Monday, August 29, 2011

Comments of General Liang Guanglie, Minister of National Defense, China

The 10th IISS Asia Security Summit

The Shangri-La Dialogue

Sunday 05 June 2011

Fourth Plenary Session 
China’s International Security Cooperation
General Liang Guanglie  
Minister of National Defense, China
Dr Dana Allin, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy and Transatlantic Affairs; Editor of Survival, IISS
General, thank you for your remarks.  You spoke eloquently about some general principles, among them inclusive security, and that no alliances should be directed against [a] third country.  However, like some others in this hall, I would like to ask you about a more specific problem.  As the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, is it not understandable and indeed inevitable that threatened countries such as Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are going to seek an ever-closer military alliance with the United States?

General Liang Guanglie [As translated from Chinese: Since North Korea performed nuclear tests several years ago, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has become the concern of all parties, especially the international society, in recent years. It is sometimes under tension, and the tension is alleviated at other times. From the end of last year to the start of this year, especially, it was almost on the verge of breaking out in a war. 

As a neighbour to the Korean Peninsula, we surely attach great importance to this problem. The Chinese side, or the government of China, is making joint efforts with the international society, including Russia, America, Japan, South Korea, and others. For this purpose, the mechanism of the Six-Party Talks was established, and the United Nations has also created related resolutions, which I will not further discuss here. China has signed the resolution documents of the UN, and it is quite clear that we oppose the tension on the Korean Peninsula as well as the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea. With the joint efforts of all parties involved, the tension on the Korean Peninsula is somewhat alleviated now, but relations are still quite weak.

Yesterday, I discussed this problem with Mr Toshima Kitazawa, the Defence Minister of Japan, and Mr Kim Kwan Jin, the Defence Minister of South Korea. All of us are highly concerned about the military developments in this region, and we hope the weak situation will not last much longer. All parties involved should properly solve the problem through active efforts and negotiations, avoiding producing man-made tension.

We will try our best to communicate with South Korea and Japan, as well as North Korea. I can be very frank with you that what we have done in communications with North Korea is much more than you imagine, including the work of our representatives to the Six-Party Talks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the leaders of our country. We have been advising North Korea, via different channels, not to take the risk.

Of course, South Korea and Japan are also actively negotiating with us and communication with each is ongoing. It is the joint effort of all parties that helps to alleviate the tension in this region. Therefore, I hope all parties involved can keep calm and exercise restraint, doing more work that is beneficial for the stability on the peninsula and not going to arms. What we do should not lead to the increase of tension in this region, but help to alleviate the tension and promote stability on the peninsula. Thank you.]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Me and Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs announced his retirement as CEO of Apple last Wednesday, August 24, 2011, thirty years after I first encountered the Apple computer. I owe whatever facility I have with personal computers to Jobs. I’m sorry to see him go, and I’m glad he got together with Steve Wozniak in his dad’s garage to found Apple.

I was employed by Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in 1981, where I’d been hired right after retiring from the Air Force to work on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) project examining human factors in nuclear power plant design. The NRC initiated the project after the Three Mile Island accident in March 1979, and contracted with PNNL to do the human factors study. I started work with a group of nuclear engineers, some of whom were former Navy submariners, and each of us had been provided the Apple II-plus personal computer. They were okay, but in my view, no giant leap forward in “user friendliness.”

My early experience with computers involved reserving time on the university’s central processor to run programs I’d written in FORTRAN and key punched on Hollerith cards. I waited overnight for the results and if my program didn’t run, I had to find my error and start over again. This was in 1966.

I was still using central computing in the Air Force in 1968, where our programs were stored on paper tape. Later, when I had access to a desktop computer, I was required to use an input/output language via text commands typed on the keyboard and displayed on the screen. This was still the case when I retired from the Air Force in 1981; the year Apple went public (Apple Computer was famously formed on April 1, 1976).

It wasn’t until about 1984 that I came to know and love the Graphical User Interface, or GUI (pronounced gooey). I was assigned as project manager on a contract with the Army to help modernize small caliber ammunition production. Our particular task was to implement an improved quality control system at the Army’s Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP) in Independence, MO, by computerizing the measurement and control process using personal computers. The project was known as the LCAAP Production Quality Control System (PQCS) project. When we first toured the WWII-era plant, we found that the quality control line was staffed by women with absolutely no experience with computers and, in fact, a distinct aversion to them.

In a conference back at PNNL one of our computer scientists mentioned a new kind of computer that employed a much easier to use input/output system, employing a mouse, pictures, and standard english, rather than computerize. The system had been developed at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). After some further research, we found that Steve Jobs had toured Xerox PARC, made a deal with them, and was developing a computer using Xerox PARC’s GUI ideas. The computer was known as “Lisa.” Reportedly, Lisa stood for "Local Integrated Software Architecture", but it was also the name of Steve Jobs' daughter.

We purchased several Lisa 2/10 computers and began “playing” with them. We were impressed with their ease of use, but realized that the cost of the machines was prohibitive. However, Apple was coming out with a new line of computers called the “Macintosh;” a smaller, cheaper (at around $2500) computer with an attached keyboard and mouse for input, and a built-in screen for output. We purchased several machines, bundled them up, and headed back to Lake City to try and convert the women to computer users.

Initially, things didn’t look good, as a number of the women when told that they would input data by clicking the “mouse,” refused to touch the device. Fortunately, we had a nice looking guy on our team, with curly hair, blue eyes, a personable manner, and the patience of Job (pun intended). He worked with a more pliable member of the women’s group and taking her hand in his gently placed it on the mouse and guided her through the motions of inputting data. She became a convert and began working to convince the other women to cooperate. We went back to PNNL and began programming the PQCS.

Not only was implementation of the PQCS at LCAAP a success, but staff at PNNL began coming around to see what members of my project team were using as their personal computers and before you knew it, Macintosh computers began proliferating in the Lab. My department manager later berated me, only partly in jest, for causing the Lab the problem of providing technical support to both the PC and Macintosh product lines. Of course, Apple's famous and controversial commercial that ran during Superbowl XVIII helped somewhat.
My original Mac had a 7.8 Mega Herz processor, 512 Mega Bytes of internal memory, and a 9-inch monochrome screen. I’m using a Macintosh “MacBook Pro” laptop to write this piece. It has a 2.5 GHz processor, 4 GB of internal memory, and 15-inch color screen. It cost me $600 less than my original Mac. I love it.

Thanks, Steve!

As Featured On EzineArticles

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oh Zooxanthellae, wherefore art thou?

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, composed of roughly 3,000 individual
reefs and 900 islands, that stretch for over 1,600 miles. The reef is located in the Coral Sea
off the coast of Queensland in north-east Australia.
Warmer sea surface temperatures as a result of global warming are blamed for an increase in a phenomenon called coral bleaching, which is a whitening of coral caused when the coral expels a single-celled, symbiotic alga called zooxanthellae. This alga usually lives within the tissues of the corals and, among other things, gives them its spectacular range of colors.
Zooxanthellae are expelled when the coral is under stress from environmental factors such as abnormally high water temperatures or pollution. Since the zooxanthellae help coral in nutrient production, their loss can affect coral growth and make coral more vulnerable to disease. Major bleaching events took place on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and 2002, causing a significant die-off of corals in some locations.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Cross in the Oak

As I was going to war
I cut a cross in the oak,
So that father and mother shouldn't weep,
So that the crossed oak should weep.

Es, karā aiziedams,
Cirtu krustu ozolā,
Lai nerauda tēvs, māmiņa,
Lai raud krustiņš ozolā.

But they do weep, the mothers and fathers. Over six thousand US men and women have died in Iraq (4442) and Afghanistan (1584) as of June 2011, and yet our news media ignores these futile wars and their toll, and instead concentrates its coverage on the lives and deaths of sometime celebrities, who greatest contribution to society may be an object lesson in wasted lives.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sport, Horsemanship and the Stage According to the Green Book of Maummar Qadaffi

The following excerpt from Col Maummar Qaddafi's "Green Book," is provided in the hope that it will provide the guidance necessary for the NFL and NBA to make rationale choices about the futures of their sports.

Sport is either private, like the prayer which one performs alone inside a closed room, or public, performed collectively in open places, like the prayer which is practised corporately in places of worship. The first type of sport concerns the individuals themselves, while the second type is of concern to all people. It must be practised by all and should not be left to anyone else to practise on their behalf. It is unreasonable for crowds to enter places of worship just to view a person or a group of people praying without taking part. It is equally unreasonable for crowds to enter playgrounds and arenas to watch a player of a team without participating themselves.
Sport is like praying, eating, and the feelings of coolness and warmth. It is unlikely that crowds will enter a restaurant just to look at a person or a group of people eat. It is also unlikely that they will let a person or a group or people enjoy warmth or ventilation on their behalf. It is equally illogical for the society to allow an individual or a team to monopolize sports while the society as a whole pays the costs of such a monopoly for the exclusive benefit of one person or team. In the same way, people should not allow an individual or a group, whether it is a party, class, sect, tribe or parliament, to replace them in deciding their destiny and in defining their needs.
Private sport is of concern only to those who practise it on their own and at their own expense. Public sport is a public need and the people cannot be either democratically or physically represented by others in its practice. Physically, the representative cannot transmit to others how his body and morale benefit from sport. Democratically, no individual or team has the right to monopolize sport, power, wealth or arms for themselves. Sporting clubs represent the basic organization of traditional sport in the world today. They retain all expenditure and public facilities allocated to sport in every state. These institutions are social monopolistic agencies like all dictatorial political instruments which monopolize authority, economic instruments which monopolize wealth, and traditional military instruments which monopolize arms.

As the era of the masses does away with the instruments monopolizing power, wealth and arms, it will, inevitably, destroy the monopoly of social activity in such areas as sports, horsemanship, and so forth. The masses who queue to vote for a candidate to represent them in deciding their destiny act on the impossible assumption that this person will represent them and embody, on their behalf, their dignity, sovereignty and point of view. However, those masses who are robbed of their will and dignity are reduced to mere spectators, watching another person performing what they should naturally be doing themselves.

The same holds true of the crowds who, because of ignorance, fail to practise sport by and for themselves. They are fooled by monopolistic instruments which endeavour to stupefy them and divert them to indulging in laughter and applause instead. Sport, as a social activity, must be for the masses, just as power, wealth and arms should be in the hands of the people.
Public sport is for all the masses. It is right of all people for their health and recreational benefit. It is mere stupidity to leave its benefits to certain individuals and teams who monopolize these while the masses provide the facilities and pay the expenses for the establishment of public sports. The thousands who crowd stadiums to view, applaud and laugh are foolish people who have failed to carry out the activity themselves.
They line up lethargically in the stands of the sports grounds, and applaud those heroes who wrest from them the initiative, dominate the field and control the sport and, in so doing, exploit the facilities that the masses provide. Originally, the public grandstands were designed to demarcate the masses from the playing fields and grounds; to prevent the masses from having access to the playing fields. When the masses march and play sport in the centre of playing fields and open spaces, stadiums will be vacant and become redundant. This will take place when the masses become aware of the fact; that sport is a public activity which must be practised rather than watched. This is more reasonable as an alternative than the present costum of a helpless apathetic majority that merely watches.
Grandstands will disappear because no one will be there to occupy them. Those who are unable to perform the roles of heroism in life, who are ignorant of the events of history; who fall short of envisaging the future, and who are not serious enough in their own lives, are the trivial people who fill the seats of the theatres and cinemas to watch the events of life in order to learn their course. They are like pupils who occupy school desks because they are uneducated and also initially illiterate.

Those who direct the course of life for themselves have no need to watch life working through actors on the stage or in the cinema. Horsemen who hold the reins of their horses likewise have no seat in the grandstands at the race course. If every person has a horse, no one will be there to watch and applaud. The sitting spectators are only those who are too helpless to perform this kind of activity because they are not horsemen.

Bedouin peoples show no interest in theatres and shows because they are very serious and industrious. As they have created a serious life, they ridicule acting. Bedouin societies also do not watch performers, but perform games and take part in joyful ceremonies because they naturally recognize the need for these activities and practise them spontaneously.
Boxing and wrestling are evidence that mankind has not rid itself of all savage behaviour. Inevitably it will come to an end when humanity ascends the ladder of civilization. Human sacrifice and pistol duels were familiar practices in previous stages of human evolution. However, those savage practices came to an end years ago. People now laugh at themselves and regret such acts. This will be the fate of boxing and wrestling after tens or hundreds of years. The more the people become civilized and sophisticated, the more they are able to ward off both the performance and the encouragement of these practices.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Sword of Damocles Approach to Deficit Reduction

Damocles at the feast of Dionysis.
Oil painting by Richard Westall

Everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when Congress finally agreed to raise the debt ceiling, given certain conditions, all of which involved cutting government spending. Then two days later, stock markets around the world plunged -- the Dow Jones was down over 500 points and the S&P was down almost 5%. Is it possible that the "path ahead" hashed out by partisan bickering with the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads wasn't the most intelligent approach to solving the long-term debt crisis?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (“the stimulus”), which included $288 billion of tax cuts and $499 billion of spending, added between 1m and 2.1m jobs to the American economy by the end of 2009. Moody's, IHS Global Insight, and Macroeconomic Advisers think it added between 1.6m and 1.8m jobs.

The American economy is staggering along at a growth rate of 1.3% in Q2 of 2011 (for comparison, China's GDP rate is 9.5% and India's is 7.8%). The US unemployment rate increased to 9.2%. Among major economies, this is the third highest rate of unemployment after France (9.7%) and India (9.4%). And yet Republicans in Congress are clamoring for additional cuts in government spending and decrying past stimulus spending. Instead, they want to extend the Bush tax cuts and they don't want to eliminate tax breaks and/or subsidies, or close loopholes. According to Paul Krugman, they've got it bass ackwards. Tax cuts do little to stimulate the economy, especially those for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Public spending, on the other hand, can raise GDP by $1.50 for every dollar spent.

The bottom line is that the $775b fiscal stimulus proposed by President Obama in 2009 (ultimately cut to $600b by the Senate), wasn't enough then, and spending cuts now will exacerbate the mistake. The American economy needs a shot in the arm, not a kick in the pants.