Friday, July 31, 2009

The Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson

The Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson (1/3)

Original Air Date:18 March 1960 (Season 1, Episode 24)

A father forbids a history professor from marrying his daughter when he discovers that the captivating lecturer is actually an immortal who has lived for thousands of years.

The Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson (2/3)

The Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson (3/3)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sting - Fields of Gold

Sting - Fields of Gold <-- better link

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold
So she took her love for to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley?
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold
See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

Book Review: One Second After

The enemy will never attack you where you are strongest... He will attack where you are weakest. If you do not know your weakest point, be certain, your enemy will. -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

"Nine-eleven, Pearl Harbor, were like fleabites in comparison to this." -- Dan Hunt, college president in the novel, One Second After.

They were like something out of another age, some so obvious caught ill prepared, a man in a three-piece business suit, scuffed worn dress shoes, bandage around his head. Looked like a lawyer or upper-level corporate type... with no skills to sell here for a bowl of watery soup. -- William R. Forstchen, One Second After

This book should be required reading for all first responders and local government personnel - not because the information it contains can not be explained more succinctly, but because it can not be conveyed more humanely.

I can't emphasize the danger that an EMP attack poses better than Speaker Newt Gingrich does in the foreword, "The threat is real, and we as Americans must face that threat, prepare, and know what to do to prevent it. For it we do not, 'one second after,' the America we know, cherish and love, will be gone forever."

The Starfish Prime nuclear detonation, as seen from Honolulu, July 9, 1962, was not designed or intended as a generator of EMP. However, triggered at an altitude of about 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, it had far-reaching effects. Some electronic and electrical systems in the Hawaiian Islands, 1400 kilometers distant, were affected, causing the failure of street-lighting systems, tripping of circuit breakers, triggering of burglar alarms, and damage to a telecommunications relay facility. via Executive Report: Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack [PDF]

Lammas Loaves: Sourdough Bread & Starter

In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. It is marks the middle of Summer and the beginning of the harvest season. Canning goes into full swing and cabinets are stocked with herbs before the onset of fall. It is the first of three harvest festivals and is usually associated with ripening grain. So, what better way to celebrate that than by baking your own bread?

For once, I have a jump on the day... just long enough to get that bread starter ready.

Though at first glance it seems difficult, one of my favorite breads, sourdough, is actually one of the easiest to make. All you need is a medium potato and a few basic ingredients. Here's how:

Grated Raw Potato Starter

1 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 grated raw potato, medium size

Mix the 1 cut warm water, 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar in a 2-cup measure. Add enough grated potato to make 2 cups.

Place in a wide-mouth glass jar or small mixing bowl (do not use metal or plastic) which will hold about 1 quart. Cover with a single thickness of cheesecloth for 24 hours. (An old thread-bare t-shirt makes a good substitute for cheesecloth.) This will prevent wild yeast from the air to settle into your starter.

After day 1, stir well, cover tightly with a clinging transparent wrap which will cause the moisture to drip back and keep top of mixture from drying.

Stir several times a day. In two or three days it will become foamy and very light. The length of time depends on the temperature, 80-85F is ideal. It can go a little below 80F without harm, only slowing the procedure a little, but if it goes much higher than 85F it will be spoiled.

Then stir well, pour into glass jar with screw-top lit and store in refrigerator at about 38 degrees. As soon as 1/2 inch of clear liquid has risen to the top it has ripened enough to start using.

Do not be concerned if the mixture turns dark because of the raw potato during the fermentation period. It does not affect the bread made from it in any way and, as soon as the starter is mature, it will become a snowy white.

To renew starter

Add 1 1/2 cups of white flour and 1 1/2 cups water each time it is used so that there are always 2 cups to bake with and 2 full cups to return to refrigerator. If for some reason it cannot be used regularly about twice a week, add 1 teaspoon sugar and stir well every three or four days.

West Coast French Sourdough Bread

1 cup starter
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup water

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 package dry yeast
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 cups flour

About 9:00 in the evening, measure out 1 cup starter from the refrigerator storage jar into mixing bowl (do not use metal or plastic). Add 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup flour and beat thoroughly. Cover bowl tightly with clinging transparent wrap and set in warm place (80 to 85F) overnight.

In the morning about 7:00 beat the starter thoroughly. Measure out 1 cup and return remaining starter to storage jar. In another bowl, pour 1 1/2 cups of just warm water, stir in 2 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle 1 package dry yeast on top. Let stand until yeast is dissolved. Add the 1 cup of reserved starter and 3 cups flour. Beat thoroughly, cover tightly and let stand in warm place until very light and foamy. This will take from 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Sift 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon soda with 1 cup flour and spread the remaining 1 cup on the pastry board. Stir the sifted flour mix into the sponge. Turn out on board and knead for several minutes using a little more flour if necessary to make a very stiff dough. Knead until completely smooth and non-sticky so that it can be worked on an unfloured portion of the board without sticking. Divide in halves and shape into either round or long narrow loaves. Place on flat baking sheet, preferably Teflon-coated but, if one is not available, lightly grease it or sprinkle corn meal over the surface. Slip into large plastic bag, supported so that it will not touch dough (drinking glasses placed at each end of the sheet are fine). Set in warm place for 1 1/2 hours to rise.

If the dough becomes too light the loaves will spread in baking but, this only makes a more delicious crust. When ready for the open, brush top of loaves with cold water. Make diagonal slashes across top of long loaves and five or six radiating from center of round ones with a sharp single-edge razor blade or scissors. Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees with pan of hot water on the floor from 50 to 60 minutes and the crust is as dark as desired. About 10 minutes before the end of the baking period, brush tops with water again. Remove from pans and stand on edge to cool, propping them against a heavy glass jar or similar object.

For the most attractive slices, especially if the loves have spread a little too much in baking, cut with a very sharp knife diagonally across the long loaf and at the same time have the blade slanted from top to bottom away from the end. This makes the slices about twice as wide as when cut straight up and down. Cut slices from the round loaves on the slant also. When ready to serve, to preserve the utterly delicious taste and crisp, hard crust, re-heat quickly with wrapping open at one end so that the bread will not become steamy, or spread slices with butter and place under the broiler at high heat for a very short period, until the edges are beginning to brown nicely.

This recipe makes 2 long or 2 large round loaves which will just fit on a 12 x 15 inch baking sheet.

Bon Appétit!

Recipe from Breads and Coffee Cakes with Homemade Starters

Related: Bread, Quickly

~ ~ ~

That Lammas, traditionally, is a merry time, a time of Fairs, Handfastings, and Feasts is expressed in the following poem by Robert Burns.

It was on a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held away to Annie:
The time flew by, wi tentless heed,
Till 'tween the late and early;
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o'barley
I ken't her heart was a' my ain;
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kissed her owre and owre again,
Among the rig o' barley.

I locked her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o'barley.
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night,
Amang the rigs o'barley.

I hae been blythe wi' Comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu' gath'rin gear;
I hae been happy thinking:
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho three times doubl'd fairley
That happy night was worth then a'.
Among the rig's o' barley.

CHORUS

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.


Lammas - Original artwork by lilcatty.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Robert Baer: Don't Forget Mousavi's Bloody Past

"They did not make war. They were simply victims of war, in the honorable attempt to keep the peace." - The Beirut Memorial On Line - Remembering the 299 servicemen, including 220 U.S. Marines who lost their lives in the Beirut barracks bombing.

Before we go too far down the road cheering the forces of Iranian democracy, let's not forget that its public face, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has American blood on his hands. He was Iran's Prime Minister during most of the 1980s, a time when the country was waging a terrorist campaign against the U.S.

Earlier [in June], I received an e-mail from a Lebanese who was present at the creation of the country's Iranian-backed, Shi'ite militia Hizballah in 1982 and on familiar terms with its most radical and violent members. He wrote: "Are you people crazy backing Mousavi, a patron of Hizballah's terrorist wing?"

Indeed, Mousavi, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989, almost certainly had a hand in the planning of the Iranian-backed truck-bombing attacks on the U.S. embassy in April 1983 and the Marine barracks in October of that same year. Mousavi, as my Lebanese contact reminded me, dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah, the man largely held responsible for both attacks. (Mughniyah was assassinated in Damascus last year.) The Lebanese said Mughniyah had told him over and over that he, Mughniyah, got along well with Mousavi and trusted him completely.

Former Iranian Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi in Ankara, Turkey, in 1985. Photo: Reuters / Corbis.

When Mousavi was Prime Minister, he oversaw an office that ran operatives abroad, from Lebanon to Kuwait to Iraq. This was the heyday of Khomeini's theocratic vision, when Iran thought it really could export its revolution across the Middle East, providing money and arms to anyone who claimed he could upend the old order. Mousavi was not only swept up into this delusion but also actively pursued it.

It was Mousavi who appointed Iran's ambassador to Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur, the Iranian caught red-handed planning the Marine-barracks bombing. Mohtashemi-pur also coordinated the hostage-taking in Lebanon. As a reward, Mousavi gave him the Interior Ministry, where Mohtashemi-pur went on to crack down on what was left of democracy in Iran.

And it is not as if Mousavi kept his support for Iran's secret war on the U.S. a secret. In a 1981 interview, he had this to say about the taking of American diplomats in Tehran in 1979: "It was the beginning of the second stage of our revolution. It was after that we discovered our true Islamic identity."

Rescue efforts continued for days at the Marine headquarters in Beirut. While the rescuers were at times hindered by sniper fire, some survivors were pulled from the rubble and airlifted to the RAF hospital in Cyprus or to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany.

None of this is to exonerate the other candidates. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Iranian paramilitary force responsible for most of the terrorism against the U.S. Conservative Mohsen Rezaei was the Guards' commander. And Mehdi Karroubi, like Mousavi, was deeply involved in Lebanon in the '80s. According to my Hizballah contact, he too was a patron of Mughniyah's.

This may all be ancient history to Iran's fledgling democratic movement, and history the Op-Ed pages of our newspapers would prefer to forget. But at the very least, it should be a reminder that, when it comes to political leaders, there are no good choices in Iran. It is a promising sign that Mousavi has put his violent past behind him, as has Iran for the most part, but let's not completely forget his far-from-democratic roots. -- TIME

Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is TIME.com's intelligence columnist and the author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism and, most recently, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.

China Seeks Assurances That U.S. Will Cut Its Deficit


“Attention should be given to the fiscal deficit,” said Xie Xuren, the Chinese finance minister. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner assured the Chinese that once the economy rebounded, the deficit would gradually come down from its current record levels.

For China, the rising American deficit is a concern because it could weaken the dollar and put at risk China’s vast holdings of Treasury securities and other dollar-based assets. China holds an estimated $1.5 trillion in such securities, making it the United States’ largest foreign creditor. -- New York Times


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Game on for Pakistan's nukes

Pakistani Army soldiers guard nuclear-capable missiles. Photo by Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images.

In a video posted on jihadist websites on July 25, 2009, senior Al-Qaeda commander Abu Yahya Al-Libi urged Pakistanis to take up arms against the Pakistani army and government. -- MEMRI

Expressing concerns over the expanding terror threat, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen has said Al-Qaeda is trying to get hold of nuclear weapons to wreak havoc across the world particularly in America.

“Terrorist organisations, al Qaeda in particular, have been very open and direct about their desire to get a nuclear device and continue to terrorise people in accordance with their strategic approach, killing as many Americans and westerners as they possibly can with a device like that,” Admiral Mullen said. -- source

In an essay in the National Interest, Bruce Riedel, the former CIA officer who led a review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan for President Barack Obama, lays out the implications of a worst case scenario. [His report is lengthy but, the best analysis on Pakistan that I've ever read.]

“A jihadist Pakistan would be the most serious threat to the United States since the end of the Cold War. Aligned with al-Qaeda and armed with nuclear weapons, the Islamic Emirate of Pakistan would be a nightmare. U.S. options for dealing with it would all be bad,” he writes.

Do read his essay in conjunction with this article in the CTC Sentinel (pdf), in which Shaun Gregory, a professor at Britain’s Bradford University, assesses the risk of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamist militants. The nuclear weapons, he argues, are well guarded by the Pakistan Army against the internal threat of a seizure by Islamist extremists. -- Reuters

Given Pakistan's reluctance to accept U.S. military operations within their country, we can only hope that he is correct.

Russian submariners say UFOs rule the deep

Step aside Poseidon, there are new lords of the deep - little green men.

According to recent declassified reports from the Cold War era, Russian submariners talked of numerous encounters with unidentified objects technologically surpassing anything humanity ever built.

On one occasion a nuclear submarine, which was on a combat mission in the Pacific Ocean, detected six unknown objects. After the crew failed to leave behind their pursuers by maneuvering, the captain ordered to surface. The objects followed suit, took to the air, and flew away.

Russian Navy intelligence veteran, Captain 1st rank Igor Barklay comments:

“Ocean UFOs often show up wherever our or NATO’s fleets concentrate. Near Bahamas, Bermudas, Puerto Rico. They are most often seen in the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, in the southern part of the Bermuda Triangle, and also in the Caribbean Sea.” -- more at Russia Today

Deep. /s

~ ~ ~

The Abyss - The World is Warned

When Bud risks his life to neutralise the nuke, he becomes the unwitting participant in a global crisis that takes place in the deepest part of the ocean.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Click, click ... counting down to Cyber 9/11

By John Arquilla

When it comes to national security, our leaders are overly focused on nuclear weapons of mass destruction; more thought should be given to the looming threat of cyber "mass disruption."

Yes, Russia has lots of warheads, but so do we. The situation is stable. North Korea might have a few big weapons that work, but our retaliatory capability would wipe them out. The same would hold for the Iranians, should they ever get the bomb.

But in the virtual world of debilitating logic bombs, fast-spreading viruses and remotely controlled "botnets" of thousands of slave computers, a grave and growing capacity for crippling our tech-dependent society has risen unchecked. And all the warning signs have been evident for years.

A decade ago, one of our own military exercises - still classified, so little can be said openly - revealed serious vulnerabilities. This was soon followed by actual intrusions into our defense information systems, apparently emanating from a site in Russia, that were persistent and wide-ranging.

More exercises followed, to test new security standards, with names like Silent Horizon and Cyber Storm. They showed that we were still quite open to attacks against crucial infrastructures. And more real events came into play - this time apparently connected in some way to China: a swarm attack that nearly took down the power grid in Southern California several years ago and, more recently, another series of cyber raids on sensitive military data.

Beyond our own direct experiences - the latest being some relatively minor attacks on the Fourth of July that also hit South Korea - others also have started to feel the cyber heat. Estonia came under cyber attacks in April and May 2007, and so did Georgia in August 2008. Both apparently were staged from Russian and other servers, and the effects were so serious that Estonia had to reboot by cutting its cyber links to the outside world. The Georgians lost the ability to communicate with their own armed forces - in the middle of a Russian invasion.

And the Russians are hardly alone in waging this sort of cyber-war. Israeli ground forces dealt punishing blows to the Palestinians in Gaza in the January 2009 fighting, but a Muslim cyber-militia, apparently operating out of Iran, struck back effectively against a number of key Israeli sites - including one that provided civil defense instructions for what to do when under rocket attack.

These cyber attacks were on smaller countries, but if such actions were aimed at us, they would be exceptionally costly. That makes it most puzzling that so little has been done that actually improves our defenses.

Click image to enlarge.

To be sure, a whole business model based on selling firewalls and security updates has emerged. But, as one master hacker I know likes to say, "There are no firewalls. They only recognize what they already know to be threats and have great trouble when intrusion and attack tools are even slightly tweaked."

Or, as I like to tell my military masters, we are steeped in a Maginot Line mentality - our cyber defenses are as easy to outflank as the French fortifications were in 1940. Instead, we have to "imagine no lines" and accept that the bad guys will get into our systems. Against this threat, we must rely more on strong encryption - so intruders won't even know what they're looking at - and conceal our most important information by parceling it out in encoded portions in myriad hiding places in "the cloud" of cyberspace.

Commercial companies are just starting to take steps like these. But their pace of change is far too slow, and their intellectual property continues to be plundered by cyber raiders. Individuals are even more vulnerable - millions of Americans are unknowingly turned into zombies, their computers enslaved by virtual body snatchers. And our military, whose efficiency depends on secure connectivity, remains at risk.

In the face of all this, we must of course strive to reduce vulnerabilities. But there is one other thing we might do: engage in cyber arms control. Not the sort that seeks to prevent the spread of technology, because this cannot be done. All computers can be used as weapons, and they are everywhere. So instead of trying to control hardware, we have to strive to control our own behavior.

Perhaps this would take the form of a multilateral agreement to refrain from intruding into or attacking others' information systems except in response to acts or imminent threats of virtual or physical aggression. Ironically, it was the Russians - now so adept in cyberspace - who first floated this idea 13 years ago in a meeting with their American counterparts.

When the Russian position was communicated to higher-ups in the U.S. government, the response was negative. I know because I was part of the American team, and I urged acceptance of the Russian offer. But the prevailing view was that Moscow's offer was a sign that we were ahead - and should keep ahead, not give up an advantage. So a cyber arms race arose, like the nuclear arms race that ensued after the United States refused to join a global ban on nuclear weapons about 60 years ago.

All the evidence to date suggests that we are not ahead in this race. In fact, our open society provides the biggest and richest set of targets in the world. Yet we continue to oppose a behavior-based form of cyber arms control that might look something like the Chemical Weapons Convention - one of the world's great successes in renouncing the use of terrible weapons that almost anyone can easily produce.

Yet there is still time - just barely - to act. We must begin by moving away from cyber defense strategies that just don't work, and then we should embrace a behavior-based arms control effort. The alternative will be, inevitably, a cyber 9/11 that could have dire consequences for the economy or for our troops in the field if they are engaged in battle when the digital storm hits.

If such an attack does come, no commission will be able to conclude that it could not have been foreseen. The portents have been there for all to see. There can be no excuse for failure to take action now.-- San Francisco Chronicle

John Arquilla teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. His latest book is Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military

Transparent aluminum: "That's the ticket, lad."

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - transparent aluminum scene

Though in my heart I long for simpler times, I can't help but be excited by the pace of scientific discovery.

Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. 'Transparent aluminium' previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion. -- Read more at PhysOrg.com

Fascinating times indeed.

Does the USGS expect part of CA to fall into the ocean?

Has anyone else noticed this today? The U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program has drawn a big red line on it's map -- right through part of California. Now we all know that California is falling apart financially but, does the USGS soon expect it to fall apart literally? Why would they be highlighting the Pacific plate / San Andreas fault and no other faults across America?

The focus of this week's FEMA disaster drill is terrorism, so that can't be the reason. Perhaps a clue to the line lies in the USGS website segment "Today's Earthquake Fact":

The oldest rocks on Earth are found on land. Since the ocean floor is being continually regenerated as the continental plates move across the Earth's surface, the oldest rocks on the ocean floor are less than 300 million years. In contrast, the oldest continental rocks are 4,500 million years old.

Whatever the reason for the line, I'm personally very happy to have left California years ago. No more major earthquakes for me, thank you. I'll leave the rest of you Californians to chew on this:

The USGS predicts that California will experience a major earthquake — one equal to or greater than the 1994 Northridge earthquake that was responsible for collapsing parts of Los Angeles' freeways and causing $25 billion in damage — in the next 30 years. And it's more than just a possibility. According to USGS, it’s pretty much certain.

~

UPDATE: I couldn't let this question go unanswered so, I emailed the USGS Earthquake Hazards web team and asked, "Why the red line?" I quickly received the following reply [printed with permission]:

Hello-

We upgraded our US maps this morning to include plate boundaries (bold red lines) for the US map and 10-10 degree maps, and faults (thin red lines) on the 2x2 degree maps.

The text under the maps has been updated to identify the plate boundaries and faults.

The bold red line that runs through California and out into the ocean is the plate boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American plate (which we call the San Andreas Fault in California). The small area offshore of Oregon and Washington outlined by plate boundaries is the smallest plate in the world, called the Juan de Fuca plate.

There are no other plate boundaries in the US, and there are only a few other places in the world where the plate boundary crosses a continent or landmass (Iceland is one).

There was no significance to why the maps changed today. We've been working on these new maps for quite a while now, and they were finally ready to go public this morning.

- Lisa

--------------------------
Lisa Wald, Geophysicist
Web Team Manager
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
Golden, CO

Mystery solved. Thank you Ms. Wald -- and thank you EHP team! Keep up the good work.

Why Obama supporters are the first to be fired

Click photo to enlarge.

[An actual post from Yahoo Answers - 9 months ago...]

Can my boss fire me for supporting Obama?

I work for a small business (~30 of us), and my boss told all of us that if and when (hopefully) Obama wins, he will be forced to let some of us go. He has this crazy notion that his taxes are going to go up if Obama wins.

He told us, that to be fair, he would be letting those who supported Obama go first. Now, I never told him I who I was voting for, but I do wear an Obama shirt quite often and I do have an Obama 08 bumper sticker on my car...do you think I will get the axe?

I really can't get fired! I just spent $1500 on a hydroponics set up and a brand new snowboard...I will be hosed. :(

[additional details -- added to first post]

Ok, assuming I do get fired, will it be easy to take him to court and prove it was because I supported Obama? Will the courts supply me with a free lawyer, or do I have to call them up myself and ask them to do it for free?

I don't exactly have the most marvelous track record at the office (been late a few times, printed out some articles from a political/adult magazine on the work computer, and put a fire extinguisher in the baler) ....so he may just be using this as an excuse to oppress mefurther for simply just wanting to exercise my vote.

I keep hearing about this bail out thing Obama passed to help people pay their credit cards and rent for their houses...Is there a form I have to fill out to get my money? How do I go about doing this?

I'm really struggling :(

[I can see him now... still hoping for change.]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

For my #1 fan in Belgium. - c

More than 200 dancers perform their version of "Do Re Mi" in the Central Station of Antwerp. With just two rehearsals the crowd created this amazing stunt as a promotion for a Belgian television program that was looking for someone to play the leading role in the musical "The Sound of Music".

A Taste of Socialized Medicine: NY Mandates Flu Shot for Health Workers

Nurses Association Opposes Mandatory Flu Shots for Health Workers

State Hospital Council Passes Emergency Rule

The New York State Nurses Association strongly opposed a regulation that would require every healthcare worker in the state to be immunized for influenza, but the New York State Hospital Planning and Review Council passed the proposal anyway.

The emergency rule could go into effect before this winter's flu season. The rule affects all healthcare personnel, both paid and unpaid, who interact with patients in hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, certified home health agencies, long-term healthcare programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care services, and hospices.

In its testimony, the Nurses Association called the council's action a "scorched earth" approach. "While we encourage nurses to be immunized for the flu, we do not agree that nurses should be required to get immunizations as a condition of employment," said Eileen Avery, RN, associate director of the association's Education, Practice & Research Program.

The regulation's impact on the state's shortage of nurses could be significant. There is no exemption for individuals with religious or cultural preferences regarding immunization. "This rule effectively blocks these individuals from earning their livelihood as nurses," Avery said. "It's possible that nurses will leave the profession or choose another career because of this onerous mandate; a serious threat at a time when the shortage of nurses in New York State is expected to reach 20,000 within a decade."

Full text of the testimony: http://www.nysna.org/advocacy/testimonies/mandated_shots.htm

For more information contact: Nancy Webber, 518-782-9400, Ext. 223

Related: This is your brain... after flu vaccines

Reflection

The beach by Lake Ontario, Toronto, Canada. via DailyDoseOfImages


"Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him." -- John Locke


Gone fishing.

America's First Post Offices

Oklahoma's First Post Office With Rifleman Standing Guard, April 22, 1889.

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. -- story & video at History.com


Captain William J. Tate, the Wright Brothers' first host in Kitty Hawk, and family on porch of their home, the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina post office.


Old postcard depicting the first post office in Linton, Indiana.


The Elba, Michigan post office was established in the east wing of the Root home.


Collins & Gray Successors of W.H. Dolman General Merchant was home to the Alsea, Oregon post office. The sign hanging adjacent (center) declares "Post Office".


A post card published in 1938 shows off Yellowknife, Alaska's first post office -- the large white building at center left -- the Yellowknife Supplies general store.


Old postcard depicting the first post office in Baltimore, Maryland.


Dayton, Tennessee’s first Post Office was located in Smith’s Crossroads.


This impressive home was built by Captain Moore around 1800. It was one of the first post offices in Yancey, North Carolina. The mail was brought in weekly and dumped out of the bag onto the floor and people came there and sorted through it to find letters addressed to them.

~ ~ ~

It is believed that the tradition from England of dropping mail off at coffee houses and taverns was adopted by the earliest Bostonians as an article in the April 8th, 1922, Boston Globe describes:

"The first post office in Boston--and probably in the first in America--was established in the home of Richard Fairbanks, on or very near the site of the [then] present Boston Globe building in 1639. On November 6 of that year, the Court voted:

'For preventing the miscarriage of letters; & it is ordered, that notice bee given that Richard Fairbanks his house in Boston is the place appointed for all letters which are brought from beyond the seas, or are to be sent thither, are to bee brought into; and hee is to take care that they bee delivered or sent according to their directions; and hee is allowed for every such letter 1 penny, & must answere all miscarriages through his owne neglect in this kind; provided, that no man shalbee compelled to bring his letters thither, except hee please.'" -- source

Happy Anniversary U.S. Postal Service

Saturday, July 25, 2009

FEMA Disaster Drill This Week

No amount of kitty treats can make up for doing this photo shoot.

Hold on to your tin foil hats folks because all this week (Monday through Friday) FEMA will be conducting a terrorism drill -- a fact not lost on conspiracy nuts who believe that the government had prior knowledge of 9/11 because FEMA had planned on 9/12 to conduct a biological-terrorism drill in a commercial warehouse on the Hudson and already had personnel in place on 9/10 in New York. Right. /s

Here's the gist of this week's operation from the FEMA press release:

FEMA's National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.

The NLE 09 scenario will begin in the aftermath of a notional [theoretical] terrorist event outside of the United States, and exercise play will center on preventing subsequent efforts by the terrorists to enter the United States and carry out additional attacks. This scenario enables participating senior officials to focus on issues related to preventing terrorist events domestically and protecting U.S. critical infrastructure.

NLE 09 will be an operations-based exercise to include: activities taking place at command posts, emergency operation centers, intelligence centers and potential field locations to include federal headquarters facilities in the Washington D.C. area, and in federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in FEMA Region VI, which includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and California.

Now, the only thing that I find odd about this report is that FEMA Region VI does not include California. Unfortunate wording, but likely a fact not lost on the tin foil hat crowd either.

Other than that folks, nothing out of the ordinary. There will be no dirty bomb explosion happening in Mexico this week. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Of course, if you don't believe me, you can always contact the FEMA News Desk: 202-646-4600. I'm sure they're trained to handle all types of calls.

Simon's Cat

'Fly Guy' is latest (and greatest to date) cartoon from Simon Tofield. Following are the rest in the series, in ascending order of my favorites. If you have a cat, you're guaranteed to giggle while watching; if you don't, you're guaranteed to think twice before getting one. Enjoy!

Simon's Cat 'Fly Guy'

A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to catch a housefly.

Simon's Cat 'TV Dinner'

A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to gain its owner's attention.

Simon's Cat 'Let Me In!'

A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to get indoors.

Simon's Cat 'Cat Man Do'

A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to wake its sleeping owner.

The World According to Clint

No, not Clint Eastwood... but, you just might think so.

Clint Smith, Director of Thunder Ranch, is part drill instructor and part stand-up comic. Here are a few of his observations on tactics, firearms, self defense and life:

"The handgun would not be my choice of weapon if I knew I was going to a fight. I'd choose a rifle, a shotgun, an RPG or an atomic bomb instead."

"The two most important rules in a gunfight are: always cheat and always win."

"Every time I teach a class, I discover I don't know something."

"Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."

"Make your attacker advance through a wall of bullets. I may get killed with my own gun, but he's gonna have to beat me to death with it, 'cause it's going to be empty."

"If you're not shootin', you should be loadin'. If you're not loadin' you should be movin', if you're not movin', someone's gonna cut your head off and put it on a stick."

"When you reload in low light encounters, don't put your flashlight in your back pocket. If you light yourself up, you'll look like an angel or the tooth fairy... either way, you're gonna be one of 'em pretty soon."

"Do something. It may be wrong, but do something."

"Shoot what's available, as long as it's available, until something else becomes available."

"If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. That's ridiculous. If I have a gun, what in the hell do I have to be paranoid for?"

"Don't shoot fast, shoot good."

"You can say 'stop' or 'alto' or use any other word you think will work, but I've found that a large bore muzzle pointed at someone's head is pretty much the universal language."

"You have the rest of your life to solve your problems. How long you live depends on how well you do it."

"You cannot save the planet. You may be able to save yourself and your family."

"Thunder Ranch will be here as long as you'll have us or until someone makes us go away - either way it will be exciting."

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." -- G. K. Chesterton

Archetype of the female spy

92 years ago today, a would-be kindergarten teacher from a small town in northern Holland was sentenced to die for spying on Germany's behalf during World War I. Her trial was said to have been riddled with bias and circumstantial evidence. Many believed the French authorities, as well as the press, trumped her up as "the greatest woman spy of the century" as a distraction for the huge losses the French army was suffering on the Western Front. The French needed to find a scapegoat. They gave the world Margueretha Gertruida Zelle. She gave us Mata Hari.

Some could argue that the shattering of her lavish early childhood - her wealthy father went bankrupt and divorced her mother who died shortly after - led her to the life she chose, but that would be omitting much.

Her studies to be a teacher were ended in disgrace due to the advances of her headmaster. She married a Dutch Colonial Army officer who had placed a newspaper ad seeking a wife - he turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. Neither of her two children survived to adulthood, possibly from complications relating to syphilis, contracted from their parents. The likely source? - her husband's affairs. Such tragedies filled her young life.

In 1903, at the age of 27, Margaretha moved to Paris, where she performed as a circus horse rider, using the name Lady MacLeod. Like many single women in today's economic downturn, she struggled to earn a living, turning eventually to her only asset, her body. She posed as an artist's model, but didn't begin to win fame until she fully cast aside her previous life, reinventing herself as the exotic dancer Mata Hari.

Promiscuous, flirtatious, and openly flaunting her body, she captivated her audiences and was an overnight success from the debut of her act at the Musée Guimet on 13 March, 1905.

Mata Hari - Photo Gallery

Her exotic dances soon earned her fans all over Europe, where she packed dance halls from Moscow to Berlin to Madrid, largely because of her willingness to dance almost entirely naked in public.

She became a celebrated courtesan, and by the outbreak of World War I, her catalog of lovers included high-ranking military officers, politicians, and others in influential positions in many countries, including the German crown prince, who paid for her luxurious lifestyle.

As a Dutch subject, Mata Hari was able to cross national borders freely. Avoiding the battlefields, she travelled between France and the Netherlands via Spain and Britain - her movements inevitably attracting attention.

On one occasion, when interviewed by British intelligence officers, she admitted to working as an agent for French military intelligence, although the latter would not confirm her story. It is unclear if she lied on this occasion, believing the story made her sound more intriguing, or if French authorities were using her in such a way, but would not acknowledge her due to the embarrassment and international backlash it could cause.

Regardless, her new life began to crumble, when in January 1917, the German military attaché in Madrid transmitted radio messages to Berlin describing the helpful activities of a German spy, code-named H-21. French intelligence agents intercepted the messages and, from the information they contained, identified H-21 as Mata Hari. Unusually, the messages were in a code that German intelligence knew had already been broken by the French, leaving some historians to suspect that the messages were contrived.

On 13 February, 1917, Mata Hari was arrested in her room at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. She was put on trial, accused of spying for Germany and consequently causing the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers. She was found guilty and was executed by firing squad on 15 October, 1917, at the age of 41.

The Execution of Mata Hari in 1917.

Her dying words were purported to be "Merci, monsieur," but another source claims that, in an attempt to distract her executioners, she flung open her coat and exposed her naked body. "Harlot, yes, but traitor, never," she is reported to have said.

Thus, fueled by the fires of popular imagination - the idea of an exotic dancer working as a lethal double agent, using her powers of seduction to extract military secrets from her many lovers - a legend was born, forever casting Mata Hari as the archetype of the female spy.

Sources: Wikipedia, History.com

Greta Garbo & Ramón Novarro - Mata Hari (1931)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The CIA, licensed to kill for decades

Fictional CIA assassin Jason Bourne

via Today's Zaman

Back in 1960, the CIA hatched a plan to kill Patrice Lumumba by infecting his toothbrush with a deadly disease. The Congolese leader would brush his teeth and, presto, in a few days or weeks he would be gone.

Around the same time, the CIA's Health Alteration Committee -- who thought that name up? -- sent a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief to Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, the leader of Iraq.

And the CIA's "executive action" unit plotted for years to murder Fidel Castro. It hired the Mafia to poison his food and tried to give him a diving suit contaminated with Madura foot, a rare tropical disease that starts in the foot and moves upward, slowly destroying the body. The CIA also considered offing the Cuban leader with an exploding cigar, a poison pen and a seashell that would blow up under water when he touched it.

Not one of the plots was successful. Lumumba and Kassem were executed by their foes, and Castro is still alive. But the plots make clear that the CIA has been licensed to kill for decades.

Congress -- especially congressional Democrats -- was outraged earlier this month when it was disclosed that, apparently on orders from Vice President Dick Cheney, the CIA for eight years concealed from Congress a program to assassinate the leaders of al-Qaeda, starting with Osama bin Laden. But they shouldn't have been surprised that such a plan was being hatched.

The CIA's involvement in planning assassinations goes back at least to 1954, when it prepared a manual for killings as part of a US-run coup against the leftist government of Guatemala. The 19-page manual, which was declassified in 1997, makes chilling reading. "The essential point of assassination is the death of the subject," it declares, noting that although it "is possible to kill a man with the bare hands … the simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of assassination. A hammer, ax, wrench, screwdriver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice."

The agency's manual recommends "the contrived accident" as the best way to dispose of someone. "The most efficient accident … is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stairwells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve." The manual suggests grabbing the victim by the ankles and "tipping the subject over the edge. … Falls before trains or subway cars are usually effective, but require exact timing."

The manual goes on to discuss "blunt weapons," noting that "a hammer can be picked up almost anywhere in the world" and that baseball bats are also excellent. The manual explains the best place in the body to stab people or how to bash their skulls in and the pros and cons of rifles, pistols, submachine guns and other weapons.

During the Cold War years, the CIA plotted against eight foreign leaders, five of whom died violently. The agency's role varied in each case.

After the plots were publicized by a Senate committee, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order in 1976 barring political assassination. President Ronald Reagan broadened the ban, dropping the word "political" and extending the prohibition to include contract killers as well as government employees.

Although the ban remains in effect, it largely has been ignored on the premise that it does not apply in a military setting. Consider the following:

In 1986, Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya in retaliation for a terrorist attack on a Berlin disco that killed three people, including two US servicemen, and wounded more than 200 others. In the air strike, Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, a target of the raid, escaped unharmed, but his 2-year-old adopted daughter was killed.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the first Bush administration bombed Baghdad, Robert M. Gates, the former CIA director and current defense secretary, said White House officials hoped that "Saddam Hussein would be killed in a bunker." At an air base in Saudi Arabia that year, Cheney, then secretary of defense, and Gen. Colin L. Powell signed a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb destined for Iraq. "To Saddam with affection," Cheney wrote.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike on al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan after the bombing of two US embassies in Africa. The White House was clearly disappointed when the strike failed to kill Bin Laden, who reportedly left one of the camps shortly before the attack.

A year later, again during the Clinton administration, NATO bombed Belgrade after Serbia forced ethnic Albanians to flee from Kosovo. A cruise missile was lobbed into the bedroom of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader and Yugoslav president, but he was not sleeping there and escaped injury.

In Yemen in 2002, a CIA Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile that destroyed a car in which a top al-Qaeda leader, Qaed Sinan Harithi, was riding.

The problem with assassination, morality aside, is that the US is not very good at it, as the CIA's farcical efforts to murder Castro demonstrate. It seems unlikely that the CIA will kill Bin Laden with a baseball bat. And there is the real possibility of retaliation for a state-sponsored assassination. President John Kennedy was quoted as saying, "We can't get into that kind of thing or we would all be targets."

Perhaps CIA Director Leon Panetta had that in mind when he canceled the assassination program. -- ###

By David Wise, the author of Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million and Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America.

The Balloonist and the Fisherman

A woman in a hot air balloon realizes she is lost. She lowers her altitude and spots a man fishing from a boat below.

She shouts to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The fisherman consults his portable GPS and replies, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolls her eyes and says, "You must be a Republican!"

"I am," replies the fisherman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answers the balloonist, "everything you tell me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you're not much help to me."

The fisherman smiles and responds, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replies the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the fisherman, "You don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, and now you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but, somehow, now it's my fault."

h/t: Teak

~ ~ ~

Don't get me started...

Archie Bunker on Democrats

Bob Hope on Zombies and Democrats