30 November 2006

Here, for the uninitiated, is my sport without the gi.

The bald guy in this vid is Xande Riberio and he out weighs the other guy, Marcelo Garcia, easily the best pound for pound grappler in the world, by about 30 lbs. This is a great match. Enjoy.

BJ Penn is still a baaaaaad man. Not for the feint of heart. There is language in the music. Applied brazilian Jiu-jitsu, kick boxing, in the mixed martial arts arena. Penn is the best pound for pound BJJ guy in the UFC. Hands down.

Beyond Belief

I have been watching a series of videos made at the provocative conference Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival. This was a fascinating debate among scientists on religion, science and reason. Many of the big names you would expect to be there were. Of course Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer were on hand. Paul Davies was there. Steven Weinberg and Lawrence Krauss were on hand. All of course were brilliant. But beyond these well known names were other equally wonderful thoughtful minds in evidence. This is a wonderful example the contentiousness, and deep commitment to the truth and intellectual honesty. I think this conference should be watched by anyone interested in the big questions, and anyone who is worried that scientists are a unified cabal.
Here is the web address for the clips of the conference. There is 15 hours of video. It is amazing.

Rules of Gun fighting

A friend of mine and I have these talks that pertain to the public perception of martial arts, and combat in general pretty frequently. We discuss the foolishness of martial arts as well as its brilliance, and we also discuss Iraq, terrorism and law enforcement. He is a former Navy S.E.A.L. so I always take notice and pay attention to what he has to say. I have similar conversations with my law enforcement friends and acquaintances (if you practice martial arts you will have these).
He and I have most recently been discussing-among other things- the tendency of there to be an immediate and thoughtless backlash on police shootings, specifically we recently spoke about the New York shooting and the infamous 50 bullets. My own take is that so far there is no evidence for police brutality or racism and that the suspects used their car as a weapon and struck one of the officers that was trying to stop them (there was a stakeout going on as the club the suspects were patronizing was , in fact, a popular place to deal drugs. One of the undercover officers thought they were armed. It later turned out they weren't and that the whole thing may have been a horrible mis-understanding. That by the way is quite a tragedy.) For what ever reason they used their car as a weapon, which left the police with little option. Five officers opened fire on the car. 50 bullets flew threw the air, and a man died, and two others were injured. There are allegations that the officers were hot headed, and being excessive. When faced with subjects using a car as a weapon, I don't think they had much choice. Nor do I think they were excessive. An average police side arm carries 15 to 16 rounds in a clip. 50 bullets 5 officers fired, giving an average of 10 shots per officer. The total number of rounds that could have been expended by these officers was 75 or 85 respectively. A .45 caliber pistol (any pistol), can be emptied by anyone in seconds. In addition to that, these officers had a huge history arrests, many dangerous, many involving the drawing of firearms with out having ever fired a shot. Not one shot in over 600 arrests. These guys were picked for that particular assignment particularly because of their restraint, and level headedness. Don't take my word for it of course, the New York times has some pretty sober coverage of the sad affair that you should go read. It may turn out that there was excessive action but lets not rush to judge.
One more caveat, I am not, myself, a knee-jerk defender of the police. Its true that one of my best friends is a SWAT officer, and that both my uncles were cops. As well many of my training partners are cops of one stripe or another. However the police do all too often step over the line. The recent beating of a suspect during arrest on a sidewalk by L.A.P.D. officers is a case in point. I have a few hypotheses on why this happens, but it isn't anything I want to go into today.
Okay that is all an aside. Garon sent me this list of rules for a gun fight. They are the Marine Corp rules and while funny carry a lot strategic weight. Enjoy.

Marine Corp Rules for gun-fighting.
1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your
friends who have guns.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is

3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough
nor using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and
diagonal movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a
friend with a long gun.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or
tactics. They will only remember who lived.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more
dependent on "pucker factor" than the inherent accuracy of the gun.

10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to
beat you to death with it because it is empty.

11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

12. Have a plan.

13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won't work.

14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.

15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

16. Don't drop your guard.

17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.

18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your
hands where I can see them.

19. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to
avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not
start with a "4."

28 November 2006

Go here.

Here is an interesting debate with Sam Harris and radio show host Dennis Prager about God. I don't think Dennis Prager aquits himself very well. This is the case in large part because he really doesn't understand real debate. In any event it is fun sport to read Sam as he is awesome in this areana. You may not agree with him but you must certainly admire his skill and thoughtfulness. And even if you don't you will have to admit that Dennis Prager was in no way up to the challenge.

20 November 2006

Democrats had better have a plan for Iraq.

No one could be happier than I at the current state of political affairs. Seriously. I've been depressed about the ridiculous silliness of our nation's political landscape almost since Bush took office. We have had to tolerate so much ineptitude. In no particular order here are just a few gems of Presidential natiocide, deep international goodwill destroyed; budget surpluses as far as the naked eye could see, gone replaced by the largest deficit in history; public education, wrecked; huge tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 %; disregard and contempt for reasoned policy on scientific issues, including but not limited to, global climate change, conservation of biodiversity, stem-cell research; erosion of our freedoms; and of course the most irrational, needless, criminal war in our nation's history (and that is saying something!).
With my last point I would hope it terribly obvious that I am not referring to the necessary war we should have committed to, whole-heartedly, in Afghanistan, but the military mis-adventure we are currently glued to in Iraq. I will not, in this post attempt to chronicle the long, tortuous series of errors, political thinking, and just plain laziness that has led us into what was so correctly identified as "a potential quagmire." That has been done to splendid, depressing effect in books like, Assassin's Gate, and Fiasco to name just two of the best. I will simply say that for reasons deemed politically expedient, and morally murky our country's foreign policy has created an almost intractable human rights crisis, managed to foment civil war, and sewn distrust in our leaders at home. While U.S. casualties are not great in number (though understandably too great for so misguided a conflict) the same can not be said of Iraqi casualties which range up in the hundreds of thousands. To top it all off, U.S. troop commitment in Iraq has prevented, and perhaps ruined, any chance of solving the problems of Afghanistan. The Taliban and Al Queda find the motivation of new recruits from the injustice of the war in Iraq, while also finding freedom to regroup in Afghanistan. Iraq may now indeed be a part of the "war on terror" but it wasn't always so, and we have only ourselves and Bush policies to thank for it.
This is all past. Democrats now have to come up with a strategy to get the U.S. out of Iraq or make intelligent, far-sighted policy changes in the prosecution of our "war on terror." This is no easy problem and may in fact be a boon to our much confused commander in chief as it really absolves him of having to do the work he so handily created. For Democrats it seems, accolades or blame await.
To me, a simple withdrawal policy may not be the most prudent course. While it seems the majority of Americans want to bring our troops home immediately this will likely cause even greater strife in Iraq. This may not affect Americans in the short term, but it will have immediate effects on Iraqi citizens whose expectations of being randomly murdered are already terribly high. It is likely that the current civil war in Iraq will become much worse if the U.S. withdraws haphazardly without helping to stabilize some government.
In the next few weeks it will be our task to ask some tough questions. While bearing in mind something Colin Powell said in one of his more statesmanly moments, "If you break it, you own it." What do we owe the people of Iraq? Certainly more than the suffering our foreign policy has inflicted on them. It is quite justifiable to say we have not done well by the people of Iraq in nearly twenty years. In the first gulf war we encouraged a rebellion and then did nothing when Saddam Hussein crushed it and began exterminating them. Now we have ignited a civil war.
What is needed in Iraq is a plan that quickly gives them the tools to begin imposing order with a system of governance they can all agree on. This would allow us to rapidly pull troops out and redeploy them in more appropriate places like Afghanistan where we might actually begin the work of exterminating the networks, and financial backbone of the organization that actually did attack us on September 11, 2001. We need to call on the international community to supply peace keeping troops in all of Iraq's hot spots. (Curtailed resources like Japan and Germany want to help, but are hobbled by old, perhaps now unnecessary, law. Simple, stringent over-sight should be all that is necessary to curtail worry about past transgressions.) Utilizing the international community will free up U.S. troops to for more dynamic military applications against insurgents as well allowing our military resources to be redeployed to Afghanistan.
It is also possible that the situation is like the one Nixon faced with Vietnam. His policy had the goal of bringing our troops home but with honor. It took him awhile to realize that was an impossible goal. Our current crisis in the middle-east may be one of a similar nature. In any event our national dialogue on the subject must be free from typical two party posturing, and must root itself in the less politically expedient realms of reason, evidence, and honest debate.

My amazon.com wish list.

My Amazon.com Wish List

09 November 2006

Training at Gracie Barra

This post could prove boring for those of you not interested Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or my participation in it. So I will keep it short. I've settled on Gracie Barra in Northern Chicago as a place to train. Its big, has lots of higher ranks, blue, purple and the occasional brown belt. That may not mean much to you, but to me it means pressure to improve in the way only sparring with more experienced players can do. Another great plus is that there is a huge diversity in body types, and styles to work against. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, like judo, wrestling and boxing are performance oriented martial arts. By that I mean that progress through the ranks is not soley a matter of knowing a set of techniques, but is primarily a matter of successfully using the techniques you know against your opponents consistently. Anyway Gracie Barra seems like it will be the place for me to train.

08 November 2006

We kicked their asses!

Okay that title isn't very bi partisan.
The democrats did however hand the republicans their heads.
Virginia has not yet been settled so I am keeping my fingers crossed. Though if George "macaca" Allen somehow manages to hold on to his seat and his political future all of my worst fears about rural Virginia will have been realized.
George Bush is in for a rough two years.