Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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Russian Chess

IHT: The United States is prepared to offer concessions to Russia to soften its position on Iran and Kosovo

This is much bigger than most news organizations seem to realize. Russia has gotten exactly what it wants. Is this bad? Actually, it could lead to an end of the Iranian nuclear program.

What Russia wants
If one is to make any analysis, geopolitical or not, you have to look at what both sides want. In our case, the two sides are Russia and, of course, the U.S.

Russia is primarily looking to expand its sphere of influence back to the borders of the Soviet Union. The Russians realize they have a short window of opportunity to regain influence while the U.S. is bogged down in the Middle East.

But there are two serious roadblocks to expansion: the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The Russians want these treaties amended.

The only problem: this is not in America’s interest.

Consequently, Russia has had to use leverage to attempt to force America into signing amended treaties.

Russian leverage
Russia has used this leverage, essentially geopolitical blackmail, in two primary areas: Iran and Kosovo.

On Iran, it has blocked all but very weak sanctions at the U.N., supplied Iran with weapons and resources, and been a total irritation. As I plan to write about in more detail next week, the purpose of Iranian sanctions is to isolate Iran more than anything else. Therefore, with Russians blocking sanctions, Iran cannot be successfully isolated.

On Kosovo, Russia has appeared to even consider recognizing Kosovo. This has become more and more problematic and the deadline for a deal approaches (December).

And that brings us to today’s program.

So is Russia an ally?
Hell no. There’s still the INF treaty, which is Russia’s least favorite treaty. Moreover, there’s another treaty the Russians love, and would like to see extended.

But will Russia be more assisting in our efforts at the U.N.? Most likely.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How High Would Stacking the Cost of the Iraq War Be?

Stat blogs at The Statistics Monster. If you would like to blog here, send us an email at worldthoughts(at)gmail(dot)com.

Cost of Iraq War (as of this writing): $464,160,000
Height of 1000 1 dollar bills: 4.3 inches
Height of 1,000,000 1 dollar bills: 358.3333 feet
Height of 1,000,000,000 1 dollar bills: 678.661 miles

Height of 464,160,000: 315,007.576 miles

That’s enough to (remember, this is the bills laying on their side, so it looks something like this: ||||||||, except for the moon):
• Go from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast 105 times
• Wrap around the Earth 12 times at the equator
• Go to the moon and halfway back

101 Greatest Stephen Colbert Quotes

1. The truthiness will set you free!
2. And don't think you're off the hook, voters, you're the ones who made this bed. Now you're the ones who are going to have to move over so a gay couple can sleep in it. Tomorrow you're all going to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones, created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags. Where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard-earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio, and teach evolution to illegal immigrants. Oh, and everybody's high! You know what, I've had it! You people don't deserve a Republican majority! I quit!
3. In success, you wouldn't be able to say I'm conservative or liberal. I'm part of the blame-America-last crowd.
4. I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
5. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well known liberal bias.
6. Hey, what if we pulled out of our own civil war? We'd still have slaves! Why do you hate black people? Air tight logic!
7. Have you ever looked at a cloud and thought it was something else? Then stop...smoking...dope!
8. Lemme just talk to you for a second about something that I think is good for America: caramel apples ... I had one last night. Delicious. Not talking about candy apples. I think candy apples are a danger! You crack 'em, they're very sharp. You candy apple crowd need to wake up!
9. Now we all know that Fidel Castro dressed up like Marilyn Monroe and gave JFK a case of syphilis so bad it eventually blew out the back of his head.
10. Like O'Reilly, we'll grab the most important word out of every sentence, ... `The,' for example. Also, I'll say, `I'm angry,' and the graphic will read, `Colbert angry.'
11. I want to thank Comedy Central for picking up the show, but more importantly I want to congratulate Comedy Central for picking up the show,
12. The show is about me in that when you give opinions, you're saying something about yourself,
13. I can't prove it, but I can say it.
14. In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant, ... One motto on the show is, 'Keep your facts, I'm going with the truth.'
15. My character is self-important, poorly informed, well-intentioned but an idiot, ... So we said, `Let's give him a promotion.'
16. Bush has a real problem on his hands here, John: What honor should he bestow on Karl Rove?
17. As God said to Job, Checkmate
18. I swallowed 18 condoms full of Truth and I'm heading over the border.
19. Knock Knock. Who's there? The Truth. No joke.
20. Move over Oprah you fat bitch, tonight every member of my audience receives a priceless gift... the Truth.
21. Forgive me Father, for I have Truthed.
22. Get some ice, I've pulled my groin. My enormous groin.
23. Hey America, nice ass!
24. Side effects of tonight's show may include euphoria, patriotism, and painful urination.
25. When I think about Truth, I touch myself...
26. The Colbert Report's terror level has been elevated to brown, somebody spilled coffee on the chart...
27. No animals were harmed in the recording of this episode. We tried but that damn monkey was just too fast.
28. Hey partridge in that pear tree. Stop eating all those pears.
29. Caution: You are about to watch me enter a no spin zone!
30. A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y? Consonant or vowel? Make up your mind, we're at war.
31. Happy Birthday. Charles Darwin ... in hell.
32. February, if you had any balls you'd be three days longer.
33. Librarians are hiding something.

For the rest, please visit Stephen Colbert For President 2008

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Don't Be Hatin' FEC

Cross posted with Stephen Colbert For President 2008.

Recently several news sites have published doubts concerning the legality of Stephen Colbert’s campaign. Today we’ll take an in-depth analysis of this issue.

The ‘problem’
Supposedly, according to the so-called ‘legal experts’, federal law prohibits corporations from backing political campaigns. Therefore, they ‘conclude’, Doritos is not allowed to sponsor the Colbert campaign.

The other ‘problem’ is that Comedy Central isn’t ‘supposed to’ give a whole show to Colbert himself.

"The real problem comes in the fact that he actually has his own show, talking about his campaign, paid for by a network," Lawrence M. Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission said. "These are the kind of things on slow days you'd debate until the late afternoon at the FEC, but there are serious questions that come up. In theory, he could end up having some campaign finance problems."

Oh c’mon, are you serious?
I’ll give some historical president precedent. When Ronald Reagan was elected, was he blurred out of his movies? Was Bill Clinton edited out of Secretaries Gone Wild? I think not.

Don’t be hatin', FEC.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Moderate Islam Statistics

First of all, I apologize for the ongoing light posting. Besides a busy schedule (which lightens up for the next few weeks) I have lime disease :(, so I'm constantly tired and not always able react quite like I might normally. But that should be gone soon as well.

My debate with Roger continues at Political Grind

Roger says:

The above statistics were drawn from two different sources: "The Sacred Age Of Terror", Benjamin and Simon and "Menace in Europe", Claire Berlinski.
I'd suggest that you read both.
By the way -- where are the links to your facts and statistics and sources? Oh, I forgot. You don't have any.
So I decided I go statistic hunting. Stat over at Statistics Monster is pretty good at this type of thing (he takes requests for statistics) but I decided I'd do this myself.

1. Iranian opinions
A Terror Free Tomorrow poll (with a margin of error of 3.1%) published in the Wall Street Journal found:
• 61% of Iranians were willing to tell the pollsters -- over the phone no less -- that they oppose the current Iranian system of government.
• 79% of Iranians support a democratic system.
• Iranians across all demographic groups oppose the unelected rule of the supreme leader in favor of electing all their leaders. While these views run stronger in Tehran, they are also held across all provinces of Iran, and in both urban and rural areas.
• 80% of Iranians favor Iran offering full international nuclear inspections and a guarantee not to develop or possess nuclear weapons in return for outside aid.
• Close to 70% of Iranians also favor normal relations and trade with the U.S.
• In exchange for normal relations, a majority of Iranians even favor recognizing Israel and Palestine as independent states, ending Iranian support for any armed groups inside Iraq, and giving full transparency by Iran to the U.S. to ensure there are no Iranian endeavors to develop nuclear weapons.

2. Palestinian opinions
A Near East Consulting Institute poll (with a margin of error of 3.5%) published in Al-Jazeera found:
• 73% of Palestinians want the newly elected Hamas movement to drop its call for the destruction of Israel.
• 84% of those surveyed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip want a peace agreement with Israel.
• 86% want Mahmoud Abbas to remain in his post.
• 84% support a peace agreement with Israel.
• 77% of Hamas voters also wanted a settlement

3. The Muslim world in general
A 2005 Pew Research study that involved 17,000 people in 17 countries showed:
• Support for terrorism was declining in the Muslim world
• The belief that Islamic terrorism is a threat to one’s country grows.
• Large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) – as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) – say democracy can work well and is not just for the West.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The False Threat of Islamic Extremism

Over at Political Grind, Roger challenged me this:

Simmons -- instead of always looking for new ways to be offended by my choice of language, instead of being so concerned about staking out and defending your personal political position, why don't you just address the issue? In what way have I mischaracterized this Muslim threat to our Western culture and our impotent reaction to it?

I responded:

There are moderate Muslims. Not all Muslims are extremists. And the Muslims that are extremists ARE NOT STRATEGIC THREATS TO THE U.S.

I think some people are taking this whole thing a little far. Islamic terrorists have launched one successful attack on our soil, and relative, it really was not as horrible as an attack as we would believe. Yes, it was horrible, but compared to any other wars the U.S. has ever fought, it's nothing.

9/11 was significant because it changed the U.S.'s foreign and domestic policy SIGNIFICANTLY.

Right now, no terrorist group, I repeat NO TERRORIST GROUP, has the ability to strike at the U.S. with even the force it did on 9/11. They could EASILY carry out attacks that could kill around 5 people EVERY DAY on the scale of the IRA, but they haven't. What's that show? Many American Muslims have assimilated.

Foreign terrorists are still trying to kill us, yes, but after invading Afghanistan, it's not really that bad here.

Yes, Europe is worse. Muslim populations there are growing rapidly. Hopefully assimilation policies will be enacted. Not forced assimilation like some are proposing.

But 'the homeland' is safe.

Anyway, my point is that some are exaggerating the extremist threat and its capabilities to damage our strategic interests. To sum it up :).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

War With China? I Think Not - Chinese Weapons Statistics

Stat blogs at The Statistics Monster. If you would like to blog here, send us an email at worldthoughts(at)gmail(dot)com.

Number of Chinese aircraft carriers: 0
Number of American aircraft carriers: 11 plus one under construction

Number of American nukes: 9938
Number of Chinese nukes: 130

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chuck Norris Endorses Mike Huckabee

Chuck Norris Endorses Mike Huckabee
It's over.

But seriously, unless you're a Ron Paul loony supporter, Mike Huckabee is the best Republican candidate. (EXTRA: See Obama take a swipe at Republicans)

Rudy Giuliani supports nation building.

Fred Thompson has even more conservative views than Huckabee.

McCain is the bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran guy.

Romney's the conservative suck up.

Duncan Hunter wants to nuke Mecca.

Tom Tancredo is an immigration extremist.

At least Huckabee is an environmentalist.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Israel's Syrian Target Was Nuclear: The One Theory That Answers All the Questions

After the September 6 Israeli strike on Syria, I concluded that my ‘bet [on the reason for the Israeli strike] is on destroying Syrian arms headed towards Hezbollah’. Although the majority of those polled agreed with me at the time that North Korea was not giving Syria nuclear technology, I might be forced to retract that view as I write this post.

After the strike, we were left with many questions that needed to be answered:
• What did Israel strike?
• Why isn’t Syria commenting on the attack?
• Why aren’t the U.S. and Israel commenting on the strike?
• Why aren’t other Middle Eastern states complaining?

After much analysis, I have come to a new conclusion: there is only one theory that answers all the questions in a suitable way. Syria was developing a nuclear reactor based on North Korean technology, most likely for weapons purposes.

To answer the questions:

What did Israel strike at?
Syria’s nuclear reactor, obviously.

Why isn’t Syria commenting on the attack?
Syria could be compared to small boy, caught in the act of cheating on the test. They don’t want to say anything to their friends because they’re embarrassed.

Why aren’t the U.S. and Israel commenting on the strike?
This is where it gets complicated. Normally, you’d think Israel and the U.S. would use this extensively as a P.R. tool against Syria, Iran, and basically all radical Middle Eastern countries in general. But they’re not.

This actually makes perfect sense if you think about it. North Korea’s image is a huge part of its foreign policy. This is semi-understandable if you think about Kim Jong-Il. He’s very concerned about his image, which makes sense, once you remember he’s a fat midget with a funny hairdo (not to offend any fat midgets with funny hairdos out there, of course!). Anyway, North Korea takes its image very seriously. Any offensive name calling by Japan is taken as a declaration of war. Just kidding. Writing about fat midgets puts me in a lame-geopolitical-joke mood.

Who cares if North Korea’s got self-image problems anyway, right? Well, right now, we care, a lot. Christopher Hill just pulled through with one of the greatest successes of the Bush administration and North Korea is disabling its nuclear program. Any announcement of a Syrian nuclear program, aided by North Korea, could seriously piss off North Korea.

Yes, it is true Kim Jong-Il knows what’s going on in Syria. But as long as the U.S. doesn’t make any public statements concerning the nuclear program, the midget stays happy.

Why aren’t other Middle Eastern states complaining?
This is pretty interesting as well. The other states of the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and probably even Shiite Iran don’t mind a rival nuclear program taken down by the Israelis. Of course Iran is taking this as a serious threat, but in some ways, this attack was not an unforgivable move by ‘The Great Satan’.

Other great Syria-Israel analysis:
Security Dilemmas
Foreign Policy Watch
Middle East Analysis
Beyond the Cusp
Attending the World

Yup, that is just an awesome picture for no reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Australia to Become Even Drier Thanks to Global Warming

Australia (TGW) - Global warming is going to take a heavy toll on Australia, already one of the driest parts of the world, according to a new report released by scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

Australia is likely to be hit harder because it is already dry there.

The key findings of the report include that by 2030, temperatures will rise by about 1 degree Celsius over Australia – a little less in coastal areas, and a little more inland - later in the century. If emissions are low, warming of between 1 ºC and 2.5 ºC is likely by around 2070, with a best estimate of 1.8 ºC. Under a high emission scenario, the best estimate warming is 3.4 ºC, with a range of 2.2 ºC to 5 ºC.

The report also indicates there will be changes in temperature extremes, with fewer frosts and substantially more days over 35 ºC.

Temperatures have already increased .9 degrees Celsius since 1950.

At low emissions of greenhouse gases, warming of between 1 degree Celsius and 2.5 degrees was expected by 2070, with a best estimate of 1.8 degrees, Whetton said.

At high emissions, the best estimate was warming of 3.4 degrees, in a range of 2.2 degrees to 5 degrees.

Other findings include increased droughts, increased evaporation rates, increased high-fire danger, stronger cyclones, and continued sea level rise.

Via :: Reuters :: CSIRO Press Release

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do the Democrats Really Have a Majority in the Senate?

Why can’t this Democratic majority get anything done? They promised to end corruption, the Iraq War, and so much more. I’m so disappointed. We finally give them a majority, and what do they do with it? Nothing.

But is it their fault? They have a majority you say. 51-49; it’s not like you need 60 votes to pass a bill, and 66 to be veto proof.

But wait! Super-Truthman says no to Republican lies and propaganda! Let’s think this whole majority thing through.

First of all, be serious, Lieberman isn’t a Democrat. So what, he caucuses with them; that doesn’t mean he votes like them. He voted ‘yes’ on the FISA amendment, ‘no’ on the Senate statement to condemn Gonzales, and of course, sponsored the unforgettable Kyl/Lieberman amendment, which originally threatened to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran via “military instruments.”

Hmmm… That makes it 50-50 you say! Wait, there’s more:

Remember Tim Johnson, the senator from South Dakota who was hospitalized in December and is still there, unable to vote? Basically, if you can’t vote, well, you can’t vote. And that means there’s one less Democrat voting.

49-50?! What, the Democrats, in the minority?! That’s not what we ordered!

On a more personal note, regular readers might have guessed that this is a little further to the left than I like to be. I did try to write this article in a different voice (just to see what would happen), but that doesn’t mean I’ve been suddenly radicalized by Reddit.com or any others. It’s just my position on this issue.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

[POLL] Should Al Gore Run for President?

Voting Booth

Should Al Gore run for president?
pollcode.com free polls

Chris C
says: He isn't going to run because then we would have to disclose his finances. People would be very pissed off if they saw all the money he was raking in from global warming.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

GodTube: the Religous Right's Lunatic Answer to Youtube

Everyone knows YouTube, 'broadcast yourself'.

But have you heard of GodTube, where the model is 'broadcast him'?

Yes, 'him' is who you are thinking of.

Almost as bad as conservapedia...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An Endorsement of Genocide

EDIT: I've revised my position. No matter how true it is, this is the worst possible time to pass this bill. We can recognize genocide without an official statement.

While President Bush endorses genocide by fighting against a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide almost a century ago, I'd like to endorse this bill. It is completely outrageous that you don't recognize the genocide. It's as bad as denying the Holocaust (the horror!).

The evidence is overwhelming.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turkey Threatens to Invade Iraq, Destabilize the Whole Region - A Brief History of the PKK

As the United States works towards peace in the Middle East, one country is threatening stabilization. Who? One of America’s greatest allies: Turkey.

The ruling Turkish party, the AK Party, said it would request the Turkish Parliament’s authorization for a ‘major incursion’, according to Reuters.

The government there has come under increasing pressure, as the PKK rebel group has stepped up its attacks in the country.

A brief history lesson

The PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers Party, is a Kurdish nationalist group listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states and organizations, including the U.S., NATO, and the E.U. The PKK’s goal is an independent, socialist Kurdish state encompassing northern Iraq, south east Turkey, west Iran, and parts of north east Syria. It has no qualms against using violence to obtain its objectives.

Turkey has a large minority of Kurds, who feel that they have been treated as second-rate citizens since the creation of modern Turkey in 1923. The PKK has fought a deadly guerilla war since the 1970s that has claimed over 37,000 lives.

Around the year 2000, following the capture of its leader, the PKK suspended military operations and called for a truce. This truce ended in 2004, and since then, the paramilitary group has increased the ferocity and frequency of its attacks.

Oct 7: PKK fighters killed 13 Turkish soldiers, including 1 officer, after Turkish soldiers shot dead a suspected PKK fighter earlier in the day.
Jun 13: 4 Turkish soldiers killed in multiple attacks.
Jun 10: A bomb in Istanbul wounds 14 Turkish civilians. The PKK is suspected.
Jun 7: 3 Turkish soldiers are killed by a PKK landmine.
Jun 4: A PKK suicide bomber kills 8 soldiers and wound 6 at an army checkpoint.
May 22: A suicide bombing hits Ankara killing 9 and wounding over 100. While no one claims responsibility the PKK is blamed by the government.

The effects of a Turkish invasion

Obviously, a Turkish invasion would be destabilizing, especially with the size of the incursion Turkey is currently considering. It is worth taking into consideration that Turkey would like to see a powerful central government in Iraq to keep the Kurds and the PKK under control. It is also important to note that an invasion would most likely be most disruptive in the Kurdish region, where it is already peaceful, which means it would most likely not inflame Sunni-Shia tensions.

What should Turkey do?

It is in Turkey’s best interest to invade, but in the worst interests of the Bush Administration. A Turkish invasion would be a huge setback for the Administration. Sadly, there is very little the U.S. can do to stop Turkey. They have been a very close ally, but since the Iraq war, relations have cooled. Not so much as that the U.S. has no influence over what goes on in Turkey, but the Bush Administration has already spent the last 3 years trying to stop Turkey from sending in troops. If Turkey and its new president have decided they finally want to go and attempt to wipe out the PKK, the U.S. may be unable to stop them.

Monday, October 08, 2007

On Torture 2.0

I wrote this over a year ago, when I got around 1 hit a day (and that was probably from my IP). It was the third post ever. Since then, my writing has improved drastically (you like the big words?) thanks to blogging.

Some of it's points don't apply today, but much of it does:

Although torture is meant to keep the United States of America safe, it does not always have that effect. Sometimes, in dire emergencies, torture may be necessary. Usually, this is not the case. President Bush does not agree with this. He thinks that torture is necessary to prevent another terrorist attack. While the President believes that, others, who have been in the military, including Republican Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham, have the opposite view on interrogation techniques. Both sides have proposed a bill. The senate bill, which was approved by the Senate Armed Service Committee (led by McCain, Warner, and Graham), is not much better than the President's bill. It would allow the President to have the final word on torture. If he wanted to torture a detainee, he would NOT have to make his intentions public.

The effects of torture are worse than the information gained from it, excluding extreme cases. If the United States tortures prisoners, other countries will too. This puts the United States' soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in danger. Tortured POWs often give false information to receive better treatment. One well known case Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a terrorism suspect, 'admitted' that Iraq and Al-Qaeda were connected so he would not be tortured by the Egyptians. Countries become less trustful, creating weaker treaties. Besides that, the U.S. agreed to the Geneva Conventions. Bush has no right to decide that he can just over rule the agreement. Mistreating captured enemy combatants is morally wrong, and diminishes how the world looks at the U.S. Even for people who donÂ’t believe in any God must agree that torture is wrong. A watered down version of the McCain bill, or even better, a new bill, must be passed in Congress if the United States is to regain its image of fairness and the soldiers of the United States are to remain safe.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Why Would Darfur Rebels Attack AU Peacekeepers?

BBC: Darfur rebels 'behind AU attack'

What’s this? The rebels are behind the attack on African Union troops that are supposed to be protecting them? What’s up with that?

Professor Seth Weinberger has some truly excellent analysis over at his blog, Security Dilemnas.

But it's altogether likely that the rebels do, in fact, want the peacekeepers out. The rebels are those Darfur who have decided to take up arms against the Sudanese government in hopes of achieving greater political autonomy and protection, if not independence, for Darfur. The presence of peacekeepers, while perhaps sufficing to minimize or prevent the attacks against civilians that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more, will not serve to advance the larger political goal. If anything, the peacekeepers will serve to entrench the status quo by freezing the battlelines and political demands in place. They certainly will make it more difficult for the rebels to attain their larger political goals.

To sum it up, African Union troops make sure the status quo in Darfur does not change. That’s not the rebels’ goals. They want change, and the African Union isn’t helping them.