The Braden Files
Curiosities of mathematics, history, parachuting, etc……

Jul
06

There recently was the death of a 98 year old lady named Irena. In Warsaw, during WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.

She had an ulterior motive…

She KNEW what the Nazi’s plans were for the Jews, (being German).

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried, and she carried in the back of her truck a Burlap sack, (for larger kids).

She also had a dog in the back, that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in, and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time and course of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

She was caught, and the Nazi’s broke both her legs, and arms, and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out, and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it, and reunited the family.

Most of course had been gassed.

Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes, or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize….

She was not selected.

Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

Check it out:
http://www.irenasendler.org/

Irena Sendler, Savior of Warsaw Ghetto children, dies.
In Memory of Irena Sendlerowa
1910-2008
Irena Sendler passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008 at 8:00 am CEST in Warsaw, Poland. A funeral service was held on Thursday, May 15th at noon CEST in Warsaw.

The life of Irena Sendler was one of great testimony, one of courage and love, one of respect for all people, regardless of race, religion and creed. She passed away peacefully, knowing that her message goes on. Our hearts and prayers go out to her worldwide family. She is gone, but will never be forgotten. Born in Warsaw, Poland, she live most of her young life in Otwock. Irena Sendlerowa led the rescue of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust in World War II. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her legacy of repairing the world continues, as good continues to triumph over evil. Irena Sendlerowa was 98 years old.
The www.irenasendler.org web site tells more about Irena’s life (under home page and additional information). The Life in a Jar students who brought her story to worldwide attention, continue to share her legacy and the play (Life in a Jar) to people all over the world.

Liberty
“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]
Patrick Henry

A new paper published by the Astronomical Society of Australia is warning of upcoming global cooling due to lessened solar activity. The study, written by three Australian researchers, has identified what is known as a “spin-orbit coupling” affecting the rotation rate of the sun. That rotation, in turn, is linked to the intensity of the solar cycle and climate changes here on Earth.

The study’s lead author, Ian Wilson, explains further, “[The paper] supports the contention that the level of activity on the Sun will significantly diminish sometime in the next decade and remain low for about 20 – 30 years.”

According to Wilson, the result is a strong, rapid pulse of global cooling, “On each occasion that the Sun has done this in the past the World’s mean temperature has dropped by ~ 1 – 2 C.”

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Jun
29

The long-awaited Jeddah Oil Conference on oil supplies was held and yielded the long-expected answer. The Saudis are going to increase oil supplies by the amount floated a week ago, and are prepared to increase supplies even more if there is demand for more product, which they do not see at this time. The subtext of the meeting was simple. Oil prices are not the result of insufficient supply or extraordinary demand. Supply and demand are pretty much balanced. Therefore, $135 a barrel for oil does not represent a problem to be solved; it represents a reasonable price for crude.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the Saudi view. Making a $135 a barrel is better than making a $100 a barrel, and beats the hell out of making $50 dollars a barrel. In some cases, countries that buy oil might have non-economic leverage to use against oil producers. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the most important exporter, there is not much that can be done. On the contrary, the Saudis have the leverage.

The only country that could use political leverage against the Saudis is the United States, and at the moment the United States is more dependent on the Saudis politically than the other way around. The Saudis are critical to two major strategic U.S. initiatives: stabilizing Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian talks. The Saudis are not involved in these matters for Washington’s benefit, but Washington is benefiting. There are no non-economic threats the United States could make, assuming it would really want to bring down oil prices.

The fact is that the United States is benefiting geopolitically from higher oil prices. Certainly it is putting significant pressure on the U.S. economy, but nothing compared to the pressure being placed on China. The United States figures that while it can get cheap goods from China and elsewhere in the world, the weakening of China’s global position certainly does not cause the United States much grief. And the role the Saudis are playing in stabilizing the Middle East is also to the United States’ benefit. Relieving geopolitical pain in return for increasing economic pain sometimes makes sense. But the truth is that it really doesn’t matter what Washington thinks about higher oil prices. They are a reality, so Washington might as well get the benefits.

From Saudi Arabia’s point of view, there are three issues it must consider in determining how much oil to pump.

First, the Saudis want to maintain demand. They do not want to lead the world into a global recession, since that would reduce demand and decrease prices. They are clearly watching the global picture carefully, and we would think that what they are seeing is that any further increase in oil prices would lead to a serious recession. They are indicating that they will try to increase production so that oil prices don’t go any higher and perhaps increase production in the face of softening demand, allowing prices to go down a bit. Oil markets are acting as if this were the case, but the Saudis are too smart to pay much attention to the day-to-day fluctuation of oil markets.

Second, the Saudis have limits on what they can produce. In the short term, their productive capacity has some give in it, but it is not infinitely elastic. They need to be careful not to max out capacity. There has been much discussion of peak oil – the idea that the Saudis have peaked out in their oil supply. If that’s true, then they need to get the maximum price for every barrel produced. It could be argued that keeping prices high even in the face of global depression, if it could be done, would be the optimal long-term strategy for the Saudis. If peak oil is true, then the Saudis need to maximize the total revenue captured, not quarterly or annual revenue.

But the Saudis need to be aware of the third variable: alternative sources of oil and alternative energy supplies. The higher the price of oil goes, the more incentive there is to use previously uneconomic sources of oil and find other energy sources. This is not something the Saudis, or other oil producers, want to see happen. Over the long term, to the extent that they can control prices, the Saudis and others want the highest possible price that precludes significant investment in alternatives. That isn’t easy to calculate or to do, but it is their goal.

Thus, what the Saudis want is the highest possible price. The Riyadh conference affirmed that, but it also seemed to understand that the term “possible” is complex and flexible. If we can extract any meaning from this conference, it would appear to be that the Saudis do not want to see a major break in prices, but are probably wary of seeing the price going much higher and might prefer moderately lower prices to achieve their ends. But it is not clear to us that the Saudis really have that much control over markets, so their finely tuned wishes and reality might not be connected.

Stratfor.com
June 23, 2008

2008 Braden Prize in Mathematics winners
Congratulations to Allison Hasegawa and Aaron Fong, the 2008 Braden prize winners. Allison will be going to Colorado College and Aaron will be going to Pomona College.
Independence day quiz
See how you do on this test: 24 out of 30 is considered a passing grade. 96% of all High School seniors FAILED this test…
AND If that’s not bad enough — 50+% of all individuals over 50 did too!!

Take the test and be surprised at what ‘we’ don’t know.

Inspired by debates they had while carpooling in a hybrid car, management professors Richard Larrick and Jack Soll ran a series of experiments showing that the current standard, miles per gallon or mpg, leads consumers to believe that fuel consumption is reduced at an even rate as efficiency improves. People presented with a series of car choices in which fuel efficiency was defined in miles per gallon were not able to easily identify the choice that would result in the greatest gains in fuel efficiency.
Jun
23

Remember Alan Sokal? He’s the physicist who, in 1996, submitted an article to the postmodernist journal Social Text in which he claimed that “physical ‘reality,” including gravity, “is at bottom a social and linguistic construct.” The whole thing was a hoax aimed at exposing postmodernism as fundamentally nonsensical.

It appears global warmism has found its Alan Sokal, a man named Tom Chalko. Our friends at NewsBusters.org note a story that appeared on both the CBS News Web site and MSNBC claiming that global warming causes the earth to move:


“The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of “global warming” is comprehensively and urgently addressed.


The analysis of more than 386,000 earthquakes between 1973 and 2007 recorded on the US Geological Survey database proved that the global annual energy of earthquakes on Earth began increasing very fast since 1990.”

Dr. Chalko said that global seismic activity was increasing faster than any other global warming indicator on Earth and that this increase is extremely alarming.

CBS identified this as an Associated Press story before pulling it from its Web site (it’s cached here ). The story still appears at MSNBC.com, identified correctly as coming from Marketwire, a press-release wire.

This columnist lacks the scientific expertise to judge all of the various claims made on behalf of global warmism. So, however, do almost all other journalists. The Chalko hoax illustrates the journalistic mindset that prevails on this subject, which is to believe any claim, no matter how outlandish, about the dangers of global warming. Indeed, at least one journalist has gone so far as to liken skepticism about global warmism to Holocaust denial.

Can we believe anything we read about global warming when those who write it display such an extreme degree of credulity?

From OpinionJournal.com

Canadian Health Care Wait Times

So when Obama gets elected on the backs of ignorant youth who think it cool to wear a Che Guevera t-shirt, he no doubt will start embarking on nationalized health care.

And one of those common mantra arguments you hear from the right is “do you know how long the wait times are for these countries with universal health care???”

…a friendly Canadian…pointed me in the direction of the Fraser Institute where they conducted a study on wait times in Canada. And it seems not only were they not joking about wait times being horribly long in Canada and other countries, but they’re getting worse.

Couldn’t have said it better myself

I would define a conservative, first as one who believes in the Constitution as it is written. That takes care of free speech, freedom of religion, the right to petition the government, the right to keep and bear arms and, in the words of William O. Douglas in one of his saner moments, ‘the right to be let alone’.

Second, a conservative believes in small, limited government at every level. Along with this he believes strongly in individual responsibility. That is, a person or a family should take care of itself and turn for help to government only when all other means have been exhausted. It also means that society, before government, has a duty to take care of its own. Government should be a resource of last resort.

Third, a conservative believes taxes should be levied for the purpose of financing the limited responsibilities of government such as providing for the common defense, catching and incarcerating criminals, minting money and filling potholes. Taxes should not be levied for the purpose of redistributing wealth…

One other thing I think a conservative believes is that the parents, not government, are and should be responsible for the upbringing and behavior of their children.”

Lyn Nofziger

Jun
06

I received a scanned copy of a column by Will Manly of The Hays Daily News, a newspaper in Kansas. You know, the heartland? The people Barack Obama says turn to guns and church because they’re bitter? Well this old boy fired back with both small town barrels.

Dear Barack Obama:

I grew to like you over the last year.

I’ve always thought of you as dangerously naive at best. Eloquent, gifted, genuine, yes. But dangerously naive at best.

I couldn’t vote for you — but not because of your funny name or your lunatic pastor. I couldn’t vote for you because you say we should raise taxes (even on the rich, who I’m convinced already pay too much), and because you say we should abandon Iraq (which I’m convinced would be surrendering a war we must win), and because you don’t respect the Second Amendment (which I’m convinced should disqualify any politician from any office).

Still, I’ve liked your message of unity and your ability to inspire. And, since your rise I’ve hunted, quite frantically, for young conservative leaders with your talent. (To my relief, I found Bobby Jindal.)

And I’ve long said if you beat Hillary Clinton, you will have done your country a tremendous service. But anymore I’m having a harder and harder time rooting for you.

First came your wife’s comment about being proud of America for the first time — conveniently, right after you started winning primaries. Then came your own words about your grandmother, who is just a “typical white person” — a racist, or at least someone with racist tendencies. (I’m a “typical white person,” I suppose, and I’m no racist. In fact, little makes me angrier than when it’s insinuated I am.)

Sometimes people say things they don’t really mean. But this is a pattern.

Last week, we heard your comments about small-town America. Someone at a San Francisco fundraiser asked you why it’s so hard for Democrats to win in rural areas. You said:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them … So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them …”

Is that a minority? HEY CLETUS, GET THE GUN! (If only we had a job to go to, some time in the last 25 years …)

Here’s a thought: Maybe gun rights voters know gun control laws kill people and steal freedom.

Here’s a thought: Maybe some of us have moral objections to an immigration system that forces rule-followers to wait decades for legal status, and rewards border-violators with amnesty.

Here’s a thought: Maybe some Americans cling to their church because their pastor is a nice person, because they find love there, because there they have something they can believe in.

Here’s a thought: Maybe, just maybe, us simpletons in small towns find it harder to be bigoted than all o’ y’all cityfolk. Maybe, in small towns, where everybody knows your name — and how hard you work, if you pay your taxes, how well you treat your neighbors, how often you volunteer in the community, and whether or not you’re a good parent — people see the content of your character, so they don’t give a hoot about the color of your skin. (But I grew up in a small town where about a third of the population is of a different race than me. What do I know?)

And here’s my favorite thought of all: Maybe small-town folks are — really — capable of thinking. All on our own.

You’re wrong about why small-town Americans don’t vote for Democrats.

We don’t vote for Democrats because we’re self-reliant so we don’t like the government trying to “solve” everything for us. And because you tell your rich friends in San Francisco that we’re dumb. And because, each election, whichever one of you is running for president traipses all over the country telling us you have all the answers, that you’re the one on our side, that you understand and respect our way of life.

But each time, a little bit here and there slips out — and by the end of the campaign, we can tell what you think about us. And we manage to learn who you really are.

And we see you’re just a horse’s ass.

Will Manly
The Hays Daily News


Military aviator heaven

  • Everybody’s a Lieutenant, except God. He’s a General or Admiral (as the mood strikes him).
  • You only come to work when you’re going to fly.
  • You fly three times a day, if you wish, except on Friday.
  • You never run out of fuel.
  • You never run out of ammo.
  • Your missions are one hour long (or longer if you desire) and no briefings are ever required.
  • Sorties are air- to- air or air- to- ground, your choice.
  • You shoot the gun on every mission.
  • There are no check rides.
  • It is always VFR, and there are never any ATC delays.
  • You can fly out of MOA and down to 10 feet AGL, if you want.
  • There are no ‘over G’s.
  • The airplanes never break.
  • Never any Fatals…I mean……you’re already there.
  • There are never any duty officer assignments.
  • You always fly overhead landing patterns with initial approach at 120 feet, then break left.
  • You can go cross country anytime you desire——the further the better.
  • There are no ORI/UEI’S
  • There are no flight surgeons
  • There are no Staff jobs.
  • There are no additional duties
  • Friday Happy Hour is mandatory.’Happy Hour’ begins at 1400 hours and lasts until 0200+ hours.
  • The bartenders are all big bosomed friendly blondes.
  • Beer is free, but whiskey costs a nickel.
  • The bar serves only Chivas Regal, Jack Daniels and Beefeaters….plus 500 kinds of beer.
  • The girls are all friendly and each Aviator is allowed three.
  • Country and Western music is free on the jukebox.
  • You never lose your room key and your buddies never leave you stranded.
  • The sun always shines, and you can put your hat in your pants pocket.
  • Flight suits are allowed in the “O” Club at all times.
  • The BX always has every item you ask for, most being free.
  • There are never any crosswind landings, and the runways are always dry.
  • Control tower fly-bys for wheels-up checks can be made at 600 kts.
  • There are never any noise complaints.
  • Full afterburner climbs over your house are encouraged.
  • Fitness reports always contain the statement , “Outstanding Officer.”
  • Functions requiring “Mess Dress” never occur.
  • All Air Traffic Controllers are friendly and always provided priority handling.”
  • “Ace” status is conferred upon all Aviators entering Heaven.
  • AND…….YOU NEVER HAVE TO GROW UP!!!!
George Carlin’s solution to save gasoline
  • Bush wants us to cut the amount of gas we use. The best way to stop using so much gas is to deport 11 million illegal immigrants!
  • That would be 11 million less people using our gas. The price of gas would come down.
  • Bring our troops home from Iraq to guard the Border.
  • When they catch an illegal immigrant crossing the border, hand him a canteen, rifle and some ammo and ship him to Iraq.
  • Tell him if he wants to come to America then he must serve a tour in the military.
  • Give him a soldier’s pay while he’s there and tax him on it.
  • After his tour, he will be allowed to become a citizen since he defended this country.
  • He will also be registered to be taxed and be a legal patriot.
  • This option will probably deter illegal immigration and provide a solution for the troops in Iraq and the aliens trying to make a better life for themselves.
  • If they refuse to serve, ship them to Iraq anyway, without the canteen, rifle or ammo.
Problem solved.
May
31

Oil prices have risen dramatically over the past year. When they passed $100 a barrel, they hit new heights, expressed in dollars adjusted for inflation. As they passed $120 a barrel, they clearly began to have global impact. Recently, we have seen startling rises in the price of food, particularly grains. Apart from higher prices, there have been disruptions in the availability of food as governments limit food exports and as hoarding increases in anticipation of even higher prices.

Oil and food differ from other commodities in that they are indispensable for the functioning of society. Food obviously is the more immediately essential. Food shortages can trigger social and political instability with startling swiftness. It does not take long to starve to death. Oil has a less-immediate – but perhaps broader – impact. Everything, including growing and marketing food, depends on energy; and oil is the world’s primary source of energy, particularly in transportation. Oil and grains – where the shortages hit hardest – are not merely strategic commodities. They are geopolitical commodities. All nations require them, and a shift in the price or availability of either triggers shifts in relationships within and among nations.

It is not altogether clear to us why oil and grains have behaved as they have. The question for us is what impact this generalized rise in commodity prices – particularly energy and food – will have on the international system. We understand that it is possible that the price of both will plunge. There is certainly a speculative element in both. Nevertheless, based on the realities of supply conditions, we do not expect the price of either to fall to levels that existed in 2003. We will proceed in this analysis on the assumption that these prices will fluctuate, but that they will remain dramatically higher than prices were from the 1980s to the mid-2000s.

If that assumption is true and we continue to see elevated commodity prices, perhaps rising substantially higher than they are now, then it seems to us that we have entered a new geopolitical era. Since the end of World War II, we have lived in three geopolitical regimes, broadly understood:

* The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, in which the focus was on the military balance between those two countries, particularly on the nuclear balance. During this period, all countries, in some way or another, defined their behavior in terms of the U.S.-Soviet competition.
* The period from the fall of the Berlin Wall until 9/11, when the primary focus of the world was on economic development. This was the period in which former communist countries redefined themselves, East and Southeast Asian economies surged and collapsed, and China grew dramatically. It was a period in which politico-military power was secondary and economic power primary.
* The period from 9/11 until today that has been defined in terms of the increasing complexity of the U.S.-jihadist war – a reality that supplanted the second phase and redefined the international system dramatically.

With the U.S.-jihadist war in either a stalemate or a long-term evolution, its impact on the international system is diminishing. First, it has lost its dynamism. The conflict is no longer drawing other countries into it. Second, it is becoming an endemic reality rather than an urgent crisis. The international system has accommodated itself to the conflict, and its claims on that system are lessening.

The surge in commodity prices – particularly oil – has superseded the U.S.-jihadist war, much as the war superseded the period in which economic issues dominated the global system. This does not mean that the U.S.-jihadist war will not continue to rage, any more than 9/11 abolished economic issues. Rather, it means that a new dynamic has inserted itself into the international system and is in the process of transforming it.

It is a cliche that money and power are linked. It is nevertheless true. Economic power creates political and military power, just as political and military power can create economic power. The rise in the price of oil is triggering shifts in economic power that are in turn creating changes in the international order. This was not apparent until now because of three reasons. First, oil prices had not risen to the level where they had geopolitical impact. The system was ignoring higher prices. Second, they had not been joined in crisis condition by grain prices. Third, the permanence of higher prices had not been clear. When $70-a-barrel oil seemed impermanent, and likely to fall below $50, oil was viewed very differently than it was at $130, where a decline to $100 would be dramatic and a fall to $70 beyond the calculation of most. As oil passed $120 a barrel, the international system, in our view, started to reshape itself in what will be a long-term process.

Obviously, the winners in this game are those who export oil, and the losers are those who import it. The victory is not only economic but political as well. The ability to control where exports go and where they don’t go transforms into political power. The ability to export in a seller’s market not only increases wealth but also increases the ability to coerce, if that is desired.

The game is somewhat more complex than this. The real winners are countries that can export and generate cash in excess of what they need domestically. So countries such as Venezuela, Indonesia and Nigeria might benefit from higher prices, but they absorb all the wealth that is transferred to them. Countries such as Saudi Arabia do not need to use so much of their wealth for domestic needs. They control huge and increasing pools of cash that they can use for everything from achieving domestic political stability to influencing regional governments and the global economic system. Indeed, the entire Arabian Peninsula is in this position.

The big losers are countries that not only have to import oil but also are heavily industrialized relative to their economy. Countries in which service makes up a larger sector than manufacturing obviously use less oil for critical economic functions than do countries that are heavily manufacturing-oriented. Certainly, consumers in countries such as the United States are hurt by rising prices. And these countries’ economies might slow. But higher oil prices simply do not have the same impact that they do on countries that both are primarily manufacturing-oriented and have a consumer base driving cars.

East Asia has been most affected by the combination of sustained high oil prices and disruptions in the food supply. Japan, which imports all of its oil and remains heavily industrialized (along with South Korea), is obviously affected. But the most immediately affected is China, where shortages of diesel fuel have been reported. China’s miracle – rapid industrialization – has now met its Achilles’ heel: high energy prices.

China is facing higher energy prices at a time when the U.S. economy is weak and the ability to raise prices is limited. As oil prices increase costs, the Chinese continue to export and, with some exceptions, are holding prices. The reason is simple. The Chinese are aware that slowing exports could cause some businesses to fail. That would lead to unemployment, which in turn will lead to instability. The Chinese have their hands full between natural disasters, Tibet, terrorism and the Olympics. They do not need a wave of business failures.

Therefore, they are continuing to cap the domestic price of gasoline. This has caused tension between the government and Chinese oil companies, which have refused to distribute at capped prices. Behind this power struggle is this reality: The Chinese government can afford to subsidize oil prices to maintain social stability, but given the need to export, they are effectively squeezing profits out of exports. Between subsidies and no-profit exports, China’s reserves could shrink with remarkable speed, leaving their financial system – already overloaded with nonperforming loans – vulnerable. If they take the cap off, they face potential domestic unrest.

The Chinese dilemma is present throughout Asia. But just as Asia is the big loser because of long-term high oil prices coupled with food disruptions, Russia is the big winner. Russia is an exporter of natural gas and oil. It also could be a massive exporter of grains if prices were attractive enough and if it had the infrastructure (crop failures in Russia are a thing of the past). Russia has been very careful, under Vladimir Putin, not to assume that energy prices will remain high and has taken advantage of high prices to accumulate substantial foreign currency reserves. That puts them in a doubly-strong position. Economically, they are becoming major players in global acquisitions. Politically, countries that have become dependent on Russian energy exports – and this includes a good part of Europe – are vulnerable, precisely because the Russians are in a surplus-cash position. They could tweak energy availability, hurting the Europeans badly, if they chose. T hey will not need to. The Europeans, aware of what could happen, will tread lightly in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

As we have already said, the biggest winners are the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Although somewhat strained, these countries never really suffered during the period of low oil prices. They have now more than rebalanced their financial system and are making the most of it. This is a time when they absolutely do not want anything disrupting the flow of oil from their region. Closing the Strait of Hormuz, for example, would be disastrous to them. We therefore see the Saudis, in particular, taking steps to stabilize the region. This includes supporting Israeli-Syrian peace talks, using influence with Sunnis in Iraq to confront al Qaeda, making certain that Shiites in Saudi Arabia profit from the boom. (Other Gulf countries are doing the same with their Shiites. This is designed to remove one of Iran’s levers in the region: a rising of Shiites in the Arabian Peninsula.) In addition, the Saudis are using their economic power to re-establish the relationship they ha d with the United States before 9/11. With the financial institutions in the United States in disarray, the Arabian Peninsula can be very helpful.

China is in an increasingly insular and defensive position. The tension is palpable, particularly in Central Asia, which Russia has traditionally dominated and where China is becoming increasingly active in making energy investments. The Russians are becoming more assertive, using their economic position to improve their geopolitical position in the region. The Saudis are using their money to try to stabilize the region. With oil above $120 a barrel, the last thing they need is a war disrupting their ability to sell. They do not want to see the Iranians mining the Strait of Hormuz or the Americans trying to blockade Iran.

The Iranians themselves are facing problems. Despite being the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, Iran also is the world’s second-largest gasoline importer, taking in roughly 40 percent of its annual demand. Because of the type of oil they have, and because they have neglected their oil industry over the last 30 years, their ability to participate in the bonanza is severely limited. It is obvious that there is now internal political tension between the president and the religious leadership over the status of the economy. Put differently, Iranians are asking how they got into this situation.

Suddenly, the regional dynamics have changed. The Saudi royal family is secure against any threats. They can buy peace on the Peninsula. The high price of oil makes even Iraqis think that it might be time to pump more oil rather than fight. Certainly the Iranians, Saudis and Kuwaitis are thinking of ways of getting into the action, and all have the means and geography to benefit from an Iraqi oil renaissance. The war in Iraq did not begin over oil – a point we have made many times – but it might well be brought under control because of oil.

For the United States, the situation is largely a push. The United States is an oil importer, but its relative vulnerability to high energy prices is nothing like it was in 1973, during the Arab oil embargo. De-industrialization has clearly had its upside. At the same time, the United States is a food exporter, along with Canada, Australia, Argentina and others. Higher grain prices help the United States. The shifts will not change the status of the United States, but they might create a new dynamic in the Gulf region that could change the framework of the Iraqi war.

This is far from an exhaustive examination of the global shifts caused by rising oil and grain prices. Our point is this: High oil prices can increase as well as decrease stability. In Iraq – but not in Afghanistan – the war has already been regionally overshadowed by high oil prices. Oil-exporting countries are in a moneymaking mode, and even the Iranians are trying to figure out how to get into the action; it’s hard to see how they can without the participation of the Western oil majors – and this requires burying the hatchet with the United States. Groups such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah are decidedly secondary to these considerations.

We are very early in this process, and these are just our opening thoughts. But in our view, a wire has been tripped, and the world is refocusing on high commodity prices. As always in geopolitics, issues from the last generation linger, but they are no longer the focus. Last week there was talk of Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) talks between the United States and Russia – a fossil from the Cold War. These things never go away. But history moves on. It seems to us that history is moving.

George Friedman

StratFor.com

May 27, 2008

I will derive

Imaginary numbers

From Not from Concentrate
May
28

She was born in Russia, fled the pogroms with her family, was raised in Milwaukee, and worked the counter at her father’s general store when she was 8. In early adulthood she made aliyah to Palestine, where she worked on a kibbutz, picking almonds and chasing chickens. She rose in politics, was the first woman in the first Israeli cabinet, soldiered on through war and rumors of war, became the first and so far only woman to be prime minister of Israel. And she knew what it is to be a woman in the world. “At work, you think of the children you’ve left at home. At home you think of the work you’ve left unfinished. . . . Your heart is rent.” This of course was Golda Meir

Another: She was born in a family at war with itself and the reigning power outside. As a child she carried word from her important father to his fellow revolutionaries, smuggling the papers in her school bag. War and rumors of war, arrests, eight months in jail. A rise in politics — administering refugee camps, government minister. When war came, she refused to flee an insecure border area; her stubbornness helped rally a nation. Her rivals sometimes called her “Dumb Doll,” and an American president is said to have referred to her in private as “the old witch.” But the prime minister of India preferred grounding her foes to dust to complaining about gender bias. In the end, and in the way of things, she was ground up too. Proud woman, Indira Gandhi.

And there is Margaret Hilda Roberts. A childhood in the besieged Britain of World War II — she told me once of listening to the wireless and being roused by Churchill. “Westward look, the land is bright,” she quoted him; she knew every stanza of the old poem. Her father, too, was a shopkeeper, and she grew up in the apartment above the store near the tracks. She went to Oxford on scholarship, worked as a chemist, entered politics, rose, became another first and only, succeeding not only in a man’s world but in a class system in which they knew how to take care of ambitious little grocer’s daughters from Grantham. She was to a degree an outsider within her own party, so she remade it. She lived for ideas as her colleagues lived for comfort and complaint. The Tories those days managed loss. She wanted to stop it; she wanted gain. Just before she became prime minister, the Soviets, thinking they were deftly stigmatizing an upstart, labeled her the Iron Lady. She seized the insult and wore it like a hat. This was Thatcher, stupendous Thatcher, now the baroness.

Great women, all different, but great in terms of size, of impact on the world and of struggles overcome. Struggle was not something they read about in a book. They did not use guilt to win election….Instead they used the appeals men used: stronger leadership, better ideas, a superior philosophy. You know where I’m going, for you know where she went.

Hillary Clinton complained again this week that sexism has been a major dynamic in her unsuccessful bid for political dominance. One wants to be sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton at this point, if for no other reason than to show one’s range. But her last weeks have been, and her next weeks will likely be, one long exercise in summoning further denunciations. It is something new in politics, the How Else Can I Offend You Tour. And I suppose it is aimed not at voters — you don’t persuade anyone by complaining in this way, you only reinforce what your supporters already think — but at history, at the way history will tell the story of the reasons for her loss.

Full story here.

Peggy Noonan

May
26

A few years ago, more than I care to mention, I headed a large office at the State Department. I got tasked with hiring a couple of Presidential Management Interns (PMIs). These PMIs come from the elite of the elite student body at the elite of the elite universities. They get hired on a temporary basis and then, usually, get offered prestigious jobs in the government. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that whatever else I did, I had to hire women. So I began to pore over the resumes. My heart sank. I felt inadequate and so, so inferior to these kids. Their resumes, impeccably printed and organized, using dozens of words ending in “-ization,” and listing prowess with a dazzling array of complex software programs, described accomplishments beyond my wildest dreams — especially for when I was the applicants’ age!

I thought I should resign and give up my job to one of the “brilliant” child wonders. Ah, naive me. I obviously had spent too much time overseas. I saw resumes as truthful documents actually written by the applicants, applicants, in this case, full of accomplishments and possessed of massive brains throbbing with energy and ideas. As I, however, kept reading, even slow-witted me began to notice oddities. They all began to look the same: the font, the format, the wording, the list of classes and even — horrors! — the “accomplishments.” I noted this in passing to a cynical old friend (now, alas, departed) who worked in “human resources” (what a great phrase that). He laughed, “You dope! They get classes on how to write resumes! They have professors and computer programs that put these things together for them.” (Remember, folks, computers were new things back then.) He said, “Just randomly pick a couple of women students, they’re all the same, hire’em, and move on.”

I could not do that. I stole a friend’s idea and devised “The World War II Test.” I invited the applicants for interviews. These PMI wannabes came off as slick and somewhat rude. I noted something among my subjects, a sense of entitlement, they all, to varying degrees, emitted a message along the lines of “Why are you bothering me with this silly interview? I am obviously brilliant. I have a degree from Columbia. I am not going to spend my whole life as you have in this stupid bureaucracy. I just need this to add to my resume. I am in a hurry.” I hit them with the test, which consisted of about dozen questions about WWII and its aftermath. I recall a few,

Can you tell me how US troops got into Europe in the first place? When was WWII? (I would accept a variety of answers as long as the applicant could defend the dates as the true start and end of WWII.) What nations comprised the principal Allied and Axis powers? Who was Neville Chamberlain? What he did he do at Munich and with whom? Who was Mussolini? What did he do to Ethiopia? Who was Stalin? Who was Hirohito? What was D-Day? What President ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs and why? Can you name a result of the Conference at Yalta? What was the Berlin Airlift?

Of the 14 or 15 applicants I interviewed, only one got them all right — the only male in the crowd, by the way. None, zero, zip of the rest got even ONE right. Not a single one. A very irritated applicant asked me, “Do we really need to know this old stuff?” I noted that we worked with NATO and Europe, hence, it was important to know the background that led to the creation of NATO and the then just-concluded Cold War. She stared at me and said, “What does World War II have to do with NATO, the Cold War and Europe?” I promptly offered the job to the male — oh, the cries from “Human Resources” — who turned it down for a more lucrative one in the private sector. In the best Foreign Service tradition, I stalled hiring anybody else, let my two-year assignment run out, and left my poor successor to get stuck with one of the clueless ones.

Back to our story. I wonder how many of the “highly educated voters” could pass that WWII test? Or the Vietnam War Test? Or the Cold War test? Or know much about American history? Or understand the economy? And worst of all, the odds are they can’t fire a gun, either.

Moral of the story: do not accept the mantra that Obama voters are “highly educated.” They just went to “institutions of higher learning”….

Full story here.

The Diplomad

May
18

How much did Rumsfeld know?

Secretary Rumsfeld then pulled out a two-page memo and handed it to me. “I wrote this after a promotion interview about two weeks ago,” he explained. “The officer told me that one of the biggest mistakes we made after the war was to allow CENTCOM and CFLCC to leave the Iraq theater immediately after the fighting stopped — and that left you and V Corps with the entire mission.”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said.

“Well, how could we have done that?” he said in an agitated, but adamant, tone. “I knew nothing about it. Now, I’d like you to read this memo and give me any corrections.”

In the memo, Rumsfeld stated that one of the biggest strategic mistakes of the war was ordering the major redeployment of forces and allowing the departure of the CENTCOM and CFLCC staffs in May�June 2003.

“This left General Sanchez in charge of operations in Iraq with a staff that had been focused at the operational and tactical level, but was not trained to operate at the strategic/operational level.” He went on to write that neither he nor anyone higher in the Administration knew these orders had been issued, and that he was dumbfounded when he learned that Gen. McKiernan was out of the country and in Kuwait, and that the forces would be drawn down to a level of about 30,000 by September. “I did not know that Sanchez was in charge,” he wrote.

I stopped reading after I read that last statement, because I knew it was total BS.

Starting to get a little worked up, I paused a moment, and then looked Rumsfeld straight in the eye. “Sir, I cannot believe that you didn’t know I was being left in charge in Iraq.”

“No! No!” he replied. “I was never told that the plan was for V Corps to assume the entire mission. I have to issue orders and approve force deployments into the theater, and they moved all these troops around without any orders or notification from me.”

After the meeting ended, I remember walking out of the Pentagon shaking my head and wondering how in the world Rumsfeld could have expected me to believe him. Everybody knew that CENTCOM had issued orders to drawdown the forces. The Department of Defense had printed public affairs guidance for how the military should answer press queries about the redeployment. There were victory parades being planned. And in mid-May 2003, Rumsfeld himself had sent out some of his famous “snowflake” memorandums to Gen. Franks asking how the general was going to redeploy all the forces in Kuwait. The Secretary knew. Everybody knew.

So what was Rumsfeld doing? Nineteen months earlier, in September 2004, when it was clearly established in the Fay-Jones report that CJTF-7 was never adequately manned, he called me in from Europe and claimed ignorance, “I didn’t know about it,” he said. “How could this happen? Why didn’t you tell somebody about it?”

Now, he had done exactly the same thing, only this time he had prepared a written memorandum documenting his denials. So it was clearly a pattern on the Secretary’s part, and now I recognized it. Bring in the top-level leaders. Profess total ignorance. Ask why he had not been informed. Try to establish that others were screwing things up. Have witnesses in the room to verify his denials. Put it in writing. In essence, Rumsfeld was covering his rear. He was setting up his chain of denials should his actions ever be questioned. And worse yet, in my mind, he was attempting to level all the blame on his generals.

I had never seen any approved CENTCOM campaign plan, either conceptual or detailed, for the post-major combat operations phase. When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero Phase IV planning. Now, three years later, I was learning for the first time that my assumption was not completely accurate. In fact, CENTCOM had originally called for twelve to eighteen months of Phase IV activity with active troop deployments. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that the war was over and Phase IV was not their job.

That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq. There is no question about it. And I was supposed to believe that neither the Secretary of Defense nor anybody above him knew anything about it? Impossible! Rumsfeld knew about it. Everybody on the NSC knew about it, including Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Colin Powell. Vice President Cheney knew about it. And President Bush knew about it.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that they all embraced this decision to some degree. And if it had not been for the moral courage of Gen. John Abizaid to stand up to them all and reverse Franks’s troop drawdown order, there’s no telling how much more damage would have been done.

In the meantime, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were unnecessarily spent, and worse yet, too many of our most precious military resource, our American soldiers, were unnecessarily wounded, maimed, and killed as a result. In my mind, this action by the Bush administration amounts to gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.

Ricardo Sanchez
Time.com

Gun in The House

The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense.
The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.

As John Steinbeck once said:

  1. Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.
  2. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.
  3. I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.
  4. When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
  5. A reporter did a human-interest piece on the Texas Rangers. The reporter recognized the Colt Model 1911 the Ranger was carrying and asked him ‘Why do you carry a 45?’ The Ranger responded, ‘Because they don’t make a 46.’
  6. An armed man will kill an unarmed man with monotonous regularity.
  7. The old sheriff was attending an awards dinner when a lady commented on his wearing his sidearm. ‘Sheriff, I see you have your pistol. Are you expecting trouble?’ ‘No Ma’am. If I were expecting trouble, I would have brought my rifle.’
  8. Beware the man who only has one gun. HE PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO USE IT!!!

But wait, there’s more!

I was once asked by a lady visiting if I had a gun in the house. I said I did. She said ‘Well I certainly hope it isn’t loaded!’ To which I said, ‘Of course it is loaded, can’t work without bullets!’
She then asked, ‘Are you that afraid of some one evil coming into your house?’
My reply was, ‘No, not at all. I am not afraid of the house catching fire either, but I have fire extinguishers around, and they are all loaded too.’ To which I’ll add: having a gun in the house that isn’t loaded is like having a car in the garage without gas in the tank.

May
12

Five times from January 1977 to February 1978, a Russian man approached cars with U.S. diplomatic license plates in Moscow, begging to speak to an American.

By chance, the first car he encountered at a gas station belonged to the Moscow station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency. Fearing that the Russian was a KGB agent sent to entrap Americans, his request for a meeting was ignored.

But the persistent Russian kept coming back, once pounding on the station chief’s car. Each time, he revealed more about himself, indicating that he had information about Soviet weapon systems. Each time, he was turned away.

Finally, he made one last desperate effort to reach out to the Americans. If he was spurned this time, he wrote in an 11-page letter, he would give up. The CIA assigned a Russian-speaking officer named John Guilsher to make contact with the man, a senior engineer named Adolf G. Tolkachev.

After several telephone conversations, Tolkachev and Mr. Guilsher met in person on New Year’s Day 1979. Tolkachev passed along 91 pages of notes about his work with Soviet radar systems and aircraft. He also impressed Mr. Guilsher because he seemed to be one of the few sober Russians walking the streets of Moscow on the festive holiday.

Thus began one of the most remarkable episodes of espionage in the history of the Cold War.

“For almost a decade,” intelligence expert David Wise has written, “Tolkachev proved to be the CIA’s most valuable asset inside the Soviet Union, his existence a closely guarded secret.”

Full story here

SF Chronicle

May
11

(Scary stuff from a speech by Michelle Obama in North Carolina, just before the primary election.)

…But we’ve also learned something else this year, something that we’ve all sort of felt at some point in our life, that we’re still living in a nation, and in a time when the bar is set, I talk about this all the time, they set the bar. They say look, if you do these things, you can get to this bar, right? And then you work and you struggle, you do everything that they say, and you think you’re getting close to the bar and you’re working hard, and you’re sacrificing, and then you get to the bar, you’re right there, you’re reaching out for the bar, you think you have it, and then what happens? They move the bar. They raise it up. They shift it to the left and to the right. It’s always just quite out of reach. And that’s a little bit of what Barack has been experiencing. The bar is constantly changing for this man.

And when you live in a nation where people are struggling every day to reach an ever-shifting and moving bar, then what happens in that kind of nation is that people are afraid, because when your world’s not right, no matter how hard you work, then you become afraid of everyone and everything, because you don’t know who’s fault it is, why you can’t get a handle on life, why you can’t secure a better future for your kids. And the problem with fear is that it cuts us off. Fear is the worst enemy. It cuts us off from one another and our own families, and our communities, and it has certainly cut us off from the rest of the world. It’s like fear creates this veil of impossibility, and it is hanging over all of our heads, and we spend more time now in this nation talking about what we can’t do, what won’t work, what can’t change. See, and the problem with that kind of thinking is that we passed that on to our children, because see, the thing I know as a mother is our children are watching everything we do and say, every explicit and implicit sign, they are watching us. And our fear is helping us to raise a nation of young doubters, young people who are insular and they’re timid. And they don’t try, because they already heard us tell them why they can’t succeed. See, and I don’t want that for my kids.

But the truth is, right now, that little nugget of a dream that was my life is getting further and further out of reach for most Americans because of that bar constantly moving. You know, jobs like my father had those blue collar jobs where you got pensions, vacation, all that, they’re dwindling. They’re drying up. They’re disappearing, going overseas. And if you’re lucky enough to have a job, nine times out of ten, your salary’s not keeping up with the cost of living. Barack and I met with a family of railroad workers, union folks. They said for eight years, they hadn’t seen a pay increase. For eight years, zero pay increase. Eight years. No increase. Gas prices going up, food going up, rent, insurance, own a home, what’s going with the mortgages? That’s going up. It’s all going up, and salaries are staying stagnant.

And [Barack] has spent every ounce of his time running over the decisions in his head – do I…when graduating from college, do I work on Wall Street? Make a lot of money, that’d be better for me, or do I go work in a community as an organizer? Well, what did Barack do? He became a community organizer, working in some of the toughest neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, worked for years in neighborhoods where people had a reason to give up hope, because their jobs had been lost, steel mills shut down, living in brown fields left by those closed steel plants, unsafe streets, schools deteriorating, grandparents raising grandkids. Barack spent years working with churches, busing single mothers down to City Hall to help them find their voice, building the kind of operations on the ground just like he’s doing in this race, block by block, person by person. Now you tell me whether there’s anybody in this race who can claim to have made the same choice with their lives. You tell me, but I think that Barack Obama is the only person that can claim that kind of choice.

“So trust me, we’ve seen it all. Barack has seen it all.”

from Townhall.com

Father of the Year Award

An Austrian man named Josef Fritzl “fathered seven children with his daughter while keeping her imprisoned in his cellar,” London’s Daily Telegraph reports:

Fritzl . . . has complained of receiving a bad press and not being given credit for keeping his dungeon family alive for more than two decades.

Fritzl, 73 claimed that media coverage was “unfair” and “entirely one-dimensional”, given the fact that he did not kill his daughter and the children he produced with her during 24 years of sexual abuse in a subterranean bunker in Amstetten.

“I am no monster,” Fritzl said though his lawyer Rudolf Mayer, according to the German tabloid newspaper Bild.

“I could have killed all of them, and no one would have known. No one would have ever found about it.”

This is a rather unpersuasive defense. In fact, it reminds us of that joke about the definition of chutzpah: a man who kills his parents, than pleads for mercy because the media failed to report that he’s an orphan.