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Friday, December 30, 2005

Must be something in the air: This morning, on the radio, a caller accused me of being a "pointy-headed" liberal intellectual. I came home and in the "Blog" email folder was a letter from KFBK/Sacramento "Opinion Journalist" Mark Williams, who currently works behind the original Rush Limbaugh microphone there.

[NOTE: He refers below to the blog entry for 30 August 2005, "Swift Boat Moms In Winnebagos" virtually reprinted, with pictures at: http://www.hartwilliams.com/winnebagos.htm ].

Still, first things first. Today's radio sound bite is available for download. None of the Bush speech involved has been altered or reordered. These are all sound bites from the Buffalo, New York speech given in May of 2004. The music is the Castaways' sole hit, 1965's "Liar, Liar," which has been cited as one of the most influential proto-punk songs.

Here's the piece heard on KOPT Friday morning.

It's a 366k download. The (hilarious) piece runs 2:05.

Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):

This blog has now been accused of horrible things by both Alexander Cockburn from the Left [archive: 20 Feb 2005] and Mark Williams from the Right. Given the balanced vitriol represented, maybe I'm doing something right. And, while we may not agree on the vast majority of issues, I am sure that we share common ground in our appreciation of the inherent nobility and magnificence of our common surname.

Here's the letter (sic's are not noted; to be fair, the letter is presented in toto, unedited. Oh, and I have no earthly idea as to what "immersion journalism" might be):

I'm honored!

Big fan of immersion journalism, like you. And isn't this an interesting turn of events... I mean, here we are. I am the one now practicing immersion journalism (as I have since my first talk gig in 1979) and you have adopted the usual role of the cadre of most radio talkers and other opinion meisters who collectively form the 101st Chicken Hawk verbal & typists' brigade. Although you did a masterful job of aligning non sequiturs, stray factoids, and actual fact all stitched together with a strong thread of paranoia. Very Majestic 13 of you.

That said; loved your piece on Move America Forward and me. Had no idea I was so powerful! And, here all this time I thought that my old man was the guy pulling strings....what with being a 33rd Degree Mason, former Grand Mason of his lodge and all.

Any way I can help you spread the word of my omnipresence among the legitimate media? I've got contract talks coming up and need some leverage.

FYI...found your piece only because I'm bored to death on holiday vacation so I googled myself on a couple of "progressive" search engines. Had no idea that the folks at Air America were talking about me too, until I read your piece that is. I'm a big Franken fan....He's got the croakies to put his mouth, and ass on the line and is one of the few - maybe the only so called critic of our foreign policy who makes the distinction between the people dying for his right to provide for our entertainment in return for his having to return nothing and the policy that they are sent to fulfill. Yet, he returns something. Giving that kind o f respect demands respect in return. But even before that, he is first and foremost entertaining - which is why I listen to the radio, when I listen, to be entertained. Same reason I love and TiVo Jon Stewart. I used to listen to Randi in West Palm too. Always a good listen if only to catch the exact instant when she finally completes that total emotional collapse that she's been working on for years :-) Not a whole lot of respect for her flying around inside my head, but she's at least as entertaining as the drunks and loons I used to sit and watch for hours at Park Street Station on Boston Common. The rest of AA's line up is just plain boring.

Your body of work is impressive too (no sarcasim here). Your conclusions are all fakakta, but that's why Mickey D offers a dozen different versions of the same alleged hamburger I s'pose.

Give me a heads up next time you write about me. Maybe I'll give you a plug on the air. Your work is way more solid than the ones I usually mention: George Sorros' Crooks & Liars or his Media Matters - which are where most of my publicity on that side of the tracks comes from (I don't count Indy Media or Amy Goodman, they are not forces outside of very specific neighborhoods in San Francisco or New York and thus can't help me at all).

We're going back to Iraq in late spring (Holly and I) - for Casey's Kids (yeah, you'll find that we registered that dog with Sacramento County when we sprung her from the Bradshaw Road pound in 2001 ... dig enough and you'll also find the several thousand dollars in medical bills that we covered to save her life upon rescuing her from that pound, if you focus making actual connections that is.) Anyway, why don't you come along? Our last trip only cost us $13,000.00 out of our personal pockets (after a sponsor covered $5,000.00) for the two of us - Holly & me that is). Not only would Clear Channel not cover a penny, but local management did all they could do to prevent local sponsorship packages from hitting the streets..... they wanted nothing to do with that trip and I was nearly fired a couple of times, nearly quit a couple of others in the weeks leading up to the trip. At the time CC was deep into rescuing AA from the trash heap of radio history. I would not personally make the leap and connect their active "discouragement" of my trip to those efforts, being paranoid is your job. Just the same....we are planning for late April to early May of '06. When we get farther along in planning I'll give you a heads up. Start saving now......going coach will set you back 3 or 4 grand, and - trust me - you do not wish to spend 22 hours in coach.

Happy New Year!

Mark Williams, Opinion Journalist
News Talk 1530KFBK
Contributor: Fox News Channel / Sacramento Union
A case might be made for being offended, but, as Oscar Wilde said: " . . . there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." [The Picture of Dorian Gray].

So, I accept the sentiments expressed by Mr. Williams for the left-handed compliment that they represent (pun intended). And I sincerely thank Mr. Williams for taking the time to comment on our article. I'll be glad to give him a "heads up" if and when I write about him again.

That's simple courtesy, after all. And it is in courtesy that democracy is rooted: When we can't talk one to another, then only gunpowder and blood can resolve disagreements.

Happily, the praise was in no wise unalloyed, which is a comfort.

For a minute there, I was afraid that I was doing something wrong.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Europe launched a satellite today. Big deal, right? Woop de do.

But this footnote in a preview news story (there was virtually no U.S. coverage of this event, prior to the launch) caught my eye:
"But Galileo is largely a political project, aimed at asserting Europe's independence." -- Guardian (UK)
In this little-noticed news blurb lies a sad fact: after a century of fighting for a peaceful, unified Europe, and after the Cold War, a sea change is taking place. The teeter-totter is shifting balance, and we are being propelled upwards on our seat, at a rate fast enough that we might want to grab onto the handle, just in case we get thrown off.

Europe last night launched the first of their GPS satellites on a Soyuz rocket from Russia, , beginning work -- signed onto by China and Russia -- on a parallel system that the United States ("the Pentagon") opposed as "wasteful."

The rest of the world noticed that the US could turn off the GPS system at its own whim, in other words, and they don't trust us that much anymore. Think about it: in a world where, increasingly, all land, sea and air navigation is done via GPS locators, the ability to shut off the signal, or scramble it so that only WE, the US can read it -- well, that's a scary thought if you're the rest of the world, and think that the US is acting in entirely too flaky a manner to be fully entrusted with such a basic human need.

And so, with Russia and China and others, Europe is building their own GPS system, in parallel to the US Global Positioning System.

If you're not up on how it works, The Smithsonian explains GPS this way:

Global Positioning System satellites transmit signals to equipment on the ground. GPS receivers passively receive satellite signals; they do not transmit. GPS receivers require an unobstructed view of the sky, so they are used only outdoors and they often do not perform well within forested areas or near tall buildings. GPS operations depend on a very accurate time reference, which is provided by atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Each GPS satellite has atomic clocks on board.

Each GPS satellite transmits data that indicates its location and the current time. All GPS satellites synchronize operations so that these repeating signals are transmitted at the same instant. The signals, moving at the speed of light, arrive at a GPS receiver at slightly different times because some satellites are farther away than others. The distance to the GPS satellites can be determined by estimating the amount of time it takes for their signals to reach the receiver. When the receiver estimates the distance to at least four GPS satellites, it can calculate its position in three dimensions.

There are at least 24 operational GPS satellites at all times. The satellites, operated by the U.S. Air Force, orbit with a period of 12 hours. Ground stations are used to precisely track each satellite's orbit.
You might say that GPS is a system of lighthouses for anyone anywhere on the planet. But the US Air Force can turn off those lights at will, or, in a military engagement, potentially encrypt the GPS signals so that US forces know where they are, but everyone else in the world doesn't.

So, the launch of the first NON-US GPS system by the rest of the world sets up a natural dynamic of Them versus Us, a polarization that is new to America.

Prior to World War I, we weren't considered quite a "world power." Sure, we'd just beat Spain, but it was thought that Spain was in pretty bad shape anyway.

And then, from our entry into World War I to the present day, we've been in Europe trying to stop these fantastic wars from erupting again and again, as they have for millennia.

Now, brilliant fools that we are, we are trying to show a region in which civilization was born millennia ago HOW to have a "real" government, because we're spreading freedom.

Paranoia too.

Consider the COST of a parallel GPS system of 24 continuously maintained satellites (not to mention replacements when one goes bad). That's a real sign that we're spreading freedom, when so many would spend so much to make sure we couldn't pull the rug out from under them.

Still, were we they, we'd do the same as them. And them did. And are doing, still.

The launch had been postponed from earlier in December. But it also signals the beginning of a real parallel space program from Europe.

For a long time, we've (with the Russians) been the gatekeepers of space. China has now sent two manned missions in the past year or so. Russia is selling space to zillionaires, and it's interesting that Europe had a Soyuz launch the missile, rather than the EU's French Arianne rocket, which they've been using for satellite payloads for a decade and more.

Perhaps it was to send a message. Perhaps it was just cheaper to hire the Russians. After all, the Russians have long been the champs at sheer lifting capacity. It was because of that extra lift they had that they went into space with vacuum tubes, and we were forced to transistors, then printed circuit boards, then to microchips. We couldn't lift all those heavy vacuum tubes. They could.

And now they're lifting Europe.

You are seeing the first glimpses of a fundamental realignment of world alliances. For fifty years, we had taken our alliance with Western Europe, NATO and the rest as a given.

But now a new center of gravity seems to be forming, and it is forming as Europe, China and Russia pull closer together in mutual interest, and as they draw away from us.

This is, frankly, something where the "UNDO" button won't work. No Control-Z for this. In less than five years, George W. Bush has undone a century of American statesmanship, all the while, selling the debt to the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, for whom our children will work, just to pay off the interest on the loans that George took out while he was defriending (sic) the world.

Somewhere up there, the second Sputnik is sending back its calibrating data, from the GIOVE-A satellite to mission control. Here is the story, in three news clips.

Daily News & Analysis, India
Galileo satellite launch delayed

[Various] Agencies
Sunday, December 18, 2005 21:41 IST

PARIS: The launch of the first test satellite for the European Space Agency's Galileo civil navigation system has been delayed by two days to December 28, the Roskosmos Russian space agency has said.

"Following a request from its sponsor (the ESA), the launch has been put back from December 26 to December 28," said Roskosmos spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko, quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency Saturday.

The GIOVE-A satellite had been due to blast off from Russia's launch site at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on December 26, to test technologies for the joint EU-ESA project to build the first civil satellite navigation system. The payload, to be launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket, will comprise a British-built 600-kg satellite that will be placed in orbit at 23,000 km.

But the ESA requested a delay until at least December 28 to correct an anomaly detected in the ground station network.
And ....
Europe's space race with US begins
* GPS monopoly challenged by new satellite network
* China snubs America to be involved in project

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday December 27, 2005

Guardian (UK) http://www.guardian.co.uk/space/article/0,14493,1674096,00.html
At 3am tomorrow morning a Russian Soyuz rocket is set to streak into the skies over Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying a satellite that is purpose built to break one of the most ubiquitous monopolies on Earth.
If all goes according to plan, the rocket will soar to a height of 14,000 miles before releasing Giove-A, a wardrobe-sized box of electronics, into orbit. Once in position it will gently unfold its twin solar panels and begin to loop around the planet twice each day. In doing so, Europe's most expensive space project, a rival to the US military-run global positioning system GPS, will have taken its first step.

Giove-A is a test satellite that paves the way for a network of 30 more to be launched in 2006 and beyond. Together they will form Galileo, a £2.3bn global positioning system more reliable and accurate than GPS.

Galileo has been hailed in Europe as a means to make money. The highly accurate tracking system means road charging could be automated, air traffic monitored with unprecedented precision and goods tracked to people's doors. With mobile phones due to include satellite-positioning receivers, emergency calls will be traced to within a metre. If industry embraces Galileo, it could drive a multibillion euro market, say experts.

But Galileo is largely a political project, aimed at asserting Europe's independence. Although GPS is free and ubiquitous, it is optimised for America and the accuracy of the system can drift by more than 30ft. GPS is controlled by the US military which has the power to degrade or switch off the signal at will. Because Galileo will be a highly accurate civilian system run by a private consortium, supporters believe it will usher in a new range of safety-critical services, such as aircraft and emergency vehicle guidance systems.

Richard Peckham of EADS Astrium, a partner in the project, says that the Galileo network is being launched at a time of increasing dependence on satellite positioning systems. "Car satellite navigation systems seem to be this year's top selling Christmas gadget," he said. "It is becoming an intrinsic part of life."

With Galileo, services that can position goods, people and vehicles to within three feet will be possible. While ramblers might make do with the free signal, emergency services could use an encrypted, more accurate signal to guide ambulances, fire engines or police cars to their locations with unprecedented precision.

Mike Dillon of ESYS, an electronics company involved in the project, says that ultimately Galileo could be used for automatic road charging, and improving safety on Europe's roads by warning drivers of accident blackspots, junctions or curves in the roads. "Right now there are around 1.3bn accidents causing 40,000 fatalities each year," he said. "That's the equivalent of two jumbo jets full of passengers crashing every day."

Although the European Space Agency is forbidden to take part in military projects, officials accept that once the signals are being broadcast the defence industry will undoubtedly take advantage of them, and develop devices that can operate with both GPS and Galileo.

According to plans, the Galileo satellites will be launched into orbit eight at a time. There they will form three rings around the Earth, with the full cluster of 30 due to be in place and working by 2010.

Giove-A, which was built in a record two years and three months by Surrey Satellites, is crucial to Galileo's success. The satellite must be in orbit and transmitting useful positioning signals by July 2006 to meet a deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). If the deadline passes and no Galileo signals are being broadcast from space, the European Space Agency will lose permission to use the frequencies and the project will be knocked back to the drawing board. With more than [Euros]130 million ([Pounds]89 million) invested, missing the deadline is an outcome the British government will not be keen to witness.

If the launch is successful, news that the satellite is working is likely to come from Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire early on Wednesday morning. Scientists at the observatory will use a 25m receiving dish to hunt the heavens for signals from Giove-A as evidence that it reached the right orbit and powered up.

A failed launch will not necessarily mean the end of Galileo. A back-up satellite, which carries more new technology than Giove-A is on standby for launch to meet the ITU deadline.

Since its inception the Galileo project has been marred by disputes over financial contributions within the EU and rows with the US over the frequencies Galileo satellites would broadcast on. Military officials in America initially raised strong objections to Galileo because one of its signals was on a frequency close to the encrypted military signal used by US forces.

Their objections centred on the argument that if the US wanted to deny satellite positioning services to other countries they were in conflict with, they would have to jam Galileo's signal, but in doing so risked jamming their own. Under intense pressure which nearly saw the Galileo project scrapped entirely, the EU backed down and moved the frequencies Galileo will broadcast on. The US also balked at China's signing of a multimillion pound contract to be part of the Galileo project.

The launch tonight has special poignancy for engineers at the firm behind the satellite. It carries its own unusual cargo, a plaque inscribed with the name of Tom Fairbairn. The 25-year-old engineer worked on the probe at Surrey Satellites, a university spin-off company, until his life was cut short by the tsunami that struck the shores of the Indian Ocean on Boxing day last year.

Mr Fairbairn died with his parents when waves battered Khao Lak in Thailand where they were holidaying. "We hope the plaque will be a fitting tribute to Tom," said Phil Davies of Surrey Satellites.


GPS The US network is the most popular global satellite positioning system in the world. GPS satellites broadcast signals which, when picked up by a device on the ground, can show a user's location to within 10 metres or so. The Russian Glonass system and Europe's fledgling Galileo project work in the same way.

Test satellite Giove-A will not be part of the final 30 satellites that make up the Galileo network. It will try out new technology developed for the project and ensure that the European Space Agency claims the frequencies reserved for Galileo.

Encrypted GPS and Galileo have signals that anyone can pick up free of charge, but they also broadcast more reliable and accurate encrypted signals that have to be unscrambled. To use the US military GPS signal, US and allied forces must use special decryption software. The same signal is used by satellite-guided missiles.

European Space Agency Supported with money from member states, the ESA is embarking on ever more ambitious forays into space. The ESA is not allowed to fund military projects. To some, that position is compromised by the surety that Galileo will be exploited by the defence industry.
And, finally, from our own AP (I checked for US news items prior to the launch, but there were NONE listed on Google News).

Europe launches first stage of its answer to GPS
Wednesday, December 28, 2005


PARIS -- The first satellite in the European Union's Galileo navigation program was launched from Kazakhstan today, a major step forward for Europe's answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System satellites.

The Galileo satellite, named "Giove A," took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz rocket. Journalists monitored the liftoff through a linkup at the European Space Agency headquarters in Paris.

The $4.3 billion Galileo project will eventually use about 30 satellites and end Europe's reliance on the GPS system, which is controlled by the U.S. military. Galileo is under civilian control.

Galileo will more than double GPS coverage, providing satellite navigation for motorists, sailors and mapmakers, among others. In particular, Galileo is expected to improve coverage in high-latitude areas such as northern Europe.

The first satellite will test atomic clocks and navigation signals and secure Galileo's frequencies in space.

A second satellite named "Giove B" is scheduled to be placed in orbit in the spring. Two more satellites will then be launched in 2008 to complete the testing phase.

Last year, the EU and United States struck a deal to make Galileo compatible with the GPS system. The Pentagon had criticized Galileo as unnecessary and a potential security threat in wartime.
There. Now when your kids ask you: "When did you realize that the whole world was uniting AGAINST the USA?" you can say: "When the GIOVE-A was launched."

I remember the FIRST Sputnik. I know it seems astonishing, but the adults were concerned about it, and told me about it, and even though I was two months shy of two years old, I REMEMBER it. It felt like the Cuban Missile Crisis did. It felt like 9-11. Not as intensely as either, but intense nonetheless.

In fact, the local astronomy club, the Eugene Astronomical Society was originally founded in 1957 as a Sputnik watching society. There was a new planet in the sky, moving very fast, and our ENEMIES, the Soviets, had put it there. Who KNEW what it would do?

It's just like all over again deja vu.

But then, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And, given the infinite competitiveness of the naked killer monkeys of Terra (or Sol-3, as the inhabitants reckon it from their star), this sea change in world alliances was probably inevitable.

The new space race is on. Just remember: a base at the south pole of the moon* will be the "Rock of Gibraltar" of the solar system for several centuries to come. Whoever gets a base there first will have a huge strategic advantage over the other nations of Sol-3.

(* The moon is a navel orange: the navel is always in darkness, with frozen water, seemingly, both making a permanent base of any sort a MUCH easier proposition. Trust me, metal fatigue issues given the moon's temperature differential between "night" and "day" are an engineering nightmare. As regards the South Lunar Pole: this astonishing finding was made by the Navy's Clementine mapping satellite in spring 1994, nearly 25 years after the moon landing. Think about it: the SINGLE most prominent feature on the moon wasn't known for three decades after we started littering its surface with spacecraft. For more information, see: http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/Projects/Clementine/ and, you can find the Clementine image of the "navel" at the South Lunar Pole at: http://www.solarviews.com/browse/moon/clmsouth.jpg and, see its "mother' page at http://www.solarviews.com/cap/moon/clmsouth.htm )

If we get there first, I'm sure we can give it a snazzy name, like, say, Reagan Base, or, maybe Space Base Eagle Freedom. I dunno.

hart williams
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