sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bad Day for Barak

Two major decisions came down from the Supreme Court today. 

Hobby Lobby won - they and other organizations with religious objections will not be compelled to provide contraception coverage. 

Unions were dealt a serious blow today, ruling that home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union's costs of collective bargaining.

If you cap that with the 9-0 decision on Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board - defining further what "the Senate is in recess" means, the nation has had some good news for a change.

Foreign Policy disasters continue: Yesterday, ISIL declared the restoration of the Caliphate, an Islamic State that includes all the territories ISIL has conquered. It called on all Muslims to pledge their allegiance. ISIL leader al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph Ibrahim.

The Caliph is supposed to be the legitimate successor to Mohammed. There are many who would claim this title. This declaration will be challenged on theological, ideological, military and genealogical grounds. This is a potential break for the Iraqi and Syrian forces because it adds another basis for internal fighting among the Islamists. It will force Sunni Arab tribal leaders to rethink their strategy for controlling ISIL and to choose sides. In the process, it will deepen the civil war, which Obama declared had ended - about three weeks ago.

The declaration of the Caliphate demands allegiance from all Muslims. It is a declaration of war against all who do not swear allegiance and against non-believers.

Maybe those numbers will go up for Obama if he blames Bush more frequently?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jackhammer

Part of an ongoing series of non-sequential fictional shorts. Jackhammer copyright © Larry B. Lambert, 2014


Jackhammer
“When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there is an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities!” —Matt Groening

Leonard Barnes sat on a lopsided canvas-topped stool on the slat-wood Pisces dock in the Cabo San Lucas harbor, looking at the new 60 foot Hatteras Carolina-style sport fisherman that he would be boarding soon. Everything had been loaded aboard the Reel Good Time from steaks and beer to fishing tackle. He had watched as the crew finished prepping the boat for sea and what Leonard hoped would be another world class marlin run. 

He left a voicemail message for his wife, Carly, back home in Vermont, telling her that he’d be staying in Mexico for another few days because the fishing had been phenomenal. She hadn’t called back or picked up for two days and it worried him. He punched her number into the cell phone one more time before the charter headed off to the fishing grounds and out of cell phone range. This time she answered.

“Hello?”

“I was beginning to worry about you, Carly. Did you get my message?”

"Yeah."

“You didn't call back.”

“I know, that’s so out of character for me. I’m such a predictable cute little housewife.”

“So do you mind that I’m staying for another four or five days?”

Carly paused for a moment and then said, “I can’t really talk now.”

“Why, what are you doing?”

“When you told me that you planned to stay what will amount to another week with your fishing buddies, I called in sick from work and caught a flight to Miami.”

“Huh? What? Why did you do that?”

“Hold on for a minute.”

“Why? What are you doing?”

“Just pullin' on my fuck-me boots. In a couple minutes, I’ll be heading out to a club here in Miami Beach. It was damned cold in Vermont and I didn’t want to do the town there. The nightlife is limited.” The line seemed dead because there was nothing from the other end. Carly said, “Musta lost you—are you there? Anyway, I’ve gotta go."

“Which boots are you wearing?”

“My fuck-me-at-the-club boots. You know the tall black leather ones with chrome stiletto heels that you bought for my birthday back when we were dating. Why?”

“What else are you wearing?”

“That short leopard dress that you said I shouldn’t wear anymore because we’re married now. See ya when you get back—maybe.”

“You are such a bitch, Carly.” 

She pushed the end button on her cell phone and then took a photo of herself in the mirror with the phone. The backdrop clearly showed a hotel room. Her hair was maxed, make-up perfect and the short leopard dress was barely long enough to hide what she had. Then she texted him the photo with the caption, ‘do I look horny’?

He paced the dock as he called and Carly let the phone ring until it went to voice mail. Then he called again and she picked up.

“I’m in Mexico with Steve and Boozer and we’re fishing—not chasing skirt—you know that, right?

“Yeah.”

“Nice picture, but that’s not very cool of you to send it to me. Where are you really? At Jenny’s house in Colchester Village?”

“I told you where I am, but I’ve gotta go because the limousine is waiting for me. And since it’s on your credit card, you should imagine that you’re enjoying the ride with me. I’ll be having a few cocktails and I won’t be driving, so I can toast your generosity.”

“I don’t want you to wear those boots.”

“How’s the fishing?”

“And you know I don’t want you to wear that dress.”

“I don’t plan on wearing it for long.”

Carly hung up and slipped a t-shirt on over her leopard dress. It fit skin tight and read, ‘my husband is out of town’ across the front in sparkling red letters. She took another photo in the mirror and texted it to him.

He called back immediately and she picked up.

“Having fun, Lenny?”

“Not so much anymore.”

“At the expense of creating a fashion emergency, I’ll wear the t-shirt into whatever club the limo driver takes me to, over the top of the leopard skin—until somebody is man enough to take it off me.”


Leonard Barnes never saw his wife, Carly, alive again. By the time he returned to Burlington, Vermont from his fishing trip, the police had been to his office at Barnes & Kaminski Tool and Machining, LLC. They left messages both there and at his house asking Leonard to call them. When he did, a sergeant drove out to meet him, made a death notification and advised him to contact the Miami-Dade Police Department. 

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office issued a report explaining that they determined that the official cause of death had been a brain aneurism. Carly Barnes died of natural causes.

Leonard Barnes undertook a personal crusade to find out what happened on the night of Carly’s death. The police were as candid as they could be when they saw his pain. The detective assigned to the case didn’t spare his feelings. He suspected that she had taken the new designer drug, Jackhammer. Because the drug didn’t persist in the bloodstream and no definitive test had been developed to detect the residual presence of Jackhammer, the results were inconclusive. One thing was clear from the postmortem examination. She’d had sex—lots of sex—with several men both on the club premises and in the back seat of the limousine, where she eventually died.

Even though Mrs. Carly Barnes had several sexual partners on the night of her death, interviews conducted by Miami-Dade police detectives concluded that she had not been raped. There were nearly a dozen witnesses interviewed, all of whom agreed that the sexual activity which had taken place in public view, appeared to be completely consensual. Some of those present took photos with their cell phones; one of the witnesses had a video camera. If anything, Mrs. Barnes had been the aggressor, but none of her male partners and one female partner who’d been interviewed by detectives complained about her sexual aggression.

Even though partying too hard in Miami rarely resulted in death, it wasn’t unheard of.

The witnesses present during what could only be described as an orgy were not able to confirm police suspicions that the deceased had taken Jackhammer. 

A newspaper article appeared in the Metro Miami Expositor, warning readers of the danger associated with taking the designer drug, Jackhammer. The reporter regurgitated other news pieces run in other newspapers and on Internet blogs. The reporter citied the drug’s possible involvement in the death of Carly Barnes (26), a certified public accountant from Burlington, Vermont, who had been vacationing in Miami Beach at the time. 

The city editor for the Metro Miami Expositor buried the story on the fourteenth page because it had the potential to deter tourism.

Even though the article escaped the notice of most of the paper’s regular readers, there were people who followed all news stories involving Jackhammer closely. Half a continent away, they took notice.

                 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Can New and Old Coexist?

It's a slow news day at Virtual Mirage. I don't know what you're doing, but I'm headed up the Pacific Coast in the Raptor for Santa Barbara, leaving the venerable FJ Cruiser as a driveway ornament. By the time you read this, I will have likely returned from the trip. 


Here they are, side by side on my driveway. The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser was made in Japan, but was made COOL in the USA. There are still genuine Toyota parts on the FJ, but it has a lot of after-market improvements that turned it from a capable off-road rig into a superbly capable off-road and expedition rig. You will immediately note that there are some obvious differences between the Toyota and the Ford. In point of fact, they're almost nothing alike, which is why I have both of them.


The Toyota FJ has a 4 liter, 6 cylinder engine, the 2014 Ford Raptor SVT has a 6.2 liter, 8 cylinder engine. There are more horses under the Ford's hood and whereas the FJ as currently configured struggles up hills at 80 mph, you don't know that you're driving up a hill at 80 in the Raptor. Off-road is where the FJ shines, but a stock Ford Raptor came in #3 at the Baja 1000 in Division 8. The Raptor is off-road capable out of the box, with a long travel suspension, racing quality equipment and a powerful engine.


Both the FJ Cruiser and the Ford Raptor have beadlock wheels, which keeps the tire on the rim, particularly when you need to reduce the air pressure in the tire in difficult conditions to provide a better ride and traction. The Raptor has a longer wheel base but the passengers in the back can ride in comfort. The FJ Cruiser is narrower and has a shorter wheel base for difficult trails, but riding in the back is less than fun.

The Raptor has air conditioned front seats to keep my tush cool even in the hottest desert. My rump is warm in the FJ...


The Raptor smells new...and it goes with my Kimber.

The FJ smells a bit like Hoppe's #9* and is a war wagon/zombie assault vehicle. 



*Hoppe's #9 is a powder solvent used for cleaning firearms.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Fat Little Dictator

The Interview (coming movie)

Kim Jung Un - No sense of Humor


(Fox News) SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea is warning that the release of a new American comedy about a plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un would be an "act of war."  
If the U.S. government doesn't block the movie's release, it will face "stern" and "merciless retaliation", an unidentified spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in state media on Wednesday.  
He didn't mention the movie by name but was clearly referring to "The Interview," which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as a producer and talk-show host who land an exclusive interview with the North Korean dictator and are then asked by the CIA to assassinate him.  
The "reckless U.S. provocative insanity" of mobilizing a "gangster filmmaker" to challenge the North's leadership is triggering "a gust of hatred and rage" among North Korean people and soldiers, the spokesman said, in typically heated propaganda language.  
----- 
The film's release would be considered an "act of war that we will never tolerate," he said.
Hillary Clinton-
Earned $100 million over the
past decade. Declares it
'chicken feed'.
Finally there will be a movie that the likes of Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice can point to as starting a war. They've been anxiously awaiting its arrival to vindicate their assertion that a "hateful video" will lead to a shooting conflict ---- ever since the Benghazi Scandal made them out to be buffoons. Their cover-up was only swallowed by the liberal "progressive" elite in the nation. The rest of us know that it was pure hokum. It's funny to watch her blame President Obama for "making her lie to the American people." 
Meanwhile, the USA quakes as North Korea threatens merciless, unrestricted warfare if the film is released. And the movie producers are ecstatic over the free publicity and advertising that they're enjoying both from Fox News and this very blog.






Tidbits

Comments by Sharyl Attkisson


It's interesting to hear what she has to say.



Russian Mischief in Ukraine

Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin
Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, who is currently using the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, has identified himself in press reports as "defense minister" of the self-proclaimed, pro-Russian "Donetsk People's Republic." This week he called for Russia to send military aid to rebels in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. officials said Strelkov is considered a leading pro-Russian rebel who is undermining stability as part of a major Russian covert action program in Ukraine.
Officials said Girkin is a GRU colonel who was first identified by the Ukrainian SBU intelligence service. Girkin traveled to the Crimea in February and traveled to Donetsk in April. While in the Crimea he was a military adviser to Sergei Aksenov, the current head of Russian-occupied Crimea. Gerz/FreeBeacon/20June2014
This isn't a secret since the Ukranians are trumpeting it. I'm simply sharing it here as a matter of passing interest. 
Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye (GRU) - Russian Military Intelligence, should not be confused with Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki or SVR, which is the Russian Republic's principal external intelligence service, and successor to the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or KGB.

Hillary


Syrian Chem

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that the final 8% of Syria's declared chemical weapons and precursors had been loaded on to a Danish freighter. With this shipment, all of Syria's declared chemical weapons and precursors have been removed or destroyed. Syria had one of the largest chemical weapons inventories in the world. Its destruction is an important accomplishment, if only to ensure that terrorists can't capture the weapons and precursors.


ISIL (update)

After ten days of fighting, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) now control the oil refinery at Baiji. They are reported to have told Sunni tribal leaders in the area to keep it operating and supplying gasoline to ISIL fighters. Nearly every major town in the Sunni areas of Iraq is no longer responsive to the central government. The window for political reform to have an effect on the security situation has closed

By the end of the week, ISIL and its Sunni allies should be in a position to begin attacking Baghdad from multiple directions, should they so decide.

Washington Redskins

The team can keep its name. All that it must do is exchange the iconic American Indian that has been its logo since the team's inception. Replacing the "Indian Head" with a red skinned potato should please liberals and the 'progressive left'.

(h/t Daletoons)

What's not to love about a vegetable that can be served French Fried, mashed, boiled, scalloped, roasted, etc? The lovable red skinned potato - very progressive.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tea Party Reality Check

Let me take a walk down memory lane, back to 2009 when Barack Obama was elected and the economy was weak. 

'When the GDP grew at 3.5% to 4% under George W. Bush we were pummeled everyday into submission that we were entering a recession. The economy was growing at 3% They called that a near depression. Now we have shrunk in one quarter to -3% and it's no big deal. Growth is right around the corner'...I'm just happy that we have a mainstream media to lull me into a false sense of security.

I participated in a couple Tea Party rallies. The people there (of all races, both genders and all economic situations) called for fiscal responsibility. That's it.

The mainstream media vilified us as a bunch of Nazis. NBC interviewed my daughter Emilie at a rally in Orange County, CA and it didn't end up on the air because she explained how the cow ate the cabbage. They picked on her because she's young, female and pretty and I think that the news person hoped to trip her up, but it didn't happen. It would look bad for the mainstream media to interview a young lady who explained very clearly why we were there...wouldn't want that going out, would we? 

Though I usually don't tune in to mainstream media broadcasts, I did just this one time. They are not blaming ObamaCare, they are not blaming the shoddy administration. They do suggest that it was a harsh, cold winter. I expect that it will be a harsh, cold spring and summer too.


(left) Mary Ann (MAINFO) and (right) Emilie


Hot Glass

Lonestar Parson posted comments (here) on his blog that dealt with a portion of Texas that is falling into a type of ghost town abyss that we've seen elsewhere in America. Sometimes in the old West, they were mining towns. In the modern era, Detroit is an example. 

And it made me think of a situation that I encountered. Back (mumbles) years ago, I took up working in hot glass/blowing glass with my daughter, Heather, who also had an interest in learning. Heather is very industrious but she is also an artist at heart and a good one. So we worked together in a studio with a good teacher and became competent. It takes time, a lot of practice and a lot of interest. It also builds muscles because a "4 gather piece" can mean that you have 70 lbs of molten glass spinning at the end of your pipe. I took it up as a stress reducer because my life at the time was exceptionally stressful. (snapping necks and cashing checks required an outlet)

The sort of craftsmanship that ends up with beautiful glass pieces made by that supremely successful glass artist, Dale Chihuly, is something that you have to work at. I am good enough to show you how Chihuly (and his staff) made any of his masterpieces but I can in no way make them. However, between Heather and I, we were thinking of one point of opening a glass art studio and making art.

No, I'm not going to show you my stuff, but suffice to say it was good enough to sell but wasn't anywhere close to the work that Chihuly does. Chihuly gets $15,000 for a small glass bowl. And I do not argue that it's not worth the price. If you have the money, it is. It's high art.

Here's an example of how it's done in the developed world.


Enter India. 

There are the Chihulys of this world who command very high prices and then there is everyone else who works in hot glass. The pieces that most of you who buy such things buy these days are made in India or China. The reason for that is it costs me more to actually buy raw glass in the US than it does to buy the glass, fabricate it, ship it to the US and retail it. There is a lot of overhead (in the US) to creating hot glass because you spend a fortune on gas to heat the oven, which must remain hot ALL of the time, even when you're not using it. If the hot glass in the oven cools, it breaks the clay containment vessel and it's an expensive clean up.

This is how it's done in India. You can't do this in the US because you can't use child labor and OSHA would shut you down for unsafe practices. Keep in mind that these people in the (sadly, long) video may look like a lot of dirty natives, but they are artists in their own right and know their craft.


In the same way as the cotton industry moved to India (and China), leaving a wasteland in its wake, the glass art business with the exception of the very high quality studios - and there aren't many - in the US, have gone out of business because they can't compete.

Working in hot glass as a hobby is a good thing, but furnace time is expensive. It's very difficult to turn your hobby into a business that pays for itself in this regard. Which is why I make flying saucers these days instead of hot glass masterpieces. (ashimadevices.com)



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Signal (Movie Review)

Are you from Earth?

When did you first encounter the Signal?


Either you like it or you don't. It's part sci-fi, part thriller, part mystery with a splash of horror thrown in to keep you guessing.

A mysterious hacker known only as “NOMAD” has been messing with Nic and Jonah, and when they’re able to pinpoint his location, they decide to pay an unscheduled visit. Their directions lead them to an isolated area, however. Suddenly, there’s a flash.

When Nic regains consciousness, he finds himself trapped in a waking nightmare. He’s groggy and injured, and sealed off to boot from Haley and Jonah. A man in a hazmat suit, Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburne), keeps Nic in isolation, informing him that he believes he may have come into contact with aliens. Eventually Nic escapes his enclosed compound, but encounters a number of strangers (including Lin Shaye) who force him to further re-evaluate his impressions of his situation.

The cinematography is excellent. It's a visual template that is worth experiencing and it leads to the film's building and the menace that you feel while watching it.

No spoilers because the signal is all about encountering the film.

I give it 6. 5 out of a possible 10. That means that it's worth seeing once whether you go to the movies or wait for it on HBO.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crystal Ball in Iraq

CONTEXT AND PRECEDENCE

For those of us who study these things either professionally or as interested amateurs, there is a familiar pattern for governments which are losing the battle and the nation. (Recall the Republic of Viet Nam) Governments under stress trade space for time and fall back on the capital, which is the last bastion to fall. They hope to consolidate their assets and take back territory ceded to their enemies. The familiar pattern holds that the military formula that has driven the losses makes this reassertion nearly impossible without outside assistance. In the case of Iraq, it would mean several tens of thousands of soldiers with their own lines of supply and communications. Those additional soldiers would have to be able to hold ground on their own.

SYRIAN MODEL

The Syrian fight is relevant because it is one of the examples wherein outside help enabled a besieged central government to take back territory. The military formula for violent internal instability favored the rebels and the forces loyal to Damascus were gradually falling back on defense of key towns, ultimately Damascus. The timely and effective intervention of Lebanese Hizballah forces last year plus some Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps fighters from Iran changed the force and resource ratios in favor of the government.

IRAQI MODEL

Iraq now has three power centers: Mosul (ISIL), Arbil (Kurdish Regional Government) and Baghdad (Shiite-dominated central government.) ISIL already has begun setting up a Sharia-based administration in Mosul. The Mosul power center wants to capture Baghdad. The Arbil power center is looking for an opportunity to declare its independence.


The Iraqi leadership apparently has decided to concentrate its resources for the defense of Baghdad. Thus, it is withdrawing forces from the periphery or cutting those forces off in order to find a defensive line it can hold and conserve resources. For now, the government is ceding the Sunni Arab regions to ISIL. This is a partial strategic success for the Saudis and Qatar, both of whom Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei blamed for the fighting Iraq.

The Baghdad power center is determined to take back the territory it lost, but lacks the resources. There is no source of manpower or resources on which Baghdad can draw that would provide a reasonable chance of recovering the lost Sunni Arab governates. The mustering of the Shiite militias should be enough for the defense of Baghdad, but a Shiite army in Sunni Arab land, around Samarra for example, is a prescription for massacres. 

USA POSITION

An American draw-down in forces post Iraq War made sense. The Obama Administration didn't work very hard to obtain a status of forces agreement. When no agreement could be reached, it justified a wholesale pull-out.

Despite Barack Obama's assertions that Iraq became an oasis of peace and prosperity, the nation was gripped by a civil war, the expansion of which recently became too big to ignore. Even the mainstream media began to break ranks and covered the fall of Mosul and the expansion of ISIL (above). It's difficult to suggest that the Obama regime was embarrassed by this since they seem immune to embarrassment. Note the many scandals which have gripped them. These days it's a scandal-a-week.

Sending US troops there makes no sense. There is no role for the US in a civil war. When we removed Saddam Hussein, the civil war was inevitable. At the time I argued for a partition based on Sunni/Kurd/Shiite territory and I wasn't alone. It made sense. Now it's fracturing along those lines and the fate of Baghdad hangs in the balance. Both the Sunnis and the Shiites hate the US. There is nobody to back. The Kurds have enough control in the north to cover their interests but of the entire group of Iraqi interests, they are the most friendly to the US. The US is not able to do much there. Kurdistan (if you can call it that) is bounded by Turkey on the north, which hates the Kurds, ISIL held lands and Iran.

The Obama Administration's bungled foreign policy squandered the blood and treasure that the US poured into Iraq and all the kings horses and all the king's men can't fix it now.

Sending in a few American troops in unarmored vehicles as advisors is an incredibly BAD idea. American blood and treasure at this point should be off the table completely. The map of nations is being redrawn. Best to sit back and watch it unfold at this point.



Who Knew?

Conniving or just plain stupid?

I'm not sure which is worse. This is what Fox News has to say.

In the case of Operation Fast and Furious, there is no doubt that the effort had been orchestrated from the White House with the intent that "US made firearms" would be discovered in the hands of cartel members and it would lead to a new initiative aimed at curtailing citizen's Second Amendment rights. 

The Obama Administration was quite upset to find that the bulk of firearms used by Mexican drug cartels did not originate from US gun dealers. Some weapons and hand grenades of American origin were traced back to military stores belonging to nations who bought them from the US.

From that, Fast and Furious was born. Attorney General Eric Holder still stands accused by the Congress in this matter.

Fox failed to mention the EPA scandal where the US Environmental Protection Agency attacked companies that donated to President Obama's enemies and gave the Democratic Party faithful a pass. It was an 'echo' of the IRS Scandal, which is just as scandalous now as it was when it broke in 2011.

Neither did Fox mention the Taliban Swap Scandal:


There are a lot of scandals. Conniving or just plain stupid?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Edge of Tomorrow (Movie Review)

It's sort of like Saving Private Ryan meets Groundhog Day. But in a good way. I enjoyed the film. Let's start with the trailer. 


Tom Cruise heads the list of stars, but Emily Blunt as a warrior is simply hot. Yes, I have a thing for confident, intelligent warrior women in reality and in the movies.  In that she's not unlike Sigourney Weaver's character, "Ellen Ripley" in the feature film, Aliens. The difference would be that Ellen Ripley is sort of there with the Space Marines in Aliens, and Emilie Blunt plays Special Forces legend Rita Vrataski, aka the Full Metal Bitch. To quote another reviewer, "She infuses a fierce intelligence and a no-nonsense personality with just a touch of crazy — and even a little bit of heart, which Cage (Tom Cruise) uncovers only after spending the same day with her about a hundred times."

The screeching, spidery creatures known as Mimics are storming through every continent and the military is having a seriously difficult time stopping them. At one point Tom Cruise loses his mojo --and you have to ask yourself, can Tom Cruise and Emilie Blunt stop them? Well, we're having this virtual conversation so I would say that they have been successful.

Given that it's a sci-fi film, it delivers what one expects - and then some.

I give it an 8 out of a possible 10.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Synthetic Pond

I suspect that in the absence of a genuine grotto, this would have to do.

Earth Science

The Progressive Left (Hope and Change) pins much of it's hopes for the future on unilateral efforts within the US that will solve the climate problems that the world experiences. Unfortunately for them, the skin of the planet where we live and to which we are chained by our biological circumstances operates on complex rules that don't conform to the fondest wishes of the Green Crowd. The skin of the planet is not the entire planet and the Sun doesn't take orders from Barack Obama or Al Gore (though they clearly wish that it would).

The new mantra of the Progressive Left is "CLIMATE DISRUPTION". Global Warming didn't work and neither did Climate Change. Clearly the weather changes, but WHY does it change? Is is because I did or didn't use a lawnmower to cut my lawn? The answer is that the problem is very complex and dynamic and much of it is completely beyond our control. People don't like to hear that.

I am a conservationist. I believe in recycling and in cleaning up trash and planting trees and defending nature to the extent that it is rational to do. However, I don't kid myself either.

Swarm is measuring the changes in Earth's magnetic core. Do changes within the earth impact Earth's climate? Clearly they do because they impact the amount of radiation that strikes the earth from space in any given area. It can also change "magnetic north" which significantly changes the way that the planet's radiation belts defend the globe.

Launched in November 2013, Swarm is providing unprecedented insights into the complex workings of Earth's magnetic field, which safeguards us from the bombarding cosmic radiation and charged particles.

Measurements made over the past six months confirm the general trend of the field's weakening, with the most dramatic declines over the Western Hemisphere.

But in other areas, such as the southern Indian Ocean, the magnetic field has strengthened since January.

The latest measurements also confirm the movement of magnetic North towards Siberia.

The first set of high-resolution results from ESA's three-satellite Swarm
constellation reveals the most recent changes in the magnetic field that
protects our planet.
These changes are based on the magnetic signals stemming from Earth's core. Over the coming months, scientists will analyse the data to unravel the magnetic contributions from other sources, namely the mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere.

This will provide new insight into many natural processes, from those occurring deep inside our planet to space weather triggered by solar activity. In turn, this information will yield a better understanding of why the magnetic field is weakening. (LINK and ATTRIBUTION)


Friday, June 20, 2014

Feeding Haji


Fictional Short:

Feeding Haji
(Vampire Zombies from Venus - Part 2)

Amid crates and boxes stacked from the smooth concrete floor to the ceiling, Staff Sergeant Amos Plotkin looked at the form 1348-1 (rev 01/10) and wondered how Company B, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry could go through so much canned corn. Plotkin, a lifer and a third generation American haled from Brooklyn. Explaining away the order was far beyond his ken. He dipped a pinch and slid it between his cheek and gum, spitting reflexively into a dixie cup.

Amos looked around for somebody to complain to and found a ready victim, playing solitaire on the computer twenty-feet away, surrounded by cases of slide-fasteners, adjustable. 

“Look at this Corporal,” Plotkin shoved the request under Corporal Davis Granger’s long aquiline nose, thereby forcing him to direct his attention away from solitaire. “Why in the fuck sake are they ordering more goddamned corn?”

Corporal Granger calmly took the requisition and noted, “It’s signed by the company CO and countersigned by First Lieutenant Mike Bennett from the Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. Look here it’s for PSYOPS. Operation Valiant Hawk. Sounds important. I guess they’re giving it away to the hajis.” 

“Who would have thought those sand negroes would have liked canned corn?”

“No accounting for tastes, Sergeant. They’ve asked that we expedite the shipment, and if you look here, you'll see that they passed it through battalion before it came to us.”

Plotkin's gill grew a little red. “Through battalion. Right. I can see that. Do it. I don’t want somebody from PSYOPS coming down on my narrow ass.”

Corporal Granger scrutinized Sergeant Plotkin’s ample rear, arched an eyebrow and stood, smiling inwardly. The mere shadow cast by Plotkin’s ass had to weigh at least fifty pounds. 

Granger dutifully stacked the requested vital war materials on a metal palate and wrapped it in clear  plastic wrapping. Then he and staged the corn, yellow, 20 oz can, 24 to case, to be picked up and shipped to the forward operating base where it was required as requisitioned to aid the war effort in Afghanistan.  

Amos Plotkin didn't have much time to concern himself over the corn or its destination because his weekly poker game was set to begin in an hour. In that time he needed to get from the west side of Bagram Air Force Base where his supply depot had been sited to the east side of the base where the U.S. government regional platform had been built adjacent to an abandoned salt mine. Most of that area had been staffed by civilians. Incorporated within that civilian component was a liaison office for No. 2 Squadron 312 Special Service Wing, Pakistan Air Force. Two Pakistani sergeants, Mamnoon and Sami, hosted the game and invited fellow sergeants from the Marines, Air Force and Army to join them. The game became popular because there were always a few hot pizzas from the base Pizza Hut, cokes and the dumb Pakis always lost and lost big.

Two hands in, Mamnoon asked what was new up in the sector near Chitral. Amos, armed with the information he'd received on the requisition earlier in the day mentioned that something big called Valiant Hawk was going on involving the 30th Infantry. Tracy Armbruster, a blustery Air Force tech sergeant hated to be out-done by Plotkin and hushed him, cautioning that Valiant Hawk was top secret as if he knew what Valiant Hawk was all about.

After the game in the Pakistani secure facility, Sami and Mamnoon reviewed their recording and noted Operation Valiant Hawk. Checking the name against known US operations, they found that it did not appear on their data base so they sent it on to Islamabad by way of the secure cable. Captain Hussain fired back a message that the US had not shared details of Valiant Hawk, as they were required to do by treaty and tasked both Mamnoon and Sami with a vengeance to learn whatever details that they could.

On a ridge in the Hindu Kush, about thirty statute miles from Chitral on the Afghan side of the border, First Lieutenant Michael Bennett opened the padlocked door with the Chicago Blackhawks logo hand painted on the rough wood planks. The door led down to another locked door, sealed with visqueen. The door had an official looking US Army sign that advised the reader that access through that second door was restricted to those with clearance for Operation Valiant Hawk. The room contained a still and the sour mash smell vented out through the latrine, above, which gave off the  pungent, acrid smell of soda lime.

One wall held the totem of Operation Valiant Hawk. The bird in the artists rendering was not particularly valiant nor was it of a hawk.

Just a drunk crow. The officers and men assigned to the reinforced strong point on the ridge knew that calling an operation "drunk crow" wouldn't go very far when requisitioning equipment to build a still and palates of canned corn that became the sour mash from which the white lightning beverage that they so enjoy, emerged.

CH-44's brought cases of canned corn and 50 lbs bags of sugar, ostensibly for use in Operation: Valiant Hawk - the winning of hearts and minds. 50 lbs bags of sugar were justified for the local production of candy, which the soldiers handed out to children. Right - no bag of sugar was ever wasted on haji. Through a complex process of no-cook fermentation, followed by hot distillation, they made nearly pure ethanol, with a little carmel added for color and flavor. The metal cans that had once contained corn, now crushed flat, were traded to a local scrap merchant in exchange for barley and wheat grain that were added to the melange to improve the  quality of the ethanol.

In a nation where there was little positive to report, the faked results of the US Army's PSYOPS program filtered back slowly through battalion to brigade along with a completely separate rumor of a top secret program being run by 30th Infantry. Because nobody at brigade wanted to be thought to be 'out of the loop', all tacitly spoke of how they knew what was happening with Valiant Hawk, though they "couldn't say anything about it".

Brigadier General Robert Strong, commanding officer of the Fourth Brigade Combat Team, and responsible for the sector's response to Taliban incursions across the Pakistan-Afghan border brought the matter up at dinner with Mathis White, the CIA liaison. Headquarters didn't survive on meals-ready-to-eat. They feasted on far better fare. In between the steaks and baked potatoes and the cherries jubilee that the mess were preparing to serve au flambé table side, General Strong asked, "So what are you doing with my troopers with this Operation Valiant Hawk program?"

White, a thirty-something Yale grad, earning his stripes at CIA in the field, squinted and scrutinized the general before returning his attention to the steak in front of him. "There are things that I can't comment on."

"I mean, look, White, if you're using my people to accomplish something, I need to be read into the program along with my S-2 so that we can support you properly."

Forking a perfectly cooked medium rare piece of ribeye into his mouth, White spoke as he chewed, "It's not just about your people, there are very sensitive methods and sources involved with Valiant Hawk that can't be compromised." He made a mental note to speak to his branch chief about the super secret Valiant Hawk because he wanted to know why the Agency didn't trust him sufficiently to include him in the loop.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vampire Zombies from Venus

An ongoing series of non-sequential fictional shorts

Vampire Zombies from Venus

The well-worn book had been dog-eared on nearly every page. That’s not to say that every page had something significant on it. It had simply been passed from hand to hand so many times and the grit and grime of so many readings had been deposited on it that readers felt comfortable abusing the tome’s pages as they saw fit.

A space ship that looked disturbingly like a toiled plunger landed in Central Park in New York City (because it’s either there or Tokyo), a door opened at the bottom of the object and out came vampire zombies, that ended up consuming most of the people in Manhattan until a scientist came up with a unique countermeasure. That’s the plot of Vampire Zombies from Venus in a nutshell.

The science fiction novel had a number of homes over two years. It rested on the shelf in the privy, on a table in the plywood mess hall, buttressed by green sand bags and it ended up on my desk. My desk sits in a windowless bunker astride a ridge on the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush. The nearest city is Chitral, Pakistan and that's about thirty-five miles as the bird flies, and at least one hundred miles on foot. I am a squatter in what is presently the home of the 4th Brigade Combat Team. To break it down for your further, this outpost is currently manned by B Company, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. But I'm not with them. I'm currently a first lieutenant, detached to 4th BCT from the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command. 

People have asked how I ended up with a brigade combat team literally in the middle of nowhere, taking mortar fire inside the perimeter almost every single night. I tell them that I'm a lean, green, fighting machine ROTC graduate and that I volunteered for the toughest that the US Army could throw at me. 

Yes, I lie. While a second lieutenant on leave from my cushy Pentagon job where all I did was fetch doughnuts and brew coffee, I met a lady who I became romantically involved with. No, I didn't know at the time that she was a major general's young trophy wife.  When she tearfully announced her intentions to leave him, his response was not directed at her in any way. He didn't want the public scandal and I took it like a man. So I'm reading Vampire Zombies from Venus, looking forward to the next MRE meal. The great thing about the Meal-Ready-to-Eat is that the pre-packaged rations are designed to last at least as long as a Twinkie - which is to say that I will die of old age before they do.

Frankly, I'm trying to make the best of it. The next book has an unusual title, Imperivm Neptvni Regis, (The Empire of King Neptune). I've been trying to get The Grey Man, but the grunts keep taking it on patrol and passing it around. It's like trying to pry a bone away from a pit bull. I can't get too nasty about it and pull rank because they cover my sorry ass when I go out beyond the wire to win the hearts and minds of people who really hate us. 

I thought that I was tough. Not hardly, at least not then, when I graduated from the University of Virginia's ROTC program. Maybe now, after two years in this hell hole? I'm not the one to judge. Introspection doesn't work when you're trying to evaluate toughness. Toughness is earned. It has to be earned. You can be naturally smart and naturally athletic. You can be born with every advantage. But when you’re getting shot at, none of that matters. All that matters is the work you’ve put in, the skill you’ve acquired, and your willingness to fight though it all and never quit, no matter what. When I'm taking my turn on the wire and shoot the people whose love I've been trying to garner (who are in turn shooting at me), I feel more vulnerable than tough. While I hunker in the bunker, I have Vampire Zombies from Venus to keep me company.

And I wax philosophical these days. I realize that back home, the nation is working hard to raise a generation of weaklings. Kids aren’t allowed to lose so there is a trophy for everyone. Hurtful words are now being equated to physical violence, which is comical. We go to war and half of one percent of the population answers the call over eleven years. Taxes are not increased to cover the two wars we were engaged in so the average citizen doesn’t suffer at all. Politicians connive to borrow money instead of allowing the people to feel the economic pain of war. To be honest with you, I didn't get it until the Chinook dumped me and some crates of ammo and food off the ramp here on this ridge. Being here has a way of clarifying things far better than being a coffee and doughnut officer, living in the Pentagon's bachelor officer's quarters and banging a general's hot wife.

There is no alcohol allowed in Afghanistan because it's a Muslim country and its mere presence offends our gracious hosts. As an officer and the outsider with B Company, I am tasked with enforcing the regulation. Before it was B Company, there was E Company. My tenure transcends their rotations. Therefore I maintain the still. My family is from Richmond and even though Southerners are all supposed to know how to make bootleg hooch, it took a young private from Kentucky to construct the machine and show me how to turn canned corn into something truly amazing.

There is something transcendent about being drunk on  white lightning in a windowless bunker in the Hindu Kush, taking mortar rounds and reading Vampire Zombies from Venus for the fifty-third time - knowing that if I'm caught running a still, any place they put me including the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas will be a step up.

Night is coming, the patrol is coming in carefully. There has been no sniper fire today, which is why we expect a heavy shellacking from 120mm mortars tonight.

"Hey LT!"

"Yeah?"

"You got Vampire Zombies from Venus?"

"Yeah."

"Swap me for The Grey Man and a jar of pop skull?"

"Fucking urah."




The Grey Man Vignettes by Jim Curtis (Old NFO) is available on Amazon.com



Continued with "FEEDING HAJI"


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rudderless Ship in a Storm

It started as "Global Warming" -> unsupported by science -> it morphed into "Climate Change" -> and since the climate has changed every year for the last three billion, it's now a "man-caused disaster". I wonder what the next rubric will be for EPA power grab nationwide and the war on coal?

The IRS Scandal has been a grind as the President declared the FBI investigation completed (found nothing) even though the FBI had a different story, which was subsequently muted. Now Lois Learner's e-mail has been mysteriously deleted...how third world of the IRS.  ---but even a lame duck president has to be concerned in the event that his party loses the US Senate and his becomes vulnerable to impeachment. That would seem to be the reason that the damning e-mail vanished. Shades of Watergate.
Hope and Change: Implemented



The Iraq Scandal and the emergent ISIS (or ISIL) jihadist army that is marching on Baghdad is interesting because one week ago, President Obama went public and told the world that Iraq was calm, safe, and downright homey. Today, Baghdad is surrounded on two sides by the Sunni army and is in danger of falling. The State Department is essentially evacuating personnel and USGOV is replacing them with Marines. The Marines are no doubt reflecting on the American commitment to the US personnel in Benghazi.

He thought one thing and then he read the papers and found out what happened. What a comfort to us all.

Why is the Middle East so screwed up?   40 Maps that explain the Middle East  Are these cesspools worth one American Life? I say, "no". We have enough oil in the US. Time to drill in earnest and let the Arabs and Persians fight it out the way they've been doing for 4,000 years (since the flood ended).

And when the Leader of the Free world is a closeted Muslim with a checkered past, can you trust him to act honestly and in the best interests of people? When those blue lips move, do you feel better about what's going on around you?

BUT WAIT - there's more!

Poor little rich girl.
She, who would be queen. planned to launch her presidential campaign with her new book. Simon & Schuster (which paid an $8 million advance) hoping for 150,000 copies the first week and had a whopping 1 million copies shipped. But only 60K copies of the hardcover sold. The 60K represents a less than 10 percent sell- through based on what they shipped. They will be lucky to sell 150,000 total lifetime.

However when they're on the dollar table at Barnes and Noble in two months, you can use the pages to line the bottom of your bird cage.
Just to put this in perspective, when Sarah Palin's 'Going Rogue' came out, it sold 700,000 copies the first week.
Hillary has a problem and all too many Americans are catching on.

The chubby little crone is losing credibility. Her tenure as SECSTATE has been revealed to be the disaster that it was and even the mainstream media seems reluctant to shield her from the debacle in Iraq.