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27501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia's Foreign Policy Dance on: January 07, 2011, 04:35:26 AM
Russia and its Foreign Policy Dance

The Kremlin announced Wednesday that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is going to visit the Palestinian territories in a few weeks, just as Medvedev’s trip to Israel has been canceled. Medvedev had planned to go to Israel on Jan. 17-19, but his trip was postponed due to a strike at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. While this may just seem like a logistical and technical issue, there is a shifting Russian foreign policy strategy, giving Moscow freer capability to act against the Israelis and increase support for the Palestinians.

Russia and Israel have had ongoing tense and complex relations. After a post-World War II alliance in the late 1940s, Soviet-era Moscow was a patron of Israel’s enemies — Egypt and Syria. At the time, this was not really about Russia siding against Israel as much as it was about pressuring the United States’ interests in the Middle East.

After the Cold War, Israeli and Russian relations were tolerable. Moscow had to pull its support from the Middle East as its empire crumbled and it fought to keep the Russian state together. All this changed in the past decade when Russia began to consolidate, and announced that Russia was on its way back and would soon return as a major player on the international stage.

During this time, Moscow accused Israel of meddling in Russia’s interests by financially and politically backing the anti-Kremlin oligarchs, and militarily supporting Georgia and Russian Muslim republics of Dagestan and Chechnya. Since then, it has been a tit-for-tat between Russia and Israel with Moscow countering those Israeli moves by supporting Iran and Syria in recent years.

“…Russia is working with all players in the region — keeping everyone dizzy and guessing what it will do next.”
This was part of Russia’s overall foreign policy at the time to unilaterally retaliate for moves made against its interests. One of the larger examples of this was the West’s recognition of an independent Kosovo, followed by Russia’s recognition of independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia — after its war with Georgia. But Russia’s resurgence has now entered a new stage, in which Moscow feels comfortable in its sphere of influence. Naturally, Moscow is still mindful of foreign moves in its surrounding regions, but is confident such moves do not threaten its overall control in the region. Moscow is not only secure enough in its power over Georgia that the issue isn’t a red line in Russian-Israeli relations; Moscow retains options for escalation in Israel’s neighborhood that can deter Israeli actions in Georgia.

This new shift has allowed Russia to be able to play more ambiguously than unilaterally in all its foreign policy issues. With Russia in a comfortable status, it feels it can make bolder moves outside of Eurasia. Such alterations have been seen in Russia’s policies in the Middle East, where Moscow has been striking military deals with anyone it can — Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

This time, increased Russian activity around the world could go beyond theatrics and translate into further support for the Palestinians. There are rumors that Russia is considering actually recognizing an independent Palestinian state. There has already been a change in some weightier countries, like Brazil, supporting Palestine. The Russians could be the next in line. The difference is the Russians have a history of not just diplomatically supporting the Palestinians, but through military, financial and intelligence support.

Moscow’s motivations behind supporting the Palestinians at this time are not clear, since it has been making so many deals with so many countries in the region. Russia could be attempting to make a show against one of Washington’s closest allies — Israel — and the timing of the cancellation of Medvedev’s trip to Israel is suspicious. Russia could be choosing to make this move because of increased discussion of Palestinian support in the European Union — and Russia is looking for agenda issues in which to align. Russia could be in coordination with Brazil, as both countries are strangely side-by-side on myriad foreign policy issues. Additionally, it could be Russia simply wanting to make a global statement that it isn’t worried about repercussions for taking sides on such a controversial issue.

Even if Moscow’s reasoning or endgame is unknown at this time, it’s plain that Russia is working with all players in the region — keeping everyone dizzy and guessing what it will do next.

27502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 06, 2011, 08:53:25 PM
Whatever happens, it will be interesting. 

The Adventure continues!
27503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 06, 2011, 08:49:50 PM
And she has a 100% safe district.
27504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China on: January 06, 2011, 08:40:38 PM
Although expressed briefly, the point about BO neutering our space advantage is pivotal and profound IMHO.
27505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: January 06, 2011, 08:30:45 PM
Maybe judges should not be ruling that gay marriage is consitutionally compelled just like they should not have ruled that abortion is constitutionally compelled?
27506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The story of two slave revolts on: January 06, 2011, 12:14:18 PM
Given the recent tendency to romanticize resistance, it may come as a surprise to learn that throughout history slave rebellions have been comparatively rare, especially in North America, where slaves constituted a minority of the total population. (In Central and South America they were often a majority.) One reason for such rarity was the skill with which masters controlled their workers and suppressed revolt.

Peter Charles Hoffer and Daniel Rasmussen separately tell the story of two of the largest slave revolts in North America—the Stono Rebellion of 1739 in South Carolina and the Louisiana Slave Revolt of 1811. Neither event plays as large a role in the popular imagination as Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, but each proved a major test for the power of slavery's supporters to enforce their regime and repel the threats to it.

In "Cry Liberty," Mr. Hoffer, a historian at the University of Georgia, offers a novel reinterpretation of the Stono Rebellion and challenges writers to rethink how they portray the resistance it displayed. The rebellion began soon after midnight on Sept. 9, 1739, when a group of some 20 slaves broke into a store along the Stono River near Charles Town (now Charleston), S.C.

Two white men were in the store. The rebels killed them and displayed their heads on the store's front steps. Then they stole some guns and, after killing three more whites, turned south along the main road, beating drums, bearing a flag and crying for liberty. Presumably their destination was Spanish Florida, which had promised freedom to Carolinian slaves. By mid-morning they had recruited another 40 to 80 slaves and killed 18 more whites. They almost captured South Carolina's lieutenant governor.

View Full Image
.Cry Liberty
By Peter Charles Hoffer
Oxford, 173 pages, $19.95
.American Uprising
By Daniel Rasmussen
Harper, 276 pages, $26.99

Then whites sounded the alarm. A large Presbyterian church interrupted its Sunday service, and the men formed a militia. They found the rebels resting in a field and attacked, killing 14. "The mortal wound had come," Mr. Hoffer writes. When order was finally restored, 23 whites and roughly 100 slaves had been killed, and some 30 slaves were "rewarded for protecting their masters."

There is no evidence that the slaves had planned to rebel before breaking into the store. Yet previous accounts have assumed that rebellion was the slaves' aim from the outset. For Mr. Hoffer this reasoning "turns causation around" and ignores the role of chance. Might the saga have begun not as rebellion but as a plan to steal food? What if the tipping point was the discovery of the two whites in the store, prompting a sudden change of plan?

Addressing such questions, Mr. Hoffer structures his book as an elegant and intricate detective story. Along the way, he neatly captures the texture of South Carolina's Low Country in 1739. It was a time when the slave population had almost doubled in a decade, owing to the influx of slaves from Angola. Blacks outnumbered whites by a 2-to-1 ratio. Masters got rich from slave-grown rice. And "death was everywhere." Slaves "reckoned that old comrades and new friends would die before they could start families." In this environment, "something had to give." It did.

Mr. Rasmussen, a recent graduate from Harvard, has turned his senior thesis into "American Uprising," a book on America's largest, and little known, slave revolt. A crisp, confident writer, he tells the story with verve, though ultimately he overreaches by trying to connect his story to 200 years of American history, as if the Louisiana Slave Revolt of 1811 was somehow central to the Civil War, civil rights and national expansion.

On the night of Jan. 8, 1811, 40 miles upriver from New Orleans, some 25 slaves entered the home of Manuel Andry, the parish's largest slaveowner. After wounding Andry, who managed to escape, they killed his son. The slaves' leader, Charles Deslonde, worked as a driver on Andry's plantation and knew it well. He and some comrades donned Andry's military uniforms "to lend the revolt authority." Then they stole Andry's guns and horses and headed south. "On to New Orleans!" Deslonde yelled.

The rebel army quickly grew to between 100 and 500 slaves, according to eyewitnesses. But Gov. William Claiborne called out the militia and federal troops, and within days the rebellion was crushed. While only two whites died in the affair, some 100 slaves were killed and dismembered, their heads put on poles that dotted the roadside for 40 miles, a grim warning to other slaves.

Even had the rebels reached New Orleans, it is unclear what they would have done. No doubt they had been inspired by slaves from St. Domingue, who a few years earlier had fought off colonial armies, abolished slavery and established the black republic of Haiti. Perhaps the Louisiana rebels hoped to create an American Haiti. A few said that they wanted to "kill all the whites." But whites were not their only enemy; many slaves and free blacks aligned themselves with the planters.

In some ways the Louisiana rebels resembled those from South Carolina. A disproportionately large number were Angolan migrants, who beat drums and waved flags as they marched. To recruit adherents, both rebel groups threatened or killed slaves who refused to join them. Any chance of success hinged on the use of terror. Yet both books also dramatize why slave rebellions were almost always suicidal. The violence of the rebellion begat more violence. It is thus no wonder that so many slaves protected their masters and informed on fellow slaves; it was the easiest way to gain power and even freedom.

Mr. Stauffer teaches history and literature at Harvard and is the author of "Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln."

27507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Impoundment/Line item veto on: January 06, 2011, 12:09:15 PM

Here's something most Republicans don't want to hear: There is no way the born-again, straight and sober Republicans of the 112th Congress are going to get spending under control unless they involve the fellow at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The spending reforms that Speaker John Boehner and his counterinsurgency lieutenants have proposed—spending reductions to offset any mandatory increases or stated budget limits for the current fiscal year—are terrific. But if you think Congress, by itself, is going to sustain this discipline over time, I have a bridge in Alaska I'd like to sell you.

Congress is a legislative body. Like legislative bodies from ancient Rome till now, its DNA is not to forgo things but to do stuff. Everyone agrees that Congress holds something called the "power of the purse." And don't they know it. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find that phrase. Nor in the Constitution that they are reading on the House floor Thursday will you hear the words "spend," "programs" or "outlays." All this, though, is what Congress has been about since anyone can remember.

The reform groups and blogosphere are threatening hellfire for any Republicans who cross them on spending, but take my word for it: Once any Congress makes it to the budgeting "out years," all that hellfire will be just a puff of smoke. James Buchanan, the father of public choice theory, won a Nobel Prize for unraveling this reality.

It is not hopeless. The locus of hope, however, lies with the Executive, a word at least nominally associated with responsibility. In an article on these pages recently ("Time for Emergency Economic Reform"), a successful political executive, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, identified the sine-qua-non reform to sustain spending discipline: presidential impoundment power.

However you define the idea—impoundment, rescission, the line-item veto—it is the power of a president or governor to zero out some of the spending pile that a legislature dumps on the front lawn. It is executive pushback against wretched legislative excess.

"Presidents once had the authority," Mr. Daniels wrote, "to spend less than Congress made available through appropriation. On reflection, nothing else makes sense."

Ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about the impoundment power. He has it, and he'll tell you it is indispensable to what he is trying to do in his hopelessly profligate state. Absent that impoundment power, a lot of the Christie pitch would be just rhetoric.

Before getting into why 43 governors, but not the U.S. president, have this power, a comment on those who say that impoundment is a pop-gun, that it can't control entitlements or mega-programs.

View Full Image

The Roman Senate contemplates bankrupting the empire.
.Perhaps you have heard of the "broken windows" theory of urban chaos. It says that in a neighborhood wracked with murder and mayhem, it is important to repair broken windows. The idea is that leaving small matters like broken windows unrepaired tells criminals that no one cares if they break the neighborhood further, and it tells the people there is no hope of fixing the big things. In New York City, this worked.

Earmarks, pork, corporate carve-outs and all that are Congress's broken windows.

Every knowing article written on this subject points out what a "small" percentage of spending this stuff is. But the behavioral incentives for big-time criminals in the Bronx and big-time spenders in a legislature like Congress are the same. An annual federal budget of $3.5 trillion is a towering monument of broken windows. Federal highway spending has been on automatic pilot for nearly 20 years. Sen. Tom Coburn has a long list of programs uselessly duplicated across the government; nine agencies run 69 early-education programs.

Here is a list of U.S. presidents and public figures who have used or supported the impoundment power: Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton, the Bushes, John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, Jeb Hensarling, Russ Feingold, Joe Lieberman, Judd Gregg, and not least both Paul Ryan, the new House Budget chairman, and Barack Obama.

This crucial executive ballast does not exist mainly for two reasons.

In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon tried aggressively to impound spending, touching off a war with Congress's "prerogatives." Then Watergate broke. In a fury, one of the most liberal Congresses passed the Budget Control Act of 1974 (which should be repealed). It transferred most spending "control" to Congress, which one commentator at the time called "congressional government—and chaos."

Second, the Constitution is ambiguous on how to divide this authority, and the Supreme Court, in coin-flip decisions, has sided with Congress.

All the congressional names above, especially Rep. Ryan, have tried to thread this legal needle. But it doesn't exist because the bipartisan pig-out caucus—in hiding now—won't let it happen.

Yes, this week the GOP Congress is talking about a lollapalooza annual budget cut of $100 billion. Go for it! But let's hear Barack Obama put the impoundment power back in play in his State of the Union address—for this presidency and however many presidents are left in the future of our broken-windows capital.

27508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove: Rewarding friends, punishing enemies on: January 06, 2011, 12:06:09 PM
Aprimary task for the new Republican House majority is to undo as many of the pernicious effects of ObamaCare that it can. One of these effects is the spectacle of employers going hat-in-hand to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for waivers from some of the law's more onerous provisions.

In September, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began granting waivers to companies that provided workers "mini-med" coverage—low-cost plans with low annual limits on what the insurance will pay out. This followed announcements by some employers that they would have to drop these plans because they did not meet the new health law's requirement that 85% of premium income be spent on medical expenses.

By early December, HHS had granted 222 such waivers to provide mini-med policies for companies including AMF Bowling and Universal Forest Product, as well as 43 union organizations. According to the department's website, the waivers cover 1,507,418 employees, of which more than a third (525,898) are union members. Yet unionized workers make up only 7% of the private work force. Whatever is going on here, a disproportionately high number of waivers are being granted to administration allies.

Then, on Dec. 21, Ms. Sebelius announced that insurance companies seeking rate increases of 10% or more in the individual or small group market must publicly justify the hikes under standards set by her department.

Insurance regulation has traditionally been a state responsibility, and 43 states must already approve proposed insurance-rate increases. ObamaCare does not authorize HHS to deny rate increases, but the agency said that if a state "lacks the resources or authority" to conduct the kind of review the agency wants, it will conduct its own.

This proposed regulation will erode the states' dominant role in insurance regulation, centralizing more power in Washington. The HHS announcement also mentioned that it will set different thresholds of what constitutes an "unreasonable" increase for every state by 2012.

The Obama administration's behavior to date suggests that it will not hesitate to take care of its friends. The Senate Republican Policy Committee's health policy analyst, Chris Jacobs, points out that the administration has already given an extravagant gift to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), a key player in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The AARP provided a big chunk of the $121 million spent on ads supporting the bill's passage, as well as $21 million on lobbying in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. HHS's proposed regulations on Dec. 21 exempted the AARP's lucrative "Medigap" plans from the rate review and other mandates and requirements.

The AARP and other Medigap providers can require a waiting period before seniors with pre-existing conditions have to be covered. Insurers covering those under 65 cannot.

The AARP is also exempt from the new law's $500,000 cap on executive compensation for insurance executives. (The nonprofit's last CEO received over $1.5 million in compensation in his last full year, 2009.) It won't pay any of the estimated $14 billion in new taxes on insurance companies, though according to its 2008 consolidated financial statement, it gets more money from its insurance offerings than it does from dues, grants and private contributions combined. Nor will it have to spend at least 85% of its Medigap premium dollars on medical claims, as Medicare Advantage plans must do; the AARP will be held to a far less restrictive 65%.

It's not hard to connect the dots. The Obama administration is using waivers to reward friends. On the flip side, business executives will be discouraged from contributing to the president's opponents or from taking any other steps that might upset the White House or its political appointees at HHS.

This is not what people had in mind when candidate Obama promised in his acceptance speech in August 2008 to undo "the cynicism we all have about government."

In a speech at the University of Iowa last March, the president heralded health-care reform as "a new set of rules that treats everybody honestly and treats everybody fairly." Determining whether that is true will be another task for House Republicans. They have an obligation to look into this matter, and Mr. Obama can hardly object. It was former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, whom the president frequently quotes, who wrote in 1913 that sunlight "is the best of disinfectants."

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

27509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Honor your oath! on: January 06, 2011, 12:01:21 PM
Alexander's Essay – January 6, 2011

Mr. Boehner, et al., Honor Your Oath!
"If congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." --James Madison

The U.S. ConstitutionThe new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, took charge of a Republican majority (242-193) Wednesday, proclaiming, "I stand today in awe of our great nation, humbled by the opportunity to defend the Constitution and serve the American people as Speaker of the House. We must restore the House as an open institution that listens to the people and does their will. We must end D.C. rituals that have made it easy to dodge tough decisions, then make the choices necessary to return our economy to prosperity."

For the record, Mr. Boehner, the first obligation of every member of Congress is to defend the Constitution, which authorizes the House to do the will of the people only to the extent that it comports with the plain language of our Constitution. The current state of the central government, bloated to the point of implosion, is the direct result of political machinations doing the bidding of special interest groups, to the great detriment of our Constitution and the Rule of Law it enshrines.

Our Constitution specifies, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..."

Speaker Boehner and the other 434 Members of the House took this oath in accordance with Article VI, clause 3 of our Constitution: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

While every member of the House and Senate should be bound by their sacred honor to "support and defend" our Constitution, most returning members have dishonored their oath willfully and repeatedly.

There is good news, however. The once dwindling ranks of steadfast conservatives in Congress -- those who have honored their oaths in years prior -- have been greatly bolstered in the most recent election cycle by dozens of newly elected representatives and senators, who, I assure you, will abide by their oaths, and do so vociferously.

While it will certainly take many more election cycles to restore constitutional Rule of Law, the grassroots "Tea Party" movement has changed, and will continue to change, the political composition of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government. It will do so by encroachment, the steady replacement of those who have forsaken their oath with those who will honor their oath to support our Constitution.

Mr. Boehner's first order was to require the 112th Congress to open its proceedings with a full reading of our Constitution. While all leftists and most centrists take this as symbolic only, no member of the House of Representatives can now say that they have not, at the least, heard every word of the Constitution of the United States of America. Gloriously, it also sets a firm foundation for the upcoming session and a yardstick by which we can measure Republican leadership.

Of course, Democrats have strenuously objected to the notion that constitutional authority limits the role of the central government, and have done so with great resolve.

When asked by a reporter in 2009 about constitutional authority for the central government's takeover of the U.S. health care system, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" When the reporter persisted, Pelosi moved on to another question while her press spokesman said, "You can put this on the record: That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."

Democrat Patrick Leahy, then-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (where Rule of Law should prevail), added, "We have plenty of authority. ... I mean, there's no question there's authority. Nobody questions that."

Pelosi and Leahy believe they have unbridled authority because they subscribe to the so-called "living constitution" which, as Thomas Jefferson warned, has become "a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please."

Some ranking Democrats were a bit more brazen. Former Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) proclaimed, "There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do." California Rep. Pete Stark added, "The federal government can, yes, do most anything in this country."

Well, folks, there's a new sheriff in town, and his posse is prepared to ask a lot of questions about constitutional authority for congressional legislation, and hold the line.

By opening the 112th Congress with the Constitution reading, perhaps those members who shun constitutional constraints will now pay more special attention to Article I, Section 2, which specifies, "All legislative powers herein granted [emphasis added] shall be vested in a congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."

They should then pay close attention to Article I, Section 8, which specifically enumerates those powers, and recall the words of its principal scribe, James Madison: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."
Jefferson added, "I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition. ... [The Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers. ... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

Though this has received scant attention, Mr. Boehner also pledged to pass legislation requiring the enumeration of constitutional authority for every bill considered by the House.

If the Republican House will pass an enumerated powers act requiring all legislation to stipulate its specific constitutional authority (as first and subsequently proposed by just-retired Rep. John Shadegg in every Congress since the 104th), that will elevate the national discourse about what the Constitution does and does not authorize. Enhancing that discourse, which is a primary driver of the Tea Party's momentum, will put the restoration of constitutional authority on a faster track.

Enumerating authority for legislation has been a primary Patriot Post objective since our inception. Indeed, it was the basis for our petition of the Bush administration for an Enumerated Powers Amendment. This proposed amendment is also a primary component of the Patriot Declaration, which stipulates "that all legislation explicitly cite its compliance with the Tenth Amendment to our Bill of Rights, 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,' thus prohibiting the central government from usurping the powers reserved to the States or the People."

If the Speaker succeeds with enumerated powers enactment, the next step should be an amendment as this would make the enumeration of constitutional authority binding on both the House and Senate, and not be subject to legislative revocation.

In 1776, a great insurrection was mounted against the throne of tyranny, and from that revolution was birthed our Constitution. We face the prospect of such tyranny again, and the solution now, as then, is government constrained by the Rule of Law as enshrined in our Constitution.

Moving forward, those politicos of any stripe who forsake their solemn oath to support and defend our Constitution, and abide by its constraints, should be subject to censure and removal from office. The momentum of the Tea Party movement will increase, despite efforts by the Leftmedia to undermine its grassroots drive, and we will further expand the ranks of constitutional conservatives in 2012. Barack Hussein Obama, the days of your regime are numbered, as are those of every elected official who fails to honor their oath.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

27510  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Some additional details on: January 06, 2011, 11:46:59 AM
Woof All:

Some additional details in response to some questions I have received. 

Yes, both days are for fighting.  Yes the fighting will be in Los Angeles.

There will be a guest fighter with an interesting three section staff game. 

I would like to encourage fighters to consider fighting Stick y Daga with the dage being a substantial aluminum blade.  The idea here is to develop skill sets that discourage bum rushes into messy grapples.

Concerning my seminar in Israel the week before.  Assuming I am not whacked by Al Quaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah, while I am in Israel, there should be no problem smiley

"Higher Consciousness through harder contact!" (c DBI)
Crafty Dog
27511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on: January 06, 2011, 11:38:36 AM
FWIW, here's POTH take on this:

BEIJING — Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, on a mission to resuscitate moribund military relations with China, will not arrive in Beijing for talks with the nation’s top military leaders until Sunday. But at an airfield in Chengdu, a metropolis in the nation’s center, China’s military leaders have already rolled out a welcome for him.

It is the J-20, a radar-evading jet fighter that has the same two angled tailfins that are the trademark of the Pentagon’s own stealth fighter, the F-22 Raptor. After years of top-secret development, the jet — China’s first stealth plane — was put through what appear to be preliminary, but also very public, tests this week on the runway of the Aviation Design Institute in Chengdu, a site so open that aircraft enthusiasts often gather there to snap photos.

Some analysts say the timing is no coincidence. “This is their new policy of deterrence,” Andrei Chang, the Hong Kong editor in chief of the Canadian journal Kanwa Defense Weekly, who reported the jet’s tests, said Wednesday. “They want to show the U. S., show Mr. Gates, their muscle.”

These days, there is more muscle to show. A decade of aggressive modernization of China’s once creaky military is beginning to bear fruit, and both the Pentagon and China’s Asian neighbors are increasingly taking notice.

By most accounts, China remains a generation or more behind the United States in military technology, and even further behind in deploying battle-tested versions of its most sophisticated naval and air capabilities. But after years of denials that it has any intention of becoming a peer military power of the United States, it is now unveiling capabilities that suggest that it intends, sooner or later, to be able to challenge American forces in the Pacific.

Besides the J-20, a midair-refuelable, missile-capable jet designed to fly far beyond Chinese borders, the Chinese are reported to be refitting a Soviet-era Ukrainian aircraft carrier — China’s first such power-projecting ship — for deployment as soon as next year.

A spate of news reports allege that construction is already under way in Shanghai on one or more carriers; the military denied a similar report in 2006, but senior military officials have been more outspoken this year about China’s desire to build the big ships. China could launch several carriers by 2020, the Pentagon stated in a 2009 report.

The military’s nuclear deterrent, estimated by experts at no more than 160 warheads, has been redeployed since 2008 onto mobile launchers and advanced submarines that no longer are sitting ducks for attackers. Multiple-warhead missiles are widely presumed to come next. China’s 60-boat submarine fleet, already Asia’s largest, is being refurbished with super-quiet nuclear-powered vessels and a second generation of ballistic-missile-equipped subs.

And a widely anticipated antiship ballistic missile, called a “carrier-killer” for its potential to strike the big carriers at the heart of the American naval presence in the Pacific, appears to be approaching deployment. The head of the United States Pacific Command, Adm. Robert F. Willard, told a Japanese newspaper in December that the weapon had reached “initial operational capability,” an important benchmark. Navy officials said later that the Chinese had a working design but that it apparently had yet to be tested over water.

On that and other weaponry, China’s clear message nevertheless is that its ability to deter others from territory it owns, or claims, is growing fast.

China, of course, has its own rationales for its military buildup. A common theme is that potentially offensive weapons like aircraft carriers, antiship missiles and stealth fighters are needed to enforce claims to Taiwan, should leaders there seek legal independence from the mainland.

Taiwan’s current status, governed separately but claimed by China as part of its sovereign territory, is maintained in part by an American commitment to defend it should Beijing carry out an attack. Some experts date elements of today’s military buildup from crises in the mid-1990s, when the United States sent aircraft carriers unmolested into waters around Taiwan to drive home Washington’s commitment to the island.


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Chinese officials also clearly worry that the United States plans to ring China with military alliances to contain Beijing’s ambitions for power and influence. In that view, the Pentagon’s long-term strategy is to cement in Central Asia the sorts of partnerships it has built on China’s eastern flank in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

“Some Chinese scholars worry that the U. S. will complete its encirclement of China this way,” said Xu Qinhua, who studies Russia and Central Asia at the Renmin University of China and advises government officials on regional issues. “We should worry about this. It’s natural.”

The Pentagon’s official view has long been that it welcomes a stronger Chinese military as a partner with the United States to maintain open sea lanes, fight piracy and perform other international duties now shouldered — and paid for — by American service members and taxpayers.

But Chinese military leaders have seldom offered more than a glimpse of their long-term military strategy, and the steady buildup of a force with offensive abilities well beyond Chinese territory clearly worries American military planners.

“When we talk about a threat, it’s a combination of capabilities and intentions,” said Abraham M. Denmark, a former China country director in Mr. Gates’s office. “The capabilities are becoming more and more clearly defined, and they’re more and more clearly targeted at limiting American abilities to project military power into the western Pacific.”

“What’s unclear to us is the intent,” he added. “China’s military modernization is certainly their right. What others question is how that military power is going to be used.”

Mr. Denmark, who now directs the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said China’s recent strong-arm reaction to territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors had given both the Pentagon and China’s neighbors cause for concern.

Still, a top Navy intelligence officer told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States should not overestimate Beijing’s military prowess and that China had not yet demonstrated an ability to use its different weapons systems together in proficient warfare. The officer, Vice Adm. David J. Dorsett, the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, said that although China had developed some weapons faster than the United States expected, he was not alarmed over all.

“Have you seen them deploy large groups of naval forces?” he said. “No. Have we seen large, joint, sophisticated exercises? No. Do they have any combat proficiency? No.”

Admiral Dorsett said that even though the Chinese were planning sea trials on a “used, very old” Russian aircraft carrier this year and were intent on building their own carriers as well, they would still have limited proficiency in landing planes on carriers and operating them as part of larger battle groups at sea.

Little about China’s military intentions is clear. The Pentagon’s 2009 assessment of China’s military strategy stated baldly that despite “persistent efforts,” its understanding of how and how much China’s government spends on defense “has not improved measurably.”

In an interview on Wednesday, a leading Chinese expert on the military, Zhu Feng, said he viewed some claims of rapid progress on advanced weapons as little more than puffery.

“What’s the real story?” he asked in a telephone interview. “I must be very skeptical. I see a lot of vast headlines with regards to weapons procurement. But behind the curtain, I see a lot of wasted money — a lot of ballooning, a lot of exaggeration.”

Mr. Zhu, who directs the international security program at Peking University, suggested that China’s military establishment — not unlike that in the United States — was inclined to inflate threats and exaggerate its progress in a continual bid to win more influence and money for its favored programs.

And that may be true. If so, however, the artifice may be lost on China’s cross-Pacific rivals.

“Ultimately, from a U. S. perspective it comes down to an issue of whether the United States will be as dominant in the western Pacific as we always have been,” Bonnie Glaser, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a telephone interview. “And clearly the Chinese would like to make it far more complicated for us.”

“That’s something the Chinese would see as reasonable,” she said. “But from a U. S. perspective, that’s just unacceptable.”
27512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: The New Sophists on: January 06, 2011, 11:33:50 AM

In classical Athens, public life became dominated by clever and smart-sounding sophists. These mellifluous "really wise guys" made money and gained influence by their rhetorical boasts to "prove" the most amazing "thinkery" that belied common sense.

We are living in a new age of sophism -- but without a modern equivalent of Socrates to remind the public just how silly our highly credentialed and privileged new rhetoricians can often sound.

Take California, which is struggling with a near-record wet and snowy winter. Flooding spreads in the lowlands; snow piles up in the Sierras.

In February 2009, Nobel Laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu pontificated without evidence that California farms would dry up and blow away, inasmuch as 90 percent of the annual Sierra snowpack would disappear. Yet long-term studies of the central Sierra snowpack show average snow levels unchanged over the last 90 years. Many California farms are drying up -- but from government's, not nature's, irrigation cutoffs.

England is freezing and snowy. But that's odd, since global warming experts assured that the end of English snow was on the horizon. Australia is now flooding -- despite predictions that its impending new droughts meant it could not sustain its present population. The New York Times just published an op-ed assuring the public that the current record cold and snow are proof of global warming. In theory, they could be, but one wonders: what, then, would record winter heat and drought prove?

In response to these unexpected symptoms of blizzards and deluges, climate physicians offer changing diagnoses. "Global change" has superseded "global warming." After these radically cold winters, the next replacement appears to be "climate chaos." Yet if next December is neither too hot nor too cold, expect to hear about the doldrum dangers of "climate calm."

In 2009, brilliant economists in the Obama administration -- Peter Orszag, Larry Summers and Christina Romer -- assured us that record trillion-plus budget defects were critical to prevent stalled growth and 10 percent unemployment. For nearly two years we have experienced both, but now with an addition $3 trillion in national debt. All three have quietly either returned to academia or Wall Street.

There is also a new generation of young, sophistic bloggers who offer their wisdom from the New York-Washington corridor. They are usually graduates of America's elite colleges and navigate in an upscale urban landscape. One, the Washington Post's 26-year-old Ezra Klein, recently scoffed to his readers that a bothersome U.S. Constitution was "100 years old" and had "no binding power on anything."

One constant here is equating wisdom with a certificate of graduation from a prestigious school. If, in the fashion of the sophist Protagoras, one writes that record cold proves record heat, or that record borrowing and printing money will create jobs and sustained economic growth, or that a 223-year-old Constitution is 100 years old and largely irrelevant, then credibility can be claimed only in the title or the credentials -- but not the logic -- of the writer.

America is huge and diverse, but the world of our credentialed experts is quite small, warped and monotonous -- circumscribed largely by the prestigious university and an office in the incestuous Washington-New York corridor. There are plenty of prizes, honors and degrees among our policy setters and experts, but very little experience in running a business in Oklahoma, raising a large family in Kansas, or working on an assembly line in Michigan, a military base in Texas, a boat in Alaska or a ranch in Idaho.

In classical sophistic fashion, rhetoric is never far from personal profit. Multimillionaire Al Gore convinced the governments of the Western world that they were facing a global-warming Armageddon, then hired out his services to address the hysteria that he helped create.

How many climate Cassandras have well-funded research positions predicated on grants and subsidies that depend on convincing the pubic and government of impending disasters that they then can be hired to monitor and address? Are there no green antitrust laws? In contrast, how many of our climate theorists run irrigated farms and energy-intensive businesses at the mercy of new regulations that emanate from distant theorizing?

The public might have better believed the deficit nostrums of former budget director Peter Orzag had he not retired after less than two years on the job to position himself for a multimillion-dollar billet at Citigroup -- itself a recent recipient of some $25 billion in government bailout funds.

Are we to wonder why an angry, grassroots Tea Party spread -- or why it was instantly derided by our experts and technocrats as ill-informed or worse?
27513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: January 06, 2011, 11:21:13 AM
Yes, and , , ,

IMHO most of our current situation there can be laid at the feet of Senator and presidential candidates Obama and Clinton, Senator and now VP Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Pelosi, Senator and former presidential candidate Kerry, former VP Al Gore and many, many other high ranking elected officials, speaking out destructively of our efforts there.  Opposing the war was a reasonable position, but most of the people I just mentioned went above and beyond and well into the realm of destructive, quite often for the perception of personal political gain.

How vile!

In this they were aided and abetted by Pravda on the Hudson (NYTimes), Pravda on the Beach (Left Angeles Times) Pravda on the Potomac (WaPo) and much of the MSM with dishonest, misleading and destructive reporting (e.g. reporting on our secret program tracing enemy money flows, our financial support of Iraqi reporters with the courage to write positive articles in Iraq, and much, much more).

If you are an Iraqi deciding which way the wind is going to blow, are you going to go with the country that appears likely to leave you in the lurch, or are you going to cut the best deal that you can?    When BO was running he said the surge would fail and that we should run away.  Are you going to bet your life on him?

Also, as GM points out, where would Iraq be today if we had not done as we did?
27514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Stealth Fighter on: January 06, 2011, 11:04:41 AM
IJING—The first clear pictures of what appears to be a Chinese stealth fighter prototype have been published online, highlighting China's military buildup just days before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to Beijing to try to repair defense ties.

The photographs, published on several unofficial Chinese and foreign defense-related websites, appear to show a J-20 prototype making a high-speed taxi test—usually one of the last steps before an aircraft makes its first flight—according to experts on aviation and China's military.

 WSJ's Rebecca Blumenstein explains to Simon Constable new photos indicate the possibility that the Chinese military has developed a new stealth fighter jet, confirming fears of a military buildup.

The exact origin of the photographs is unclear, although they appear to have been taken by Chinese enthusiasts from the grounds of or around the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute in western China, where the J-20 is in development. A few experts have suggested that the pictured aircraft is a mock-up, rather than a functioning prototype of a stealth fighter—so-called because it is designed to evade detection by radar and infrared sensors.

View Slideshow

The Wall Street Journal
On display at Air Show China in Zuhai late last year: this CIA-style drone with missiles.
.China Newspaper Refers to New Jet
China Real Time: China's Military Ambitions: A Walking Tour
China Seen Defusing Korea
China Clones, Sells Russian Fighter Jets

.But many more experts say they believe the pictures and the aircraft are authentic, giving the strongest indication yet that Beijing is making faster-than-expected progress in developing a rival to the U.S. F-22—the world's only fully operational stealth fighter.

China's defense ministry and air force couldn't be reached to comment on the latest photos. Even without official confirmation, however, the photographs are likely to bolster concerns among U.S. officials and politicians about China's military modernization, which also includes the imminent deployment of its first aircraft carrier and "carrier-killer" antiship ballistic missiles.

 Global View Columnist Bret Stephens analyzes the stealth fighter and China's growing firepower.
.Such weapons systems would significantly enhance China's ability to hinder U.S. intervention in a conflict over Taiwan, and challenge U.S. naval supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Gen. He Weirong, deputy head of China's Air Force, announced in 2009 that China's first stealth fighters were about to undergo test flights and would be deployed in "eight or 10 years." But there was no clear physical evidence of their existence until the latest photographs emerged.

Chinese authorities who monitor Internet traffic in the country appear not to have tried to block the J-20 pictures.

"The photos I've seen look genuine," said Gareth Jennings, aviation desk editor at Jane's Defence Weekly.

"It's pretty far down the line," he said. "The fact that its nose wheel is off the ground in one picture suggest this was a high-speed taxi test—that usually means a test flight very soon afterwards. All the talk we've heard is that this could happen some time in the next few weeks."

U.S. officials played down Chinese advances on the plane, which American intelligence agencies believe will likely be operational around 2018. "We are aware that the Chinese have recently been conducting taxi tests and there are photos of it," said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. "We know they are working on a fifth-generation fighter but progress appears to be uneven."

Col. Lapan said it appears the Chinese are still seeking engines for a fourth-generation fighter from Russia, an indication that they are "still encountering problems" with development work toward the fifth-generation aircraft, the J-20.

But the 2018 estimate suggests U.S. officials believe China's development of the fifth-generation fighter has accelerated. In 2009, Mr. Gates predicted that China wouldn't deploy a fifth-generation fighter until 2020. U.S. officials said the latest disclosures wouldn't affect any U.S. aircraft-development programs.

China has made rapid progress in developing a capability to produce advanced weapons, also including unmanned aerial vehicles, after decades of importing and reverse engineering Russian arms. The photographs throw a fresh spotlight on the sensitive issue of China's military modernization just as Washington and Beijing try to improve relations following a series of public disputes in 2010.

U.S.-China Disputes in 2010
January: China suspends military ties over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

March: China refuses to blame North Korea for sinking of South Korean ship

July: China protests after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says U.S. has national interest in South China Sea

September: China angered by perceived U.S. support for Japan in row over disputed islands.

U.S. House of Representatives passes bill authorizing action against China for manipulation of its currency

October: U.S. congratulates Liu Xiaobo, jailed Chinese dissident, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize

November: China refuses to condemn North Korea for artillery raid on South Korea.

U.S. sends aircraft carrier to joint military exercises with South Korea

December: U.S. again expresses support for Liu Xiaobo ahead of Nobel ceremony. U.S. moves two more aircraft carriers to the region
.Defense Secretary Gates is due to begin a long-delayed visit to Beijing on Sunday—almost exactly a year after China suspended military ties in protest over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

China's President Hu Jintao is then due to begin a state visit to the U.S. on Jan. 19. President Barack Obama joined in preparatory talks at the White House on Tuesday between his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. During the meeting, Mr. Obama said he was committed to building a bilateral relationship that is "cooperative in nature," the White House said.

The two countries clashed last year over issues including the value of the Chinese currency, China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and vocal U.S. support for a jailed Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The U.S. was also frustrated by China's refusal to condemn two North Korean attacks on South Korea, while Beijing was angered by a U.S. decision to respond to the second attack, the shelling of a South Korean island in November, by sending an aircraft carrier to take part in joint naval exercises with Seoul near China's coast.

The U.S. and its Asian allies have also been alarmed by China's naval maneuvers and more forceful stance on territorial issues, while China's military strategists have accused the U.S. of trying to "contain" China—most recently by sending two more aircraft carriers to the region in December.

"The U.S. wants to retain its global hegemony and also preserve its regional interests. It is not comfortable with China's military rise," Senior Col. Han Xudong, a professor at China's National Defense University, was quoted as saying in the Global Times newspaper Tuesday.

Experts who said they thought the photographs were authentic included Andrei Chang of the Canadian-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly, and Richard Fisher, an expert on the Chinese military at the International Strategy and Assessment Center in Washington.

Several experts said the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology.

They said that China was probably several years behind Russia, whose first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its first flight in January 2010, but that Beijing was catching up faster than expected.

The U.S. cut funding for the F-22 in 2009 in favor of the F-35, a smaller, cheaper stealth fighter that made its first test flight in 2006 and is expected to be fully deployed by around 2014. The F-22 has mainly been used for exercises and operations around U.S. airspace, but some have been deployed to Guam and Okinawa to help maintain the U.S. security umbrella in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Chinese prototype looks like it has "the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35," said Mr. Fisher. The J-20 has two engines, like the F-22, and is about the same size, while the F-35 is smaller and has only one engine.

China's stealth-fighter program has implications also for Japan, which is considering buying F-35s, and for India, which last month firmed up a deal with Russia to jointly develop and manufacture a stealth fighter.

— Adam Entous in Washington contributed to this article.
27515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Mohammed Cartoon Dust has not settled on: January 06, 2011, 08:23:43 AM
The event that kicked off this thread is STILL current.


The Mohammed Cartoon Dust Has Not Settled
January 6, 2011

By Scott Stewart

When one considers all of the people and places in the West targeted by transnational jihadists over the past few years, iconic targets such as New York’s Times Square, the London Metro and the Eiffel Tower come to mind. There are also certain target sets such as airlines and subways that jihadists focus on more than others. Upon careful reflection, however, it is hard to find any target set that has been more of a magnet for transnational jihadist ire over the past year than the small group of cartoonists and newspapers involved in the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

Every year STRATFOR publishes a forecast of the jihadist movement for the coming year. As we were working on that project for this year, we were struck by the number of plots in 2010 that involved the cartoon controversy — and by the number of those plots that had transnational dimensions, rather than plots that involved only local grassroots operatives. (The 2011 jihadist forecast will be available to STRATFOR members in the coming weeks.)

Groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have gone to great lengths to keep the topic of the Mohammed cartoons burning in the consciousness of radical Islamists, whether they are lone wolves or part of an organized jihadist group, and those efforts are obviously bearing fruit. Because of this, we anticipate that plots against cartoon-related targets will continue into the foreseeable future.

A Recent Plot

On Dec. 29, 2010, authorities in Denmark and Sweden arrested five men they say were involved in planning an armed assault on the offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen. Jyllands-Posten is the newspaper that first published the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005. According to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (known by its Danish acronym PET), three of the arrested men, a 29-year-old Swedish citizen born in Lebanon, a 44-year-old Tunisian and a 30-year-old Swedish citizen, lived in Sweden and had traveled to Denmark to participate in the plot. The other two individuals arrested were a 37-year-old Swedish citizen born in Tunisia who was detained in a Stockholm suburb and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker who was arrested in a Copenhagen suburb. The Iraqi has been released from Danish custody.

According to the PET, one of the three men who had traveled to Copenhagen, 29-year-old Swedish citizen Munir Awad, had been arrested in Somalia in 2007 and in Pakistan in 2009 on suspicion of participating in terrorist activity. When arrested in Pakistan, Awad was allegedly traveling in the company of Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen who had been released in 2004 after being held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Given Awad’s background, it is almost certain that he had been placed under intensive surveillance by Swedish authorities and it is likely this surveillance resulted in the unraveling of the plot.

In addition to Awad’s background, there are several other indicators that this latest plot against Jyllands-Posten was serious. First, the attack plan was reasonable, practical and achievable. The plotters sought to attack a specific target, the Jyllands-Posten offices, with an armed assault. They were not seeking to execute some sort of grandiose, fanciful attack using skills and weapons they did not possess, or to conduct attacks against targets that were too difficult to strike using their chosen method of attack. They appear to have been aware of their own capabilities and limitations and planned their attack accordingly.

This stands in stark contrast to plots like the one also thwarted in December in the Netherlands, where a group of Somalis allegedly plotted to shoot down a Dutch military helicopter but lacked even a rudimentary weapon with which to mount such an attack, much less a surface-to-air missile, the weapon of choice for anyone really wanting to bring down a helicopter. In another recently thwarted plot in the United Kingdom, the planners considered hitting pretty much every conceivable target in London, including the U.S. Embassy, Parliament, the London Stock Exchange and a host of religious and political leaders. The Copenhagen plotters were far more focused.

The PET said the group arrested in Denmark had obtained a pistol and a submachine gun equipped with a sound suppressor for use in its assault on the newspaper offices. Reportedly, the plotters were also found to possess flexible handcuffs, an indication that they may have been seeking to take hostages and create a theatrical terrorist operation to play to the world media.

In addition to conducting their preoperational surveillance, planning their operation and obtaining weapons, the plotters had also brought in a team of operatives from Sweden to assist them in implementing their plan. This indicates that the operation was likely in the later stages of the terrorist attack cycle and was close to being executed. Even though it appears that Swedish and Danish authorities had the plotters under close scrutiny, had the attack been launched against unsuspecting security at the Jyllands-Posten offices, it would have had a fairly good chance of creating considerable carnage and terror.

History of Plots

The cartoons received very little notice after their initial release by Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. It was not until early 2006 that a group of Muslim clerics traveling through the Middle East brought attention to the issue in a deliberate effort to stir up emotions. Those efforts were successful in fomenting a violent, if somewhat belated, reaction. In early February 2006, Danish and Norwegian embassies and consulates were attacked in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia. In Damascus, rioters set fire to the Danish and Norwegian missions, and in Beirut the Danish Embassy was burned. At least nine people died when protesters tried to storm an Italian Consulate in Libya while protesting the cartoons.

The furor diminished to a low boil but did not go away. In addition to calls by Muslims to boycott Danish goods, a Swedish newspaper published yet another cartoon of Mohammed, once again stoking the fires. In September 2007, Omar al-Baghdadi, then leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, offered a $100,000 reward for killing Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who drew the August 2007 cartoon in which the Prophet Mohammed was portrayed as a dog. In a March 2008 audiotape, a speaker purporting to be al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatened to conduct attacks in Europe because of the drawings. According to bin Laden, drawing cartoons of the Prophet was even more provocative than killing Muslim civilians.

On June 2, 2008, the Danish Embassy in Islamabad was attacked in a suicide vehicle bombing. Before the attack, the Danes had drawn down their embassy staff in Islamabad and, recognizing that their embassy was not very secure, had ordered the Danish staff remaining in Islamabad to work out of hotels. This move undoubtedly saved lives, as the bombing killed only a handful of people, mostly Pakistani Muslims.

But militants were clearly trying to take their retribution for the cartoons to Denmark itself. Following the October 2009 arrest of U.S. citizen David Headley, American officials learned that Headley, who had conducted preoperational surveillance for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, had also been dispatched to conduct surveillance in Denmark.

According to a complaint filed in federal court, the U.S. government determined that the Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI) had ordered Headley to travel from Chicago to Copenhagen on two occasions to plan attacks against Jyllands-Posten and cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in what HUJI called “Operation Mickey Mouse.” Westergaard is a Jyllands-Posten cartoonist who drew one of the original batch of 12 Mohammed cartoons in 2005. In Westergaard’s cartoon, the Prophet’s turban was depicted as a bomb, which caused the drawing to elicit a stronger reaction than the other cartoons. In January 2009, Headley conducted surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark. He then traveled to Pakistan, where he met with his HUJI handlers to brief them on the findings of his surveillance and to formulate an attack plan. Headley traveled back to Copenhagen in August 2009 to conduct additional surveillance (presumably to address issues that arose during the operational planning session in Pakistan). During this second trip, Headley made some 13 additional videos and took many photos of the potential targets and the areas around them. It is suspected that some of the observations, photographs and video recordings may have been used in planning some of the subsequent attacks against Jyllands-Posten and Westergaard.

Plots pertaining to the cartoon controversy in 2010 include:

On Jan. 1, a Somali man reportedly associated with the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab broke into Westergaard’s home armed with an axe and knife and allegedly tried to kill him. Westergaard retreated to a safe room and the assailant was shot and wounded by police.
On March 9, seven people were arrested in Ireland in connection with an alleged plot to kill cartoonist Lars Vilks. The group was apparently implicated with American Colleen LaRose (aka Jihad Jane) and included a second American woman, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez.
On May 11, Lars Vilks was assaulted as he tried to give a presentation at Uppsala University in Sweden. On May 14, Vilks’ home was the target of a failed arson attack.
On Sept. 10, a Chechen man was injured when a letter bomb he was assembling detonated prematurely inside a Copenhagen hotel bathroom. The letter bomb, which featured a main charge comprised of triacetone triperoxide and contained small steel pellets, was intended for Jyllands-Posten.
On Dec. 11, an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen detonated a poorly constructed explosive device in his car and then detonated a suicide vest, killing himself. The man had sent a warning email expressing anger over the Lars Vilks cartoon as well as the presence of Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan.

Cartoonists Remain in the Crosshairs

In July 2010, AQAP released the first edition of its English-language magazine Inspire. One of the articles in that issue was written by the American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who wrote, “If you have the right to slander the Messenger of Allah, we have the right to defend him. If it is part of your freedom of speech to defame Muhammad it is part of our religion to fight you.” He added: “Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.” Al-Awlaki also referred to a 2008 lecture he gave regarding the cartoon issue titled “The Dust Will Never Settle Down” and noted that, “Today, two years later, the dust still hasn’t settled down. In fact the dust cloud is only getting bigger.”

The first edition of Inspire also featured a “hit list” that includes the names of people like Westergaard and Vilks who were involved in the cartoon controversy as well as other targets such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who produced the controversial film Fitna in 2008; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Submission (filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the director of Submission, was murdered by a jihadist in November 2004); and Salman Rushdie, author of the book The Satanic Verses.

The van Gogh murder demonstrated that such targets were vulnerable to attack — and not just by highly skilled transnational operatives. They were also potential victims of grassroots jihadists using readily available weapons in relatively simple attacks. The January 2010 attack against Kurt Westergaard using an axe and knife underscored this point. In light of the events of 2010, al-Awlaki’s boasts ring true. The dust kicked up over the cartoon issue has not settled — and there is no indication it will any time soon.

27516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese developing stealth bomber on: January 06, 2011, 08:16:32 AM
Doubling BigDog's post from the US-China thread here so as to faciliatate research:
27517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti CAIR on: January 05, 2011, 09:12:52 PM
In Defense Of The Constitution

News & Analysis
January 5, 2011

     CAIR: “We Are First Defenders Offenders Of The Constitution”

     On December 23, Ibrahim Hooper, Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was interviewed on Press TV.  Press TV is an English language TV station controlled by the Iranian government through Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Hooper complained about law enforcement authorities training programs and went on to say: "I’m talking about twenty-five percent to 1/3 of Americans having an active hostility toward Islam and Muslims."

     What are the facts regarding “anti-Muslim bias” in America?  From the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) (2009) the following “hate crime” percentages are reported:

Year                             Religious Group

2009             Islam  9.3%                   Jewish  70.1%   
2008             Islam  7.7%                   Jewish  65.7%   
2007             Islam  9.0                      Jewish  68.4   

     The numbers of “victims” of anti-Muslim “hate crimes” is fairly unchanged from 2007 – 2009.  The largest group is, unsurprisingly, Jewish.  Although Jews are victims of “hate crimes” far more often than Muslims, we do not see any mainstream Jewish groups giving interviews for TV stations controlled by governments that are state sponsors of terrorism. Nor do we see Jewish groups railing against Law Enforcement or the American people for harboring an anti-Jewish sentiment or bias.

     Is CAIR defending our Constitution when so many “Anti-Muslim hate crimes” CAIR pushes are revealed to be committed by Muslims or fabricated in an attempt to either cover up criminal activity or to falsely demonstrate that Islam and Muslims are under "attack" in the United States?

     In the interview, Hooper's claim that “We are first defenders of the Constitution” is a pathetic joke and Hooper knows it. Consider CAIR-San Fransico's Director Zahra Billoo proudly claiming to be a "Muslim Anarchist" on her Twitter page and it can be fairly put to rest that any CAIR official has even a modicum of respect for the U.S. Constitution.

     CAIR is either at the throat of law enforcement officials or kissing their feet, depending on the mood du jour at CAIR headquarters. This is a confusion ploy and it can work very well. The threat of being branded an "Islamophobe" can make some people turn away from the facts. FOX's Bill O’Reilly even considered CAIR-Chicago supremacist Ahmed Rehab a “stand up guy” and long ago gave up any idea of investigating CAIR or CAIR’s connections to Islamist terrorists.

      CAIR often defensively whines over the violent actions of common street thugs and Islamic militants who have plotted, committed, or openly declared violent jihad against us. Hooper has the nerve to make the outrageous claim that 1/3 of Americans have an "active hostility" toward Muslims yet CAIR is demonstratively apathetic that 10-15% of One Billion Muslims actively support militant Jihadists.

     In New York City, CAIR pushed authorities to levy “hate crime” charges against two men involved in a 3AM brawl with “Imam” Rod Peterson.  This “Imam” or “religious leader” has a record of arrests for burglary, robbery, and illegal gun possession. Why is it that Muslim “religious leaders” CAIR shills for seem to have rap sheets or a history of taking part in odious crimes?  One man involved in the brawl was completely cleared of any wrongdoing and the other had charges reduced to misdemeanors. Once again, CAIR failed to add another statistic in its miserable campaign to claim that Americans hate Muslims.  Despite CAIR’s tireless efforts to create discord, in 2009 CAIR could only squeak out 11 “hate crimes” against Muslims in New York City.  The Jews?  Once again, they lead the pack in the Big Apple with over 250.  Perhaps it's safer to be a Muslim in New York than a Jew?

     The only thing that keeps civil people from pointing at CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper in public and exposing his obvious character flaws and outright lying nature is the fact that he calls himself a Muslim.  If Hooper weren’t claiming to be Muslim, he’d have been labeled just another has-been kook representing a supremacist fringe group that has pretensions of greatness based on religious bigotry. 

     Knowledge is power. CAIR works hard to hide the facts of radical Islam from ordinary Americans.  If the majority of Americans ever wake up to the truth of CAIR, we can be sure that the call for CAIR’s removal from our shores would ring so loud that every local, state, and national law enforcement agency would be forced to act.

     The large majority of Muslims in America and around the world know that fascist, political Islam is not compatible with our Constitution and it never will be. This is what attracts many to our shores. They know that fanatical religious police cannot bother them here, that accusations of blasphemy will not result in stoning, or that their body parts cannot be cut off for theft, real or imagined. They are Free.

     CAIR and Hooper have breathlessly pushed the lie of "Islamophobia" and continuously fail to prove it actually exists. Where CAIR finds "Islamophobia", the reality is often nothing more than Americans showing concern for radical Islamist groups involving themselves in endeavors that are designed to weaken our Constitution or promote the ideals of Islamist supremacy. Hooper can thank himself, his organization, and his fellow travelers for any “misunderstandings” Americans have regarding Islam.

Andrew Whitehead

Story Links:
27518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 05, 2011, 08:54:20 PM
Now you've done it JDN, he's on a rampage!  cheesy 

More seriously now, wouldn't you love to have these folks as your neighbors and marrying your daughters?
27519  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 05, 2011, 08:46:06 PM
103?!?  That's scary!  Glad all is well.

Grateful for a fine day of training with a good friend.
27520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 05, 2011, 05:44:11 PM
Forgive me for interjecting here, but as best as I can tell the point is the standards to which Israel should be held.  The question is not what the US should do about Egypt and the Copts, the point is that the treatment of Christians throughout the mid-east, including Egypt and Iraq shows a pronounced proclivity to Islamic animus towards anything not Islamic.  In that Israel is surrounded by such folks, standards need to be formulated in a way that does call for Israel to prepare the way for its own destruction.
27521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: January 05, 2011, 05:36:57 PM
The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 57.1 in December To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/5/2011

The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 57.1 in December from 55.0 in November, easily beating the consensus expected gain to 55.7. (Levels above 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)

The key sub-indexes were mixed in December, but remain at levels indicating robust economic growth. The new orders index increased to 63.0 from 57.7 and the business activity index rose to 63.5 from 57.0, both multi-year highs. The employment index fell to 50.5 from 52.7 and the supplier deliveries index fell to 51.5 from 52.5.
The prices paid index increased to 70.0 in December, the highest since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, from 63.2 in November.   
Implications:  The early stage of the economic recovery was dominated by the manufacturing sector. That phase is now over: the service sector is growing rapidly, too. The US economy continues to pick up steam, supporting our forecast of a 5% real GDP growth rate in Q4. Today’s ISM Services headline of 57.1 is the highest reading since May 2006. The business activity index, which has an even higher correlation with real GDP growth, hit 63.5, the highest since 2005. The new orders index was also the highest since 2005. On the inflation front, the prices paid index increased to 70.0, the highest since the financial panic started in late 2008. In other news this morning, the ADP employment index, a measure of private sector payrolls, increased by 297,000 in December, the largest increase in the index’s history, dating back to 2000.  As a result, we are lifting our forecast for the gain in private sector payrolls in Friday’s official Labor Department report to 230,000. (Non-farm payrolls should climb about 215,000 due to ongoing layoffs by states and localities.) In other news from late yesterday, automakers reported that sales of cars and light trucks hit a 12.5 million annual pace in December, up 2.3% from November and up 13% versus a year ago.   The service sector is getting stronger, firms are hiring again, and workers are confident enough about the future to ramp up their purchases of big-ticket items.  What a great way to start a new year.
27522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Chronicle on: January 05, 2011, 11:31:10 AM
The Foundation
"[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments." --Alexander Hamilton

Editorial Exegesis

Boehner to have the Constitution read aloud"For the last decade, presidents and Congresses representing both major political parties have caused federal spending, regulation, and debt to explode as never before, with a result that the central government is in truly dire financial shape even as its power to control the most minute details of American daily life has never been greater. ... [W]e think incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has been unjustly criticized in some, mostly liberal, precincts for his decision to open the 112th Congress with a public reading of the Constitution. Aside from the sad fact that the reading will likely be the closest encounter many lawmakers have ever had with the actual words of the document, the occasion will be a happy one because it will also provide citizens across the country with an opportunity to join Congress in examining and discussing the words of our founding document. Comparing the words of the Constitution to the actions of our leaders in recent years will surely make clear the enduring wisdom of James Madison's warning that 'there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.' Talking seriously about this condition is the first step to remedying it, just as Madison and the rest of the Founders intended." --The Washington Examiner

Deliberate ignorance: "[Reading the Constitution aloud in Congress is] a gimmick. I mean, you can say two things about it. One, is that it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don't read the text and think they're following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done." --Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein

27523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: January 05, 2011, 11:24:44 AM
"Crafty, So, do you think the jurisdictions where police have arrested people for videotaping them in public venues are justified?"

How do you get that from what I am saying?  huh
27524  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Officer shoots knife attacker on: January 05, 2011, 11:18:05 AM
27525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Top Ten screw ups on: January 05, 2011, 02:08:29 AM
27526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 05, 2011, 01:55:52 AM
We could start by noting that the hatred of Israel and the Jews really has little to do with what Israel does and does not do; the hatred simply is of anything not Islamic.  Such an awareness should inform the criteria by which we judge Israel.   Our society's ideas about racism are formed in the context of the majority dealing with minorities.  OTOH Israel is surrounded by vastly superior numbers of those, many/most of whom wish to wipe it out.  Given its size, the margin of error for Israel is quite small.
27527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Potentially significant on: January 05, 2011, 01:44:37 AM
Potential Significance of a Local Afghan Deal

A local peace deal may be emerging in one of the most violent corners of Afghanistan. U.S. Maj. Gen. Robert Mills, commander of Regional Command Southwest and commanding general of First Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), on Monday confirmed reports from the weekend that the largest tribe in Sangin district in Helmand province has pledged to end fighting and expel “foreign” fighters from the area. The Taliban, for their part, remain silent on the issue. But according to reports, the deal was struck with the Alikozai tribe in the Sarwan-Qalah area of the Upper Sangin Valley (only a portion of Sangin district), which controls some 30 villages. The agreement was made between tribal elders and the provincial governor, though the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was involved.

ISAF has neither the troops nor the staying power to actually defeat the Taliban. While they may yet succeed in eroding the strength and cohesion of the Taliban phenomenon, any lasting exit strategy would require some sort of political accommodation. In a sense, this can be compared to Iraq, where the 2007 surge of American combat forces — while not without its impact — did not turn the tide in Mesopotamia so much as play a supporting role in a political arrangement with Sunni insurgents (in the previously restive Anbar province and beyond) to not only cease supporting but to actively cooperate in the form of both local militias and, critically, intelligence sharing, in the war against the foreign jihadists that they had previously fought alongside. While Iraqi and regional politics remain very much in flux, this paved the way for a national-scale counter to the Sunni insurgency and foreign jihadist threat.

“The history of insurgency provides little to suggest that recent gains presage or herald an entity near defeat.”
Due to terrain and demography, power in Afghanistan — militarily and politically — is far more localized. While a comprehensive deal with the Pashtun, the ethnic group at the heart of the Taliban insurgency, could yield considerable results, the Pashtun do not fear any other ethnic group in the country as the Sunnis in Iraq feared the Shia. And the nature of local and tribal loyalties — not to mention the now cross-border and transnational Taliban phenomenon — makes settling on, much less enforcing, a nationwide solution far more problematic. Indeed, the Alikozai tribe speaks for only a small portion of Sangin (not to mention the potential impact of tribal rivalries) while the provincial government in Helmand has very little ability to impose or enforce much of anything on its own.

But while this most recent development in Sangin does not mark the beginning of a comprehensive solution, it remains noteworthy. Under the American counterinsurgency-focused strategy, forces have been massed in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar provinces — the heartland and home turf of the Afghan Taliban. In places like Nawa and Marjah, the sustained application of force has pushed the Taliban from territory that they once held uncontested. And the ability to turn the tide politically in former insurgent strongholds (as in Anbar province) has the potential to have wider significance.

Yet, it is classic guerrilla strategy to fall back in the face of concentrated conventional military force. STRATFOR does not trust the recent quietude of the Taliban in Helmand and beyond. The history of insurgency provides little to suggest that recent gains presage or herald an entity near defeat. And while ISAF’s claims of progress in terms of undermining Taliban funds and the capturing and killing of its leadership do not appear to be without grounds (though the true seniority of those killed and the operational impact of those losses remain pivotal questions), that does not necessarily translate into a more lasting political solution.

After all, while the United States succeeded in Iraq in extracting itself from an internal counterinsurgency battle that it was losing, the fate of the wider region is anything but settled. Transnational and regional issues — as well as the larger American grand strategy — will continue to loom long after American and allied forces begin to leave Afghanistan. But finding a solution whereby ISAF can extract itself from the day-to-day work of a difficult counterinsurgency where foreign forces are at an inherent disadvantage is of central importance to the current campaign in Afghanistan. And all caveats aside, political accommodation in Sangin must be seen as a positive development. Just how positive remains to be seen and will warrant close scrutiny in the weeks and months ahead.

27528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: January 04, 2011, 08:02:42 PM
Hell, I doubled MCP when I sold at 30. (good profits in REE too)  I'd have a four bagger now if I had held.

27529  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Membership on: January 04, 2011, 11:45:18 AM
Yes it is.  The Fax number is at the bottom of the front page.
27530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: January 04, 2011, 11:07:14 AM

Perhaps because if a human being is doing it, usually I can see them.    Surveillance cameras are often quite sneaky.  Also, with the accelerating technology in this area we are looking at levels of surveillance previously unimaginable.
27531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire-1 on: January 04, 2011, 10:37:55 AM

Intersting post.  May I suggest that it probably would fit better on the Survivalism thread?
27532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: January 03, 2011, 08:12:08 PM
The ISM Manufacturing index increased to 57.0 in December To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 1/3/2011

The ISM Manufacturing index increased to 57.0 in December from 56.6 in November, exactly as the consensus expected gain. (Levels higher than 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)

The major measures of activity were mixed in December but all remain well above well above 50.0, signaling continued growth. The new orders index increased to 60.9 from 56.6 and the production index increased to 60.7 from 55.0. The supplier deliveries index declined to 55.9 from 57.2 and the employment index also fell slightly to 55.7 from 57.5.

The prices paid index increased to 72.5 in December from 69.5 in November.
Implications:  Manufacturing continued to show strong growth in December, with the ISM index coming in at 57.0, the highest level since May. The new orders and production indices both rose back above 60, suggesting more strong growth ahead. While the employment index fell slightly, it remained solidly above 50 for the 13th straight month. According to the Institute for Supply Management, which publishes the report, an overall index level of 57.0 is consistent with real economic growth at a 5% annual rate, right on pace with our forecast for Q4. On the inflation front, the prices paid index rose to 72.5 from an already elevated 69.5 in November. In other news this morning, construction increased 0.4% in November and an even stronger 1% including upward revisions to prior months.  The upward revisions were for both home building and commercial construction.  The 0.4% gain in November was primarily due to home building and office construction by the federal government.  In other recent news, last week’s report on the Case-Shiller index shows that home prices in the 20 largest metro areas around the country declined 1% in October (seasonally-adjusted) and are down 0.8% in the past year.  However, home prices are still 1.8% higher than the cycle low hit in May 2009. We do not believe the recent decline is a sign of a double-dip in housing. Rather, it’s an aftershock of the government’s tax credit for home buyers.   We expect home prices to rise in 2011.
27533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 03, 2011, 04:17:25 PM
"Time and other MSM "JournoList-ism" practitioners cannot be seen as journalists in the classical definition. Rather than news, they write editorials in the guise of news articles, with a intent of propaganidizing the public rather than informing."


BD, I agree that with your mindset you can get useful starting points from JournoLists, indeed very JKD of you to do so  wink but FWIW for myself I think there are other sources more that give more value for my time. For example see CCP's post of the interview with Khosla on January 1 with regard to energy and environmental predictions on the Stock Market thread of our "S,C, &H" forum.

Anyway, I suspect we are near to confusing a horse with a cat-- the cat may have 9 lives, but this horse is probably dead by now from the beating we have given him  cheesy  Last word yours smiley

27534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 03, 2011, 12:21:43 PM

Of course Time probably does have some content with merit, but as the piece posted by GM illustrates, IMHO it is a seriously deceptive publication.  I have no problem with reading material with which I disagree, but I find it inefficient and counterproductive to spend time with things whose integrity I doubt.  For example, even though I agree with Debka's biases in favor of Israel, I refuse to read it because I find it to be a seriously irresponsible source.  Similarly I regard Time like I regard Oliver Stone's movie on the JFK assasination-- too hard to discern the lines between fact and fiction.
27535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 03, 2011, 12:15:35 PM
Demographics present a real problem here.  The German birth rate is far below replacement levels (anyone have the exact number handy?  Perhaps it can be found in the "Demographics" thread?) and the Turkish and Arab rate is well above it IIRC. 
27536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: January 03, 2011, 12:09:49 PM
Hard to take on 20 predictions across the span of human activity in one post BD  smiley

I will note that I disagree with #4's assumption of global warming (which is found in some of the other predictions as well) and thought that changes need to be made before prices of current energy models rise.  Quite the contrary, the market mechanism is by far the most efficient way both in terms of speed of change and efficacy in making wise decisions.  Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is but another way of stating the opening verse of the Tao Te Ching (The Tao which can be spoken of is not the Tao , , , The Tao does nothing but all is done." . . . or something like that).
27537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 02, 2011, 10:49:28 PM
Both the compliment to you and the attendant insult to Time are intended  cheesy
27538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 02, 2011, 08:24:06 PM
I get that, but for me Time simply is not worth the time.  You are a very bright and very well educated man and life is short, so it surprises me that you do  cheesy
27539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: January 02, 2011, 08:20:04 PM
"Crafty, are you saying that signs should be posted in public spaces that surveillance cameras are being used?
On street corners?  In front of ATM machines?  Inside Office lobbies? Government buildings?  Hotels?"


"As long as you have no expectation of privacy, I don't think there should be any restrictions on cameras."

I have not said otherwise!  I have said that people should be informed if they are systematically surveilled.  To be perfectly clear, what I have in mind is different from, say, videoing someone on a workman's comp fraud case, or a politician or other public figure simply hiding cameras and recording every and anybody in sight.

@GM:  I would love to hear about that little adventure of yours, eithere here or by email wink

PS:  It occurs to me that your , , , comfort with authority may come from your being surveilled all the time  cheesy
27540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: January 02, 2011, 05:41:57 PM
In many circumstances this might be true, but in many others I think not.   

Try an experiment.  Have someone you don't know and whose motives may or may not be known to you follow you around with a camera all the time.  See how it feels.

Requiring posting the presence of cameras seems to me quite a simple and right thing to do.
27541  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: January 02, 2011, 03:43:39 PM
Details , , , soon grin
27542  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: January 02, 2011, 03:35:10 PM
Hosted by Rob Crowley
27543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Things are heating up on: January 02, 2011, 02:18:10 PM
27544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: January 02, 2011, 12:16:01 PM
Nice article on MY reposted on his site:
27545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Scott Grannis comments on: January 02, 2011, 11:59:02 AM
For every flash crash caused by high-speed or automated trading, you can expect to find new automated trading programs that work the opposite way, to take advantage of arbitrary declines in prices. That is the role of speculators, after all: buy when everyone else is selling, and vice versa. I think the concerns over automated trading are overblown. The market will adapt, as smart people look to things like flash crashes as great opportunities to make money.
Marc:  This is true, but little folks like me cannot tell when a dramatic decline is arbitrary and momentary or is a real excrement storm. 
27546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Electronic trading on: January 02, 2011, 11:23:56 AM
a) It read like venture capital to me.

b) Six months presents no issues for me when the subject matter is not transient.

Here's an interesting piece from today's NYTimes.
A SUBSTANTIAL part of all stock trading in the United States takes place in a warehouse in a nondescript business park just off the New Jersey Turnpike.

Few humans are present in this vast technological sanctum, known as New York Four. Instead, the building, nearly the size of three football fields, is filled with long avenues of computer servers illuminated by energy-efficient blue phosphorescent light.

Countless metal cages contain racks of computers that perform all kinds of trades for Wall Street banks, hedge funds, brokerage firms and other institutions. And within just one of these cages — a tight space measuring 40 feet by 45 feet and festooned with blue and white wires — is an array of servers that together form the mechanized heart of one of the top four stock exchanges in the United States.

The exchange is called Direct Edge, hardly a household name. But as the lights pulse on its servers, you can almost see the holdings in your 401(k) zip by.

“This,” says Steven Bonanno, the chief technology officer of the exchange, looking on proudly, “is where everyone does their magic.”

In many of the world’s markets, nearly all stock trading is now conducted by computers talking to other computers at high speeds. As the machines have taken over, trading has been migrating from raucous, populated trading floors like those of the New York Stock Exchange to dozens of separate, rival electronic exchanges. They rely on data centers like this one, many in the suburbs of northern New Jersey.

While this “Tron” landscape is dominated by the titans of Wall Street, it affects nearly everyone who owns shares of stock or mutual funds, or who has a stake in a pension fund or works for a public company. For better or for worse, part of your wealth, your livelihood, is throbbing through these wires.

The advantages of this new technological order are clear. Trading costs have plummeted, and anyone can buy stocks from anywhere in seconds with the simple click of a mouse or a tap on a smartphone’s screen.

But some experts wonder whether the technology is getting dangerously out of control. Even apart from the huge amounts of energy the megacomputers consume, and the dangers of putting so much of the economy’s plumbing in one place, they wonder whether the new world is a fairer one — and whether traders with access to the fastest machines win at the expense of ordinary investors.

It also seems to be a much more hair-trigger market. The so-called flash crash in the market last May — when stock prices plunged hundreds of points before recovering — showed how unpredictable the new systems could be. Fear of this volatile, blindingly fast market may be why ordinary investors have been withdrawing money from domestic stock mutual funds —$90 billion worth since May, according to figures from the Investment Company Institute.

No one knows whether this is a better world, and that includes the regulators, who are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation in the great technological arms race that the stock market has become.

WILLIAM O’BRIEN, a former lawyer for Goldman Sachs, crosses the Hudson River each day from New York to reach his Jersey City destination — a shiny blue building opposite a Courtyard by Marriott.

Mr. O’Brien, 40, works there as chief executive of Direct Edge, the young electronic stock exchange that is part of New Jersey’s burgeoning financial ecosystem. Seven miles away, in Secaucus, is the New York Four warehouse that houses Direct Edge’s servers. Another cluster of data centers, serving various companies, is five miles north, in Weehawken, at the western mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel. And yet another is planted 20 miles south on the New Jersey Turnpike, at Exit 12, in Carteret, N.J.

As Mr. O’Brien says, “New Jersey is the new heart of Wall Street.”

Direct Edge’s office demonstrates that it doesn’t take many people to become a major outfit in today’s electronic market. The firm, whose motto is “Everybody needs some edge,” has only 90 employees, most of them on this building’s sixth floor. There are lines of cubicles for programmers and a small operations room where two men watch a wall of screens, checking that market-order traffic moves smoothly and, of course, quickly. Direct Edge receives up to 10,000 orders a second.

Mr. O’Brien’s personal story reflects the recent history of stock-exchange upheaval. A fit, blue-eyed Wall Street veteran, who wears the monogram “W O’B” on his purple shirt cuff, Mr. O’Brien is the son of a seat holder and trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the 1970s, when the Big Board was by far the biggest game around.

But in the 1980s, Nasdaq, a new electronic competitor, challenged that dominance. And a bigger upheaval came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, after the Securities and Exchange Commission enacted a series of regulations to foster competition and drive down commission costs for ordinary investors.

These changes forced the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq to post orders electronically and execute them immediately, at the best price available in the United States — suddenly giving an advantage to start-up operations that were faster and cheaper. Mr. O’Brien went to work for one of them, called Brut. The N.Y.S.E. and Nasdaq fought back, buying up smaller rivals: Nasdaq, for example, acquired Brut. And to give itself greater firepower, the N.Y.S.E., which had been member-owned, became a public, for-profit company.

Brokerage firms and traders came to fear that a Nasdaq-N.Y.S.E. duopoly was asserting itself, one that would charge them heavily for the right to trade, so they created their own exchanges. One was Direct Edge, which formally became an exchange six months ago. Another, the BATS Exchange, is located in another unlikely capital of stock market trading: Kansas City, Mo.

Direct Edge now trails the N.Y.S.E. and Nasdaq in size; it vies with BATS for third place. Direct Edge is backed by a powerful roster of financial players: Goldman Sachs, Knight Capital, Citadel Securities and the International Securities Exchange, its largest shareholder. JPMorgan also holds a stake. Direct Edge still occupies the same building as its original founder, Knight Capital, in Jersey City.


Page 2 of 4)

The exchange now accounts for about 10 percent of stock market trading in the United States, according to the exchange and the TABB Group, a specialist on the markets. Of the 8.5 billion shares traded daily in the United States, about 833 million are bought and sold on Mr. O’Brien’s platforms.

As it has grown, Direct Edge and other new venues have sucked volumes away from the Big Board and Nasdaq. The N.Y.S.E. accounted for more than 70 percent of trading in N.Y.S.E.-listed stocks just five years ago. Now, the Big Board handles only 36 percent of those trades itself. The remaining market share is divided among about 12 other public exchanges, several electronic trading platforms and vast so-called unlit markets, including those known as dark pools.
THE Big Board is embracing the new warp-speed world. Although it maintains a Wall Street trading floor, even that is mostly electronic. The exchange also has its own, separate electronic arm, Arca, and opened a new data center last year for its computers in Mahwah, N.J.

From his office in New Jersey, Mr. O’Brien looks back across the water to Manhattan and his former office on the 50th floor of the Nasdaq building at One Liberty Plaza, and he reflects wistfully on the huge changes that have taken place.

“To walk out of there to go across the river to Jersey City,” he says. “That was a big leap of faith.”

His colleague, Bryan Harkins, the exchange’s chief operating officer, sounds confident about the impact of the past decade’s changes. The new world is fairer, he says, because it is more competitive. “We helped break the grip of the New York Stock Exchange,” he says.

In this high-tech stock market, Direct Edge and the other exchanges are sprinting for advantage. All the exchanges have pushed down their latencies — the fancy word for the less-than-a-blink-of-an-eye that it takes them to complete a trade. Almost each week, it seems, one exchange or another claims a new record: Nasdaq, for example, says its time for an average order “round trip” is 98 microseconds — a mind-numbing speed equal to 98 millionths of a second.

The exchanges have gone warp speed because traders have demanded it. Even mainstream banks and old-fashioned mutual funds have embraced the change.

“Broker-dealers, hedge funds, traditional asset managers have been forced to play keep-up to stay in the game,” Adam Honoré, research director of the Aite Group, wrote in a recent report.

Even the savings of many long-term mutual fund investors are swept up in this maelstrom, when fund managers make changes in their holdings. But the exchanges are catering mostly to a different market breed — to high-frequency traders who have turned speed into a new art form. They use algorithms to zip in and out of markets, often changing orders and strategies within seconds. They make a living by being the first to react to events, dashing past slower investors — a category that includes most investors — to take advantage of mispricing between stocks, for example, or differences in prices quoted across exchanges.

One new strategy is to use powerful computers to speed-read news reports — even Twitter messages — automatically, then to let their machines interpret and trade on them.

By using such techniques, traders may make only the tiniest fraction of a cent on each trade. But multiplied many times a second over an entire day, those fractions add up to real money. According to Kevin McPartland of the TABB Group, high-frequency traders now account for 56 percent of total stock market trading. A measure of their importance is that rather than charging them commissions, some exchanges now even pay high-frequency traders to bring orders to their machines.

High-frequency traders are “the reason for the massive infrastructure,” Mr. McPartland says. “Everyone realizes you have to attract the high-speed traders.”

As everyone goes warp speed, a number of high-tech construction projects are under way.


Page 3 of 4)

One such project is a 428,000-square-foot data center in the western suburbs of Chicago opened by the CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It houses the exchange’s Globex electronic futures and options trading platform and space for traders to install computers next to the exchange’s machines, a practice known as co-location — at a cost of about $25,000 a month per rack of computers.

The exchange is making its investment because derivatives as well as stocks are being swept up in the high-frequency revolution. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission estimates that high-frequency traders now account for about one-third of all volume on domestic futures exchanges.
In August, Spread Networks of Ridgeland, Miss., completed an 825-mile fiber optic network connecting the South Loop of Chicago to Cartaret, N.J., cutting a swath across central Pennsylvania and reducing the round-trip trading time between Chicago and New York by three milliseconds, to 13.33 milliseconds.

Then there are the international projects. Fractions of a second are regularly being shaved off of the busy Frankfurt-to-London route. And in October, a company called Hibernia Atlantic announced plans for a new fiber-optic link beneath the Atlantic from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Somerset, England that will be able to send shares from London to New York and back in 60 milliseconds.

Bjarni Thorvardarson, chief executive of Hibernia Atlantic, says the link, due to open in 2012, is primarily intended to meet the needs of high-frequency algorithmic traders and will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“People are going over the lake and through the church, whatever it takes,” he says. “It is very important for these algorithmic traders to have the most advanced technology.”

The pace of investment, of course, reflects the billions of dollars that are at stake.

The data center in Weehawken is a modern building that looks more like a shopping mall than a center for equity trading. But one recent afternoon, the hammering and drilling of the latest phase of expansion seemed to conjure up the wealth being dug out of the stock market.

As the basement was being transformed into a fourth floor for yet more computers, one banker who was touring the complex explained the matter bluntly: “Speed,” he said, “is money. “

THE “flash crash,” the harrowing plunge in share prices that shook the stock market during the afternoon of May 6 last year, crystallized the fears of some in the industry that technology was getting ahead of the regulators. In their investigation into the plunge, the S.E.C. and Commodity Futures Trading Commission found that the drop was precipitated not by a rogue high-frequency firm, but by the sale of a single $4.1 billion block of E-Mini Standard & Poor’s 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange by a mutual fund company.

The fund company, Waddell & Reed Financial of Overland Park, Kan., conducted its sale through a computer algorithm provided by Barclays Capital, one of the many off-the shelf programs available to investors these days. The algorithm automatically dripped the billions of dollars of sell orders into the futures market over 20 minutes, continuing even as prices started to drop when other traders jumped in.

The sale may have been a case of inept timing — the markets were already roiled by the debt crisis in Europe. But there was no purposeful attempt to disrupt the market, the regulators found.

But there was a role played by some high-frequency machines, the investigation found. As they detected the big sale and the choppy conditions, some of them shut down automatically. As the number of buyers plunged, so, too, did the Dow Jones Industrial Average, losing more than 700 points in minutes before the computers returned and prices recovered just as quickly. More than 20,000 trades were ruled invalid.

The episode seemed to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of the new market, and just what could happen when no humans are in charge to correct the machines.

Since the flash crash, the S.E.C. and the exchanges have introduced marketwide circuit breakers on individual stocks to halt trading if a price falls 10 percent within a five-minute period.

But some analysts fear that some aspects of the flash crash may portend dangers greater than mere mechanical failure. They say some wild swings in prices may suggest that a small group of high-frequency traders could manipulate the market. Since May, there have been regular mini-flash crashes in individual stocks for which, some say, there are still no satisfactory explanations. Some experts say these drops in individual stocks could herald a future cataclysm.


Page 4 of 4)

In a speech last month, Bart Chilton, a member of the futures trading commission, raised concerns about the effect of high-frequency trading on the markets. “With the advent of ‘Star Trek’-like, gee-whiz H.F.T. technology, we are witnessing one of the most game-changing and tumultuous shifts we have ever seen in financial markets,” Mr. Chilton said. “We also have to think about the myriad ramifications of technology.”

One debate has focused on whether some traders are firing off fake orders thousands of times a second to slow down exchanges and mislead others. Michael Durbin, who helped build high-frequency trading systems for companies like Citadel and is the author of the book “All About High-Frequency Trading,” says that most of the industry is legitimate and benefits investors. But, he says, the rules need to be strengthened to curb some disturbing practices.
“Markets are there for capital formation and long-term investment, not for gaming,” he says.

As it tries to work out the implications of the technology, the S.E.C. is a year into a continuing review of the new market structure. Mary L. Schapiro, the S.E.C. chairwoman, has already proposed creating a consolidated audit trail, so that buying and selling records from different exchanges can be examined together in one place.

In speeches, Ms. Schapiro has also raised the idea of limiting the speed at which machines can trade, or requiring high-frequency traders to stay in markets as buyers or sellers even in volatile conditions. just as human market makers often did on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. .

“The emergence of multiple trading venues that offer investors the benefits of greater competition also has made our market structure more complex,” she said in Senate testimony last month, adding, “We should not attempt to turn the clock back to the days of trading crowds on exchange floors.”

MOST of the exchanges have already eliminated a controversial electronic trading technique known as flash orders, which allow traders’ computers to peek at other investors’ orders a tiny fraction of a second before they are sent to the wider marketplace. Direct Edge, however, still offers a version of this service.

The futures trading commission is considering how to regulate data centers, and the practice of co-location. The regulators are also examining the implications of so-called dark pools, another product of the technological revolution, in which large blocks of shares are traded electronically and without the scrutiny exercised on public markets. Their very name raises questions about the transparency of markets. About 30 percent of domestic equities are traded on these and other “unlit” venues, the S.E.C. says.

For Mr. O’Brien, the benefits of technology are clear. “One thing has surprised me: people have looked at this as a bad thing,” he says. “There is almost no other industry where people say we need less technology. Fifteen years ago, trades took much longer to execute and were much more expensive by any measure” because market power was more concentrated in a few large firms. “Now someone can execute a trade from their mobile from anywhere on the planet. That seems to me like a market that is fairer.”

For others who work at the company or elsewhere in the financial ecosystem of New Jersey, it has been a boon.

“A lot of my friends work here or in this area,” says Andrei Girenkov, 28, one of Direct Edge’s chief programmers, over lunch recently in Dorrian’s restaurant in Direct Edge’s building. “It changed my life.”

But some analysts question whether everyone benefits from this technological upending.

“It is a technological arms race in financial markets and the regulators are a bit caught unaware of how quickly the technology has evolved,” says Andrew Lo, director of the Laboratory for Financial Engineering at M.I.T. “Sometimes, too much technology without the ability to manage it effectively can yield some unintended consequences. We need to ask the hard questions about how much of this do we really need. It is the Wild, Wild West in trading.”

Mr. Lo suggests a need for a civilizing influence. “Finally,” he says, “it gets to the point where we have a massive traffic jam and we need to install traffic lights.”

27547  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Stick Grappling on: January 02, 2011, 10:49:55 AM
 grin grin grin
27548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Computer surveillance smarter than you think on: January 02, 2011, 10:42:00 AM
Hundreds of correctional officers from prisons across America descended last spring on a shuttered penitentiary in West Virginia for annual training exercises.

Some officers played the role of prisoners, acting like gang members and stirring up trouble, including a mock riot. The latest in prison gear got a workout — body armor, shields, riot helmets, smoke bombs, gas masks. And, at this year’s drill, computers that could see the action.
Perched above the prison yard, five cameras tracked the play-acting prisoners, and artificial-intelligence software analyzed the images to recognize faces, gestures and patterns of group behavior. When two groups of inmates moved toward each other, the experimental computer system sent an alert — a text message — to a corrections officer that warned of a potential incident and gave the location.

The computers cannot do anything more than officers who constantly watch surveillance monitors under ideal conditions. But in practice, officers are often distracted. When shifts change, an observation that is worth passing along may be forgotten. But machines do not blink or forget. They are tireless assistants.

The enthusiasm for such systems extends well beyond the nation’s prisons. High-resolution, low-cost cameras are proliferating, found in products like smartphones and laptop computers. The cost of storing images is dropping, and new software algorithms for mining, matching and scrutinizing the flood of visual data are progressing swiftly.

A computer-vision system can watch a hospital room and remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands, or warn of restless patients who are in danger of falling out of bed. It can, through a computer-equipped mirror, read a man’s face to detect his heart rate and other vital signs. It can analyze a woman’s expressions as she watches a movie trailer or shops online, and help marketers tailor their offerings accordingly. Computer vision can also be used at shopping malls, schoolyards, subway platforms, office complexes and stadiums.

All of which could be helpful — or alarming.

“Machines will definitely be able to observe us and understand us better,” said Hartmut Neven, a computer scientist and vision expert at Google. “Where that leads is uncertain.”

Google has been both at the forefront of the technology’s development and a source of the anxiety surrounding it. Its Street View service, which lets Internet users zoom in from above on a particular location, faced privacy complaints. Google will blur out people’s homes at their request.

Google has also introduced an application called Goggles, which allows people to take a picture with a smartphone and search the Internet for matching images. The company’s executives decided to exclude a facial-recognition feature, which they feared might be used to find personal information on people who did not know that they were being photographed.

Despite such qualms, computer vision is moving into the mainstream. With this technological evolution, scientists predict, people will increasingly be surrounded by machines that can not only see but also reason about what they are seeing, in their own limited way.

The uses, noted Frances Scott, an expert in surveillance technologies at the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department’s research agency, could allow the authorities to spot a terrorist, identify a lost child or locate an Alzheimer’s patient who has wandered off.

The future of law enforcement, national security and military operations will most likely rely on observant machines. A few months ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s research arm, awarded the first round of grants in a five-year research program called the Mind’s Eye. Its goal is to develop machines that can recognize, analyze and communicate what they see. Mounted on small robots or drones, these smart machines could replace human scouts. “These things, in a sense, could be team members,” said James Donlon, the program’s manager.

Millions of people now use products that show the progress that has been made in computer vision. In the last two years, the major online photo-sharing services — Picasa by Google, Windows Live Photo Gallery by Microsoft, Flickr by Yahoo and iPhoto by Apple — have all started using face recognition. A user puts a name to a face, and the service finds matches in other photographs. It is a popular tool for finding and organizing pictures.

Kinect, an add-on to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, is a striking advance for computer vision in the marketplace. It uses a digital camera and sensors to recognize people and gestures; it also understands voice commands. Players control the computer with waves of the hand, and then move to make their on-screen animated stand-ins — known as avatars — run, jump, swing and dance. Since Kinect was introduced in November, game reviewers have applauded, and sales are surging.

To Microsoft, Kinect is not just a game, but a step toward the future of computing. “It’s a world where technology more fundamentally understands you, so you don’t have to understand it,” said Alex Kipman, an engineer on the team that designed Kinect.

‘Please Wash Your Hands’

A nurse walks into a hospital room while scanning a clipboard. She greets the patient and washes her hands. She checks and records his heart rate and blood pressure, adjusts the intravenous drip, turns him over to look for bed sores, then heads for the door but does not wash her hands again, as protocol requires. “Pardon the interruption,” declares a recorded women’s voice, with a slight British accent. “Please wash your hands.”

Three months ago, Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., began an experiment with computer vision in a single hospital room. Three small cameras, mounted inconspicuously on the ceiling, monitor movements in Room 542, in a special care unit (a notch below intensive care) where patients are treated for conditions like severe pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes. The cameras track people going in and out of the room as well as the patient’s movements in bed.


The first applications of the system, designed by scientists at General Electric, are immediate reminders and alerts. Doctors and nurses are supposed to wash their hands before and after touching a patient; lapses contribute significantly to hospital-acquired infections, research shows.

The camera over the bed delivers images to software that is programmed to recognize movements that indicate when a patient is in danger of falling out of bed. The system would send an alert to a nearby nurse.
If the results at Bassett prove to be encouraging, more features can be added, like software that analyzes facial expressions for signs of severe pain, the onset of delirium or other hints of distress, said Kunter Akbay, a G.E. scientist.

Hospitals have an incentive to adopt tools that improve patient safety. Medicare and Medicaid are adjusting reimbursement rates to penalize hospitals that do not work to prevent falls and pressure ulcers, and whose doctors and nurses do not wash their hands enough. But it is too early to say whether computer vision, like the system being tried out at Bassett, will prove to be cost-effective.

Mirror, Mirror

Daniel J. McDuff, a graduate student, stood in front of a mirror at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. After 20 seconds or so, a figure — 65, the number of times his heart was beating per minute — appeared at the mirror’s bottom. Behind the two-way mirror was a Web camera, which fed images of Mr. McDuff to a computer whose software could track the blood flow in his face.

The software separates the video images into three channels — for the basic colors red, green and blue. Changes to the colors and to movements made by tiny contractions and expansions in blood vessels in the face are, of course, not apparent to the human eye, but the computer can see them.

“Your heart-rate signal is in your face,” said Ming-zher Poh, an M.I.T. graduate student. Other vital signs, including breathing rate, blood-oxygen level and blood pressure, should leave similar color and movement clues.

The pulse-measuring project, described in research published in May by Mr. Poh, Mr. McDuff and Rosalind W. Picard, a professor at the lab, is just the beginning, Mr. Poh said. Computer vision and clever software, he said, make it possible to monitor humans’ vital signs at a digital glance. Daily measurements can be analyzed to reveal that, for example, a person’s risk of heart trouble is rising. “This can happen, and in the future it will be in mirrors,” he said.

Faces can yield all sorts of information to watchful computers, and the M.I.T. students’ adviser, Dr. Picard, is a pioneer in the field, especially in the use of computing to measure and communicate emotions. For years, she and a research scientist at the university, Rana el-Kaliouby, have applied facial-expression analysis software to help young people with autism better recognize the emotional signals from others that they have such a hard time understanding.

The two women are the co-founders of Affectiva, a company in Waltham, Mass., that is beginning to market its facial-expression analysis software to manufacturers of consumer products, retailers, marketers and movie studios. Its mission is to mine consumers’ emotional responses to improve the designs and marketing campaigns of products.

John Ross, chief executive of Shopper Sciences, a marketing research company that is part of the Interpublic Group, said Affectiva’s technology promises to give marketers an impartial reading of the sequence of emotions that leads to a purchase, in a way that focus groups and customer surveys cannot. “You can see and analyze how people are reacting in real time, not what they are saying later, when they are often trying to be polite,” he said. The technology, he added, is more scientific and less costly than having humans look at store surveillance videos, which some retailers do.

The facial-analysis software, Mr. Ross said, could be used in store kiosks or with Webcams. Shopper Sciences, he said, is testing Affectiva’s software with a major retailer and an online dating service, neither of which he would name. The dating service, he said, was analyzing users’ expressions in search of “trigger words” in personal profiles that people found appealing or off-putting.

Watching the Watchers

Maria Sonin, 33, an office worker in Waltham, Mass., sat in front of a notebook computer looking at a movie trailer while Affectiva’s software, through the PC’s Webcam, calibrated her reaction. The trailer was for “Little Fockers,” starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, which opened just before Christmas. The software measured her reactions by tracking movements on a couple of dozen points on her face — mostly along the eyes, eyebrows, nose and the perimeter of her lips.

To the human eye, Ms. Sonin appeared to be amused. The software agreed, said Dr. Kaliouby, though it used a finer-grained analysis, like recording that her smiles were symmetrical (signaling amusement, not embarrassment) and not smirks. The software, Ms. Kaliouby said, allows for continuous, objective measurement of viewers’ response to media, and in the future will do so in large numbers on the Web.

Ms. Sonin, an unpaid volunteer, said later that she did not think about being recorded by the Webcam. “It wasn’t as if it was a big camera in front of you,” she said.


Page 3 of 3)

Christopher Hamilton, a technical director of visual effects, has used specialized software to analyze facial expressions and recreate them on the screen. The films he has worked on include “King Kong,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Matrix Revolutions.” Using facial-expression analysis technology to gauge the reaction of viewers, who agree to be watched, may well become a valuable tool for movie makers, said Mr. Hamilton, who is not involved with Affectiva.

Today, sampling audience reaction before a movie is released typically means gathering a couple of hundred people at a preview screening. The audience members then answer questions and fill out surveys. Yet viewers, marketing experts say, are often inarticulate and imprecise about their emotional reactions.
The software “makes it possible to measure audience response with a scene-by-scene granularity that the current survey-and-questionnaire approach cannot,” Mr. Hamilton said. A director, he added, could find out, for example, that although audience members liked a movie over all, they did not like two or three scenes. Or he could learn that a particular character did not inspire the intended emotional response.

Emotion-sensing software, Mr. Hamilton said, might become part of the entertainment experience — especially as more people watch movies and programs on Internet-connected televisions, computers and portable devices. Viewers could share their emotional responses with friends using recommendation systems based on what scene — say, the protagonists’ dancing or a car chase — delivered the biggest emotional jolt.

Affectiva, Dr. Picard said, intends to offer its technology as “opt-in only,” meaning consumers have to be notified and have to agree to be watched online or in stores. Affectiva, she added, has turned down companies, which she declined to name, that wanted to use its software without notifying customers.

Darker Possibilities

Dr. Picard enunciates a principled stance, but one that could become problematic in other hands.

The challenge arises from the prospect of the rapid spread of less-expensive yet powerful computer-vision technologies.

At work or school, the technology opens the door to a computerized supervisor that is always watching. Are you paying attention, goofing off or daydreaming? In stores and shopping malls, smart surveillance could bring behavioral tracking into the physical world.

More subtle could be the effect of a person knowing that he is being watched — and how that awareness changes his thinking and actions. It could be beneficial: a person thinks twice and a crime goes uncommitted. But might it also lead to a society that is less spontaneous, less creative, less innovative?

“With every technology, there is a dark side,” said Hany Farid, a computer scientist at Dartmouth. “Sometimes you can predict it, but often you can’t.”

A decade ago, he noted, no one predicted that cellphones and text messaging would lead to traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers. And, he said, it was difficult to foresee that the rise of Facebook and Twitter and personal blogs would become troves of data to be collected and exploited in tracking people’s online behavior.

Often, a technology that is benign in one setting can cause harm in a different context. Google confronted that problem this year with its face-recognition software. In its Picasa photo-storing and sharing service, face recognition helps people find and organize pictures of family and friends.

But the company took a different approach with Goggles, which lets a person snap a photograph with a smartphone, setting off an Internet search. Take a picture of the Eiffel Tower and links to Web pages with background information and articles about it appear on the phone’s screen. Take a picture of a wine bottle and up come links to reviews of that vintage.

Google could have put face recognition into the Goggles application; indeed, many users have asked for it. But Google decided against it because smartphones can be used to take pictures of individuals without their knowledge, and a face match could retrieve all kinds of personal information — name, occupation, address, workplace.

“It was just too sensitive, and we didn’t want to go there,” said Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google. “You want to avoid enabling stalker behavior.”
27549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / One wonders if POTH will realize that on: January 02, 2011, 10:29:22 AM
what it has been advocating all these years leads to this , , ,

Published: January 1, 2011
LECCE, Italy — Francesca Esposito, 29 and exquisitely educated, helped win millions of euros in false disability and other lawsuits for her employer, a major Italian state agency. But one day last fall she quit, fed up with how surreal and ultimately sad it is to be young in Italy today.

It galled her that even with her competence and fluency in five languages, it was nearly impossible to land a paying job. Working as an unpaid trainee lawyer was bad enough, she thought, but doing it at Italy’s social security administration seemed too much. She not only worked for free on behalf of the nation’s elderly, who have generally crowded out the young for jobs, but her efforts there did not even apply to her own pension.

“It was absurd,” said Ms. Esposito, a strong-willed woman with a healthy sense of outrage.

The outrage of the young has erupted, sometimes violently, on the streets of Greece and Italy in recent weeks, as students and more radical anarchists protest not only specific austerity measures in flattened economies but a rising reality in Southern Europe: People like Ms. Esposito feel increasingly shut out of their own futures. Experts warn of volatility in state finances and the broader society as the most highly educated generation in the history of the Mediterranean hits one of its worst job markets.

Politicians are slowly beginning to take notice. Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, devoted his year-end message on Friday to “the pervasive malaise among young people,” weeks after protests against budget cuts to the university system brought the issue to the fore.

Giuliano Amato, an economist and former Italian prime minister, was even more blunt. “By now, only a few people refuse to understand that youth protests aren’t a protest against the university reform, but against a general situation in which the older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones,” he recently told Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest newspaper.

The daughter of a fireman and a high school teacher, Ms. Esposito was the first in her family to graduate from college and the first to study foreign languages. She has an Italian law degree and a master’s from Germany and was an intern at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. It has not helped.

“I have every possible certificate,” Ms. Esposito said dryly. “I have everything except a death certificate.”

Even before the economic crisis hit, Southern Europe was not an easy place to forge a career. Low growth and a corrosive lack of meritocracy have long posed challenges to finding a job in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Today, with the added sting of austerity, more people are left fighting over fewer opportunities. It is a zero-sum game that inevitably pits younger workers struggling to enter the labor market against older ones already occupying precious slots.

As a result, a deep malaise has set in among young people. Some take to the streets in protest; others emigrate to Northern Europe or beyond in an epic brain drain of college graduates. But many more suffer in silence, living in their childhood bedrooms well into adulthood because they cannot afford to move out.

“They call us the lost generation,” said Coral Herrera Gómez, 33, who has a Ph.D. in humanities but still lives with her parents in Madrid because she cannot find steady work. “I’m not young,” she added over coffee recently, “but I’m not an adult with a job, either.”

There has been a national debate for years in Spain about “mileuristas,” a nickname for college graduates whose best job prospects may well pay just 1,000 euros a month, or $1,300.

Ms. Herrera is at the lower end of the spectrum. Fed up with earning 600 euros a month, or $791, under the table as a children’s drama teacher, Ms. Herrera said she had decided to move to Costa Rica this month to teach at a university.

As she spoke in a cafe in Madrid, a television on the wall featured a report on the birthday of a 106-year-old woman who said that eating blood sausage was the secret to her longevity.

The contrast could not have been stronger. Indeed, experts warn of a looming demographic disaster in Southern Europe, which has among the lowest birth rates in the Western world. With pensioners living longer and young people entering the work force later — and paying less in taxes because their salaries are so low — it is only a matter of time before state coffers run dry.

“What we have is a Ponzi scheme,” said Lawrence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University and an expert in fiscal policy.

He said that pay-as-you-go social security and health care were a looming fiscal disaster in Southern Europe and beyond. “If these fertility rates continue through time, you won’t have Italians, Spanish, Greeks, Portuguese or Russians,” he said. “I imagine the Chinese will just move into Southern Europe.”


The problem goes far beyond youth unemployment, which is at 40 percent in Spain and 28 percent in Italy. It is also about underemployment. Today, young people in Southern Europe are effectively exploited by the very mechanisms created a decade ago to help make the labor market more flexible, like temporary contracts.

Because payroll taxes and firing costs are still so high, businesses across Southern Europe are loath to hire new workers on a full-time basis, so young people increasingly are offered unpaid or low-paying internships, traineeships or temporary contracts that do not offer the same benefits or protections.

“This is the best-educated generation in Spanish history, and they are entering a job market in which they are underutilized,” said Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the leader of the Comisiones Obreras, one of Spain’s two largest labor unions. “It is a tragedy for the country.”

Yet many young people in Southern Europe see labor union leaders like Mr. Fernández, and the left-wing parties with which they have been historically close, as part of the problem. They are seen as exacerbating a two-tier labor market by protecting a caste of tenured older workers rather than helping younger workers enter the market.

For Dr. Kotlikoff, the solution is simple: “We have to change the labor laws. Not gradually, but quickly.”

Yet in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, any change in national contracts involves complex negotiations among governments, labor unions and businesses — a delicate dance in which each faction fights furiously for its interests.

Because older workers tend to be voters, labor reform remains a third rail to most politicians. Asked at a news conference last year about changing Italy’s de facto two-tier system, Italy’s center-right finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, said simply, “You can’t make violent changes to the system.”

New austerity measures in Spain, where the unemployment rate is 20 percent, the highest in the European Union, are further narrowing the employment window. Spain has pledged to raise its retirement age to 67 from 65, but incrementally over the next 20 years.

“Now people are being sent into early retirement at age 55,” said Sara Sanfulgencio, 28, who has a master’s degree in marketing but is unemployed and living in Madrid with her mother, who owns a children’s shoe store. “But if I haven’t started working by age 28 and I already have to stop at 55, it’s absurd.”

In Italy, Ms. Esposito is finishing her lawyer traineeship at a private firm in Lecce. It pays little but sits better on her conscience than her unpaid work for the government.

“I’m a repentant college graduate,” she said. “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t go to college and would just start working.”
27550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Danish cartoonists still targeted, but Assange is a lefty hero. on: January 02, 2011, 10:20:50 AM
While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is celebrating his $1 million-plus book deal on a 600-acre estate and enjoying his status as a lefty fringe hero, former cartoonist Molly Norris is in hiding.

The moral of this column is that in today's world, cartoons, if they target Islam, can be more hazardous to your health than crossing the mighty U.S. government and its allies.

Swedish and Danish authorities arrested four suspected militant Islamic jihadists last week for allegedly planning a terrorist attack before this weekend. Their target was the Jyllands-Posten news bureau in Copenhagen. In 2006, the newspaper became the target of terrorist threats after it printed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. Authorities say the suspects arrested planned to use the same "swarm" tactics used in the 2008 Mumbai killing spree that left at least 160 people dead.

Kurt Westergaard drew a cartoon that depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Last January, a Somali man wielding an ax and demanding "revenge" broke into Westergaard's home. In 2009, Danish authorities arrested three men for planning to behead Westergaard.

Like Westergaard, Jyllands-Posten Editor Flemming Rose, who commissioned the cartoons, now has round-the-clock security. I asked via e-mail how many planned attacks against his paper and cartoonists have been thwarted.

Rose answered that this latest episode represents the sixth or seventh foiled attack.

In his new book, "Tyranny of Silence," Rose explains that he asked cartoonists to submit works on Muhammad in order to stand up to "my perception of prevalent self-censorship among the Danish media" on the subject of radical Islam. Now he has a target on his back.

When we met in 2008, Rose summarized what summed up "The Cartoon Crisis." "They are basically saying, 'If you say we are violent, we are going to kill you.'"

And: "If you give in to intimidation, you will not get less intimidation, you will get more intimidation."

Back to Molly Norris. In April, the one-time Seattle Weekly cartoonist made the mistake of drawing a cartoon that called for an "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day." Norris was reacting to Comedy Central's decision to censor parts of the show "South Park" that depicted a cartoon Muhammad dressed in a bear suit -- wink, wink -- lest showing an image of the prophet offend. The network also bleeped out verbal references to Muhammad.

Norris quickly renounced the idea and apologized to the Muslim community. But that didn't stop American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki from declaring that that Norris should be "a prime target of assassination." Al-Awlaki, you may recall, has been linked to the attempted Times Square bombing, last year's failed Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound plane, and the Fort Hood shootings that left 13 dead.

At the FBI's urging, Norris changed her name and wiped her identity.

As for "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, they didn't like Comedy Central's decision to censor their material. To their credit, they risked the wrath of extremists, who made veiled death threats against them.

But they thrive in a system that perpetuates a double standard. Stone and Parker are now working on a new Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon." In reporting on the musical, Newsday called them "scamps" and "the wonderful troublemakers of 'South Park.'"

Those aren't the sort of terms reserved for Rose, who became something of an international pariah for doing to Islam once what Parker and Stone do regularly to devout Christians. The "South Park" guys know that they can make fun of Mormons without fear of censorship from upstairs or fatwas from abroad.

This new year will bring the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "Since Sept. 11, 2001, at least 30 planned terrorist attacks have been foiled, all but two of them prevented by law enforcement," a Heritage Foundation paper reported in April. And that was before Faisal Shahzad failed to set off a car bomb in Times Square.

As for 2010, it ended with arrests in London, Denmark, Sweden and a suicide bombing in Stockholm.

We don't know the names of the intelligence operatives and law enforcement officials who saved innocent lives by uncovering and stopping these plots, but they are the unsung heroes of the last decade.

As for Assange, his leaks "have made it much harder for those who are stopping attacks to do their jobs," according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. "The countries we rely on for information must increasingly be unwilling to share it with us for fear that it will be exposed in the next set of leaks. Next time an attack is successful, those who are applauding WikiLeaks today will give not a second's thought that they contributed to it."
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