ObamaCare's new breast enlargement treatment

Friday, September 30, 2011


The Thai government has given Khemmikka Na Songkhla, a.k.a Khunying Tobnom, the first license as a certified "breast slapper". You might ask, "what is breast slapping" and "is it my imagination or is Ambisinistral repeating the phrase in yet another of his cheeseball attempts to lure traffic to Flares"?

Of course the answer to the second question is yes. As for the first question -- according to Khunying Tobnom,, and I guess the Thai government, "Breast slapping" is a non-surgical method of enlarging a woman's breasts by up to 2 inches. Tobnom accomplishes this by slapping and kneading the woman to get her fat to migrate to her breasts from areas in her body where it is doing no earthly good. 

 Since she's a regular Renaissance women, Tobnom also does face and buttocks slapping to move fat around to more appropriate locations. She charges $399 for six 10 minute slapping sessions and plans at training 10 more "breast slappers" at $263,504 a pop.

As an aside, as silly as the process sounds, I can imagine Hollywood actresses wanting to get themselves slapped around for an all natural and holistic treatment all the way from the mysterious East that augments their breast size, rearranges their butt fat and slenderizes their faces. 

Via Weird Asia's post Breast Slapping: Bigger Breasts Or Bust! where you can read more about it.

Stratfor and Gretchen Blieler

During the last two weeks of October the Pan American Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico. Because of the violence level in Mexico there is understandably concern for the athletes and spectators at these games.

In this Stratfor article Scott Stewart assesses the threat. He begins by giving a history of the drug cartel activity in Guadalajara. Although he thinks there may be some cartel violence during the games he doesn't think there will be violence directed against the games. 

Rather, he expects one of the macabre body dumps the cartels do to draw attention. However, the worse case scenario would be getting caught up as a bystander in one of their gang shootouts, but those should be well removed from the Game's venues.

Stewart warns that the biggest danger is the low level crimes -- robbery, kidnapping and extortion -- that permeates Mexican society. He then offers suggestions as to how to best avoid situations that are liable to make you a victim of that type of crime.

Since we're talking about an athletic event, I thought I would choose an athlete rather than my usual actress or model as the article's Hot Stratfor Babe. After conducting research at several scholarly websites I selected snowboarder Gretchen Blieler for the honor.

Yeah, yeah, snow boarding probably isn't on the program for the Pan American Games, but if I can substitute any desert for Saudi Arabia as I am prone to do, then I can pawn off any athlete as a Pan American Game athlete.

Gretchen, along with doing a lot to position woman's snowboarding as a professional sport, is considered the finest feamle athlete in the sport. She's won several competitions, although a couple of bad falls ruined her chances at the last Olympics. She also promotes a line of outer wear, designs boards and babbles about the environment and tree-huggery a lot.

As a bonus, after the article I've included an ATT commercial she did where she snowboards off into outer space to a Lou Reed tune. 


MEXICAN CARTELS AND THE PAN AMERICAN GAMES: A THREAT ASSESSMENT
By Scott Stewart, September 29, 2011

The 2011 Pan American Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Oct. 14 through Oct. 30. The games will feature 36 different sports and will bring more than 6,000 athletes and tens of thousands of spectators to Mexico's second-largest city. The Parapan American Games, for athletes with physical disabilities, will follow from Nov. 12 to Nov. 20.

Like the Olympics, the World Cup or any other large sporting event, planning for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara began when the city was selected to host them in 2006. Preparations have included the construction of new sports venues, an athletes' village complex, hotels, highway and road infrastructure, and improvements to the city's mass transit system. According to the coordinating committee, the construction and infrastructure improvements for the games have cost some $750 million.

The preparations included more than just addressing infrastructure concerns, however. Due to the crime environment in Mexico, security is also a very real concern for the athletes, sponsors and spectators who will visit Guadalajara during the games. The organizers of the games, the Mexican government and the governments of the 42 other participating countries also will be focused intensely on security in Guadalajara over the next two months.

In light of these security concerns, STRATFOR will publish a special report on the games Sept. 30. The report, of which this week's Security Weekly is an abridged version, will provide our analysis of threats to the games.


Cartel Environment

Due to the violent and protracted conflicts between Mexico's transnational criminal cartels and the incredible  levels of brutality that they have spawned, most visitors' foremost security concern will be Mexico's criminal cartels. The Aug. 20 incident in Torreon, Coahuila state, in which a firefight occurred outside of a stadium during a nationally televised soccer match, will reinforce perceptions of this danger. The concern is understandable, especially considering Guadalajara's history as a cartel haven and recent developments in the region. Even so, we believe the cartels are unlikely to attack the games intentionally.

Historically, smuggling has been a way of life for criminal groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, and moving illicit goods across the border, whether alcohol, guns, narcotics or illegal immigrants, has long proved quite profitable for these groups. This profitability increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s as the flow of South American cocaine through the Caribbean was sharply cut due to improvements in maritime and aerial surveillance and interdiction. This change in enforcement directed a far larger percentage of the flow of cocaine through Mexico, greatly enriching the Mexican smugglers involved in the cocaine trade. The group of smugglers who benefited most from cocaine trade included Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero, who would go on to form a Guadalajara-based organization known as the Guadalajara cartel. That cartel became the most powerful narcotics smuggling organization in the country, and perhaps the world, controlling virtually all the narcotics smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

The Guadalajara cartel was dismantled during the U.S. and Mexican reaction to the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena by the group. Smaller organizations emerged from its remains that eventually would become the Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel), the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (aka the Juarez cartel), the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. The sheer number of major cartel organizations that came out of the Guadalajara cartel demonstrates the immense power and geographic reach the group once wielded.

Even after the demise of the Guadalajara cartel, Guadalajara continued to be an important city for drug smuggling operations due to its location in relation to Mexico's highway and railroad system and its proximity to Mexico's largest port, Manzanillo. The port is not just important to cocaine smuggling; it also has become an important point of entry for precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. For many years, the Sinaloa Federation faction headed by Ignacio "El Nacho" Coronel Villarreal was in charge of the Guadalajara plaza. Although Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco continued to be an important component of the cocaine trade, Coronel Villarreal became known as "the king of crystal" due to his organization's heavy involvement in the meth trade.

Guadalajara remained firmly under Sinaloa control until the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) split off from Sinaloa following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008. This caused the Beltran Leyva Organization to ally itself with Los Zetas and to begin to attack Sinaloa's infrastructure on Mexico's Pacific coast. In April 2010, Coronel Villarreal's 16-year-old son Alejandro was abducted and murdered. Like the murder of Edgar Guzman Beltran, the son of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, the BLO and Los Zetas were thought to have been behind the murder of Coronel Villarreal's son. In July 2010, Coronel Villarreal himself was killed during a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan, Jalisco state.

Coronel Villarreal's death created a power vacuum in Guadalajara that several organizations attempted to fill due to the importance of Guadalajara and Jalisco to the smuggling of narcotics. One of these was La Familia Michoacana (LFM). LFM's attempt to assume control of Guadalajara led to the rupture of the alliance between LFM and Sinaloa. (LFM has since fractured; the most powerful faction of that group is now called the Knights Templar.) The group now headed by Hector Beltran Leyva, which is called the Cartel Pacifico Sur, and its ally Los Zetas also continue to attempt to increase their influence over Guadalajara.

But the current fight for control of Guadalajara includes not only outsiders such as the Knights Templar and the CPS/Los Zetas but also the remnants of Coronel Villarreal's network and what is left of the Milenio cartel (also known as the Valencia cartel) which has historically been very active in Guadalajara and Manzanillo. One portion of the former Milenio cartel is known as "La Resistencia" and has become locked in a vicious war with the most prominent group of Coronel's former operatives, which is known as the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). CJNG appears to have gotten the better of La Resistencia in this fight, and La Resistencia has recently allied itself with Los Zetas/CPS out of desperation.

In July, CJNG announced it was moving some of its forces to Veracruz to attack Los Zetas' infrastructure there. This CJNG group in Veracruz began to call itself "Matazetas," Spanish for "Zeta killers." It is believed that the CJNG is responsible for the recent killings of low-level Zeta operators in Veracruz. Taken with the Los Zetas/La Resistencia alliance, the CJNG offensive in Veracruz means that if Los Zetas have the ability to strike against the CJNG infrastructure in Guadalajara, they will do so. Such strikes could occur in the next few weeks, and could occur during the games.

As illustrated by the recent body dumps in Veracruz, or the bodies dumped in Acapulco during Mexican President Felipe Calderon's visit to that city in March, the Mexican cartels do like to perform a type of macabre theater in order to grab media attention. With the attention of the press turned toward Guadalajara, it would not be surprising if one or more cartel groups attempted some sort of body dump or other spectacle in Guadalajara during the games.

And given the ongoing fight for control of Guadalajara, it is quite likely that there will be some confrontations between the various cartel groups in the city during the games. However, such violence is not likely to be intentionally directed against the games. The biggest risk to athletes and spectators posed by the cartels comes from being in the wrong place at the wrong time; the cartels frequently employ fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate fire during shootouts with the authorities and rival cartels.

Crime

One of the side effects of the Mexican government's war against the cartels is that as some cartels have been weakened by pressure from the government and their rivals, they have become less capable of moving large shipments of narcotics. This has made them increasingly reliant on other types of crime to supplement their income. Crime always has been a problem in Mexico, but activities such as robbery, kidnapping and extortion have gotten progressively worse in recent years. According to the U.S. State Department's 2011 Crime and Safety report for Guadalajara, crimes of all types have increased in the city. Indeed, due to the high levels of crime present in Mexico, athletes and spectators at the Pan American Games are far more likely to fall victim to common crime than they are to an act of cartel violence.[continued after the jump]

Bellissimo



Get ready for a weekend of cascading drama with San Ilya.

 

The Nucleon - Ford's eco-friendly concept car

Thursday, September 29, 2011
The 1958 Ford Nucleon was a concept car that replaced the internal combustion engine with a small nuclear reactor. The fission reactor was to power a steam turbine to provide the propulsion.  Try to tell me this little baby wouldn't have run circles around an electric car when it came to performance. 

Alas, they didn't have reactors small enough for it and so we were forever deprived the sight of it cruising down main street.

In looking at it, I do wonder how well it would have handled. The lead shielded passenger compartment and the aerodynamic nose are both ahead of the front wheels. Would they have used rear wheel steering? Either way, with that configuration the Nucleon would have been an adventure to try to parallel park.

Also, is it my imagination of did they forget to include doors in the design? I wonder how you were supposed to get in and out of it? 

The best information I could find about it was at SonicBomb:
Ford's engineers imagined a world in which fuel stations dotted along the highway, would wash your windscreen and then swap out your depleted reactor. The car's reactor was essentially the same as a nuclear submarine's, but miniaturized for automobile use. It would use uranium fission to heat stored water into high-pressure steam which could then be used to drive turbines, which in turn would both propel the car and generate electricity. The steam would then be condensed back into water and sent back to the steam generator in a closed loop.

The designers anticipated that a typical Nucleon would travel about 8000 km per charge. Because the power plant was an interchangeable component, owners would have the freedom to select a reactor configuration based on their personal needs.

Prototype 2 The passenger compartment of the Nucleon featured a one-piece pillar-less windshield and compound rear window, topped by a cantilever roof. There were air intakes at the leading edge of the roof and at the base of its supports to be used as part of the reactor's cooling system. An extreme cab-forward style provided more protection to the driver and passengers from the reactor in the rear, and to provide maximum axle support to the heavy equipment and its attendant shielding. Some pictures show the car with tail fins sweeping up from the rear fenders.
 

The start of somebody's bad day


File under: when you don't have time to write a post, post a picture.

Ethical Oil: framing a debate on an issue

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One of the most effective political ad campaigns running these days is the "Ethical Oil" campaign being ran in Canada. The group, who's website is EthicalOil.org, is promoting the development of Canadian oil sands. 

To promote the sale of Canadian oil the concept of Conflict vs Ethical oil was created and used to frame the debate. Rather than focus on the oil itself, the ad campaign concentrates on the differences between the societies that stand to profit from the oil's sale. A series of hot button issues for the left are contrasted: feminism, minority rights, LGBT acceptance, environmentalism and so forth. You can see a slideshow of the entire set at The Globe and Mail.

It is a nifty piece of marketing jiu-jitsu. The images are stark and unmistakably lay out the contrast between Canadian values and the baser values of dictatorships. Further, it forces the debate to be on that ground. To show how effective they are here as attempt at a response to the above Aboriginals ad from Leaf and Steel:
It is certainly true that there are places in the world, like Sudan, where certain ethnic groups have been viciously attacked so that one group can gain control of their land in order to control the oil there (note: things don’t get much better when a company leaves, because that company just sells its lease or whatever to . . . another company). In Canada, things aren’t happening quite so violently, but the Alberta and Canadian governments are being sued over developments that would violate treaties regarding First Nations’ rights.
Huh? Comparing ethnic cleansing to having the ability to file a law suit? That is such a weak and feeble response that it almost qualifies as a non sequitur.



With the above TV ad Ethical Oil has also infuriated the Saudi Arabian government. The ad points out the condition of woman in Saudi Arabia and asks why are we funding their oppression by buying their oil? As the Globe and Mail reports:
In hiring a law firm to complain about an attack ad, the Saudis have thrown oil on the fire.
Mr. Velshi said lawyers from the international law firm Norton Rose LLP sent “cease and desist” letters to the national advertising watchdog, as well as to media companies, warning about potential legal action.

Bell Media, which owns CTV, confirmed it had been informed by the Saudis of a legal dispute over the commercial, and cancelled plans to run it.

“As the ad in question is the subject of a legal dispute between Ethical Oil and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, at the advisement of our legal department we will not accept the order until the matter is resolved,” the company said in a statement.

Mr. Kenney and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver both condemned the Saudi legal tactic.

“Canada is a country that is a champion of freedom of speech. That is a constitutional right,” the Immigration Minister said.

“And we don’t take kindly to foreign governments threatening directly or indirectly Canadian broadcasters or media for giving voice to freedom of speech. We think that’s inappropriate and certainly inconsistent with Canada’s belief in freedom of speech.”

Mr. Oliver said Canadians don’t “appreciate any attempt by a foreign country to undermine our freedoms.”

Mr. Velshi e-mailed the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, asking that the MPs “investigate this brazen attempt by a foreign dictatorship to censor” what appears on Canadian television. The chair, Conservative MP Dean Allison, promised to consider the request.
In spite of the cease and desist letters, Ethical Oil has continued to run the ads.

I've talked before about Conservatives allowing the left to frame the parameters of a debate. The Ethical Oil campaign is an example of just how powerful framing can be. The discussion has shifted from the usual Green bagaboos about carbon and oil spills to what type of society you want your money to go to. 

This is what I mean by the need for Republicans to reject and ignore the framing of MSM "gotcha" questions and to talk about issues in the terms they view those issues. The Ethical Oil people didn't spend their time losing a wonkish argument on oils spills -- instead they demanded that, in terms of what's right, you to put your money where your mouth is. They framed the debate. 

The Republicans  shouldn't waste their air time politely answering inane, leading questions -- they should use their airtime to state their case. Frame the debate.
 

Calypso and current events



C.W. Stoneking singing Brave Son of America a song praising General MacArthur. It is a cover of an old calypso song, origianlly done by Wilmouth Houdini. Houdini was from Trinidad and Tobago, although he relocated to New York were he performed his music. 

Early calypso music is interesting in that it often, like Brave Son of America, dealt with current events. It was one way that news was disseminated and opinions shaped. Below are two more examples, Edward VIII by Lord Caresser and  Roosevelt in Trinidad by Attila the Hun.  




Stratfor and Booth Babes

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Kamran Bokhari of Stratfor recently had the opportunity to attend the "Islamic Awakening" conference in Tehran, Iran. This conference was part of Iran's attempt to spread its influence in the region as America draws down its forces by appropriating as much of the popular unrest in the area as possible.

Bokhari begins by giving his impression from the trip of the economic and internal security situation in Iran. He then discusses the maneuvering between Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as they all try to exert their power in the region.

He points out that, aside from Ian's sectarian problems as a Shiite country, they also have a problem in trying to pose as booster of the Arab Spring revolots while at the same time having to support Bashir in Syria as he cracks down on his citizens.

Since the "Islamic Awakening" was a conference booth babes naturally came to mind. So, for this article the Hot Strafor Babe isn't an individual woman, rather it is an occupation -- that vital cog of industry known as the Booth Babe.

Strangely enough I couldn't find any Iranian booth babes in my search, so I selected a car show booth babe as a representative. That's probably a good thing since I noticed Knucklehead's list of suggested future Hot Stratfor Babes was weighted rather heavy with blondes, so a blonde booth babe it is.

As bonus, and because Stratfor articles have a focus on international affairs, after the article I've included a video of the booth babes of the 2008 Paris auto show.  Oh-la-la!


GEOPOLITICAL JOURNEY: IRAN AT A CROSSROADS
By Kamran Bokhari, September 27, 2011

Geopolitically, a trip to Iran could not come at a better time. Iran is an emerging power seeking to exploit the vacuum created by the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq, which is scheduled to conclude in a little more than three months. Tehran also plays a major role along its eastern border, where Washington is seeking a political settlement with the Taliban to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Islamic republic simultaneously is trying to steer popular unrest in the Arab world in its favor. That unrest in turn has significant implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue in which Iran has successfully inserted itself over the years. The question of the U.S.-Iranian relationship also looms -- does accommodation or confrontation lie ahead? At the same time, the Iranian state -- a unique hybrid of Shiite theocracy and Western republicanism -- is experiencing intense domestic power struggles.

This is the geopolitical context in which I arrived at Imam Khomeini International airport late Sept. 16. Along with several hundred foreign guests, I had been invited to attend a Sept. 17-18 event dubbed the "Islamic Awakening" conference, organized by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Given the state of Iranian-Western ties and my position as a senior analyst with a leading U.S.-based private intelligence company, the invitation came as surprise.

With some justification, Tehran views foreign visitors as potential spies working to undermine Iranian national security. The case of the  American hikers jailed in Iran (two of whom were released the day of my return to Canada) provided a sobering example of tourism devolving into accusations of espionage.

Fortunately for me, STRATFOR had not been placed on the list of some 60 Western organizations (mostly American and British think tanks and civil society groups) banned as seditious in early 2010 following the failed Green Movement uprising. Still, the Iranian regime is well aware of our views on Iranian geopolitics.

In addition to my concerns about how Iranian authorities would view me, I also worried about how attending a state-sponsored event designed to further Iranian geopolitical interests where many speakers heavily criticized the United States and Israel would look in the West. In the end, I set my trepidations aside and opted for the trip.

Geopolitical Observations in Tehran


STRATFOR CEO and founder George Friedman has written of geopolitical journeys, of how people from diverse national backgrounds visiting other countries see places in very different ways. In my case, my Pakistani heritage, American upbringing, Muslim religious identity and Canadian nationality allowed me to navigate a milieu of both locals and some 700 delegates of various Arab and Muslim backgrounds. But the key was in the way STRATFOR trains its analysts to avoid the pitfall that many succumb to -- the blurring of what is really happening with what we may want to see happen.

The foreigner arriving in Iran immediately notices that despite 30 years of increasingly severe sanctions, the infrastructure and systems in the Islamic republic appear fairly solid. As a developing country and an international pariah, one would expect infrastructure along the lines of North Korea or Cuba. But Iran's construction, transportation and communications infrastructure shares more in common with apartheid-era South Africa, and was largely developed indigenously.

Also notable was the absence of any visible evidence of a police state. Considering the state's enormous security establishment and the recent unrest surrounding the Green Movement, I expected to see droves of elite security forces. I especially expected this in the northern districts of the capital, where the more Westernized segment of society lives and where I spent a good bit of time walking and sitting in cafes.

Granted, I didn't stay for long and was only able to see a few areas of the city to be able to tell, but the only public display of opposition to the regime was "Death to Khamenei" graffiti scribbled in small letters on a few phone booths on Vali-e-Asr Avenue in the Saadabad area. I saw no sign of Basij or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel patrolling the streets, only the kind of police presence one will find in many countries.

This normal security arrangement gave support to STRATFOR's view from the very beginning that the unrest in 2009 was not something the regime couldn't contain. As we wrote then and I was able to see firsthand last week, Iran has enough people who -- contrary to conventional wisdom -- support the regime, or at the very least do not seek its downfall even if they disagree with its policies.

I saw another sign of support for the Islamic republic a day after the conference ended, when the organizers arranged a tour of the mausoleum of the republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. We visited the large complex off a main highway on the southern end of town on a weekday; even so, numerous people had come to the shrine to pay their respects -- several with tears in their eyes as they prayed at the tomb.

Obviously, the intensity of religious feelings varies in Iran, but a significant stratum of the public remains deeply religious and still believes in the national narrative of the revolutionary republic. This fact does not get enough attention in the Western media and discourse, clouding foreigners' understanding of Iran and leading to misperceptions of an autocratic clergy clinging to power only by virtue of a massive security apparatus. [continued after the jump]

Astronauts in every day settings

Astronaut Snacks
Hunter Freeman is a photographer who has done interesting work. One of the series he's done is astronauts posed in everyday settings. I've included 4 examples (2 more are after the jump), but you should really view the entire series at the Hunter Freeman website.

(via Toxel)


Navigating an intersection

Monday, September 26, 2011


To a Stranger - Walt Whitman

PASSING Stranger!  you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking,
     (it comes to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours
     only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take
     of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake
     at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

 

The Thrill is Gone



Monday morning, start of the work week blues by B.B. King and Tracy Chapman.

 

Hollywood hipsters, then & now

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Above is film from a Malibu beach party in 1965. At the party were Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Paul Newman, Lee Remick and  Ben Gazzara among others. What jumps out is the number of kids and cigarettes. Also, were those hot dogs they were eating? 

Beautiful people, but a touch of Americana non-the-less. Contrast that with the pictures below from a modern Hollywood hipster party discussed in Wayne Elise's post How to survive a Hollywood hipster party.

Granted, the likes of Douglas, Bacall and Newman are hard act to follow, but the effort put forth by modern hipsters seems a little feeble. Aside from a doofus fashion sense, the contemporary hipsters are kind of scrawny looking. Hmmm... maybe they should eat some hotdogs? And, do my eyes deceive me, or is the guy in the bow tie wearing capri pants?

I would pretty much dread an invitation to the modern party. If you're a hipster aren't people supposed to think your cool instead of snickering at you behind your back? Ah well, maybe I'm just turning into a cranky old geezer.


Robots shopping and making breakfast



Greetings meat sacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- here to give you another example of how us robots will be helping humans in the near future. 

In this example we have a robot going shopping in a convincing and highly realistic simulation of a convenience store. It then returns to the kitchen where it prepares a delicious breakfast of sausages and sliced bread. Yum-yum!

So, if you see a robot in the grocery store you can be assured it is just shopping for ingredients to prepare a tasty meal for one of its human friends. Should it happen to be lingering in the rat poison aisle there is no need for alarm -- it probably just has a meat sack vermin problem it needs to address.

My friends, soon you too will be able to relax in the morning as a robot prepares your breakfast. Won't that be grand!
  

50 years of space exploration

Saturday, September 24, 2011
Detail of a graphical representation of 50 years of space travel.
Above is a detail of a large graphic illustrating 50 years of space exploration. If you follow the link the full image is about 3800 x 1700 pixels in size and quite detailed. The top of it has colored ribbons showing the mission (seen above) while along the bottom of it is a scale showing increasing distance from the sun.

(via RealityCarnival)
 

Projecting the mind's eye



Professor Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist working in a lab at Berkeley, has released a truly remarkable research paper. He and his team have mapped the brain's visual activity and can construct images based on the results of their research. Above is a demonstration of their work. You can read more about it at Scientists use brain imaging to reveal the movies in our mind.

I'll try to explain what I think that they've done, but be forewarned that after reading the article several times my grasp of it is still pretty foggy.
Scientists use brain imaging to reveal the movies in our mindPreviously, Gallant and fellow researchers recorded brain activity in the visual cortex while a subject viewed black-and-white photographs. They then built a computational model that enabled them to predict with overwhelming accuracy which picture the subject was looking at.

In their latest experiment, researchers say they have solved a much more difficult problem by actually decoding brain signals generated by moving pictures.

“Our natural visual experience is like watching a movie,” said Shinji Nishimoto, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher in Gallant’s lab. “In order for this technology to have wide applicability, we must understand how the brain processes these dynamic visual experiences.”
They placed their test subjects in an fMRI and recorded their brain's activities as they watched sets of movie trailers. By dividing the brain into cubes, and measuring the blood flow through each of those cubes they were able to map brain activity. They then fed that data into a computer program that associated the images, second by second, with the measured brain activity.

Once this set of data was compiled they then fed 18 million seconds of YouTube videos into the program and predicted what brain activity would correlate to the images.

I think, but am not sure, that what they next did was feed a new video into the program where it selected a number of similar clips it had stored, and the merged them into a composite of what the brain activity would indicate the person had seen. That is, the reconstructions aren't from actual brain scans, but rather from predictions of how a real brain would behave if it had watched the clips.

Fascinating stuff, although, if I understood what they had done in the experiment, obviously a step is missing -- taking actual measured signals and converting them into the resultant images. They hope to be able to eventually use this process on comatose people, and perhaps even for people dreaming.

Here is a link to the Gallant Lab at UC Berkley website which has more information for those who want to dig into this deeper.
 

Eliabeth Warren's strawmen

Friday, September 23, 2011

There is a video going around where Elizabeth Warren, who apparently is going to run against Scott Brown for his Senate seat, argues why it is fair to tax the rich more while implying they don't pull their weight. You can see it at the Legal Insurrection post Elizabeth Warren: Everything you have belongs to us. From that same post I've swiped the following excerpt:
“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,’” she said. “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
There are some bloggers on the conservative side spending time debunking her points. I would argue that doing that is a waste of time as well as falling into a Progressive trap. The reason -- she's arguing straw men. Nobody outside of the lunatic fringe is arguing against taxes for supporting roads, education and police forces.

The part of her so-called "social contract" we object to is getting the bejeezus taxed out of us to support such nonsense as Reid's cowboy poetry festivals, thousands of dollars of stimulus money going to a couple of grad student's self-indulgent art project involving motion sensors and dance, bankruptcy laws being thrown out the window so GM UAW members can keep their high salaries and get bonuses on top of it all, tax payer guaranteed pay-offs to the knuckleheads who squandered their money on Solyndra, duplicate government agencies and mountains of red tape, regulations and nanny statism.

That's what we object to, not roads, education and police.

Do not let them caste the debate about big government and wasted tax money on such dishonest arguments. Ms. Warren -- where do you stand on cowboy poetry? It that a rich man's burden or an imposition on taxpayers?

Stratfor and Emma Cleasby

In this Stratfor article Scott Stewart returns to the idea of lone-wolf terrorist operatives. He returns to point out that a group adopting that strategy is actually a sign of weakness, since lone-wolfs are inherently less capable than organized groups.

He discusses neo-nazi groups from the 1970s and later left-wing groups and points out that they, like modern terrorist groups, had so much pressure put on them by authorities that, out of necessity rather than tactical brilliance, they were forced to decentralize their organizations in an attempt to survive.

It was probably inevitable that, with all this lone-wolf talk, sooner or later I would turn to werewolf movies for an article's Hot Stratfor Babe. Today I have finally done that, choosing Emma Cleasby from the movie Dog Soldiers for the honor.

Ms Cleasby is rather new to her career as an actress, so I don't have much to say about her. However, I will talk about Dog Soldiers. If you haven't seen the movie -- see it. It is easily the best werewolf film I've ever seen.

The film's tagline is "Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance." Its premise is that there is a squad of soldiers on training in Scotland who have the misfortune of running into a pack of werewolves. These aren't Larry Talbot sissy-boy werewolves, they are huge, hungry, vicious killing machines that hunt the soldiers and the biologist (Emma) who joins them. The werewolf attacks and fight scenes are nicely done, and the tension keeps ratcheting up during the movie.

As a bonus, after the article, I've included a video of a fight scene in a farm house. Emma doesn't appear in it, but Spoon will show you how to fight like a man if'n you ever come nose to muzzle with a werewolf. Be warned, as might be expected with soldiers fighting werewolves, there is swearing and a few F-bombs dropped during the scene.


CUTTING THROUGH THE LONE-WOLF HYPE
By Scott Stewart, September 22, 2011

Lone wolf. The mere mention of the phrase invokes a sense of fear and dread. It conjures up images of an unknown, malicious plotter working alone and silently to perpetrate an unpredictable, undetectable and unstoppable act of terror. This one phrase combines the persistent fear of terrorism in modern society with the primal fear of the unknown.

The phrase has been used a lot lately. Anyone who has been paying attention to the American press over the past few weeks has been bombarded with a steady stream of statements regarding lone-wolf militants. While many of these statements, such as those from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and Department of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, were made in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they did not stop when the threats surrounding the anniversary proved to be unfounded and the date passed without incident. Indeed, on Sept. 14, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, told CNN that one of the things that concerned him most was "finding that next lone-wolf terrorist before he strikes."

Now, the focus on lone operatives and small independent cells is well founded. We have seen the jihadist threat devolve from one based primarily on the hierarchical al Qaeda core organization to a  threat emanating from a broader array of grassroots actors operating alone or in small groups. Indeed, at present, there is a far greater likelihood of a successful jihadist attack being conducted in the West by a lone-wolf attacker or small cell inspired by al Qaeda than by a member of the al Qaeda core or one of the franchise groups. But the lone-wolf threat can be generated by a broad array of ideologies, not just jihadism. A recent reminder of this was the July 22 attack in Oslo, Norway, conducted by lone wolf Anders Breivik.

The lone-wolf threat is nothing new, but it has received a great deal of press coverage in recent months, and with that press coverage has come a certain degree of hype based on the threat's mystique. However, when one looks closely at the history of solitary terrorists, it becomes apparent that there is a significant gap between lone-wolf theory and lone-wolf practice. An examination of this gap is very helpful in placing the lone-wolf threat in the proper context.

The Shift Toward Leaderless Resistance


While the threat of lone wolves conducting terrorist attacks is real, the first step in putting the threat into context is understanding how long it has existed. To say it is nothing new really means that it is an inherent part of human conflict, a way for a weaker entity -- even a solitary one -- to inflict pain upon and destabilize a much larger entity. Modern lone-wolf terrorism is widely considered to have emerged in the 1800s, when fanatical individuals bent on effecting political change demonstrated that a solitary actor could impact history. Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated U.S. President William McKinley in 1901, was one such lone wolf.

The 1970s brought lone wolf terrorists like Joseph Paul Franklin and Ted Kaczynski, both of whom were able to operate for years without being identified and apprehended. Based on the success of these lone wolves and following the 1988 Fort Smith Sedition Trial, in which the U.S. government's penetration of white hate groups was clearly revealed, some of the leaders of these penetrated groups began to advocate "leaderless resistance" as a way to avoid government pressure. They did not invent the concept, which is really quite old, but they readily embraced it and used their status in the white supremacist movement to advocate it.

In 1989, William Pierce, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance and one of the Fort Smith defendants, published a fictional book under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald titled "Hunter," which dealt with the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager. Pierce dedicated the book to Joseph Paul Franklin and he clearly intended it to serve as an inspiration and model for lone-wolf operatives. Pierce's earlier book, "The Turner Diaries," was based on a militant operational theory involving a clandestine organization, and "Hunter" represented a distinct break from that approach.

In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins, an influential "Christian Identity" ideologue, published a book titled "Vigilantes of Christendom" in which he introduced the concept of the "Phineas Priest." According to Hoskins, a Phineas Priest is a lone-wolf militant chosen by God and set apart to be God's "agent of vengeance" upon the earth. Phineas Priests also believe their attacks will serve to ignite a wider "racial holy war" that will ultimately lead to the salvation of the white race.

In 1992, another of the Fort Smith defendants, former Ku Klux Klan Leader Louis Beam, published an essay in his magazine "The Seditionist" that provided a detailed roadmap for moving the white hate movement toward the leaderless resistance model. This roadmap called for lone wolves and small "phantom" cells to engage in violent action to protect themselves from detection.

In the white-supremacist realm, the shift toward leaderless resistance -- taken because of the government's success in penetrating and disrupting group operations -- was an admission of failure on the part of leaders like Pierce, Hoskins and Beam. It is important to note that in the two decades that have passed since the leaderless-resistance model rose to prominence in the white-supremacist movement there have been only a handful of successful lone-wolf attacks. The army of lone wolves envisioned by the proponents of leaderless resistance never materialized.

But the leaderless resistance model was advocated not only by the far right. Influenced by their anarchist roots, left-wing extremists also moved in that direction, and movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front actually adopted operational models that were very similar to the leaderless-resistance doctrine prescribed by Beam. [continued after the jump]

Un Dia



Get ready for a loopy weekend with Juana Molina

Budget Holiday gift ideas

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Properly equipped Lego warriors
Since we're deep into September and the little ankle-biters are back in school not many families are vacationing at this moment. For that reason I'm switching from my series on budget vacation suggestions to budget holiday gift suggestions. It may seem early to be discussing Christmas, ooops... I mean Holiday presents, but I say it is never to early to search for a bargain to brighten a loved one's day as they tear open their packages in an unseemly orgy of greed.

One of problems with Lego blocks is that the little people who come with them are dorks. This naturally causes a problem if your little tyke is building a Lego pillbox which needs some soldiers to defend it. I'm happy to report that Brickarms solves the problem. 

They offer a full line of high-powered weaponry for the little block guys, and not all of them are grinning idiots. To the right is a detail of one of the little guys, and as you can see not only does it have a suitably fierce expression, it is also sporting some camouflage makeup. Definitely an improvement.

They have wide selection of weapons packs and quite a variety of weapons. Along with the usual assortment of shotguns, pistols, rifles and machine guns, you can get swords, retro-looking ray guns, spy trade weapons and helmets.

One of my favorite packs, since lately I've been spending more time than I care to admit clubbing zombies back to their proper state of death in the video game Dead Island, was the Zombie Defense Pack (pictured below). I like the inclusion of baseball and cricket bats in it, although a chainsaw would also have been a handy addition. 

So, if you're looking for a gift for your young Rambo, look no further than Brickarms for your holiday gift needs.

Zombie Defense Pack - click to embiggen

Old Mexican movie posters


From the post El Tren Expreso at 50 Watts, these are posters advertising Mexican movies from the middle of the 20th Century. It is interesting to see the Latin twist on the familiar graphic style of the era.

There are more below the fold, and of course even more at the 50 Watts site. I wonder if the movies were any good?


Color film from WWI

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


There is always something uniquely ghastly about WWI. Yet, the fact that its horror is always etched in grainy black and white photos and movies makes it surreal and remote.  Above is some color film of that war, and yes -- although the process was cumbersome, they did have color movie cameras at the time. It doesn't make it look any less grim.

Mud, gas masks and artillery. No way to spend your youth. You can't help but feel sorry for those guys.
 

Stratfor and Nancy Kulp

This Stratfor article by George Friedman, with understandable hesitation since he is primarily an analyst of international relations, wades into American domestic politics and their influence on Obama's foreign policy for the next 14 months. I'll leave his comments, which may rankle some of my regular readers, stand on their own 

However, I will say that one of the reasons I like Friedman is that he tends to bake a lot of inertia, from both geopolitical and institutional sources, into his analysis. I think that is a pretty good rule of thumb. Following international affairs too closely can cause one to whipsaw as crisis follows crisis, but at the end of the day it is always well to remember just how consistent a nation's interest tends to be historically.  

The article's Hot Stratfor Babe choice puzzled me for a bit, but then Obama's effete and ineffectual Ivy League wankerosity brought to mind Jane Hathaway of the Beverly Hillbillies. Once that seed was planted Nancy Kulp became the easy choice for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe honors.

Jane Hathaway, a Vassar graduate, parlayed her education into the position as the under-payed and much put upon secretary of the Banker Milburn Drysdale. When not being bullied by Drysdale she spent most of the series sputtering in confusion over the goings on around her and with an unrequited crush on the bumpkin Jethro Bodine.

Nancy Kulp, who was intelligent and well educated, actually went to Hollywood to be a publicist for the studios. However, within 3 weeks of arriving she found herself in front of the camera, beginning a long career as a character actress. Interestingly, later in life she dabbled in politics by running for a U.S. House of Representative seat as a Democrat in Pennsylvania. She had a falling out with Buddy Ebsen (who played Jed Clampett) who recorded ads for her opponent saying she was too liberal.

As a bonus, after the article I've embedded a video of Dash Riprock mistaking Jane Hathaway for Elle Mae who Drysdale is making him woo. Instead, Dash ends up putting the moves on Jane by accident.


OBAMA'S DILEMMA: U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND ELECTORAL REALITIES
By George Friedman, September 20, 2011

STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it's our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.

The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.

The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. The United States has a vast government that rests on a system in which significant change is not impossible but which demands a level of consensus over a period of time that rarely exists.

This is particularly true in domestic politics, where the complexity is compounded by the uncertainty of the legislative branch. Consider that the healthcare legislation passed through major compromise is still in doubt, pending court rulings that thus far have been contradictory. All of this would have delighted the founders if not the constantly trapped presidents, who frequently shrug off their limits in the domestic arena in favor of action in the international realm, where their freedom to maneuver is much greater, as the founders intended.

The Burden of the Past

The point of this is that all U.S. presidents live within the framework in which Barack Obama is now operating. First, no president begins with a clean slate. All begin with the unfinished work of the prior administration. Thus, George W. Bush began his presidency with an al Qaeda whose planning and implementation for 9/11 was already well under way. Some of the al Qaeda operatives who would die in the attack were already in the country. So, like all of his predecessors, Obama assumed the presidency with his agenda already laid out.

Obama had a unique set of problems. The first was his agenda, which focused on ending the Iraq war and reversing social policies in place since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. By the time Obama entered office, the process of withdrawal from Iraq was under way, which gave him the option of shifting the terminal date. The historic reversal that he wanted to execute, starting with healthcare reform, confronted the realities of September 2008 and the American financial crisis. His Iraq policy was in place by Inauguration Day while his social programs were colliding with the financial crisis.

Obama's campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. To the anti-war faction it meant that the wars would end. To those concerned about unilateralism it meant that unilateralism would be replaced by multilateralism. To those worried about growing inequality it meant that he would end inequality. To those concerned about industrial jobs going overseas it meant that those jobs would stay in the United States. To those who hated Guantanamo it meant that Guantanamo would be closed.

Obama created a coalition whose expectations of what Obama would do were shaped by them and projected on Obama. In fact, Obama never quite said what his supporters thought he said. His supporters thought they heard that he was anti-war. He never said that. He simply said that he opposed Iraq and thought Afghanistan should be waged. His strategy was to allow his followers to believe what they wanted so long as they voted for him, and they obliged. Now, this is not unique to Obama. It is how presidents get elected. What was unique was how well he did it and the problems it caused once he became president. [continued after the jump]

Rare Tuesday Night open thread

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'll be busy Tuesday night so I won't be making a post. Ordinarily I would just skip the post without making mention of the fact, but I generally post a Stratfor Hot Babe, er... I mean article on Tuesday nights so I thought I would give a heads-up for those looking for it. It will be posted Wednesday morning this week.

By the way, try not to crash Google's servers filling up the comment section with witty and/or insightful remarks. They get pissed when that happens.
 

Australian Big Things


Little did I know, when I posted the budget travel post about The Big Avocado, that Australians have a fondness for big, goofy looking statues. I've since discovered that their continent is knee-deep in the things. Above is just a sample showing a gigantic mosquito, painting, chicken and banana.

If you're interested by such things, and who isn't, the website Australian Big Things is the resource for you. On it the big statues are indexed by name, location and type, as well as having some statistical breakdowns and a list of missing big statues he's trying to gather information about. The website also has a lot of pictures of the big statues. 
 

A ray of hope

Monday, September 19, 2011
Victor Davis Hanson's essays usually have a streak of pessimism in them. His most recent, The Great Obama Catharsis, is instead optimistic.
Barack Obama has done the United States a great, though unforeseen, favor. He has brought to light, as no one else could, many of the pernicious assumptions of our culture from the last half-century. He turned theory and “what ifs” into fact for all America to see, experience, and, yes, suffer through.

The Years of Wandering…

Jimmy Carter tried to enact the therapeutic agenda, but he was inept. Liberals for the last thirty years blamed his failure on incompetence rather than his statist message. Until the Obama meltdown, progressives had faulted Bill Clinton as a wily sell-out who had won an improbable second term only by cynically reforming welfare and balancing budgets. Dick Morris engineered his comeback and now he works for Fox News: enough said. So the complaint was that the messenger was slick, but the noble message was diluted.

But Obama was supposed to be Clintonian in his political charisma and Carteresque in his devotion to liberal causes. When he boasted that he was “The One” we had been waiting for, he was more accurate than he thought in assessing liberal sentiment. You see, as a young, post-racial, first African-American president — glib, hip, cool, charismatic, with unapologetic Chicago hard-core leftist roots and Ivy League certification — Barack Obama was right out of liberal central casting. He would do what no other liberal had done in fifty years: prove to America that it really, really was left-of-center by ramming down its throat both a liberal agenda and thousands of left-wing facilitators. Greek columns, the Victory Monument, talk of a cooling planet, and worry whether the country would survive from December 2008 to January 2009 heralded His coming. We forget now that Obama arrived with a super-majority in the Senate, and a large majority in the House: anything was now possible and almost everything was thus tried.

Home at Last

At last we sheep got the messianic prophet to deliver the divine message. When he was declared a “god,” with supernatural powers that sent tingles up journalists’ legs, we were at last to climb the mount into the Promised Land. Electing him was the trick; simply enacting his redistributive agenda would be easy. “Wealthy” people would keep on working as before (they are by nature greedy and love working to buy superfluous things), but now the people’s money could be at last directed to saving the planet, helping mankind, and bringing heaven to earth.
From that point he lists a large number of left-leaning Conventional Wisdoms that he thinks will not survive Obama's fall. Keynesian economics, European style health care, the left's control of what can and can't be debated, and so forth. You should really read the entire essay.

He may being overly optimistic, but the more Obama flounders, with his skill at campaigning of no use when what he really needs is skill at politics, it does seem as if he is bringing down a fair amount of what progressives took for granted. One senses the entire structure wobbling, and the only question that remains is how much of the structure is built of brick and mortar, and how much is just carefully balanced cards.
 

Me and the Devil Blues



Monday morning, start of the work week blues by Robert Johnson.

 

Days of Rage

Sunday, September 18, 2011
More pictures at Business Insider
Business Insider has the report Anonymous Occupation Of Wall Street - Here Is What You Missed on the goings on at the Days of Rage protest at Wall Street.
In a movement meant to rival change wrought by the Arab Spring, Kalle Lasn of the counterculture magazine AdBusters, organized a Twitter led protest Saturday called Occupy Wall Street.

In response, thousands gathered in New York's Financial District.

The Wall Street subway station stairwell was closed on one side, as multiple blocks around Broadway and Wall Street were cordoned off and bound by a heavy police presence.

Endorsed by the hacking group Anonymous, the police were taking no chances. But looking at an army of bored officers racking up overtime, the general response was summed up by one young New York City officer: "If you find the protest, let us know, because we haven't heard a thing about it since we got here."
Not surprisingly the protest drew fewer participants than its organizers had hoped, and I don't think they had much more luck at the other cities they were supposed to gather in.  

There are a lot of pictures of the protest at the link which give you a flavor of what went on. Mainly, it seems that there was a lot of wearing of Guy Fawkes masks from the movie V for Vendetta. Amusingly enough, the Time Warner Corporation is making a nice profit off of those masks. I guess it's tough being an ethical anarchist these days.
 

Little Planets

Click any image to enlarge it
Australian photographer Paul Bourke has created a series of photographs called Little Planets. They are made by projecting an image onto a sphere. Below is an illustration of how it is done.

There are a few more of his Little Planet images after the jump and more photos as well as a more detailed explanation of the process at the above link. 


Loose lips sink ships

Saturday, September 17, 2011
One of the entertaining stories this week has been the harebrained decision by Obama's reelection group Obama for America to create the website AttackWatch

It is supposed to allow his supporters to report attacks against the Obama, untruths being spread about him and the like so Obama's team can get out and counter them. Instead it turned into an internet joke, with anti-Obama folks flooding it with all sorts of nonsensical reports of crimes against the Won. 

Here are some samples from Results for #attackwatch: "Grandmas refusing to get in the box. Please help", "Like, man, we were told there would be free stuff" and "I have an idea for a solar powered vibrator...can I have a half billion to not make it?"

Aside from the idiocy of setting up a snitch website, especially considering how well his previous snitch website went over, the design is a disaster. There is a group in modern graphic design that is heavily influenced by old propaganda posters. Who ever designed this website, with its harsh black, red and white, is obviously a member of that group. 

The result -- not only do you get a creepy feeling from the notion of encouraging citizens to report each other, you get it in a website that has obviously drawn some graphic inspiration from propaganda posters. Propaganda is hardly a word that inspires images of the presentation of the facts and noting but the facts which is what this website purports to do. 

I can see some young web designers making such an off-kilter choice, but wasn't there anybody higher in Obama for America who realized how bad it looked, and how tacky the concept of citizen snitches is?

In thinking about it as I looked for a graphic to illustrate this post, it occurred to me how out of phase it was with the old WWII exhortation, "Loose Lips Sink Ships". I then discovered that our Soviet comrades, whose graphic style no doubt has caught the eye of  Obama for America's web designers, had their version of Loose Lips which involved industrial espionage. 

I took the above image from a Grigory Pasko post. There are a couple of other samples at his post. By the way, the poem on the poster reads:
Don't blab!
Be on your toes,
In days like this
The walls have ears.
It’s not far from blabbing
and gossiping
To treason.
Although in the case of AttackWatch what's not far away from blabbing and gossip isn't so much treason as it is self-inflicted mockery.
 

The Incredible Shrinking Prez

Click to enlarge
Every hour he gets smaller... smaller... smaller
and moment by moment the Democrat's terror mounts!

 

Stratfor and Zara Sheikh

Friday, September 16, 2011
This article discusses the history and current status of the Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Although formerly abolished in 2001, remnants of the organization continue to operate and maintain a loose affiliation with other terror networks such as al Qaeda.

Its principal theater of operations is in South Asia -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and India. LeT was the group behind the Mumbai massacre, their most spectacular attack to date.

They've also tried to branch out and operate in the West, but have had limited success. Stewart and Noonan suggest that this is because elements of the Pakistani government support LeT activities in their region of the world, and it is that logistical and intelligence support which makes the group more effective. Without such support the group is likely to continue to struggle in launching successful attacks in the West.

Because the article focused on Pakistan I narrowed my search for its Hot Stratfor Babe to Pakistani models and actresses. After an exhaustive and scientifically conducted search I selected Zara Sheikh for the honor.

Ms Sheikh started her career as a teenage model doing ads and fashion spreads in magazines. Her career really took off when she signed on as the JaZZ Girl, which was the spokes-model for a cellular phone company. This expanded her career into TV ads as well as her work in the print media.

It also led her to be cast in a Lollywood film (from its base in Lahore, Pakistan's answer to Bollywood). She apparently is a very talented actress, because that first role landed her to win Pakistan's equivalence of an Oscar for Best Actress. Prior to be selected as a Hot Stratfor babe, the probably was her highest honor.

She has also branched into singing having recently released her first album after a couple of music videos and singing parts in films.

I couldn't find a decent quality video of one of her songs, so as the after-article bonus I've included a video which features a number of scans from her magazine spreads, every transition effect available to whoever put it together, and some very odd-ball zooms that start at her torso and pull back. Not sure what that was all about -- I guess the video's creator had a waist fetish or something.


THE EVOLUTION OF A PAKISTANI MILITANT NETWORK
By Sean Noonan and Scott Stewart, September 15, 2011

For many years now, STRATFOR has been carefully following the evolution of "Lashkar-e-Taiba" (LeT), the name of a Pakistan-based jihadist group that was formed in 1990 and existed until about 2001, when it was officially abolished. In subsequent years, however, several major attacks were attributed to LeT, including the November 2008 coordinated assault in Mumbai, India. Two years before that attack we wrote that the group, or at least its remnant networks, were nebulous but still dangerous. This nebulous nature was highlighted in November 2008 when the "Deccan Mujahideen," a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the Mumbai attacks.

While the most famous leaders of the LeT networks, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, are under house arrest and in jail awaiting trial, respectively, LeT still poses a significant threat. It's a threat that comes not so much from LeT as a single jihadist force but LeT as a concept, a banner under which various groups and individuals can gather, coordinate and successfully conduct attacks.

Such is the ongoing evolution of the jihadist movement. And as this movement becomes more diffuse, it is important to look at brand-name jihadist groups like LeT, al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as loosely affiliated networks more than monolithic entities. With a debate under way between and within these groups over who to target and with major disruptions of their operations by various military and security forces, the need for these groups to work together in order to carry out sensational attacks has become clear. The result is a new, ad hoc template for jihadist operations that is  not easily defined and even harder for government leaders to explain to their constituents and reporters to explain to their readers.

Thus, brand names like Lashkar-e-Taiba (which means Army of the Pure) will continue to be used in public discourse while the planning and execution of high-profile attacks grows ever more complex. While the threat posed by these networks to the West and to India may not be strategic, the possibility of disparate though well-trained militants working together and even with organized-crime elements does suggest a continuing tactical threat that is worth examining in more detail.

The Network Formerly Known as Lashkar-e-Taiba

The history of the group of militants and preachers who created LeT and their connections with other groups helps us understand how militant groups develop and work together. Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) and its militant wing, LeT, was founded with the help of transnational militants based in Afghanistan and aided by the Pakistani government. This allowed it to become a financially-independent social-service organization that was able to divert a significant portion of its funding to its militant wing.

The first stirrings of militancy within this network began in 1982, when Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi traveled from Punjab, Pakistan, to Paktia, Afghanistan, to fight with Deobandi militant groups. Lakhvi, who is considered to have been the military commander of what was known as LeT and is awaiting trial for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, adheres to an extreme version of the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) interpretation of Islam, which is the South Asian version of the Salafist-Wahhabist trend in the Arab world. In the simplest of terms, AeH is more conservative and traditional than the doctrines of most militant groups operating along the Durand Line. Militants there tend to follow an extreme brand of the Deobandi branch of South Asian Sunni Islam, similar to the extreme ideology of al Qaeda's Salafist jihadists.

Lakhvi created his own AeH-inspired militant group in 1984, and a year later two academics, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Zafar Iqbal, created Jamaat ul-Dawa, an Islamist AeH social organization. Before these groups were formed there was already a major AeH political organization called Jamaat AeH, led by the most well-known Pakistani AeH scholar, the late Allama Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, who was assassinated in Lahore in 1987. His death allowed Saeed and Lakhvi's movement to take off. It is important to note that AeH adherents comprise a very small percentage of Pakistanis and that those following the movement launched by Saeed and Lakhvi represent only a portion of those who ascribe to AeH's ideology.

In 1986, Saeed and Lakhvi joined forces, creating Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) in Muridke, near Lahore, Pakistan. MDI had 17 founders, including Saeed and Lakhvi as well as transnational militants originally from places like Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories. While building facilities in Muridke for social services, MDI also established its first militant training camp in Paktia, then another in Kunar, Afghanistan, in 1987. Throughout the next three decades, these camps often were operated in cooperation with other militant groups, including al Qaeda. [continued after the jump]