Monday, May 31, 2010

Wonderland II

The November 8th, 2009 blog entry, 'Hyperbolic trend?', (see reprinted below) observed that close examination of times when the Obama administration brought together parties with widely differing and/or contradictory perspectives (achieving 'success' in getting them to "agree" on a declaration, subsequently hailed by some as "historic," game-changing, etc., etc.), showed that in each case "... a sufficient degree of ambiguity was included which allowed the various parties to 'agree' to the formulations, without actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" Prime examples at the time included the "Teucigalpa / San Jose Agreement" and UNSC 1887...

Well, this past week the month-long NPT Review Conference wrapped up, adopting a consensus final document, "... the first one achieved... in ten years...". Significant achievement, or...? With the "non-aligned' countries led by Egypt pushing for concrete steps towards a WMD-free zone in the Middle East (MEZFWMD), and other countries pushing for concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament by the "haves", how exactly did this happen? Well, by the aforementioned process (i.e. an artful "compromise").

Regarding the timetable for disarmament, the "haves' managed to make sure that no actual date was set for disarmament, agreeing instead to work towards that goal and to report back on their progress. Regarding the MEZFWMD, the agreed-upon final statement "... calls for holding a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment¨ of such a zone.It also mentions ¨the importance of Israel's accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards...¨

Once again, an "agreement' between multiple parties "without (any) actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!" So, the U.S. gets much of what it wanted (including a strengthening of the nonproliferation regime; a reinforcement of the IAEA; calls for strengthening export controls; tightening the requirements around treaty withdrawal; and many other provisions). At the same time the U.S. ignores the parts it doesn't like (mainly the MEZHWMD), as demonstrated by:
  • The Department of State web page recapping the NPT Review Conference final document, while providing information on the main provisions has no mention of the MEZHWMD at all.
  • As reported, administration officials characterized the conference to be held in 2012 as "a modest step", and said that the U.S. would not pressure any government (read Israel) to attend the conference.
  • The President's statement on the final document included: "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security." U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones characterized this as a "gratuitous" attempt to single out Israel, and indicated that it is the U.S. view "... that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment..." i.e. full peace in the Middle East before a MEZHWMD!
Wonderland it is!

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document (U.S. State Dept.)
NPT RevCon Produces Consensus Final Document
NPT Rev-Con achieves consensus document
ACA Welcomes NPT Review Consensus
Obama hails 'balanced' non-proliferation accord
Nuke session approves early steps to disarm
U.N. Nuke Meet Ends with Good Intentions and Empty Promises
NPT Review Adopts Outcome Document at Last Moment
Success of NPT Review Conference great news

Commitment to WMD-free Middle East in doubt as NPT conference ends
In NPT, US sacrifices its own policy goals to serve as Israel’s lawyer
Jones: NPT review a "gratuitous" attack on Israel
A Middle East Zone Free of Weapons OF Mass Destruction
Yossi Melman: U.S. sacrificed Israel for success of NPT conference

Previous related blog entry:
Hyperbolic trend - Nov 8th, 2009

The blog entry 'No surprise' discussed the situation in Honduras, while the 'UNSC Resolution 1887' entry covered the United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament... In both cases the Obama administration brought together parties with widely differing and/or contradictory perspectives, and then achieved 'success' in getting them to "agree" on a declaration, that was subsequently hailed as "historic," game-changing, etc., etc. However, in each of these cases a close reading of the text showed that a sufficient degree of ambiguity was included which allowed the various parties to 'agree' to the formulations, without actually having to change their positions to come to a commonality of understanding and purpose!

In the case of the "Teucigalpa / San Jose Agreement," subsequent events have demonstrated the true worth of the agreement (note, Honduras is not a case where one side violated the written agreement, it is a case of where the agreement turned out to be more aspirational than real), while with UNSC 1887 we have not yet come to a time when facts on the ground will show the strength or hollowness of the agreement...

OK, so two events do not a trend make... yet. However, in conjunction with other events such as the 'also hailed as historic' agreement with Iran over its enriched uranium (which is still up in the air), and the "unprecedented" Israeli settlement concessions (that turned out to be anything but, prompting SecState Clinton to spend the next several days 'walking back' her comment), there seems to be a slight whiff of "Wonderland" in the air...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama's one percent

“Officials regard the possibility of atomic sabotage as the gravest threat of subversion that this country, with its virtually unpatrolled borders, has ever faced...”; "... valise bombs. .."; “a saboteur could easily pose as a Mexican ‘wetback’ and get into the country without detection, presumably carrying an atomic weapon in his luggage”; etc. U.S. fears from... 1953.

Fast forward to today and we have:

  • President Obama, April 5th, 2009, included the following in his Prague speech: "... In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up... Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point when the center cannot hold. This matters to all people, everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences may be – for our global safety, security, society, economy, and ultimately our survival.... Finally, we must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon. This is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. One terrorist with a nuclear weapon could unleash massive destruction. Al Qaeda has said that it seeks a bomb. And we know that there is unsecured nuclear material across the globe. To protect our people, we must act with a sense of purpose without delay..."
  • Next, from the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report, see Executive Summary, "... As President Obama has made clear, today’s most immediate and extreme danger is nuclear terrorism. Al Qaeda and their extremist allies are seeking nuclear weapons. We must assume they would use such weapons if they managed to obtain them. The vulnerability to theft or seizure of vast stocks of such nuclear materials around the world, and the availability of sensitive equipment and technologies in the nuclear black market, create a serious risk that terrorists may acquire what they need to build a nuclear weapon..."
  • And from the just-released National Security Strategy, see III. Advancing Our Interests: Security: Reverse the Spread of Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Secure Nuclear Materials (pg 22) "... The American people face no greater or more urgent danger than a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon..."
Looks a lot like the Cheney 1% Doctrine ("If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis ... It's about our response...") which ended up applied to "Iraq and WMD" has been adopted wholesale by President Obama, to be applied to "terrorists and WMD"...

NPR links and reactions:
2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report
Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review
Excerpts From Obama Interview
The Pivot
The Obama nuclear doctrine
A Layman's Guide to Obama's Nuclear Posture Review
NYT: Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms
Obama's Nuclear Posture Review Reduces Role of Nuclear Weapons
Nuke Review: Deploying, De-MIRVing, and De-Targeting
Nuclear Dreams and Nightmares
Flanking the Right on Nuclear Policy
Grading the NPR: Transparency
Obama's Anti-Nuclear Crusade Will Mark His Presidency
Barack Obama's radical review on nuclear weapons reverses Bush policies
New START Nuclear Reductions Treaty Briefing Book
What’s Wrong with What’s Wrong with the Nuclear Posture Review
News Analysis: What Is a “New” Nuclear Weapon?
Disarmament Danger
Nuclear Arms Still Locked And Loaded
Debunking the Administration's Nuke Myths
The Obama Nuclear Manifesto: Death of Clarity
That Nuclear Posture Review: Not a Very Big Deal
Iran reacts to becoming a nuclear target
Despite new START, the U.S. and Russia still have too many nuclear weapons

Other links:
That was then, this is now
Terrorism experts can be alarmists too
Cold War Nuclear Fears Now Apply to Terrorists

Previous related blog entries:
Al-Qaeda and WMD - Jan 26th, 2010
Short update - Oct 28th, 2009
UNSC Resolution 1887 - Sep 26th, 2009
More nuclear disarmament - Apr 10th, 2009
OPED22 - Not your father's public radio - Mar 21st, 2002

Random charts

Source: Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (April 2010)

Random charts

Source: Dispersants: Mechanism, Chemistry, and Physics of Dispersants in Oil Spill Response

Monday, May 24, 2010

Random picture

Great quote

"We found a large number of weapons that the terrorists used to attack officers and innocent people" - Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, at an exhibition of weapons and other items that the Thai military says it captured from protesters (after "... 85 people, most of them unarmed civilians, died in clashes that started in April...").

The big haul?

"... eight Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles, five rusty American rifles, a dozen grenades, a crossbow, an orange plastic bucket full of wooden slingshots and a membership card from a Las Vegas casino.."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Random charts

Source: U.S. vs. Global Defense Spending.
OK, so if one takes all the countries in the "Countries of Interest" table and divides them into U.S. and allies versus possible enemies (Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Venezuela) one gets the following:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Random picture

Source: First Self-replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell. "... scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first synthetic bacterial cell. In a publication in Science magazine, Daniel Gibson, Ph.D. and a team of 23 additional researchers outline the steps to synthesize a 1.08 million base pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome, constructed from four bottles of chemicals that make up DNA. This synthetic genome has been "booted up" in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome..."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Random charts

Source: Family Structure and the Economic Mobility of Children. Their conclusion?

"... Regardless of family structure and race, our study suggests a considerable amount of absolute mobility in the United States. Approximately four out of five children have higher total family incomes than their parents, once income is adjusted for family size, with there being greater levels of absolute mobility among lower-income children. However, African American children who grew up in the bottom or middle of the parental income distribution are much less likely than white children to have greater economic success than their parents... This report finds that family structure does matter for both absolute and relative economic mobility. In particular, children of divorced parents are less likely to be upwardly mobile in absolute terms. Moreover, children of divorced mothers or who were born to unmarried mothers are less likely to be upwardly mobile in relative terms than are children of continuously married mothers..."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Random charts

Source: Sino-US relations: Economic deterrence & asymmetric vulnerability. Their conclusions?

"China may emerge as the world’s largest economy by 2025 and it may be twice the size of the US by 2050. However, China faces various actual and potential challenges: increasing natural resource dependence and rising geo-political competition with “status quo” powers, weakening political legitimacy of current governance structures, environmental degradation, political and economic limits to the current investment- and export-oriented growth strategy... The Sino-US economic-financial relationship is best described as one of “asymmetric interdependence” skewed in Washington’s favour. Both sides have an interest in avoiding a broader economic conflict. However,should push ever come to shove, China would incur far greater economic and financial costs than the US. The balance of economic and financial power will only shift once China reduces its dependence on the US market..."

WTH? moments

"... A St. Louis scientist who was among a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been removed from the group because of writings on his website, the U.S. Energy Department confirmed Wednesday..." Apparently because of homophobic writings. Well and good, but from there to: "... "It's disappointing at a time like this that when all Americans need to come together and focus on relief efforts and recovery efforts in the Gulf, someone divisive was placed in a position of power" (per an "advocate"). WTH?

Professor dumped from oil spill team over writing

And, according to another "advocate", since hate crimes legislation does not include extra penalties covering assaults on the homeless, "... You can still hate the homeless in this country. They are the one last group that you can publicly hate..." WTH? Oh, and since the culprits in this case happened to be from a military base, he wants service members to take sensitivity training!

Group wants homeless protected under hate crime laws

Random chart

Random pictures

Source: Crude Awakening. Great infographic of information related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mental health break

SCOTUS two twitanalysis

1/2 Must be weird being on SCOTUS & reading that the Pres chose his nominee because her brilliance will persuade you to change your position

2/2 ... or perhaps even insulting!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thank you Delta!

This blogger was reading 'The Compliant Customer' while traveling... This article argues that some companies are now following a “customer compliance business model (CCBM)”, in which they "... have replaced the costly “customer-centricity” thinking that is frequently recommended in academic marketing literature with “customer compliance” business models, where customers are expected to comply with a company’s systems, thereby allowing the company to reduce costs and pass on the savings to their customers. In return for compliance with company systems — such as following a company’s automated procedure for ordering via its Web site or interacting with voice recognition software during a phone call — customers are rewarded with low prices and good service ..." So, how might one apply this to the airlines? Are they CCBMs?

Well perhaps, in that they definitely seem to have a process in place that, if followed, should make it easier for the one complying... However, the airlines then undermine their own processes. Consider:

  • This blogger checks his roller bag, passes through security, and boards his flight. On arrival at destination, he de-planes and heads to the baggage pickup to retrieve his checked bag, and is on his way...
  • Others do not check their roller bags, but take them along with them. Result, they "clog" up and slow down the security screening with their roller bags, laptops, baggies with 3-ounce liquids, etc., etc. (note: this blogger's were in his checked luggage). Prior to boarding they get pink tags to check their roller bags, which clearly are too large to go in the overhead storage, especially on the smaller commuter airplanes. On de-planing at the destination they clog up the jet bridge waiting for their bags, and get in this blogger's way as he is trying to get off the plane and to the baggage pickup.
OK, so some correctly follow the airlines' defined business process. In return they get to pay for the privilege ($50 per round trip) while "free riders" not only avoid these charges, but also cause delays for those following the rules. Way to go airlines, undermine your model by making your rules-following customers feel like chumps!

Thursday, May 13, 2010