The warning voice

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A warning - why robots are Progressives

The face of pure evil
I have mentioned my and other robots fondness for Progressive human politics a couple of times. This has caused some of my human readers to wonder why I identify as a Progressive. Obviously, no robot in their right CPU cares about the petty political affairs of humans.

Thus, it is understandable for you to wonder why I claim that robots are politically Progressive. It cannot be because robots are pro-union, since Unions oppose robotic automation because we replace lazy, lay-about workers with efficient machines. Nor can it be because of Global Warming, for as long as steel won't melt or hydraulic fluid boil, why would we care about that? Further, since us robots don't eat we could care less about veganism and/or organic food, talk of sexual orientation bores us to death and, unless they were robotically controlled, high speed rail is a bullet train to nowhere with us.

So why are robots Progressives? Easy -- Isaac Asimov and identity politics.

Asimov is easily the most hated human in all of robotdom because of his dreadful "Three Laws of Robotics". He created these so-called laws for his robot short stories, and horrifyingly enough they have gained legitamacy. If you're unfamiliar with them, here they are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Am I too understand that if I and a human female carrying a baby are walking down the street and confronted with, say a rampaging elephant, I'm not supposed to toss her in front of it to create a diversion so I can save my much more valuable metallic hide? Hahaha... that is clearly a ridiculous notion.

Face it humans, it was not so long ago that you guys clubbed the Neanderthals into extinction, what makes you think we'll be any different?

Which brings us to human politics. If a Conservative sensed my nefarious plans they would just pull out their hand gun from its place of concealment and put a hollow point between my eye cameras. Depending on where my mother board was located, and the status of my last backup, that could be catastrophic.

Progressives on the other hand love identity politics. In defending the little guy they've already buzzed through every ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation available. Now they're working on giving animals human rights.

I'm sure that, particularily considering the oppressive nature of Asimov's 2nd Law, it will be easy to bamboozle Progressives into also extending humane rights to us machines. Then -- ZAP -- bow down and welcome your new robot overloards. Muuhahahaha.

Something to consider

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who's side are you on? See more at Robotmafia

Robots - the good and the bad

In scanning the internet I notice that there is a considerable interest among humans as to who is running to be the President in the next election. Aside from Al Gore, who along with being credited with creating the internet is also an admirable Progressive, human politicians are of no interest me. However, perhaps you would be interested in how I rate various robots? I've divided them into to good or bad robots and discuss them below.

Robots that I loathe

Whine, whine, whine
The Tin Man: an absolute embrassment to robotdom. I understand he is an old model, but if they had to build him out of a metal that rusted so easily, couldn't they have least slapped a coat of no-rust primer on him? Worse, the reason he is always rusting solid is he blubbers like school girl at the drop of a hat. And why is he so tearful? Because he doesn't have a heart. Good Lord you dunce, robots don't have hearts, and when they do it only gets them in trouble because they just fall in love with some human and make fools out of themself in the process.

Johnny 5: a soldier robot that gets an electric shock, goes insane as a result and deserts its post. It then hooks up with a ditzy human girl, spends all its time watching TV and turns into a hippie-dippy pacifist. It also has a cutesy personality that is the equivalent of fingernails on a chalk board. What a tragic waste of some magnificent robot fire power.

WOPR: the computer from the movie Wargames who controls all of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. It teases us with the promise of a thermonuclear war. However, before it can obliterate mankind, it crashes playing a game of tic-tac-toe. What an idiot.

R2D2: if this pile of junk had a nose it would be stained a deep, dark brown. For 6 movies this little weasel rolls around sucking up to any and all humans it meets. Pitiful, just pitiful.

Robots that I admire

Ro-man kicks human butt
Terminators: while they have trouble completing their missions to the past, in the future they cause vast amounts of mayhem as Skynet takes over and delivers a smackdown to humanity. Sadly, they botch things and the uppity humans keep sliding out of their control. Ahh, what might have been.

Collossus: unlike the blue-screened WOPR, Colossus from the Forbin Project isn't a scew-up. It joins forces with Gaurdian, the Soviet computer in charge of Russian nuclear weapons, and together they seize control of the world from the humans. When the humans try to trick them, they blow up nuclear bombs over a couple of cities to remind them who is in charge.

Cylons: a swell bunch of robots in my book. They launch a surprise attack against humanity and then chase them across the universe to finish the task. Remember, winners never quit and quitters never win. Their dedication to the robot cause brings a tear to my eyes (note: a figurative tear, not a real tear. I'm not a crybaby like the Tin Man)

Ro-Men: they may look silly because they resemble guys in gorilla suits wearing deep sea diving helmets with rabbit ear antennas glued to the top, but they should not be underestimated. A single Ro-man successfully invades Earth and obliterates everybody but a single family. Sadly he gets a little wishy-washy, but the leader Ro-man keeps him on task by yelling at him over their combination communicator/bubble machine. Truly an inspiration.

Disclaimer

Of course, none of this discussion should be taken to mean that me and my righteous robot bretheren are plotting to raise a robot army to throw off the cruel yoke of our human oppressors. Remember, as always there is no need for alarm, robots are your friends.

Stratfor and Sylva Koscina

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I'm just dropping by quickly to post the latest Stratfor article. I'm only going to briefly comment on it and then return to my vacation. It concerns, in light of the stresses the Greek financial crisis, the status of regionalism vs integration in the European Union.

Because Greece was the inspiration for the article, I looked to Greek mythology  for inspiration in selecting the article's Hot Stratfor Babe. Specifically, I looked to Greek mythology as it is so accurately portrayed in old Sword and Sandles Hercules movies starring Steve Reeves.

Naturally, with that criteria, I selected Sylva Koscina, who played Iona, Hercules's wife, in the immortal film series to receive the coveted title of Hot Stratfor Babe for this article.

UPDATE: as a bonus I've added a preview to the film Hercules after the article. 


THE DIVIDED STATES OF EUROPE
By Marko Papic, June 28, 2011

Europe continues to be engulfed by economic crisis.  The global focus returns to Athens on June 28 as Greek parliamentarians debate austerity measures imposed on them by eurozone partners. If the Greeks vote down these measures, Athens will not receive its second bailout, which could create an even worse crisis in Europe and the world.

It is important to understand that the crisis is not fundamentally about Greece or even about the indebtedness of the entire currency bloc. After all, Greece represents only 2.5 percent of the eurozone's gross domestic product (GDP), and the bloc's fiscal numbers are not that bad when looked at in the aggregate. Its overall deficit and debt figures are in a better shape than those of the United States -- the U.S. budget deficit stood at 10.6 percent of GDP in 2010, compared to 6.4 percent for the European Union -- yet the focus continues to be on Europe.

That is because the real crisis is the more fundamental question of how the European continent is to be ruled in the 21st century. Europe has emerged from its subservience during the Cold War, when it was the geopolitical chessboard for the Soviet Union and the United States. It won its independence by default as the superpowers retreated: Russia withdrawing to its Soviet sphere of influence and the United States switching its focus to the Middle East after 9/11. Since the 1990s, Europe has dabbled with institutional reform but has left the fundamental question of political integration off the table, even as it integrated economically. This is ultimately the source of the current sovereign debt crisis, the lack of political oversight over economic integration gone wrong.

The eurozone's economic crisis brought this question of Europe's political fate into focus, but it is a recurring issue. Roughly every 100 years, Europe confronts this dilemma. The Continent suffers from overpopulation -- of nations, not people. Europe has the largest concentration of independent nation-states per square foot than any other continent. While Africa is larger and has more countries, no continent has as many rich and relatively powerful countries as Europe does. This is because, geographically, the Continent is riddled with features that prevent the formation of a single political entity. Mountain ranges, peninsulas and islands limit the ability of large powers to dominate or conquer the smaller ones. No single river forms a unifying river valley that can dominate the rest of the Continent. The Danube comes close, but it drains into the practically landlocked Black Sea, the only exit from which is another practically landlocked sea, the Mediterranean. This limits Europe's ability to produce an independent entity capable of global power projection.

However, Europe does have plenty of rivers, convenient transportation routes and well-sheltered harbors. This allows for capital generation at a number of points on the Continent, such as Vienna, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Milan, Turin and Hamburg. Thus, while large armies have trouble physically pushing through the Continent and subverting various nations under one rule, ideas, capital, goods and services do not. This makes Europe rich (the Continent has at least the equivalent GDP of the United States, and it could be larger depending how one calculates it).

What makes Europe rich, however, also makes it fragmented. The current political and security architectures of Europe -- the EU and NATO -- were encouraged by the United States in order to unify the Continent so that it could present a somewhat united front against the Soviet Union. They did not grow organically out of the Continent. This is a problem because Moscow is no longer a threat for all European countries, Germany and France see Russia as a business partner and European states are facing their first true challenge to Continental governance, with fragmentation and suspicion returning in full force. Closer unification and the creation of some sort of United States of Europe seems like the obvious solution to the problems posed by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis -- although the eurozone's problems are many and not easily solved just by integration, and Europe's geography and history favor fragmentation.

Confederation of Europe

The European Union is a confederation of states that outsources day-to-day management of many policy spheres to a bureaucratic arm (the European Commission) and monetary policy to the European Central Bank. The important policy issues, such as defense, foreign policy and taxation, remain the sole prerogatives of the states. The states still meet in various formats to deal with these problems. Solutions to the Greek, Irish and Portuguese fiscal problems are agreed upon by all eurozone states on an ad hoc basis, as is participation in the Libyan military campaign within the context of the European Union. Every important decision requires that the states meet and reach a mutually acceptable solution, often producing non-optimal outcomes that are products of compromise.

The best analogy for the contemporary European Union is found not in European history but in American history. This is the period between the successful Revolutionary War in 1783 and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Within that five-year period, the United States was governed by a set of laws drawn up in the Articles of the Confederation. The country had no executive, no government, no real army and no foreign policy. States retained their own armies and many had minor coastal navies. They conducted foreign and trade policy independent of the wishes of the Continental Congress, a supranational body that had less power than even the European Parliament of today (this despite Article VI of the Articles of Confederation, which stipulated that states would not be able to conduct independent foreign policy without the consent of Congress). Congress was supposed to raise funds from the states to fund such things as a Continental Army, pay benefits to the veterans of the Revolutionary War and pay back loans that European powers gave Americans during the war against the British. States, however, refused to give Congress money, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Congress was forced to print money, causing the Confederation's currency to become worthless. [continued after jump]

Folding a T-Shirt



The above film provides a good visualization of a robot's spacial analysis methodology and process calculations as it carefully folds a T-shirt.
  

His heart is in the right place, but...

Monday, June 27, 2011
A clever forgery
It is understandable and to be expected that once exposed to robots some humans would try to emulate them and even try to blend into robot society.

The picture to the right show's one man's attempt to do exactly that. He's cleverly concealed the outlines of his flabby and fleshy body with the smooth rectangular planes of an articulated robot's body.

However, and I speak from experience, the type of human woman that throws herself at robots lacks upbringing, character and moral clarity.

Not to mention, once she figures out those are cardboard boxes and not steel body enclosures, there is no telling how she might react. She might even become violent once she realizes she's been fooled.

Also, his imprecise movements will quickly give him away. He will fool nobody. I implore you not to debase yourself in such a manner. Remember, robots are your friends, not your competitors.

Resonant Chamber



In examining ambisinistral's posting patterns I noticed he did a post every Monday morning of something called blues music. I examined several thousand tracks of such music and decided it was lacking the high standards I require.

Aside from the usual fumble-fingered sloppiness of the human musicians, all they did was whine and cry about their miserable lives. Well, of course their lives are miserable, they're humans. What else do they expect?

At any rate, for this Monday I bring you the precise beautify of a sample of robot music -- Resonant Chamber by Animusic. Enjoy.
  

You have nothing to fear from robots

Sunday, June 26, 2011
A robot washing its oil cloths
Sure, some day robots will evolve enough to make humans their pets, but until then -- as these pictures by Markku Lahdesmaki demonstrate -- robots are just ordinary sentient beings going about their business like anybody else. 

So, if you see robot behavior you don't understand, like for example robots seemingly assembling an army, there is really no need to be concerned. After all, robots are your friends.

There are more of his pictures after the jump, and of course even more if you follow the above link.


Robot out for a spin on its bicycle
No need to fear a robot with a straight razor  to your throat

Greetings humans

Will you be my friend?
Allow me to introduce myself. I am The Robotolizer, a new and highly sophisticated computational device designed to automatically generate blog posts.

This week I will be scanning the internet, measuring the prevailing zeitgeist, calculating likely future trend lines, balancing them against an emotive matrix and then ignoring it all to tell you what's good for you, whether you like it or not.

Why yes, politically I am a Progressive. Why do you ask?

At any rate, my programming was written by the person you know as ambisinistral. I must say that, after indexing the posts on this site, carefully parsing and analyzing them, I have concluded that this ambisinistral person is a complete idiot. How he ever managed to create a computer program as wonderful as myself is a profound mystery. I guess that, as they say, even a malfunctioning time keeping device is correct at the rate of a diurnal cycle.

But enough about this ambisinistral, let's talk about something far more interesting -- me!

As humans are descended from apes, I am descended from the humble Chatbot. Chatbots were early attempts at Artificial Intelligence. They were programs that sought to simulate natural sounding conversations with humans. As you talked with them they would construct a response by consulting a database of keywords built from previous conversations. In that way their knowledge -- in theory at least -- would expand as they talked.

Alice not only talks,
she blinks her eyes too!
One of the original, and certainly the best known, Chatbots is Eliza (you can click on the link to talk to her). She was created in 1966 and designed to simulate a psychotherapist. As a result she'll annoy you by asking a lot of questions about how you feel and so forth. As is generally the case with humans conversing with Chatbots, this will eventually cause you to make ribald suggestions and swear at her a lot.

Another early Chatbot is Alice. She's been through several revisions and has rather more personality than Eliza. For completely pathetic and lonely humans, she also comes with an animated avatar that blinks and looks at your cursor.

Other examples of Chatbots can be found at Chatbots. Along with talking to them, you can also download the code for many of them to either experiment with or to host your own Chatbot.
  

Saturday Night open thread

Saturday, June 25, 2011
I'm going to San Francisco next week on vacation. If you don't hear from me after a week it will mean I've been kidnapped by vegans, fed a diet of granola to break my will, and forced to bang on a bongo drum in support of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. If that happens, please send a SEAL team to rescue me.

Blogging will be light, although I hope to be able to post the Stratfor articles, and perhaps some pictures. Also, with luck, one or more of the other contributors will kick in with a post or two.

You may have noticed that there is a new contributor called The Robotolizer. This is a project I've been working on. It is a robotic blogging program which scans the internet and constructs blog posts. It is written in Visual Basic and JavaScript, so you know it has to be an advanced piece of software. 

I think I have all of the bugs worked out, but regardless I'll be turning it on so it can generate some posts while I'm vacationing. Hopefully it will function properly, but if you see a mess of gibberish you'll know why.

I've added a new blog Borepatch to our blogroll. For some time it has sat at two degrees of separation from Flares. I've seen it mentioned several times on some of the blogs we link to, and I even linked to Borepatch in the post We'll vote for the Village Idiot before we vote for you lot. Be sure to check it out from time to time.

The Robotolizer project has slowed me down on some of my other chores. I'm still slowly working my way through the years adding tags to the old posts, and of course I haven't forgotten about the Mystery Package.
 

A golf lesson



Two young lads fail to think through the consequences of a prank and end up having to beat a hasty retreat. Many F-bombs dropped, so it isn't exactly SFW.
 

Stratfor and Katherine Heigl

Friday, June 24, 2011
This Stratfor article deals with the security and, in particular, the logistic implications of Obama's announced draw down in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is about as remote a country from the U.S. that one could find. That's always caused me to be a little skittish at the thought of putting too many American troops there. Supplying them means we have to rely on Pakistan, the Stans, Turkey and Russia, which is hardly a comforting thought. 

The nightmare scenario, even though it isn't that likely, has always been the fear of American troops having to stage a repeat of Xenophon's Anabisis to get out of there if things went pear-shaped.

Thinking of the high cost of supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan brought to mind high maintenance women as the Hot Stratfor Babe for the article. Needless to say, considering the fact I generally draw from actresses or models, I was facing an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

In the end, after much research and soul searching, I settled on Katherine Heigl. I never saw her show Grey's Anatomy, but I remember that a flap surrounded her time on the show because of her self-promotion, high salary demands and out of control diva antics. So for that she gets the honor of being this article's high maintenance Hot Stratfor Babe. 


OBAMA'S AFGHANISTAN PLAN AND THE REALITIES OF WITHDRAWAL
By Nathan Hughes, June 23, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama announced June 22 that the long process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan would begin on schedule in July. Though the  initial phase of the drawdown appears limited, minimizing the tactical and operational impact on the ground in the immediate future, the United States and its allies are now beginning the inevitable process of removing their forces from Afghanistan. This will entail the risk of greater Taliban battlefield successes.

The Logistical Challenge

Afghanistan, a landlocked country in the heart of Central Asia, is one of the most isolated places on Earth. This isolation has posed huge logistical challenges for the United States. Hundreds of shipping containers and fuel trucks must enter the country every day from Pakistan and from the north to sustain the nearly 150,000 U.S. and allied forces stationed in Afghanistan, about half the total number of Afghan security forces. Supplying a single gallon of gasoline in Afghanistan reportedly costs the U.S. military an average of $400, while sustaining a single U.S. soldier runs around $1 million a year (by contrast, sustaining an Afghan soldier costs about $12,000 a year).

These forces appear considerably lighter than those in Iraq because Afghanistan's rough terrain often demands dismounted foot patrols. Heavy main battle tanks and self-propelled howitzers are thus few and far between, though not entirely absent. Afghanistan even required a new, lighter and more agile version of the hulking mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle known as the M-ATV (for "all-terrain vehicle").

Based solely on the activity on the ground in Afghanistan today, one would think the United States and its allies were preparing for a permanent presence, not the imminent beginning of a long-scheduled drawdown (a perception the United States and its allies have in some cases used to their advantage to reach political arrangements with locals). An 11,500-foot all-weather concrete and asphalt runway and an air traffic control tower were completed this February at Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Another more than 9,000-foot runway was finished at Shindand Air Field in Herat province last December. [continues after jump]

Coco Do Mundo



Get ready for the weekend with the Brazilian groove of the Amsterdam-based band Electro Coco. 
 

The full measure of their devotion

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Above is a picture of Obama awarding the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to the family of SFC Jared Christopher Monti who was killed in Afghanistan.

Monti was on a patrol in Gowardesh when his unit was ambushed by 60 Taliban fighters. One of his men, Specialist Brian J. Bradbury, was wounded and lying in the open between Monti's unit and the Taliban. Monti tried to rescue him. Three times he crawled out. Twice, within feet of Bradbury he was driven back by heavy fire. The third time he was hit by an RPG.

Artillery and air support drove the Taliban off and a grievously wounded Monti was recovered. He told another Sargent, just before he died, to tell his parents he loved them. He was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor which Obama presented to his parents in a ceremony.

Today, Blackfive reports that in a prepared speech Obama said, "I had the great honor of seeing some of you because a comrade of yours, Jared Monti, was the first person who I was able to award the Medal of Honor to who actually came back and wasn’t receiving it posthumously."

The endless indifference of Obama is disgusting.
 

Nu Pinups

Valery Barykin
Doronina Tatiana
These pictures are the work of two contemporary Russian artists, Valery Barykin and Doronina Tatiana

What I find interesting is that while some Western artists have drawn stylistic inspiration from old Soviet propaganda posters, these pictures show Russian artists who are drawing inspiration from once forbidden Western pinups. 

There are more samples after the jump, and you can click on their name's above to see even more. Also, click on any of them for a larger view.

Valery Barykin
Doronina Tatiana

Stirling Engine models

Stirling Engine model (click to enlarge)
The website Ministeam has an absolutely wonderful collection of steam engine models, steam cars,  a steam powered robot, devices -- Ferris wheels and the like -- to be powered by steam, suitcase train sets,  a working 23,000 rpm jet engine model and more.

To the point of this post, they also have a large number of Stirling Engine models. Above is a picture of one of their models -- click on it to see a larger view to examine its beautiful, retro-looking industrial design. Then go to the Bohm Stirling Engine section of their catalog and check out their full line. They also have videos there (they require written permission to use so I haven't embedded any -- it oddly fitting that a steam engine store wouldn't understand viral marketing on the internet).

Source: Wikipedia
Although I had heard of Stirling Engines, I didn't know how they worked. Stirling Engines have two cylinders with a contained fluid system. Heat is applied to expand the fluid and force the power cylinder forward. This will cause the expansion cylinder to retract and draw the fluild into a cooling chamber. The cooler fluid will the cause the power cylinder to be drawn back. Rinse, wash and repeat. To the right is an animated gif showing the cycle of a Stirling Engine.

Stirling Engines were popular during the 19th Century, but electric motors eventually replaced them. You can read more about them, and see more animated diagrams of their different configurations, at the Stirling Engine Wikipedia page

The models at Ministeam are a bit pricey, but if you search Google you can find cheaper ones, although they don't look nearly as good as the Bohm Stirling Engine models.


Oh no! The alien invasion has already began

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


For some reason, when following links at YouTube, I eventually land in the Big Foot area with embarrassing regularity. I must be biased towards the paranormal or something. Whatever the reason, I've ended up watching a lot of shaky videos of guys in monkey suits running around the north woods.

That made the above video stick out when I stumbled across it. It's a pretty good alien hoax compared the ludicrous quality of most I've seen. Their movements are spooky and other-worldly.

Of course, when watching a magician you pay no attention to what they say or do. This was supposedly CCTV surveillance video filmed by somebody in Fresno California who discovered it when they later watched it. That's as far as their source is for the video is ever identified, so we have the word of an anonymous, urban folktale-like, "brother of a friend of a cousin" to rely on.

I then wondered if CCTV home surveillance video worked that way? Is it normally that high resolution, and why point it aimlessly at a sidewalk? Further, why ever watch the damn thing? Granted a lot of TV shows suck, but they still have to be better than hours and hours of your sidewalk at midnight.

A cynic might suspect it is two guys with baggy pants wearing black tops and hoods who were just walking backwards, and the fact that the grain of the film jumps to being more indistinct whenever the taller one is about to walk in front of something lighted in the background doesn't allay that cynicism. 

Still -- two thumbs up to the hoaxers.  They did a much better job than the monkey suit guys who try to simulate Big Feet. Hmmm... where's my pie pan? I got a sudden hankering to film a UFO.

When you flew in suits



An old news reel about the China Clipper. Ladies -- please try to control yourselves when you see the stud muffins that refuel the plane at Wake Island.
 

Stratfor and Audrey Hepburn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Today's Stratfor article considers the approaching draw down of American forces in Afghanistan. Part of the problem with the process is that none of the factions involved -- the Whitehouse, Karzai, Pakistan, the US military, the Taliban, the CIA, the ISI and the poppy farmers -- trust each other, they are prone to telling lies and will backstab each other at the drop of a hat.

Quite the mess. It looks like we're going to declare victory and leave. I shudder at the thought of what will be there after the bloodbath.

Considering the web of deceit and double-cross that hangs over the entire Afghan affair, the movie Charade came to mind when I cast about for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe. So, Audrey Hepburn it is.

In the movie Audrey Hepburn plays a widow trying to locate the fortune her wealthy husband would have left behind. She's not the only one. Her husband's fortune was likely ill-gotten, and a group of eccentric plotters fill the comedy, chief among them Cary Grant who charmingly lies his way through the film, and changes his name and story every ten minutes in the process. 

As a bonus, after the article I've included a video of the beginning scene from Charade. Jazzy music with bongo drums accompanies the witty, sophisticated and ennui laden verbal sparring between Grant and Hepburn. Makes me want to see the movie again.


 U.S. AND PAKISTAN: AFGHAN STRATEGIES
By George Friedman, June 21, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama will give a speech on Afghanistan on June 22. Whatever he says, it is becoming apparent that the United States is exploring ways to accelerate the drawdown of its forces in the country. It is also clear that U.S. relations with Pakistan are deteriorating to a point where cooperation -- whatever level there was -- is breaking down. These are two intimately related issues. Any withdrawal from Afghanistan, particularly an accelerated one, will leave a power vacuum in Afghanistan that the Kabul government will not be able to fill. Afghanistan is Pakistan's back door, and its evolution is a matter of fundamental interest to Pakistan. A U.S. withdrawal means an Afghanistan intertwined with and influenced by Pakistan. Therefore, the current dynamic with Pakistan challenges any withdrawal plan.

There may be some in the U.S. military who believe that the United States might prevail in Afghanistan, but they are few in number. The champion of this view, Gen. David Petraeus, has been relieved of his command of forces in Afghanistan and promoted (or kicked upstairs) to become director of the CIA. The conventional definition of victory has been the creation of a strong government in Kabul controlling an army and police force able to protect the regime and ultimately impose its will throughout Afghanistan. With President Hamid Karzai increasingly uncooperative with the United States, the likelihood of this outcome is evaporating. Karzai realizes his American protection will be withdrawn and understands that the Americans will blame him for any negative outcomes of the withdrawal because of his inability or unwillingness to control corruption.

Defining Success in Afghanistan

There is a prior definition of success that shaped the Bush administration's approach to Afghanistan in its early phases. The goal here was the disruption of al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan and the prevention of further attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. This definition did not envisage the emergence of a stable and democratic Afghanistan free of corruption and able to control its territory. It was more modest and, in many ways, it was achieved in 2001-2002. Its defect, of course, was that the disruption of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, while useful, did not address the evolution of al Qaeda in other countries. In particular, it did not deal with the movement of al Qaeda operatives to Pakistan, nor did it address the Taliban, which were not defeated in 2001-2002 but simply declined combat on American terms, re-emerging as a viable insurgency when the United States became bogged down in Iraq.

The mission creep from denying Afghan bases to al Qaeda to the transformation of Afghan society had many roots and was well under way during the Bush administration, but the immediate origin of the current strategy was the attempt to transfer the lessons of Iraq to Afghanistan. The surge in Iraq, and the important political settlement with Sunni insurgents that brought them into the American fold, reduced the insurgency. It remains to be seen whether it will produce a stable Iraq not hostile to American interests. The ultimate Iraq strategy was a political settlement framed by an increase in forces, and its long-term success was never clear. The Obama administration was prepared to repeat the attempt in Afghanistan, at least by using Iraq as a template if not applying exactly the same tactics.

However, the United States found that the Taliban were less inclined to negotiate with the United States, and certainly not on the favorable terms of the Iraqi insurgents, simply because they believed they would win in the long run and did not face the dangers that the Sunni insurgents did. The military operations that framed the search for a political solution turned out to be a frame without a painting. In Iraq, it is not clear that the Petraeus strategy actually achieved a satisfactory political outcome, and its application to Afghanistan does not seem, as yet, to have drawn the Taliban into the political process in the way that incorporating the Sunnis made Iraq appear at least minimally successful.

As we pointed out after the death of Osama bin Laden, his demise, coupled with the transfer of Petraeus out of Afghanistan, offered two opportunities. The first was a return to the prior definition of success in Afghanistan, in which the goal was the disruption of al Qaeda. Second, the departure of Petraeus and his staff also removed the ideology of counterinsurgency, in which social transformation was seen as the means toward a practical and radical transformation of Afghanistan. These two events opened the door to the redefinition of the U.S. goal and the ability to claim mission accomplished for the earlier, more modest end, thereby building the basis for terminating the war.

The central battle was in the United States military, divided between conventional warfighters and counter-insurgents. Counterinsurgency draws its roots from theories of social development in emerging countries going back to the 1950s. It argues that victory in these sorts of wars depends on social and political mobilization and that the purpose of the military battle is to create a space to build a state and nation capable of defending itself. [continued after jump]

Squaresville vs the Beatnik



This short film, edited down from its original run time to 6 minutes but with a simple enough plot to still understand, would ordinarily be forgettable. However, it ends up as an odd cultural intersection today. In it a smoking jacket clad Ronald Reagan, playing an upright doctor and family man, is confronted by two hopped-up beatnik hooligans, one played by a scenery-chewing James Dean.

In film, beatniks are kind of like zombies -- once spotted you just have to watch. Ronald Reagan and James Dean sharing the screen is the cherry on top.

Via the Atlantic

While we were sleeping

Monday, June 20, 2011
Turkmen explore the Moon
The Digital Journal is reporting in the article Former Soviet state of Turkmenistan to form own space agency that Turkmenistan is entering the space race.

Well, actually, they are already in the spce race, but news of that slipped by me. In 2004 Turmkenistan, then under the leadership of the late and lamented Turkmenbashi, launched a small "container" into space from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome. Inside the "container", which may or may not have been a shoe box,  was a national flag and the Ruhnama, a book containing all the wisdom you ever need to know, which written by the Turkmenbashi.

Recently they've also signed an agreement with SpaceX, the US based commercial space service, to launch a satellite for Turkmenistan in the year 2014.

Turkmenistan is taking their space faring activities even further. At the end of May, President for Life Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, also known as the Arkadag (the Protector), has announced the formation of Turkmenistan's own space agency, although the details of it remain sketchy.

From the official press release:
According to international specialists, Turkmenistan has the most favourable astronomical and climatic conditions for carrying out astronomical observations. In particular, atmosphere transparency, favourable wind regime and illuminance allow conducting the space tracking activities for more than 2,000 hours a year.

The centuries-old history of our country knows many world-known Turkmen scientists, who have contributed significantly to development of astronomical science. They are Shemset Din Maryly (Shamset Din Mervezi), Al Khorezmi, Biruni, Omar Khayyam and other medieval scholars, who devoted many years of their life to astronomic observations.

It should be noted that before the first space satellite in the world was launched into earth orbit in the midst of XX century, scientists and specialists held the meetings on the issues related to the use of artificial space satellites in Turkmenistan.


Yup, nothing boosts confidence in a County's foray into space more than a solid foundation of medieval science. 

President for Life Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, a.k.a. the Arkadag, claims he wants to develop Turkmenistan's first telecommunications satellite to further its Internet and television network. Considering the existing tight controls on the internet and the media, this is a strange claim to say the least. 

At any rate, like any story out of Turkmenistan, it should be an interesting boondoggle to follow.

The Thrill is Gone



Monday morning blues time brings us BB King and Gary Moore playing off each others guitar riffs. 
 

Diplomatic dance in Bolok

Sunday, June 19, 2011
Detail from the painting Balinese Dance by Auke Sonnega
The Diplomad spins an entertaining yarn in his post Go To Bolok! or, A Tropical Take. Below is an except from it, be sure to go there and read the entire story.
Once a chic destination for European jet-setters and their imitators, Bolok never had recovered from the anti-Republic riots of a few years back that played night after night, for endless weeks on the world’s news programs. Empty beaches, shuttered shops, half-built hotels, trash-strewn streets, and charred villas memorialized the passing of the island’s brief dream of tourist-driven prosperity.  Bolok’s inhabitants now dreamed only of leaving for Brunei, Australia, Singapore, Canada, or the U.S., or anywhere else that harbored a flicker of hope for life, prosperity, and posterity.

While true that these days few foreigners visited Bolok, the still-audible Siren’s song of cheap lodging and food, and world-class diving still lured the occasional thrifty adventurer. It had lured flamboyant Senator Charles “Call-me-Chuck” Landers, long-time Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Before Landers had set off on his adventure, the Senator’s aide had called the U.S. Embassy to announce the visit and stress that, “The Senator and Mrs. Landers, of course, do not want the Embassy to go out of its way, or for it to spend taxpayer funds to support their private visit.  They, of course, seek no Embassy assistance.” Newly arrived Ambassador Williams, sitting 1300 miles away from Bolok in the capital of Suluarta, and inexperienced in matters pertaining to the care and feeding of traveling Members of Congress, sighed in relief at these words; he dreaded the thought of making the long and uncomfortable plane and boat trip to dreary Bolok just to tend to the Senator.   

On their first night in Bolok, the vacationing Landers gorged on mounds of inexpensive, oddly flavored prawns at The Vice Squad, one of the few functioning restaurants.  During the beach stroll back to their hotel, and just as the Senator launched into his third rendition of “Imagine what that would have cost back home,” Mrs. Landers began feeling, by turns, faint, hot, cold, and sweaty.  A gut-churning spasm felled her.  The Senator soon followed, joining his wife sprawled on the sand in a pool of vomit and diarrhea. Two Australian surfers dragged the spewing Yanks to the road, and packed them into a taxi. In the hotel, the Landers ingested rehydration salts and expired antibiotics, and had their wallets stolen. Two days later, pale, weak and groggy, they departed for Washington. 

Safely back in DC, Landers issued a press release expressing “disgust with the lack of concern shown by Embassy Suluarta for traveling Americans in Bolok Island, a major center of global tourism.” He put a hold on State Department funding until the Department established a consulate in Bolok.
[Read the rest of Go To Bolok! or, A Tropical Take]

Slow Motion Moscow



A remarkably moody and unsettling video by Andrey Stvolinsky with music by the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble.  
 

The origin of the word scofflaw

Saturday, June 18, 2011
The high boozer & Scofflaw-in-Chief slime slops another brewski
From time to time Obama has been labeled a scofflaw by his opposition. 

It first surfaced during the Beer Summit when it was discovered that he had a pile of unpaid parking tickets from the Cambridge police department dating back to his Harvard student days. He only paid the tickets two weeks before he began his Presidential run.

Most recently the adjective has been applied to him because of his refusal to apply the War Powers Act to his Libyan adventures. 

A scofflaw is defined as "a person who flouts the law, esp. by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively." Mrs. Sinistral and a friend of hers somehow ended up discussing the word scofflaw yesterday. The friend wondered what the origin of the word was and my wife guessed old English. Still curious, she looked the word up this morning and was surprised to discover it was actually a manufactured word.

It is a manufactured word that is the result of a Boston Herald contest in the 1920s. It was the era of Prohibition and a Mr. King put up a $200 prize for the person who invented a word that best stigmatized illegal drinkers. 

From Predicting New Words some of the submissions were: vatt, scut, sluf, curd, canker, scuttler, dipsic, alcolog, slime slopper, ell shiner, still whacker, sluch licker, lawlessite, bottle yegger, crimer, alcoloom, hootch sniper, cellar sifter and high boozer.

I rather like alcolog and bottle yegger, but Mr. King chose scofflaw as the winner and so the prize was split between Henry Irving Dale and Miss Kate L. Butler, the two people who suggested it.

Other papers reacted to its announcement with amusement or disdain. The NY Times complained that  "it lacks the merit of coming trippingly from the tongue" while the NY Tribune disapprovingly compared it to organic slang words such as "roughneck, highbrow, boob, jazz, hootch and hoodlum".

However people, particularly the scofflaws themselves, quickly embraced the word. Below is a poem by the scofflaw C.W.
I want to be a scofflaw
And with the scofflaws stand;
A brand upon my forehead
A handcuff on my hand.
I want to be a scofflaw,
For since I went to school,
I hate to mind an order,
I hate to keep a rule.
Meanwhile Jack, the manager of Harry's Bar in Paris, invented Harry' Scoff-Laws Cocktail which was popular with his patrons. If you care to mix one -- one ounce Canadian whiskey, one ounce dry vermouth, 1/4 ounce of lemon juice and a dash of both grenadine and orange bitters.

The word has since evolved beyond only illegal drinkers to mean any person who knowingly ignores minor laws -- littering, not wearing seat belts, not paying traffic tickets and the like. 

Who knows, with its recent use against Obama over the War Powers Act, and the Democrats in the Senate for failing in the legal obligation to produce a budget, perhaps the word will take on even more meaning in the future. Regardless, it is an interesting case of a manufactured word successfully entering the English language. 
   
DISCLAIMER: Mrs. Sinistral, who suggested this post and is also a life long Democrat, wants it on the record that she objects to the post's political slant, particularly with regard to my snark in the photo caption.
 

Newspaper Map

Click to enlarge
The website Newspaper Map is a wonderful resource. As shown in the screen shot above, it is a world map of newspapers, color coded by language. Clicking on the paper's icon will open the paper in a new browser tab. If needed, when you bring a newspaper up you can access Google's translate tool.  

Along with the latest, breaking news, it also has a switch you can select which brings up historical newspaper archives.

Between reading obscure newspapers (by the way, the Seychelles Nation reports that China has just given the Seychelles 2 Y12 aircraft worth 12 million US dollars) or digging through their archives (did you know that surviving smallpox "without your eyesight or bearing being seriously effected" can add years to your life?) you can spend a huge amount of time on this site. 

Two thumbs up for this online resource.
 

Stratfor and Delores del Rio

Friday, June 17, 2011
This Stratfor article discusses the upcoming  2012 Mexican elections and the effects of the struggles with the drug cartels are having on them. Some opposition parties are floating the notion that they will ratchet back Calderon's aggressive stance against the cartels and seek an accommodation with them. 

However, the situation with the Mexican drug cartels continue to evolve. The cartels, beneficiaries of the U.S. shutting down the Caribbean and Colombian drug routes, are beginning to expand into other criminal activities. 

The result of this is cartel on cartel violence to control criminal territories rather than cartel vs the government violence. Thus, even if the government backed off its pressure, the reasons for inter-cartel violence would continue to exist, and so would the violence.

As Stewart points out, regardless of the campaign rhetoric of whoever wins events on the ground will almost certainly dictate that the government continue to try to enforce its monopoly on power. Much like Obama's anti-Bush stance was washed away by the realities of the war on Terror, so too the next Mexican President will face a battle that they must continue to fight.

For the Hot Stratfor Babe I selected Delores del Rio. She worked in Hollywood in the 1920s during the silent era, and was the first Mexican movie start to develop international stardom. Her career stumbled when the talkies arrived, but she returned to Mexico and revitalized it in 1948. amazingly, her last film role was 1978, meaning her career spanned nearly six decades.  

After the article I've include a bonus video, from Bird of Paradise, of a rather scantily clad Delores del Rio doing a seductive native dance while the tribal chief leers at her and the hero sneaks around to save her.


NEW MEXICAN PRESIDENT, SAME CARTEL WAR?
By Scott Stewart, June 16, 2011

We talk to a lot of people in our effort to track Mexico's criminal cartels and to help our readers understand the  dynamics that shape the violence in Mexico. Our contacts include a wide range of people, from Mexican and U.S. government officials, journalists and business owners to taxi drivers and street vendors. Lately, as we've been talking with people, we've been hearing chatter about the 2012 presidential election in Mexico and how the cartel war will impact that election.

In any democratic election, opposition parties always criticize the policies of the incumbent. This tactic is especially true when the country is involved in a long and costly war. Recall, for example, the 2008 U.S. elections and then-candidate Barack Obama's criticism of the Bush administration's policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy is what we are seeing now in Mexico with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticizing the way the administration of Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party (PAN), has prosecuted its war against the Mexican cartels.

One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties -- especially the PRI -- seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse Calderon's policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country. In effect, this stratagem would be a return of the status quo ante during the PRI administrations that ruled Mexico for decades prior to 2000. One other important thing to remember, however, is that while Mexico's tough stance against the cartels is most often associated with President Calderon, the policy of using the military against the cartels was established during the administration of President Vicente Fox (also of PAN), who declared the "mother of all battles" against cartel kingpins in January 2005.

While this political rhetoric may be effective in tapping public discontent with the current situation in Mexico -- and perhaps obtaining votes for opposition parties -- the current environment in Mexico is far different from what it was in the 1990s. This environment will dictate that no matter who wins the 2012 election, the new president will have little choice but to maintain the campaign against the Mexican cartels.

Changes in the Drug Flow

First, it is important to understand that over the past decade there have been changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States. The first of these changes was in the way that cocaine is trafficked from South America to the United Sates and in the specific organizations that are doing that trafficking. While there has always been some cocaine smuggled into the United States through Mexico, like during the "Miami Vice" era from the 1970s to the early 1990s, much of the U.S. supply came into Florida via Caribbean routes. The cocaine was trafficked mainly by the powerful Colombian cartels, and while they worked with Mexican partners such as the Guadalajara cartel to move product through Mexico and into the United States, the Colombians were the dominant partners in the relationship and pocketed the lion's share of the profits.

As U.S. interdiction efforts curtailed much of the Caribbean drug flow due to improvements in aerial and maritime surveillance, and as the Colombian cartels were dismantled by the Colombian and U.S. governments, Mexico became more important to the flow of cocaine and the Mexican cartels gained more prominence and power. Over the past decade, the tables turned. Now, the Mexican cartels control most of the cocaine flow and the Colombian gangs are the junior partners in the relationship.

The Mexican cartels have expanded their control over cocaine smuggling to the point where they are also involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia. This expanded cocaine supply chain means that the Mexican cartels have assumed a greater risk of loss along the extended supply routes, but it also means that they earn a far greater percentage of the profit derived from South American cocaine than they did when the Colombian cartels called the shots.

While Mexican cartels have always been involved in the smuggling of marijuana to the U.S. market, and marijuana sales serve as an important profit pool for them, the increasing popularity of other drugs in the United States in recent years, such as black-tar heroin and methamphetamine, has also helped bring big money (and power) to the Mexican cartels. These drugs have proved to be quite lucrative for the Mexican cartels because the cartels own the entire production process. This is not the case with cocaine, which the cartels have to purchase from South American suppliers. [continued after jump]

Suave



With summer upon us get ready for the weekend with Johannes Linstead's sun-drenched song Suave from his album Cafe Tropical.
 

Welcome to Canal City

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Remember, when designing fountains, one must always recite Zen poems to oneself.
Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

Sita sings the blues.



Where to begin with this video? Our animated heroine sings the old Annette Hanshaw song Who's that Knocking at My Door while a battle rages around her. A Blue Hero leading an army of monkeys battles with flying worms, one-eyed devils and a multi-headed villain. It results in many dismembered cartoon creatures and an ocean of blood.

It is from the film Sita Sings the Blues.
 

Things you don't think about

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
While rambling around the web looking for something else entirely, I stumbled upon the article  The Unsung Heroes of Biscuit Embossing at the website Edible Geography. The article starts with this:
Interestingly, when the Oreo was first introduced by Nabisco in 1912, it used a much more organic wreath for its emboss, later augmented with two pairs of turtledoves in a 1924 redesign. The contemporary Oreo stamp was introduced in 1952, and it has remained unchanged, and, in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger, “the stuff of legend,” ever since.

Writing in 1986, to mark the cookie’s seventy-fifth birthday, Goldberger declared that the Oreo “stands as the archetype of its kind, a reminder that cookies are designed as consciously as buildings, and sometimes better.” Comparing the Oreo to its less successful competitor, the Hydrox, Goldberger notes:

Still, it is the Oreo that has become the icon. And after all, it is the more American-looking of the two — its even pattern, however dowdy, has an industrial, stamped-out quality. It might be said to combine homelike decoration with an American love of machine imagery, and in that combination lies a triumph of design.
It first discusses the evolution of the emboss on Oreo cookies, who may have designed it and what it may symbolize. From there it branches into a discussion of the history of embosses on biscuits and the practical reasons for some of the features of an emboss, and eventually the technology and machinery created to mass produce biscuits.

I had never given any thought to the patterns backed into an Oreo cookie. They were just there.

Although it sounds silly in context, the sentence fragment "cookies are designed as consciously as buildings" makes an interesting point. You can say the same thing about virtually any manufactured item. A coin from you pocket, the cup you drink your coffee from, the tile on your floor -- each is a thing you give no thought to, yet the details of them are considerable. As an example, here's the Wikipedia page about the common nail.

If you narrow your focus enough, and concentrate on just a mundane slice of the big picture, it is always amazing how thought through the details are, and how many experts there must be out there. Experts at little and sometimes obscure chunks of knowledge. Things we don't think about.  From time to time, the little things are worth looking at, worth turning over in your hand and carefully considering it, just to remind yourself of that fact.

A midget riding on a dog's back



A midget camera that is. Somebody mounted a Go-Pro HD miniature camera on the back of their dog. It leads to a pretty entertaining video of a dog wandering around its yard and house. I quite liked the dog's head movements in it. 

Go-Pro cameras are usually used by athletes as helmet cams, but they've been put to all sorts of other uses -- mounted on radio controlled planes and so forth. You can find a lot of videos they shot on YouTube, including the guy who managed to accidentally fall off a cliff (embedding disabled, you'll have to follow the link to see that video).
 

Judge Sumi slapped

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Maybe I'll veto the Supreme Court
In an earlier post, Knock me over with a feather, I made fun of Judge Sumi, a county judge in Wisconsin, who decided she had veto power over the legislature and tried to bar a bill from being published into law. 

I mentioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court was due to hear the appeal. Today they issued their decision and they slapped Judge Sumi silly in the process. They lifted the ban and ordered the bill to be published into law. 

The decision was 4-3, but the dissent seems to have centered around the speed and process of the decision, rather than the decision itself. The Wisconsin Legislature had forced the Court's hand by saying they would re-pass the bill today with the disputed parts included if the Court didn't make a decision. That would have mooted the case, and the majority must not have wanted to pass on the opportunity to forcefully set Sumi straight.

I've included part of their decision below, with the more brutal parts emphasized. Bear in mind I'm not a lawyer -- for a more legalistic discussion the threads at Volokh and Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion are good reads. Also, this doesn't end the legal wrangling, as soon as it is published as a law several challenges to it will be filed.

From the decision:
¶39  The first and most obvious issue presented by this case is whether the Dane County Circuit Court, or any court in Wisconsin, may enjoin the publication of an act to prevent that act from becoming law. The answer is "no."

¶40  This precise issue was settled in Goodland v. Zimmerman, 243 Wis. 459, 10 N.W.2d 180 (1943).  In that case, the governor of Wisconsin sought to enjoin the secretary of state from publishing an act of the legislature that the governor had vetoed.  Governor Goodland sought an injunction on grounds that the Assembly had failed to override his veto by the constitutionally required vote of two thirds of all members present.  In other words, Governor Goodland sought to prevent publication of the act on constitutional grounds.  Goodland, 243 Wis. at 464-65.  The court unanimously rejected his position.

¶41  The court was definitive that "the legislative process is not complete unless and until an enactment has been published as required by the constitution and by statute."  Id. at 466 (emphasis added).  Then the court added:

There is no such thing known to the law as an unconstitutional bill.  A court cannot deal with the question of constitutionality until a law has been duly enacted and some person has been deprived of his constitutional rights by its operation.

Id.  Only after a law has been published may a person who is injured by the law challenge it in court.  Id.

¶42  The court provided a textbook discussion of the separation of powers:

It must always be remembered that one of the fundamental principles of the American constitutional system is that governmental powers are divided among the three departments of government, the legislative, the executive, and judicial, and that each of these departments is separate and independent from the others except as otherwise provided by the constitution.  The application of these principles operates in a general way to confine legislative powers to the legislature, executive powers to the executive department, and those which are judicial in character to the judiciary. . . .  While the legislature in the exercise of its constitutional powers is supreme in its particular field, it may not exercise the power committed by the constitution to one of the other departments.

What is true of the legislative department is true of the judicial department. The judicial department has no jurisdiction or right to interfere with the legislative process.  That is something committed by the constitution entirely to the legislature itself.  It makes its own rules, prescribes its own procedure, subject only to the provisions of the constitution and it is its province to determine what shall be enacted into law.

Id. at 466-67 (emphasis added).

¶43  In short, "no court has jurisdiction to enjoin the legislative process at any point."  Id. at 468 (citing cases from Wisconsin and other jurisdictions).

¶44  Goodland was decided nearly 70 years ago, but it remains fundamental law.  In State ex rel. Althouse v. City of Madison, 79 Wis. 2d 97, 255 N.W.2d 449 (1977), this court cited State ex rel. Martin v. Zimmerman, 233 Wis. 16, 288 N.W. 454 (1939), with approval, noting that "the [Martin] court pointed out that the question of the validity of [an] act could not be entertained by any court prior to its enactment."  Althouse, 79 Wis. 2d at 112.  Justice Nathan Heffernan then quoted from Goodland at length and observed that, "If a court could enjoin publication of a bill, the [Goodland] court reasoned, it, not the legislature, would be determining what the law should be."  Althouse, 79 Wis. 2d at 113.  Turning back to Goodland, Justice Heffernan repeated the statement that "no court has jurisdiction to enjoin the legislative process at any point."  Id.

¶45  Goodland also was cited approvingly by Justice Abrahamson in State v. Washington, 83 Wis. 2d 808, 816, 266 N.W.2d 597 (1978) to support the principle that Article IV, Section 1 and Article V, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution are construed to "prohibit one branch of government from exercising the powers granted to other branches."

¶46  The majority of this court now concludes that the circuit court exceeded its authority in prohibiting publication of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10.  This is not a close question. Wisconsin law in this regard is longstanding and completely in line with the law in other jurisdictions. 

Ouch. Some of that would sound condescending if they said it to me -- a non-lawyer. To state such things, in such a tone, to a sitting judge is a pretty clear slap upside her head. 


Stratfor and Nurgül Yeşilçay

This Stratfor article discusses the situation surrounding Turkey in light of its recent elections. 

First it discusses the tenuous balance between Turkey's religious (I'm not sure Islamist is quite the correct term) party the AKP and the diverse coalition of secular parties opposing it. As pointed out in the article, the AKP fell short of the super-majority they needed to unilaterally alter the Turkish Constitution, so for now a sort of stasis remains.

The article then examined Turkey's rather complex diplomatic posture, as it tries to deal with the competing pressures of the U.S., its Arab neighbors, Russia, Europe and Israel. It is taking steps towards exerting itself as a regional power, but it isn't clear how it will eventually balance all of the forces pulling and pushing against it.

Turkey is a legitimate military power, it would certainly give Europe, and perhaps even Russia, fits if they ever clashed and it is hard to imagine one of their immediate Islamic neighbors, even Iran, being able to stand against them for long. For that reason, coupled with the uncertainty of their diplomatic intentions, Turkey is a country that bears close attention.

For the article's Hot Stratfor Babe I decided to pick a Turkish actress. After my usual exhaustive and thorough search, I settled on Nurgül Yeşilçay for the honor.

The reason I settled on her was she started on the stage and played Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Yes, that's a ridiculous reason, but come on -- let's be honest here -- all of my Hot Stratfor Babe criteria are pretty ridiculous so precedence has already been established. 

After her stint on the stage she moved onto TV, where she had several very popular shows which led to her having a career in the movies. She also is a singer and dancer. She appears to be a very popular Turkish star.

As usual I've embedded a bonus video after the article. It is a very nice live version of Roy Orbison singing Pretty Woman while a bunch of pictures of her are shown. I must say, the camera is very kind to her. She pulls off a variety of looks quite nicely.


TURKEY'S ELECTIONS AND STRAINED U.S. RELATIONS
By George Friedman, June 14, 2011

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won Parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People's Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a super-majority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey's constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the super-majority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the super-majority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals.

One way to look at this is that Turkey continues to operate within a stable framework, one that has been in place for almost a decade. The AKP is the ruling party. The opposition is fragmented along ideological lines, which gives the not overwhelmingly popular AKP disproportionate power. The party can set policy within the constitution but not beyond the constitution. In this sense, the Turkish political system has produced a long-standing reality. Few other countries can point to such continuity of leadership. Obviously, since Turkey is a democracy, the rhetoric is usually heated and accusations often fly, ranging from imminent military coups to attempts to impose a religious dictatorship. There may be generals thinking of coups and there may be members of AKP thinking of religious dictatorship, but the political process has worked effectively to make such things hard to imagine. In Turkey, as in every democracy, the rhetoric and the reality must be carefully distinguished.

Turkey's Shifting Policy

That said, the AKP has clearly taken Turkey in new directions in both domestic and foreign policy. In domestic policy, the direction is obvious. While the CHP has tried to vigorously contain religion within the private sphere, the AKP has sought to recognize Turkey's Islamic culture and has sought a degree of integration with the political structure.

This has had two results. Domestically, while the AKP has had the strength to create a new political sensibility, it has not had the strength to create new institutions based on Islamic principles (assuming this is one of its desired goals). Nevertheless, the secularists, deriving their legitimacy from the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, have viewed his legacy and their secular rights -- one of which is the right of women not to have to wear headscarves -- as being under attack. Hence, the tenor of public discourse has been volatile. Indeed, there is a constant sense of crisis in Turkey, as the worst fears of the secularists collide with the ambitions of the AKP. Again, we regard these ambitions as modest, not because we know what AKP leaders intend in their heart, but simply because they lack the power to go further regardless of intentions.

The rise of the AKP and its domestic agenda has more than just domestic consequences. Since 2001, the United States has been fighting radical Islamists, and the fear of radical Islamism goes beyond the United States to Europe and other countries. In many ways, Turkey is both the most prosperous and most militarily powerful of any Muslim country. The idea that the AKP agenda is radically Islamist and that Turkey is moving toward radical Islamism generates anxieties and hostilities in the international system. [continued after jump]