers? Why can’t we attack-- and shut down -- the Internet sites used by radical Islamists?

The bigger question is how to prevent future attacks like this. The first thing we need to do is deny radicals a western base. If London has become a breeding ground for Islamist radicals to build their networks and explosive technology –and to launch attacks on the United States -- U.S. authorities need to work with the British government to do what can be done to imprison or expel them. We need to deny radicals a European base to recruit suicide bombers from the third world to terrorize innocent people like those on the Christmas Day Northwest flight –which occurred 8 years to the month that Richard Reid attempted his shoe bombing. Just coincidence? We need to insist that security screenings of passengers from places like Nigeria be screened again in Europe before boarding U.S. flights. We need to improve screening procedures and technology. We need to start a 24/7 Internet defense strategy.

The passengers on Northwest 253 got lucky. If the suspect’s technology had worked, we would have lost that plane in mid-air and not known what happened. Fortunately, the device failed to create the disaster intended. We have to stay ahead of the terrorists, and that will take even more international cooperation and coordination.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Climate Change, Health Care -- and Why Americans Aren't Liked a Lot Overseas

Just when it looked as though both climate change and health care change would not happen, it did. Neither are perfect agreements but nothing is. But it was worth doing something versus nothing on both issues.

The same people who fought the passage of social security and Medicare are the same people fighting health care reform and reducing our emissions to limit climate change damage. The same people are defending the right of insurance companies to drop you for a preexisting condition.

If people are wrong that our 1 trillion/year in emissions is not melting the ice that keeps us from becoming Venus (which boils all the time), then their grandchildren and their children face a dead planet. A dying planet would certainly be bad for business! So what's wrong with reducing our emissions? Isn't the conservative approach the one designed to keep us from getting into trouble before its too late to head off disaster?

On health care, the non-partisan GAO - General Accounting Office -- says that the Senate's version of the health care plan would SAVE us billions the first decade -- and would SAVE us $1 trillion in the second decade. What's wrong with that? It it would allow people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance. What's wrong with that?

These are not perfect bills, but action is better than a broken status quo.

Some people are objecting our contributing to help poor countries affected by climate change. I just got off a cruise where I watched people shop and eat -- but paid little or not attention to the people in each country.

If you want to know why Americans are not liked as much as they have been it is because a lot of us don't really give a damn about other people. So, guess what? If you don't treat people with respect, don't expect the world to give a crap about us either.

I found the locals in Jamaica, Caymans and Cozumel to be intelligent, interesting people. It was a chance to see a rum plantation and the twisty Jamaica highways, a coral reef from a submarine in the clear Cayman waters, and to zip along over the trees in Cozumel - and live to tell about it.

Check out the world Americans. Our future depends on our having more knowledge than how to eat and tourist our way across the planet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Armor Glass Blog -

Announcing: I have started a separate blog dedicated to Armor Glass at:
http://armorglass.blogspot.com/

First installment covers recent events from explosions to dogs...

In the meantime, Texas Viking will continue on more general issues affecting us, both here on the coast and nationally.

What a beautiful day today! At least I got to LOOK at it through the windows as I did paperwork. The good news is that the skies are blue and I can see the lake through the (Armor Glass protected) windows!

LOL. Feel free to check out the Armor Glass blog and sign up to follow future posts. They will be designed to make you aware of security measures that we encounter, and what protects your family..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

7 days - Jamaica, Caymans, Cozumel - At 19 knots

Just returned from a 3 country trip in 7 days - all done at about 19 knots, on a ship.

While Houston was fogged in, I was checking out "hurricane alley" from Jamaica to the Caymans and Cozumel. On the way there we passed within sight of Cuba, on the port side of the ship. I never would have thought you could cover 3 countries in a week at 19 knots, but you can - all the way to Jamaica.

Jamaica was cool in its hills. Caymans and Cozumel were blue and HOT, and humid. But it sure beat coming back to a cold fog!

In the Grand Cayman I went on a tourist submarine which goes down 100 feet to let you see the sea life on the coral reef. We got close enough to the miles deep abyss that goes down miles - but the sub is designed to pop to the surface if the power fails. It holds 48. Cozumel buildings were the only ones I saw that seemed to use tougher glass, but then they know hurricanes and thieves would love to break in. Diamonds International has a huge store there.

In Cozumel, I road a "zip line" across the tree tops. Some kids in Central America have to commute to school using one. Your "brake" is a leather glove.

One of the things I did not do but heard people raving about: Stingray City in the Caymans. Stingrays act like dogs - bumping your feet to get fed. The staff would put a ray on a person's back to give them a "massage." The people who were there couldn't stop talking about it.

I have attached photos and a couple short video clips. They are not in any "order" and I still have "ship lag" but it will give you can idea of each country. I saw great opportunities in each.

http://picasaweb.google.com/Fjet2020/Caymans?feat=email#
http://picasaweb.google.com/Fjet2020/Cozumel?feat=email#
http://picasaweb.google.com/Fjet2020/Jamaica?feat=email#

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Montego Bay

Survived a 2 ½ hour each way trip from Montego Bay to a rum factory that first started in 1749 –Appleton Estates. The roads are narrow and twisty – we nearly had a head on with a van on one corner.

They say that Captain Bligh visited Montego Bay. People are nice but poor – about 50% unemployment. On to Caymans…

In the meantime I hear that a chemical plant near Seabrook exploded - glad not to be there!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

3-country Tour

Am off on a 3-country swing through Hurricane Alley - from Jamaica to the Caymans and Mexico. I checked the weather -- all are balmy compared to our rain, snow and COLD.

If all goes as planned the Cayman stop will include a submarine tour, something I have never done. It's been a extraordinarily busy year and this is a much needed break as well.

I'll try to post updates along the way. This is also a test of my relatively new Blackberry Storm, which is supposed to be an international phone.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Film of Wright's First Flight - Snow in Houston

A friend sent me this link to discovered video of the Wright Brothers first flight. I've attached her comments and the link - before I head out today for a project that must go on even in a rare Houston snow...

WRIGHT BROS. 1909


Film clip from the Austrian archives about the Wright Brothers demonstrating their plane in Italy in 1909. What is even more fantastic is there was an on-board camera on the Wright plane and the last part of this film shows it. Wilbur Wright is at the controls on both of the flights. It's a GREAT video considering it is 100 years old and the quality/weight of the equipment of that day.

This film clip is fascinating and in very good condition for its age being as it shows the Wright Bros demonstrating the Flyer to a group of European officers and officials in 1909. Only runs for 4 minutes. The shots of the plane in flight are the best I have ever seen of this machine showing a degree of speed and smoothness I did not think would have been possible. Excellent starting sequence with the linen covered props and easy start but the outstanding sequence being the take-off along the rail. You can't see the actual weight drop to pull it along the rail but in some shots you see the tower. The small piece of string on the forward elevon was put there by the Wrights to ascertain degree of side slip as you are aware the plane basically turned flat, and although they eventually put in a form of wing warping it was always a difficult plane to handle in turns, so they kept it as flat as possible because any side slip over a certain angle was unrecoverable. This was the two seat version as you can see and designed for a hopeful military use. It could only fly in very calm conditions.

The in-flight shots were something else again and possibly the earliest aerial movie shots ever taken. When you think he had to fly the plane and also hand crank the camera, I think it must have been fixed in position as the camera stays motionless and in any case cameras were heavy in those times and the plane had little spare capacity but I could be wrong. Note the take off ramp. Loved the ancient Italian Roman ruins in the final shots the approach speed was very slow in deed.

When you get to the site, just double click on the picture of the flying machine, it loads automatically. The other vintage videos are entertaining, too.


http://www.europafilmtreasures.eu/PY/322/see-the-film-wilbur_wright_and_his_flying_machine'