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October 31, 2004

'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' - Why the CIA, Pentagon and NSA will make Kerry President

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This past Thursday, I wrote a post titled "Why John Kerry Will Win the Presidency."

After sleeping on it the past few nights, I'm even more convinced it's a done deal.

As I read an item in yesterday's Washington Post about Donald Rumsfeld's having essentially been locked in the attic with the crazy aunt since Abu Ghraib broke, I got to thinking about Rumsfeld and his band of neo-con warriors - Wolfowitz, Feith, et al - and their titanic struggle to remake the Pentagon into a lean, mean fighting machine.

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They struck at the entrenched enemy, but failed to kill it.

And now the enraged, wounded beast has turned its wrath on the New Age Defense crew.

It won't be pretty.

The least of it is that Bush will lose as a result.

Kerry will be delighted to install Sam Nunn or his equivalent "Old School"-type as Secretary of Defense.

How do you spell F-22 Raptor?

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The Air Force says it's gonna need 277 of 'em - at a quarter billion dollars PER PLANE, for a total of around $70 billion - to fight the next Cold War should the Soviet Union suddenly reconstitute itself.

The plane was designed in 1981, at the height of the Evil Empire's perceived threat.

The Evil Empire's long since gone but the plane, as Robert Evans might say,

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stays in the picture.

Ever since the CIA

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was created under the provisions of the National Security Act in 1947, it has been at loggerheads with the Pentagon, growing its own enormous, compartmentalized bureaucracy.

Never - until this election - has it perceived its interests to be anywhere near congruent with those of the Pentagon.

But the Venn Diagrams

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now overlap.

Big-time, as Dick Cheney might say.

And don't forget the NSA - National Security Agency, aka "No Such Agency" - and its supercomputers.

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They monitor every word spoken on the telephone by everyone in the world.

And every email sent by anyone to anyone.

Powerful search algorithms that make Google look like a kindergartner scan for key words.

Yeah, you can be sure the NSA is down with its usual rivals in this one.

There's an old adage: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Never was there a more succinct statement describing the CIA, Pentagon and NSA right now, two days before the Presidential election.

Trust me - there won't be any fingerprints on this operation.

It never happened.

October 31, 2004 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

podcast

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Sometimes it takes a while, but the New York Times eventually gets there.

Last Thursday's Circuits section had a nice story, by Cyrus Farivar, about podcasts, the new new thing.

In a nutshell, people record stuff onto the internet, then other people listen to it via computer or iPod - or other MP3 player - download.

But mostly via iPod; 92% of the market currently... amazing. But I digress.

Me, I like the idea, because it's one more step toward bookofjoeTV, 24/7/365.

But it certainly isn't something I could do; I mean, even though Adam Curry, the ex-MTV VJ, has created a program to make it easy to listen to podcasts, it's way over my head.

I offer XML syndication of bookofjoe, but I haven't a clue how it works or what it actually does.

My stalwart technical engineer, PW, said it was a good thing, and put it on the site.

So I'll just observe the whole podcast phenomenon from a distance, through heavy lenses - at least for the time being.

Curry said, "We've made it easy now so you can receive podcasts without being a techie, and that's the big thing here."

Not quite, Adam, but you're moving in the right direction.

When I can turn on my iPod and tune into a podcast, just like that, then it'll be ready.

Here's the Times story, followed by a sidebar story on how to actually tune in to podcasts.
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New Food for IPods: Audio by Subscription


Tucked away in their old farmhouse in Wayne, Wis., surrounded by dairy farms and cornfields, Dawn Miceli, 28, and Drew Domkus, 33, sit in their living room most nights and talk to each other as they normally would, cracking jokes and enjoying life as a young married couple.

But a few hundred people get to listen in on a half-hour of the conversation from a distance, on computers and portable music players.

They do so by way of a podcast, a new method of online audio distribution that has hundreds of amateur broadcasters springing up on the Internet.

There are podcasters in California, South Carolina and Connecticut, with others as far afield as western Canada, Australia and Sweden.

Though most podcasts tend to reflect their technologically oriented audience, newer shows are being created with topics like veganism and movie reviews.

Even conventional broadcasters are being drawn to the medium, which allows programs to be played at a listener's convenience.

The unscripted "Dawn and Drew Show," one of the most popular podcasts so far, is recorded in the living room of Ms. Miceli, an artist, and Mr. Domkus, who provides technical support for an office building in nearby Milwaukee.

They play off each other like Abbott and Costello, with Mr. Domkus as the straight man and Ms. Miceli as the joker, continually cracking jokes and making off-the-wall comments (and sometimes venturing into sexual subject matter).

"I'm like that homeless person on the corner that just rants no matter who's listening," Ms. Miceli said.

"I forget that Drew's recording this online. Sometimes people will write us, and I sit back and say, 'How do they know that?' And then I go, 'Oh, it's on the Internet.' "

While Internet-based recorded audio is not new, podcasting combines audio with an online subscription technology known as R.S.S., or Really Simple Syndication.

To keep up with a multitude of Web sites, users can pull together their reading material, or feeds, in one place using software called an R.S.S. reader.

In late August, Adam Curry, 40, a former MTV host turned entrepreneur, wrote a program allowing automatic downloads of new audio shows using R.S.S.

The shows can be played on a computer or transferred to a portable MP3 player, like an iPod - hence the name.

"That's where the big 'Oh, wow!' factor comes in," Mr. Curry said by phone from his home in Belgium.

"Now you just subscribe, and if at some point you don't like it, you just unsubscribe. They've had this stuff out there, but there's no way to get it regularly to make you a listener."

Mr. Curry's "Daily Source Code," a two-month-old show mainly on technology-related subjects, has inspired other podcasters to follow his lead.

He came up with the idea for podcasting nearly four years ago, but it wasn't until he spoke soon thereafter with Dave Winer, an early blogger and the inventor of R.S.S., that Mr. Winer was able to modify R.S.S. so that it could support enclosed audio files.

This works in much the way that e-mail messages can have attachments.

Most podcasters are amazed at the amount of attention that the new phenomenon has generated.

"I haven't seen this much buzz around a single word since the Internet," said Carl Franklin, 37, who teaches computer programming courses in New London, Conn.

Mr. Franklin has had a recorded Internet-based radio show for the past two years called ".Net Rocks!," which is aimed at programmers, and last month he was able to expand it into a podcast.

He attributed the newfound excitement to the fact that there is now a convenient way to reach a specific listening audience.

"Your potential audience is the entire world," Mr. Franklin said.

"So if you have content that has specialized interests, you can pull in 100,000 listeners. You can sell targeted advertising. You can have a better relationship with your audience and have a big enough audience to justify your existence."

Though radio broadcasters may have a large audience to begin with, some have turned to podcasting as a way to increase the number of listeners.

KOMO in Seattle and WGBH in Boston have taken some of their regular radio shows and made them available as podcasts.

Tony Kahn, 59, the producer of "Morning Stories" at WGBH, whose show is available once a week for download as a podcast, said he was amazed at the number of new listeners his show had reached and, in a way, interacted with.

"People are basically passive, and so one voice counts a lot and is deeply respected," Mr. Kahn said.

"To know that there are 10,000 people who have downloaded - that, to me, is a huge number in terms of people responding and saying, 'I'm interested in this, and it means something to me.' "

Though few podcasters have reported audiences that large, Mr. Curry estimated that among the 300 podcasters worldwide, thousands of people were either listening to or producing broadcasts.

Mr. Curry said that while he had created an easy way to receive podcasts, he hoped that the process of creating them would be simplified soon.

"We've made it easy now so you can receive podcasts without being a techie, and that's the big thing here," Mr. Curry said.
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'Tuning In' to Podcasts


To listen to a podcast, you need a computer with an Internet connection and a podcasting software program, or aggregator.

A popular one is iPodder, a free download for Windows, Macintosh and PocketPC at www.ipodder.org.

Similar programs are available for Linux.

The next step is to select a feed on the iPodder site, copy and paste the Web address into iPodder, and click on the Add Feed button.

Click on Check for New Podcasts, and wait until the files have downloaded.

If you are downloading several shows with large file sizes, it may take some time, particularly with a dial-up connection.

If you use Apple iTunes, it will automatically create playlists from the downloaded shows. Shows can be played in iTunes or transferred to a player.

IPodder.org offers an explanation of podcasting.

Related sites include www.podcast.net, which offers a podcast directory and downloadable software; and radio.blogware.com/blog/Podcasting101, which provides tips on creating a podcast.

Podcasts include:

THE DAWN AND DREW SHOW
A humorous 30-minute talk show from Dawn Miceli and Drew Domkus, a Wisconsin couple (www.dawnanddrew.com). New episodes nearly daily.

DAILY SOURCE CODE
The original podcast, mostly about podcasting and other new technologies, from Adam Curry (live.curry.com). New episodes nearly daily.

MORNING STORIES
Short, personal tales with Tony Kahn on WGBH, the Boston public radio station (www.wgbh.org/morningstories). New episodes on Fridays.

.NET ROCKS!
A show about the .NET programming language and related topics by Carl Franklin and Rory Blyth (www.franklins.net/dotnetrocks). New episodes on Mondays.

REEL REVIEWS
Film reviews by Michael Geoghegan, a cinephile from Newport Beach, Calif. (www.mwgblog.com). New episodes every few days.

October 31, 2004 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Homeland Security Blanket

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New York artist Chrissy Conant

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lies awake at night worrying about terrorism.

She said she decided to calm her fears by confronting them.

To which end, she designed the Chrissy Homeland Security Blanket, a soft-napped, queen-size (90" x 90") blankie bearing the legend of the Homeland Security Advisory System.

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The $750 blanket is made by Pendleton, and comes in a signed, limited edition of 100 from her website.

You can buy one in person at Lyonswiergallery (511 West 25th Street) or the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 East 91st Street), both located in Manhattan.

If $750's a bit steep for you, but you like the concept, there's her

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Homeland Security Choker ($100), made out of Plexiglas and sterling silver.

Just choose your perceived threat level, put it on the chain, and you're good - or not so good, depending - to go.

October 31, 2004 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fly Iraqi Airways?

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Borzou Daragahi wrote an interesting article for the New York Times earlier this month on this one-plane airline.

Yes, that's correct: Iraqi Airlines consists of one plane, a Boeing 737-200 flying to the capitals of Syria and Jordan.

The plane's crew is pictured below.

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This is no ordinary airline; the rest of its fleet was destroyed in the war and its aftermath.

60% of the price of a ticket goes to cover insurance costs.

To stay out of the range of fire from insurgent surface-to-air missiles, pilots must make steep corkscrew descents within a 30-square-kilometer area around the airport sealed off by U.S. troops.

The way I see it, there's nothing but upside - as long as their sole remaining plane can dodge those incomings.

Here's the Times story.
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Iraqi Airways Flies Again, With One Jet


Nearly dormant during 14 years of sanctions and still reeling from the damage it has suffered in the U.S.-led war, Iraq's national airline resumed service last month with a 116-seat Boeing 737-200 flying to the capitals of Syria and Jordan.

The airline, Iraqi Airways, has even begun making plans to expand its fleet, add destinations, renovate its headquarters and generally upgrade for a new age of commercial aviation.

"We are looking at this as a business," said Atta Nabeil, Iraq's interim deputy minister of transportation, who oversees the government-owned airline.

"We would like to operate just like any normal private operator. We would like to make a profit."

But Iraq is still a dangerous country where insurgents regularly fire rockets at airplanes.

Last year, in the biggest such scare so far, a DHL Worldwide Express cargo plane landed with its wing on fire from a rocket attack.

To stay out of range of fire, pilots must make steep corkscrew descents within a 30-square-kilometer, or 12-square-mile, secured area around Baghdad airport.

And though there are civilians willing to brave the Iraqi skies, there is no guarantee that Iraqi Airways, whose planes thus far have flown nearly empty, will snare much business.

"Iraqi Airways has got a lot of catching up to do," Michael Repking, senior vice president of Global Aviation, an aviation consultancy based in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, said in a phone interview from the company's Dubai office.

"First they must refurbish their fleet, then their airport, and then all the airports in the country."

The industry the airline has re-entered is under far greater commercial pressure than 14 years ago.

And the region is now dominated by sleek Gulf carriers like Emirates Airlines of Dubai and Qatar Airways, based in places where airports have invested in multibillion-dollar expansions.

Some foreign competitors have a head start in Iraqi Airways' own backyard.

Royal Jordanian has been flying daily, half-full flights from the Jordanian capital, Amman, and Mahan Airlines, a privately held Iranian airline, is about to begin flights to Iraq, said Emad Dawood, Iraq's director general of civil aviation.

The freight giants DHL, a unit of Deutsche Post, and FedEx, as well as Air Serv International, a nonprofit carrier that catering to aid workers, have also been flying regularly to Baghdad.

According to Dawood, an additional 100 or so international passenger and cargo carriers have submitted applications to land at Baghdad International Airport, which is 21 years old and has just 18 gates.

Iraqi Airways, founded in 1946, grew to 23 planes and flew to dozens of international destinations before Iraq's escalating troubles caught up with it.

Just before the 1991 war over Kuwait, the airline flew most of its fleet to Iran, Jordan and Tunisia, where the planes avoided the war but deteriorated during the years of sanctions.

Back home, what was left of the fleet stayed on the ground until 2001, when the airline briefly restarted limited flights before the war last year stopped it again completely.

The war and its aftermath were cruel to the airline.

Its multistory headquarters were looted and damaged.

One airport terminal was hit by a U.S. missile, and many landing strips were destroyed by bombing.

Two working planes were vandalized.

But reconstruction of the runways and terminals has been moving apace despite power outages, a dearth of phone lines and an abundance of artillery fire.

While architects draw up plans to rebuild the damaged former headquarters, Iraqi Airways officers remain in their former information technology building, with its discoloring acoustic tile ceilings and worn floors.

The airline expects to sign a lease deal on another Boeing or two in the coming months.

Officials also say they think at least two 727s from the old fleet can be salvaged.

Planned destinations include Dubai, the Middle East's commercial hub, and Tehran, to cater to Iranian pilgrims who want to visit Iraqi holy sites.

Flights to Basra may start again next month.

And airline officials point to long-dormant plans to build an airport in Najaf as another potential moneymaker.

To drum up business, the airline has begun a local media advertising campaign.

Tickets are sold through Iraqi Airways offices in Iraq and a network of some 50 foreign sales agents.

Round-trip flights to Amman cost $750, significantly less than the $1,100 Royal Jordanian charges for the 90-minute flights, but more than the $40 ordinary Iraqis pay for a 16-hour bus ride through sandstorms, bandits and the insurgency.

Driving anywhere near the airport, located on the U.S. military's Camp Victory, where Saddam Hussein is imprisoned, requires a special badge.

To get to the drop-off point, passengers must wait up to two hours in line, undergoing repeated searches by Iraqi security forces and Nepalese contractors who often speak neither Arabic nor English.

Flights are often canceled because of security worries.

Insurance costs make up as much as 60% of the airline's ticket costs.

"The insurance company still considers some of our airspace as a war zone," said Nabeil, the interim deputy minister of transportation.

October 31, 2004 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

9" of snow falls in Flagstaff, Arizona - a record for October 28

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How do you spell "The Day After Tomorrow?"

I mean, why was Gordon Connelley (above) shoveling snow Thursday in front of the Pita Pit in downtown Flagstaff?

Since when do people go skiing in Flagstaff in October?

Here's Friday's Arizona Republic story, by Mark Shaffer, about this harbinger of things to come.
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Flagstaff Blanketed in White

Nordic trails to open; Snowball slopes closed


Two weeks ago, many around this mountain city snickered when the National Weather Service conducted a conference about winter weather.

Since the drought began nearly a decade ago, snow has been pretty much an afterthought in upland Arizona.

But Thursday's 9-inch snowstorm in Flagstaff, following last week's 6-inch snowfall, guarantees that the city will have its snowiest October in 30 years, since a record 24.7 inches fell in 1974, said Mike Staudenmaier, a weather service spokesman.

The snow means cross-country ski trails at the Flagstaff Nordic Center will open Saturday.

But the Arizona Snowbowl remains closed despite 35 inches of snow in its upper reaches during the past week.

Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray said the phone lines were overloaded with skiers hoping to learn that the ski area was about to open.

"If we had snowmaking, we could probably be open in two weeks, using what we have here as a base," Murray said.

"But we are still very early in the season and probably 30 days away from cold nights. We don't have enough to open, but we'll be doing everything we can to save this."

Murray hopes to open slopes by Thanksgiving, but said snowfall amounts allow that about once every five years.

Some California resorts have opened to skiers following copious amounts of snow and cold nights.

The Pacific storm that brought snow to northern Arizona brought light rain to the Valley, causing some gridlock and traffic accidents.

Most areas around the Valley recorded less than half an inch of rain.

The Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies today through the weekend, with a slight warming trend.

The system swelled creeks and streams in Prescott, which received between 3 and 4 inches of rain, closing low-water crossings in the city and pushing fast-moving water to the top of the banks of waterways like Granite Creek.

"It rained for like 18 hours straight and the creeks have been flowing like crazy," said J.J. McCormack, a spokeswoman for the city of Prescott.

"There's a lot of snow up in the Bradshaw Mountains, and it dusted the top of Thumb Butte as well."

Sgt. Gerry Blair of the Flagstaff police said Thursday that city didn't have an abnormal number of accidents, but that icy roads created havoc in some areas.

Sgt. Rod Wigman of the state Department of Public Safety said that 15 accidents were called into DPS, including two that involved tractor-trailers on northern Arizona's interstates.

Because of the predicted warming trend, no closures or icy roads are expected to hamper travelers headed north this weekend.

October 31, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Steroids now contraindicated in head injuries

Headbanging

What next?

Ever since I've been in the medical racket, steroids have been the de facto first-line treatment of choice for head injuries.

You come into the ER with a head injury, you get steroids, even before you go to X-ray and get your diagnosis.

It makes sense: trauma causes swelling and inflammation, steroids work to decrease inflammation, it's obvious they'd help.

But now doctors think inflammation may actually be helpful in head trauma.

The best study ever performed, whose results were reported earlier this month in the Lancet, found that not only do steroids not help, they actually increase the risk of dying after a head injury.

Experts who reviewed the findings wrote in the Lancet, "It is frightening to calculate how many patients might have been harmed by steroids."

Of interest: the use of steroids is still routine in many trauma centers.

I guess the word hasn't trickled down far enough yet.

What next?

I suppose they'll tell us that ulcers, coronary artery disease, schizophrenia, and a whole bunch of other diseases are infectious in origin.

Wait a minute... they already have.

The only thing you can say with certainty in medicine is that whatever is believed to be fact will, in time, prove to be fiction.

I'm waiting for evolution to go down, once they find the wreckage of the spaceship that brought life to Earth.

October 31, 2004 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bloogle

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I haven't a clue what this site is about; it's in French, for one thing.

Maybe one of my French readers will enlighten us with a comment.

Bueller? Anyone?

How do you say that in French?

As always, the only question is how long will it remain up before Google's armada of lawyers fires off the "cease and desist" salvo.

October 31, 2004 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sushi Flash Memory

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Why the heck not?

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Be the first at your local sushi bar to pull one of these out of your pocket.

[via solidalliance.com]

October 31, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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