31 March 2009

Magical

Rico says he has no idea where in the world this is, nor why they're doing this, but it is amazingly beautiful... (Sorry, can't get the video; you'll have to go there and watch it.)

A night to remember

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Home Depot joke

Rico says here's an 'old fucker' joke, courtesy of his friend Rob Buiskool from Holland:
I was in Home Depot the other day, pushing my cart around, when I collided with a young man pushing his cart. "Sorry about that," I said to him. "I'm looking for my wife and I guess I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."
The young guy says, "That's okay. But what a coincidence: I'm looking for my wife, too. I can't find her and I'm getting a little desperate."
"Well, maybe we can help each other. What's your wife look like?"
The young guy says, "Well, she is 24 years old, tall, blonde hair, big blue eyes, long legs, great big tits, and she's wearing tight white shorts, a halter top, and no bra. What does your wife look like?"
"Doesn't matter. Let's look for yours."
Rico says he's an old fucker, he frequents Home Depot, and he's seen this guy's wife more than once...

Civil War for the day

This is the second of five parts of Errol Morris' column in The New York Times about the discovery of a Civil War photograph and its owner:
I contacted Mark Dunkelman, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island. Here was someone clearly obsessed with these questions. Also, I wanted the story of how he had researched the book, of how the book had come into existence.
MARK DUNKELMAN: In all the previous tellings of this story, Amos Humiston appears as a corpse on the battlefield with this photograph in his hand. I wanted to resurrect the man somehow. And I was able to finally do that by making a connection with a guy in Belmont, Massachusetts, Allan Lawrence Cox. His branch of the family is the one that had preserved Amos’s letters home to his wife. And that was the key because Amos spoke again through the letters. It was a tremendous find. It was exciting because I had long known that there was a book there. But without his voice, it was an empty shell. And bingo, I made the connection.
ERROL MORRIS: Let me back up a moment. Can you tell me how you first became aware of Amos Humiston?
MARK DUNKELMAN: As a child I heard stories of my great-grandfather, a fellow named John Langhans, who served in the Civil War with the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry. My dad had grown up on a farm with his grandfather and his parents in Ellicottville, Cattaraugus County, New York. And my dad had imbibed these stories that his grandfather told, of marching with Sherman to the sea. And he in turn imparted them to me during my youth in suburban Buffalo, New York, in the 1950s and ‘60s. And the stories grabbed me. They just fascinated me. And together with the stories were relics that the family had preserved, including six letters John had sent home to a younger brother during the war; some cotton-bolls he reportedly had picked during Sherman’s march to the sea; ribbons he had worn at regimental reunions; the buttons from his Grand Army of the Republic coat; the silver star corps badge, the 20th Corps badge, that he had worn during the war. And those tangible reminders excited me as well. I was a kid. My interest soon went beyond his personal involvement to that of his regiment as a whole. And I started to do research. As a teenager I made my first visit on a family trip to Washington to the National Archives. And they set three immense boxes full of records in front of me.
ERROL MORRIS: So you knew that you were going to research the Civil War, or was it something more specific?
MARK DUNKELMAN: I was even more interested in becoming an artist. I had been the class artist since third grade. So that’s what took me to RISD [the Rhode Island School of Design] rather than to a liberal arts college to study history. But I said to myself that I wanted to research and publish a regimental history of the 154th New York by the time I reached the age of fifty. I figured that gave me plenty of time. And I started to collect material. And in the thirty-plus years since then, I’ve had the good fortune to connect with more than a thousand descendants of members of the regiment who shared with me more than 1,600 wartime letters written by members of the 154th, twenty-five diaries, portraits of more than two hundred members of the regiment, and basically a roomful of other material. And if it isn’t the largest, it’s one of the largest collections of primary source material on any single particular Civil War regiment.
During my high school years, I became good friends with a neighbor, Christopher Ford, who had Confederate ancestors. We both shared this interest in the Civil War. So we would discuss the Civil War often. As a matter of fact, we used to hold sort of trivia contests to see who could stump each other on our Civil War knowledge. And at one point, Chris gave me a book that he had had for a while. It’s called Gettysburg: What They Did Here, by L.W. Minnigh.
Rico says there's way too much here to purloin, even for the internet, so go there and read it in the original; you'll get all the pictures that way, too. More tomorrow from the same source.

30 March 2009

Rico wants one

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Rico says who would not want a full-auto Glock? (To say nothing of the extremely cool folding stock...)

Sorry to see that go

The New York Times has an article by Richard Pérez-Peña about the imminent demise of The San Francisco Chronicle:
Extinction threatens The San Francisco Chronicle, the leading local news source. The Hearst Corporation says the newspaper lost about $1 million a week last year, and it must either sell the paper, close it, or lay off a large part of its already diminished staff. A plunge in advertising revenue has battered American newspapers, but red ink flowed from The Chronicle even in years when profit margins above twenty percent were the industry norm. Media analysts and current and former Hearst executives lay some blame on moves by the company and the previous owners, the de Young family— particularly a damaging 35-year partnership with a smaller paper, The Examiner, whose effects are still felt years after it was dissolved.
But fault also lies with the geography, demographics, competition, and technology that all make the Bay Area perhaps the toughest newspaper market in the country. What is certain is that The Chronicle no longer has anything like the grip it once had on this region. From 2003 to 2008, the paper lost a third of its circulation, among the steepest declines in the industry.
Often dismissed as parochial, The Chronicle has not been a magnet for major awards— it was too idiosyncratic for that— but it has always paid serious attention to subjects that arouse local passions, like gay rights, the environment, and the arts. It is one of a handful of papers with an architecture critic, John King, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist whose predecessor, the late Alan Temko, won a Pulitzer in 1990.
Like the city itself, The Chronicle cherishes whimsical touches, like a sports section that was printed on green paper— and occasionally still is— and front-page feature articles like a recent one about a local fish with strange eyeballs. The paper is best known for columnists with devoted followings, like Leah Garchik and Jon Carroll, whose work is often quirky, personal and resolutely local. The paper's columnist Herb Caen, who died in 1997, was often called the voice of the city.
The Chronicle reflected the unique culture of the place, which can be like a small town, mostly through its beloved columnists,” said Robert Rosenthal, managing editor from 2002 to 2007. “But I think it’s been in backpedal mode for so long, the constant downsizing, that it has lost some of that.” On any sunny weekend, the long brunch lines outside Dottie’s True Blue Cafe in the Tenderloin district illustrate the printed paper’s shrinking place in city life. People who, a few years ago, would have leafed through The Chronicle while waiting for tables are instead tapping on iPhones and laptops. “People eat through their whole meals texting, e-mailing, where they used to read papers,” said Kurt Abney, owner of Dottie’s. “At the end of the day, we used to have a huge pile of newspapers by the front door that people left behind, but now it’s only a few.”
Though most American newspapers are still profitable, the Internet has eroded circulation and advertising, and it cut first and deepest in the Bay Area, a leader in Internet use and home to sites like Craigslist.
The Chronicle’s website, SFGate.com, draws an unusually large audience for a paper its size, three million to four million people monthly, according to Nielsen Online, but generates a fraction of the paper’s revenue. But some challenges posed by the region long predate the Internet.
The Bay Area has no real center of gravity, and San Francisco, at the tip of a peninsula, has no inner ring of suburbs. The city has only 760,000 of the region’s more than four million residents. Nearby counties have far bigger populations, with their own economic bases and urban cores in places like San Jose and Oakland, and their own major newspapers.
“The Bay Area has this extraordinary fragmentation,” said Anthea Stratigos, chief executive of Outsell, a media research firm. “It’s a region of microclimates, and the person in Contra Costa County might not care about San Francisco City Hall.”
The Chronicle (weekday circulation 339,000 last year) dominates in San Francisco, but beyond the city it trucks papers long distances to compete with The San Jose Mercury News (224,000) to the south, The Contra Costa Times (181,000) and The Oakland Tribune (92,000) to the east.
“Even in the best years, The Chronicle and The Examiner had one-third of the print revenue in the metropolitan market, unlike other major papers that, in their heyday, had seventy percent,” said Steven Falk, who headed the San Francisco papers’ joint operating agency in the late 1990s, and later was president and publisher of The Chronicle.
A large part of the region’s population migrated from elsewhere. In fact about thirty percent are foreign-born. Alan Mutter became The Chronicle’s managing editor in 1984, arriving from Chicago where, he said, “millions of people are rooted to the area, and even in the suburbs their orientation is to the city.” In the Bay Area, “I was struck that it’s not that way at all.”
The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times have combined circulation in the Bay Area of 183,000, almost as high as in the much larger Los Angeles area. “Maybe they’re looking for something better than the local papers, or just something that’s not local,” said Mr. Mutter, who left newspapers two decades ago and writes a blog on news media, Reflections of a Newsosaur.
In past decades, the rival Examiner was sometimes seen as a more serious paper. But The Chronicle more closely mirrored the city’s irreverent, politically liberal outlook. “Back in the ’50s, when we were tried for obscenity for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, The Chronicle did a very honest, sympathetic job of covering that,” said Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet and co-founder of City Lights bookstore, a local landmark.
In the 1970s, The Chronicle published Armistead Maupin’s serial fiction that would become the Tales of the City novels, complete with gay characters, sex and profanity— work that most newspapers would not have touched. Mr. Maupin said, “It was Herb Caen who taught me that hookers and hippies could be interesting characters, even heroic figures.”
For 120 years, the Hearsts owned The Examiner, competing with The Chronicle. In 1965, when the papers had similar circulation, they struck a fateful joint operating agreement, sharing expenses and income. By the late 1990s, The Examiner’s circulation was a quarter of The Chronicle’s.
In 2000, Hearst bought The Chronicle for $660 million, ending the joint operation. Under heavy pressure not to close The Examiner, Hearst turned it over to local owners, along with $66 million in subsidies. The Examiner faded, was sold again, and became a free paper.
The Chronicle purchase coincided with the dot-com crash, followed by recession, so its revenue quickly sank. Hearst says The Chronicle has lost money every year since 2000.
The Chronicle’s newsroom, which had well over five hundred people after the merger, could have fewer than two hundred soon, after proposed layoffs. But executives concede that even with the cuts, it is not clear the paper can make a profit. “I read it every day— I’d hate to go without it,” said Mr. Maupin, who left The Chronicle staff years ago. “But by way of confession, I should add that I read online. I’m part of the problem.”
Rico says it was part of his day every day for twenty or thirty years. No Herb Caen, no Odd Bodkins, no Armistead Maupin? He can't imagine the Bay Area without it...

Ford could do that

Rico says it looks like a GT40, it's as fast as a GT40, and Ford should emulate the Lamborghini company and donate some GT40s to the State Police forces around the country... video

Happy Mothers' Day

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Today

The flowers are still there, amazingly.

Yesterday

Rico says it was a quick storm, but dumped a hell of a lot of hail, very fast. It went from dry to what you see in about ten minutes... (Fortunately, it was small, so no cars damaged.)

The day before yesterday

The flowers were up in the front lawn again.

Nicknames for Barack

The Day By Day cartoon in Rico's sidebar has a propensity for slanging the name of the President of the United States; today it's 'Obamalex', but it's been 'Obamaton' and others.
Rico says we should think bigger: Obamanation

Hey! Here's your chance to be first at something

Rico says he doesn't clutter up his sidebar with this crap just for fun, you know. He's vain enough to think someone might want to follow his blog...

Swim or sink

Rico says the government intervening in the car companies (GM and Chrysler, anyway; Ford seems to be doing better) may be unprecedented (at least since the Depression), but it's the right thing; if the bastards want our money, they can dance to our tune, or fuck 'em, let 'em go bankrupt. (Sorry to all those retired autoworkers and everyone who owns their stock, but there you jolly well are, aren't you?)
According to the news, "Administration officials emphasized they're prepared to let the companies fall into bankruptcy" and "The White House will give GM sixty days to come up with a new restructuring plan, while Chrysler will have thirty days to work out an alliance agreement with Italian automaker Fiat. The government will give both companies just enough money to survive that period. If Chrysler and Fiat reach an agreement, the government would be willing to lend Chrysler another $6 billion."

Rico asks, however: Whatever happened to Daimler?

Ozzies do not fuck about

Courtesy of my Dutch friend Rob, this about Australians and terrorists:
T. B. Bechtel, a City Councillor from Newcastle, Australia, was asked, on a local live radio talk show, just what he thought about the allegations of torture of suspected terrorists.
His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but only after thunderous applause from the audience:
If hooking up a raghead terrorist prisoner's testicles to a car battery to get the truth out of the lying little camelshagger will save just one Australian life, then I have only three things to say: red is positive, black is negative, and make sure his nuts are wet.

Civil War for the day

Rico says it's only part one of a nice Civil War mystery, courtesy of Errol Morris and The New York Times, and a great photo to work with:
The soldier’s body was found near the center of Gettysburg with no identification — no regimental numbers on his cap, no corps badge on his jacket, no letters, no diary. Nothing save for an ambrotype (an early type of photograph popular in the late 1850’s and 1860’s) of three small children clutched in his hand. Within a few days the ambrotype came into the possession of Benjamin Schriver, a tavern keeper in the small town of Graeffenburg, about thirteen miles west of Gettysburg. The details of how Schriver came into possession of the ambrotype have been lost to history. But the rest of the story survives, a story in which this photograph of three small children was used for both good and wicked purposes. First, the good.
Four men on their way to Gettysburg were forced to stop at Schriver’s Tavern when their wagon broke down. They heard the tale of the fallen soldier and saw the photograph of the children. One of them, Dr. J. Francis Bourns, a Philadelphia physician on his way to tend to the wounded from the battle, was intrigued. He convinced Schriver to give him the photograph so that he might attempt to locate the dead man’s family. Perhaps he was touched by the poignancy of the photograph— three children, all under the age of ten, now without a father. As a life-long bachelor, he might have yearned for a wife or family of his own. On the other hand, perhaps he saw it as an opportunity for financial gain.
Dr. Bourns returned to Philadelphia with the ambrotype. He had it copied by several photographers, producing hundreds of inexpensive duplicates in the carte de visite format. The carte de visite photograph, roughly the size of an index card, could be printed in multiple copies, allowing for much quicker mass production of a single photographic image than ever before. Because there was no way of printing photographs in a newspaper, Bourns knew that he might need dozens if not hundreds of cartes de visite to put the image of the three children before the eyes of someone who knew them.
But the story had to be circulated as well, so the photographs were supplemented by a series of newspaper articles, the most prominent of which appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on 19 October 1863, a little over three months following the discovery of the ambrotype. It appeared under the headline Whose Father Was He?:
After the battle of Gettysburg, a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the field, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands, tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small children, and upon this picture his eyes, set in death, rested. The last object upon which the dying father looked was the image of his children, and as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away. How touching! How solemn! What pen can describe the emotions of this patriot-father as he gazed upon these children, so soon to be made orphans! Wounded and alone, the din of battle still sounding in his ears, he lies down to die. His last thoughts and prayers are for his family. He has finished his work on earth; his last battle has been fought; he has freely given his life to his country; and now, while his life’s blood is ebbing, he clasps in his hands the image of his children, and, commending them to the God of the fatherless, rests his last lingering look upon them.
When, after the battle, the dead were being buried, this soldier was thus found. The ambrotype was taken from his embrace, and since been sent to this city for recognition. Nothing else was found upon his person by which he might be identified. His grave has been marked, however, so that if by any means this ambrotype will lead to his recognition he can be disinterred. This picture is now in the possession of Dr. Bourns at 1104 Spring Garden Street of this city, who can be called upon or addressed in reference to it. The children, two boys and a girl, are, apparently, nine, seven, and five years of age, the boys being respectively the oldest and youngest of the three. The youngest boy is sitting in a high chair, and on each side of him are his brother and sister. The eldest boy’s jacket is made from the same material as his sister’s dress. These are the most prominent features of the group. It is earnestly desired that all the papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery of this picture and its attendant circumstances, so that, if possible, the family of the dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what inestimable value it will be to these children, proving, as it does, that the last thoughts of their dying father was for them, and them only.
For those of us used to seeing stories illustrated with photographs, the Inquirer article is fascinating. The absent ambrotype is described thus: The children, two boys and a girl, are, apparently, nine, seven, and five years of age, the boys being respectively the oldest and youngest of the three. The youngest boy is sitting in a high chair, and on each side of him are his brother and sister. The eldest boy’s jacket is made from the same material as his sister’s dress.
The description asks us to think about the details, to imagine them, to pick from among many other details the relevant ones, the ones that can be used to unravel the mystery. The use of “the same material” implies a mother’s hand, or at the very least, a bolt of cloth that was purchased and then used to make clothing for both children. It is evidence— a clue. We are looking for the unseen wife, the woman who made the garments out of whole cloth.
Here a photograph is used to provide a unique identification. Not in the way that might be imagined— someone looking at the ambrotype and saying That’s so-and-so, but by providing a piece of evidence, a context, that could be used to identify the family and the deceased husband and father.
In the traditional detective story, someone asks: Do you know the identity of the people in this photograph? Here, the identification is not made on the basis of recognizing the people from a photograph, but by first 'translating' the photograph into words and sentences. The ages of the children were estimated— as it turns out not far from reality— but the telling details were their respective positions in the photograph, the fact that there were three of them, and that the shirt and dress worn by the brother and sister flanking the brother in the middle were similar.
Also, family portraiture was not so commonplace. A family had to go to a photography studio or be visited by an itinerant photographer. The family of the fallen soldier was asked to identify the one picture that was taken. The widow would have enough information to make an identification. Today, we are able to seamlessly integrate words and pictures— captions and photographs— but the Humiston story allows us to see how this was done before there were means to easily put the two together in a newspaper or broadsheet.
And then a woman in Portville, New York, was shown a story about the photograph that appeared in the American Presbyterian. She feared the worst, having not heard from her husband since the battle of Gettysburg. She asked the town postmaster to write to Dr. Bourns on her behalf and request a copy of the ambrotype. When she opened the letter from Philadelphia in late November of 1863, Philinda Humiston knew her husband, Amos Humiston, the father of her three children— Franklin, Alice and Frederick— was dead.
The story of Amos Humiston has been chronicled in a book by Mark H. Dunkelman, Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier, an attempt to recover the 'identity' of Amos Humiston from the depredations of history. There were two separate searches more than a century apart, an initial search to identify the fallen soldier, and then a subsequent search to discover something about the man. There are also a series of implicit questions. The first question is: What is his name? The second question: Who is he? Tell me something about Amos Humiston. And then, there is a third question: Who is he to us and what does he mean to us?

(This is the first of five installments of Whose Father Was He? The remaining four parts will be published on consecutive days this week.)
Rico says he will add the subsequent installments if he can; if not, search The New York Times blogs for Errol Morris and read them there.

29 March 2009

New place to get Rico's badges

Rico says he found a new site to sell his Texas Ranger badges, at Etsy.com.
Fast and easy, the way he likes it. (And unusual, given the internet.)
Now to see if it works...
(Rico says feel free to go there and shop. They're very cool, very historic, and very well made.)

Gunboat diplomacy

Rico says the Japanese and Koreans haven't gotten along for five or six hundred years, and this is no exception:
Japan's move on Friday to deploy missile interceptors is the boldest challenge that North Korea has faced so far to its plan to launch a rocket in the next few days. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said he ordered the deployment of missile interceptors to Japan's northern coast to prepare to shoot down the rocket and any debris that could fall on Japanese territory. It was the first such order Japan had issued, a ministry spokesman said.
North Korea said it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite between 4 April and 8 April, and warned that fragments could fall into the Sea of Japan between the two countries, as well as southeast of Japan in the Pacific Ocean. Japan and its allies suspect the rocket is a new long-range missile, and have demanded that Pyongyang cancel the plan. A launch would violate United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed in 2006 after North Korea tested a long-range missile.
Any action Japan takes would be restricted to shooting at material that threatens to fall on Japanese land or sea. Nevertheless, the move is a bold one for Japan, which has a pacifist constitution that strictly restricts its military to measures of national defense. Japan is particularly worried about North Korea because of its proximity to the rogue nation. After Pyongyang's launches in recent years, Tokyo imposed sanctions on North Korea and pushed the UN Security Council to enact further sanctions. At the time, Japan didn't have the missile-defense capabilities it has today.
Analysts say that by warning that it will intercept a rocket or debris, Japan is walking a fine diplomatic line between cautious preparation at home and tough talk to put North Korea on notice without antagonizing the country. Japanese defense officials say that, while they don't expect debris or a rocket to fall on the nation, they will do everything possible beforehand to protect the nation by preparing for such an event. Before the 2006 tests, North Korea didn't emphasize, as it has this time, that it will be launching a space rocket.
In recent years, Tokyo has expanded its military role. It has sent noncombat troops to Iraq and has a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that supports US forces in Afghanistan. The US, which Japan relies on for its defense, has to proceed cautiously. US diplomats are now dealing with North Korea's arrest of two journalists on the North Korea-China border on 17 March.
The US has been leaning against trying to shoot down the North's projectile and a senior US official this week said the administration has ruled it out. The Japanese government said two destroyers carrying sea-to-air missiles would also be deployed in nearby waters, joining US and South Korean warships in the area.
Rico says hide and watch; this is gonna get interesting...

Ending discrimination, one king at a time

The Wall Street Journal has an article by Aaron Patrick about the change in British succession:
The prohibition on British monarchs marrying Catholics, and the primacy of princes over princesses in regal succession, would become relics of history under an endorsement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Mr. Brown said he wants to change Britain's rules of succession, ending both the 321-year-old religious ban and the practice of primogeniture, in which the right of succession belongs to the eldest son.
England's 1688 Bill of Rights prohibits heirs to British throne from marrying "a papist", a rule designed to protect the power of the Church of England. It is one of the few remaining discriminatory laws in Britain from the bloody religious struggle between Catholics and Protestants that consumed the country throughout the 1500s and 1600s.
Primogeniture, meanwhile, is a long-established practice in many royal families. Changing the law would have limited immediate impact, leaving the three current heirs in place: Prince Charles, and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Under the proposed changes, the Princess Royal, also known as Princess Anne, would move from tenth to fourth in succession order.
"I think in the 21st Century, people do expect discrimination to be removed," Mr. Brown, who was traveling in Brazil, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. Mr. Brown's office issued a statement saying the existing laws on royal succession "should change" and "we are keen to open a process of dialogue" to rewrite them. A government spokeswoman declined to discuss specific plans to change the laws. With support for his administration at low levels, Mr. Brown may have seized upon the issue to drive up his popularity.
A survey for the BBC by a polling company found that 81% of respondents agree that the monarch should be allowed to marry a Catholic. Catholics make up roughly 8% of the population, according to the Catholic Church. "It is anachronistic, it is discriminatory and is sure at some point to be repealed," said a spokesman for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the senior Catholic figure in the UK.
Changing the rules would be diplomatically complex. The British head of state, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is queen of fifteen other nations, including Canada, Australia, Jamaica, and Barbados, and all would have to agree on changes to the succession laws, according to Mr. Brown's office. Existing efforts to change the law in Parliament have stalled in part because of the complexity of getting those other countries to sign on. In countries with strong sentiment for breaking with the monarchy, such as Australia, the succession issue could prompt a broader discussion about the relevance of the British monarchy.
Mr. Brown has emphasized he doesn't wish to threaten the Church of England or the British monarchy, which remains highly popular, nor has he proposed allowing a Catholic to become monarch. A spokesman for the queen declined to comment.
The changes aren't imminent. A senior government official, Jack Straw, said during an appearance in Parliament that there is little chance the succession laws will be altered before Britain's next election, which is expected next year.
Last year, a Canadian, Autumn Kelly, renounced her Catholicism to marry Peter Phillips, the queen's grandson. In 1978, the queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, was removed from the line of succession— a list of who will replace the queen— when he married Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, a Catholic.
Rico says that, for many years, it's been the thing he gives up for Lent: his claim to the British throne. (Via Jane Seymour, you see; and, no, not the actress, either.) It's nice that, as a Zen Buddhist, he'll now have a real crack at it...

The Chinese are at it again

The Wall Street Journal has an article by Ben Worthen about cyber-spying by the Chinese:
Security researchers said they have discovered software capable of stealing information installed on computers in 103 countries, an apparently coordinated cyberattack that targeted the office of the Dalai Lama and government agencies around the world. The software infected more than 1,200 computers in all, almost 30% of which are considered high-value targets, according to a report published by Information Warfare Monitor, a Toronto-based organization. Among the affected computers were those in embassies belonging to Germany, India, Romania, and Thailand, and in the ministries of foreign affairs for Barbados, Iran, and Latvia.
The researchers said the infected computers acted as a kind of illicit information-gathering network. Researchers said they observed sensitive documents being stolen from a computer network operated by the Dalai Lama's organization, and traced the attacks to computers located in China. The report doesn't suggest who was behind the attack. A separate report by researchers at Cambridge University alleges that the Chinese government or a group working closely with it is responsible for the attack on the computer in the office of the Dalai Lama.
Media officials at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Council Information Office declined requests for comment Sunday. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied past allegations that it sponsors cyberattacks.
The apparent attacks are the latest in a series of incidents that suggest cyber-espionage is on the rise. Last year, Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said military computer networks are increasingly coming under attack from hackers trying to steal information, many of whom appear to have ties to China. The US government has also said that military contractors have been victims of these attacks.
In trying to tap into government computers, attackers have been stepping up the use of sabotaged programs, sometimes called malware. The technique is essentially the same as that used by criminals who try to break into people's home PCs to steal credit cards or other information. A victim is tricked into opening an infected file attached to an email or downloading a file from a web site. Criminals have managed to gain control over millions of computers by sending files pretending to be racy pictures of celebrities or winning lottery tickets.
In an espionage attack, the messages are much more targeted, says Shishir Nagaraja, one of the authors of the Cambridge study who investigated the attack on the office of the Dalai Lama. The emails appear to come from someone the recipient knows and may contain a file that recipient has been expecting. "Who wouldn't open that?" says Mr. Nagaraja. The attacks "depend less on technical measures and more on abusing trust."
In the attacks tracked by the Canadian researchers, the installed software provided near-complete control over the victims' computers. The attackers could search for and steal sensitive files, capture passwords to web sites, and even activate a computer's web camera if they desired. The victims were usually unaware that someone else could control their computers.
Mr. Nagaraja stresses that businesses are also at risk. While the incidents uncovered by the researchers dealt mainly with government organizations, corporations could hire hackers to steal information from rivals using similar techniques.
Indeed, there is a precedent for such incidents. In May 2005, Michael and Ruth Haephrati were arrested and later pleaded guilty to stealing secrets from dozens of businesses in Israel by crafting fake business proposals that really contained malicious software. The Haephratis would call their targets on the phone to make sure they had opened the infected files.
Targeted attacks are on the rise. Researchers at MessageLabs, a division of Symantec Corp., only detected about one or two targeted attacks per week in 2005. In 2008, the researchers detected 53 of these attacks a day.
Rico says he will 'suggest' who's behind these attacks: the Chinese. When you've got a billion people, a lot of whom are smart and have too much time on their hands, this is the sort of thing they'll get up to...

More unknown wackos with guns

Rico says it's another one of those inexplicable (as of yet, anyway) shooting rampages; the why will, undoubtedly, come out later:
Eight people have been killed and several others wounded in a shooting at a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina, police and hospital officials said Sunday. Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie told CNN affiliate News 14 Carolina that there were six dead at the scene and three wounded, including a police officer. Gretchen Kelly, a spokeswoman for FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, told CNN later that two of the six patients brought there had died, and two were still being treated.
Few details of the shootings, which happened about 10 a.m. on Sunday, were immediately available. There was no immediate indication as to the attacker's motive, and it was not clear whether the gunman was in custody or was among the dead or wounded.
"I ain't never seen nobody being mistreated down there or nothing," Bobby Dunn, whose 89-year-old mother was living at the facility, told News 14. "That's what I can't understand why somebody would come and do something like that."
McKenzie said the facility was "under our control" and patients had been moved to another building. Police were still interviewing witnesses early Sunday afternoon, he said. Carthage is about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh.
Rico says this'll turn out to be something pathetic and stupid, like all these things do...

Gotta love 'em

video
Rico says they're sure as hell not dogs, but they're fun...

Never know, might be funny

Krod MandoonThurs Apr 9, 10p/9c
Krod Mandoon Series Preview
comedycentral.com
Matt LucasKevin HartSean Mcguire
Rico says that he knows nothing past this trailer, but you can go to the site to check it out and watch the initial show on 9 April on your local Comedy Central channel. (Rico says he promises to report once he's seen it.) "Best described as Monty Python meets The Princess Bride"? Maybe, but Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser it ain't...

Civil War for the day

Rico says this is an excellent map of the retaking of the Confederacy, including the little-known actions at Fernandina, Florida on 2 March 1862 and St. Augustine, Florida on 11 March 1862.

Quitcher whinin', we didn't kill him. Yet

The Washington Post has an article by Peter Finn and Joby Warrick about the interrogation of Abu Zubaida:
When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.
The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida (chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates) was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.
Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after 11 September, and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan.
Abu Zubaida's case presents the Obama administration with one of its most difficult decisions as it reviews the files of the 241 detainees still held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Abu Zubaida, a nom de guerre for the man born Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, was never charged in a military commission in Guantanamo Bay, but some officials are pushing to have him charged now with conspiracy.
The Palestinian, 38 years old and now in captivity for more than seven years, had alleged links with Ahmed Ressam, an al-Qaeda member dubbed the "Millennium Bomber" for his plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve in 1999. Jordanian officials tied him to terrorist plots to attack a hotel and Christian holy sites in their country. And he was involved in discussions, after the Taliban government fell in Afghanistan, to strike back at the United States, including with attacks on American soil, according to law enforcement and military sources.
Others in the US government, including CIA officials, fear the consequences of taking a man into court who was waterboarded on largely false assumptions, because of the prospect of interrogation methods being revealed in detail and because of the chance of an acquittal that might set a legal precedent. Instead, they would prefer to send him to Jordan.
Some US officials remain steadfast in their conclusion that Abu Zubaida possessed, and gave up, plenty of useful information about al-Qaeda. "It's simply wrong to suggest that Abu Zubaida wasn't intimately involved with al-Qaeda," said a counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because much about Abu Zubaida remains classified. "He was one of the terrorist organization's key facilitators, offered new insights into how the organization operated, provided critical information on senior al-Qaeda figures, and identified hundreds of al-Qaeda members. How anyone can minimize that information, some of the best we had at the time on al-Qaeda, is beyond me."
Until the attacks on New York and Washington, Abu Zubaida was a committed jihadi who regarded the United States as an enemy principally because of its support of Israel. He helped move people in and out of military training camps in Afghanistan, including some men who were or became members of al-Qaeda, according to interviews with multiple sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He was widely known as a kind of travel agent for those seeking such training.
That role, it turned out, would play a part in deciding his fate once in US hands: Because his name often turned up in intelligence traffic linked to al-Qaeda transactions, some intelligence leaders were convinced that Abu Zubaida was a major figure in the terrorist organization, according to officials engaged in the discussions at the time.
There's a ton more article; go here to read the rest.
Rico says the guy did bad things against America. If we can't hold him in Guantanamo any more, take him half-way to anywhere and push him out of the plane. (Aw, he couldn't swim... Who knew? Of course, the ten feet of heavy chain he had on didn't help, but he was a prisoner...)

28 March 2009

Precisely, kid

Rico says he's awaiting a ride home from the dentist when a young (like seven or eight, maybe) boy comes past him, turns, sees the patch and (wide-eyed) says to his (in a hurry and thus uncaring) mother: "Look! A pirate!"
Perfect.

Good myth

Rico says that the myth of the Seven Cities of Gold got started in Spain back in about 1150. Wikipedia says:
According to the legend, when the Moors conquered Mérida, seven bishops fled the city, not only to save their own lives but also to prevent the Muslims from obtaining sacred religious relics. Years later, a rumor circulated that in a far away land— a place unknown to the people of that time— the seven bishops had founded the cities of Cíbola and Quivira. The legend says that these cities grew very rich, mainly from gold and precious stones. This idea fueled many expeditions in search of the mythical cities during the following centuries. Eventually, the legend behind these cities grew to such an extent that no one spoke solely of Quivira and Cíbola, but instead of seven magnificent cities made of gold, one for each of the seven bishops who had left Mérida.
Rico says the problem is that the Mexicans haven't heard that the Seven Cities never existed. Worse yet, it's now transmogrified: "Edward Abbey's autobiographical recount of his summer as a park ranger at Arches National Park, Desert Solitaire, contains a reference to seven modern cities of Cibola including Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff..."

The Rules

Rico says they are:
True.
False.
Maybe.
None of The Above.
Not Yet.
In Another Part of The Forest.

Send the bastards to prison

The New York Times has an article by Ian Urbina about some greedy fuck-head judges in upstate Pennsylvania who will now get a small taste of their own medicine:
Things were different in the Luzerne County juvenile courtroom, and everyone knew it. Proceedings on average took less than two minutes. Detention center workers were told in advance how many juveniles to expect at the end of each day— even before hearings to determine their innocence or guilt. Lawyers told families not to bother hiring them; they would not be allowed to speak anyway. “The judge’s whim is all that mattered in that courtroom,” said Marsha Levick, the legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, a child advocacy organization in Philadelphia, which began raising concerns about the court to state authorities in 1999. “The law was basically irrelevant.”
Last month, the law caught up with Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., 58, who ran that juvenile court for 12 years, and Judge Michael Conahan, 56, a colleague on the county’s Court of Common Pleas. In what authorities are calling the biggest legal scandal in state history, the two judges pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud in a scheme that involved sending thousands of juveniles to two private detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks. The State Supreme Court ordered that the records be cleaned for hundreds of the 2,500 or so juveniles sentenced by Judge Ciavarella, and in the coming weeks, the two judges will be sentenced, under a plea agreement, to more than seven years in prison.
While the scandal continues to ripple nationally as legal experts debate whether juvenile courts have sufficient oversight, here in Luzerne County people are grappling with more immediate questions: How did two native sons, elected twice to the bench to protect children and serve justice, decide to do the opposite? And why did no one stop them?
It all started in June 2000 with a simple business proposition, according to the judges’ indictment and more than forty interviews with courtroom workers, authorities and others. Robert Powell, a wealthy personal-injury lawyer from Hazleton and longtime friend of Judge Conahan, wanted to know how he might get a contract to build a private detention center. Judge Ciavarella thought he could help. The two men agreed to meet and, according to prosecutors, somewhere in that conversation a plan was hatched that courthouse workers and county officials would later describe as a “freight train without brakes”. First, Judge Ciavarella put Mr. Powell in touch with a developer who also happened to be an old friend, Robert Mericle, to start work on finding a site. Then, in January 2002— the month Judge Conahan became president judge, giving him control of the courthouse budget— he signed a secret deal with Mr. Powell, agreeing that the court would pay $1.3 million in annual rent, on top of the tens of millions of dollars that the county and the state would pay to house the delinquent juveniles. And by the end of that year, Judge Conahan had gotten rid of the competition by eliminating financing for the county detention center.
“They were unstoppable,” said Judge Chester Muroski, who sent a letter to county commissioners raising concerns about detention costs, only to be transferred days later to another court by Judge Conahan. “I knew something was wrong, but they silenced all dissent.”
Other dissenters were also steamrolled. When the county controller, Steve Flood, leaked a state audit that described the state’s lease of the center as a “bad deal,” the center’s owner filed a “trade secrets” lawsuit against Mr. Flood, and Judge Conahan sealed the suit to limit other documents’ getting out. His decision was later overturned.
“Everyone began to assume that the judges had some vested interest in the private center because they were pushing it so doggedly,” one courthouse worker said. Virtually all former colleagues and courthouse workers would not allow themselves to be identified because the federal investigation into the kickback scheme was continuing and they feared for their jobs if they alienated former allies of the judges. Mr. Powell has not been charged. His lawyer said that the judges had coerced him into paying the kickbacks and that he was cooperating with investigators.
The few officials who had concerns at the time say their hands were tied. Probation officers say they suspected that something was amiss, but were overruled every time they requested lighter sentences or for sentences to be served at home. County commissioners were the only ones authorized to sign contracts for detention centers. But by eliminating money for the county center, Judge Conahan left them little alternative but to sign on to the deal for the private facility.
Prosecutors say that by sentencing juveniles to detention at twice the state average, Judge Ciavarella was holding up his end of the bargain. And by late 2003, so much money was rolling in that the two judges were struggling to hide it all. So in 2004, they bought a $785,000 condominium together in Florida to help conceal the payments, and they began disguising transactions as rent and other related fees.
“We did what we could to stop it,” said Commissioner Stephen Urban, who repeatedly argued that the county should build its own center rather than lease the private one. “There were so many red flags that no one could mistake them as any other color.” One red flag was the 56-foot yacht in front of the judges’ Florida condo, where they and Mr. Powell started spending much of their time. Owned by Mr. Powell, the $1.5 million boat was named the Reel Justice. The conspicuous wealth Judge Ciavarella enjoyed in Florida was a far cry from the rough East End neighborhood in Wilkes-Barre where he grew up and is still known as “the local kid who made it big”. A stellar athlete and student, Judge Ciavarella was the son of a brewery worker and a phone company operator. Nicknamed Scooch, like his father, he drove a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle for years, and even after moving away, he visited his aging mother daily until she died in 2007. After law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Mr. Ciavarella ran for a seat on the county’s Court of Common Pleas in August 1994. On the bench, he became known for a stern hand in sentencing and a sharp wit in making sure everyone knew who was boss.
By contrast, Judge Conahan was known for being quiet, even secretive, on and off the bench. His neighbors observed that in a community known for holiday parties and open houses, no one they knew had ever seen the inside of Judge Conahan’s house. Raised in Hazleton, on the other side of the county from Wilkes Barre, Judge Conahan came from money and had a political pedigree. His father, who owned a funeral home, was Hazleton’s mayor from 1962 to 1974. Judge Conahan attended Villanova University and went to law school at Temple University. Despite their differences, the two men became close friends on the bench, connected, former colleagues say, by a similarly stern view of justice.
In 2004, Judge Conahan bought the house next to Judge Ciavarella’s in Mountain Top, a wealthy suburb of Wilkes-Barre, where Mr. Powell also lives. The judges and their wives began sharing a recreational vehicle to tailgate at Penn State football games and vacationing together in Florida. “They were pretty average guys,” Frank Monaco, the superintendent of the Florida condominium building, said of the judges and Mr. Powell. “Average for people with lots of money.” Though the judges and Mr. Powell generally kept to themselves, Mr. Monaco said, they lost that low profile in 2004 after Mr. Powell got into a dispute with marina officials who wanted to end his slip lease. Mr. Powell went to court to force the marina to let him keep his boat there, but he filed his motion in Luzerne County, not Florida. A colleague of Judge Conahan and Judge Ciavarella ruled in favor of Mr. Powell, despite a protest from the marina’s lawyer that the case should have been heard in Florida and that he could not attend the hearing because he had been given only one day’s notice. “People at the marina thought that seemed like a real abuse of power,” Mr. Monaco said. The lawsuit was dropped after Mr. Powell moved his boat to another marina. “You get enough power and you’re bound to start abusing it, I suppose,” Mr. Monaco said.
There was never doubt about who had the power in Courtroom Four in the Luzerne County Courthouse. Though courteous, even jocular, Judge Ciavarella ran hearings with breakneck efficiency, cutting lawyers off when they rambled, scolding them when they arrived unprepared. Sometimes, he helped his friends, too. One courthouse worker recounted seeing a high school friend appear before Judge Ciavarella on a speeding charge. When the state trooper testified that he had clocked the man going eighty in a 55-mile-per-hour zone, the judge interrupted. “No, I think he was just going sixty. Matter closed,” the worker recalled the judge saying. Shocked, the trooper turned to face the judge. “You’re dismissed,” the judge said.
But the juveniles being sentenced in that dim oak-paneled courtroom tended to be less lucky. Parents who arrived with their children typically left without them. “Your arguments in sentencing weren’t persuasive,” said Basil Russin, the Luzerne County public defender, who represented many juveniles in Judge Ciavarella’s court. “You expected your kid to go away.”
While judges elsewhere in the state were shifting away from incarcerating juveniles for delinquency, Luzerne County was becoming infamous for imposing heavy sentences for minor infractions. Kurt Kruger, for example, was seventeen when he was sent to a boot camp for five months in 2004 for being a lookout for a friend who was stealing DVDs from a Wal-Mart. DayQuawn Johnson was thirteen when he was sent to a detention center for several days in 2006 for failing to appear at a hearing as a witness to a fight, even though his family had never been notified about the hearing and he had already told school officials that he had not seen anything. Both juveniles were first-time offenders.
Judge Ciavarella had never made a secret about liking his justice swift and firm. Nicknamed Mr. Zero Tolerance in the courthouse, he once put a father in jail after he could not pay court-imposed fees for his daughter, whom the judge had previously locked up. Asked last year why he did not make a habit of telling juveniles of their right to a lawyer before hearings, Judge Ciavarella said, “I just don’t believe I have to spoon-feed people to do things in their life.” But as he pleaded guilty last month and admitted having “disgraced” the bench, Judge Ciavarella denied that payments had influenced his sentencing decisions.
State data, however, give a different picture. The number of juveniles he sent to secure facilities outside the home more than doubled from 2001 to 2002, around the time that the authorities say he and Judge Conahan hatched their kickback plan. And that sentencing trend — more than double the state average — continued through 2007, according to data analyzed by The New York Times. (No data was available for 2008.)
After the Juvenile Law Center appealed a case involving a child who was sentenced without a lawyer, Judge Ciavarella told reporters in 2000 that he would avoid letting juveniles appear without counsel in the future. But state data indicate that the problem only worsened. From 1997 to 2003, juveniles appeared before Judge Ciavarella without counsel at more than five times the state average, and from 2003 through 2007, that rate was around ten times the state average.
Federal authorities have declined to say when they began investigating the judges. But these trends started worrying State Department of Public Welfare auditors in 2003, when they noticed that the county was billing the state for the same amount every month for detention services. In most other counties, the bill fluctuates based on the changing numbers of juvenile offenders each month.
In a separate review, state auditors found that the detention centers were systematically overbilling the county and that the centers had fallen behind in their bills and begun receiving shut-off notices from utility companies.
“Those were all red flags to us,” said Ted Dallas, executive deputy secretary for the Department of Public Welfare, adding that his office tried to work with the county to lower its use of detention because the state pays partial reimbursement for those costs. But, like so many others, Mr. Dallas said there was little he could do. Since the centers were privately owned, state auditors had limited authority. And since the judges were on the side of the centers, the auditors had little recourse in the event of a conflict. “In the end,” Mr. Dallas said, “it all came down to what the judge decided.”
Rico says beatings are the answer here, if not actual beheadings (okay, okay, you can't behead someone for graft, dammit, but it's a thought). But ten years to figure out what this wop-and-mick team of judges were up to? Somebody wasn't on the ball...

Never wanted one that bad

Courtesy of my father, this advice for your next job interview:

video

Leave the poor woman alone

Rico says as if there weren't enough other things going on to worry about, people are now blathering about Michelle Obama's arms, fer crissake:
First Lady Michelle Obama stands tall and regal in her official portrait, a double strand of creamy pearls around her neck, her figure clad in a fitted Michael Kors dress. But there's one aspect of this seemingly benign photograph that's causing something of a commotion, and it lies in that exposed 10-inch-or-so stretch between her shoulder and elbow. The first lady is buff, and she's not afraid to show it.
Her curvy biceps have become something of a lightning rod for remarks from both sexes in a larger discussion of how much female muscle constitutes too much. While some praise Obama as a role model in a world gone obese, others say she's gone too far in displaying the fruit of her workouts. Read one online forum comment: "There is nothing uglier than manly, muscular arms on a woman. Mrs. Obama should be hiding them instead of showing them off."
Rico says first of all, she doesn't have 'manly, muscular arms', she has womanly muscular arms, and oughta be damned proud of them; secondly, showing them off is a good thing, and will hopefully encourage other women to work out...
(And, for confirmation, here's a whole website about Linda Hamilton's arms, which Rico says he's swooned over for years (okay, maybe not just her arms), headed with this quote by Pasquale Manocchia, Madonna's personal trainer: "Men want biceps, and biceps are used for pulling things. Women want triceps, and triceps are used for pushing things away.")

Coulda been Rico, once upon a time

Rico says he'd've probably retired by now, even if he'd successfully become an auxiliary Oakland PD member when he lived in California, but this article by a bunch of San Francisco Chronicle writers hits close to home:
In an emotional farewell, more than 20,000 grateful citizens and law-enforcement officials from across the country gathered on Friday to honor the lives of four Oakland police officers who were shot and killed in the single deadliest day in department history.
Every kind of law enforcement officer from every corner of the nation was there, from San Francisco parking-control officers to state game wardens and sheriff's deputies in camouflage to officers with rescue dogs. There were officers from the United States Mint, UC Berkeley, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Austin, Texas, many of whom waited in lines snaking around Oracle Arena to remember their fallen colleagues. They were joined by community members and a host of dignitaries during a three-hour service at the arena for what was by far the largest police funeral in recent memory.
Sergeant Mark Dunakin, or "Dunny" as everybody called him, was a big teddy bear and die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers fan who proudly patrolled the streets on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle after serving a stint as a homicide investigator.
Traffic Officer John Hege was a "beer and brownie man" who combined his love for the department and the Oakland Raiders by working overtime at the Coliseum during home games.
SWAT Sergeant Ervin Romans was a former Marine Corps drill instructor, a "tactical guru", and an expert marksman who instilled the importance of safety in the hundreds of officers he trained.
Sergeant Daniel Sakai, a former K-9 officer known for his big smile and big ears, juggled the duties of being a patrol sergeant and a SWAT entry team leader, yet still insisted on working out and running with officers preparing to take a grueling physical test.
All four veteran officers died on 21 March when a wanted parolee, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, opened fire in separate incidents just hours apart in East Oakland. Together, they had nearly fifty years of experience with the force. Their deaths left ten children without fathers.
As officers from fifteen other agencies patrolled city streets, the entire 815-member Oakland Police Department came to celebrate the lives of the officers even as they struggled to come to terms with the deadliest day in its history. To lose four officers was almost too much to bear. "I was hoping not to have to go to another one of these things. It's a tough job," said Oakland police Officer John Wilson, a 25-year veteran who hopes to retire this year. "But our job is to protect and serve, and sometimes we die for it."
Mixon opened fire with a handgun after Dunakin, 40, and Hege, 41, pulled him over during a traffic stop at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard at about 1 p.m.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Romans, 43, and Sakai, 35, died when their SWAT team stormed the apartment where Mixon was hiding. This time, Mixon fired with an assault rifle. He was shot to death by police.
Another SWAT officer, Sergeant Pat Gonzales, suffered a gunshot wound but is recovering. He was one of Sakai's pallbearers.
Rumbling corteges of motorcycle officers escorted each hearse in miles-long processions to the arena, causing traffic delays on most East Bay freeways in the morning and again in the afternoon. Along the way, police officers and firefighters stood in silent salute on highway overpasses. At the arena, police vehicles passed underneath a giant American flag hanging between the extended ladders of two Oakland fire trucks, maintaining a tight and sharp formation, just as Dunakin would have liked it, his colleagues said.
Their badges wrapped with black bands of mourning, hundreds of officers in dress uniforms lined the steps outside the arena and saluted as, one by one, honor guards escorted four flag-draped caskets inside, followed by the officers' families. A sign at the complex read Forever Heroes.
Hundreds of police vehicles— bomb-squad trucks, motorcycles, Ford Crown Victorias, and Dodge Charger cruisers— filled the parking lot. There were police cars from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. A rainbow of uniforms filled the arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum, where an overflow crowd of several thousand watched the service on two big screens.
Many officers dabbed at their eyes with white gloves as the caskets were placed in front of a flower-adorned stage beside their pictures. The police motorcycles of Dunakin and Hege and two pairs of empty boots sat nearby.
The funeral was mixed with humor and sadness.
Chris Dunakin recalled playing cops and robbers with his goofball of an older brother who, naturally, was the cop. Mark Dunakin took great delight in the irony that his little brother became an attorney, because that meant "I am still a crook," Chris Dunakin said, drawing laughs.
Sergeant Rich Vierra said he tried to wow Romans with a story about being attacked by a baby seal while scuba diving. Romans countered with a story of how a bear stole a fish from him in Alaska, and he "took the fish back from the bear".
Along with remembrances by friends and family were reminders by public officials who told those in attendance to keep their heads high in honor of the fallen officers. Public officials who spoke at Friday's event included Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, State Attorney General and former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sat on the stage but did not speak after he was asked by at least one family not to. Members of the Oakland City Council, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were also among those in attendance.
"Yes, they were gunned down in hatred and in anger, but they stand very tall in our hearts, in our memory forever," Brown said.
"We must not let the pain drown out the joy and comfort that these men brought to so many lives," Feinstein said.
Schwarzenegger hailed the selfless actions of officers who "would give their lives for any one of us. It is an awful day when we lose one of them, and now we have the sorrow of saying farewell to four of them, all at once."
Oakland police Captain Ed Tracey agreed, telling mourners that although the four officers he supervised died of an evil act, "We must not, however, allow the selfish and cowardly actions of a criminal to taint our wonderful memory of these officers' lives." Tracey also singled out Clarence Ellis, a 53-year-old retired AC Transit bus driver who ran over and performed CPR on Dunakin.
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan, who assumed the post only three weeks before the tragedy, gave the families of each officer the flags that had covered their caskets. A bugler sounded taps, and police bagpipers played Amazing Grace. Outside the arena, officers stood at attention as their slain colleagues received a twenty-one-gun salute from military cannons.
Each officer was honored with a group of five law enforcement helicopters flown overhead, with one peeling off in a "missing man" formation.

Fuck the Greeks; just whack the guy

Haaretz has an article about the latest in Holocaust denial:
Greek court officials said judges overturned a far-rightist's conviction for inciting racial hatred with a book that denies the Holocaust took place. A five-member panel of appeals court judges voted four to one to overturn a lower court's decision that sentenced Costas Plevris to fourteen months in prison for his book The Jews: The Whole Truth.
The Greek News quoted Plevris as having glorified Hitler and calling for the extermination of the Jews in his 1,400 page book. He declares himself "a Nazi, a fascist, a racist, an anti-democrat, and an anti-Semite," according to the Greek-American paper. "Jews are mortal enemies and deserve the firing squad," he was quoted as saying.
Court officials said the Athens appeals court ruled that Plevris was entitled to express his views in the book. In the first trial, in 2007, Greek Jewish community leaders had testified that Plevris' book has led to an increase in attacks on Jewish monuments.
An estimated 60,000 Greek Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. Around 4,000 Jews live today in Greece.
Rico says the only question he has for Holocaust deniers is: So, if none of that happened, where are all the Jews? Oh, yeah, and also this one: Which of your ears would you like my Glock to go off in, motherfucker?

Ooh, gotta go see that

Rico says some things you gotta go see when you have the chance:
It looked like the kind of toy telescope a child might have made with scissors and tape— a lumpy, mottled tube about as long as a golf club and barely wider in girth, the color of 400-year-old cardboard, burning with age. But near one knobby end was a bit of writing that sent Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute here, into rapture. The tube’s focal length is “piedi 3,” the inscription said, three feet. It was in the hand of Galileo Galilei. “Absolutely amazing,” Dr. Pitts said.
Thus did Galileo, one of history’s great troublemakers, come to America.
By turning spyglasses like this to the sky four hundred years ago and seeing mountains on the Moon and satellites whirling around Jupiter in contravention of the Earth-centered cosmology of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and the Bible that had reigned for a thousand years, Galileo changed the world.
His discoveries propelled astronomers on a course toward discovering signs of the Big Bang and a shadowy modern cosmos suffused with dark energy and dark matter. And his tangle with the church became the template for the war between science and religion that persists to this day. Only two of the dozens of telescopes Galileo built survive. Neither have ever been out of Florence since Galileo’s time. That is, until this week, when Giorgio Strano, curator at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science there, escorted this humble tube to the Franklin Institute.
Scholars do not know when Galileo built this particular telescope, or what he saw with it, but it still has its original optics. A brief audience with the telescope— under the stern gaze of Dr. Strano— gives you an idea of how hard it must have been for Galileo to be Galileo. Squinting through the eyepiece as the tube lay on a table, hands gloved but careful not to actually touch the telescope, I found the field of view strikingly narrow. Down a tunnel of blackness all the light of the room was compressed into a blurry, fragile dot.
In order to accomplish high magnification on the planets, Galileo had to settle for seeing a very small slice of sky— about half the diameter of a full Moon in the case of this telescope— making it correspondingly difficult to find anything in the sky. Mapping the Moon, for example, would require moving the telescope.
Galileo began to build telescopes, gradually increasing in magnification, in the fall of 1609, after hearing that a Dutch spectacles maker, Hans Lipperhey, had built a spyglass. He probably made his first observations, of the Moon, in October, said Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at Harvard. At the same time, Thomas Harriot in England was observing and mapping the Moon, but failed to publish anything. But Galileo, knowing he had ammunition to upend the universe, rushed into print in March 1610 with his report, Sidereus Nuncius, “Starry Messenger.”
He sent a copy of the book, along with the telescope he had been using, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici. Dr. Gingerich said the pamphlet amounted to “a job application” to the Medici family for whom, in one of history’s first examples of branding, Galileo named the four satellites of Jupiter. “Other planets were gods or goddesses,” said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence institute. “The only humans with position in sky were Medicis.”
The ploy worked, Cosimo II hired Galileo as his astronomer, elevating him from a poorly-paid professor at the University of Padua to a celebrity, making the equivalent of $300,000, a year, Dr. Galluzzi said. Galileo returned the favor by giving Cosimo another telescope, clad in red leather and stamped with decorations.
Galileo’s social skills deserted him when it came to the church, even though he claimed to be a good Catholic. In 1633, after having been enjoined seventeen years before from promoting the Copernican theory, Galileo was summoned to a trial in Rome, convicted of holding views “contrary to Scripture” and declared “vehemently suspect of heresy”. Galileo recanted and spent the rest of his life under house arrest, the enduring symbol of persecution of science by the church. He died in 1642, probably outliving many of his telescopes.
Of the first telescope Galileo sent to Cosimo II, with which he said he discovered the satellites of Jupiter, all that remain are the pieces of the main lens, which was dropped and broken in 1635, Dr. Galluzzi said. Cosimo’s red leather telescope is intact but has only one of its original lenses.
The telescope now in Philadelphia is made of two half-cylinders of wood wrapped with varnished paper and held together by rings of wire. Dr. Galluzzi called it “a working tool,” one Galileo could have kept and used his whole life, but nobody knows for sure. The Florence institute that is home to both remaining telescopes is undergoing renovations this year, so it seemed an opportune moment to let at least one Galileo instrument go on a road show. (The leather one remains in Florence.) The wooden spyglass will be the centerpiece of Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy, which opens April 4 at the Franklin Institute. The show, which runs until September, is part of the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years of modern astronomy.
The show will then travel to Stockholm in time for the Nobel Prize announcements in October before returning to the Florence institute, which will reopen as the Galileo Museum, Institute for the History of Science.
Dr. Strano, guardian of the telescope, allowed its visitors to spend only a little time with it before locking it up. Seeking more of the Galilean experience, Dr. Pitts and I went to the Franklin’s roof with a replica of Galileo’s red telescope. Made in Florence 60 or 70 years ago, the replica was itself an antique and had to be handled with white gloves.
Hoisting the long tube to our eyes like pirates or whalers on the lookout for Moby Dick, Dr. Pitts and I traded off, focusing the telescope by sliding the eyepiece in and out while staring at the illuminated tops of Philadelphia skyscrapers.
Then we went looking for stars, but there were only clouds. Finally a bright star, which Dr. Pitts identified as Sirius, appeared through a hole in the clouds to the southeast. Hoisting the telescope, weaving slightly, I scanned the sky trying to bring it into view.
Galileo, of course, had some kind of mount that told him exactly what direction he was pointed. I had Dr. Pitts standing behind me. “Up, up,” he said, “to the left, left, left, too far, back to the right, up up. You should have it.”
But that star never swam into my sights, and after half an hour my arms and shoulders were aching from keeping the telescope aloft. Clouds reclaimed Sirius.
It’s not easy being Galileo.
 

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