Sunday, November 30, 2008

Under the Milky Way

360° panorama of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley at night. The Milky Way is visible as the arc in the center. Full resolution‎ 4,000 × 1,290. Click image to enlarge.

From Milky Way Set to Moonrise

Time lapse video of the Milky Way setting behind the large telescopes of Paranal Observatory, north Chile, followed by light from the moonrise (occuring behind the camera).

Under The Milky Way - The Church

Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty
Sound of their breath fades with the light
I think about the loveless fascination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Lower the curtain down in Memphis
Lower the curtain down all right
I got no time for private consultation
Under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

And it's something quite peculiar
Something that's shimmering and white
It leads you here despite your destination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Under the Milky Way tonight

India Points at Pakistan

India Strategic: Indian Air Force, 75 and Beyond

Indian air and missile forces on war footing, Pakistani armored units diverted from Afghan border --DEBKAfile Special Report

DEBKAfile's military sources report that on Sunday, Nov. 30, Asia's two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, took their first steps towards a conventional war. India, claiming evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the Islamist terrorist assault on Mumbai, placed its air and missile units on war preparedness, while Pakistan, disclaiming the charge, diverted its armed divisions from the Afghan border to its frontier with India.

Pakistani Defense Forum: Ukrainian T-80ud

Military experts fear a full-blown war could spill over into combat with tactical nuclear weapons.

For the Indian government, the last straw was the admission by Azam Amir Kasab, aged 21, the only terrorist known to have been captured by Indian forces, that Lashkar e-Taiba was behind the assault which claimed 174 lives, injured hundreds and devastated India's financial capital.

This Kashmiri group has links to both al Qaeda and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

From its outset on Wednesday, Nov. 26, the scale, coordination and clockwork targeting of the assault clearly betrayed the hand of a major national intelligence agency. Evidence also mounted that the attackers had reached Mumbai by boat from Karachi.

Current: Picture of Mumbai Terror Boat

Five months ago, Taliban suicide killers attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul, claiming 60 lives including that of the Indian military attaché. The New Delhi government then found leads to Pakistan's clandestine service as the prime mover behind the outrage. Washington came up with the same proofs.

The Manmohan Singh government sees the Mumbai assault as a second, escalated Pakistani act of war-by-terror and cannot afford to avoid a strong, immediate response - particularly with a general election around the corner next May. If Singh braves the media and public howls for Pakistani blood and shows the same restraint as he did after the Kabul attack, he will lose his seat.

Thought Leader: Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India

Domestic opinion is goading the New Delhi to act tough after what is perceived as the poor, slow and unprofessional performance of the police and special forces in quelling the terrorists. Indian commandos were brought in 10 hours after the terrorists took over and it took them 60 hours to finally gain control of the three hostage sites Saturday, Nov. 29. Sunday, home minister Shivraj Patil resigned in response to the clamor followed by national security advisor MK Narayanan.

Rediff: Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil Resigns

India and Pakistan have fought three wars and barely avoided a fourth in 2001.

President George Bush and his successor Barack Obama cannot hope for much headway in defusing Indian-Pakistan tension. With only a few weeks left in the White House, Bush does not have much leverage and Obama even less for pulling the two adversaries apart. While campaigning, the president-elect pledged to work to mend the fences between India and Pakistan and broker their Kashmir conflict. In the present climate, neither is looking for a mediator.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quiz: What gun is right for you?

Quiz: What gun is right for you?

I scored the Dragunov SVD. Imagine that. ;) - c

For you anti-gun types, don't bother taking the quiz. Here's your result:

We're coming for you!

Shabab Al-Mujahideen from The Ignored Puzzle Pieces of Knowledge

Somali Jihadists Call on American and European Muslims to Join Jihad in Somalia


In a video posted recently on Islamist websites, the Somali jihad group Shabab Al-Mujahideen called on Muslims living in the U.S. and Europe to come to Somalia and join the jihad there. The video is in Arabic, Somali and English.

Following are excerpts from the English part (quoted verbatim):

"To those people still sitting at home, relaxing, having good food, good sleep… what you see of Chichan [i.e., Chechnya], Iraq and Afghanistan and such likes… too much watching… with no action – it leads to nifaq [i.e., hypocrisy]… Jihad becomes something of talk. But jihad is real. There is no way you can tell the sweetness of jihad until you come to jihad... If you don't come to jihad, Allah… will ask you why you didn't come to jihad...

"How can you sit at home when our brothers and sisters are being murdered in our land [Somalia]? How dare you sit at home, looking at the TV, seeing people being killed, Muslims getting killed?... Those who are in Europe and America: You should get out of those countries, you should make hijra [i.e., emigrate]!

"I'm telling the kuffar [i.e., infidels], the English People, the American people… We're coming for you! We're going to exterminate you all!

"We are muhajirun [i.e., foreigners fighting in Somalia]. We have come to the land of jihad, and we're doing OK. You guys can also do the same way. You can make hijra [i.e., immigrate] to this land, and fight the kuffar...

"To the people who say that there are no muhajirun in Somalia, I'd like to say that there are muhajirun. We are muhajirun… All I can say is, I invite you to come to this land of jihad."

It should be noted that, on November 25, 2008, ABC News aired a report about an American of Somali origin – Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis – who was allegedly involved in jihad in Somalia. According to the report, the FBI believes that Ahmed created a recruiting network in the Minneapolis area, and enlisted several young men who have since disappeared. U.S. officials suspect that most of them have departed for Somalia in order to fight there. They also suspect that Ahmed himself carried out a suicide bombing in Somalia a month ago. (1)

Endnote: (1) ABC News, November 25, 2008,

Thursday, November 27, 2008



pull the plug

Indian Terrorists Linked to al-Qaeda

The terrorist groups who attacked the Indian city of Mumbai are closely linked to al-Qaeda, a high-ranking Russian secret service source said Thursday.

"Russian secret services have information suggesting that the groups that attacked Mumbai had had contact with al-Qaeda," the source said. "In particular, the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. This group's militants undergo special training in al-Qaeda camps on the border between Pakistan and India."

Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied involvement in the attacks.

A series of terrorist attacks were carried out in Mumbai on Wednesday as terrorists armed with sub machine guns and grenades attacked hotels, the railway station, a cinema, and a hospital.

Indian authorities have said 125 people died and 327 were injured in the attacks.

People who escaped from the hotels described the militants as young men speaking Hindi or Urdu, and said they had attempted to round up all the British and American guests.

Hostages are still being held at the Oberoi-Trident hotel and a nearby Jewish center and Indian commandoes have launched an operation to free them.

A previously unknown Islamist group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks. -- Source

Claim of responsibility in Mumbai attack - 27 Nov 08

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Man Godfrey

Click photo to watch film.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. If your holidays require classic cinema viewing, please enjoy one of my favorite films from 1936 -- sure to evoke a sense of gratitude. - c

My Man Godfrey

Directed by Gregory La Cava. With William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady.

In the depths of the Depression, a party game brings dizzy socialite Irene Bullock to the city dump where she meets Godfrey, a derelict, and ends by hiring him as family butler. He finds the Bullocks to be the epitome of idle rich, and nutty as the proverbial fruitcake. Soon, the dramatizing Irene is in love with her 'protege'...who feels strongly that a romance between servant and employer is out of place, regardless of that servant's mysterious past...


Hunting & Fishing: A Thanksgiving Tradition

"Fox Hunting" from Northwoods Wanderings

Outdoor sports should be fostered as key part of holiday

Americans know the economy is deflated, waistlines are inflated and there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend quality time with their families. As a result, many are looking for ways to save money, eat better and simplify their lives.

According to James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., senior vice president of conservation programs for the National Wild Turkey Federation, there is no better way to support your local economy, get a jump on your New Year’s resolution to eat better and know your food is fresh than to hunt locally and eat your catch.

“Hunters have hunted local game and provided savory, fresh turkey, venison, elk and fish for their families for hundreds of years,” Kennamer said. “Wild game is healthier, and pursuing it is not only a chance to get outside and exercise, but it’s an activity that can be done with the whole family — most of the time without ever leaving your home county.”

Key points to be made about hunting and its importance:

1) Wild game is all-natural. For example, wild turkeys feast on acorns, grasses, fruits and a variety of other plants instead of growth hormones or supplements that are fed to many farm-raised turkeys.

2) Hunting and eating local food promotes regional uniqueness. You can buy frozen foods anywhere, but locally harvested wild game such as a turkey, deer, elk or fish will have a flavor all its own.

Memory to last a lifetime

3) Heading outdoors to hunt and fish is great family time. Enjoying the outdoors as a family provides opportunities to mentor youth, carry on the outdoor tradition and create memories to last a lifetime.

4) Wild game is healthier. Because wild game scavenges in the wild for its own food, it gets more exercise than animals raised for commercial sale and is lower in fat. For example, wild turkey meat has roughly 2 percent more protein, a half percent less fat and slightly less cholesterol than farm-raised turkey meat due to its lower fat content. The quantity of fat is not only generally lower in wild game, but it is also healthier, since it contains less saturated or “bad” fat.

5) Hunting stimulates your local economy. Every dollar you spend while hunting and fishing in your area helps support not only hunt-specific jobs like meat processors and hunting guides, but also area businesses such as gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores.

6) Hunting supports wildlife conservation efforts. License fees purchased by hunters and anglers fund conservation programs that help state agencies continue improving conditions for all wildlife and access to the outdoors.

7) Hunting locally saves money. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a day outdoors and harvest your own wild game. Times are tough, but chances are likely there is a spot nearby where you can hunt, fish or enjoy a day outdoors, saving gas money and time and decreasing pollution.

"Who wants calamari?" from Funny Potato

8) Wild game is more flavorful. Eating just-caught fish or fresh venison after proper processing will let you enjoy its natural flavor at the peak of freshness – minus any artificial flavorings or preservatives.

9) Heading outdoors is good exercise. You can burn 285 calories per hour by heading afield to hunt, or 175 calories per hour by casting a line – and you can hunt or fish near home.

Hunting and fishing surround Thanksgiving, a holiday that annually sees thousands of Americans take to the outdoors. It is a tradition our states should foster and protect -- with good reason.


A Perfect Match

Click image to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Plague Factor

Theodor Kittelsen - Musstad, 1896

Study of Ancient and Modern Plagues Finds Common Features

In 430 B.C., a new and deadly disease — its cause remains a mystery — swept into Athens. The walled Greek city-state was teeming with citizens, soldiers and refugees of the war then raging between Athens and Sparta. As streets filled with corpses, social order broke down. Over the next three years, the illness returned twice and Athens lost a third of its population. It lost the war too. The Plague of Athens marked the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Greece.

Theodor Kittelsen - Pesta Kommer, 1894-95 (Pesta's Coming)

The Plague of Athens is one of 10 historically notable outbreaks described in an article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases (pdf) by authors from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The phenomenon of widespread, socially disruptive disease outbreaks has a long history prior to HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H5N1 avian influenza and other emerging diseases of the modern era, note the authors.

Theodor Kittelsen - Fattigmannen, 1894-95 (The Pauper)

"There appear to be common determinants of disease emergence that transcend time, place and human progress," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., one of the study authors. For example, international trade and troop movement during wartime played a role in both the emergence of the Plague of Athens as well as in the spread of influenza during the pandemic of 1918-19. Other factors underlying many instances of emergent diseases are poverty, lack of political will, and changes in climate, ecosystems and land use, the authors contend. "A better understanding of these determinants is essential for our preparedness for the next emerging or re-emerging disease that will inevitably confront us," says Dr. Fauci. -- Source

Theodor Kittelsen - Pesta i trappen, 1896 (Pesta (the plague) on the Stairs)

Help Wanted: Hitler Youth

As advertised on the cover of today's Tehran Times. Click image to enlarge.

Ayatollah calls on youth to join the people's militia worldwide

Duties of the Basij:

  1. enforce hijab, arrest women for violating the dress code
  2. arrest youths for attending mixed gender parties or being in public with unrelated members of the opposite sex
  3. seize "indecent" material and satellite dish antennae
  4. assist the Iranian riot police and the Ansar-e-Hezbollah in suppressing student demonstrations
  5. beat demonstrators


Rice Song

Ana Tzarev, Rice Song, 2000, Oil on Linen, 44 7/8 x 57 1/2 inches. (PRNewsFoto/Ana Tzarev Gallery)

Croatian-born artist, Ana Tzarev, announces the opening of her New York gallery location with Journey of Discovery a comprehensive exhibition inspired by the artist’s travels through Asia, Africa, the Pacific and numerous other regions. Tzarev’s paintings are concerned with both historic and present day rituals.

Journey of Discovery features signature works that depict the beauty of daily life across various global cultures; from flower markets and rice harvests in Southeast Asia to traditional dances of West African tribes; from Japanese kabuki and tea ceremonies to life along China's rivers.

Visit the gallery

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jeff Dunham: Happy Holidays

Jeff Dunham's Holiday Tips - Hanukkah

Jeff Dunham: Achmed the Dead Terrorist's "Jingle Bombs"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Midnight Gardener

The day the Dow fell 777 points, David Latham, a 45-year-old Alabama cattle farmer and electrician, was busy doing errands. Driving his Chevy pickup into Montgomery, he dropped by the hardware store, then stopped into the bank, where he withdrew $8,000 from his CD account, all in 20s. Back home, he slipped the four inch-thick bundles into a Ziploc bag, popped them into a waterproof PVC tube and set out for a remote location on his 300-acre property, where he dug a deep hole with a post digger. And then he buried it.
Is there an American alive who hasn’t considered burying his savings—or at least stashing it in the mattress—as this financial crisis has deepened? Latham assumes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will step in if his bank collapses, but he figures it might take a few weeks to get his money. Now, he says, “I can get my hands on cold, hard cash anytime I want.” But beyond that, there’s the nagging fear that the world isn’t as secure as we’d like to believe. Latham says the $8,000 is an insurance policy against, well, who knows? “I’m hedging my bets,” he says.
America’s uneasy relationship with banks has deep roots. Between the financial panic of 1837 and the Great Depression, the nation endured six widespread bank failures in which millions lost their savings. The bank runs typically started in rural areas before spreading to the cities, accounting for the lingering distrust country folks have for banks to this day. “In some ways, it really was wiser to put your money in the ground,” says Dartmouth history professor Ronald Edsforth. Given this history and the current panic, he adds, “It’s not unusual that it would resurface.”
Mitch Cohen, a family physician in the remote logging town of Elma, Wash., says his patients who grew up during the Depression have always kept savings in coffee cans buried under the porch. But in recent months, when hometown stalwart Washington Mutual went south, the younger generation caught on. Residents have taken to making treasure maps (“walk 20 paces, turn left at the tree”), which they share with a trusted friend or family member. Cohen finds it hard to argue with the impulse. He, too, snatched his cash out of WaMu before it went under. “But I moved it to a credit union,” he says. “I avoided the backyard.”
It’s not just rural folk who get the urge. Kristy Young, an accounts manager with a Texas-based credit union, recently confronted a customer who wanted to transfer $150,000 from the bank to his backyard. She pleaded with him for an hour, using arguments ranging from the technical (soundness ratings) to the practical (“If a dog digs it up, that money is gone!”). The man relented, but Young is more worried about the customers who withdrew their money silently. “I don’t put it past people to keep money in their own personal safes,” she says. Indeed, according to Doug Brush, head of business development for SentrySafe, the nation’s largest safemaker, the company’s retailers report sales of home safes increasing 20 to 40 percent in recent weeks.
Of course, there’s opportunity in every crisis. Earl Snyder, a Sarasota, Fla., home builder who first buried cash after the S&L crisis and currently tends a subterranean stash of gold coins, recently launched a Web site and eBay listing to sell an invention he calls the Midnight Gardener (a 12-by-4-inch capped, watertight PVC pipe.) As his listing notes, the device is “designed by a licensed septic installer” (“That’s me!” Snyder hoots) and perfect for burying “over $4,000 in gold, silver and paper money.” Within two weeks of the launch, Snyder sold several, and he expects more sales as the crisis wears on. “Maybe instead of Chia Pets,” he says, “people will buy a Midnight Gardener for Christmas.”
Source -- Watch the video -- Spotlight: Burying Your Cash

Friday, November 21, 2008

Garbage - Push It

Garbage - Push It - [NSFW]

This video to one of my favorite songs has become even more creepy since the election.

Enjoy the metaphors.

Gone fishing. - c

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Raw Data

from koko's corner - Foodie Road Trip Part 8

The Dow closed at 7,552.29 today.

The Dow is down 444.99 points, or 5.56 percent, today.

It is the Dow's biggest point-drop since November 5.

It is the Dow's biggest percent-drop since October 22.

The Dow is off 19.01 percent so far this month.

The Dow is down 872.46 points, or 10.36 percent, in the last two days.

It is the biggest two-day point-drop since the two days ending November 6.

It is the biggest two-day percent-drop since the two days ending October 20, 1987.

It is the Dow's lowest closing value since March 12, 2003.

The Dow is off 6,612.24 points, or 46.68 percent, from its record close of 14,164.53 — reached on October 9, 2007.

Year-to-date, the Dow is off 43.07 percent.


Ping Pwnd

Bruce Lee Ping Pong - Nokia N96

Airship vs. A-bomb

The tail, or “after” section of a U.S. Navy blimp is shown with the Stokes cloud in background. The blimp was in temporary free flight in excess of five miles from ground zero when it was collapsed by the shock wave from the blast. The airship was unmanned and was used in military effects experiments on blast and heat. Navy personnel on the ground in the vicinity of the experimental area were unhurt. On the ground to the left are the remains of the blimp's forward section. - Click image to enlarge.

The A-bomb won.

I thought this was a pretty photo to share on the day that Iran got the bomb.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What’s wrong with a little destruction?

Proposal for a new cultural hub in Slough.

Sir John Betjeman published his poem about Slough in 1937 in the collected works "Continual Dew". Slough was becoming increasingly industrial and some housing conditions were very cramped. In willing the destruction of Slough, Betjeman urges the bombs to pick out the vulgar profiteers but to spare the bald young clerks. He really was very fond of his fellow human beings. Slough is much improved nowadays and he might be pleasantly surprised by a stroll there.


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who’ll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women’s tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It’s not their fault that they are mad,
They’ve tasted Hell.

It’s not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It’s not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

David Brent’s analysis of “Slough”

"Right, I don’t think you solve town planning problems by dropping bombs all over the place, so he’s embarrassed himself there." — David Brent

"If we’re being bombed, we’ll be in the air raid shelter, loving some tinned fruit, so, yeah, laughing at him.” - David Brent

h/t: Airminded

Hi-yo, Stock Market, away!

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that construction of new homes and apartments dropped more than expected to an annual rate of 791,000 units from an upwardly revised September rate of 828,000 units. Previously, the slowest pace had been in January 1991, when the country was in recession and going through a similar housing correction. The government's records date back to 1959. # # #

Consumer prices plunged by the largest amount in the past 61 years in October as gasoline pump prices dropped by a record amount. The Labor Department reports that consumer prices fell by 1 percent last month, the biggest one-month decline on records that go back to February 1947. # # #

Click image to enlarge.

A Recession Can Clear the Air

Virtually all of America's financial and political artillery has been dragooned into the great task of heading off a recession. This is exactly the wrong way to go. As painful as it will be in the short run, a recession is just what we need.

Our economic model is broken, and trying to restart it will just dig us deeper into a hole. The massive changes that are required can be made only through the violent rejiggering that takes place during recessions. That may sound coldhearted, but there's a precedent.

From 1979 to 1981, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker masterminded a nasty slowdown that broke stagflation — the noxious combination of rising prices and no growth. Among other moves, Volcker pushed the yield on three-month Treasury bills up to an unheard-of 20 percent, stopping the economy in its tracks. Millions lost their jobs; Volcker was burned in effigy on the Capitol steps.

But when Volcker finally broke inflation's back in 1983, healthy growth resumed almost immediately, and Ronald Reagan rode the result to a landslide victory in 1984 — a little fact that people worried about a one-term presidency for Barack Obama should note.

The arithmetic of our current problem is pretty simple: From 2000 through 2007, U.S. households borrowed $6.2 trillion, nearly doubling their debt. Most of it was borrowed against houses, and about two-thirds was spent on things other than another house or paying down mortgage debt — including SUVs, flat-screen TVs and all the other consumer baubles of an American lifestyle. But when house prices collapsed, the home-equity cash spigot shut tight. U.S. consumer spending has fallen off the cliff, devastating car companies and shuttering factories throughout China.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have responded with pyrotechnics. The Treasury has infused hundreds of billions in cash into banks and other financial players. Even more remarkably, the Fed has distributed more than $1 trillion in new loans and credits to a broad range of financial and non-financial companies. The automobile manufacturers have now joined the queue, and President-elect Obama has signaled that he'd like them to be included in the bailout.

So far, none of this has worked very well. Banks continue to tighten credit and lending standards. Even interbank lending came close to freezing up last month — a level of disruption not seen since the 1970s.

All these frenzied attempts at staving off recession seem to be aimed merely at jump-starting the consumer borrowing-spending binge that underpinned the ersatz growth of the 2000s. But the real need is to shift to a more balanced system that's less addicted to high-leverage finance.

Pouring money from the Fed into the banks just delays the day when banks — and now we taxpayers — will have to tally up our losses. The Fed is exchanging Treasury bonds for bundles of subprime mortgages at 98 cents on the dollar. But in the real world, those bundles could barely fetch 30 to 50 cents on the dollar. Does the Fed seriously believe that subprime mortgages are going to recover their value? The Japanese tried papering over bad assets during their 1990s credit crunch, and their economy has barely budged in 20 years.

At the same time, Congress and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. are insisting that banks increase lending. To whom? House prices are still falling at double-digit rates. Credit-card defaults are spiraling upward. Companies are weak. Banks know how fast their loans books are deteriorating, and they desperately need cash to build up their reserves against all the bad loans they've made. Forcing them to ratchet up lending now is just pushing them back into the quicksand they're struggling to climb out of. It's financial folly. It would also be political folly for the new Obama administration.

For years now, even Democrats have been drinking the free-market Kool-Aid that the best economy is whatever markets decree it should be. So for most of the past two decades, the U.S. economy has been driven by whatever Wall Street is best at financing — mostly bigger houses, fancier cars and more electronic toys from Asia. We have become a nation where people struggle to make payments on four-bedroom houses with faux-marble bathrooms and two SUVs in the driveway even as they worry about their lousy health insurance, evaporating pensions, shaky Social Security benefits and tapped-out 401(k)s.

Wall Street, meanwhile, prospered mightily. Financial-sector profits, which typically average about 10 to 15 percent of corporate profits, had leapt to 40 percent by 2007. Total corporate profits also soared, nearly doubling as a share of national income. But instead of triggering an investment boom, the gains were mostly distributed to shareholders. Exxon brags that it has invested $90 billion in exploration and new plants since 2003, but it has distributed even more — nearly $120 billion — to shareholders. The cash incomes of the top 1 percent hit an all-time high in 2006, just a tad higher than the previous record in 1929. That's the cash that fed the hedge funds, private-equity funds and the other yield-chasers that inflated the decade's asset bubble.

The scale of that bubble is reminiscent of the price-inflation bubble that bedeviled President Carter. So are the policies being used to deal with it. Carter and his hapless Fed chairman, G. William Miller, flooded the economy with dollars even as consumer price inflation spiraled out of control. Volcker took over the Fed in 1979 and, by previous standards, moved aggressively his first year in office. But he made little headway. Finally, in late 1980, he cracked down hard and significantly raised interest rates.

Unemployment soared from 5.8 percent to 9.7 percent. Inflation stubbornly held on but finally broke in 1983. For the next several years, Volcker continued to crack down at the slightest hint of price buoyancy, until the markets took for granted that the United States was a low-inflation economy.

The 2008 analogue to the Volcker strategy would be to force a harsh, fast marking-down of all bank assets to real values. A one- to two-year bloodbath is far preferable to a decade of death by a thousand cuts. Many banks will fail and will have to be re-equitized by the government — the terms should be neither punitive nor excessively generous — but the weakest and the most irresponsible should simply be let go.

The banking system that emerges should be dull — one where credit analysis trumps financial engineering and where everything is on the balance sheet. The big Canadian banks, RBC and TD Bank, have been determinedly dull in the 2000s and have turned in superb profits, far outperforming their supposedly brilliant American cousins.

Shrinking the banking sector will curtail bubble-style lending and force the share of GDP represented by consumer spending back down from its current 70 percent to a more sustainable 65-66 percent. It will be very painful, putting many companies in jeopardy, but it is the only way to engineer a transition to a world in which we spend less on houses and TVs and more on infrastructure and health care. Interest rates will be higher to encourage savings and taxes will go up, but debt should go down and the bottom half of the population should be more secure. It will also be very important to shore up our tattered social safety net to cushion the recession's impact on that lower half.

Democrats should seriously study the 1979-84 period. The political lesson is that Reagan backed Volcker all the way, even when the Republican Party was calling for Volcker's head. The deep recession cost the Republicans seats in the 1982 midterm elections. But when inflation suddenly cleared and growth resumed, Reagan won the 1984 election in a landslide. The dollar was once more the world's strongest currency, and the Reagan era had been launched.

If Democrats insist on piling on the palliatives, as the party's congressional leaders seem to be advocating, and the country hobbles along at 0 to 1 percent annual growth, they may get through the midterms, but they may also ensure that President Obama gets an early release from the burdens of office. # # #

Charles Morris, a lawyer and former banker, is the author of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash.

Click image to enlarge.

Today, the DOW closed below 8,000, on heavy volume.

~ ~ ~

Forget Paulson's folly. What the market needs now is a masked Texas Ranger who gallops about righting injustices on his white horse Silver.

The Lone Ranger - Hi-Yo, Silver

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" The Lone Ranger!

Enter the Lone Ranger

"Enter the Lone Ranger", episode 1, season 1, first aired on September 15, 1949.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ahmadinejad: Let Us Have Nuclear

Ahmadinejad: Let Us Have Nuclear


FBI SWAT carry a Springfield Armory Custom Shop M1911 in .45 ACP caliber, with an 8-round magazine and one chambered, as God intended.

All FBI agents train for serious encounters with criminals, and all are required to carry a firearm. But when there’s an extremely high-risk situation—a special mission, a dangerous takedown, a dignitary that needs protection—that’s when SWAT gets the call.

All 56 FBI field offices have a SWAT unit. Becoming SWAT-certified is a highly competitive process, and team members must pass rigorous fitness tests and be expert marksmen—in addition to carrying out their regular investigative duties as agents.

SWAT stands for “Special Weapons and Tactics.” Each team has specialists, such as snipers, breachers, and assaulters.

Click the image below to see how an assaulter may be outfitted for a mission.


* Helmet: Made with Kevlar for maximum head protection
* Goggles: Rated to withstand blasts and to stop flying debris


* Bullet-proof, standard military-issue
* FBI-identifying patches on shoulder and chest
* Equipped with MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) weaving to attach pouches and other equipment, based on mission profile
* Holds magazine pouches for extra ammunition


* Package consists of ear piece, microphone attached to shoulder strap, and transmitter in shoulder pouch
* Two channels: command net (monitored by those in charge of the operation) and assault net (accessed by all team members)

Primary Weapon

* H&K (Heckler & Koch) MP5 sub-machine gun with collapsible stock
* Fires a 10mm bullet and holds a 30-round magazine; can shoot one round, a two-shot burst or be set to fully automatic firing
* Equipped with flashlight on front, and a laser-pointer sight

Extended Protection

* Adds additional Kevlar for pelvic protection
* Medical pack attaches here as well as Flexi cuffs—heavy-duty plastic, flexible handcuffs designed for one-time use

Sub Load

* A waist belt with a thigh harness, designed to keep a pistol stationary
* Also supports pouches for extra ammunition and other gear such as metal handcuffs and a night stick


* Springfield .45 caliber, equipped with an 8-round magazine and one bullet in the chamber


* Fatigues and gloves are standard military-issue, made from flame-resistant Nomex fiber
* Flight gloves have leather pads on palms
* Kneepads are heavy-duty plastic, and cushioned for kneeling
* Boots are standard-issue climbing or utility boot

Gas Mask

* Military-issue, used for a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incident; air filter can be exchanged for one that filters various chemicals or bio weapons
* Equipped with valve for a drink tube that allows for hydration without removing mask
* Voice box amplifier enables unimpeded communication

Additional tools

* Breacher, or battering ram (top)
* Hallagan Tool: firefighter tool similar to a crow bar; used for breaching and entries (center)
* Collapsible sledge hammer (bottom)

Source: FBI

Drinkin' the Kool-Aid: 30 Years Ago Today

Lessons from Jonestown

The mass suicide of People's Temple followers 30 years ago teaches psychologists what happens when social psychology is placed in the wrong hands.

By Melissa Dittmann, Monitor staff

In the middle of the jungle in Guyana, South America, nearly 1,000 people drank lethal cyanide punch or were shot to death, following the orders of their leader, Jim Jones. Mothers and fathers gave the deadly drink to their children and then drank it themselves. People screamed. Bodies trembled. And within a few minutes on Nov. 18, 1978, 912 people were dead.

Jones' followers originally came to the Guyanese community, known as Jonestown, seeking paradise and an escape from racism and persecution in the United States. Instead, they found something that resembled a concentration camp in which they worked long hours with little food and much abuse, those who escaped Jonestown have reported.

Thirty years later, social psychologists continue to examine how Jones came to command such enormous influence over his followers' thoughts and actions. Jonestown, they say, offers important lessons for psychology, such as the power of situational and social influences and the consequences of a leader using such influences to destructively manipulate others' behavior.

Most disturbingly, perhaps, leaders such as Jones appear to have derived some of their techniques from social psychologists' research, raising questions about research ethics and the future direction of cult research, says Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, APA's past-president and a psychology professor at Stanford University.

In as-yet unpublished research, Zimbardo has found that Jones quite possibly learned his ability to persuade from a famous social thinker: George Orwell.

Through 25 years of research and interviews with Jonestown survivors, Zimbardo has found parallels between the mind control techniques used by Jones at Jonestown--namely sophisticated types of compliance, conformity and obedience training--and those described in Orwell's fictional book "1984." In the book, Orwell provides a model for resistance as his main character, Winston Smith, stands up against an omnipotent party system.

Though "1984" is fiction, Orwell possessed a deep understanding of influence processes from social psychology, and his depictions of mind control have been used systematically and effectively by cult leaders, Zimbardo says.

Others agree with Zimbardo that such findings raise ethical questions for social psychologists, given that the likes of Jones draw from social psychology tenets and use them for harm, says Robert Cialdini, PhD, who researches influence and is the Regents' Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University.

"Sources of influence can be like dynamite--they can be used for good or used for ill," Cialdini says. "Social scientists need to pay more attention to not just the effectiveness of the strategies we study and uncover but also the ethical ramifications of the use of these principles and practices."

He and Zimbardo also say social psychologists and other cult researchers must forge new research lines on the misapplication of social psychology findings as well as their prosocial uses.

The mastermind

Indeed, Jonestown should serve as a warning to the social psychology community in what can happen when principles of influence are abused by leaders of an organization, Zimbardo says. Jones, who acted as the pastor of the People's Temple, studied Orwell's system of mind control described in "1984" and commissioned a song that his followers were required to sing at Jonestown about the advent of the year 1984, Zimbardo has found.

Some of the mind control techniques Orwell described in "1984" that parallel methods Jones used include:

* "Big brother is watching you." Jones used this idea to gain the loyalty of his followers. He required followers to spy on one another and blasted messages from loudspeakers so that his voice was always present while they worked, slept and ate, Zimbardo says.

* Self-incrimination. Jones instructed followers to give him written statements about their fears and mistakes and then, if they disobeyed him, he used that information to humiliate them or subject them to their worst fears during public meetings. In "1984," the main character's resistance is broken when he is subjected to his worst fear of being covered in rats.

* Suicide drills. Orwell's main character said that "the proper thing was to kill yourself before they get you" in a threat of war. Jones had his followers do practice suicide drills right up to the actual mass suicide event.

* Distorting people's perceptions. Jones blurred the relationship between words and reality, for example, by requiring his followers to give him daily thanks for good food and work--yet the people were starving and working six and a half days a week, Zimbardo says. Similarly, Orwell described such a technique, which he called "newspeak."

By mastering such mind control techniques, Jones was able to gain followers' obedience and loyalty, Zimbardo says. "Jim Jones is probably the most charismatic cult leader in modern times in terms of his personal appeal, oratory, his sexual appeal, his just sheer dynamism and his total participation in the control of every member of his group," he explains.

Mindless compliance

These mind control techniques--coupled with the creation of a new social environment--provided Jones with a powerful influence over his followers, Zimbardo says.

Quite arguably, Jones, through his natural understanding of social psychology, knew the way to obtain a strong influence over his followers was to move them from their urban American environment to a remote South American jungle, generating uncertainty in their new surroundings, Cialdini says. And when people are uncertain, they look to others for cues on what to do, research has shown. Zimbardo notes that people are particularly vulnerable when they are in new surroundings, feel lonely or disconnected.

"When you believe 'It can't happen to me,' that's when con artists or cult agents have you at their mercy because then you're not as vigilant to the little situational ploys that can get you to step across the line," Zimbardo explains.

Social psychology has shown the "power of the crowd" for decades. For example, in the 1960s, psychologists Stanley Milgram, PhD, Leonard Bickman, PhD, and Lawrence Berkowitz, EdD, demonstrated social influence by having a group of people on a busy New York City sidewalk gaze up at nothing in the sky. When one man looked up at nothing, only 4 percent of passersby joined him. When five people stood on the sidewalk looking up at nothing, 18 percent of passersby joined them. And when a group of 15 gazed upward, 40 percent of passersby then joined, nearly stopping traffic in one minute.

As other cult leaders have done, Jim Jones used this "power of the crowd" influence in controlling others' behavior, intellect, thoughts and emotions, says Steven Hassan, a licensed mental health counselor with the counseling group Freedom of Mind and a former cult member. This includes instituting rigid rules and regulations, withholding or distorting information, using hypnotic trances, and generating guilt and fear among followers.

Building awareness

However, since Jonestown, many social psychologists remain unaware of the psychological impact of the mind control techniques, often elucidated in social psychology research, that cults use to recruit and retain members, Zimbardo says. Many psychologists remain skeptical that behavior is intentionally controlled by these organizations at all, rather believing that people join cults of their own free will, as they do with traditional religious groups.

Those who study cults, on the other hand, maintain that psychologists need to study how cults abuse social psychology research. Psychologists are also needed to develop effective treatments for cult victims to help them break free from a cult's influence before it's too late, so that, in cases like Jonestown, history does not repeat itself.

"It's shocking to me that so many people today have not even heard of Jonestown," Hassan says. Yet, Hassan observes the lasting psychological effects every day in his work with former cult victims, and he says cults are growing more powerful and more cunning in their deceit--often by using psychological research findings--while the public remains largely unaware of them.

If cults are going to abuse lessons from social psychology, psychologists must study how they are doing this, Cialdini says. More attention to researching and working with cult victims is needed, Hassan adds. For example, psychologists need specific training to work with former cult members, who often suffer from dissociative or panic disorders, he explains.

"There are lots of individuals who are suffering," Hassan says, "and they need our help."

Jonestown Victim Memorial

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood

"Texas Flood" is an electric blues album, released in 1983, by guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble.

Although the song "Texas Flood" has three verses of lyrics, it is more of a prolonged guitar solo, allowing Vaughan to show off his characteristic electric blues style. During live shows, he would often play portions of this song behind his back, arousing an enthusiastic crowd response.

Stylistically, "Texas Flood" is structured around the common three chord blues progression. Written and performed in the key of G (sounding F# because of Vaughan's tuning), it is in 12/8 time, or compound time, which gives it a "slow burning" feel that is common in Texas blues. [Enjoy! - c]

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood

Well, it's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down

Well it's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down

And I've been tryin' to call my baby
Lord, and I can't get a single sound

Well, dark clouds are rollin' in
Man, I'm standin' out in the rain

Well, dark clouds are rollin' in
Man, I'm standin' out in the rain

Yeah, flood water keep a rollin'
Man, it's about to drive poor me insane

Well, I'm leavin' you baby
Lord, and I'm goin' back home to stay

Well, I'm leavin' you baby
Lord, and I'm goin' back home to stay

Well, back home I know floods and tornadoes
Baby, the sun shines on me every day...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Depression Era Cooking with Clara

93-year-old cook and great grandmother, Clara, recounts her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares meals from the era. Learn step by step how to make simple yet delicious dishes while listening first-hand to stories from the Great Depression.

Depression Cooking Ep: 1 - Pasta with Peas

Depression Cooking Ep: 2 - Egg Drop Soup

Depression Cooking Ep: 3 - Poorman's Meal

Not many 93-year-olds have their own Facebook account, let alone a blog and a wildly popular show on YouTube. But Clara Cannucciari's got all three, and she's also got the rapt attention of budget-conscious, Internet-savvy cooks everywhere who can't get enough of "Great Depression Cooking with Clara." On the show, she shares the recipes she learned from her mother for dishes that kept the family nourished when times were even leaner than they are today.

Cannucciari's grandchild, filmmaker Chris Cannucciari, films the episodes, which feature the feisty grandma sharing stories of her girlhood, explaining how to make dishes like Sicilian fig cookies and egg drop soup, and keeping up a stream of banter that's entertaining, instructional and even a little inspirational.

Born in Chicago to two Italian immigrants, she quit high school after sophomore year and worked filling Hostess Twinkies in a factory. She married Dino Cannucciari, an opera singer, in 1948 in Rome, and then had a son, Carl, in 1950. She now has four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and lives in the Finger Lakes region.

As her Web site states: "The magic of Clara is that she can turn lemons into lemonade and potatoes into just about everything else. She had a childhood that most of us can't imagine but she was able to make the best of it and turn those trials into lessons we can all learn from."

After Chris Cannucciari filmed an episode of his grandma in her kitchen, he posted it on YouTube, where it was so well-received that he continued to make more videos. Each is peppered with old-fashioned advice and laced with practical tips, delivered in a warm and witty way by a very personable, bespectacled nonagenarian.

On one episode, which covers peppers and eggs, Cannucciari talks about how her mother used to make her pepper and egg sandwiches to take to high school. Another student asked for her to trade lunches, and Cannucciari agreed – only to find out that the lunch she'd received was a spaghetti sandwich. That day, she learned an important lesson: don't trade lunches with anyone because Mom's cooking is always best. On her show, Cannucciari teaches us all about how to make it. -- source

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Obligatory: I told you so. - c

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A Little Gun History

h/t: Infidels Are Cool