The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The enemy of my enemy...

Via Talking Points Memo, Reuters reports the reception Iran's president got in Baghdad this week:

Pomp and ceremony greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his arrival in Iraq on Sunday, the fanfare a stark contrast to the rushed and secretive visits of his bitter rival U.S. President George W. Bush.

Ahmadinejad held hands with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as they walked down a red carpet to the tune of their countries' national anthems, his visit the first by an Iranian president since the two neighbours fought a ruinous war in the 1980s.

His warm reception, in which he was hugged and kissed by Iraqi officials and presented with flowers by children, was Iraq's first full state welcome for any leader since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Weren't our troops supposed to be greeted this way? Funny how that didn't happen.

Wheat price increase foretells great doom: Daily Mash

The UK humor site Daily Mash has a different take than, say, the Chicago Tribune:

THE price of a bushel of wheat rose yet again in the markets of Flanders yesterday presaging a monstrous tribulation and a grave rise in the price of mead, the Lord High Guardian of the King's Purse has warned.

...

The noble lord forewarned that a time of privation would surely be visited on the kingdom, when the peasant would find himself cast from his wretched midden and the knight dispossessed of his estates by the grubby moneychangers of old Lombard Street.

Once is accident. Twice is coincidence.

Via Bruce Schneier, a fourth undersea cable providing Internet connectivity to much of the Middle East has been cut in as many weeks:

The first three have been blamed on ships' anchors, but there is some dispute about that. And that's two in the Mediterranean and two in the Persian Gulf. There have been no official reports of malice to me, but it's an awfully big coincidence. The fact that Iran has lost Internet connectivity only makes this weirder.

This may not be more important than tonight's primary elections, but it may be important.

I have to thank Mike Huckabee for comic relief just now, too.

British nuclear security

Via Bruce Schneier, apparently the physical security of British nuclear weapons until around 1998 consisted of, essentially, a bicycle key:

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Oh. Well. Of course. Why use a hard-to-forge sequence of letters and numbers like the U.S. or U.S.S.R. when a little key will do?

So what prevented an accidental (or deliberate) British detonation until Tony Blair fixed the problem? Why, tradition, of course, what what!

The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders."

(Insert nervous laughter here.)

Quietly leaving

From this week's Economist, a strangely understated note:

The British army officially ended Operation Banner in Northern Ireland, its longest continuous operation. Soldiers were sent to the province in 1969 in what was intended to be a brief stint to quell sectarian violence. A garrison of 5,000 men will remain to offer support to the police.

More from the BBC about Tuesday's event:

The British army's operation in Northern Ireland came to an end at midnight after 38 years. Operation Banner—the Army's support role for the police—had been its longest continuous campaign, with more than 300,000 personnel taking part.

At the height of the Troubles, there were about 27,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland. From Wednesday, there will be no more than 5,000.

At 276,000 population, Belfast is about the same size as Raleigh, N.C., by the way.

Shelter Boxes

These things are cool. For about $1,000 each, the Shelter Box Trust (Shelter Box USA here) provides shelter to people in disaster areas. They've distributed over 32,000 boxes to half a million people since 2001, including to Indonesia in December 2004 and New Orleans in August 2005.

Each is a 49-gallon box containing a tent, ten sleeping bags, cookware, water jugs (sans water) and other neccesities that people need immediately following a disaster.

Excellent piece about the failed British bombings

Via Bruce Schneier, a former British military bomb-disposal operator offers some thoughts about the clowns who completely failed to bomb anything in the UK last week:

If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).

...

Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds—thousands, sometimes—of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.