Wednesday, July 23, 2008

God Bless the Firefighters

You may have heard about this incident a few days ago here in the St. Louis area.

A young firefighter-paramedic, Ryan Hummert arrived at the scene. Ryan never got a chance to save a life that day. He was killed before he could do anything. Two officers were also gunned down, one a former school resources officer, well liked by the children he had worked with.

This occurred just blocks away from where I work. Many of the officers, firefighters, and paramedics I work with each day responded to this incident. I never met Ryan. At least I don't remember if I did. Our mall is surrounded by many communities which, when we call, all respond to help us in our times of need.

I ask that you pray for Ryan's family at this difficult time. His father had been Mayor of Maplewood and his son followed in his footsteps in service to the community. Such is the unexpected life of a first responder. You never know what will happen. You just have to keep going and hope that what you do will help.

It is believed that the owner of the house where the shots came from, 52 year-old Mark Knobbe, died in his house after setting it on fire. Human remains, now positively identified as Knobbe were recovered, alone with the remnants of three long guns. Knobbe had been estranged from his family and was a neighborhood recluse. No one knows what happened to set him on his course that day. We only know he did do it and now we have lost a good man.

Remember a firefighter in your prayers today.

How the electorial map might look...

America has an interesting system in which we do NOT directly vote for our president. We instead vote for electors who then vote for president. This archaic system was devised due to the distances and poor communication that existed in the era when the Constitution was wirtten. It also presupposed that the averave bumpkin farmer was unable to think for himself. While there have been attempts to repeal this bizarre system, all have failed.

So, the game has been, what will the electorial map look like for the upcomming election. The LA Times has an interesting site which allows you to put up your own sceneraio as to how the electorial map of the US might look like. This is my take on the map:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sportsmanship of life.

The idea today is that people need to win, not enjoy the game. There are a lot of people that need to experience life like this. Life is a game where all of us need to practice sportsmanship.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Now I've seen everything!

Yes there is such a thing as a Scottish Jew! Appologies to all my readers of the Jewish persuasion, but I jsut couldn't resist. This is from "The Forward" which is the Jewish Weekly online.

Sound the Bagpipes:
Scots Design Jewish Tartan

AUTHENTIC: Rabbi Mendel Jacobs displays a certificate from the Scottish Tartans Authority and a piece of fabric featuring the design of the first official Jewish Tartan.

Rabbi Mendel Jacobs was never much of a kilt man. Although he is the only Scottish-born rabbi living in Scotland, he had always preferred suits to the traditional dress of his home country. Until now. The Scottish Tartans Authority recently registered the only official Jewish tartan, which was designed with Jacobs’s input. He plans to wear a kilt in the Jewish Tartan pattern to his sister’s wedding in November.

Tartan is the Scottish word for “plaid.” Traditionally, various clans or regions each had a unique pattern; the MacDonalds or the MacKenzies would pass down the pattern of their ancestors through the generations. The Tartan playing field has widened considerably in recent years: The Tartans Authority has registered patterns for Sikhs, Chinese, the state of Indiana and the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band. But it wasn’t until last year that Jacobs, a Glasgow Lubavitch rabbi, decided it was time for the members of his congregation and beyond to be able to “combine their Scottish heritage and Jewish heritage together.”

“People connect with their Judaism in different ways,” he told The Shmooze. “They might not wear a regular kippah, but they might wear a Jewish Tartan kippah.

The Tartan is made with 100% wool, in keeping with the biblical prohibition against wearing sha’atnez, or a wool-linen mix. (It may be more than 90 degrees in parts of the United States this summer, but Jacobs said it never gets too hot to wear wool in Scotland.) All the elements of the pattern were chosen for their symbolic significance. The central colors are blue and white, representing the flags of both Israel and Scotland, and the design incorporates gold, silver and red, which represent the Ark, the adornment on the Torah and the Kiddush wine.

Jacobs has set up a Web site and an eBay store to peddle goods made with the Tartan print. Profits, he said, go to Chabad of Scotland and to other charitable organizations. Besides the hand-pleated kilts, which cost £330 (around $650) and up, gents can order cummerbunds, ties and “fishtail dress trousers,” among other sartorial items. Pens, mouse pads and Titleist golf balls — all tartan printed — are also available. Jacobs said he has shipped upward of 500 items since the Tartan debuted in May, to places as far away as Peru. In the works is a shot glass featuring the Tartan pattern and a phrase that plays on the Scottish word for “lake” and the Hebrew “To life”: “loch chaim!”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

10 places I want to see before I die....

I saw that Francesca had her 10 places she wanted to go before she kicked the bucket. I have a personal list I have compiled over the years. I've read a lot and found some very fascinating places aound the US and the world I want to go to. Narrowing it down to ten is hard, but I think these are the top ten.

1. Princess Juliana International Airport - St. Martin, Netherlands Antilles: I have always wanted to visit this place since I saw this picture:

There is a beautiful beach there where the planes come in and they just fly right over you. Being an airplane person, I have wanted to experience something like this all my life. Plus the Caribbean locale is a wonderful place to just sit and waste away and relax.

2. Brasilia, Brazil: I have always wanted to visit this wonder of architecture ever since I first read about it in the 70's. It like someone did what all of us as a child want to do. Build our own place. This isn't Sim CIty, but a real one that they carved out of the jungle and gave life.

3. Falkland Islands: When I was graduating High School this Island was the location of a short and bloody war which resulted in over a thousand people killed and ships on both sides of the conflict sunk. The island was changed forever. I want to tour the battlefields I have read about in books.

4. Antarctica: The last frontier and the only place where man supposedly has no claim. I want to see the ice before its gone.

5. Cook Islands: I saw pictures from this place and I want to go. Another place that will not be here for very much longer.

6. Pearl Harbor Hawaii: I want to see the place where history changed for America, where World War II started. I want to see the USS Missouri.

7. Midway Island< Hawaii: The tiny island where the Navy used to have a base Now its an eco-tourist place.

8. Nagasaki, Japan: Where the second Atomic Bomb was dropped was the center of Japanese Christianity. It had the largest Christian Church in the Orient at one time. It was also the main port of entry for all foreigners into Japan before the modern era. Many expatriots live there still to this day.

9. Melbourne, Australia: I have always wanted to go to Australia and this would be a nice place to visit.

10. Seattle, Washington: Boeing has a wonderful Museum there and has one of the three Concordes on display in the US there. The Museum is dedicated to the airliners that have flown all over the world.

I have not included such honorable mentions as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, San Francisco, the Marin County Civic Center (Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Mount Rushmore, Talliesen West in Arizona and Talliesen East in Wisconsin, Oak Park, Illinois (to see all the FLW houses there), Buffalo, NY (to see Niagara Falls and the old Buffalo Terminal), New York City (to see Everything) and on and on....

Well I hope that this has given my gentle readers an insight on my character and the thigns I want to do in the future.

You have no rights - We officially live in a police state.

I am not sure what to say concerning this. Like the article says at the end, you might want to start watching what you say and write. The only thing limiting whosale detention of dissidents in the US is public support. The government wouldn't be able to effectively rule without public opinion behind it. While it has an effective propaganda arm in the corporate media, people know what is happening and the internet is a part of that. They are now trying to control the internet and the wiretapping law has allowed them to monitor the net in order to ascertain who is a dissident and who isn't. It wouldn't take much for them to start rounding up people, just one terrorist incident, maybe an assination of one of the presidential candidates. One incident is all that it would take as justification for something like what happened in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. In a strange way, our country has changed and I don't like it. I can write my congresscritters till I am blue in the face. But they keep voting for this stuff. They are intimidated and lied to in order to support things like this. If they don't listen, then what is a patrotic American to do?

Fourth Circuit Court Ruling Gives Bush Dictatorial Powers

By Steven D., Booman Tribune
Posted on July 17, 2008, Printed on July 17, 2008

Quick note from Joshua H: The headline on this piece was based on my December interview with the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner -- who has fought like hell against Bush's claimed war powers. Ratner told me, "The difference between a police state and a nonpolice state is, fundamentally, whether the executive can pick you up and disappear you or whether you can go to a court and challenge the executive, whether you can say: 'What's the legal reason you're holding me?'"


The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (one level below the Supreme Court) has just ruled that Bush was granted the unlimited power by Congress to detain indefinitely anyone in the United States (you, me, your teenage son or daughter, anyone at all) merely be declaring them an enemy combatant. In a split 5-4 decision the Fourth Circuit also held that said enemy combatant was permitted to "challenge" that detention, but failed to elaborate on what form that challenge should take. From the NY Times:

President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.

But a second, overlapping 5-to-4 majority of the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, ruled that Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar now in military custody in Charleston, S.C., must be given an additional opportunity to challenge his detention in federal court there. An earlier court proceeding, in which the government had presented only a sworn statement from a defense intelligence official, was inadequate, the second majority ruled. [...]

The court effectively reversed a divided three-judge panel of its own members, which ruled last year that the government lacked the power to detain civilians legally in the United States as enemy combatants. That panel ordered the government either to charge Mr. Marri or to release him. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

How helpful the decision will be to Mr. Marri remains to be seen, as the majority that granted him some relief was notably vague about what the new court proceeding should look like. In that respect, Tuesday's decision resembled last month's decision from the United States Supreme Court granting habeas corpus rights to prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.

Mr. Marri is the only person on the American mainland known to be held as an enemy combatant. The government contended, in a declaration from the defense intelligence official, Jeffrey N. Rapp, that Mr. Marri was a Qaeda sleeper agent sent to the United States to commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system. [...]

Jonathan L. Hafetz, a lawyer for Mr. Marri with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, called the Fourth Circuit's decision deeply disturbing.
"This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country -- citizen or legal resident -- and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial," Mr. Hafetz said.

This is a "deeply disturbing" opinion, even though it comes from only one appellate court, and one of the more conservative ones at that. It points up the danger of allowing Republican Presidents to appoint judges to the Federal bench who have authoritarian and partisan leanings. I have little doubt that the same justices who signed off on this grant of unlimited power to the Executive Branch would have seen the matter very differently if a Democrat held the office of President.

Of course, Congress can resolve this issue simply by passing legislation limiting the effect of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (the AUMF, for short). I doubt those in Congress, which passed the AUMF shortly after 9/11, ever intended to grant the President the unlimited power to detain Americans merely by declaring them "enemy combatants." On the other hand, I seriously doubt that our current crop of Democrats will have the political courage necessary to revise the AUMF to limit the scope of the President's authority. Certainly not in an election year. They've already shown their cravenness in the debate over the amendments to FISA when they caved in to President Bush's demands. It's highly doubtful they would suddenly develop a spine on this matter, regardless of Bush's massive disapproval rating among Americans. Mention the wqrd "terrorism" and they all seem to cower in fear for their political lives, despite all the evidence that Republicans and their policies are loathed by a majority of Americans.

So, in effect, we are at the mercy of Justice Kennedy, the one conservative member of the Supreme Court who has shown himself willing to vote with the more liberal justices on issues involving the rights of individuals detained by the Bush administration as enemy combatants. Kennedy was the justice who wrote the most recent majority opinion which held that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had the right to invoke the writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detentions. If and when this case reaches the Supreme Court he will be the one who decides what rights, if any, persons detained by Bush will have.

We already know how the other eight justices will vote. Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia demonstrated in the dissenting opinions written in the Boumediene v. Bush that they would have granted President Bush any authority he deemed necessary to indefinitely imprison individuals suspected of terrorist sympathies without any right of habeas corpus review in the federal courts.

Similarly, we know how the so-called "liberal" Justices Stevens, Ginsberg, Souter and Breyer will likely vote on the matter. They will probably decide that Bush cannot imprison American citizens or non-citizens without giving them the rights to (1) challenge their detentions in federal court, (2) be presented with the evidence against them, (3) cross-examine their accusers, and (4) present evidence showing that there is no basis in law or fact for their detention. It's also likely that these four justices would refuse to countenance the notion that the AUMF gave Bush a free hand to imprison anyone he saw fit. So, in the end, it will all depend on how Justice Kennedy interprets the Constitution and the AUMF. Only his opinion matters as to whether or not Bush is free to detain you or I as enemy combatants, and the extent to which we could challenge that detention in the federal courts.

Until that happens, be very careful what you say and to whom. For who knows what constitutes evidence of terrorist allegiance in the minds of our national security professionals. Mr. al-Marri still doesn't know what precise information landed him in prison as a suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent. All he knows is that someone at the CIA signed an affidavit claiming that he was a terrorist. Because that is all it takes, my friends, to put you in prison and deprive you of your liberty. The opinion of one man. And until Congress or the Supreme Court holds otherwise you live in a police state, different from that of the former Soviet Union or Argentina under the rule of the Generals only by the degree to which that authority has been exercised -- so far.

© 2008 Booman Tribune All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The myth of the Liberal Media - John McCain's Marriage Vows.

Some of you who read my blog might remember this story I posted from a British newspaper concerning Senator McCain's commitmemnt to marriage:

Well, the American media finally picked it up. However, no other paper other then the LA Times published it. One blog reports that some other papers have reposted the story. However, the rest of the media has ignored it. The networks haven't reported anything about it. So, the character of a candidate, which the Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars and thousands of hours to prosecute during the Clinton adminstration apparently has been given the collective shrug by the media. Maybe all those reporters don't want to get thrown off the "Straight Talk Express" Bus, or the liberal media is truly a myth. Meanwhile, the image of Senator Obama in a turban has been given front page news.

So, once again, the myth of the "liberal" media is once again disproven. The liberal media is only as liberal as their conservative corporate masters will allow.,0,2177702.story?track=rss
From the Los Angeles Times

McCain's broken marriage and fractured Reagan friendship

The nature and timing of his divorce from Carol Shepp alienated key friends -- and his version doesn't always match that in court documents.
By Richard A. Serrano and Ralph Vartabedian
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

July 11, 2008

Outside her Bel-Air home, Nancy Reagan stood arm in arm with John McCain and offered a significant -- but less than exuberant -- endorsement.

"Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided, and then we endorsed," the Republican matriarch said in March. "Well, obviously this is the nominee of the party." They were the only words she would speak during the five-minute photo op.

In a written statement, she described McCain as "a good friend for over 30 years." But that friendship was strained in the late 1970s by McCain's decision to divorce his first wife, Carol, who was particularly close to the Reagans, and within weeks marry Cindy Hensley, the young heiress to a lucrative Arizona beer distributorship.

The Reagans rushed to help Carol, finding her a new home in Southern California with the family of Reagan aide Edwin Meese III and a series of political and White House jobs to ease her through that difficult time.

McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.

In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.

"I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow," McCain wrote. "I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980."

An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.

Until McCain filed for divorce, the Reagans and their inner circle assumed he was happily married, and they were stunned to learn otherwise, according to several close aides.

"Everybody was upset with him," recalled Nancy Reynolds, a top aide to the former president who introduced him to McCain.

By contrast, some of McCain's friends, including the Senate aide who was at the reception where McCain first met Hensley, believed he was separated at that time.

Albert "Pete" Lakeland, the aide who was with McCain at the reception in Hawaii in April 1979, said of the introduction to Hensley: "It was like he was struck by Cupid's arrow. He was just enormously smitten."

As the pair began dating, Lakeland allowed them to spend a weekend together at his summer home in Maryland, he said.

The senator has acknowledged that he behaved badly, and that his swift divorce and remarriage brought a cold shoulder from the Reagans that lasted years.

In a recent interview, McCain said he did not want to revisit the breakup of his marriage. "I have a very good relationship with my first wife," he said. In his autobiography, he wrote: "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity. The blame was entirely mine."

Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesman, said: "Of course we will not comment on the breakup of the senator's first marriage, other than to note that the senator has always taken responsibility for it."

Carol McCain did not respond to a request for an interview.

About all she has ever said is this to McCain biographer Robert Timberg: "John was turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again."

After leaving the White House, Carol McCain worked in press relations in the Washington area, retiring about five years ago after working for the National Soft Drink Assn. She now lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has not remarried. She has two sons from an earlier marriage: Andy, a vice president at Cindy McCain's beer distributorship, and Doug, a commercial airline pilot.

Carol and John McCain had a daughter, Sidney, who works in the music industry in Canada.

John McCain, who calls himself "a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution," said in his memoir: "My divorce from Carol, whom the Reagans loved, caused a change in our relationship. Nancy . . . was particularly upset with me and treated me on the few occasions we encountered each other after I came to Congress with a cool correctness that made her displeasure clear.

"I had, of course, deserved the change in our relationship."

Joanne Drake, spokeswoman for Nancy Reagan, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The first Mrs. McCain

McCain met Carol Shepp through a mutual friend and fellow midshipman at the Naval Academy, from which McCain graduated in 1958. That friend, Alasdair E. Swanson, married her in 1958. In the early 1960s, the Swansons lived in Pensacola, Fla., where Alasdair Swanson and McCain served as Navy pilots.

But that marriage ended in June 1964 after Carol sued for divorce, alleging that her husband had been unfaithful.

According to McCain, he started seeing Carol shortly afterward. They were married in Philadelphia, her hometown, in July 1965. McCain adopted her two sons, and they had a daughter together. Then in October 1967, McCain's plane was shot down and he was captured by the North Vietnamese.

She became active in the POW-MIA movement. A former model, she dedicated herself to her children and kept the family together, friends said, while awaiting his return.

"She had the perseverance to carry on," said Melinda Fitzwater, a cousin of McCain's who later worked with Carol McCain at the White House. "She had a little baby and small kids. She was a great, unique person."

On Christmas Eve 1969, while she was driving alone in Philadelphia, Carol McCain's car skidded and struck a utility pole. Thrown into the snow, she broke both legs, an arm and her pelvis. She was operated on a dozen times, and in the treatment she lost about 5 inches in height.

After John McCain was released in March 1973 and returned to the U.S., he told friends that Carol was not the woman he had married.

Reynolds, working for then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan, said she first met the couple in San Francisco at a reception for ex-prisoners. She later introduced them to the Reagans at their home in Pacific Palisades.

"They were just an attractive couple," Reynolds said. "The Reagans had great admiration and respect for John."

In 1974, Reagan invited McCain to speak at a governor's prayer breakfast in Sacramento. The former prisoner of war told the story of a fellow captive who had scratched a prayer on a cell wall. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were reduced to tears. It was "the most moving speech I had ever heard," Reynolds said.

In the next few years, family and friends said, there was no sign that McCain was unhappy in his marriage. Fitzwater recalled visiting the family on Thanksgivings, and McCain seemed content barbecuing a turkey on his outdoor grill near Jacksonville, Fla.

Navy officers in the squadron McCain commanded in 1977 said they did not know anything was wrong. "When I went to parties at their home, everything seemed fine," said Mike Akin, a naval flying instructor. "They seemed to be a happily married couple."

But two years later, while on a trip as a Navy liaison with the Senate, McCain spied Hensley at the Honolulu reception. In a recent television interview with Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show," Cindy McCain joked about how the Navy captain had pursued her. "He kind of chased me around . . . the hors d'oeuvre table," she said. "I was trying to get something to eat and I thought, 'This guy's kind of weird.' I was kind of trying to get away from him."

John McCain was 42; she was 24. During the next nine months, he would fly to Arizona or she would come to the Washington area, where McCain and Carol had a home.

Carol McCain later told friends, including Reynolds and Fitzwater, that she did not know he was seeing anyone else.

John McCain sued for divorce in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where his friend and fellow former POW, George E. "Bud" Day, practiced law and could represent him.

In the petition, he stated that the couple had "cohabited as husband and wife" until Jan. 7, 1980.

His wife did not contest the divorce, and Day said that the couple had reached an agreement in advance on support and division of property. By then she was living in La Mesa, in San Diego County, with the family of Meese, a close Reagan aide and future attorney general.

"We knew John and Carol both since he came back from Hanoi in 1973," Meese said recently. "They have been friends of ours ever since.

"She was with us for maybe four or five months. Their daughter and our daughter were friends, and they went to school together."

Carol McCain was distraught at being blindsided by her husband's intention to end their marriage, said her friends in the Reagan circle.

"They [the Reagans] weren't happy with him," Fitzwater said. Carol McCain "was this little, frail person. . . . She was brokenhearted."

By that time, Nancy Reagan had come to Carol McCain's aid, hiring her as a press assistant in the 1980 presidential campaign.

When the Reagans moved to Washington, she was named director of the White House Visitors Office.

"Nancy Reagan was crazy about her," Reynolds said. "But everybody was crazy about Carol McCain. . . . And the Meeses were very generous and helpful and comforting to her."

Fitzwater said that living in Southern California and working on the Reagan campaign helped Carol McCain move past the loss of her marriage.

"It was perfect for her. She was traveling, and it took her mind off a very, very sad time for her."


Iran and what an attack on Iran would entail.

Iran's Missile Test: A Clear Reminder That an Attack Would Be Disastrous

By Scott Ritter, Truthdig
Posted on July 15, 2008, Printed on July 15, 2008

There can no longer be any doubt about the consequences of any U.S. and/or Israeli military action against Iran. Armchair warriors, pundits and blustering politicians alike have been advocating a pre-emptive military strike against Iran for the purpose of neutralizing its nuclear-related infrastructure as well as retarding its ability to train and equip "terrorist" forces on Iranian soil before dispatching them to Iraq or parts unknown. Some, including me, have warned of the folly of such action, and now Iran itself has demonstrated why an attack would be insane.

I've always pointed out that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy, and furthermore one can never forget that, in war, the enemy gets to vote. On the issue of an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran, the Iranian military has demonstrated exactly how it would cast its vote. Iran recently fired off medium- and long-range missiles and rockets in a clear demonstration of capability and intent. Shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, regional oil production capability and U.S. military concentrations, along with Israeli cities, would all be subjected to an Iranian military response if Iran were attacked.

The Bush administration has shrugged off the Iranian military display as yet another example of how irresponsible the government in Tehran is. But the Pentagon for one has had to sit up and pay attention. For some time now, the admirals commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf have maintained that they have the ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. But the fact is, the only way the United States could guarantee that the strait remained open would be to launch a massive pre-emptive military strike that swept the Iranian coast clear of the deadly Chinese-made surface-to-surface missiles that Iran would otherwise use to sink cargo ships in the strategic lane. This strike would involve hundreds of tactical aircraft backed up by limited ground action by Marines and U.S. Special Operations forces, which would involve "boots on the ground" for several days, if not weeks. Such a strike is not envisioned in any "limited" military action being planned by the United States. But now that it is clear what the Iranian response would entail, there can no longer be any talk of a "limited" military attack on Iran.

The moment the United States makes a move to secure the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will unleash a massive bombardment of the military and industrial facilities of the United States and its allies, including the oil fields in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. American military bases in Iraq and Kuwait -- large, fixed and well known -- would be smothered by rockets and missiles carrying deadly cluster bombs. The damage done would run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars; and hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. military personnel would be killed and wounded.

To prevent or retard any Iranian missile attack, the United States would have to commit hundreds of combat sorties, combined with Special Operations forces, to a counter-missile fight that would need to span the considerable depth of the Persian landmass from which missiles might reach potential targets. While there has been some improvement in the U.S. military's counter-missile capability, one must never forget that in 1991 not a single Iraqi Scud missile was successfully interdicted by any aspect of American military action -- air strike, ground action or antiballistic missile -- and in 2003 the U.S. military had mixed results against the far-less-capable Al-Samoud missiles. Israel was unable to prevent Hezbollah from firing large salvos of rockets into northern Israel during the summer 2006 conflict. There is no reason for optimism that the United States and Israel have suddenly found the solution to the Iranian missile threat.

There is virtually no chance the U.S. Navy would be able to prevent Iran from interfering with shipping through the strait. There is every chance the Navy would take significant casualties, in both ships lost and personnel killed or wounded, as it struggled to secure the strait. There would be a need for a significant commitment of ground forces to guarantee safe passage for all shipping, civilian and military alike. The longer ground forces operated on Iranian soil, the better the chances Iranian missiles would not be able to effectively interdict shipping. Conversely, the longer ground forces operated on Iranian soil, the greater likelihood there would be of decisive ground engagement. With U.S. air power expected to be fully committed to the missile interdiction mission, any large-scale ground engagement would create a situation in which air power would have to be redirected into tactical support and away from missile interdiction, creating a window of vulnerability that the Iranians would very likely exploit.

Iran has promised to strike targets in Israel as well, especially if Israel is a participant in any military action. Such Israeli involvement is highly unlikely, since to do so in any meaningful fashion Israel would need to fly in Iraqi airspace, a violation of sovereignty the Iraqi government will never tolerate. The anti-American backlash that would be generated in Iraq would be immediate and severe. In short, virtually every operation involving the training of Iraqi forces would be terminated as the U.S. military trainers would need to be withdrawn to the safety of the fortified U.S. bases to protect them from attack. U.S. civilian contractors would likewise need to be either withdrawn completely from Iraq or restricted to the fortified bases. All gains alleged to have been made in the "surge" would be wiped away instantly. Worse, the Iraqi countryside would become a seething mass of anti-American activity, which would require a huge effort to reverse, if it ever could be. Iraq as we now know it would be lost, and what would emerge in its stead would not only be unsympathetic to the United States but actually a breeding ground for anti-American action that could very well expand beyond the boundaries of Iraq and the Middle East.

The chances of preventing an Iranian-Israeli clash in the event of a U.S. strike against Iran are slim to none. Even if Iran initially showed restraint, Hezbollah would undoubtedly join the fray, prompting an Israeli counterstrike in Lebanon and Iran that would in turn bring long-range Iranian missiles raining down on Israeli cities.

Neither the Israeli nor the American (and for that reason, European and Asian) economy would emerge intact from a U.S. attack on Iran. Oil would almost instantly break the $300-per-barrel mark, and because the resulting conflict would more than likely be longer and more violent that most are predicting, there is a good chance that oil would top $500 or even more within days or weeks. Hyperinflation would almost certainly strike every market-based economy, and the markets themselves would collapse under the strain.

The good news is that the military planners in the Pentagon are cognizant of this reality. They know the limitations of American power, and what they can and cannot achieve. When it was uncertain how Iran would respond to a limited attack, either on their nuclear facilities or on bases associated with the Revolutionary Guard Command, some planners might have thought that the United States could actually pull off a quick and relatively bloodless attack. Now that Iran has made it crystal clear that even a limited U.S. attack would bring about a massive Iranian response, all military planners now understand that any U.S. military attack would have to be massive. Simply put, the United States does not now have the military capacity in the Middle East to launch such a strike, and any redeployment of U.S. forces into the region could not go undetected, either by Iran, which would in turn redeploy its forces, or the rest of the world. Because a U.S. attack against Iran would have such a horrific, detrimental impact on the entire world, it is hard to imagine the international community remaining mute as American military might is assembled.

Likewise, despite the disposition of Congress to either remain silent on the issue or actively facilitate military action against Iran, it would become increasingly difficult for American lawmakers to ignore the consequences of a military strike on Iran, economically and politically. The same can be said of both major presidential candidates. The decision by Iran to show its hand on how it would respond to any American aggression has cleared the air, so to speak, about what is actually being discussed when one speaks of military action against Iran. In many ways, the Iranian missile tests have made it less likely that there will be a war with Iran, simply because the stakes of any such action are so plainly obvious to all parties involved.

Iran continues, based upon all available intelligence information, to pursue a nuclear program that is exclusively intended for peaceful energy purposes. Any concerns that may exist about the dual-use potential of Iran's uranium enrichment programs can be mitigated through viable nuclear inspections conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA inspections should be improved upon by getting Iran to go along with an additional inspection protocol, rather than pursuing military action that would destroy the inspection process and remove the very verification processes that provide the international community with the confidence that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The reality is that Iran's nuclear program is here to stay. Iran has every right under international law to pursue this program, and regional and global tensions would be greatly reduced (along with the price of oil) if American policies, and in related fashion U.N. Security Council mandates, were adjusted accordingly. Israeli paranoia -- derived not so much from any genuine Iranian threat but rather from an affront to Israeli nuclear hegemony in the Middle East -- must in turn be subdued. This can be done through a mixture of international pressure designed to punish Israel diplomatically and economically for any failure to adhere to international norms when it comes to peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, and international assurances that Israel's sovereignty and viability as a nation-state will forever be respected and defended.

Of course, there can be no meaningful international pressure brought to bear on Israel without American participation, and herein lies the crux of the problem. Until the U.S. Congress segregates legitimate national security concerns from narrow Israeli-only issues, the pro-Israel lobby will have considerable control over American national security policy. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's continued push for congressional action concerning the implementation of what is tantamount to a naval blockade of Iran (and as such, an act of war) by pushing House Resolution 362 and Senate Resolution 580 is mind-boggling given the reality of the situation. Congress must stop talking blockade and start discussing stability and confidence-building measures.

There has never been a more pressing time than now for Congress to conduct serious hearings on U.S. policy toward Iran. Such hearings must not replicate the rubber-stamp hearings held by the U.S. Senate and House in the summer of 2002. Those hearings were simply a facilitating vehicle for war with Iraq. New hearings must expand the body of witnesses beyond administration officials and those who would mirror their policy positions, and include experts and specialists who could articulate a counter point of view, exposing Congress to information and analysis that might prompt a fuller debate. This is the last thing the AIPAC and the Bush administration want to see. But it is the one thing the American people should be demanding.

Only an irrational person or organization could continue to discuss as viable a military strike against Iran. Sadly, based upon past and current policy articulations, neither AIPAC nor the Bush administration can be considered rational when it comes to the issue of Iran. It is up to the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress, to inject a modicum of sanity into a situation that continues to be in danger of spinning out of control.

Scott Ritter served as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998. He is the author of, most recently, Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Nation Books, 2005).

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Monday, July 14, 2008

ON InBev and the AB Merger....My two cents

When InBev bought out LeBlatts in Canada, the unions were shut out of the buyout process. InBev has a history of anti-Union and an indifference if not right harassment to its workers. This included documented incidents in its Brazilian plants of workers systematically humiliated if they didn't meet production quotas or obey company rules.

St. Louis has a little bit of business whiplash too. When May Co. bout out Famous Barr, we were told not to worry and that Famous was an institution, would always be here, blah, blah, blah. Well, all of our Famous Barr stores now carry Macy's signs and the "regional HQ" we were told would never leave was moved to Cincinatti. American Airlines promised much the same with TWA and again, St. Louis was left out in the cold again. Southwestern Bell moved out in spite of having just built a huge multi-million dollar corporate facility in the city.

So given this history, we in the city just don't believe the promises of the business community much anymore. One of my most hated phrases is "Its just business." What I lothe with a gripping pasion is that business thinks it can get away with action without thinking of the consequences for the people that depend on it. Business without responsability is hogwash. Business has an obligation to operate itself in a responsible manner in order to make society a better place. Reckless, irresponsible and hostile behavior are an anethema to the society at large and an indication of what idiocy that greed accomplishes. I am all for making money. But to do it in a manner which is indistinguishable from legal theft from the society at large is not a way to conduct business.

This isn't about beer as much as it is about what will happen to the community charitable organizations that have come to depend on AB for donations, the workers who have come to depend on AB for jobs, and the people of the community who have come to depend on AB as a bedrock to build their lives on. Now the bedrock has proven to be just as vulnerable as any corporate entity and there is no security anymore. Once again, our city has suffered yet another in a long string of demoralizing humiliations.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friend update 2008 - 07 - 13

Well, as I said in the comments of the previous blog entry on this subject, the ambulance arrived for my friend but she refused to go to the hospital. They treated her at the scene as best they could and left. I'm not sure why they didn't take her, but that 103 fever should have been a clue. I think that most bureaucratic entities are too worried about lawsuite and can't do anything anymore.

I talked to her yesterday. We chatted, shot the breeze and watched a couple episodes of Sitting Ducks like we do over the pohne. This morining she called and told me she felt real bad. Between the fits of coughing, she told me how much she appreciated me and that she loved me and was glad that I was her best friend.

Anyway, at this point she is still alive. For how much longer I don't know.

Well, what is going on with me.

First of all, I have discovered that Ham or Amateur Radio is an expensive hobby to get into. Used to be you could run down to Radio Shack and pick up one of these radios or build it yourself for cheap. Not anymore. You are lucky if you can even find a store that sells these things in your town. Radio Shack doesn't sell all the parts for these things anymore nor the completed ones. You are left to the internet to search for a radio if you don't have a shop in your town.

So, I have started stalking the internet. I want to get a good Military specification radio that is tough and good for a starter like me to get used to the idea of transmitting and enjoying the hobby. I don't want someones used jewel that I will have to figure out how to run because he lost the manual years ago when he went on to bigger and better. I don't need all the bells and whistles untill I can figure out which bells and whistles I need.

There are a few good handheld "Walkie-talkie" style radios for under $200. Our hams here are swearing by Icons. I have had good experience with Kenwoods at work, but we use Motorollas now. Yaesu sounds too Japanese for me. I know all of them are made in China, Singapore or Japan, but I still have to think that it is good to at least stick with an American sounding company. However, we had Yaesu's at one of my other jobs and they worked OK.

I even found one close to $100, but its just a one band system. I want one that I hope I can use at work as well. If I had one that could transmit and receive on the bands we use at work, then I can use it instead of the handhelds they issue us. Then I can avoid what happened last night after I got to work and found all the radios had no charged batteries. So I had to grab one that was still red and hope it would last the night. Thank God it did.

The radio I will eventually get will be for a starter to get used to the idea of being a ham and talking over the radio. Eventually I will get a base station and use it in the house. I will probably end up being one of those grizzled old men you see in the neighborhood with a 200 foot antenna in his back yard, looking like he is trying to pick up Mars on his handhelds. I don't exactly relish the idea, but being that I am not married now, the likelihood is that I will remain so. Therefore, I should probably have a hobby other than playing on the net like I am doing now.

If I didn't say before, I just want to remind the reading audience that I couldn't find my license because my name was misspelled. So, I called the FCC and they referred me back to the guys who administered my test and that they would change the name. I don't know if I will keep the call sign I was issued. I kind have been getting used to it. I am also getting used to saying "zero" instead of "oh." That can be a faux pas in radio circles with the purpose of transmitting accurate information. Anyway, the nice lady at the ARRL said they would get on it right away. Considering that it was nice that they got my paperwork processed very quickly, I should be getting a new license soon with the proper spelling of my name.

Getting the radio is going to be the tricky part. Everything else is gravy. Once I get the handheld, maybe I can get used to things and then later I can pass the thing down to someone or sell it when I move up like a lot of hams do.

Anyway, I think that is all for now. Friend update on next blog.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I... Don't think so... but here it is...

You Are a Coy Flirt
You may not seem like you're flirting, but you know exactly what you're doing.
You draw people in, very calculatingly, without them even knowing.
Subtle and understated, you know how to best leverage your sex appeal.
A sexy enigma, you easily become an object of obsession.

An object of obsession? Moi?

Le Petomane - Warning! Possible offensive material.......

Needing a dose of humor, I was perusing YouTube this morning in search of a partifular video and I stumbled across something from Blazing Saddles. As Ron White might say, I tell you that story to tell you this. The Governor in Blazing Saddles is named William J. Le Petomane. Whats funny about that? Well, seems there was this gentleman, long long ago, who was known by his stage name "Le Petomane." For those of you who are Franco-illeterate the name translates as "The Fart Maniac." His real name was Joseph Pujol. (For those of you who know of my interest in Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles, you can understand why I would find this facinating. But I digress).

Now Joe was a unique indivdual as humans go. He had this ability to fart on cue. Not only that, he could fart for sustained periods and was able to accomplish miracles with his... well, back end lets say. He was able to suck water into his colin, and then project it several yards. He could imitate the sounds of musical instruments, (farting "Le Marseillaise") imitate the sounds of thunder and cannon fire, and blow out a candle from several yards away.

He debuted on the stage at the prestigious Moulin Rouge in 1892 and performed for most of the celibrity figures of the day: Sigmund Freud, Prince Edward, and so forth. After a nasty lawsuit, he stopped performing on the stage at the Moulin rouge and opened his own theatre in 1894.

He continued to "refine" his act, trying to make them gentler. Part of his act was to quote a poem of his own composition about a tranquil farm while imitating the farm animals out of his other orifice. The climazx of his new act included him farting an impression of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

He stopped performing after WW I and returned to his former occupation as a baker, dying in 1945 at the age of 88.

There is an indivdual that accomplishes similar feats today who goes by the stage name "Mr. Methane." He has his won website at

Thus concludes the interest in our natural gas manufacturing capabilities.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Good News and bad news for the day

Well I got some good news yesterday. Checking the FCC website multiple times and not finding my Ham Radio license posted, I decided to check in another way. I entered my zipcode and just checked them all for the month and I found mine posted. Apparently I make my lower case "e's" look like "c's" so I have to get the spelling of my name changed, but the good news is that I have a license and I can use the radio if I want. Now I have to find a radio.

Bad news is this. If you have browsed way back on my blogs or read them or know me, I have a friend in Texas named Stephanie. Stephanie is very dear to me and has offered to move me down to help her out and deal with her cancer. Its a very difficult decision as I have my job and family here along with my love of St. Louis and the fact that I don't want to move again. I have moved so much in the past 10 years, I can't remember some of the places I have been. I am tired of moving.

Today she called and said that she couldn't take living anymore. She has a persistant pnemonia that is getting worse and she could barely talk. She has suffered with this for weeks, literally weeks, and has refused to do anything about it. She is worried aobut her cats because no one will go over and take proper care of them. He kids have been little heathens and no longer live with her, they live with their dad. She told me on the phone that she felt like she was dying and to call her pastor to take her to the hospital. I called her pastor and got a voice mail. I called her dad and he said they couldn't come up to be with her.

So I found the number to the Ft. Worth Police and called her an ambulance. I just couldn't stand it anymore. I hope I did the right thing. I just don't know what else I can do. I can't afford to go down there. I paid all my bills and have just enough to get me gas for the rest of the week till I get paid next. I just feel terrible that I can't come down there to be with her. We are friends and that is what it is with us. At one time I wanted it to be more, but I think the cancer changed that. I don't want to leave my home and family here and go to some place where, in a matter of weeks, I could be alone again.

I don't know why I am putting this here, but I just need to vent a bit. If I didn't do this, it would bottle up inside of me. I care for her so much, but do I care for her enough to do what is needed? She says that the fact that no one will come to be with her is proof that no one really cares for her. I her the tears in her voice and the pain of being so alone. What else can I do? I have my Mom here and my family that needs me. I have a job that, although I don't love it, its a job and it pays the bills. If the economy goes crazy, would I be able to find a job in Texas. I know that Texas is a growing economy, but I just don't want to go back to where ther are some bad memories for me.

I can't think anymore. I needed to do this to be cathartic and I just don't know what else to do. I can't stand the feeling of helpleness I have about what she is going through. I just ask you all to pray for my friend and help her through her crisis, pray for her health.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Apparently in our time of need there is some that do not suffer......

Congress Delivers Promised Israel Aid Bump Despite Budget Deadlock
Move Bypasses Normal Appropriation Process

- While almost all federally financed programs were denied any funding increase for the coming year, aid to Israel from the United States will increase thanks to a legislative loophole and some deft maneuvering by pro-Israel lobbyists.

Congress bypassed the normal appropriation process on June 26 when it approved a $170 million raise in military aid to Israel, as part of a larger supplemental spending bill. The increase contrasts with the standstill in budgeting for almost all other government programs. Due to fighting between Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget, most government spending will be held in what is known as a “continuous resolution,” which maintains all spending at the same level as in the previous fiscal year and allows no raise in government spending.

Aid to Israel would normally be covered by this resolution, but legislators made the aid into an amendment to special legislation covering funding for the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to an official in the Washington pro-Israel community, the only other instance in which aid to Israel went through this channel was after the first Gulf War, 16 years ago.

The move was quickly applauded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“The effort to secure this vital increase in American aid to our ally Israel could not have happened without the active support of the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate and Aipac applauds their effort,” Aipac spokesman Josh Block said in a statement published following the aid increase approval.

Israel had been promised a bump in military aid before the current wrangling over the budget.

Last August, Jerusalem and Washington signed an agreement that should direct $30 billion to Israel over 10 years.

For the agreement to actually turn into cash for Israel, Congress is required to appropriate the money. This legislative process has become increasingly difficult to complete in recent years, since Republican and Democratic lawmakers could not find common ground on spending bills. A continuous resolution this year would have put the promised increase in aid in jeopardy and would have left the implementation of the new aid package in the hands of a new administration and new Congress.

The first indication of the special maneuvers came at the annual conference of Aipac, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium.

“I don’t know if Harry or John Boehner told you this earlier,” Pelosi said in her June 4 address, referring to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House Minority leader John Boehner, “but the first installment of this increase, $170 million, will be in the supplemental appropriation bill the House will consider soon, in fact, that we are considering now, so we can expedite this.”

The pro-Israel community’s desire to see the aid increase, even in the face of a Continuous Resolution had been raised earlier by members of Norpac, a New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action group, in a lobbying day they held May 21.

But a source following the issue closely said Aipac leaders were surprised by Pelosi’s pledge, saying it was an initiative that came from the highest congressional ranks.

On June 19, Aipac’s director of legislative policy and strategy briefed congressional staffers and explained the need for increasing foreign aid to Israel, stressing that the Jewish state’s expenses on security are higher than any other country in the industrialized world because of the threats it faces.

Bipartisan support for bypassing legislative hurdles was apparent in the June 27 Senate vote, which tallied 92 supporters and only six senators opposing the bill. Aid to Jordan and Mexico are the two other foreign military assistance items included in the bill.

The $170 million raise to Israel will bring the overall military funding to $2.38 billion — the highest of any such package.

The new aid to Israel is part of a larger deal which includes multi-billion-dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, all aimed at strengthening nations seen as crucial in curbing Iran’s influence in the region. That package is an arms deal and does not require the appropriation of any funds.

MESSENGER mission News - MESSENGER Settles old Debates and Makes New Discoveries at Mercury

For Immediate Release

July 3, 2008

Media Contacts:

Tina McDowell

Carnegie Institution of Washington
(202) 939-1120

Paulette Campbell

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

(240) 228-6792

MESSENGER Settles old Debates and Makes new Discoveries at Mercury

Scientists have argued about the origins of Mercury’s smooth plains and the source of its magnetic field for over 30 years. Now, analyses of data from the January 2008 flyby of the planet by the MESSENGER spacecraft have shown that volcanoes were involved in plains formation and suggest that its magnetic field is actively produced in the planet’s core and is not a frozen relic. Scientists additionally took their first look at the chemical composition the planet’s surface material. The tiny craft probed the composition of Mercury’s thin atmosphere, sampled charged particles (ions) near the planet, and demonstrated new links between both sets of observations and materials on Mercury’s surface. The results are reported in a series of 11 papers published in a special section of the July 4 issue of Science magazine.

The controversy over the origin of Mercury’s smooth plains began with the 1972 Apollo 16 Moon mission, which suggested that some lunar plains came from material that was ejected by large impacts and then formed smooth ‘ponds.’ When Mariner 10 imaged similar formations on Mercury in 1975, some scientists believed that the same processes were at work. Others thought that Mercury’s plains material came from erupted lavas, but the absence of volcanic vents or other volcanic features in images from that mission prevented a consensus.

Six of the papers in Science report on analyses of the planet’s surface through its reflectance and color variation, surface chemistry, high-resolution imaging at different wavelengths, and altitude measurements. The researchers found evidence of volcanic vents along the margins of the Caloris basin, one of the Solar System’s largest and youngest impact basins. They also found that Caloris has a much more complicated geologic history than previously believed.

“By combining Mariner 10 and MESSENGER data, the science team was able to reconstruct a comprehensive geologic history of the entire basin interior,” explained James Head of Brown University , the lead author of one of the Science reports. “The Caloris basin was formed from an impact by an asteroid or comet during the heavy bombardment period in the first billion years of Solar System history. As with the lunar maria, a period of volcanic activity produced lava flows that filled the basin interior. This volcanism produced the comparatively light, red material of the interior plains intermingled with impact crater deposits. Subsidence caused the surface of the Caloris floor to shorten, producing what we call wrinkle-ridges. The large troughs, or graben, then formed as a result of later uplift, and more recent impacts yielded newer craters.”

The first altitude measurements from any spacecraft at Mercury also found that craters on that planet are about a factor of two shallower than those on the Moon and they, too, show a complex geologic history.

Mariner 10 discovered Mercury’s magnetic field. Earth is the only other terrestrial planet with a global magnetic field. In both cases the field produces a protective bubble called a magnetosphere, which generally shields the planet surface from the charged particles of the solar wind. Earth’s magnetic field is generated by the churning, hot, liquid-iron core via a mechanism called a magnetic dynamo. Researchers have been puzzled by Mercury’s field since its iron core should have cooled long ago and stopped generating magnetism. Some researchers have thought that the field may have been a relic of the past, frozen in the outer crust.

“MESSENGER’s measurements did indicate that, like the Earth, Mercury’s magnetic field is mostly dipolar, which means it has a north and south magnetic poles,” stated lead author Brian Anderson of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “The fact that it’s dipolar, and that we did not find the ‘signature’ shorter-wavelength anomalies that would signify patches of magnetized crust, supports the view that we’re seeing a modern dynamo. We are eager for the October flyby and the year in orbit to see if this is the case elsewhere on the planet and confirm that the field comes from the core.”

The flyby made the first-ever observations of the ionized particles in Mercury’s unique exosphere. The exosphere is an ultrathin atmosphere where the molecules are so far apart they are more likely to collide with the surface than with each other. The planet’s highly elliptical orbit, its slow rotation, and particle interactions with the magnetosphere, interplanetary medium, and solar wind result in strong seasonal and day-night differences in the way particles behave.

“MESSENGER was able to observe Mercury’s exosphere in three areas—the dayside, the day/night line, or terminator, and its 25,000 mile-long (40,000 km) sodium tail,” explained lead author Bill McClintock of the University of Colorado . “Atoms of hydrogen, helium, sodium, potassium, and calcium have been seen in the exosphere, and many other elements almost certainly exist there. When species escape from the surface they are accelerated by solar-radiation pressure and form a long tail of atoms flowing away from the Sun. But their abundances differ depending on whether it’s day or night, effects from the magnetic field and solar wind, and possibly the latitude. Mercury’s exosphere is remarkably active.”

“Since Mariner 10’s discovery of Mercury’s magnetosphere, there’s been speculation about its dynamics, ion composition, and how the solar wind interacts with the surface and exosphere,” commented lead author Thomas Zurbuchen of the University of Michigan . “The planet’s surface is the most space-weathered of any terrestrial planet, and the interaction of solar wind and micrometeoroid flux with the surface can inject both neutral and charged particles into the exosphere and space. The ion composition was not measured by Mariner 10 and MESSENGER once again provided a significant scientific surprise. The magnetosphere is full of many ionic species, both atomic and molecular and in a variety of charge states. What is in some sense a ‘Mercury plasma nebula’ is far richer in complexity and makeup than the Io plasma torus in the Jupiter system. The abundances of silicon, sodium, and sulfur relative to oxygen in the solar wind are too low, and their charge states — ionization — are too high to account for the abundances we measured, so there is no doubt that this material came from the planet’s surface. This observation means that this flyby got the first-ever look at surface composition.”

Mercury’s core makes up 60% of its mass, which is at least twice as large as any other planet. The flyby revealed that the magnetic field, originating in the outer core and powered by core cooling, drives very dynamic and complex interactions among the planet’s interior, surface, exosphere, and magnetosphere.

Remarking on the importance of the core to surface geological structures, MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said: “The dominant tectonic landforms on Mercury, including areas imaged for the first time by MESSENGER, are features called lobate scarps, huge cliffs that mark the tops of crustal faults that formed during the contraction of the surrounding area. They tell us how important the cooling core has been to the evolution of the surface. After the end of the period of heavy bombardment, cooling of the planet’s core not only fuels the magnetic dynamo, it also led to contraction of the entire planet. And the data from the flyby indicate that the total contraction is a least one third greater than we previously thought.”

“When you look at the planet in the sky, it looks like a simple point of light,” remarked MESSENGER Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, of APL. “But when you experience Mercury close-up through all of MESSENGER’s ‘senses’ seeing it at different wavelengths, feeling its magnetic properties, and touching its surface features and energetic particles, you perceive a complex system and not just a ball of rock and metal. We are all surprised by how active that planet is and at the dynamic interrelationships among its core, surface, exosphere, and magnetosphere.”

“It’s remarkable that this rich lode of data came from two days of imaging, just 30 minutes of sampling the planet’s magnetosphere and exosphere, and less than ten minutes carrying out altimetry and collecting other data near the time of its closest approach 125 miles (200 kilometers) to the surface,” offered Solomon. “MESSENGER’s first flyby was a huge success, both in keeping us on target for the rest of our journey and in advancing our progress toward answering the science questions that have motivated this mission.”

Additional information is available online at For copies of the papers contact AAAS SciPak at 202-326-6440 or

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

New Horizons Mission News - Team Celebrates 30th Aniversary of Charon's Discovery


July 2, 2008

New Horizons Team Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Charon’s Discovery

This week the New Horizons mission team celebrates the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto’s largest and first moon, Charon, by U.S. Naval Observatory astronomers James Christy and Robert Harrington.

Charon, whose discovery was officially announced on July 7, 1978, orbits nearly 11,390 miles (about 18,220 kilometers) from Pluto’s surface and has a diameter of about 750 miles (1,210 kilometers). At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest moon relative to its planet in our solar system.

Charon discovery
image, 1978.
Charon’s surface is covered in water ice, and its interior is known to be a nearly even combination of rock and water ice. Unlike Pluto, it has no substantial atmosphere. “The historic discovery of Charon ushered in the modern understanding of Pluto as a double planet and the product of a giant collision that formed the system in much the same way as the Earth-moon system was formed,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern.

Artist's impression of
Charon (right) and Pluto.

The Pluto family grew just three years ago, when Stern and New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver led a team that discovered two additional, much smaller moons, later named Nix and Hydra.

New Horizons is en route to fly by and reconnoiter the Pluto system seven years from now, in July 2015, turning these moons and their parent planet from points of light into well-mapped worlds.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The War Prayer - By Mark Twain.

Mark Twain is not well known as a social activist except among those who are afficianatos of his writing. One of his many unpublished manuscripts is "The War Prayer." Written at the height of our supression of one of many rebellions surpressed in the Phillipines, then an American possession, it was a bitter satire of the futility and violence of war and its consequences.

When we go to war, the citizens of a nation often do not think of the consequenes of that conflict. As an example, in Iraq we are creating a whole generation of people who are going to be bitter and resentful towards Americans to say the least. At worst we are creating a whole new generation of future terrorists, armed with bitterness and hatred for the attrocities we have committed. To us we may just see this war as a legitimate excersise, necessary in the world that has befallen us. To them, we are the invaders. Its as if the citizens of Iceland decided to invade our country and impose their society upon us. We have nothing in common with them, but they come nevertheless. Our insatiable need for energy is what drives us and as long as we let our corporations hobble our government and dictate policy to the masses, we get what we deserve. It an unfortunate truth that we need the oil they have. They know that we need it, but we want to be able to control it without restrictions and like all good owners of their own land, they want to control their own resources. Therin lies the endless conflict and it will not end till all the oil is pumped out of the ground and the Arabs return to their roots as desert nomads.

The future may be different though. A lot of construction is taking place and the Arabs are learning that to be a part of modern society they need to change some aspects of their society. Being the good traders that they are, they are turning thier cities into duplicartes of our sprawling metropolises. Dubai and Kuwait City are well on the way to becomming the commercial hubs of the region and very soon, they may rival London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo as trading centers. In the future, we may have to deal with these people and they will be armed with the bitter memories of the past. We may be the beggers needing assistance and we will but wonder at the indifference of the new masters of the world. The Golden Rule works both ways........

The War Prayer Video

By Mark Twain

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,

Markos Production

Part 1

Part 2

The War Prayer

By Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere.
The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed. See Jim Zwick's page "Mark Twain on the Philippines" for more of Twain's writings on the subject.

Transcribed by Steven Orso (

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