26 February 2008

Sharks with Lasers...

It's not every day that the Navy gets to knock a satellite out of the sky, it seems that the Army has been working on their own skills. This video of the MTHEL system is part sales pitch part scary glimpse into the future. Do you recall the mortar attacks perpetrated in London in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Imagine one (or a few) of these systems employed about a vulnerable city or asset.

The gap between science fiction and reality is not that wide. It will be a significant challenge to the futurists of today to peel back the veil of tomorrow.

Hmm, I like that...

19 February 2008

The rise and fall of Ron Paul....

Many years ago I was a libertarian. I registered and was a member of the party. This was in the heady GOP years of Reagan Bush and the advent of the Clinton era. I was introduced to libertarianism by my very smart brother. He’s a likable fellow. Although he is an attorney by training; he’s really an outgoing lover of the outdoors. He would be right at home in any of the independent western states or Texas.

I liked the libertarian view of government non-involvement and free market support. What I failed to realize in my early romance with the party, was that libertarians are about as close to anarchists as one can get. They do not support foreign policy as a tool of national interest, the space program or any safety net for the populace. It was the failure to support a national space program which turned me off from libertarians.

Ron Paul was once the libertarian nominee for president. He switched parties and now stands as a republican candidate for president from Texas’ 14th congressional district. He appealed to that gulf coast constituency through his voting record against taxes and adhering to a zealot’s interpretation of the constitution. In fact his record was so negative, he became known as Dr. No among the other members of the House of Representatives. Like many in congress, Paul could have quietly lived out his terms in perpetuity with little or no attention from anyone. Only the extremely outspoken, like Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, have made national news as a member of congress. And she had to strike a police officer to do it.

Paul caught the attention of a number of disaffected Americans with his simplistic economic proposals, listed here at his official site. He would eliminate the income tax, shrink federal government and end ALL our involvement with foreign aid. The problem is that Ron’s facts are in disarray.

Commonly cited by Paul supporters is the site Fact Check. They claim that since this site has not targeted Paul, then his views are accurate. A recent piece by Fact Check touched on only three basic assertions of Paul’s campaign. All proved to be so wildly inaccurate as to raise the question whether he is even qualified to hold his congressional seat. Which is being challenged, by the way, by a member of his own party – a CPA named Chris Peden. An NPR analysis of the article brought on waves of Paulites who spent time criticizing and attacking NPR, the author of the piece and parsing the statements which can be easily found with a Google search and attributable to Paul. Even Glenn Reynolds, the normally free market oriented webmaster of Instapundit, has steered clear of the Paul campaign.

Perhaps most disturbing is the range of adherents to his campaign. At a site called Militias for Paul, the individual(s) proffer their opinions on global conspiracy, Zionist empires and seem to advocate the overthrow of the government. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but one shall be known by the company they keep.

Ron Paul, or as he is referred to by the faithful, Dr. Paul, recently appointed a new economic adviser. Little attention was paid to the pedigree of this individual, that his father is serving time for federal tax fraud or that he espouses the “illegitimacy” of the federal tax system. Paul has been dissected time and time again and come up wanting. If one looks for some insight into Paul's philosophy, one can see it relies upon fear and conspiracy. The initial appeal of independence and self reliance quickly withers when one considers the strange political views expressed in his newsletters. His own involvement and authorship of these documents having never been fully explained.

Like an old time preacher, he offers a fiery oratory full of rhetoric, appealing to the disenchanted. He has spawned a number of support sites, Daily Paul, invigorated many young people and raised a LOT of money. But he has failed to break out of the margin of error in any polls. With his ten term congressional seat in serious danger, this may be the final act for Paul.
Like a persistent chicken little, he now appears to be poised to exit stage right.
Way right.

15 February 2008

Knock, knock...who's there? Ka. Ka Who? Ka-Boom....

Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer talks about looking at the risk from asteroids. The general consensus is that if a VLO (very large object) were heading towards earth, there's not a lot we can do about it today. The story below is about a US satellite which is heading towards earth. The folks in the conspiracy world will no doubt seize upon the last paragraph as evidence that the satellite is more than whatever it is claimed to be.

However, the risk from toxic chemical exposure is very real. In the early 1990s I was living in Baltimore. Citizen Prime was working at a north side hospital when an Air Force F117 Nighthawk crashed and burned in a northeast Baltimore neighborhood during an airshow. Firefighters who responded were overcome by the fumes from the burning composites and rushed to the hospital. No one had briefed them on the possible exposure to such dangerous chemicals.

It seems that as our society continues to become more complex, the hazards we face are also infinitely more challenging.

Nonetheless, shooting a satellite out of the sky from a cruiser or destroyer is very cool.

DoD To Engage Decaying Satellite
Thu, 14 Feb 2008 12:47:00 -0600

February 14, 2008

DoD To Engage Decaying Satellite

An uncontrollable U.S. experimental satellite which was launched in December 2006 is expected to reenter Earth's atmosphere between the end of February and early March. Because the satellite was never operational, analysis indicate that approximately 2,500 pounds (1134 kgs) of satellite mass will survive reentry, including 1,000 pounds (453 kgs) of propellant fuel (hydrazine), a hazardous material.

Although the chances of an impact in a populated area are small, the potential consequences would be of enough concern to consider mitigating actions. Therefore, the President has decided to take action to mitigate the risk to human lives by engaging the non-functioning satellite. Because our missile defense system is not designed to engage satellites, extraordinary measures have been taken to temporarily modify three sea-based tactical missiles and three ships to carry out the engagement.

Based on modeling and analysis, our officials have high confidence that the engagement will be successful. As for when this engagement will occur, we will determine the optimal time, location, and geometry for a successful engagement based on a number of factors. As the satellite's path continues to decay, there will be a window of opportunity between late February and early March to conduct this engagement. The decision to engage the satellite has to be made before a precise prediction of impact location is available.

Contact with hydrazine is hazardous. Direct contact with skin or eyes, ingestion or inhalations from hydrazine released from the tank upon impact could result in immediate danger. If this operation is successful, the hydrazine will then no longer pose a risk to humans.

The U.S. government has been and continues to track and monitor this satellite. Various government agencies are planning for the reentry of the satellite. In the event the engagement is not successful, all appropriate elements of the U.S. Government are working together to explore options to mitigate the danger to humans and to ensure that all parties are properly prepared to respond. In the unlikely event satellite pieces land in a populated area, people are strongly advised to avoid the impact area until trained hazardous materials (HAZMAT) teams are able to properly dispose of any remaining hydrazine.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

On the Web: http://www.defenselink.mil/Releases/

Media Contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public Contact: http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/comment.html or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1

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14 February 2008

One born every minute...

PT Barnum was right. You can fool all of the people some of the time.

Ah, the never-ending stream of scam e-mails.

This one particularly struck me as inventive. Apparently some nameless
person has deposited some money in an account for me! Hooray! I only
have to send a copy of my ID and personal information to claim this
tremendous benefit! I suspect that if one were to add up all the funds
offered via these internet scams, it would exceed the total amount of
cash in circulation. And yet, people continue to fall for these types
of frauds.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ruiu Monica [mailto:ruiu.monica@orange.nl]
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 2:17 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Congratulation Your Payment Is Successful

Good day,

I have been waiting for you since to come down here and pick
your bank draft but did not hear from you since that time then i went
and deposited the 1.200,000.00 Euros draft/cheque in the bank.

We have arranged your payment through swift card payment center
Asia pacific, this card center will send you an Atm Card which you will
use to withdraw your money in any Atm machine in any part of the world,
but the maximum is One Thousand, Five Hundred Euros per day.

Kindly contact the below person who is in position to release
your ATM Payment Card. Send your information which they will use to send
the card to you.

1::Your full name::
2::Your home address were you want them to send the atmcard::
3::Current occupation::
5::Your current home telephone number/mobile phone number:: ::
6::A Copy of your identification::

However, kindly contact the below person who is in position to
release your Atm Card.


ATM Payment Department Apex Bank

Email Address: atmapex@myway.com <mailto:atmapex@myway.com>

I have paid for the processing charges.the only money that your
are going to pay to them is only 100 Euros which they will use to obtain
the affidavit of onwership from the federal high court of Benin

Try to contact them as soon as possible to quicken the
processing of your card before your draft gets expired .

Let me know as soon as you receive your card. Wait for your

Thanks You For Your Good Co-operation in this matter.


I have left the included e-mail addresses intact in the hopes that some
mail trolling spider program will add them to their own spam lists and
thus provide some counter to this nonsense.

By no means are internet cash offers alone being swallowed hook line and
sinker by gullible people. Individuals are investing a lot of money in
unproven (and dangerous) cancer cures, diet pills, suspicious
"enhancement" drugs and a host of other "too good to be true" items and
If you, for example, are depressed, the Church of Scientology
would like to talk to you, because, after all, psychiatry kills.

Our complicit media is equally to blame for this continued lack of
critical thinking among the populace. Recently, the governor of New
York - Elliot Spitzer - published an article in the Washington Post
claiming that a little known federal department was the root cause of
the sub prime crisis - preventing the noble states from enacting their
predatory lending laws.


Governor Spitzer has used his bully pulpit as the AG for New York, and
now governor, to pursue his version of social activism. And yet his
actions as AG and governor have been far from pristine in terms of

The issue at hand is with the nature of humanity to deal with problems
quickly and simply. When we roamed the African plains, we simply ran
from danger. This has morphed into a virtual fleeing from
accountability and reason. We want a solution and are unwilling to
stick around to understand the situation.

Understandable, but the tendency towards wishful thinking has eclipsed
many a rational thought.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to e-mail Ms. Monica...

10 February 2008

The Few, The Proud, The Marines...

The Mayor of Toledo banned a USMC unit from conducting training in the city. There is quite a bit of stir on the web about this, but little news in the mainstream press. This is understandable. The Marines are not in the habit of crying to the press when something doesn't go their way, as the Major from the unit stated;

"We're Marines, we adapt and overcome."

What is disappointing is the poor reasoning given by the mayor in what appears to be an obvious political statement. Live training is critical to building a unit's response skills and understanding problems with equipment, training, tactics and procedures (TTP). In Atlanta, during a mock terrorist attack, local emergency services discovered a horribole flaw with their radio system - it didn't work at all in MARTA stations.

There is a strong push to hold the Toldeo mayor accountable both for his suspect actions and the wasted taxpayer money lost in preparing for this exercise. Given the size of Toledo, it is hard for me to believe that the mayor did not know about this event in the city.

06 February 2008

I love this plane...

What military aircraft are you?

F/A-22 Raptor

You are an F/A-22. You are technologically inclined, and though you've never been tested in combat, your very name is feared. You like noise, but prefer not to pollute any more than you have to. And you can move with the best.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Time Machine...

Super Tuesday is behind us and the road to the Presidency is just as foggy as ever. Both democratic candidates are claiming victory and the republican field is in some disarray, due to the “anti-vote” in support of Mike Huckabee.

Full disclosure, I pulled the lever (touched the screen) for McCain.

Huckabee appeals to the old line conservatives of the party who clamor for a rigid adherence to values. Although I think that Romney is the best manager in the group, the President has little effect on the economy. I prefer McCain’s stronger national security posture and flexible domestic policy.

Ron Paul had a decent showing in the northwest, a location of fierce independents and the former home of Ted Kaczinski (the Unabomber), various militias and many adherents to the “code of the west”. Paul, who hasn’t a prayer of influencing the convention or making a dent in the news cycle the moment he drops out of the race, remains the crotchety curmudgeon.

Ron Paul: “In my day we had to barter in gold and beaver pelts..”

Interviewer: “But congressman, when FDR moved from the gold standard, isn’t that one of the most commonly cited reasons for recovery after the crash of 1929?”

Ron Paul: “When I was a flight surgeon, we had to wing walk to look after our patients…”

He is, bless his heart, a crank.

Huckabee, however, poses a much more challenging puzzle. He will have some influence in the convention.

Hopefully very little.

The specter of a revival of the religious right in the GOP is depressing. Frankly, there is enough to work on with security, economics, education and health care without resurrecting rhetorical constructs like abortion, gay marriage and the inclusion of the ten commandments in public documents.

01 February 2008

The new war, continued...

It seems that the assault on Scientology has gained the attention of one of my favorite news publications. The Economist reports the issue in typical matter of fact style with just the soupcon of humor that is the style of the magazine. I am also aware of several mysterious mail items showing up at Scientology sites. This is disturbing. It risks shifting the reasonable protest against a dangerous cult to a criminal attack on human beings. I certainly hope the group Anonymous has the good sense to disavow any association with such activities!

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