Drawing red lines or, by attacking, implying them

April 8, 2017

To draw, or not to draw–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the body politic 
To shift and squirm around pre-drawn lines
Or to take to arms, all unforeseen, 
And by attacking, imply them

Just as with Obama, I don’t think that Trump has a very clear Syria strategy – yet. What he probably does have is a cloudy vision of where he would like the US to be. Whereas Obama kept drawing red lines in the sand and then kept shifting them to avoid action, Trump has not bothered with drawing any lines. Instead his strike against Assad’s airfield has just demonstrated that there are undrawn lines which, if crossed, triggers a retaliation. He has just not bothered with months of circular debate, creating “coalitions” of the good or “sexing up of dossiers” for the UN Security Council. (As an aside, there is a zero possibility of the UN subjecting the US to any sanctions for any alleged infringement of international law.) Trump’s red lines are implied and the onus is on his opponents to try and figure out where they are. It is not impossible that even Trump does not know quite where they are until they are crossed.

Trump achieves a number of things with his cruise missile strike, not all intentional perhaps.

  1. Syria and Iran and North Korea, among others, now have to guess where Trump’s red lines actually are.
  2. If Assad felt he could now act with impunity (whether he was responsible for the gas attack or not), he now knows that it is unsafe to cross Trump’s undrawn lines.
  3. Assad could begin to seriously address when and how he withdraws.
  4. Kim Jong Un gets a clear message that he could be subject to a “personally targeted” surgical strike if he crosses some unknown line.

 


 

A decision before dinner which Obama would have taken 2 years not to make

April 7, 2017

Risk-filled, reactive, unpredictable, dangerous. No doubt.

But decisive.

In the business and entrepreneurial world it is an axiom that speed of decision is the critical factor but must be accompanied by immense flexibility for course corrections. Few decisions are wholly good or wholly bad. The key is to be “in motion” which allows course corrections – and even U-turns – to be made. Altering any course is impossible if the engine is not running. But the worst case scenario nearly always involves decisions taken too late.

My opinion that Trump has few – if any – ideological hangups but is only a pragmatist is only reinforced by his Syria strikes on the Al Shayrat airfield.

Can business-style decision making work in international politics? That is the question.

But the contrast to Obama’s paralysis by analysis, his unending deliberation and overwhelming risk aversion could not be more stark.

Wall Street Journal:

President Donald Trump’s decision to order military strikes in Syria sets his presidency on a new and unpredictable course that is likely to shape his time in office.

Faced with his first major foreign-policy test—a moment that confronts every new president—Mr. Trump demonstrated a comfort with military action and a flexibility in approach that saw him change course not only on comments he made in the campaign but also on his policy toward Syria in just 48 hours after seeing gruesome photographic evidence from the Asssad regime’s chemical-weapons attack Tuesday.

His decision drew support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have long called for stronger U.S. action in Syria.  

But with his message delivered both in missiles and in a presidential address from behind a podium at his private resort in Florida, Mr. Trump faces the difficult choice his predecessor and other world leaders have grappled with for years: Now what? It’s the question that repeatedly led President Barack Obama to decide against deeper military involvement in Syria.

Just three months into his presidency Mr. Trump will have to find his own answer. He has to confront a litany of risky unknowns.

It is unclear how the Assad regime, or its allies Russia and Iran, will react. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump intends to move the U.S. more forcefully into the Syrian conflict—committing the U.S. military to greater engagement in the Middle East—or whether he plans to hold back beyond sending a signal that the use of chemical weapons won’t be tolerated by the White House.

One message was clear: Mr. Trump is willing to use force and to make decisions swiftly when he is moved to act.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow, brutal death for so many,” Mr. Trump said in a national address. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

It is a dramatic shift from Mr. Obama, who deliberated at length over military decisions and resisted years of calls for a deeper U.S. military involvement in Syria to help bring the conflict to an end. During his own election campaign, Mr. Trump suggested the U.S. should leave conflicts such as the one in Syria for other nations to resolve, including Russia.

The missile strikes mark an early turning point in Mr. Trump’s presidency. It is his first major military order as commander in chief. But it is also the first military decision of consequence that Americans and the world have seen him make after otherwise fitful first weeks as president, which have been marred by controversy and infighting in his own party.

Mr. Trump had in many ways compelled himself to act by vowing on Wednesday to retaliate for the gas attack. He had limited other options given Mr. Obama had cut a deal with the Assad regime, brokered by Russia, to remove its chemical-weapons stockpile instead of launching military action.

Interesting times indeed.


 

Fresh water scarcity will be a thing of the past

April 4, 2017

There is no shortage of water on earth. There is not even a shortage of fresh water resources. However there is a fundamental mismatch between the availability of fresh water and the centres of population. If sea water (or brackish water) can be converted into fresh water at an acceptable energy and economic cost, the problem vanishes.

Excluding the vast amounts of water bound up within rocks in the earth’s core, the fresh water on earth is less than 1% of all the “free” water. (Note also that when humans consume water, the water is not destroyed. Most of it is discharged somewhat contaminated and a small amount is bound up as hydrocarbons. Water “manufactured” by combustion – whether induced by humans or by natural combustion processes – creates water vapour from bound-up hydrogen but the quantities are not very significant).

The UN estimates that by 2025 up to 15% of the world’s population may be subject to fresh water scarcity. Techniques for conversion of sea water into drinking water have been known for at least 3,000  years (and perhaps even 5,000 years). But desalination as an industrial process for providing fresh water to large populations only started in any significant way in the 1960s and started showing high growth rates from the 1990s on.  There are two basic paths to obtaining fresh water from sea water. Through evaporation followed by condensation (multi-stage flash – MSF) or by filtration (reverse osmosis -RO). Whether as heat for evaporation or pumping energy through semi-permeable membranes, the energy requirements (and cost) have been relatively high. Costs have reduced sharply over the last 30 years and currently the lowest cost of production is at less than $0.5/m3. Note, however, that costs of distribution are in addition to the production cost. The world’s population using desalinated water today is fast approaching 1% (perhaps about 500 million people today). But the growth rate here is currently above 5%/year.

For water scarcity to disappear as a potential problem, the cost to access the water (prior to distribution) needs to be less than about 50% of the cost of distribution. For that situation to arise, current desalination costs have to reduce by a factor of about 20 (production cost < $0.02/m3). It seems unlikely that such a cost reduction can be achieved along the evaporation/condensation path. The filtration path remains the best bet but would require

  1. a sharp reduction of the pressure drop across the filtration membrane, and
  2. a reduction in the cost of the membrane, and
  3. developments in the economic handling or treating of large amounts of the salts and minerals filtered out

The rate of development suggests that it is quite probable that such an advance in filtration technology can be achieved over the next 10 – 20 years. The advent of graphene and the use of graphene oxides to create nano-filters is one path which shows great promise.

 Tunable sieving of ions using graphene oxide membranes, Jijo Abraham et al, Nature Nanotechnology (2017), doi:10.1038/nnano.2017.21

BBC: A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater. The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water. The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes.

It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale. Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, shows how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.

Isolated and characterised by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications. But it has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly.

On the other hand, said Dr Nair, “graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab”. He told BBC News: “As an ink or solution, we can compose it on a substrate or porous material. Then we can use it as a membrane. “In terms of scalability and the cost of the material, graphene oxide has a potential advantage over single-layered graphene.”

By 2100 global population will be declining almost everywhere. The water scarcity problem will be solved long before the population pressure reduces the demand for fresh water.


 

The killers among us

April 3, 2017

A number exercise.

Globally, somewhere between 7 and 12 per 100,000 of population will be murdered every year (excluding deaths by “war” or war-like armed conflicts). This number varies widely between less than 1 per 100,000 in many countries but up to 90 per 100,000 in Central America. Between 500,000 and 900,000 people will thus be murdered every year. Assume that 750,000 are murdered and with an assumed kill-rate of 1.5 the world will produce 500,000 killers in a year. Some of them though will be repeat killers. Again, assume that 80% are “fresh” killers. That would give a global production of 400,000 fresh killers every year.

In 2015, the world saw around 3,500 executions (not all for murder and over 2,000 estimated just in China). In any case, executions contributed very little to reducing the number of killers living. I further assume that the killers have a somewhat reduced longevity with an average of – say – 65 years.

It follows that we have 26 million murderers living among us – which is 0.37% of the global population (370 per 100,000 of population).

But another way of looking at the numbers is that in every 100,000 of population there are 370 killers present. Seven – twelve of the population will be murdered every year. Five to six new killers will emerge. Or that any “globally representative” gathering of just 270 people will probably include one killer. (I just observe that the US Congress has 435 voting members, the UK House of Commons contains 650 members and the Swedish Riksdag has 349).

from Wikimedia


 

Back to the future

April 2, 2017


 

Time to say goodbye …

March 29, 2017

The EU will try and make the exit as painful as possible to dissuade others but the reality is that the EU needs to figure out a “retention policy” for members.

That can only start by first abolishing the European Parliament and second decimating the European Commission.

Telegraph cartoon


 

Sweden among the leaders of the sanctimonious claptrap at the UN again

March 28, 2017

Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden are leading a UN conference to ban nuclear weapons globally. Very politically correct and a marvellous opportunity to be self-righteous and sanctimonious. 123 countries and lots of NGO’s are going to participate in New York. Also an opportunity for a little holiday in New York.

Image result for un talking shop

The only problem is that about 40 countries are not participating. Every country which has nuclear weapons is boycotting the conference. It is just another talking shop and an opportunity for the irrelevant to posture. Maybe some of these countries attending are there in good faith but I have serious doubts as to their common sense.

Agence France Press + PRI:

More than 100 countries on Monday launched the first UN talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, as Washington led an international boycott of a process it deems unrealistic. Before the conference had even begun, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke out to reject the proposal in the light of current global security threats. “As a mom and a daughter there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Haley, who represents the world’s largest nuclear power, said on the sidelines of the meeting. “But we have to be realistic,” she added. “Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”

Haley spoke in a group of some 20 ambassadors from US allies which are boycotting the negotiations, including Britain, France, South Korea, Turkey and a number of countries from eastern Europe. The ambassadors of Russia and China were notably absent, but both major nuclear powers are also sitting out the General Assembly talks.

Haley estimated that “almost 40 countries” were not participating.

The push for a ban was announced in October by 123 UN members who say the threat of atomic disaster is growing thanks to tensions fanned by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington. Leaders of the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, supported by hundreds of nonprofit organizations. But Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States all voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained — together accounting for most of the world’s declared and undeclared nuclear powers.

Even Japan — the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 — voted against the talks, saying a lack of consensus over the negotiations could undermine progress on effective nuclear disarmament. Japan’s ambassador, Nobushige Takamizawa, addressed the General Assembly to explain why. “Efforts to make such a treaty without the involvement of nuclear weapon states will only deepen the schism and division” in the international community, he said.

NDTV:

India is not participating in the first UN conference in more than 20 years on a global nuclear weapons ban which opened here amid objections from major nuclear powers. More than 120 nations in October last year voted on a UN General Assembly resolution to convene the conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the US voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained from voting on that resolution.

The first substantive session of the conference began yesterday. In its Explanation of Vote (EoV) given for its abstention on the resolution in October, India had said that it was “not convinced” that the proposed conference could address the longstanding expectation of the international community for a comprehensive instrument on nuclear disarmament. India also maintained that the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the single multilateral disarmament negotiation forum.

It had further said that it supports the commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention, which in addition to prohibition and elimination also includes verification. It had said that international verification was essential to the global elimination of nuclear weapons, India feels that the current process does not include the verification aspect. In line with its position that India articulated in the EoV, India has decided not to participate in the current conference that will run through March 31.

It will, however, continue to follow the developments in the event.

The US, France and the UK led a group of over 40 nations that are strongly protesting the UN talks.


 

Indian Hindus are genetically racist

March 28, 2017

Hindu matrimonial advertisements are littered with “fair”, “very fair”, “tall”, “beautiful” and the like, but also with the bizarre “innocent divorcee” and ” clean shaven Sikh”. There are always enough clues to specify caste, if caste and sub-caste are not specifically named. Often the classified ads are classified by caste.

from scoopwhoop.com

The ad can be very specific and require a “convented girl” (which is someone educated at an english-medium school originally started by nuns – a “convent”) like this one from a Brides Wanted classified.

Typical conversations within families could well include:

“You can marry anyone you like, as long as he is from the community” (“community” means sub-caste) 

“You can marry anyone you like, as long as she is not Muslim”

“If she is a gora you will be divorced within a year” (“gora” actually means red but is a euphemism for pale-skinned)

“Even an Indian Muslim rather than an African”

“But she’s so dark, (so short), (so homely), (so well built) … ….”

“Not an Assamese (Sikh), (Punjabi), (Tamil), (Bihari) …………..  “

So I was not very surprised at this story today:

Times of India:

  • In keeping with the stereotype that “Nigerians sell drugs”, residents of a Noida neighbourhood want Africans to move out
  • Locals alleged one of the foreign students sold the drugs to a Class 12 boy who died of an overdose
  • Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Adityanath this morning promised a “fair investigation”

Five people were arrested today in connection with the assault on four Nigerian students yesterday, Noida police said, according to ANI. “Police have arrested 5 persons. FIR registered, action will be taken accordingly,”said Daljeet Chaudhary, assistant director general (law and order), to ANI. 
One of the assaulted students spoke to the media today. “We asked people around for help, but not one called the police. Even our college did not help,”the student said.

Racism is not just endemic among Indian Hindus, it’s genetic.


 

No place to hide for the social media publishers

March 27, 2017

It is time that Facebook and Google and WhatsApp and Snapchat and Twitter accepted that they are just publishers and cannot hide behind the label of being “tech companies”. They cannot function as a hiding place for publications by criminals and terrorists and make ad revenue  on such publications and then claim they are merely couriers like a postal service. They cannot censor some content and then claim they are not responsible for the rest.

It is time to treat them as the publishers they are.

Facebook and Twitter and Google (YouTube) and and WhatsApp and LinkedIn cannot abdicate their responsibility as publishers because they choose not to exercise the quality control they could. They cannot remove (censor) some material and then claim they are nor responsible for the rest.

Facebook and Twitter are “publishers”, not merely “couriers”

Social media like to claim that they merely provide a “platform” or  are just “communication enablers” or only provide “communication media” and therefore that they are not responsible – and should not be held responsible – for the content they disseminate.

But they protest too much.

It is quite wrong to compare Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn to a telecommunications enterprise or a postal service or a courier service or an e-mail service provider. In all of these a specific identifiable “sender” directs a communique to a specific, identified “receiver”. The carrying of the communique to the specific receiver is the service provided by the communications enterprise and is not in any sense “publishing”. The service provided by the social media is more than just the provision of a soap box in Hyde Park (a platform) or the provision of a Board or a Wall in a town square onto which a newspaper could be appended. Any website could be a platform for comments but the website owner must take ultimate responsibility for the content published on the web-site. ……

Their advertising revenues depend upon the dissemination being as wide and as “indiscriminate” as possible. They are not so different to a radio or a TV broadcast where the broadcaster tries to reach as large an audience as possible. The broadcaster is clearly responsible and accountable for the content of the broadcast. A free newspaper being distributed at all Metro stations but where revenues are dependent upon advertising also has a responsible publisher. Any advertising revenue accrues to the publisher.

The clincher for me is that the placement of advertisements based on circulation is decisive proof of the existence of a publisher. All published material does not contain advertising. Not all advertising is proof of the existence of a publisher. A billboard or sandwich-board owner for example, is not a publisher. But the mere existence of advertising based on circulation numbers or “reach” or any similar parameter is conclusive proof – I think – of the existence of a publisher. And it is the person or organisation responsible for the circulation who takes the advertising revenues and in consequence must be the responsible and accountable publisher.

Freedom of speech does not really enter the argument. The publisher may choose to publish whatever he pleases. He may refrain from “censoring” his users if he so wishes. Or he may – at some cost – ensure that the content he publishes meets criteria that he sets himself. But he remains responsible and accountable for what he publishes. Facebook and Twitter cannot abdicate their responsibility because they choose not to exercise the quality control they could.


 

Suppression of news is also fake news

March 23, 2017

Fake news is created by commission as much as by omission.

Suppressing news which does not support your agenda is common practice by virtually all purveyors of news  – whether newspapers or TV channels or radio broadcasts. In Sweden and Germany (and in most of Europe), it is no secret that the main stream media do not report on stories which are not in line with their perception of  what the public “ought to know”. Extremist media  – whether from the left or the right – suppress or downplay news which is not favourable to their cause. It is therefore that in Germany and Sweden and in most of Europe, barbarous and criminal behaviour by asylum seekers is grossly under-reported. There is a suspicion that such crimes are also under-prosecuted but news reports are sparse.

There are virtually no sources any more of objective, factual reports which are not contaminated by heavy doses of opinion, speculation and even fabrication. There are few subjects left which are not politicised. To get any where close to the facts about any story it becomes necessary to read reports from all the sides of the political divide. You can no longer rely on just one source. If you read Der Spiegel you also need to read Die Welt. If you read Aftonbladet you also need to read Expressen. If you read The Guardian you also need to read the Daily Mail. If you read The Sun you also need to read the Daily Express. (If you read The Independent there is very little hope for you). But to make matters worse, even reading the left/right versions of a story are not enough. They all suppress news if they think the great unwashed public do not need to know.

The latest case of news suppression is in the US. Virtually all of the left-liberal mainstream media , from the Daily Kos and HuffPo on the far left through the WaPo and all the way to the New York Times have ignored or played down this story of illegal immigrants raping a 14 year old in school for obvious political reasons. Only local newspapers in Maryland and Fox News have reported – and Fox News reports have their own political priorities. This story is now getting some coverage, but how many more have been kept hidden?

I think – I cannot be sure – I have the gist of the story. But it has needed that I go from the BBC to local reports to blog posts (even if obviously biased) to reach a point where I think I have the gist of the story.

Suppression of news immediately leads to speculation that much more is being hidden.

BBC:

An alleged rape at a US high school has sparked a row over immigration that has reached all the way to the White House. Two Central American-born students are in custody after a 14-year-old girl was attacked last week at Rockville High School in Maryland, police say. The White House said “tragedies like this” had motivated President Trump’s illegal immigration “crackdown”.

On Tuesday night, protesters gathered outside the school, some expressing concern about undocumented immigrants. Henry Sanchez, 18, and Jose Montano, 17, were charged in the alleged assault, which the victim said took place in a boy’s toilet at the beginning of the school day last Thursday.

BethesdaMagazineThe usually civil political discourse in Montgomery County turned aggressive over the weekend as residents who oppose the county’s liberal policy toward undocumented immigrants angrily emerged in reaction to the brutal alleged rape of a Rockville High School freshman girl by 17- and 18-year-old recent Central American immigrants. 

The county and City of Rockville for many years have had a policy in place that directs their police officers not to ask about an individual’s immigration status during interactions. However, the county and city both share information about individuals who are arrested with federal agencies such as the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in case those agencies have pending issues with the individuals.

The two high school students arrested and charged Thursday with rape in the Rockville High case are Henry Sanchez, 18, and Jose Montano, 17. Sanchez, who resided in Aspen Hill and arrived from Guatemala about seven months ago, while Montano, of an unconfirmed address, arrived from El Salvador about eight months ago, according to ABC7.

Matthew Bourke, an ICE spokesman, wrote in an email Monday to Bethesda Beat that ICE issued a detainer for Sanchez on Thursday after he was arrested by county police on the rape charge. Bourke wrote that ICE can’t comment on Montano’s case because he is a minor.

Bourke also noted that a border patrol agent interacted with Sanchez in August 2016 in Rio Valley Grande, Texas, and the agent determined Sanchez unlawfully entered the U.S. from Mexico. Sanchez was issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge for a hearing that has not yet been scheduled, according to Bourke. Bourke said an immigration judge never issued Sanchez a deportation order.

Both students speak limited English and were enrolled in Rockville High School as freshmen, according to The Washington Post. They’re accused of raping the 14-year-old girl inside a boys bathroom on Thursday morning during school hours and were ordered held in jail without bond Friday.

But to get an idea of the anger in the local community against the “powers that be ” who presume to know what is best for them , you need to go to the blogosphere. No doubt the reports here have their own political leanings.

http://www.helpsavemaryland.org/

To Senate President, Mike Miller and Statehouse Members,

If you have not gone out and read the outrage over the rape, you must be blind. Even your favorite news outlet reported on the rape, CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/21/us/maryland-undocumented-student-rape/ You know things are bad when they report on it.  You can’t get any further left bias reporting than the liberal CNN news to report.

There were many people who went down to Rockville High School last night in protest of the Sanctuary Policies of Montgomery County, and the lack of law enforcement, lack of protection for students. … Listening to Council President, Berliner, liberal deflector or on Sanctuary Policy, he stated, and I quote “This is not on us, he was caught in Texas by ICE and released”, oh, but let us remind everyone of Catch and Release under Obama’s policy.  While the Illegal Alien was given his letter to appear before the court, when his hearing was to come up, he did what they all do, just go somewhere else and blend in with the other Illegal’s.  Governor Hogan put the hammer down, and now it’s up to you, to do the right thing, KILL THE BILL.  Where was Berliner’s support for the 14 year old victim?  Did he call her parents and offer assistance and console them? ……

But the reality today is that if you wish to get the facts and to make up your own mind, you need to consult multiple sources. You need to know the political leanings of the journalist, the news medium and of its publisher. And above all, you need to be the ultimate skeptic.


 


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