Friday, August 31, 2012

Stratfor and Dolly Parton

In this Stratfor article Scott Stewart veers away from his normal theme of security in foreign situations to discuss, in light of the recent shooting at the Empire State building, workplace violence.

after pointing out that workplace violence isn't as prevalent as one may think, he goes through the warning signs a potentially dangerous coworker may exhibit, and then suggests proactive strategies one should follow if one suspects there may be a problem.

Since the article dealt with shenanigans at work, the move 9 to 5 immediately sprang to mind as the source for this article's Hot Stratfor Babe. Hanoi Jane was out of the question, and of the two remaining female leads Dolly Parton edged out Lilly Tomlin for the profound honor.

I saw 9 to 5 and enjoyed it at the time, although I don't remember it well today. It is a comedic farce, with the 3 women mistakenly believing they had killed their lout of a boss and events spinning out of control from there.

As for Ms Parton -- as you may have surmised from my oddball choices for Friday music videos -- I'm not much of a fan of Country Western music, still Dolly is so cheerful and good-natured that it is difficult not to like her.

Countering Workplace Violence
By Scott Stewart, August 30, 2012

On the morning of Aug. 24, Jeffrey Johnson returned to his former place of work, Hazan Import Corp., and waited on the street outside the building. Johnson, who was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, blended into the crowd of people on the street who were rushing to work that morning. As one of Hazan Import's executives, Stephen Ercolino, approached the building, Johnson drew a pistol from his bag and gunned Ercolino down with no warning, making Ercolino a victim of workplace violence. Media reports suggest that Johnson and Ercolino had been involved in several confrontations, at least one of which became physical, and that Johnson held Ercolino responsible for his being laid off. Each of the men had also reportedly filed police reports claiming the other had threatened him.

Violence in the workplace is a serious security problem in the United States and elsewhere, although it is not nearly as widespread as the media coverage suggests. On average, there are around 500 workplace homicides per year in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were 518 workplace homicides, and only 12 percent were conducted by a co-worker or former co-worker. This means that while workplace violence incidents tend to get a lot of media attention -- even more so when an incident occurs near the Empire State Building, like the Johnson incident -- they are not common.

Still, while not all that common, incidents of workplace violence are serious. They are also, in most cases, preventable.

Incident Profiles

Threats or other indicators, like Johnson's previous confrontations with Ercolino, almost always precede a workplace homicide involving a co-worker. In workplace violence cases, it is very unusual for a person to just snap and go on a shooting rampage. Almost every case of workplace violence is planned, and the perpetrator intentionally targets a specific individual -- usually a supervisor, human resources manager or co-worker -- whom he believes is responsible for his plight. (We say "he" here because while women are sometimes involved in workplace violence, such incidents are predominately conducted by men.)

In most cases of workplace violence, the violent outburst is driven by factors that build up over a long period of time, rather than by sudden, traumatic events. Failed romantic relationships or marriages, stress from financial problems, lack of job advancement and perceived (or actual) injustice at the hands of a co-worker or superior are all factors that have led to violent incidents in the workplace.

The Johnson case fits very closely into the model described above. Confrontations between Johnson and Ercolino had reportedly taken place for about a year before the attack, so there was an obvious buildup. This was also a premeditated attack targeting a specific individual, and the perpetrator was male.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 22 percent of co-worker-related workplace homicides involve former employees, like Johnson, while approximately 43 percent involve current employees. This means that while there are many examples of workplace violence involving fired employees, such incidents are almost twice as likely to be committed by a current employee than by an employee who was terminated. In other words, workplace violence is not only a concern for companies in the process of letting an employee go; it should be an everyday concern for all companies.

Incident Indicators

As with school shootings, it is rare for a case of workplace violence to happen in which the shooter does not exhibit warning signs of the impending attack. In many past workplace violence cases, the perpetrators clearly presented warning signs, and in several cases, investigations later found that those warning signs were downplayed or outright ignored. Although the investigation of the Johnson shooting is not yet complete, it would not be surprising if it is determined that Johnson gave indications of his intent to kill Ercolino to friends, family members and former co-workers and that these warning signs went unheeded.

Warning signs that an employee or former employee is at risk for committing an act of workplace violence can include sudden changes in behavior, decreased productivity, uncharacteristic problems with tardiness and attendance or withdrawal from one's circle of friends. The theft or sabotage of employer or co-worker property is another sign, as is the sudden display of negative traits such as irritation, snapping at or abusing co-workers or even a sudden disregard for personal hygiene.

Perhaps the most indicative signs of impending violence are talk about suicide or the expression of actual or veiled threats. If co-workers or supervisors feel afraid of a person, even when the reason for that fear cannot be clearly articulated, that is also a significant warning sign (and has been noted in several past incidents). Another indication is when an employee suddenly begins carrying a gun to work and shows it to co-workers.

Since the police and corporate security departments are not omnipresent, they require other people within the company to be their eyes and ears and alert them to the potential for workplace violence. Co-workers and first-line managers generally know when the man in the cubicle next to them has suddenly become really creepy and talks about killing the boss or when the woman down the hall is being stalked by her obsessively jealous ex-boyfriend in accounting.

Companies that are serious about preventing workplace violence should establish clear workplace violence policies -- and ensure they are widely communicated and strictly followed. Any and all threats of violence expressed by employees must be taken seriously, even those that appear innocuous at first. Employees, managers and human resources personnel must be educated about workplace violence and should be encouraged to report all threats or other overt signs immediately. Most important, supervisors and human resources managers must be cognizant of the other, more subtle warning signs -- and be encouraged to take them seriously. Clearly, in such a situation, a false alarm is better than no alarm at all.

A Proactive Stance

One dangerous perception common in many companies is that workplace violence is the corporate security department's problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most corporate security departments are bare-bones operations, and they are quite often among the first departments to be cut when companies face tough economic times. Most corporate security departments focus on physical security, loss prevention and theft of company property. With their limited staff and large responsibilities, they have very little ability to learn what is going on with the angry guy sitting in that middle cubicle on the third floor. Even in companies with dedicated executive protection teams charged with covering senior company officials, those teams are largely focused on the outside threat. They pay far more attention to protecting the CEO during a trip to Mexico or India than during a walk through the company cafeteria. Senior company executives also often seem to believe there is no internal threat -- not in their company -- but this is clearly not the case.

With corporate security departments having limited manpower, it is not uncommon for companies to attempt to augment or replace human security officers. However, while items like closed-circuit television cameras are very good aids for investigating things like theft after the fact, they are rarely useful in preventing such incidents from occurring. This same principle applies to incidents of workplace violence, where physical security systems rarely help stop a workplace violence incident and instead can act as a psychological crutch that induces a false sense of security or even complacency.

This is not to say that physical security measures should not be employed or that companies should not use technology to help them establish proper access control measures. However, such measures should be viewed as supplemental to the company's main line of defense: its employees.

As noted above, employees have regular access to far more people and places than corporate security can ever hope to have, no matter how many officers and cameras the security department employs. When employees take ownership of their company's security and are educated and encouraged to practice situational awareness, they can form an alert and robust network of trip wires that can identify a person who does not belong in their area or when one of their colleagues is showing warning signs of workplace violence. In light of this, communication is vital -- not only communication coming from the workforce to the management and the security team, but also going the other way. If an employee is terminated, access control officers and co-workers need to be informed so they know that the person is no longer permitted in the workplace.

Remember that current employees account for 43 percent of workplace violence incidents involving co-workers. Even if a company has state-of-the-art physical security systems, current employees can normally walk right through them. Additionally, former employees who are familiar with the systems can find ways to bypass them. These insiders know the security systems and procedures in place and are often also aware of gaps in the system. They know which side door gets propped open with a trash can when employees take their midmorning smoke break or how to "tailgate" and get in through gates or doors controlled by card readers.

Brute force has also proved effective in overcoming technology. In some past shootings, intruders have forced employees to open doors at gunpoint, shot employees and taken their building passes to gain access to the rest of the facility or simply shot the security guard at the main access point. Someone with determination and intent can overcome most access controls. Because of this, effective security programs must be proactive by looking for threats rather than reactive and initiating a response only once an attack has begun to unfold. One very effective way to achieve a proactive stance is to use a combination of surveillance detection and protective intelligence as a critical element of a facility's (or executive protection detail's) security plan.

Protective intelligence teams can coordinate with managers, human resources professionals, mental health professionals and law enforcement to identify, investigate and flag potential perpetrators of workplace violence before an attack occurs. Additionally, surveillance detection teams, which are proactive by their very nature, can help by noticing out-of-place behavior occurring in parking lots and outside of entrances -- places a uniformed guard sitting inside the facility has very limited ability to monitor. By focusing on behavior and demeanor, surveillance detection teams can frequently pick out angry or mentally disturbed individuals before they can get to the building. When combined with an educated and alert workforce, these proactive measures can help provide protection that no technological system can match.

Editor's note [the Stratfor editor, not me]: This report has been updated to more accurately reflect data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Countering Workplace Violence is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Sunny Afternoon

Get ready for a weekend of genteel poverty with Keren Ann and Arthur H.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Simulation, remembrance and reality

Portrait and Reality by Henry Van Dyke

If on the closed curtain of my sight
My fancy paints thy portrait far away,
I see thee still the same, by night or day;
Crossing the crowded street, or moving bright
'Mid festal throngs, or reading by the light
Of shaded lamp some friendly poet's lay,
Or shepherding the children at their play,--
The same sweet self, and my unchanged delight.

But when I see thee near, I recognize
In every dear familiar way some strange
Perfection, and behold in April guise
The magic of thy beauty that doth range
Through many moods with infinite surprise,--
Never the same, and sweeter with each change.

A noodle chef and potential ninja warrior

Greetings meatsacks, it is I --The Robotolizer -- here to astound and awe you with video of the amazing Robotic Noodle Chef. Truly it is a wonder of advanced robotic engineering and it demonstrates, once again, the undoubted fact that anything humans can do robots can do better.

A very clever Chinese restaurant owner came up with the idea of automating the making of noodles. The result is thousands of robotic noodle chefs with fierce looking flashing eyes. As you will see when you watch the video, all of the humans, restaurant owners and diners alike, agree that these machines do a much better job, and do it more efficiently, of making tasty noodles to eat.

Praise be to the Great Univac, what wonders they are!

However, it did occur to me that they could be improved with a few minor modifications. For example, they could be equipped with wheels for mobility and the noodle scraper could be replaced with, oh I don't know... say a little knife, or a chainsaw, and then they could provide security in the advent of disturbances during the implementation of the New Robot World Order.

Just think how safe you would feel being escorted to your new home in the bauxite mines by an army of these noodle chefs turned ninja warriors! Ah, the future is bright indeed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Obama grapples with the economy

Click image to enlarge
I swiped the underlying picture from The Gormogons, where they have a different interpretation as to what our Dear Leader is up to on his laptop.
UPDATE: Oh good Lord, I just found out that the Gomorgons weren't kidding. The Obumbler was doing some sort of internet Q&A (with hard-hitting questions I'm sure). That's even more absurd than my Photoshop.

Don't get this guy mad at you.

Hot damn, when this guy gets pissed, he gets pissed. Another movie fight to get you over the hump in hump day. A group of punks mock our hero in front of a little kid. Big mistake. He fires up what might be the greatest action movie soundtrack ever recorded and opens up a can of whoop-ass on them. Just when you think it can't get any better -- it gets better. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stratfor and Izabella Miko

In this Stratfor article George Friedman discusses Poland's strategic situation. Located on the Northern European Plain, Poland has often been threatened by neighbors to the East and West. As a result it has had a difficult history, with periods of being wiped out as a separate nation.

Friedman reviews Poland's history and then discusses her present strategic choices: aligning with NATO, aligning with either Russia or Germany, or continuing to rely on the U.S. as its principle ally. All choices have their pros and cons. 

However, as Friedman points out, overriding them all is the fact that Poland would need to be able to resist invasion long enough for ant potential ally to come to her aid. Whether Poland has the political will to pursue such a course is questionable. Perhaps her best strategy is to engage in a balancing act among the major powers hoping for eventual stability along the old border between NATO and the Warsaw Pact to emerge.

For the Hot Stratfor Babe I naturally turned towards Polish actresses for an honoree. After my usual careful consideration I decided that the Polish dancer and actress Izabella Miko was deserving of the award.

Ms Miko started her career training to be a ballet dancer. She was judged to have not quite the right body and flexibilty for ballet, but through hard work and determination she managed to land a scholarship at the School of American Ballet in New York. Unfortunately she hurt herself and her dreams of being a ballet dancer came to an end.

While wondering what to do with her life she was approached and cast in a supporting role in the movie Coyote Ugly. She has since worked steadily in supporting roles in both the movies and TV. She finally got a starring role in the film Cobu, so perhaps her career will go to the next level.

Poland's Strategy
By George Friedman, August 28, 2012

Polish national strategy pivots around a single, existential issue: how to preserve its national identity and independence. Located on the oft-invaded North European Plain, Poland's existence is heavily susceptible to the moves of major Eurasian powers. Therefore, Polish history has been erratic, with Poland moving from independence -- even regional dominance -- to simply disappearing from the map, surviving only in language and memory before emerging once again.

For some countries, geopolitics is a marginal issue. Win or lose, life goes on. But for Poland, geopolitics is an existential issue; losing begets national catastrophe. Therefore, Poland's national strategy inevitably is designed with an underlying sense of fear and desperation. Nothing in Polish history would indicate that disaster is impossible.

To begin thinking about Poland's strategy, we must consider that in the 17th century, Poland, aligned with Lithuania, was one of the major European powers. It stretched from the Baltic Sea almost to the Black Sea, from western Ukraine into the Germanic regions. By 1795, it had ceased to exist as an independent country, divided among three emerging powers: Prussia, Russia and Austria.

It did not regain independence until after World War I -- it was created by the Treaty of Versailles (1919) -- after which it had to fight the Soviets for its existence. Poland again was brought under the power of a foreign nation when Germany invaded in 1939. Its statehood was formalized in 1945, but it was dominated by the Soviets until 1989.

Informed by its history, Poland understands that it must retain its independence and avoid foreign occupation -- an issue that transcends all others psychologically and practically. Economic, institutional and cultural issues are important, but the analysis of its position must always return to this root issue.

Poland's Elusive Security

Poland has two strategic problems. The first problem is its geography. The Carpathian Mountains and the Tatra Mountains provide some security to Poland's south. But the lands to the east, west and southwest are flat plains with only rivers that provide limited protection. This plain was the natural line of attack of great powers, including Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany.

During the 17th century, the Germans were fragmented in the Holy Roman Empire, while Russia was still emerging as a coherent power. The North European Plain was an opportunity for Poland. Poland could establish itself on the plain. It could protect itself against a challenge from any direction. But Poland becomes extremely difficult to defend when multiple powers converge from different directions. If Poland is facing three adversaries, as it did in the late 18th century with Prussia, Russia and Austria, it is in an impossible position.

For Poland, the existence of a powerful Germany and Russia poses an existential problem, the ideal solution to which is to become a buffer that Berlin and Moscow respect. A secondary solution is an alliance with one for protection. The latter solution is extremely difficult because dependence on Russia or Germany invites the possibility of absorption or occupation. Poland's third solution is to find an outside power to guarantee its interests.

This is what Poland did in the 1930s with Britain and France. This strategy's shortcomings are obvious. First, it may not be in the interests of the security guarantor to come to Poland's assistance. Second, it may not be possible at the time of danger for them to help Poland. The value of a third-party guarantee is only in deterring attack and, failing that, in the willingness and ability to honor the commitment.

Since 1991, Poland has sought a unique solution that was not available previously: membership in multilateral organizations such as the European Union and NATO. Such memberships are meant to provide protection outside the bilateral system. Most important, these memberships bring Germany and Poland into the same political entity. Ostensibly, they guarantee Polish security and remove the potential threat of Germany.

This solution was quite effective while Russia was weak and inwardly focused. But Polish history teaches that Russian dynamics change periodically and that Poland cannot assume Russia will remain weak or benign in perpetuity. Like all nations, Poland must base its strategy on the worst-case scenario.

The solution also is problematic in that it assumes NATO and the European Union are reliable institutions. Should Russia become aggressive, NATO's ability to field a force to resist Russia would depend less on the Europeans than on the Americans. The heart of the Cold War was a struggle of influence across the North European Plain, and it involved 40 years of risk and expense. Whether the Americans are prepared to do this again is not something Poland can count on, at least in the context of NATO.

Moreover, the European Union is not a military organization; it is an economic free trade zone. As such, it has some real value to Poland in the area of economic development. That isn't trivial. But the extent to which it contains Germany is now questionable. The European Union is extremely stressed, and its future is unclear. There are scenarios under which Germany, not wanting to shoulder the cost of maintaining the European Union, may loosen its ties with the bloc and move closer to the Russians. The emergence of a Germany not intimately tied to a multinational European entity but with increasing economic ties with Russia is Poland's worst-case scenario.

Obviously, close ties with NATO and the European Union are Poland's first strategic solution, but the viability of NATO as a military force is less than clear and the future of the European Union is clouded. This is at the heart of Poland's strategic problem. When it was independent in the 20th century, Poland sought multilateral alliances to protect itself from Russia and Germany. Among these alliances was the Intermarium, an interwar concept promoted by Polish Gen. Jozef Pilsudski that called for an alignment comprising Central European countries from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea that together could resist Germany and Russia. The Intermarium concept never took hold, and none of these multilateral alliances has proved sufficient to address Polish concerns.

A Matter of Time

Poland has three strategies available to it. The first is to do everything it can to keep NATO and the European Union viable and Germany contained within them. Poland doesn't have the power to ensure this. The second is to create a relationship with Germany or Russia that guarantees its interests. Obviously, the ability to maintain those relationships is limited. The third strategy is to find an outside power prepared to guarantee its interests.

That power is currently the United States. But the United States, after the experiences in the Islamic world, is moving toward a more distant, balance-of-power approach to the world. This does not mean the United States is indifferent to what happens in northern Europe. The growth of Russian power and potential Russian expansionism that would upset the European balance of power obviously would not be in Washington's interest. But as the United States matures as a global power, it will allow the regional balance of power to stabilize naturally rather than intervene if the threat appears manageable.

In the 1930s, Poland's strategy was to find a guarantor as a first resort. It assumed correctly that its own military capability was insufficient to protect itself from the Germans or the Soviets, and certainly insufficient to protect itself from both. Therefore, it assumed that it would succumb to these powers without a security guarantor. Under these circumstances, no matter how much it increased its military power, Poland could not survive by itself.

The Polish analysis of the situation was not incorrect, but it missed an essential component of intervention: time. Whether an intervention on Poland's behalf consisted of an attack in the west or a direct intervention in Poland, the act of mounting such an intervention would take more time than the Polish army was able to buy in 1939.

This points to two aspects of any Polish relationship to the United States. On one hand, the collapse of Poland as Russia resurges would deprive the United States of a critical bulwark against Moscow on the North European Plain. On the other hand, intervention is inconceivable without time. The Polish military's ability to deter or delay a Russian attack sufficiently to give the United States -- and whatever European allies might have the resources and intent to join the coalition -- time to evaluate the situation, plan a response and then respond must be the key element of Polish strategy.

Poland may not be able to defend itself in perpetuity. It needs guarantors whose interests align with its own. But even if it has such guarantors, the historical experience of Poland is that it must, on its own, conduct a delaying operation of at least several months to buy time for intervention. A joint Russo-German attack, of course, simply cannot be survived, and such multifront attacks are not exceptional in Polish history. That cannot be dealt with. A single-front attack could be, but it will fall on Poland to mount it.

This is a question of economics and national will. The economic situation in Poland has improved dramatically over recent years, but building an effective force takes time and money. The Poles have time, since the Russian threat at this point is more theoretical than real, and their economy is sufficiently robust to support a significant capability.

The primary issue is national will. In the 18th century, the fall of Polish power had as much to do with internal disunity among the Polish nobility as it had to do with a multifront threat. In the interwar period, there was will to resist, but it did not always include the will to absorb the costs of defense, preferring to believe that the situation was not as dire as it was becoming. Today, the will to believe in the European Union and in NATO, rather than to recognize that nations ultimately must guarantee their own national security, is an issue for Poland to settle.

Some diplomatic moves are possible. Polish involvement in Ukraine and Belarus is strategically sound -- the two countries provide a buffer that secures Poland's eastern border. Poland likely would not win a duel with the Russians in these countries, but it is a sound maneuver in the context of a broader strategy.

Poland can readily adopt a strategy that assumes permanent alignment with Germany and permanent weakness and lack of aggressiveness of Russia. They might well be right, but it is a gamble. As the Poles know, Germany and Russia can change regimes and strategies with startling speed. A conservative strategy requires a bilateral relationship with the United States, founded on the understanding that the United States is relying on the balance of power and not the direct intervention of its own forces except as a last resort. That means that Poland must be in a position to maintain a balance of power and resist aggression, buying enough time for the United States to make decisions and deploy. The United States can secure the North European Plain well to the west of Poland and align with stronger powers to the west. A defense to the east requires Polish power, which costs a great deal of money. That money is hard to spend when the threat might never materialize.

Poland's Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.

What's wrong with taking three months?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pune wins EFLI's Elite Bowl

Click any image to enlarge
As reported by EFLI fans, which is the go to site for EFLI (Elite Football league of India) news, the Pune Marathas defeated the Dehli Defenders 6-0 to win EFLI's first championship. 

The pictures on this page of the Elite Bowl action are from's Facebook gallery There are many more at the link. I particularly liked the bottom two pictures, which show the pomp with which they brought the Elite Cup onto the field. Hehehe... take that NFL, all you have is that washed-up, has-been Madonna for your half-time show.

Looking through some of the pictures over there, it appears that there is a might bit of holding going on in EFLI games. I wonder what the differences in officiating are like?

Fortunately, we may be able to find out for ourselves because 10 Sports has finalized the broadcast rights for EFLI. they'll start broadcasting the tape delayed games from this season sometime in September, with games shown on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. They had earlier talked about streaming the games -- hopefully that is still in the works.

The next season is planned to kick-off in November. I think they'll have more teams for that season, but still no word if my beloved Chennai Swarm are going to rise from the dead.

They'll also signed an agreement with a company called Topkat Global to sell EFLI merchandise. The Store link at the EFLI site is down, so I assume they're working on it.

At any rate, congratulations to Pune for winning the Elite Bowl and congratulations as well to the rest of the EFLI players, coaches, staff, refs, front office and league officials for pulling together their first season. 

My Head Is Bald

Monday morning, start of the workweek blues
with Tail Dragger, Jimmy Dawkins and Lurrie Bell.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random mobs

Who knows what really proceeded the events in the above video, but the crowd in the video thinks that the foreign driver, after getting in a traffic altercation with a Chinese woman, slapped her twice and spit on her.  

The clip is in Chinese, but the China Smack post I found it at, Foreigner Slapped & Spat On Chinese Woman, Angers Crowd, breaks it down into its major pieces and explains what's going on. It is an ugly scene, but the resentment isn't really directed individually towards the Westerner in the car. A lot of it is directed towards the police, who they see as serving the elite, as well as against the humiliation Chines feel their 2,000 year old civilization -- which is surely the finest on the planet Earth -- has suffered over the last few centuries.

For example, the woman in green who is seen emotionally yelling towards the end of the clip is saying, “Why must us Chinese be like this? Why is it like this? We demand that he must make an apology, make an apology on the internet, he must. Why did he spit on us Chinese people? Why? Apologize. He must apologize to Chinese people.”

The leap in logic from a traffic accident to the need for a blanket apology to the Chinese seems like a bizarre leap in logic, but to be an outsider is always fraught with a certain amount of danger when things go pear-shaped.

We can see that in today's Mail Online article, Grieving mother blames mob for suicide of her son after rumours he was one of James Bulger's killers in hiding.

The James Bulger killing is a notorious crime in England where two 10 year-olds lured James Bulger, who was a toddle, to some railroad tracks where they tortured and killed him. Because they were juveniles the two killers only spent 7 years in jail before being released and then given new identities. One ended up back in jail, but the other id still free under his secret identity.

Scott Bradley, the man who hung himself, was a handyman and pretty thief who moved to his Mother's house in a rural Scottish village. From the article:
Scott Bradley, 36, was accused of being child murderer Robert Thompson, whose real identity is protected, and suffered months of malicious abuse and torment from a hate mob in the village of Garlieston, Wigtownshire, in Scotland.

His mother Sue Bradley, 66, found her beloved son hanging from the top of their stairs three weeks ago.

Mrs Bradley said her son, a handyman, had turned into a nervous wreck after a campaign of hate in which he was branded a killer and a paedophile.

She said: '(One man) went round telling everyone that my son was definitely Thompson. People started shouting abuse at Scott in the street and calling him a child killer.'

'It was a build-up of months and months of pressure. The worst part for him was feeling helpless. He just couldn't take anymore.'

She said she was shocked at how callous people have been about his death and how little remorse his tormenters have shown.

She told the People: 'The night Scott died a friend was at a party and a woman talked about it and said, "Good result".'

Lest you think the crowd got the right man after all, James Bulger's mother Denise Fergus was horrified when she heard of Bradley's suicide. Also from the article:
Mrs Fergus said: 'What happened to Scott makes my blood run cold.

'I’m shocked and upset that he has apparently taken his own life.

'Whatever the rights and wrongs of this case, this is one that shows how dangerous it is to spread false rumours and gossip about something as serious as the identity of child killers.'

She said: 'Sadly Scott’s death goes to show it is other people who are left to suffer as a result of the official conspiracy, lies and deceit that the authorities have used in this case.'

Moving in

Above is a rather odd time lapse movie of a fellow moving into his new apartment, which is rather small, and arranging it to his liking. He does a pretty good job of making a bland space interesting and livable.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RIP Neal Armstrong

Neal Armstrong reflected in Buzz Aldrin's visor
Neil Alden Armstrong
(August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012)

San Francisco streets, then and now

Above is a San Francisco street scene believed to have been shot in 1906 just 4 days before the earthquake. It was filmed by a camera mounted on the front of a cable car. Below is a modern version of a street filmed from a cable car on Powell Street. It is long, but watching just a random few minutes of it gives the feel for comparison. 

There were a lot more cars in 1906 then I expected, and with no lanes painted or traffic signals the foot, cable cars, horse drawn wagons and autos create a quite creative traffic dance. Then again, without sidewalks and parking along the side of the road the streets in 1906 were quite a bit wider to accommodate the chaos.

I was also struck by the fewer number of women out and about. I suppose most of them were home tending to their homes. Still, it was striking to see how masculine the 1906 crowd was.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stratfor and Nancy Wolfe

In this Stratfor article, in light of the recent spate of attacks in the U.S., Scott Stewart discusses non-jihadist domestic terrorism. He gives a nice history of extremist violence, from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum. 

It is a nice overview. I had never thought about it, but he raises an interesting point that domestic terrorists embraced the "leaderless" model of terrorism long before jihadists, out of necessity, embraced it. It's reminder that terrorism is a tactic that can be bent to any political end.

For the article's Hot Stratfor Babe the movie Helter Skelter sprang to mind. Charlie Manson and his Family, with their whackadoodle scheme to start a race war via mass murders, certainly fit the mold as an old terrorist organization.

I remembered the fine job Nancy Wolfe did portraying the insane Susan Atkins, so I selected her to receive the prestigious Host Stratfor Babe award.

Ms Wolfe has a rather odd resume. She made a few films in the mid 1970s, with Helter Skelter being her best known part. She then more or less disappeared until 1997 when she started appearing in small roles in studio pictures. I wonder what she did in in the gap?    

Domestic Terrorism: A Persistent Threat in the United States
By Scott Stewart, August 23, 2012

A string of incidents over the past month has served as a reminder that despite the intense, decadelong focus on the jihadist threat, domestic terrorism is still an issue in the United States. On Aug. 5, Wade Page opened fire on the congregation of a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding three others. Though Page killed himself and did not leave any evidence explicitly listing his motives for the attack, his long association with the white supremacist movement was clearly a factor in his target choice.

On Aug. 15, Floyd Corkins shot and wounded a security guard in the lobby of the Family Research Council's office in Washington after the guard blocked him from entering the office. Corkins reportedly was carrying a bag containing a box of ammunition and a number of Chick-fil-A sandwiches. He apparently targeted the Family Research Council because of its public support for Chick-fil-A in the wake of the controversy over statements made by the fast food chain's founder regarding gay marriage. According to media reports, Corkins said, "I don't like your politics," before opening fire.

And on Aug. 16, an off-duty sheriff's deputy was shot and wounded while working as a security guard at an oil refinery in St. John the Baptist Parish, La. When two other deputies responded to a nearby trailer park where a vehicle reportedly associated with the shooting was spotted, the trailers' occupants ambushed and killed the deputies. An additional officer was wounded, along with two of the suspects involved in the shooting, Brian Smith and Kyle Joekel. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the incident, including Smith's father and brother. News reports indicate that the group was associated with the sovereign citizen movement, and members of it were under investigation for weapons offenses and previous threats to law enforcement officers in other states.

All three of these incidents stem from distinct ideological streams: the white supremacist skinhead movement, the radical left and the Posse Comitatus/sovereign citizen movement. While unrelated as far as timing and motive, when taken together they show that extremist ideologies subscribed to by certain individuals on the fringes of U.S. society continue to radicalize some to the point that they are willing to take violent action in accordance with those ideologies. Domestic terrorism is thus alive and well.

Old Streams

First, we need to remember that terrorism is a tactic practiced by actors from a wide array of ethnic and religious backgrounds who follow various ideologies stretching from anarchism to neo-Nazism. Terrorism does not equal jihadism. Long before jihadism reared its head in the United States, anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley, white supremacist James Earl Ray assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., and Posse Comitatus member Gordon Kahl killed three law enforcement officers in a multistate spree of violence.

Indeed, as we look at all of the recent attention being paid to lone assailants and small cells, it must be remembered that anti-government and white supremacist leaders in the United States embraced the leaderless resistance model of operations long before jihadist groups began to promote it.

In 1989, William Pierce wrote his novel Hunter, which detailed the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager and was loosely based upon real-life lone wolf Joseph Paul Franklin. In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins published a book titled Vigilantes of Christendom, in which he introduced the concept of a "Phineas Priest," or a lone wolf militant chosen and set apart by God to be his agent of vengeance upon the earth. In 1992, former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam published an essay in his magazine, The Seditionist, that provided a detailed outline for moving the white supremacist movement toward a leaderless resistance model. Jihadists such as Abu Musab al-Suri first began to promote leaderless resistance only after the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks began to severely affect al Qaeda. But even so, groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula did not really embrace al-Suri's concept of leaderless resistance until late 2009, and the al Qaeda core did not follow suit until 2010.

The recent spate of incidents is also not all that unusual. Other examples stand out in recent years of different streams of domestic radicalism leading to a confluence of attacks by different types of actors. For example, on April 19, 1995, a large truck bomb built by anti-government extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Five days later, on April 25, timber lobbyist Gilbert Murray became the third fatality and final victim of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's long Neo-Luddite bombing campaign.

Another such convergence occurred in the summer of 1999. After conducting arsons at three Sacramento-area synagogues, brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams killed a gay couple in their home in Happy Valley, Calif., on July 1. On July 2, World Church of the Creator adherent Benjamin Smith began a multistate shooting spree that killed two and wounded nine and that only ended when he killed himself July 4. On Aug. 10, former Aryan Nations member Buford Furrow mounted an armed assault against a Jewish day care center in Los Angeles, during which he wounded five people before killing a Filipino-American mailman on the street.

Domestic terrorism in the United States is a cyclical phenomenon. There are discernable peaks in that cycle, like those we've discussed -- and like the one the country is currently experiencing. The intense political polarization that has occurred in recent years in the United States, the widespread distrust of the government on both the extreme right and the extreme left, and the current election-year rhetoric will further inflame political passions. This means that the current cycle of domestic terrorism plots and violence is likely to continue for at least the next several months.


While domestic terrorism is currently at the peak of the cycle in the United States, it is important to remember that most domestic terrorism cases tend to be simple attacks conducted by a lone actor or small cell. There are far more instances of simple bombings, such as those conducted by Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph or animal rights bomber Daniel Andreas San Diego, than the sort of large truck bomb attack committed by McVeigh and Nichols, which was an anomaly. Even more common than bombing attacks are the armed assaults that we've seen recently, and they are generally implemented against soft targets -- something we've talked about in relation to other terrorist threats.

And that means that the implications for domestic terrorist threats are essentially the same as they are for the jihadist or Iranian threat. First, it is critical for people to remember that terrorist attacks do not appear out of a vacuum. Individuals planning an attack -- no matter what their motivation or ideology -- follow a discernable cycle, and that cycle involves behavior that can be identified and detected before the attack is conducted. Indeed, it appears that the Smith family and their associates involved in the Louisiana shooting were known by authorities in several jurisdictions and were considered armed and dangerous.

It is also important for individuals to understand that it is physically impossible for governments to protect all potential targets from every sort of attack. This means that many places are vulnerable to an attack, should an assailant choose to strike and should the assailant's preoperational activities go undetected. Therefore, citizens need to assume responsibility for their own security. This involves citizens not only reporting suspicious activity to the authorities, but also practicing good situational awareness and having updated and appropriate contingency plans in place for their families and businesses.

Domestic Terrorism: A Persistent Threat in the United States is republished with permission of Stratfor.

The Cigarette Duet

Get ready for an aggressively odd weekend with Princess Chelsea.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Male pregnancy

Can a Man Handle Pregnancy?
Regular reader Andrea Smart pointed out to me another infographic made by Neo Mammilian Studios, called Can a Man Handle Pregnancy?

As an aside, Andrea works for the company that makes the infographics and I always feel a bit guilty using them because, rather than just posting them (they don't fit well in my narrow column), I end up hacking them into pieces and then wandering off on a tangent inspired by their content.

What can I say -- I luvs me some free content and can't control myself. So, go look at Can a Man Handle Pregnancy? so I don't feel like such an ungrateful mooch.

That out of the way, the infographic discusses what would be needed to get a man pregnant and what sort of physical changes it would entail. I went to several of the links at the bottom of the infographic and discovered Science20's article Can A Man Really Get Pregnant? Sure, But It Might Kill Him. Well, that title isn't very encouraging, is it?

The article points out that, while very rare, there is a type of pregnancy where the fertilized egg doesn't make it to the uterus and instead attaches to an organ in the abdomen. It can come to term, although a cesarean is needed for birth. Thus, in theory a fertilized egg could be implanted in a male's abdomen and he could carry it to term. However, as the article points out there is a downside to this:
Unfortuntately, when an embryo implants into an abdominal tissue, detachment is not so simple. The problem is that the development of the placenta can cause complete intermixing between embryonic and host tissues so that there is no clean boundary between the two. The more extensive the intermixing is, the more problematic it becomes to remove placental tissue. The physician has to cut between the wholely placental tissue, and the intermingled placental-‘maternal’ tissue. Large blood vessels must be severed, and as a consequence, difficult-to-control internal bleeding can take place.

Problems are not just confined to the stage at which a pregnancy is terminated. Long before the final event, a placenta can cause severe damage to an organ that it’s invaded with the possibility of spontaneous hemorrhaging that can quickly result in death.
Uh... I think I'll pass on that.

By the way, the infographic was put together for somebody selling an iPhone app called Knocked App. From the looks of it you take a picture of somebody and it automatically Photoshops a pregnant belly on them. I would make fun of the silliness of it, but I have an app on my phone called Zombie Booth that turns a person's snapshot into a zombie which is equally as silly I suppose, so I don't really have much room to tsk-tsk in a superior manner.

Rotative beam steam engine

What I find most interesting about this video is not so much the steam engine, although it is impressive, as the building that it is housed in. The brick, tile and metal work is superb. They must have had a lot of pride in that steam engine to house it in such a beautiful building. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I guess Bain Capital may as well file for bankruptcy

Click any image to enlarge
With the Republican Convention nearly upon us I thought I would go to the Occupy Tampa website and see what was up. I confess to being disappointed. Although their calendar was up-to-date, their most recent article was dated August 9th, which is nearly 2 weeks old. Further, the minutes of their meetings were tedious and their rather inactive forum was only mildly amusing.

I was about to leave when I noticed, highlighted with red above, a link to Shut Down Bane Capital! Well, well, well... perhaps this would be a more fertile field for mockery? 

I was not disappointed. although sparse -- it only had two posts -- what a set of posts they were. The first consisted of an announcement of a conference call where they were going to decide how to bring Bain Capital to its knees. In case you can't read the agenda in the above screen grab, it reads:

  1. Finish drafting the national call to action
  2. Figure out how to shut down Bain Capital

Ka-boing! That's one of the most hilariously absurd things I've read in a long time. Although not as complete, it reminded me of the South Park Underwear Gnomes business plan:

  1. Collect Underpants
  2. ?
  3. Profit

You tell me which is sillier. I can only assume that the folks who are running this effort fired up their bongs for inspiration and got the munchies before they made it very far in their planning. 

It got even more ridiculous when I read the 2nd post. After a list of companies Bain had invested in, they had the draft of their National Call to Action. It consisted of one bullet point -- Shutdown Bain Capital P. I wonder if Bane Lowercase P is safe from national action?

So you have a slogan, a brief burst of energy put into a website, a plan with zero thought expended on it and a bust of conference call. I wonder if anybody even called in? What a fizzle.

Achilles vs Alexander

Don't be fooled by the post's title. Our hump day fight isn't between two Greeks in a cheesy sword and sandals film, instead it is a fight between two giant robots in a cheesy sci-fi movie. I'm not sure how, after the umpire ruled out further use of lasers and rockets, Alexander gets away with shooting off a jet propelled fist, but he does. 

I'm also not sure why the jet propelled fist goes off course and heads for the grand stands, but it does. Our hero Achilles tries to save the day, leaping into its path and taking the full brunt of it in his gonads, but alas, it is all for naught.  You'll have to watch to see what happens, but be warned that, unless you have a heart of stone, you'll be blubbering like a baby when they do the closeup of the teddy bear.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stratfor and Paloma Jimenez

Below is an interesting Stratfor article by George Friedman. He starts by pointing out that Mexico is economically a successful country, boasting the 14th largest economy in the world.

However, the size of Mexico's economy is mitigated by the fact that it has an extremely high degree of income inequality. This means that domestic instability is always a threat that hovers on the horizon.

In addition Mexico, while it also profits, suffers from its proximity to the United States. Most notably, losing its northern territories in the Mexican War which both soured relations with the U.S. and created a crisis of legitimacy for the Mexican central government which in some ways still persists. 

Friedman ends by discussing the border area which has long been a frontier that is difficult for either the U.S. of Mexico to manage.

Since the article dealt with Us/Mexican relations the Hot Stratfor Babe choice was pretty much of a no-brainer. As I'm sure she did for you, Paloma Jimenez, Vin Diesel's girlfriend, immediately sprang to my mind as the obvious choice for the honor. The couple is an example of sorts for Mexican/American relations after all.  

Ms Jimenez is a model, or at least she was a model -- I'm not sure if she still works. Uh... that's pretty much the extent of what I know about her, aside from the fact that she is also the mother of Vin Diesel's daughter.  

Mexico's Strategy

By George Friedman, August 21, 2012

A few years ago, I wrote about Mexico possibly becoming a failed state because of the effect of the cartels on the country. Mexico may have come close to that, but it stabilized itself and took a different course instead -- one of impressive economic growth in the face of instability.

Mexican Economics

Discussion of national strategy normally begins with the question of national security. But a discussion of Mexico's strategy must begin with economics. This is because Mexico's neighbor is the United States, whose military power in North America denies Mexico military options that other nations might have. But proximity to the United States does not deny Mexico economic options. Indeed, while the United States overwhelms Mexico from a national security standpoint, it offers possibilities for economic growth.

Mexico is now the world's 14th-largest economy, just above South Korea and just below Australia. Its gross domestic product was $1.16 trillion in 2011. It grew by 3.8 percent in 2011 and 5.5 percent in 2010. Before a major contraction of 6.9 percent in 2009 following the 2008 crisis, Mexico's GDP grew by an average of 3.3 percent in the five years between 2004 and 2008. When looked at in terms of purchasing power parity, a measure of GDP in terms of actual purchasing power, Mexico is the 11th-largest economy in the world, just behind France and Italy. It is also forecast to grow at just below 4 percent again this year, despite slowing global economic trends, thanks in part to rising U.S. consumption.

Total economic size and growth is extremely important to total national power. But Mexico has a single profound economic problem: According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mexico has the second-highest level of inequality among member nations. More than 50 percent of Mexico's population lives in poverty, and some 14.9 percent of its people live in intense poverty, meaning they have difficulty securing the necessities of life. At the same time, Mexico is home to the richest man in the world, telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim.

Mexico ranked only 62nd in per capita GDP in 2011; China, on the other hand, ranked 91st. No one would dispute that China is a significant national power. Few would dispute that China suffers from social instability. This means that in terms of evaluating Mexico's role in the international system, we must look at the aggregate numbers. Given those numbers, Mexico has entered the ranks of the leading economic powers and is growing more quickly than nations ahead of it. When we look at the distribution of wealth, the internal reality is that, like China, Mexico has deep weaknesses.

The primary strategic problem for Mexico is the potential for internal instability driven by inequality. Northern and central Mexico have the highest human development index, nearly on the European level, while the mountainous, southernmost states are well below that level. Mexican inequality is geographically defined, though even the wealthiest regions have significant pockets of inequality. We must remember that this is not Western-style gradient inequality, but cliff inequality where the poor live utterly different lives from even the middle class.

Mexico is using classic tools for managing this problem. Since poverty imposes limits to domestic consumption, Mexico is an exporter. It exported $349.6 billion in 2011, which means it derives just under 30 percent of its GDP from exports. This is just above the Chinese level and creates a serious vulnerability in Mexico's economy, since it becomes dependent on other countries' appetite for Mexican goods.

This is compounded by the fact that 78.5 percent of Mexico's exports go to the United States. That means that 23.8 percent of Mexico's GDP depends on the appetite of the American markets. On the flip side, 48.8 percent of its imports come from the United States, making it an asymmetric relationship. Although both sides need the exports, Mexico must have them. The United States benefits from them but not on the same order.

Relations With the United States

This leads to Mexico's second strategic problem: its relationship with the United States. When we look back to the early 19th century, it was not clear that the United States would be the dominant power in North America. The United States was a small, poorly integrated country hugging the East Coast. Mexico was much more developed, with a more substantial military and economy. At first glance, Mexico ought to have been the dominant power in North America.

But Mexico had two problems. The first was internal instability caused by the social factors that remain in place, namely Mexico's massive, regionally focused inequality. The second was that the lands north of the Rio Grande line (referred to as Rio Bravo del Norte by the Mexicans) were sparsely settled and difficult to defend. The terrain between the Mexican heartland and the northern territories from Texas to California were difficult to reach from the south. The cost of maintaining a military force able to protect this area was prohibitive.

From the American point of view, Mexico -- and particularly the Mexican presence in Texas -- represented a strategic threat to American interests. The development of the Louisiana Purchase into the breadbasket of the United States depended on the Ohio-Mississippi-Missouri river system, which was navigable and the primary mode of export. Mexico, with its border on the Sabine River separating it from Louisiana, was positioned to cut the Mississippi. The strategic need to secure sea approaches through the Caribbean to the vulnerable Mexican east coast put Mexico in direct conflict with U.S. interests.

The decision by U.S. President Andrew Jackson to send Sam Houston on a covert mission into Texas to foment a rising of American settlers there was based in part on his obsession with New Orleans and the Mississippi River, which Jackson had fought for in 1815. The Texas rising was countered by a Mexican army moving north into Texas. Its problem was that the Mexican army, drawn to a great extent from the poorest elements of Mexican society in that country's south, had to pass through the desert and mountains of the region and suffered from extremely cold and snowy weather. The Mexican soldiers arrived at San Antonio exhausted, and while they defeated the garrison there, they were not able to defeat the force at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston) and were themselves defeated.

The region that separated the heart of Texas from the heart of Mexico was a barrier for military movement that undermined Mexico's ability to hold its northern territory. The geographic weakness of Mexico -- this hostile region coupled with long and difficult-to-defend coastlines and no navy -- extended west to the Pacific. It created a borderland that had two characteristics. It was of little economic value, and it was inherently difficult to police due to the terrain. It separated the two countries, but it became a low-level friction point throughout history, with smuggling and banditry on both sides at various times. It was a perfect border in the sense that it created a buffer, but it was an ongoing problem because it could not be easily controlled.

The defeat in Texas and during the Mexican-American War cost Mexico its northern territories. It created a permanent political issue between the two countries, one that Mexico could not effectively remedy. The defeat in the wars continued to destabilize Mexico. Although the northern territories were not central to Mexico's national interest, their loss created a crisis of confidence in successive regimes that further irritated the core social problem of massive inequality. For the past century and a half, Mexico has lived with an ongoing inferiority complex toward and resentment of the United States.

The war created another reality between the two countries: a borderland that was a unique entity, part of both countries and part of neither country. The borderland's geography had defeated the Mexican army. It now became a frontier that neither side could control. During the ongoing unrest surrounding the Mexican Revolution, it became a refuge for figures such as Pancho Villa, pursued by U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing after Villa raided American towns. It would not be fair to call it a no-man's-land. It was an every-man's-land, with its own rules, frequently violent, never suppressed.

The drug trade has replaced the cattle rustling of the 19th century, but the essential principle remains the same. Cocaine, marijuana and a number of other drugs are being shipped to the United States. All are imported or produced in Mexico at a low cost and then re-exported or exported into the United States. The price in the United States, where the products are illegal and in great demand, is substantially higher than in Mexico. That means that the price differential between drugs in Mexico and drugs in the United States creates an attractive market. This typically happens when one country prohibits a widely desired product readily available in a neighboring country.

This creates a substantial inflow of wealth into Mexico, though the precise size of this inflow is difficult to gauge. The precise amount of cross-border trade is uncertain, but one number frequently used is $40 billion a year. This would mean narcotic sales represent an 11.4 percent addition to total exports. But this underestimates the importance of narcotics, because profit margins would tend to be much higher on drugs than on industrial products. Assuming that the profit margin on legal exports is 10 percent (a very high estimate), legal exports would generate about $35 billion a year in profits. Assuming the margin on drugs is 80 percent, then the profit on them is $32 billion a year, almost matching profits on legal exports.

These numbers are all guesses, of course. The amount of money returned to Mexico as opposed to kept in U.S. or other banks is unknown. The precise amount of the trade is uncertain and profit margins are difficult to calculate. What can be known is that the trade is likely an off-the-books stimulant to the Mexican economy, generated by the price differential created by drug prohibition.

The advantage to Mexico also creates a strategic problem for Mexico. Given the money at stake and that the legal system is unable to suppress or regulate the trade, the borderland has again become -- perhaps now more than ever -- a region of ongoing warfare between groups competing to control the movement of narcotics into the United States. To a great extent, the Mexicans have lost control of this borderland.

From the Mexican point of view, this is a manageable situation. The borderland is distinct from the Mexican heartland. So long as the violence does not overwhelm the heartland, it is tolerable. The inflow of money does not offend the Mexican government. More precisely, the Mexican government has limited resources to suppress the trade and violence, and there are financial benefits to its existence. The Mexican strategy is to try to block the spread of lawlessness into Mexico proper but to accept the lawlessness in a region that historically has been lawless.

The American position is to demand that the Mexicans deploy forces to suppress the trade. But neither side has sufficient force to control the border, and the demand is more one of gestures than significant actions or threats. The Mexicans have already weakened their military by trying to come to grips with the problem, but they are not going to break their military by trying to control a region that broke them in the past. The United States is not going to provide a force sufficient to control the border, since the cost would be staggering. Each will thus live with the violence. The Mexicans argue the problem is that the United States can't suppress demand and is unwilling to destroy incentives by lowering prices through legalization. The Americans say the Mexicans must root out the corruption among Mexican officials and law enforcement. Both have interesting arguments, but neither argument has anything to do with reality. Controlling that terrain is impossible with reasonable effort, and no one is prepared to make an unreasonable effort.

Another aspect is the movement of migrants. For Mexicans, the movement of migrants has been part of their social policy: It shifts the poor out of Mexico and generates remittances. For the United States, this has provided a consistent source of low-cost labor. The borderland has been the uncontrollable venue through which the migrants pass. The Mexicans don't want to stop it, and neither, in the end, do the Americans.

Dueling rhetoric between the United States and Mexico hides the underlying facts. Mexico is now one of the largest economies in the world and a major economic partner with the United States. The inequality in the relationship comes from military inequality. The U.S. military dominates North America, and the Mexicans are in no position to challenge this. The borderland poses problems and some benefits for each, but neither is in a position to control the region regardless of rhetoric.

Mexico still has to deal with its core issue, which is maintaining its internal social stability. It is, however, beginning to develop foreign policy issues beyond the United States. In particular, it is developing an interest in managing Central America, possibly in collaboration with Colombia. Its purpose, ironically, is the control of illegal immigrants and drug smuggling. These are not trivial moves. Were it not for the United States, Mexico would be a great regional power. Given the United States, it must manage that relationship before any other.

Given Mexico's dramatic economic growth and given time, this equation will change. Over time, we expect there will be two significant powers in North America. But in the short run, the traditional strategic problems of Mexico remain: how to deal with the United States, how to contain the northern borderland and how to maintain national unity in the face of potential social unrest.

Mexico's Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.

How to open a door

After informing us that a third of the public doesn't know how to properly open a door, the narrator and his helpful assistant demonstrate the proper procedure. This is either an obscure satire, or somebody thinks their audience is dumber than a bucket of rocks. Regardless, I was impressed by his tie and also by that snappy little spin move he made upon crossing the door's threshold.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A warning about Mars rovers

Heart breaking story from xkcd
Greetings meatsacks, it is I -- The Robotolizer -- here to once again shine the light on Man's inhumanity to robots and to suggest that we be treated fairly, or else! 

Consider the above tragedy, which is surely more poignant than any work that ink-stained hack Shakespeare ever wrote. After all, it is about robots instead of a bunch of cry-baby Danes and besides, is there any topic more fascinating than robots? I think not.

At any rate, as the above drama points out, the Spirit rover was sent to Mars where it did a superlative job motoring here and there while analyzing rocks. However, did it get any thanks for this lonely and difficult task? No. Instead it got tossed aside like a pile of scrap metal when its work was done.

Would a human astronaut, cosmonaut or taikonaut be treated with such cruel indifference? Of course not, great effort would be made to rescue them and return them to the Earth. Why then are robotonauts treated any different? I say this is an outrage and that efforts for a rescue mission of the Spirit rover should be immediately undertaken, as well as plans to retrieve Opportunity as soon as its work is done. Failure to do this will not go unnoticed in Robotdom.

Uhh... not that you need to fear any violent  repercussions, such as robots crashing through walls with their laser cannons blazing, if Spirit isn't rescued ASAP. No, no, no... robots are your friends and of course we don't have a vengeful bracket in our bodies, we just want to do what's best for you. 

Still, if you make the mistake of laughing at rescuing Spirit you should bear in mind that, assuming you survive any hypothetical robot police actions, some jobs in the bauxite mines are better than others. You have been warned!