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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
At home on the range

Every so often I come across something so off the wall I feel compelled to post about it even though I have no real idea what to say about it. During the course of an average day copy-cataloging books at the library; a certain percentage of which are gift books often quite old and rather beat up I found myself holding a book called The Jew at home: impressions of a summer and autumn spent with him, a travelogue and sketchbook originally published in in the 1890's by D Appleton.

The author was Robert Pennell, Etcher, Illustrator, friend and Biographer of James MacNeill Whistler. Apparently what I had was a second or third edition of this book as in the introduction he refers to correspondence with a gentleman who had taken sharp exception to the book. I'm not surprised having glanced through the contents. I don't know anything above the history or controversy that might surround this book. The Wikipedia bio on Pernell Joseph Pennell - Wikipedia A picture named PennelWb4.jpgdoes not mention it. To me it seemed to exemplify a strain 19th century anti-semitism, that yet seemed convinced of its own dispassionate objectivity.The background of the book was mass population movements of the time: some choice (movement towards opportunity) some forced (i.e. pogroms, ethnic cleansing). In brief by Jewish populations out of Russia and Poland and into Hungary Austria and Germany. Pennell made a career out of traveling and sketching as can be seen by the large number of books and art works he left behind Search results for 'joseph Pennell' > 'Joseph Pennell ' Looking through that book was like watching a time bomb being made.

Among his other works; something else he did caught my eye. Posters of Mass Destruction. Pennell did a series of war bond posters for the Government during world war I. Poster number 4 Find in a Library: That liberty shall not perish from the earth, buy Liberty Bonds Fourth Liberty Loan (click on the image links) was just exceptional the perfect image of ekpiraxis. A fevered dream of eventual reality. The amazing thing is that I couldn't recall ever seeing it before. I like this so much I think I may make one of the permanent extraneous images I line this page with.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007
I'm What!

I try to stay immune to a lot of these internet meme things that go around. But every so often I come across one that I actually like. So with out further ado and via Mir's Dim Sum Diaries The internet quiz: What book are you?

You're Watership Down!
by Richard Adams
Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink theirassumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.
Take the Book Quizat the Blue Pyramid.

This to me seemed a somewhat odd result, particularly that last line. As people who know me know, I almost never talk about rabbits. Aside from my theory that all housecats, hamsters, gerbils, guinia pigs, etc are all types of bunnies.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Flying Dutchman of Mass Destruction

There was a post I wrote some time ago. I don't remember exactly when. Back at or before the start of the last war. Well technically still the current war. A post which was recently recalled to me. In this post there was a ship, or two, or three. On these ships were all of Saddam Hussien's Weapons of Mass Destruction. He cleared 'em all out, loaded them up on a handful of freighters and sent them to sea to circle the Earth until the curse was lifted and it was safe to come home. I posted this off something I read in the Debka Files; before I realized that what you see on that site is all deliberate bull shit. Now as far as Iraq's WMD's are concerned that situation is settled except for the most determined kool-aiders. That threat was falsely advanced and anyone who choses to still so believe, does so for reasons other than the love of objective truth.

Still there was something to the concept of hiding something by sending it off to sea that was within realm of the possible. Once you are outside the shipping lanes the worlds oceans are large and empty. Within shipping lanes, even out in the middle of the ocean, it is more like the Washington beltway during rush hour. Let's consider Iran for the sake of argument. Suppose the powers that be in Tehran decide that a lengthy set of air-strikes by the U S is a possibility and decide therefore to hedge their bets and remove a portion of their facilities from harms way. This would include not only within Iran - say within a mine shaft too deep to be a practical operating facility but beyond destruction. It might also include moving them out of the country. Perhaps even this shipping scenario. Call it the WMD Startup Kit problem.

This is a facet of sea control Navies call ocean surveillance. Something that, long ago, briefly occupied my days. Wait I have a short poem: Rainforms are red, Rainforms are blue, but Rainform whites are all I ever got to do... There are probably a few people left out there who know what that means.

The problem divides into technical and other components. One of the first things to consider in such a problem is its granularity. By this I mean the relative measure between the event size and the capabilities of your intelligence program. By event size I am simply looking for a term that will connote the physical size of an object of intelligence interest (or operation) along with related facets of its existence such as the time and material it took to make it, or bring it into fruition. If someone is trying to smuggle 12 monkeys past you it changes the problem whether the monkeys are blueprints for missiles and uranium enriching centrifuges, or whether the monkeys are the actual objects

The U S Navy is charged with Sea Control: the identification, verification, potential interdiction (or elimination) of all that flows over and through the worlds oceans The Role of the U.S. Navy in Support of the National Strategy for Maritime Security. (and see Winter: The Role of the US Navy in Support of the National Strategy for Maritime Security - Google Scholar for related).This covers the usual submarines, surface combatants, but also cargo ships. If what would be hidden is large enough to require a cargo ship, the Navy has broad ocean surveillance systems in place that would track it. Ships leave harbor with a manifest and a port of destination. Certain ports, shippers, transits will attract routine attention. If the ship puts in at an intermediate port and transfers cargo, picks unscheduled cargo up or tries to obfuscate its identity this sort of shell game should also flag its activity as suspicious. The first part of this lies in coordination of Fleet Intelligence centers ,or activity of a Global Maritime Intelligence Integration Center to undertake comprehensive real time tracking of merchant shipping. More detailed surveillance can be undertaken to confirm suspicions. This could be done with varying levels of obviousness.

None of this gets you on the ship. None of this stops the ship from sailing where ever it chooses with its cargo. The difficulty in interdiction is legal. Adherence to international law is in relation to your exposure to anarchy.
Commander Peter J. Winter (author of the above paper) states "[t]he use of naval power to interdict suspect shipments of illegal material has become a core competency in the last few decades, but usually under the guidance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)." The sovereignty of a ship at sea is the sovereignty of the nation whose flag it flies. If that nation is not signed to international treaties on missile technology control or nuclear nonproliferation there formerly was little that could be done. William Hawkins in an article in the December 2004 Proceedings (p49-52) (EBSCOhost-INTERDICT WMD SMUGGLERS AT SEA.) goes into this in more detail and describes the different cases of the interdiction of the So San in 2002 and the BBC China in 2003. Both papers point out the United States was inspired to seek a expansion of legitimate action in Naval matters: the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles indicates the method is to create a large network of nations that will agree to standing sets of reciprocal permissions on boarding and searching of suspect vessels. These will be modeled on existing protocols covering narcotics and migrant worker interdiction.

If the U S is able to discover a reason to initiate an air war against a Iran's nuclear facilities, this would presumably cover seizing the cargos of merchants ships as well. The more realistic problem is that a country in Iran's position, still a number of years away from having a functioning nuclear weapon, may try accelerating the process by weapons trade with nations that already have this capability. The Navy has the tools to discover this but not stop it. If you set a program like the PSI up and some nations will sign and some won't, you can at least claim national security. Interdict and hope the inertia of the non-signers works to keep them from becoming too exercised. This is former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton's view - paraphrased somewhat). All you've done is divert material goods. The U S seems committed to the general view that prevalent nuclear arms in the region is harmful to U S national security, destabilizing, impoverishing and leads to a reduction in personal freedom (reduced trade, choice, opportunity).

Hawkins ends his short article reaching for a moral high note which has a bit of current cache with the movie Amazing Grace coming out, when the British Navy undertook antislavery patrols off west africa in 1815. Progress only occurred when they unilaterally boarded and removed the human cargo from Portuguese flagged vessels. With little or no open support from any other nation.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Granadaland or Sudetenland

Belaboring the obvious. In last Sunday's telecast the Dixie Chicks carted away a boat load of awards Grammy Sweep by Dixie Chicks Is Seen as a Vindication - Reading between the triple spaced lines, This was a vote of support and confidence by the industry. Helped along by the existence of a first rate song and strong album put together and written out of their recent experience Dixie Chicks earn Grammys triumph. Country trio The Dixie Chicks sweep the Grammy Awards four years after causing anger by attacking President Bush. A period of time when many radio stations and associated trades gave them no love, no airplay. A period of time when they were being told (along with many other artists 'shut up and sing,' This was refrain and chorus from some for years.
The music industries return message loud and Clear Channeled [to the Dixie Chicks self appointed censors]: Radio is also just a part of this business, and we don't need your Star Chamber tactics and reactionary politics, so why don't you just shut up and spin the best records.

[Adendum 17feb07] After I wrote this I saw on the Web Log Martinis and Vinyl a very similar post but noting that Shut Up & Sing (2006) was the title of a documentary on the Dixie Chicks last year. I missed that I guess. I should point out while I do not know the person who writes M + V, and nor does she know me. She is friends of friends of my friend Rob Bratton (all librarians apparently). Therefore I link and read.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007
What ever sticks

I haven't been able to get anything written recently. Probably not due to lack of thoughts about things. More having hit that part of the winter season where I am too run down and sick, just too damn sick with head-colds sinus infections and the lot, to be productive. At some point, while the days were passing, I thought 'the thing to do in such case is rather than buckling down and writing a post about something in particular - which requires focus and energy. Simply write a post about nothing in general. Collect whatever stray thoughts I might have, toss it up at the wall.'

The puzzle then became: what have I been thinking about lately? Or 'what whatever?' Well I think about Tran, of course. Quite a lot. This may be part of the problem at hand because there hasn't been all that much space to be occupied by thought beyond this. I cast about in this space. Something about HomeStar Runner. I referred to Cheney as Strongbad in a recent post. I have been re-familiarating myself with the Homestar runner site after a conversation with my nephew on what was the greatest Dragon in fiction. "The greatest Dragon? Trogdor of course," I said, "he is the burninator."

I remembered I can add a vague coda to the bizarre and counter-effective set of ads that ran in last Sundays Superbowl Super Bowl Ads: 2007 - IFILM. One of the few decent spots, the NFL's own ad

, was made by a friend (Gino) of my sister Ann's college roommate, Brenda Garand. My sister went to a small college in Maine called Bates College. Brenda runs a commercial art agency in Portland Maine.

That seemed to pretty much exhaust things. Did I write any notes to myself over the past two weeks? I found one, it said simply: 'Drummers' This after a moment or two I remembered was a reference to hits I get on my referrer log to "bongo lessons" I am tempted to regard such inquiry hits as questions I either have answered or could answer. I mentioned Bongo lessons once about a year ago when my younger sister Susan was trying to find a Bongo teacher for my nephew. She did find a such a person, his name is Luis Garay. He is originally from Argentina, he plays afro-cuban percussion. What he actually teaches is the djembes. He fronts a band that has a record Sacumba! up at the iTunes music store Luis Garay Percussion World.

I heard some songs off the new Of Montreal album Hissing Fauna are you the Destroyer?. I have been unable to determine whether Kevin Drum is referring to snakes, kitties, or people by this,  of Montreal - Wikipedia. Apparently there some connections between the collaborations involved in Homestar runner and Of Montreal (both being Atlanta GA phenomenon) the very phrase Homestar runner possibly. The song that I've liked the most recently is a song by a Massachusetts based band called the Pernice brothers Pernice Brothers - Wikipedia called Going back to Somerville. It's a straight-up indie pop song still showing traces of the alt country roots the band has. Anybody out there remember the Jayhawks? The Pernice brothers may not be the sort of band that makes you jump up, thrust a sheaf of paper into your typewriter and begin hammering out the manifesto that you will eventually title: Our band could be your life. But they are a satisfying act nonetheless.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Hearing the FCC

This story won't ripen until the hearings are held. The story is hearings on the last six years of FCC activity are going to be held, many hearings across a number of topics Rare, medium, or well-done? FCC to be grilled by Congress.The tenor of the dialog will be brisk:

"They've effectively emasculated any public-interest standards that existed" for radio and TV stations, said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), a committee member who plans sharp questions on decency, media consolidation and other topics. "The entire Congress for years now has been devoid of any kind of oversight," he said, and the new Democratic majority is launching a process that will force the FCC to "beat a path to Capitol Hill to respond." FCC to Feel Unfamiliar Heat From Democrats -
They will ask about those studies Senator Barbara Boxer turned up that the FCC seems to have tried to bury. They will ask about about all those mergers and what is it that the FCC thinks that antitrust laws actually pertain to. They will try to nail the FCC down to a single position regarding net neutrality.

Maybe they will find out why people like Kevin J. Martin work so hard to replace the public interest with private interests.

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Last update: 2/28/07; 1:45:53 AM.