Friday, April 04, 2008

Two Bits

"Shave and a haircut, two bits." Ah those were the days! We know that a quarter is also known as "two bits," and that when a shave and a haircut was a quarter, it was back in the 1930's and earlier. Actually, that shave and a haircut for two bits, was the common price for over a hundred years! See what inflating does for the money? Now, a shave and a haircut is $25 or a lot more in an expensive salon. But, where in the world did that phrase, "two bits" come from? Funny you should ask, but since you did, I'll tell you.

It all has Spanish origins, going back at least to the Spanish currency reform in 1497, which coincided with the Columbus expedition. Spain conquered Mexico, and Mexico had, and still does have, huge amounts of silver. The Spanish mixed with the Mexican Indians, (Aztecs), and the skin hue gradually became lighter. After the currency reform, the Spanish began making the "dolar" or "peso," meaning literally "weight." The peso had a value of eight "reales," and the peso was roughly the equivalent of the German 'thaler.' This became "dollar" in French and English. Got it?

The peso, or dollar, then had eight reales in it, and they became known as "pieces of eight." As in pirate movies, huh? These reales were often cut into quarters or "eight bits," to make change for small purchases or transactions. "Two bits" then, became a quarter U.S. Before the American Revolution, due to English fiscal policies, a chronic shortage of English currency was felt in the colonies, and the colonists began conducting trade in Spanish dollars. The Spanish dollars, "bits," reales, and pieces of eight, were silver coins.


While the pieces of eight, bits, and reales were silver, there were also gold coins used in trade, and they were known as doubloons. The 'doubloon' had its silver ratio or equivalent. One reale was then one eighth of a piece of eight, or 1/128 of a doubloon. Eight reales, was one Peso, or one thaler, or a sixteenth of a doubloon. The ratio of silver to gold, even in Spanish times, over 500 years ago, was 16 to 1. The gold coins, or "doubloons' were valued at sixteen ounces of silver, as in the reales, pieces of eight, or bits. A doubloon was one ounce of gold, and a piece of eight, peso, or thaler was one ounce of silver.

Ever wonder why the coins weren't round? The money was minted by hand. The gold and silver were melted down and then poured into thin strips. As the metal strips cooled, they were beaten into the desired thickness by hand. The coins, or what we today would call a "blank," were cut to an approximate size and then placed in a coin die. The minter would then strike the die with a hammer, and the faces of the coin were then imbedded in the soft metal. After "striking," (that's where the phrase came from), small excess amounts of metal would be scraped off, and the result was weighed. If the coin was too heavy, it was nipped until it weighed the proper amount. No coin therefore, was ever perfectly round.

In Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," the pirates' parrots are commonly represented as being trained to cry out, "Pieces of Eight."

The Dollar Sign

There are several theories or legends about the so-called "dollar sign," or $, as we currently use it.

According to the U.S. Mint, the "$" came into use, as a sort of plural for peso. The "s" from "pesos" was written over the "p," and it sort of became a $, if you can imagine that. Anther theory, is that when King Ferdinand reformed his currency, Columbus discovered America, and Gibraltar was added to Spanish holdings, the "Pillars of Hercules" became a symbol of Spanish holdings, and represented the 'end of the known world.' The two pillars were struck through the Spanish "S" and the dollar sign with two bars through it was born. Salesmen, abbreviating dollars, always wrote an S with two bars through it for dollars.

We are not the only nation using $ or 'dollars' for our national currency. Other nations using the term "dollar" for their currencies are: Australia, Barbados, Bahamas, Belieze. Bermuda, Bruunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Guyana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Liberia, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Taiwan, Trinidad, Tobago, and Zimbabwe.

In addition, there are some nations use the $ sign for their currencies, which are not called "dollars." They are Portugal, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Columbia. All but Portugal use the "peso," and Portugal uses the "escudo."

"Pin Money"

Before automatic pin-setters, bowlers used to throw coins down the bowling alley as a tip for the pin boy, who reset the pins after their being knocked down, and this became "pin money." Or do you youngsters think that bowling alleys have always had automatic pin-setters? They haven't, and many a time I threw a couple of quarters down the alley as a tip for the pin boy, who could set pins for two alleys at the same time, if he was good.

The term "pin money," didn't come from bowling alleys, however. It goes back many more years before bowling alleys. Actually, "pin money" originated during the American Revolution. The Continental Congress, when it ran out of silver and gold, made money out of cardboard, which was brittle. Being brittle, they easily broke, and Scotch Tape not having been invented, the colonists then pinned the broken pieces of money together, and the term "pin money" was born.

For hundreds and thousands of years, gold and silver was used as money, and was and still is…real money. Whether they were called thalers, reales, escudos, pieces of eight, pesos, or whatever; the world's citizens, traders, customers, and manufacturers, used real gold and silver pieces for trade, wealth storage, and indicators of wealth. Pieces of paper, were never given much thought or value, other than for instruments of contract, deeds, or notes. It was an absurd idea, to ever consider anything but silver or gold as actual "money." How times have changed! Today, the world operates on pieces of paper, which are called "money," but which have absolutely no intrinsic value of any kind, and neither are these currencies redeemable in anything other than more of them. They can purchase things, but being able to buy something, and being redeemable in something that in itself is valuable, are two different things.

When one bought something, in history, one traded something of value, for something else of similar value. Money was valuable in itself, and the valuable money (silver and gold) was traded to someone for something of equal value they were selling.. Value for value. Today, worthless pieces of paper representing nothing, are used to buy tangible goods. Isn't it reasonable and logical, for "money" to be valuable in itself? If the "money" has no value, when one buys something, one is trading value for no value, other than because of government rules, called "legal tender laws." When real money ruled the world, laws such as these were unnecessary. The "money' was valuable in itself, and when one had wealth, it wasn't in worthless pieces of paper, but wealth was stored in real money, which was silver and gold. Silver and gold have value, because they require capital, effort, exploration, machinery, and industry to produce them. They are durable, beautiful, and desirable. Fiat money, only requires a supply of paper and a printing press, neither of which will ever come in short supply. Silver and gold have always been in short supply, or they wouldn't command value in currencies. They can't be printed by the trillions, but have to be dug, sorted, milled, smelted, and minted. Isn't it nice to realize that you can convert your declining value paper dollars into real money? Protect yourself.

Gay Joke

Three guys go to see a witch doctor about their problems.

One has a smoking problem, one is an alcholic and one is gay but wants to change.

The docter puts a curse on them that if any of them indulge their habits again they will die.

Two days later the alcholic dies because he gave in and had to drink.

The next day the gay guy and the smoker are walking down the street together. The smoker sees a cigarette lying and the ground and stops to stare at ir.

The gay guy looked at him and said "if you bend over and pick that up we are both fucked"

Some Very Basic Oceanography

What is a Trench?

At least 22 trenches have been identified although not all are classified as major.
Of this number, 18 are in the Pacific Ocean, three in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Indian Ocean.

Where, and What is the Mariana Trench?

The Mariana Trench is located in the Pacific Ocean, just east of the 14 Mariana Islands (11"21' North latitude and 142" 12' East longitude ) near Japan. As you probably already know, it is the deepest part of the earth's oceans, and the deepest location of the earth itself. It was created by ocean-to-ocean subduction, a phenomena in which a plate topped by oceanic crust is subducted beneath another plate topped by oceanic crust.

But just how deep is the Mariana Trench?

First off, here are the average depths of the earth's oceans; the Arctic Ocean is 1,038 meters (3,407 feet) deep, the Indian Ocean is 3,872 meters (12,740 feet) deep, the Atlantic Ocean is 3,872 meters (12,254 feet) deep and the Pacific Ocean is 4,188 meters (13,740 feet) deep.

The deepest point in each of the earth's oceans are as follows; the Arctic Ocean's Eurasian Basin at 5,450 meters (17,881 feet) deep, the Indian Ocean's Java Trench at 7,725 meters (25,344 feet) deep, the Atlantic Ocean's Puerto Rico Trench at 8,648 meters (28,374 feet) deep and the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench at 11,033 meters (36,201 feet) deep.

The deepest point of the Mariana Trench is called The Challenger Deep , so named after the British exploration vessel HMS Challenger II, and it is located 210 miles south-west of Guam. This depth was reached in 1960 by the Trieste, a manned submersible owned by the U.S. Navy.

In order to better illustrate the actual depth of the Mariana Trench, consider the following; if Mount Everest, which is the tallest point on earth at 8,850 meters (29,035 feet), were set in the Mariana Trench, there would still be 2,183 meters (7,166 feet) of water left above it.

The Mariana Trench is often used as a North-South passage by submarines as it is part of a long system of trenches that circle the Pacific Ocean, connected with the Japan and Kuril Trenches.

Rattlesnake rancher arrested for selling vodka with rattler in every bottle

A rattlesnake rancher found a new way to make money: Stick a rattler inside a bottle of vodka and market the concoction as an "ancient Asian elixir." But Bayou Bob Popplewell's bright idea appears to have landed him on the wrong side of the law, because he has no liquor license.

Popplewell, who has raised rattlesnakes and turtles at Bayou Bob's Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch for more than two decades, surrendered to authorities Monday. He spent about 10 minutes in jail after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission obtained arrest warrants on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Special Thanks to MSNBC

Miniature Holy Books? Finally!!

Books seem to lend themselves to experiments in miniaturization--and in marketing. LabNewsOnline reports that Canadian physicists have created a 0.07 x 0.10 mm book with thirty silicon chip pages and letters 40 nanometers high (cost per copy: £10,000). Unlike this case, miniature books frequently take the form of scriptures. WNG-GraphiLux markets several scriptures, each inscribed in its entirety on the surface of a single crystal. Available and marketed separately are the entire Greek Bible, the Qur'an in Arabic, and Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, which are sold in pendants and other jewelry. The popularity of scriptures as amulets has long fueled the production of tiny scriptures. Miniature Bibles and Qur'ans are now widely marketed on the internet.

Shrunken Heads

Origin of the Shrunken-head Trade

By the end of the nineteenth century, little was still known about the Jivaro Indian clans in South America, except for their macabre practices of taking the heads of their enemies. This practice intrigued travelers and collectors and compelled them to visit these tribes to satisfy their curiosity.

The visits of the white man helped revolutionize the Jivaro's methods of warfare, as they began trading firearms and ammunition for shrunken human heads. The Jivaros aware that a demand for their tsantsa was developing, were quick to comply with the traders to satisfy their own needs.

As more and more travelers engaged in this gruesome trade, it soon became necessary for the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments to pass severe and expedient laws prohibiting the traffic of human heads. The laws were established to deter tourists and travelers who secured the tsantsa as curios and had no concept that their trade was actually perpetuating feuding and warfare between neighboring tribes. At one time the Jivaros had demanded a firearm for each tsantsa, which allowed him to continue their war against their enemies more successfully. This destructive cycle was continuously reinforced as new heads were acquired for further bartering.

In the 1930s heads were made to order and sold for approximately $25.00.

How to Prepare a Shrunken-Head

After an attack on the enemy, the victim or victims were killed and immediately decapitated. Sometimes the decapitation process occurred while the victim was still alive.

The head is cut off below the neck with a section of the skin from the chest and back is taken with it. The killer removes his woven head-band and passes it through the mouth and neck of the head and ties it over his shoulder to facilitate a rapid retreat from the victim's camp. Should the killer have no head band, the warrior will utilize a section of vine. The head shrinking process occurred in the following way:

With the immediate fighting over, the warriors assemble back at agreed upon camps alongside a river away from the enemy's territory. It is here that the head shrinking process begins.

Now safe, the killer begins to work on the head. A slit is made in the neck and up the back of the head, allowing the skin and hair to be carefully peeled from the skull. The skull is then discarded into the river and left as a gift to the pani, the anaconda.

Carefully, the eyes are sewn shut with fine native fiber. The lips are closed and skewered with little wooden pegs, which are later removed and replaced with dangling strings. From here the tsantsa goes to the sacred boiling pots or cooking jars. The head is simmered for approximately an hour and a half to two hours. If the heads were left for any longer, the hair would have fallen out. On removal from the pots, the skin is dark and rubbery, and the head is about 1/3 its original size. The skin is turned inside out and all the flesh adhering is scraped off with a knife. The scraped skin is then turned right side out and the slit in the rear is sewn together. What remains is similar to that of an empty rubber glove.

The final shrinking is done with hot stones and sand collected nearby in order to sear the interior and to shrink the head further. These stones are dropped one at a time through the neck opening and constantly rotated inside to prevent scorching. When the skin becomes too small for the stones to be rolled around within the head, sand is heated in a food bowl and substituted for the stones. The sand enters the crevices of the nose and ears, where the stones could not reach. This process is repeated frequently. Hot stones are later applied to the exterior of the face to seal and shape the features. Surplus hair is singed off and the finished product hung over a fire to harden and blacken. A heated machete is applied to the lips to dry them. Following this procedure, the three chonta are put through the lips and the lips are then lashed together with string.

This entire process would last for approximately one week, with the head being worked on daily while en route back to their own village. The last day of work on the trophy is spent in a forest a few hours away from their village where the first tsantsa celebration will take place. Here, the warriors will make a hole in the top of the head and a double kumai is inserted and tied to a shirt stick of chonta palm on the inside, so that the head can be worn around the warrior's neck.

The Jivaro Indians were preoccupied with realism, which is clearly shown in the careful preparation of the head. Due to the meticulousness of the tribesmen, the warrior tries to prepare the tsantsa with utmost care in order to maintain the original likeness of a the slain victim's face.

Burmese Neck Stretching

The Padaung tribe of Burma considered a long neck beautiful. About
age 5, girls were introduced to the first neck ring. As they grew, rings
were added. Their shoulders were pushed down, making the neck look
longer. Also, this showed off the family's valuable metal rings,
indicating wealth. A woman wore up to twenty pounds of rings on her neck and even more on her calves!

A fully stretched neck was between 10-15" long! A woman could not drink from
a cup, because tipping her head back would overbalance her and she would fall! She could only drink from a straw. And forget looking at the sky! If a woman offended her tribe, her rings were cut off and she would choke to death, unless someone held her head up!

The Best Conspiracy Theories (Lizard-People Are Running the World!)

Nasa Faked the Moon Landings
And Arthur C. Clarke wrote the script, at least in one version of the story. Space skeptics point to holes in the Apollo archive (like missing transcripts and blueprints) or oddities in the mission photos (misplaced crosshairs, funny shadows). A third of respondents to a 1970 poll thought something was fishy about mankind's giant leap. Today, 94 percent accept the official version... Saps!

The US Government Was Behind 9/11
Or Jews. Or Jews in the US government. The documentary Loose Change claimed to find major flaws in the official story — like the dearth of plane debris at the site of the Pentagon blast and that jet fule alone could never vaporize a whole 757. Judge for yourself: After Popular Mechanics debunked the theory, the magazine's editors faced off with proponents in a debate, available on YouTube.

Princess Diana Was Murdered
Rumors ran wild after Princess Diana's fatal 1997 car crash, and they haven't stopped yet. Reigning theories: She faked her death to escape the media's glare, or the royals snuffed her out (via MI6) to keep her from marrying her Muslim boyfriend. For the latest scenarios, check out, the Web site of her boyfriend's dad, Mohamed Al Fayed.

The Jews Run Hollywood and Wall Street
A forged 19th-century Russian manuscript called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (virtually required reading in Nazi Germany) purports to lay out a Jewish plot to control media and finance, and thus the world. Several studies have exposed the text as a hoax, but it's still available in numerous languages and editions.

The Scientologists Run Hollywood
The long list of celebrities who have had Dianetics on their nightstands fuels rumors that the Church of Scientology pulls the strings in Tinseltown — vetting deals, arranging marriages, and spying on stars. The much older theory is that Jews run Hollywood, and the Scientologists have to settle for running Tom Cruise.

Paul Is Dead
Maybe you're amazed, but in 1969 major news outlets reported on rumors of the cute Beatle's death and replacement by a look-alike. True believers pointed to a series of clues buried in the Fab Four's songs and album covers. Even for skeptics, McCartney's later solo career lent credibility to the theory.

AIDS Is a Man-Made Disease
A number of scientists have argued that HIV was cooked up in a lab, either for bioweapons research or in a genocidal plot to wipe out gays and/or minorities. Who supposedly did the cooking? US Army scientists, Russian scientists, or the CIA. Mainstream researchers point to substantial evidence that HIV jumped species from African monkeys to humans.

Church's Fried Chicken Sterilizes Black Men
Sociologists call this decades-old urban legend a cultural echo of the very real syphilis study carried out on blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama. In another version, KFC is the culprit — and secretly run by the KKK. There's less controversy over whether the biscuits clog your arteries.

Lizard-People Run the World
If a science fiction-based religion isn't exotic enough, followers of onetime BBC reporter David Icke believe that certain powerful people — like George W. Bush and the British royals — actually belong to an alien race of shape-shifting lizard-people. Icke claims Princess Diana confirmed this to one of her close friends; other lizard theories (there are several) point to reptilian themes in ancient mythology. And let's not forget the '80s TV show V.

The Illuminati Run the World
The ur-conspiracy theory holds that the world's corporate and political leaders are all members of an ancient cabal: Illuminati, Rosicrucians, Freemasons — take your pick. It doesn't help that those secret societies really existed (George Washington was a Mason). Newer variations implicate the Trilateral Commission, the New World Order, and Yale's Skull and Bones society.

Special Thanks to Wired Magazine

Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air;
And a loud voice came forth out of the temple of Heaven,
From the throne, saying, "It is done!"
--Revelation 16:17

Binary liquid explosives are a sexy staple of Hollywood thrillers. It would be tedious to enumerate the movie terrorists who've employed relatively harmless liquids that, when mixed, immediately rain destruction upon an innocent populace, like the seven angels of God's wrath pouring out their bowls full of pestilence and pain.

The funny thing about these movies is, we never learn just which two chemicals can be handled safely when separate, yet instantly blow us all to kingdom come when combined. Nevertheless, we maintain a great eagerness to believe in these substances, chiefly because action movies wouldn't be as much fun if we didn't.

Now we have news of the recent, supposedly real-world, terrorist plot to destroy commercial airplanes by smuggling onboard the benign precursors to a deadly explosive, and mixing up a batch of liquid death in the lavatories. So, The Register has got to ask, were these guys for real, or have they, and the counterterrorist officials supposedly protecting us, been watching too many action movies?

We're told that the suspects were planning to use TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, a high explosive that supposedly can be made from common household chemicals unlikely to be caught by airport screeners. A little hair dye, drain cleaner, and paint thinner - all easily concealed in drinks bottles - and the forces of evil have effectively smuggled a deadly bomb onboard your plane.

Or at least that's what we're hearing, and loudly, through the mainstream media and its legions of so-called "terrorism experts." But what do these experts know about chemistry? Less than they know about lobbying for Homeland Security pork, which is what most of them do for a living. But they've seen the same movies that you and I have seen, and so the myth of binary liquid explosives dies hard.

Better killing through chemistry
Making a quantity of TATP sufficient to bring down an airplane is not quite as simple as ducking into the toilet and mixing two harmless liquids together.

First, you've got to get adequately concentrated hydrogen peroxide. This is hard to come by, so a large quantity of the three per cent solution sold in pharmacies might have to be concentrated by boiling off the water. Only this is risky, and can lead to mission failure by means of burning down your makeshift lab before a single infidel has been harmed.

But let's assume that you can obtain it in the required concentration, or cook it from a dilute solution without ruining your operation. Fine. The remaining ingredients, acetone and sulfuric acid, are far easier to obtain, and we can assume that you've got them on hand.

Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them.

It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie.

Easy does it
Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.

The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it. While it's true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it's unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that's about all you're likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.

We believe this because a peer-reviewed 2004 study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) entitled "Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide is an Entropic Explosion" tells us that the explosive force of TATP comes from the sudden decomposition of a solid into gasses. There's no rapid oxidizing of fuel, as there is with many other explosives: rather, the substance changes state suddenly through an entropic process, and quickly releases a respectable amount of energy when it does. (Thus the lack of ingredients typically associated with explosives makes TATP, a white crystalline powder resembling sugar, difficult to detect with conventional bomb sniffing gear.)

Mrs. Satan
By now you'll be asking why these jihadist wannabes didn't conspire simply to bring TATP onto planes, colored with a bit of vegetable dye, and disguised as, say, a powdered fruit-flavored drink. The reason is that they would be afraid of failing: TATP is notoriously sensitive and unstable. Mainstream journalists like to tell us that terrorists like to call it "the mother of Satan." (Whether this reputation is deserved, or is a consequence of homebrewing by unqualified hacks, remains open to debate.)

It's been claimed that the 7/7 bombers used it, but this has not been positively confirmed. Some sources claim that they used C-4, and others that they used RDX. Nevertheless, the belief that they used TATP has stuck with the media, although going about in a crowded city at rush hour with an unstable homebrew explosive in a backpack is not the brightest of all possible moves. It's surprising that none of the attackers enjoyed an unscheduled launch into Paradise.

So, assuming that the homebrew variety of TATP is highly sensitive and unstable - or at least that our inept jihadists would believe that - to avoid getting blown up in the taxi on the way to the airport, one might, if one were educated in terror tactics primarily by hollywood movies, prefer simply to dump the precursors into an airplane toilet bowl and let the mother of Satan work her magic. Indeed, the mixture will heat rapidly as TATP begins to form, and it will soon explode. But this won't happen with much force, because little TATP will have formed by the time the explosion occurs.

We asked University of Rhode Island Chemistry Professor Jimmie C. Oxley, who has actual, practical experience with TATP, if this is a reasonable assumption, and she tolds us that merely dumping the precursors together would create "a violent reaction," but not a detonation.

To release the energy needed to bring down a plane (far more difficult to do than many imagine, as Aloha Airlines Flight 243 neatly illustrates), it's necessary to synthesize a good amount of TATP with care.

Jack Bauer sense
So the fabled binary liquid explosive - that is, the sudden mixing of hydrogen peroxide and acetone with sulfuric acid to create a plane-killing explosion, is out of the question. Meanwhile, making TATP ahead of time carries a risk that the mission will fail due to premature detonation, although it is the only plausible approach.

Certainly, if we can imagine a group of jihadists smuggling the necessary chemicals and equipment on board, and cooking up TATP in the lavatory, then we've passed from the realm of action blockbusters to that of situation comedy.

It should be small comfort that the security establishments of the UK and the USA - and the "terrorism experts" who inform them and wheedle billions of dollars out of them for bomb puffers and face recognition gizmos and remote gait analyzers and similar hi-tech phrenology gear - have bought the Hollywood binary liquid explosive myth, and have even acted upon it.

We've given extraordinary credit to a collection of jihadist wannabes with an exceptionally poor grasp of the mechanics of attacking a plane, whose only hope of success would have been a pure accident. They would have had to succeed in spite of their own ignorance and incompetence, and in spite of being under police surveillance for a year.

But the Hollywood myth of binary liquid explosives now moves governments and drives public policy. We have reacted to a movie plot. Liquids are now banned in aircraft cabins (while crystalline white powders would be banned instead, if anyone in charge were serious about security). Nearly everything must now go into the hold, where adequate amounts of explosives can easily be detonated from the cabin with cell phones, which are generally not banned.

Action heroes
The al-Qaeda franchise will pour forth its bowl of pestilence and death. We know this because we've watched it countless times on TV and in the movies, just as our officials have done. Based on their behavior, it's reasonable to suspect that everything John Reid and Michael Chertoff know about counterterrorism, they learned watching the likes of Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel, and The Rock (whose palpable homoerotic appeal it would be discourteous to emphasize).

It's a pity that our security rests in the hands of government officials who understand as little about terrorism as the Florida clowns who needed their informant to suggest attack scenarios, as the 21/7 London bombers who injured no one, as lunatic "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, as the Forest Gate nerve gas attackers who had no nerve gas, as the British nitwits who tried to acquire "red mercury," and as the recent binary liquid bomb attackers who had no binary liquid bombs.

For some real terror, picture twenty guys who understand op-sec, who are patient, realistic, clever, and willing to die, and who know what can be accomplished with a modest stash of dimethylmercury.

You won't hear about those fellows until it's too late. Our official protectors and deciders trumpet the fools they catch because they haven't got a handle on the people we should really be afraid of. They make policy based on foibles and follies, and Hollywood plots.

Meanwhile, the real thing draws ever closer.

Special Thanks to The Register

Schmidt's Salty, Roasted Nuts

Fucking Funny