Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tail Wags Dog, Part 2

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it...

Smart guy, Aristotle.

The discussion at LinkedIn drew another participant who observed with regard to Michael Carmichaels' article at the Global Research blog:

"First off, this 'news' website is an advocacy site with a particularly anti-western, anti-US perspective. I would not consider it reputable."

I replied as follows:

Everyone has an agenda, the trick is understanding the author's world view or his publisher's editorial policy so that it can be factored into our evaluation of the information and its presentation.

For example, Right Web (which also has an agenda) describes the reference you linked to, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as follows:

"The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is one of a handful of influential U.S. policy institutions—sometimes referred to as the “Israel Lobby”—whose central aim is to push an Israel-centric Middle East agenda. Many of WINEP’s current and former scholars have been closely associated with neoconservatism, and the organization has been supportive of many of the same “war on terror” policies pushed by groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Founded in 1985 by Martin Indyk, a former research director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), WINEP was conceived as a think tank focused primarily on influencing the executive branch while AIPAC remained focused on lobbying congress."

Does that invalidate their assessment? No, and I look forward to reading the analysis you linked to. May we assume their world view colors their perceptions and informs their agenda and editorial policy? Of course.

According to his bio at HuffPo, Carmichael is an academic, author, and media talking head with a left-progressive agenda.  Does that invalidate his assessment? No. May we assume his world view colors his perceptions and informs his agenda and the editorial policy at his Planetary Movement blog? Of course.

I tried to find other sources that support Carmichael's claims that Israel intends to deliberately influence the outcome of US elections and found none. I conclude, for now, that he lapsed into editorial mode while claiming to be in reporting mode (but I have sent him an email requesting clarification). My additional reading yesterday uncovered a variety of more mainstream sources that claim a decision to attack Iran has been made and that the attack will occur before the US elections. Some sources claim that the attacks will be timed to coincide with either the nominating conventions or the election itself, when the US political establishment will be distracted, maximally concerned with public opinion, and less likely to act decisively to the detriment of Israel's plans.

I presume that in your career as an information security professional you have learned to assess the accuracy, integrity, and credibility of all your sources and interpret the information they provide accordingly. As Aristotle told us, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It is a shallow mind that only trusts sources it agrees with.

Image Credit:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Israel Plans to Spike the 2012 Presidential Election?

We have a word for that...

According to an article by Michael Carmichael at the The Centre for Research on Globalization

"Senior Israeli officials now confirm that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has, 'decided to attack Iran before the U.S. elections in November.'

Netanyahu's agenda is much broader than knocking out Iranian nuclear installations for his aim is to reshape the political landscape in the USA and Israel shifting everything to the far, far right in order to create a new comfort zone for religious fundamentalists.

Netanyahu's major backer, Sheldon Adelson, is now firmly behind Mitt Romney, and they are known to believe that an Israeli attack on Iran in September or October will displace Obama and many dovish Democrats in Congress and establish a hawkish regime in Washington."

The second two paragraphs may be editorial opinion on the part of Mr. Carmichael, but that sort of activity sounded familiar, in a Madrid Train Bombing sort of way.  Isn't engaging in violence to affect the outcome of government elections considered terrorism in some circles?  Turns out it is, right here in the good old U.S of A.

18 USC § 2331
(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping

If these serious allegations are true how shall America respond to the threat of transnational military action intended to influence the outcome of national elections?  Cutting off aid to a  country threatening to interfere with our domestic politics through the use of force, or preparing to join in a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear program since we can't control our titular ally in the region?  

Who is the dog and who is the tail?  

And who sold the tail the most sophisticated, long-range F-16s in the world?

UPDATE: I was called into question for describing Israel as a "titular" ally.  My response:

I think the US has been a strong ally of Israel, even when it could be argued that is was not in our interest, at least in the short term. This would appear to be driven either by high minded altruism or blind loyalty until one considers the efforts of AIPAC and other lobbying organizations. Israel is an ally of America when it suits them. When it doesn't, they go it alone. From one of the articles [...] cited [in this discussion]:

"Which brings us to the most important factor in the October timing of an Israeli strike: the November 2012 presidential elections in the United States. Netanyahu sees a moment of opportunity that will likely not be repeated for years to come. From late September to early November, White House decision-making will be driven by President Obama’s electoral needs — not his diplomatic policy. The mullahs are unloved in America, and many American pundits and politicians are on record supporting Israel’s right to defend itself militarily against an Iranian threat. If Israel goes ahead with a strike, can Obama afford to be seen as trying to prevent it, effectively protecting the mullahs of Teheran in the process?"

Machiavellian survivor in a tough neighborhood, yes. Principled ally, not so much.

The response to my response:

"I'm happy to concede the point that Israel acts in its own do all countries."

My response to the response to my response:

I submit that when it comes to Israel the US does not always act in its own best interest, sometimes to the detriment of its other commitments and objectives around the world. Rather, US politicians vulnerable to leverage applied by AIPAC and other like-minded lobbyists act in the interest of getting elected and reelected. That's not so principled either, or anything new.

All in all, a fine and surprisingly civil dialogue.

Image credit: Photo of American F-16I aircraft built for the Israeli Air Force from

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cassie's First Tri-Loppet

Was an awesome athletic adventure...

Our daughter Cassandra, ever on the look-out for a reason to stick to a training schedule, signed up for the 2012 City of Lakes Tri-Loppet.  The Tri-loppet - one of three Hoigaard's Challenge courses - features an 8k paddle, a 5k trail run, and an 11k mountain bike course.  

Cassie chose a solo sport kayak for her paddle, which may have cost her a place in the top ten, if not a spot on the platform.  Top finishers used two-person racing canoes (that may change next year).  Many other loppet participants, who appear to be generally fit runners and bicyclists, don't seem to invest much effort in the paddle portion.  Cassandra was run off the course, and into a wall, by two competitors who exhibited more enthusiasm than skill.

All that said, she blew through the course - which ranged from Lake Calhoun to the Theodore Wirth Golf Course - in great form for a 2:14:21 finish.

Cassie required a brief touch up at the medical tent after the finish line.  Seems there are a few places where you can crash a bike on the course.

Out of 550 starters Cassandra came in 23rd overall for women!  If she can find a seat in a fast, but standard, two-person canoe next year she'll easily attain her sub-two hour goal in 2013.

Well done, Boo!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Archer, What Can I Say?

Is not your kid's cartoon...

I've already admitted to a taste for guilty pleasures.  The adult cartoon, Archer, is another.  This late night FX TV MA LSV offering is named for Sterling Archer, a self-absorbed super spy who is prone to say things like "All I've had today is, like, six gummy bears and some scotch."  He works for a quasi-governmental, quasi-commercial spy agency ISIS (the International Secret Intelligence Service), owned by Malory Archer, the boss from hell and his mother.  ISIS also employs Lana Kane, a buxom super spy with man hands, whose favorite fashion option is the sweater dress, and who knows her way around a TEC-9 machine pistol (Where do you even get those these days?).  The ISIS staff also include a secretary with a variety of issues and some disturbing tastes, a comptroller with a secret or two, an HR manager with a past and a taste for doughnuts, and a scientist who may be one of the Boys From Brazil.

Recurring characters include the owner of a competing security and espionage firm with a secret interest in ISIS, a KGB director with a secret American love interest, and a pair of hapless German assassins.

Archer offers up all the buckets of blood we knew were there but never got to see in Johnny Quest, which Archer resembles stylistically.  It also serves up ludicrously sized portions of shootings, explosions, sex, drug abuse, eating disorders, sexual innuendo, dysfunctional relationships, hostile work environments, deviant sexuality, mommy issues, graphic violence, sex workers, tight budgets, adult language, sex addiction, alcohol abuse, smoking, dangerous sex, and accurately detailed depictions of firearms and military ordnance.  I know, it sounds great, right?

I've been watching Archer on NetFlix where it is included in their Watch Instantly service.  Season One was brilliant all the way through.  The second season sags a bit but recovers neatly.  I'm really looking forward to season three (and a fourth has been announced).  Archer is what we like to call "a hoot."  Not a show you'd watch with your kids, or your parents, but it's a hoot. 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dummy Cameras

For Dummies...

Dummy cameras have long been repudiated as both ineffective security and a serious liability concern.  Normally people who sell simulated security cameras to their clients don't talk about it where security professionals are likely to hear about it.  Our eyes bug out, our faces turn red, our neck veins bulge, and we tend to sputter incomplete and uncomplimentary sentences.  It ain't pretty.

Jordan Frankel, The Security Sensei, is proprietor of Global Security Experts, Inc. (GSE), which sells some useful products, such as the simple, sturdy, and affordable OnGARD door brace, STARTLE security lights, and DIY security window films.

Mr. Frankel first attracted my attention while pitching high-end panic rooms to the well-monied by leveraging their fearsWe went a couple rounds in 2011 but, having said about all I had to say about his safe room marketing tactics, I quit engaging Mr. Frankel in dialogue and debate on that issue.

So there I was, minding my own business Friday afternoon, when The Security Sensei posted a marketing blurb at the LinkedIn ASIS International group (for a few hours*), explaining that GSE is now proud to offer the SMART dummy camera, stating:

Dummy cameras are considered one the most cost-effective solutions for thwarting burglaries and home invasions.
...a high quality fake surveillance camera can be a vastly effective means of deterring and fooling burglars and other criminals from targeting your property.

Says who?  Evidence?  Statistics?  Studies?  Legal precedent?  Litigation judgements?  Anything?

The GSE advertorial promotes the realism of their solar powered, wireless, home security, dummy camera saying it features:

A bright LED light. One of the most important features you can have on a dummy camera is an LED light, and the brighter the light the better. Having a brightly illuminated power light creates the psychological deterrent criminals need to make them think the camera is real, giving them a reason to stay away. 

Problem is, real security cameras don't have LEDs, let alone flashing ones, and I imagine  most serious bad guys know that.  What's more, the camera housing is labeled OnGARD and has the Security Sensei logo on the side.  Take a moment to Google the phrase OnGARD security camera.   Among the first couple hits you're served is an eBay ad:

Fools Burglars, Home Invaders & Vandals | Dummy Camera

Okay, let's do the same for Security Sensei camera.  Similar results.

So, it seems this technological faux marvel will be most effective deterring criminals with no access to the Internet and a web browser.  But wait, there's more.  If a mildly Internet savvy burglar scrolls through the advert images he may also notice that the OnGARD SMART dummy camera has a secret: 

Now that's a very helpful feature indeed, but not for the homeowner.

So, am I being too hard on The Security Sensei?  You tell me.  Scaring people to get them to buy security solutions they don't need may be unethical.  Selling fake security hardware that makes people feel protected when they're not may be dangerous.  The Security Sensei seems to do both.

*The LinkedIn blurb under discussion was posted for a few hours and then removed shortly after a few security professionals sputtered some incomplete and uncomplimentary sentences.

Curiouser and Curiouser

NASA's Curiosity rover speeds closer and closer to its high tech date with destiny...

When the car-sized MLS Curiosity rover arrives at Mars in August it will encounter a problem that has been the death of more than a few of the robot explorers we've sent to the Red Planet.  While only 1% as dense as on Earth the atmosphere that surrounds Mars is still thick enough to burn up arriving craft from friction heating.  On the other hand the atmosphere is too thin for parachutes to be of much use.  As one of the speakers in the following talk explains, "It's too dense to ignore, but too thin to help." 

NASA has a plan they hope will work.  It's detailed in this fine little video, Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror.  Wicked challenge, awesome engineering, fascinating stuff.  Upon their clever solution all depends.

 Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech by way of

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Solstice!

My second favorite pagan holiday…

With arrival of the solstice, Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere at 23:09 Greenwich MeanTime on 20 June 2012. 

Solstice is taken from the Latin solstitium, sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the idea that the noonday Sun appears to stop rising higher in the sky on this day.  It also marks the longest day – as measured from sunrise to sunset - of the year.

This and other celestial events were tracked by anonymous early peoples who may be regarded as humankind’s first astronomers using structures such as Stonehenge.

A pagan holiday since pre-historic times, Summer Solstice was co-opted and re-purposed by Christians for celebration as the birthday of John the Baptist.  Winter Solstice became the much more high profile Christmas.

These days various neo-pagans, history buffs, and amateur astronomers still pause to note the turn of the seasons as inscribed in the heavens.

Happy Solstice! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Is Wes Anderson's best movie ever...

Cassie took to me dinner and a movie for Father's Day.  The movie we chose was Moonrise Kingdom.  We found out why it's been sold out the last two times we tried to see it.  There is something spectacularly, wonderfully wrong with the inside of Wes Anderson's head.  He does not, perhaps cannot, see the world the same way normal people do.  His ability to show us what the world looks like to him is his profound gift to us.  Anderson is too young for Moonrise Kingdom to be his semi-autobiography, but I hope it is drawn from someone's story.   It is hilarious and heartfelt, gentle and subversive.  If you do not find Moonrise Kingdom funny and wistful, magical and fantastical throughout you are a sad and broken person (no pressure).  It may be the best movie I've seen all year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The City That Became Safe

Good news about crime rates, even in New York City...

By way of Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks blog... 

The Open University’s blog has a fascinating piece on why New York City has seen an astonishing drop in crime, against the predictions of most social theories.

Indeed it does.

The article by law professor and prolific author, Franklin E. Zimring, is drawn from his recent book, The City that Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, which demonstrates that the rate of serious crime has plummeted in NYC despite the community's failure to resolve many issues which have long been assumed to serve as precursors to disorder.  Other solutions are at work in The Big Apple.

A Couple More LSE Podcasts

That are definitely worth your time... 

Anders Dahlvig, former President and CEO of IKEA and author of The IKEA Edge, presented a talk titled The new growth strategy: How responsible companies are profitable companies.  He's not a dynamic speaker and he suffered from a persistent cough throughout, but the story of how IKEA treats its suppliers, employees, and customers stands in stark contrast to the methods applied by the likes of WalMart.  

What Money Can't Buy - the moral limit of markets, was presented by a panel composed of Professor Michael Sandel, Stephanie Flanders, Professor Julian Le Grand, Right Reverend Peter Selby.

It does my heart good to see some folks getting it right.  Give a listen.

Another Guilty Pleasure

Vies for a place in the canon...

Rock of Ages may just join a very special list of mine that contains three Roland Emmerich classics, Independence Day (1996), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and 2012 (2009); two Luc Besson masterpieces, The Professional (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997); The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001), and Resident Evil (2002).  These are movies I will watch at any time for no reason at all.

As for Rock of Ages (which is also a Broadway musical), Rotten Tomatoes has mixed feelings about it and more than a few hardcore rockers think this movie musical trivializes the 1980s rock and roll scene.  Okay...  I never took the soundtrack of my life all that seriously, but some people do.  Rock of Ages is both silly and trivial, but it's also funny and physical.  I especially enjoyed the several Pat Benatar standards performed by a club full of seriously athletic exotic dancers...  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, Russell Brand delivers a performance that is almost nuanced compared to his other "work" and Alec Baldwin - still the most skilled of all the Baldwin brothers - continues to not take himself too seriously.  Tom Cruise channels his inner nut job, and Katherine Zeta Jones appears to have as much fun as anyone on camera.  I'm pretty sure my toes didn't stop tapping until the credits began to roll.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Got Bored

So I monetized The Breakfast...

There's more to it than that of course.  I'm feeling like making some changes.  I started a low carb diet.  I remodeled my cube.  I purged a mess of hard copy reference documents I never used much and certainly no longer need.  Today I spent the afternoon on a blog arguing with disagreeable people (angry atheists) whom I've never met.  Where's that get fun?  This afternoon in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I guess.  Time for some changes.  Time to get unbored.

Anyway, please let me know if the ads - which respond to key words not context and are thus sometimes hilariously contraposed to the topic - interfere with your navigation, consumption, or enjoyment of my random musings.  Thanks.

UPDATE: Nothing too silly so far, ill-considered advertisement-wise.  I do however miss the women advertising T-shirts wearing nothing but one...

Image credit: 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not Getting Caught In A Lie

Is not the same thing as telling the truth...

The retort is paraphrased from Three Days of the Condor, one of the best spy thrillers of all time.  These days it seems that no one working inside The Beltway ever watched the 1975 classic.  [Apparently no one there watched The Battle of Algiers (1966) before invading Iraq either.  What, you movers, shakers, and influence peddlers never heard of Netflix?]

All sorts of people, some of them usually pretty smart, others not so much, are going on and on about determining who in the Obama administration leaked the details of which used the Stuxnet virus (and others) to set back the Iranian nuclear program by a couple years.

Joel Harding, author of the To Inform Is To Influence blog, last week posted a piece titled The Atomic Bomb of Cyberspace, in which he laments

It’s official.  The United States of America was the first to use an atomic bomb against an enemy and now the United States is the first to have acknowledged using a cyber weapon against another country.  We are now certified bad guys to the rest of the world.
We are the first nation-state to admit to having used a cyberweapon on another nation-state.
To whoever leaked the information from the Obama administration, for whatever purpose, you have now doomed the United States to a terrible legacy forever.  Now the United States will forever lose the war of ideas when it comes to innocence.

To which I reply, if this is a “terrible legacy” then responsibility for it resides with those who unleashed Duqu, Stuxnet, and Flame, not those who leaked the truth about it.  We will “forever lose the war of ideas about when it comes to innocence” because we are guilty of the act, not because our lying about being innocent didn’t hold up.  We will be credited with first use of cyber weapons because we used cyber weapons first, not because we failed to maintain (as with our drone attacks in Pakistan, a rather transparent) deniability.

Do I care that we wrecked Iranian centrifuges?  No, not at all, and all the better we used USB drives instead of MOPS or nukes.  Should the leaker stretch a rope for committing treason?  Maybe, but let's not pretend the responsibility for our Stuxnet legacy lies with anyone other than the paymaster behind Project "Olympic Games."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Julian Jaynes and Our Bicameral Past

Traipsing along the fringe between science and pseudoscience...

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes is an interesting if dated perspective on the emergence of human consciousness. Fascinating idea, but not one I find compelling at first read.  Was Jaynes an intellect ages ahead of his time or a nutty professor with a quirky theory?  There's something to his idea, but I can't quite make sense of it.  Another book on my reading list, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist, may help me flesh this out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Twelve Hours To Go

Until the US premiere of the film event of the summer, if not the year...

Ridley Scott's Prometheus is opening Friday morning at 12:01 AM, and we'll be there!  The prequel to Alien (apparently, sort of, mostly) features Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander from the superior Swedish film production of the Millenium "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" Trilogy, rowrrr!) and will give us some back story on The Space Jockey.   Yee Haa, Waa Hoo!

UPDATE: Prometheus is sumptuous to the eye, but key details don't line up with those experienced in Alien.  Of course no one told us they would (actually , we were told they probably wouldn't), but the discontinuities are unnecessary and create more questions than the movie purports to answer.  The screenplay was penned by the co-creators of Lost, which is not automatically a good thing.  The story features many traditional Science Fiction and Horror tropes and a ship load of "redshirts," about half of whom meet their end in single inexplicable scene.  Still, Michael Fassbender's David is awesome, and Noomi Rapace is captivating of course.  There are times when Ridley Scott's vision shines through and others when he manages to channel the best of Stanley Kubrick in his 2001: A Space Odyssey phase.  I'll be going back. 

REUPDATE: Saw it again and liked it better the second time. And it was great fun watching the audience squirming like worms during "that scene."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

LinkedIn Hacked?

So says the LA Times...

LinkedIn and Goodreads are my favorite social media hangouts.  I have no time for Facebook, having been Zucked one too many times, and Google's offerings are many and confusing.  I should play with Twitter, but I haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway, a member of my team sent me the breaking news that a Russian hacking site has allegedly posted 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords.  Apparently they're hashed, but that is not the same thing as unbreakable.  I'm not usually an alarmist about such things, but inasmuch I'm unfamiliar with LinkedIn's ability to restore my account if someone should mess it up, I took 30 seconds to change my password, which I was behind on anyway.

Stuff Your Eyes With Wonder

"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."

Ray Bradbury, the author of one of my favorite books of all time, Fahrenheit 451, passed away today at the ripe, old age of 91.  He's being remembered eloquently in thousands of papers, zines, websites, and blogs today, but I would be remiss not to comment on his passing.  Reading Fahrenheit 451 was a formative experience for me.  Francois Truffaut's grim movie adaptation was uncanny and wondrous as well.  Yes, Bradbury wrote many other novels and hundreds of short stories, but his apt realization of a dystopian future which resembles our current reality all too well was his greatest gift to me.  Thank you, sir, well done!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Twice In A Lifetime Opportunity

But this is your second of the two chances...

Transits of Venus occur when Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun.  Because the Earth and Venus travel around the sun at different rates and orbit in slightly different planes they are not that common, on a human scale.  Transits of Venus are observed in pairs on a repeating pattern; 121 years, eight years between pairs, then 105 years until the next pair.  The most recent transit occurred in 2004.  Before that the last transit was in 1882.  The next will be in 2117, almost certainly too late for anyone reading this in 2012.

All my favorite blogs are chatting it up and showing you how to make your own viewer, or where to watch it on-line

I have a pinhole viewer set up.  It's a little more sophisticated than the two sheets of cardboard we used for the partial solar eclipse of the sun a couple weeks ago.  Don't know if I have sufficient resolution to make out the small black disk of Venus moving across the face of the Sun, but we'll give her a go.

WARNING: Do not look at the sun directly, let alone through a binocular or telescope, without appropriate filters!

Update: No joy.  We could not make out the disk against the sun, despite playing with the length of our viewer.  Caught the live feeds a couple times throughout the evening.  Oh well, maybe next time...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dragon in the Drink

The end of a perfect mission...

The SpaceX Dragon ended its picture perfect supply mission to the ISS when it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean approximately 560 miles southwest of Los Angeles at 8:42 a.m. Pacific Time, Thursday 31 May 2012.  I don't quite know how to embed video but here's link to the YouTube video of the Dragon's descent by parachute, three big orange and white ones, very much like the ones Apollo used back in the good old days.

Well done, SpaceX!

Photo credit: Michael Altenhofen

They Shall Take Up Serpents

Yet another Pentecostal snake handler learns his lesson the hard way...

Mark Randal "Mack" Wolford, Pentecostal pastor of the Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, West Virginia, died after being bit by his timber rattlesnake at a religious service last Sunday afternoon.  Wolford spent eight hours on the sofa in the living room of his mother-in-law's trailer home praying to be healed.  Eventually paramedics were called and Wolford was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Shuffling off the mortal coil in this gratuitous fashion is not unusual in his family.  When Mark Wolford was a teenager he watched his own father die exactly the same way.

Christians who demonstrate their faith by handling venomous snakes and drinking strychnine draw their Biblical guidance from the Gospel of Mark, specifically Chapter 16 Verses 17-18:

"17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

What never fails to amaze me is that these Biblical literalists choose to ignore the fact that the author of the Gospel of Mark originally closed the story at the end of Chapter 16 Verse 8.

"8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid."

The longer ending, Verses 9-20, was amended to the text by some unknown copyist at a later date.  Portions of the revision are quoted by patristic writers in the late 2nd century and the entire interpolation is seen in some 4th century texts.  While modern Biblical scholarship is pretty clear on the idea that the Gospels were not penned by the men for whom they were named, all the snake-handling, poison-drinking, devil-casting faithful have been following the advice of some even more anonymous scribe who was not even present when the original document,  the only one according to Christian doctrine which was inspired and inerrant, was written.
UPDATE: cgosling, a commenter at the WEIT blog, succinctly summarizes the pointlessness of this practice: 

"If he is not bitten it is God’s will; if he is bitten it is God’s will; if he survives the bite it is God’s will, if he does not survive the bite it is God’s will."

Perhaps a person has to be a member of Pentecostal Christian snake-wrangling, strychnine-swilling cult for that to make sense...