Monday, March 29, 2010

Random picture

Picture credit: Miroslaw Swietek Solent

Go to 'Would dew believe it: The stunning pictures of sleeping insects covered in water droplets' for the full picture, and others of dew-bedecked insects....

Random picture

The picture from the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) Strategic Security Blog article above serves to illustrate how the new START agreement uses a different counting methodology, whereby "... each heavy bomber deployed for nuclear armaments counts a s one warhead ..." towards the numeric limits... and which means that any reductions required will be very modest.

The article also confirms the point made in yesterday's blog entry, Yawn!, that the agreement does not require the destruction of even a single nuclear warhead.

Random chart

Source: Tax Foundation: How the $938 Billion Health Care Bill Is Financed

Sunday, March 28, 2010


On Friday President Obama, flanked by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, announced that the U.S. and Russia had agreed to "... the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades..." He said that the agreement was a follow-up to his Prague declaration "... to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons ...", a "reset" of relations with Russia, and that the by the agreement "... the United States and Russia -- the two largest nuclear powers in the world -- also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities."

The White House also issued a release, Key Facts about the New START Treaty that provided a number of details on the agreement, including the following numbers:

The agreement was hailed by many as demonstrating U.S. leadership; as being a significant step towards the goals of a nuclear-free world that President Obama had articulated in his Prague speech; as a foreign policy "win", a "critical victory", etc. Some observations from this blogger:
  • The presentation was orchestrated for maximum "internal" effect... After the President spoke SecDef Gates and Chairman Mullen spoke out strongly in favor, in effect adding the military's imprimatur to preemptively inoculate the President and the agreement from possible attacks from the right. Great pains were taken to ensure that it was abundantly clear that nothing in the agreement would place any constraints on the U.S. development/deployment of missile defense systems (more about this later), again for the same reason...
  • As others have pointed out (e.g. here and here) the cuts are somewhat more modest than the numbers touted (a 30% reduction in deployed strategic warheads, an over 50% reduction in strategic nuclear delivery vehicles), due to current force levels and the way things are counted...
  • The new agreement continues the practice of only limiting "deployed" warheads and also delivery vehicles (missiles, nuclear bombers), but says nothing about other elements of the nuclear stockpile (e.g. warheads in reserve, those awaiting dismantlement, non-strategic nukes, etc.) In fact the agreement appears to say nothing about the need to actually eliminate any warheads.
  • While the point above may be well understood by 'those in the know', given the (predictably) shoddy coverage provided by the mainstream media the vast majority of U.S. citizens could be forgiven for thinking that the two countries are making big reductions in their nuclear arsenals and/or that the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles will be shrinking to 1,550 warheads... as opposed to possibly staying at their current , significantly higher levels (see chart below)
Chart credit: Federation of American Scientists
  • It appears that the deadline for achieving the limits set forth in the agreement is set seven years from the entry in force of the agreement (and presumably the clock starts counting after the agreement is ratified by both countries), so might not necessarily be achieved by (even a two-term) President Obama! The agreement also expires ten years after its entry in force, with the possibility of a five-year extension.
So, in sum, a very modest step forward. Positive, yes. Needed, yes. However, great leadership on the world stage, a significant step towards the achievement of President Obama's "vision" of a nuclear-free world, no. Given the small decreases and the time lines involved, unless next agreements come much earlier, President Obama will have made sure that zero will be reached "... perhaps not in my lifetime..."

Two final thoughts: First, the crowing that the agreement means that the Russians "caved" and that there will be no limitations on the U.S. proceeding with missile defense is possibly a triumph of short-term, one-upmanship thinking. While probably necessitated (unfortunately) by the internal U.S. political dynamic at this time, it will prove to be an increasingly significant barrier as/if further reductions are to be achieved. As nuclear reductions move forward in the future, (absent a significantly greater "reset" in Russian thinking and attitudes) at some point they will be reluctant to cut further... since future much lower numbers of delivery vehicles on both sides with a credible U.S. missile defense could, in theory, add up to a first-strike capability.

Second, the very modest nature of these reductions undermines the "we're holding up our end of the NPT bargain (the future elimination of nuclear weapons), the rest of the non-nuclear world needs to hold up its end of the bargain (i.e. non-proliferation)" argument... While the mainstream media and mass public may not pay attention to the details, the 'possible proliferators' do, and they will probably not be overly impressed by "the new START."

Ed note: All this not a huge surprise to this blogger, who found the Prague speech underwhelming, see 'More nuclear disarmament'

Additional Ed note: This blogger remains unconvinced that the U.S. and Russia moving to slowly reduce their nuclear arsenals is the best strategy to jump start the road to zero. He would, and has long argued, that the best and most credible first step would be the elimination of the U.K. and French nuclear weapons (if necessary via the U.S. "leaning" as heavily as needed on these two countries to make this happen!) e.g. see here, here, here, here, and here. As it is, the U.K. welcomed the developments, promised to "... make further reductions wherever possible ..." while (surprise!) insisting that it only keeps the "...absolute minimum capability required to provide effective deterrence ..."

Some Preliminary Thoughts on the New START agreement
The Start of a New Obama Narrative
New U.S.-Russian Arms Control Deal Set for Signing
Questions Abound as "New START" Agreement is Completed
US-Russia nuclear pact to be Obama victory
Getting A New START On The Road To Nuclear Arms Reductions
U.S., Russia agree to nuclear arms control treaty

Thought experiment

This week Harold Koh, the Obama administration's State Department Legal Advisor, spoke at the American Society of International law. During his speech he argued that the administration's use of unmanned drones to conduct strikes in which many have been killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are legal and in accordance with international law (see extract below). He argued that a) the U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda, b) Congress authorized the President to use all necessary means via the AUMF, c) al Qeda continues to attack the U.S., d) the U.S. is allowed by international law to defend itself, and, e) that when the U.S. acts it uses force proportionally and works to avoid unnecessary civilian victims/fatalities.

So, does this persuade? Let's try a simple thought experiment and consider what would result if this line of argument is used... but substituting "Iran" for "the U.S." and the "MEK" for "al Qaeda." Clearly, the MEK has been in armed conflict with Iran, which has designated it as a terrorist organization (as, incidentally, it also has been designated by the U.S. and other countries e.g. Iraq, Canada, etc.). The MEK continues to plot/act against Iran, which also has an international law right to defend itself. So, should Iran conduct a strike against MEK members in another country (while maintaining proportionality and doing their utmost to limit civilian casualties), would the U.S. make the (exactly parallel) argument that Iran was within its right pursuant to international law? Permit this blogger to strongly doubt! And if the other country was a Western country or, gasp, the United States, it seems rather likely that this would be used as an example of Iran's wanton disregard of international law, an additional reason to call for sanctions, etc., etc.

Bottom line: if this argument of legality only "works" for the cases that we decide are OK, then it isn't a serious argument...

"... In the same way, in all of our operations involving the use of force, including those in the armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces, the Obama Administration is committed by word and deed to conducting ourselves in accordance with all applicable law. With respect to the subject of targeting, which has been much commented upon in the media and international legal circles, there are obviously limits to what I can say publicly. What I can say is that it is the considered view of this Administration—and it has certainly been my experience during my time as Legal Adviser—that U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.

The United States agrees that it must conform its actions to all applicable law. As I have explained, as a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the horrific 9/11 attacks, and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law. As a matter of domestic law, Congress authorized the use of all necessary and appropriate force through the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). These domestic and international legal authorities continue to this day.

As recent events have shown, al-Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al-Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. As you know, this is a conflict with an organized terrorist enemy that does not have conventional forces, but that plans and executes its attacks against us and our allies while hiding among civilian populations. That behavior simultaneously makes the application of international law more difficult and more critical for the protection of innocent civilians. Of course, whether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular location will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses. In particular, this Administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:
  • First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and,
  • Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
In U.S. operations against al-Qaeda and its associated forces-- including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles-- great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.

Recently, a number of legal objections have been raised against U.S. targeting practices. While today is obviously not the occasion for a detailed legal opinion responding to each of these objections, let me briefly address four:

First, some have suggested that the very act of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law. During World War II, for example, American aviators tracked and shot down the airplane carrying the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, who was also the leader of enemy forces in the Battle of Midway. This was a lawful operation then, and would be if conducted today. Indeed, targeting particular individuals serves to narrow the focus when force is employed and to avoid broader harm to civilians and civilian objects.

Second, some have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system used, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict-- such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs-- so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war. Indeed, using such advanced technologies can ensure both that the best intelligence is available for planning operations, and that civilian casualties are minimized in carrying out such operations.

Third, some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meetings. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law.

Fourth and finally, some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems—consistent with the applicable laws of war—for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute “assassination.”

In sum, let me repeat: as in the area of detention operations, this Administration is committed to ensuring that the targeting practices that I have described are lawful.."

Note: perhaps there is a stronger argument to be made, this blogger isn't an expert in international law... However, he can detect b.s. when it is dished up...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

All together now

... electronic gadgets that is!

HP Touchsmart
Fujitsu Lifebook UH900
UMID M1 - here, here, here, and here
Mintpass Mintpad - here, and here
Blackberry Bold 9700 - here, and here
Dane Elec Zpen
Sony DPF-V900
Blackberry Bold 9000 - here, and here
Nanovision Mimo UM710
Cavalry CAUM3701T0-B
Nokia Communicator E90
Garmin Nuvi 660
Sony PRS-300
Jetbook-Lite e-reader
Sony Vaio PCG-TR3A

... and previously:

All Terrain USB Action Camera
Vulcan Flipstart
Blackberry 8700g
Motorola A630
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
XM MyFi Satellite Receiver
Sony 8GB Microvault
Samsung Nexio S160
Sharp SL-C3000
Sharp SL-C700
Nokia Communicator 9290
HP 200lx
Pimp "Star Performer"

Overall, the two this blogger enjoyed/used/liked the best are now (unfortunately) obsolete. Although at the the time they were the best on the market, their manufacturers did not upgrade them or come out with new and improved versions, and so they are fading away... (the present tense is used deliberately, because there are communities that still use, tweak, and keep them alive!). The gold goes to the HP 200lx, and the silver to the Sharp SL-Cxxxx series.

Great quote

"Police officers have to have the ability to compel people to obey their lawful orders. That's all the court recognized today. The 9th Circuit just applied the law instead of getting caught up in the otherwise unfortunate factual circumstances."
- Ted Buck, lawyer for a Seattle police officer. And what were these "unfortunate factual circumstances"? His client, along with two other Seattle police officers tasered a pregnant woman three times. Her "crime"? She had refused to sign a parking ticket the "officers" had just given her...

Court: Seattle police OK to stun pregnant woman

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fujitsu Lifebook UH900 first look

The Fujitsu Lifebook UH900 is available online from Fujitsu starting at $849 (after rebate). From their web site: "... With an innovative multi-touch display and support for the latest wireless technology, the Fujitsu LifeBook UH900 Mini-Notebook offers all the functionality of a traditional notebook in a device that fits in the palm of your hand. Garmin Mobile® PC software, a 5.6" widescreen display and built-in GPS receiver turns your Lifebook UH900 into a powerful street navigator ..."

The specifications:

Operating Systems Windows® 7 Home Premium
Processor Intel® Atom™ Processor Z530 (1.60 GHz, 512 KB L2 cache, 533 MHz FSB)
Chipset Intel® System Controller Hub US15W
Memory One DIMM slot; 2 GB DDR2 533 MHz memory SDRAM (2 GB x 1)
Display LCD5.6" WXGA Crystal View display with touch screen
Video Resolution Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 500. Max. memory of GMA: 762MB; Maximum internal display: 1280 x 800, 16M colors; External monitor: 1280 x 1024, 16M colors; Simultaneous: 800 x 600 / 1024 x 768 / 1280 x 800, 16M colors
Hard Drive 30 GB or 62 GB solid state drive
Communication 10/100 Ethernet LAN (via dongle)
Webcam Integrated .78 Megapixel Webcam
Wireless Communications Atheros XSPAN® Wireless LAN (802.11 b/g/n); Bluetooth (V2.1) device for wireless personal area network communication
GPS Built-in GPS receiver with Garmin® Mobile PC
User Interfaces Touchpad cusor control; 75-key keyboard; 16 mm key pitch and 1.2 mm key stroke, built-in digital microphone, and one speaker
Ports Two USB 2.0 connectors for input/output devices, One DC in connector, Stereo Headphone jack, Stereo Microphone jack, Adapter cable connector (for external video/LAN cable adapter)
Card Slots SD Card slot
Battery Life Main battery: Li-polymer (2-cell, 7.2v, 1800 mAh)
Dimensions/Weight 8.3" x 4.19" x 1.14"; approx. 1.1 lbs. with battery

Fujitsu LifeBook UH900 review (PC Advisor)
Review: Fujitsu LifeBook UH900 (LOOX U/G90) (Pocketables)


Size comparisons to a Sharp SL-C3000, UMID M1, and Blackberry 9700 (Bold 2):

With a desktop (HP Touchsmart), Sony Vaio, UMID M1, Sharp SL-C3000, and a NanoNote:

With a Sony Vaio PCG-TR3A laptop:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mental health break

NanoNote first look

The NanoNote, available from for just $99, (note: $132.40 with shipping) "... is an ultra small form factor computing device. The device sports a 336 MHz processor, 2GB of flash memory, microSD slot, head phone jack, USB device and 850mAh Li-ion battery. It boots Linux out of the box and also boots over USB ..."

The specifications:
* 336 MHz XBurst Jz4720 MIPS-compatible CPU
* display: 3.0” color TFT
* resolution: 320 x 240, 16.7M color
* dimension (mm): 99 x 75 x 17.5 (lid closed)
* weight: 126 g (incl. battery)
* DRAM: 32MB Synchronous DRAM
* headphone jack (3.5 mm)
* SDHC microSD
* 850mAh Li-ion battery
* 2GB NAND flash memory
* mini-USB: USB 2.0 High-Speed Device
* speaker and microphone
* OpenWRT distro

Qi Hardware: Freedom Redefined
Ben NanoNote available at Tuxbrain (many pictures)
Qi Hardware's Ben NanoNote about as small as they come

The next four pictures compare the NanoNote's size with a Sharp SL-C3000 and a UMID M1: