We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

On target

I have to agree with the majority of Perry’s comments on both the 40 cal. and the SIG 229. Excellent choice of caliber and weapon. The 229, like most weapons chambered for the 40 S&W, also has the advantage of being readily converted via a simple barrel change to the .357 SIG, a caliber that has garnered rave reviews in both civilian and government circles. As for leaving home without it, however, depending on dress and circumstance the somewhat smaller SIG 239 might be more appropriate.

Unfortunately for Perry, he lives in the UK where the great experiment in civilian disarmament continues unabated despite all the evidence proving it is simply a bad idea. So until he makes the move back to the US, his desire will remain a futile, unfulfilled dream.

Pity, old chum.

What’s an Antonov?

What little was reported in the US on the Antonovs was there were some aircraft sent by Pakistan to get out some Chechans and Pakistani nationals “working for the Taliban.” The impression was a bunch of unfortunate clerks caught in a bad situation and fearing for their lives petioned their government to save them from maurading liberators.

It was only mentioned briefly with no follow-up and no real details. Certainly no mention that it was a rescue airlift of combatants.

Personally, I’ve got to believe that the only way anything could have made the run four times was the US allowed it. This is supported by the fact the final flight was forced away by Northern Alliance ground troops – who obviously weren’t privy to the arrangement – and still managed to escape without fighter contact.

Theories abound on why we let them escape. A couple of my favorites are:
1) it was a political bone for our hard-pressed ally, Pakistan.
2) it will be a pretext to move on to phase two when the mainstream press suddenly discovers that, ” a large number of Al Qaeda and Taliban warriors who made a daring escape in the final hours before the fall of Konduz have been located in ____ (fill in the blank)”

It could be that Bush is very aware of the evil snakes still lurking in the political garden at home and sees this as a way to end run their upcoming machinations. Instead of widening the war, he will be simply following up on his promise to get “all those who aid and abet the terrorists.” On another personal note, there are a number of notables in both the House and the Senate that, given their to zeal to discredit Bush and the Republician Party, could reasonably be described with those words.

Only time and independent news reporters will tell.

Watch the Spin

I never thought that the US state which gave us the supreme statist elitist mouthpiece of Ted Kennedy would ever be worthy of anything other than derision and contempt, even from a resident of the “Socialist Republic of New Jersey”. Carla’s tea party clearly demonstrates I was wrong and I humbly apologize to the libertarian residents of Massachusets. Hail and well met!

I will be very curious to see how the mainstream media handles this tax revolt. Personally, I think they will treat it the same way they do most of the “Shall Issue” right to carry a concealed firearm legislation so popular in the US. Namely, avoid it as much as possible, then give it very minimal airtime during which you ignore all the great positives, vastly inflate the very small negatives, and spew dire warnings of calamity and anarchy. When the people get the law passed anyway and none of the horrendous predictions comes to pass, just pretend it never happened but work to get the law repealed by publishing every story of gun violence you can find, even if they occur in countries far removed culturally and geographically.

Think I’m making this up? At last count 33 of the 50 states have some form of “Shall Issue” legislation. Another 11 have a more restrictive form of carry laws. Only 6 absolutely forbid it. A show of hands, please, from those who learned that from the big media.

In the case of tax repeal, it will be interesting to see how the self serving career politicians supping at the trough of our tax dollars will argue that we need to keep the status quo. Look for a smoke screen of the beneficial state protecting society’s down-trodden and sheltering us all with its superior security.

It should be very enlightening.

Magic Lantern lights up the Cyber Knight

According to an MSNBC article, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing software capable of inserting a computer virus onto a suspect’s machine that could obtain encryption keys. The software, known as “Magic Lantern“, enables agents to read data that has been scrambled by suspected criminals. Currently, the FBI’s best snooping technology is the controversial Carnivore program that, among other things, grabs all manner of e-mails whizzing around the Internet. While such a broad net may catch many fish, the suspects clever enough to encrypt their files still manage to wriggle through.

Magic Lantern, one of a series of enhancements currently being developed for the FBI’s Carnivore project under the umbrella project name of Cyber Knight, is a different approach. It works by installing keylogging software on an individual suspect’s machine. For those not yet in the know, keyloggers are capable of capturing keystrokes typed on a computer. By tracking exactly what a suspect types, critical encryption key information can be gathered, and then transmitted back to the FBI. The virus can be sent to the suspect via e-mail or by physically installing it on a suspect’s computer.

All of this raises several issues. First, should the FBI be in the business of writing code cracking viruses. Second, what damage can we expect when through error or the actions of a disgruntled employee (yes, the FBI does have them) the Magic Lantern gets out. Third, the whole concept is probably an expensive moot point because any decent firewall program will stop the Lantern from sending its data back out.

My guess is that a suspect savvy enough to use file encryption is also savvy enough to use a firewall. Or is the Lantern also a firewall cracker? If that’s the case, it is a very dangerous piece of software the corporate espionage and financial data thieves will be very eager to get hold of.

A Doomsday Primer

The following is an excellent primer on how to deal with the various unconventional weapons likely (or not) to be used by your basic anti-social anti-liberty terrorist types. It is also a wonderful counter to the all-Anthrax-all-the-time bombardment being conducted by the mainstream US media.
The skinny for those of you who may even now be in the midst of a swirling noxious cloud and don’t have the time to read the whole text is hold your breath, walk away and wash your hands.

Words of Wisdom About Gas, Germs, and Nukes

By SFC Red Thomas, Armor Master Gunner
U.S. Army (Ret) 10.19.01

Since the media have decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.

Lesson number one: In the mid 1990s there was a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack,less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died. CBS-Television’s 60 Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one drop of nerve gas could kill a thousand people. He didn’t tell you the thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff is to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too).

Forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (Read this sentence again out loud!). These weapons are about terror, if you remain calm, you will probably not die.

This is far less scary than the media and their “experts” make it sound. Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood, Blister, and Incapacitating agents. Contrary to the hype of reporters and politicians, they are not weapons of mass destruction. They are means of “Area Denial,” effective to keep an enemy out of a particular zone for a limited period of time: terror weapons that don’t destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost always leave the risk.

That’s the difference; you can leave the area and the risk. Soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it and that’s why they need all that spiffy gear.

These are not gasses; they are vapors and/or airborne particles. Any such agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to kill or injure, and that defines when and how it’s used.

Every day we have a morning and evening atmospheric inversion where “stuff,” suspended in the air gets pushed down. This inversion is why allergies (pollen) and air pollution are worst at these times of the day.

So, a chemical attack will have its best effect an hour of so either side of sunrise or sunset. Also, being vapors and airborne particles, the agents are heavier than air, so they will seek low places like ditches, basements and underground garages. This stuff won’t work when it’s freezing, it doesn’t last when it’s hot, and wind spreads it too thin too fast.

Attackers have to get this stuff on you, or, get you to inhale it, for it to work. They also have to get the concentration of chemicals high enough to kill or injure you: too little and it’s nothing, too much and it’s wasted.

What I hope you’ve gathered by this point is that a chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to achieve with military grade agents and equipment. So you can imagine how hard it would be for terrorists. The more you know about this stuff, the more you realize how hard it is to use.

A Case of Nerves
We’ll start by talking about nerve agents. You have these in your house: plain old bug killer (like Raid) is nerve agent. All nerve agents work the same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors that mess up the signals your nervous system uses to make your body function. It can harm you if you get it on your skin but it works best if you to inhale it. If you don’t die in the first minute and you can leave the area, you’re probably going to live.

The military’s antidotes for all nerve agents are atropine and pralidoxime chloride. Neither one of these does anything to cure the nerve agent. They send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for five minutes. After that the agent is used up. Your best protection is fresh air and staying calm.

Listed below are the symptoms for nerve agent poisoning.
Sudden headache, Dimness of vision (someone you’re looking at will have pinpointed pupils), Runny nose, Excessive saliva or drooling, Difficulty breathing, Tightness in chest, Nausea, Stomach cramps, Twitching of exposed skin where a liquid just got on you.

If you are in public and you start experiencing these symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of the ordinary just happen, a loud pop, did someone spray something on the crowd? Are other people getting sick too? Is there an odor of new mown hay, green corn, something fruity, or camphor where it shouldn’t be?

If the answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you breathe faster and inhale more air/poison) leave the area and head upwind, or outside. Fresh air is the best “right now antidote.” If you have a blob of liquid that looks like molasses or Karo syrup on you; blot it or scrape it off and away from yourself with anything disposable.

This stuff works based on your body weight: What a crop duster uses to kill bugs won’t hurt you unless you stand there and breathe it in real deep, then lick the residue off the ground for while.

Remember, the attackers have to do all the work, they have to get the concentration up and keep it up for several minutes, while all you have to do is quit getting it on you and quit breathing it by putting space between yourself and the attack.

Bad Blood and Blisters
Blood agents are cyanide or arsine. They affect your blood’s ability to provide oxygen to your tissues. The scenario for attack would be the same as nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone splashing or spraying something and folks around there getting woozy or falling down. The telltale smells are bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn’t be. The symptoms are blue lips, blue under the fingernails rapid breathing.

The military’s antidote is amyl nitride and, just like nerve agent antidote, it just keeps your body working for five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your best individual chance

Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to even handle them, let alone use them. Blister agents are just as likely to harm the user as the target. They’re almost impossible to handle safely and may have delayed effects of up to 12 hours. The attack scenario is also limited to the things you’d see from other chemicals. If you do get large, painful blisters for no apparent reason, don’t pop them. If you must, don’t let the liquid from the blister get on any other area: the stuff just keeps on spreading. Soap, water, sunshine, and fresh air are this stuff’s enemy.

Bottom line on chemical weapons (and it’s the same if they use industrial chemical spills): They are intended to make you panic, to terrorize you, to herd you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an attack, leave the area and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind stream. You’re more likely to be hurt by a drunk driver on any given day than be hurt by one of these attacks. Your odds get better if you leave the area. Soap, water, time, and fresh air really deal this stuff a knock-out-punch. Don’t let fear of an isolated attack rule your life. The odds are really on your side.

Up and Atom
Nuclear bombs: These are the only weapons of mass destruction on Earth. The effects of a nuclear bomb are heat, blast, EMP, and radiation. If you see a bright flash of light like the sun, where the sun isn’t, fall to the ground!

The heat will be over a second. Then there will be two blast waves, one out going, and one on its way back. Don’t stand up to see what happened after the first wave. Wait. Everything that’s going to happen will have happened in two full minutes.

Any nuclear weapons used by terrorists will be low yield devices and will not level whole cities. If you live through the heat, blast, and initial burst of radiation, you’ll probably live for a very very long time. Radiation will not create fifty foot tall women, or giant ants and grasshoppers the size of tanks. These will be at the most 1 kiloton bombs; that’s the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

Here’s the real hazard: Flying debris and radiation will kill a lot of exposed (not all)! people within a half mile of the blast. Under perfect conditions this is about a half mile circle of death and destruction, but when it’s done it’s done.

EMP stands for Electro Magnetic Pulse and it will fry every electronic device for a good distance. It’s impossible to say what and how far, but probably not over a couple of miles from ground zero is a good guess. Cars, cell phones, computers, ATMs, you name it, all will be out of order. There are lots of kinds of radiation, but , physically,you only need to worry about three: alpha, beta, and gamma. The others you have lived with for years.

You need to worry about “Ionizing radiation,” little sub atomic particles that go whizzing along at the speed of light. They hit individual cells in your body, kill the nucleus and keep on going. That’s how you get radiation poisoning: You have so many dead cells in your body that the decaying cells poison you. It’s the same as people getting radiation treatments for cancer, only a bigger area gets irradiated.

The good news is you don’t have to just sit there and take it, and there are lots you can do rather than panic. First, your skin will stop alpha particles, a page of a news paper or your clothing will stop beta particles. Then you just have to try and avoid inhaling dust that’s contaminated with atoms that are emitting these things and you’ll be generally safe from them.

Gamma rays are particles that travel like rays (quantum physics makes my brain hurt) and they create the same damage as alpha and beta particles only they keep going and kill lots of cells as they go all the way through your body. It takes a lot to stop these things, lots of dense material. On the other hand it takes a lot of this to kill you.

Your defense is as always to not panic. Basic hygiene and normal preparation are your friends. All canned or frozen food is safe to eat. The radiation poisoning will not affect plants, so fruits and vegetables are OK if there’s no dust on them (Rinse them off if there is). If you don’t have running water and you need to collect rain water or use water from wherever, just let it sit for thirty minutes and skim off the water gently from the top. The dust with the bad stuff in it will settle and the remaining water can be used for the toilet which will still work if you have a bucket of water to pour in the tank.

The Germs’ Terms
Finally there’s biological warfare. There’s not much to cover here. Basic personal hygiene and sanitation will take you further than a million doctors. Wash your hands often, don’t share drinks, food, sloppy kisses, etc., …with strangers. Keep your garbage can with a tight lid on it, don’t have standing water (like old buckets, ditches, or kiddy pools) laying around to allow mosquitoes breeding room.

This stuff is carried by vectors, that is bugs, rodents, and contaminated material. If biological warfare is as easy as the TV makes it sound, why has Saddam Hussein spent twenty years, millions, and millions of dollars trying to get it right? If you’re clean of person and home, eat well and are active, you’re going to live.

Overall preparation for any terrorist attack is the same as you’d take for a big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one. I know this stuff and I’m not getting one and I told my Mom not to bother with one either (How’s that for confidence?). We have a week’s worth of cash, several days worth of canned goods and plenty of soap and water. We don’t leave stuff out to attract bugs or rodents so we don’t have them.

These terrorist people can’t conceive of a nation this big with as much resources as it has. These weapons are made to cause panic, terror, and to demoralize. If we don’t run around like sheep, they won’t use this stuff after they find out it’s no fun and does them little good. The government is going nuts over this stuff because they have to protect every inch of America. You only have to protect yourself, and by doing that, you help the country.

Finally, there are millions of caveats to everything I wrote here and you can think up specific scenarios in which my advice wouldn’t be the best. This article is supposed to help the greatest number of people under the greatest number of situations. If you don’t like my work, don’t nitpick, just sit down and explain chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in a document around three pages long yourself. This is how we the people of the United States can rob these people of their most desired goal, your terror.

SFC Red Thomas (Ret) Armor Master Gunner Mesa, AZ
Unlimited reproduction and distribution is authorized. Just give me credit for my work, and, keep in context.

An interesting twist in the maze of identification technology

Once perfected, you may want to be a bit careful about what you pick up. The nefariously minded can doubtless dream up a slew of innocuous methods to scan your prints and use them later for their own evil purposes. Just as facial recognition software will push the eyeglass and false mustache fashion, look to print scanners to herald the return of elbow length gloves.

Sensor-on-a-chip passes fingerprint test

from the Morgan Chase Tech Industry Daily
The EntréPad fingerprint sensor fits onto a single chip and is less than a centimeter square–small enough for use in cell phones and PDAs, ZDNet News reported yesterday. The device has low power requirements and uses under ten milliwatts when imaging. A finger to be identified is applied to the top surface of the chip, which has an especially hardened coating. Identification takes place in under a second.

The sensor works by detecting the pattern of living cells beneath the dead epidermis. It creates a low-power field of radio waves that are distorted by the conductive salty fluids in the skin cells. A matrix of sensors on the chip’s surface measures and charts this distortion, and the rest of the chip recreates the fingerprint image for analysis. The pattern of the cells beneath the epidermis is identical to that on the surface itself.

Comment: Because the sensor doesn’t react to the surface of the finger, it can’t be distracted by changes to that surface – calluses, dirt or ageing aren’t registered. The company said that as part of its tests, employees attempted to remove their fingerprints using abrasion, but this didn’t affect the accuracy of the measurements. Ouch. Startups, it seems, draw a very committed type of employee.

Biometrics–the science of identifying people through personal attributes–is increasingly being seen as an important part of security. Fingerprints and iris recognition are among the most accurate and reliable methods being considered. Voice recognition is also attractive — because it doesn’t require physical presence, it is more attractive for remote authentication — though, as a result, there are a lot more technical hurdles to overcome.

Home diagnosis in your future?

(from the JP Morgan Tech Daily)

Smart bandage spots infection
A hi-tech dressing could help doctors tell the difference between types of bacteria and send the results to a PC, BBC News reported yesterday. This information can help doctors choose which antibiotic might be most suitable to treat it. The silicon sensor in the dressing is the size of a pinhead. Scientists hope that once the test is fine-tuned, it can be read by a computer, enabling a patient at home to monitor cuts and wounds for signs that dangerous bacteria were invading.

Death by digital and other interesting developments

A couple of interesting bits about how technology is changing the face and pace of the way we live, work and fight.

Digital technology adds new dimension to military
New digital technologies are making it possible for U.S. bomber pilots to safely rehearse difficult missions before they set off over the rugged, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, Reuters reported on Saturday. Satellite images, aerial photographs, and other data are loaded onto a three-dimensional grid using sophisticated computer technology, giving pilots the chance to get familiar with the target before dropping their bombs. “Our ability to visualize the battle space is absolutely key,” said Lt. Gen. James King, of the U.S. Defense Department’s National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

Amsterdam airport adopts retinal scanning
At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, you can afford to forget your passport even if you’re boarding an international flight, Newsbytes reported on Friday. A program called “Privium” combines smart-card technology with optical scanning and networked computers to allow travelers to cross the border after retinal-scan identification. A scanner, built by Iridian Technologies, identifies patterns in the human iris. Johan Enschede Security Solutions developed software for the smart card on which encoding of a person’s iris is kept.

New Yorkers turn to cyber bar
A new Manhattan nightspot called The Remote Lounge offers a non-stop stream of images, videos, and messages as you drink, BBC News reported on Saturday. Anyone can communicate with anyone else using 77 circuits, more than 120 TV monitors and tiny cameras that are everywhere. Using a joystick and channel selector it is possible to see through and manipulate every camera in the room. The bar has proved so popular that at one point Microsoft and Apple were fighting to be the first to hold a party there for their clients.

Computer students get course to stop them acting like geeks
Munich University is giving computer students courses to stop them acting like geeks, Ananova News reported on Friday. The course promises to give IT students “much-needed” social skills. Subjects include how to dress properly and how to make small talk. The course will also teach table manners. Instead of an exam, students will sit for a three-course lunch to show off their new skills.

Exploding technologies and other rapidly expanding things that can damage health or improve wealth…


Great concept. Great name. Looking forward to blogging it out.
I didn’t recognize some of the names on the invite list, but you mentioned they are all of similiar mindset. While that is a rather scary though vaguely comforting thought, I was wondering if we will be just preaching to the choir or if some of the others have a different enough perspective to keep things interesting.
Also, are you looking for mainly political oriented input or can we just sling in anything? As you know, I usually approach things from a technological viewpoint and am more interested in how the exploding technology shapes our lives and futures in ways we often don’t realize until greatly after the fact.