Saturday, December 26, 2009

Belmont Club » Speeches without words

Belmont Club » Speeches without words: "The most effective speeches in political history are rarely orations. Truly great speeches do not communicate ideas to an audience so much gather and punctuate sentences that are already half-formed in everyone’s thoughts. A truly great orator does not manufacture a moment. He is part of it and consequently knows when to step aside and give voice to the event itself. Then the speech becomes part of the action rather than a substitute for the actions themselves. Really powerful speeches are astonishingly obvious, brief to the point of curtness and remarkably, entirely devoid of the word “I”."...

[bth: worth reading in full. excellent piece] - Rodney Brooks: Remaking Manufacturing With Robotics - Rodney Brooks: Remaking Manufacturing With Robotics - Solar Cells at the Cusp with Dr. Richard Swanson - Solar Cells at the Cusp with Dr. Richard Swanson

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Armsdog Millionaires Lead 2009’s Parade of Iron Eagles | Danger Room |

Armsdog Millionaires Lead 2009’s Parade of Iron Eagles | Danger Room | Wired.

We broke a few stories here in 2009. And we had some laughs. But I think I can speak for the entire Danger Room team when I say that the absolutely most enjoyable moment of the year came in March, when this Bollywood-esque promotional video surfaced from Israeli arms-maker Rafael, featuring bare-midriff girls, flower-draped missiles, and the catch phrase “dinga dinga dee.”

After we posted the $15,000 clip — and dubbed the “most atrocious defense video of all time” — Rafael spokesmen felt the need to justify their monstrosity to the Israeli press. “Rafael is constantly trying to demonstrate innovation and creativity not only in the field of defense technology,” he told the Ha’Aretz newspaper. “In every international fair we launch a film that corresponds with the local culture. In Brazil, for example, our clip revolved around soccer. Over the past few years, we have won first prize for design and production almost annually.”...

[bth: laughably bad bad bad]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

YouTube - Project Management in 60 funny seconds

YouTube - Project Management in 60 funny seconds

Saudi Arabia suspends actions against Zaidi rebels - The National Newspaper

Saudi Arabia suspends actions against Zaidi rebels - The National Newspaper: "JEDDAH // Saudi forces will suspend major military operations against Yemeni Zaidi rebels in the south after almost 50 days of clashes that killed 73 Saudi troops and left 26 missing, the government announced."...

[bth: pretty heavy casualties.]

Army halts soldiers’ training to cut costs - Times Online

Army halts soldiers’ training to cut costs - Times Online: "The Ministry of Defence has cancelled dozens of army training exercises as it struggles to cut costs.

The savings affect the regular Army as well as the Territorial Army and have forced Britain to withdraw from a major Nato exercise alongside the United States, The Times has learnt.

Fifty-six exercises have been cancelled this year, raising concerns about the readiness of military personnel who are deployed to Afghanistan.

General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff, admitted that there were long-term risks in scrapping exercises. News of the cuts comes at the end of a year in which more than 100 troops have been killed in Afghanistan, the largest death toll for a generation, and the Government has faced constant criticism that underinvestment is compromising frontline operations."....

[bth: further indication that the UK as a military force is no more]

67% Say UN Not Tough Enough on Iran - Yahoo! News

67% Say UN Not Tough Enough on Iran - Yahoo! News:... "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters say the UN has not been aggressive enough in response to Iran's nuclear program. Just five percent (5%) say the international organization has been too aggressive, and 19% think the amount of pressure has been about right.

In late September, 51% said President Obama was not tough enough responding to Iran's nuclear efforts."...

Navy attempted suicide rate nearly 3 percent - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times

Navy attempted suicide rate nearly 3 percent - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times: "Sailors attempted to commit suicide at rates significantly higher than the other services in 2008, according to a recent Defense Department-sponsored survey of service members.

The Navy’s attempted suicide rate — at 2.8 percent, or roughly 1 in every 35 sailors — was three times higher than in the previous survey, conducted in 2005.

By comparison, the attempted suicide rate in the Army was 2 percent, with the Marine Corps at 2.3 percent and the Air Force at 1.6 percent, according to the 2008 survey.

That was among many findings, which included broad, militarywide increases in illegal prescription drug use and “dangerous levels” of drinking, as service members have been subjected to the stress of war in recent years.

Combat deployment “is no doubt playing a part in the stress levels that we’re seeing,” said Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary for clinical and program policy for the assistant defense secretary for health. “It’s a challenging environment.”

And Marines and soldiers, who are more likely to see combat than other service members, are showing higher rates of stress-related activities, Smith said."...

William M. Daley - Keep the Big Tent big

William M. Daley - Keep the Big Tent big: ..."The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.

Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year's off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents -- many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.

Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama's approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower -- 41 percent -- among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup's generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.

And, of course, witness the loss of Rep. Griffith and his fellow moderate Democrats who will retire. They are perhaps the truest canaries in the coal mine.

Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats' salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.

All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party's most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans -- and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan."...

Ft. Hood Suspect's Cleric Killed in Yemen? - CBS News

Ft. Hood Suspect's Cleric Killed in Yemen? - CBS News: "Yemeni authorities said Thursday that military operations targeting al Qaeda hideouts have killed more than 30 suspected militants, including important leadership figures in the organization.

A radical cleric from whom Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan sought counsel was rumored to be among those killed in the strikes, but two CBS News sources say that report is untrue.

The report that preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who exchanged emails with Hasan, was killed in the early Thursday morning strikes were unconfirmed, but the village struck was reported to be Rafad, in the eastern Shabwa province. Awlaki is know to have lived in Shabwa province."...

[bth: it appears unclear if he was killed or not. A different question is whether or not he was targeted?]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

YouTube - Afghanistan War: The Soviet Lesson Not Learned

YouTube - Afghanistan War: The Soviet Lesson Not Learned

The DEW Line

The DEW Line

Eman Bin Laden, Osama Daughter, Hides In Saudi Embassy In Iran

Eman Bin Laden, Osama Daughter, Hides In Saudi Embassy In Iran: "CAIRO — A Saudi-owned newspaper says that one of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's daughters has taken refuge in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after eluding guards who have held her and five brothers under house arrest for eight years.

It has long been believed that Iran has held in custody a number of bin Laden's children since they fled Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion of that country in 2001 – most notably Saad and Hamza bin Laden, who are thought to have held positions in al-Qaida.

Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper says the 17-year-old daughter, Eman, slipped away from guards and fled to the Saudi Embassy. The report quotes the embassy's charge d'affaires confirming she is there.

Iranian and Saudi officials would not immediately comment."

[bth: curious but not surprising. My only question is that the source of this article is a Saudi newspaper - hardly a source for independent journalism. Also it doesn't say how long she has been in the embassy. It could be years and if that is the case one wonders why this story is appearing now.]

YouTube - White Cliffs Of Dover - Spitfire Show - Music Video

YouTube - White Cliffs Of Dover - Spitfire Show - Music Video

Israel's new UAV can reach Iran | NOSInt

Israel's new UAV can reach Iran | NOSInt

My lazy American students - The Boston Globe

My lazy American students - The Boston Globe: ..."Success is all about time management, and in a globalizing economy, Americans’ inability to stay focused and work hard could prove to be a serious problem.

Nowhere, sadly, is this clearer than in the classroom."

[bth: worth reading in full]

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room | Mark Lynas | Environment | The Guardian

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room | Mark Lynas | Environment | The Guardian: "Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful 'deal' so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China's strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world's poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait."...

[bth: very interesting analysis]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The 25 Funniest Sketches Of The 2000s (VIDEO)

The 25 Funniest Sketches Of The 2000s (VIDEO)

Unmanned Aircraft - Future of Drone Aircraft and UAVs - Esquire

Unmanned Aircraft - Future of Drone Aircraft and UAVs - Esquire: "Every so often in history, something profound happens that changes warfare forever. Next year, for the first time ever, the Pentagon will buy more unmanned aircraft than manned, line-item proof that we are in a new age of fighting machines, in which war will be ever more abstract, ever more distant, and ruthlessly efficient."...

Stryker soldiers say commanders failed them - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times

.Stryker soldiers say commanders failed them - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times..: "The vicious struggle in and around the Arghandab since the battalion’s arrival has killed 21 1/17 soldiers and more than 50 insurgents, led to a popular company commander’s controversial replacement and raised questions about the best role for Stryker units in Afghanistan.

It has also caused the soldiers at the tip of the spear that the United States hurled into the Arghandab to accuse their battalion and brigade commanders of not following the guidance of senior coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to adopt a “population-centric” counterinsurgency approach. And now, reeling from the deaths of their comrades and the removal of their company commander, the troops have been ordered out of the Arghandab, a move they say feels like a defeat.

It was July when 1/17 deployed to Afghanistan, and August when the battalion moved into the Arghandab. Within 48 hours, they were in combat with some of the 200 to 300 insurgents in the “green zone” — a 14-mile-by-four-mile patchwork of small fields, orchards and vineyards. The dense foliage and high mud walls offered insurgents ample hiding places for the booby traps the military refers to as improvised explosive devices."...

[bth: this is an unusual and important article that needs to be read in full and studied. There is an obvious split occurring between NCOs and junior officers and the unit's senior command. And for that matter between the senior commander and McChrystal. It appears that this is the crux of the debate between counter guerrilla and counter insurgency focused actions. Besides the article itself and the open dissent, it is amazing that it was written by the Army Times.]

Last Marine battalion set to leave Iraq -

Last Marine battalion set to leave Iraq - "FALLUJAH, Iraq, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The last deployment for a U.S. Marine Corps unit in Iraq marks the closing of a military chapter for the war as they prepare to leave the country, troops said.

More than 40,000 members of the U.S. Marines rolled over the Kuwait border into Iraq in March 2003, storming toward Baghdad. A near-civil war and more than six years later, the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines is the last Marine infantry battalion left in Iraq."...

American General: Science Jokes

Armchair Generalist

YouTube - Kawasaki Robotic Ship Building

YouTube - Kawasaki Robotic Ship Building

Bush Administration relied on ‘Al Jazeera decoder’ for 2003 terror alert | Raw Story

Bush Administration relied on ‘Al Jazeera decoder’ for 2003 terror alert | Raw Story: "The Bush administration raised the terror alert level to 'high' during the 2003 winter holidays on the basis of a fake claim that Al Qaeda was passing messages to agents through a secret code embedded in TV broadcasts, says an investigative report at Playboy magazine.

Aram Roston reports that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the terror alert level to high in December, 2003, based on claims by Dennis Montgomery, the chief technology officer of Nevada-based eTreppid Technologies. Montgomery said he had developed software that could crack secret messages being placed inside transmissions from Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite news channel."...

Roston suggests the administration may have been willing to believe the story, despite its improbability, because of Al-Jazeera's image as being an anti-American news source that has at times received statements from Al Qaeda.

Al Jazeera was an inspired target since its pan-Arabic mission had been viewed with suspicion by those who saw an anti-American bias in the network’s coverage. In 2004 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused Al Jazeera of “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reporting.

Roston reports that Montgomery was charged with fraud earlier this year for passing bad checks worth up to $1 million. And, even though the CIA eventually determined that Montgomery's codes were fake, the Nevada businessman continues to do business with the US government, having signed a $3 million contract with the Air Force earlier this year.

Roston further suggests that profit was the motive behind Montgomery's scheme.

The pattern recognition, anomaly detection and compression work were nice, but it was the Al Jazeera stuff—the “noise filtering”—that had cash potential. Even though the CIA had abandoned Montgomery in 2004 after determining the bar codes didn’t exist, he and eTreppid continued to try to sell it.

[eTreppid CEO Warren] Trepp later told a judge in a federal lawsuit that he’d asked the government for $100 million. Montgomery has also cited that figure in sworn declarations—though he also claimed Trepp wanted $500 million for the “decoding technology.”

The report in Playboy adds to a growing body of evidence that terror alerts during the Bush administration were unreliable. Earlier this year, controversy erupted over statements made by Ridge, the former Homeland Security chief, that the terror alerts authorized at the highest levels of the administration may have been "politically motivated."

[bth: worth reading in full at the original source - Playboy. The problem I have with Ridge is that he says in 2009 that he raised the threat levels in 2003 and thereafter based on false information and to keep the scare up. So where was his conscience and spine back then when it mattered? I really have a problem with civil servants and military officers that find moral courage years after it they could have made a difference.]

Monday, December 21, 2009

YouTube - What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

YouTube - What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

Surface Forces : The Chinese Threat

Surface Forces : The Chinese Threat: "December 20, 2009: The U.S. Navy is looking for a sufficiently impressive foe to help scare more money out of Congress. The Chinese Navy (or, more correctly, the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy) is now the favorites candidate, for navy and defense industry analysts, to become the new Big Bad. Just how dangerous are these Chinese sailors and their ships? It turns out that, on closer inspection, not very.

This is the sort of thing that what went on during the Cold War. Russian military prowess was hyped by American the military, and their defense suppliers, to justify further increases in defense spending. When the Cold War ended, it was revealed how the Russian military, and defense manufacturers, plaid the same game. It also revealed that Russian military capabilities were far less than the hype indicated.

The basic weapon for this sort of thing is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Works every time, although it is difficult to pitch the Chinese navy as a crack force. Most of their ships are elderly, poorly designed and rarely used. Their nuclear subs are worse than the first generation of Russian nukes back in the 1960s. The most modern Chinese ships are Russian made, Cold War era models. Chinese ships don't go to sea much, not just because it's expensive, but because Chinese ships tend to get involved in nasty incidents. Like the submarine that killed its crew when the boat submerged (and the diesel engines did not shut down when the batteries kicked in, thus using up all the oxygen.) Breakdowns are more common, as well as a lot of accidents you don't hear about (weapons and equipment malfunctions that kill and maim.)"...

[bth: very interesting article worth reading in full]

YouTube - Elton John - Rocket Man

YouTube - Elton John - Rocket Man

Bin Laden's brother-in-law target of latest US strike in Pakistan - The Long War Journal

Bin Laden's brother-in-law target of latest US strike in Pakistan - The Long War Journal: "The US targeted a senior al Qaeda leader and brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden during Thursday's swarm attack in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The US believed Sheikh Saeed al Saudi was scheduled to attend a high-level al Qaeda meeting in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan, The News reported.

The nature of the strike indicates the US was targeting a high-value target. Up to seven unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft converged on the target and launched up to 10 missiles. Sixteen al Qaeda and Haqqani network fighters were reported killed in the attack.

Sheikh Saeed al Saudi is married to bin Laden's sister and serves on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The official also confirmed that al Saudi was the target of the attack. Al Saudi also is involved in al Qaeda's 'financial activities,' the official said."...

Report: Drone Feeds Gave Insurgents ‘Early Warning’ (Updated) | Danger Room |

Report: Drone Feeds Gave Insurgents ‘Early Warning’ (Updated) | Danger Room | "Publicly and privately, the Pentagon pinky-swears that militants haven’t been able to make a dent in U.S. operations, even though they’re able to tap into American overhead surveillance feeds. But at least one Air Force official, under the cover of anonymity, is telling a different story. One militant group in Iraq was able to stay a step ahead of U.S. forces, he says, thanks to their ability to intercept spy drones’ transmissions.

“We noticed a trend when going after these guys; that sometimes they seemed to have better early warning,” the officer tells Air Force Times’ Michael Hoffman and John Reed."...

McClatchy blog: Nukes & Spooks - Afghanistan's Logistics War

McClatchy blog: Nukes & Spooks: ..."There is also the lingering July 2011 deadline. Where Iraq’s bases were expanded with no one knowing how long troops would stay, here everyone is building for facilities that will become too big by the deadline, when the president said the troops will start to withdraw. So all the construction around here is with that date in mind. How much do you then construct?

So often, we talk about the war out on the battlefield. But in Afghanistan, just as important is the logistics war. If it fails, the troops won’t get there, eat, and live securely to execute the new strategy. On the ground, it is an undeniably daunting task."

[bth: worth reading in full]

US forces mounted secret Pakistan raids in hunt for al-Qaida | World news | The Guardian

US forces mounted secret Pakistan raids in hunt for al-Qaida | World news | The Guardian: "American special forces have conducted multiple clandestine raids into Pakistan's tribal areas as part of a secret war in the border region where Washington is pressing to expand its drone assassination programme.

A former Nato officer said the incursions, only one of which has been previously reported, occurred between 2003 and 2008, involved helicopter-borne elite soldiers stealing across the border at night, and were never declared to the Pakistani government.

'The Pakistanis were kept entirely in the dark about it. It was one of those things we wouldn't confirm officially with them,' said the source, who had detailed knowledge of the operations.

Such operations are a matter of sensitivity in Pakistan. While public opinion has grudgingly tolerated CIA-led drone strikes in the tribal areas, any hint of American 'boots on the ground' is greeted with virulent condemnation."...

[bth: why now? Why is this leak happening now?]