If tomorrow Russia suddenly (and hypothetically) invades a NATO member country in East Europe, the NATO forces would hardly have the capacity to react to the invasion. And not because they're weak, or ill-equipped and poorly trained, but because they just won't be able to deploy their forces in time. Or at least the sufficient amount of forces.
That's what an ever growing number of top politicians and military commanders in the alliance are acknowledging, and many security think-tanks too. Paradoxically, NATO's biggest enemy in a situation of escalating conflict would not be Russia or any other foreign foe, but bureaucracy and logistics. Acknowledging that they'd need a new approach if they were to parry any potential Russian operations of the Crimean type, on their meeting in Wales from two years ago, NATO decided to create a special emergency task-force, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). This unit has personnel of about 4-5 thousand and is supposed to quickly deploy that force within the first 48 hours. Except, that's only in theory.
There was a time when it used to be funny. At first, Trump's ascent mostly caused smirks with his bombastic, absurd utterances. But things have changed. The delegate count showed last Thursday that Trump had reached the coveted number, 1238. Cruz is out, Kasich is out, Rubio is out (poor tool). Now the July convention will formalize Trump's nomination. And it was supposed to be a contested convention. But now Trump's path to the general election is cleared. Only a miracle could torpedo him, and the risk is of a huge backlash in such a case. So now he'll face Hillary most likely, although both are suffering record disapproval ratings. A contest among two evils, where voters will have to choose the lesser of them. Doesn't sound very inspiring, eh? Hope & Change, that's all gone. Now it's Choose The Less Bad. Duh.
Tons of ink have been spilled over this in recent months. All sorts of predictions are being made as to the domestic and international effects of a possible Trump presidency, or even a Trump nomination. His very presence at the scene has already brought the debate way backwards and downwards. Statements that used to be considered unacceptable for years have come back to the surface, and strayed the discourse off any norm imaginable. And, while the domestic damage from a Trump presidency might be mitigated by the checks and balances of Congress and the other institutions, in foreign policy the effects could be truly catastrophic. It could send a shockwave through most of the world, with dire consequences. Now, I'm the last person you'd see jumping on the alarmist bandwagon, but this one time things are starting to look rather serious.
"With Brazil spiraling into political chaos and getting hit by a severe economic downturn, it’s easy to forget that Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics in only four months.
The crisis of democracy is using up all the political oxygen in the country. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing possible impeachment — which she’s openly calling “a coup” — in front of a commission with more than half its members facing fraud or criminal charges. The political class in Brazil is rife with corruption.
Meanwhile Brazil’s economy is gyrating. The country is suffering its worst recession since the 1930s. All three major rating agencies have downgraded Brazil’s investment-grade credit rating. Add the Zika virus and you have a recipe for gridlock. Against this backdrop, the 2016 Rio Olympics have been relegated to mere afterthought."
The experiment, which scientists have been envisioning for the past two decades, puts the cat in two boxes. In this particular case, the "cat" is made of a standing wave of two separate wavelengths of microwave light confined in two cavities, such that hundreds of particles simultaneously exhibit two distinctly different "states". So, if you want to figure out whether the cat is dead or alive, you would need to open both the boxes.
"Rarely does a day go by without the media telling us the latest poll numbers and what they mean. And if the election was held today, do you know who would win? Certainly not the Constitution, which specifies that the Congress- and not the media- determines the election date."
"Do you know who had really, really low favorability numbers, so much so that they didn’t even bother putting him on the ballot in some states? Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln became the greatest President in our nation’s history."
"The news media wants things to get ugly. The pundits like when things get ugly. This boosts ratings. But it really doesn’t. Heck, the TV audience for five political hacks sitting around a table offering worthless psycho-babble is less than the number of people watching re-runs of Suddenly Susan. So you might as well deliver real news about real things. What have you got to lose?"
He has a point, that columnist. Basically, poll numbers are not news. They have nothing to do with news. And that is the whole point. The problem with today's journalism is that it has abandoned its mission, namely to inform people. Now it is all about opinion, about spin. It is all about the circuses.
...Here's a scenario presenting two extreme choices, emerging from what is obviously perceived by many as the current direction of where things are going, but in this case, brought to an extreme. I'm talking of technology gone awry, and global social structures starting to crumble. You (hypothetically) stand at a choice between plan A or plan B. There might be a third option, but let's leave it aside for the time being (more about that, later).
Option A. Do nothing about anything. Leave capitalism run its course while corporations steadily phase out human labor in favor of cheaper, more accurate machine labor. The elite takes full control, becomes the sole remnant of humanity eventually, then consumes itself, as there's nothing else left. Chaos ensue.
Option B. Back to communism (possibly through violent upheaval). Giving benefits to the general population whether they earn or not, even if the scheme is financially unsustainable in the long run. Maintain some form of capitalism for those who can still earn, watching the burden get ever heavier on them. The number of voluntarily unemployed grows, some of them still being able to buy basic necessities while most jobs go away, then the whole structure collapses under its own unsustainability. Chaos ensue.
Hello, my fellow indifferent procrastinators! It's May 24 again, and of course it's time for me to congratulate all Slavic folks, especially those using the Cyrillic alphabet. We've talked about this a while ago. But now I'm not going to occupy your attention with Medieval history. Rather, I'm going to ramble about the way history itself can be treated, and twisted, and perverted, for political purposes. Do bear with me. For the target of my contention is your fave boxing bag too: Russia. And for a good reason.
I'm not gonna bring you too far back. Just to December 5, 1931 (heh). That was a dark day in history. One of many at the time. It was the day that Stalin ordered the demolition of the Christ the Savior cathedral in downtown Moscow. That same day, the magnificent Memorial of the Bulgars was also blown up in Kazan, in Tatarstan, to the east of Moscow. In the meantime, along with this destruction of massive cultural treasures, a hectic effort in rewriting the history of the Russian Empire was going on. Because it was supposed to be substituted with the glorious history of the emergent Soviet Union. The drive of the Bolshevik propaganda to redraw not just Russian history but the history of all the parts of the world it could put its paws upon, was meant to prove to the peoples of the new empire that the spiritual and historic legacy of imperial Russia was supposed to be perceived as solely the achievement of the Russian people and no one else - and not just any Russian people, but the "right" social groups. Everything that dared to contradict this fantasy, was doomed to oblivion. As collateral, the Bulgar(ian) role in Russian history became a victim as well.
Last week the Russian Duma (parliament) voted on the creation of a new paramilitary police formation. That's part of Putin's plan to accelerate the reform of the police force that he announced last month:
It was initially intended to call this new group the National Guard. But there were voices that said this sounded "too Western", while others made a parallel to the Ukrainian National Guard that was created a couple of years ago for fighting the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass. And we don't want to have any similarities with evil fascist Ukraine now, do we? Eventually, the bill featured the term Rosguard (Russian Guard). Yeah, Russians are kind of fond of packing a few words into one if you haven't noticed by now.
Anyway. The new police formation will be using resources from the Internal Military which is under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Interior rather than the Ministry of Defense. Furthermore, some special police task force units like Omon will be transferred to the Guard. Those who are somewhat well-versed in these matters project a total personnel of 300-400 thousand in the Guard. Of course, no official data on the issue is available at this point, but that's not important. The real issue here is that unlike other similar formations from the past, the Guard will now directly answer to the president himself.
We've all been gazing a bit too much on Daesh regarding Syria, while almost completely ignoring the ambitions of another major group there, Al Nusra. The local branch of Al Qaeda. It seems we have forgotten how dangerous they could be.
Sure, IS's territorial advances could only be halted through military means, since those guys understand only one thing: the language of bullets. And the root cause for IS's ascent should be tackled through ideological and social/economic means, as it's a much deeper issue. Sure. The international community is happy to announce that this advancement has been halted, the momentum has been turned, and Daesh is losing territories in Syria. In the meantime, its advances in Libya being a concern.
If I was submitted to this sort of torture 24/7 I'd go insane in a heartbeat.
On the other hand, Neo of the Matrix would've loved to be part of this augmented reality! He'd certainly thrive there. Imagine Neo as SuperMario, collecting, well... let's say magic mushrooms. Oh the beauty!
That would've made for a way better version of the Matrix trilogy.
Some might argue that this is what happens when you put religious extremists in positions of political power, and enable them to craft policies that would affect the life of millions of people. Some might even argue that in the end, it's the voter's responsibility to prevent such people from taking over and calling the shots, and those many voters who haven't turned up to vote these out, bear the same responsibility and guilt as the deluded ones who actually voted for them.
When North Korea released a new official photo of its leader last week, it clearly had no idea how the world would react. Lots of folks noticed the natural looking portrait was clearly missing some retouching (very untypical for the Photoshop-obsessed North Koreans), so the internet soon took care of that.
Last week Venezuelan president Maduro extended the state of emergency that he had previously imposed, and this week new draconian measures and extended government prerogatives were announced. The economy is a train-wreck. Because of poor management, corruption, and of course the low oil prices. Venezuela is in deep political crisis, and the socialist government has chosen to react with muscle-flexing. More out of desperation rather than any clear plan. They refuse to budge an inch in their power struggle with the opposition. All in all, Venezuela is in a dire situation.
Wow. It's sooo secret that the NYT has an article on it. Are these guys who are getting so worked up about this aware of what these meetings are about? In a nutshell, it's a bunch of lawyers, who basically have an MA in sociology, and a bunch of business guys who have even less. They all have read a couple of articles in USA Today and think they have a firm grasp on the science they're discussing - and then you've got a bunch of scientists who have no expectations of making the science intelligible to such a crowd and who are only there because of the possibility of grant money. There are several billion nucleotides in the human genome, 5% contain approximately 25,000 genes, half of whose function we are clueless about, and 95% of which are multiple tandem repeats and other garbage which may or may not (and probably don't) have any function at all. We can splice in and remove genes, but you don't attach and remove genes whose function you have no clue about. So what's there to get so worked up about? This is nothing that is close to happening. All the scientists are hoping for is to get their grant money. We know how this works, right?
As the Australian Federal Election approaches, it is clear that negative gearing on property is destined to become a major issue. In February, the opposition Australian Labor Party announced that negative gearing would only be allowed on the construction of new homes, following some push from that party's left faction. With support from the real estate industry announced (following prior warnings, the Liberal-National Party government has opposed the plan. In a recent interview, the Prime Minister claimed to understand supply and demand in the property market - which is why he didn't need empirical evidence for his claims. Recently he has displayed his understanding even further:
"What they're saying is warning that Bill Shorten's reckless and dangerous experiment with the largest asset class in Australia will drive down home values and drive up rents," Mr Turnbull said.
First there were heart and lung and liver transplants. Then face transplants. And now, there are dick transplants. In the most literal definition of dick move ever made, Thomas Manning is the first recipient of this particular procedure in the United States. The sheer amount of body parts that modern medicine can replace is little short of surprising, but I do expect that with this, the list shall expand down long, hard lines.
To get to the thrust of the matter, modern medicine is certainly capable of penetrating deeply into new territory never taken before. The absence of protestations of this on the part of the same individuals that believe merely walking, talking, and breathing by women are all innately sexual or sexually related activities, or the people who deem God's views on gay sex more mandatory than God's views on the foreskin, is equally revealing. If women having access to contraception is somehow innately sexual and contrary to God's design, why isn't Viagra or this?
This is also the problem of inserting religion into matters where it really shouldn't have any say to start with, but here in these United States, secular discussion of these issues seems a bridge too far so long as the GOP is proudly legislating about bathrooms and neglecting literally every other possible prioriy that could face them in lieu of that one.
Greetings, m'dear procrastinators! It may've become evident to all by now that I'm no big Russia fan obviously, and I'm not exactly into Eurotrash type of bullshit either (the one that Eurovision is all about) - and yet, I couldn't help but cringe/smirk on seeing the news (oh, our own BG lady did quite well, taking #4 and winning many hearts; that's not the issue here):
The win of Ukrainian Tatar singer Jamala at the pageant has flamed up the passions and again raised the question if politics is really allowed to take over music. The winner song, called 1944, is ostensibly dedicated to Stalin's deportations of thousands of Crimean Tatars for having sided with Hitler in WW2. Jamala's family themselves were among the deported, so the song is very personal and emotional. It's another question if she can sing, and if the song itself is good enough to win the Eurovision. The public TV vote placed her 2nd in the rankings, but a jury vote has conveniently been added for some years now (conducted behind closed doors, btw), it placed her firmly 1st, and the public vote couldn't compensate for that.
Drumpf may disavow this piece of hate-filled crap all he wants, but the fact of the matter is, it's Drumpf's inflammatory rhetoric itself that has prompted douchey lunatics like this one to come out of the woodwork and presume that they're a force to be reckoned with. It's exactly because of guys like Drumpf - who's only the tip of the huge iceberg of blind hatred and ignorance that has become so inherent to a large chunk of the base of the party that so fiercely wants to pretend it does not identify with him (while, arguably, he has actually shaped himself to be exactly the epitome of that party's perverse ideology).