Learn the Most Common Often Used Email Fraud Techniques

Security breaches today are one of the most significant biggest threats to any enterprise. Only in the USA, businesses as well as organization offices encountered approximately 1100 IT security breaches in 2016 and solitary a recorded number. Data breaches occurred 40 percent more frequently than in 2016, according to the latest reports released recently.

Clickbait topic lines is a well-liked BEC technique. By using urgent language fraudsters make employees pay attention to the email content and overlook the fraudulent reply-to email address. The powerful subject descent makes them forget very nearly security, especially later than someone in higher management needs something from them.

The disconnection grows from common myths approximately where attacks come from and how fraudsters work. Past the company can proactively withstand common email fraud attacks and protect its desire data from breaches, it is critical to enlarged comprehend how attacks work.

Crime minds use a substantial range of methods and tools to blast off email attacks. The most important are accompanied by them are event email compromise (BEC), malware, and phishing. Lets focus upon the first technique.

As we way in dramatic headlines and slope more and more gruff legislative measures, businesses will invest in the works to $90 billion to add details to corporate IT security events in 2018. Regardless, email assaults are more wealthy today than in the previous years. According to the latest research, more than 30 percent of employees routinely entry phishing emails in their corporate email account, and whopping 12 percent proceeds to retrieve infected attachments. Thats a stunning number! No astonishment businesses invest on cyber security more than ever, learning upon their own example that losses from data security breaches and concern disruption continue to expand.

Since its invention, email has been a well-liked ambition for crime minds who penetrated the companies firewalls to meddle next click for info throbbing data, gain credentials for addict access, and ultimately steal money. To respond, businesses armed themselves subsequent to a great number of email security tools. Most of these focus on protecting the corporate network rather than addressing email security issue. However, other assault approaches are developing upon a daily basis. Software tools created for avenging the attacks just two years ago today are nearly useless. Just to citation the recent issue email compromise email fraud was approximately forgotten for more than two years. Today, it has grown into ransomware resulting in outstanding financial loss. Ransomware, too, continues to adjust and thrive39 percent of enterprises worldwide were affected by ransomware attacks in 2016, says research.

Among the most common threat goals of data security breaches is email. Latest reports tell that email phishing and same fraud techniques comprise more than 95 percent of every security attacks. Email fraud types are already numerous and other protocols are invented more often and faster than ever. To withstand these attacks, businesses must employ a comprehensive communication security strategy that would put a special focus upon the full email correspondence sequencefrom prevention and into the rapid threat response.

Traditional data security tools have mysteriousness dealing afterward event Email Compromise (BEC) campaigns, as a consequence known as impostor email and CEO fraud. These attacks are definitely focused when low volume of emails beast sent. These email messages play-act to be sent by famous corporate names to solicit fraudulent keep transfers, steal confidential information, gain entry to client data and get your hands on additional pining data. Every that is reachable because such emails are sent occasionally. They go invisible and cause no load upon corporate networks, there is no URL to check, no personality to see up. BEC attacks target supplementary employees mostly by using verbal abuse only. For example, a fraudulent email pretending to come from the CEO asks the finance manager to wire money. The email contains bank account details from what looks bearing in mind a lawful vendor. In other case, a supervisor in the human resources office may receive a demand from the boss to acquire some employee records.

The most common BEC tactic is to alter the email field. Attackers have mastered many ways of exploit this, for example, changing the reply-to email dwelling in such mannerism it looks behind email comes from inside the company. The display reveal can be changed, and this tactic works best upon mobile devices where the reply-to email quarters is hidden.

Fraudsters can then use a domain that resembles the company’s but is different, for example, using a number zero on the other hand of the letter o. Fraudsters can also pretending to be a perfect thing co-conspirator or a longtime supplier.

Cyber criminals often use many BEC techniques. In the manner of one doesnt work, they will mix and settle until something works. It is necessary that companies deploy a multi-layered email security guidance solution to battle as many threats as possible.

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On a New System for MMA Scoring: An Audacious Proposal

After watching the Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit welterweight brawl at UFC 195 on January 2nd, 2016, I was left with mixed emotions. Yes, it was a great fight, with round 5 coming down as one of the most thrilling in recent memory. The round was a maelstrom of murderous intent as both guys swung for the knockout with literally every punch and kick, elbow and knee. The tide turned several times with heart-wrenching violence, and when it was over, both combatants were completely spent. They could only lean next to each other on the cage, too exhausted to celebrate the end of their riveting encounter.

conditLawlerFight

I am a big fan of the champion Robbie Lawler and was glad he defended his title by split decision. But I had scored the fight 3 rounds to 2 in favor of Condit.

LawlerCondit

According to Fightmetric.com, Condit seemed to dominate the fight. He out-landed the champion in significant strikes 176 to 92. His significant strike attempts dwarfed those of the champion as well, 495 to 177. Condit’s total strike output was similarly dominant. In average significant strike accuracy, Lawler had a less dramatic edge: 48.7% to 34.7%. He also scored the fight’s only knockdown. The fact that over 99% of the total strikes landed by both fighters were deemed “significant” by Fightmetric reveals exactly how apocalyptic this fight really was.

The decision was, however, quite controversial, with fans and fighters alike erupting over social media about how Condit deserved the nod. UFC commentator Joe Rogan and many others were calling for an “upgrade” in the current scoring system. On this account, I would like to offer a not-so-modest proposal.

After watching the Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit welterweight brawl at UFC 195 on January 2nd, 2016, I was left with mixed emotions. Yes, it was a great fight, with round 5 coming down as one of the most thrilling in recent memory. The round was a maelstrom of murderous intent as both guys swung for the knockout with literally every punch and kick, elbow and knee. The tide turned several times with heart-wrenching violence, and when it was over, both combatants were completely spent. They could only lean next to each other on the cage, too exhausted to celebrate the end of their riveting encounter.

conditLawlerFight

I am a big fan of the champion Robbie Lawler and was glad he defended his title by split decision. But I had scored the fight 3 rounds to 2 in favor of Condit.

LawlerCondit
The champion Robbie Lawler, left, after winning by split decision against Carlos Condit, right

According to Fightmetric.com, Condit seemed to dominate the fight. He out-landed the champion in significant strikes 176 to 92. His significant strike attempts dwarfed those of the champion as well, 495 to 177. Condit’s total strike output was similarly dominant. In average significant strike accuracy, Lawler had a less dramatic edge: 48.7% to 34.7%. He also scored the fight’s only knockdown. The fact that over 99% of the total strikes landed by both fighters were deemed “significant” by Fightmetric reveals exactly how apocalyptic this fight really was.

The decision was, however, quite controversial, with fans and fighters alike erupting over social media about how Condit deserved the nod. UFC commentator Joe Rogan and many others were calling for an “upgrade” in the current scoring system. On this account, I would like to offer a not-so-modest proposal.

I will describe my new scoring system briefly in case readers wish to take the idea and bounce their own thoughts off of it. Afterwards, I will attempt to explain every decision that went into constructing this new system.

The New MMA Scoring System: The Four Rules

So, in a nutshell, MMA fight scoring should consist of the following rules:

1. Use the 10 point must system, but rounds can only be scored 10-10 or 10-9 unless the referee deducts points.
2. Make the final round worth double. So a 10-9 score for round 5 becomes 20-18.
3. Employ only 2 human judges.
4. Make the third “judge” a computerized scoring system employing a standard and public algorithm.

Rule 4 above requires that the computerized scoring system award fighters Category Points per round when they exceed their opponent in certain scoring categories. The fighter with the most Category Points for a round gets the 10 and wins the round. This, of course, will all be under the hood, with the computer rendering its decision as seamlessly as its human counterparts.

My proposal includes 12 Fight Categories (6 Primary Fight Categories, each worth 2 Category Points, and 6 Secondary Fight Categories, each worth 1 Category Point) and 1 Foul Category, worth -1 Category Point. They are:

Primary Fight Categories
1. Most Significant Strikes (+2)
2. Most Knockdowns (+2)
3. Most Submission Attempts (+2)
4. Most Slams (+2)
5. Most Mount Positions Achieved (+2)
6. Most Back-Taking Achieved (+2)
Secondary Fight Categories:
1. Most Strikes (+1)
2. Most Significant Strikes Attempted (+1)
3. Highest Significant Strike Accuracy (+1)
4. Most Takedowns (+1)
5. Longest Time in Dominant Position (+1)
6. Most Takedowns Defended (+1)
Foul Category:
1. Most Unpenalized Deliberate Fouls or Repeated Accidental Fouls (-1)

In case of a tie for any category, no Category Point is awarded or deducted. Any points deducted by a referee will be deducted after the above metric is used to award a round to a particular fighter. Note that a point deduction is not a warning and so will not count as part of the Foul Category above. Note also that Category Points are not to be confused with the points awarded in the 10-point must system. This is why, for the remainder of the post, we will refer to 10-point must points as TPM points.

In the case that a fight ends as a draw, a tie-break system will be employed. This will essentially be using the above algorithm to produce stats for the entire fight, regardless of round. So someone who wins big in two rounds while losing three close ones will likely come out on top if brought to a tie break. Note that the tie-break scoring will adhere to Rule 1 above: the only scores possible before referee deductions are 10-9 or 10-10.

The tie-break system will also subtract one TPM point for every round in which a TPM point was deducted by the referee. So if a fighter achieves a 10-9 advantage in the tie break, but was deducted points in rounds 1 and 2, then that fighter loses the tie break 8-9.

What follows is my rationale for each decision going into this new scoring system:

Rule 1: The Ten Point Must System

I included this since most people are accustomed to it through boxing. As any MMA fan will tell you, MMA inherited much from boxing in terms of terminology and culture. For example, a fighter has “corner men” even though most cages are circular and the corners in the UFC’s octagon are much more obtuse than in a boxing ring. MMA also employs rounds as in boxing (it didn’t always) and continues to have 1-minute breaks between them, just like in boxing, even though MMA rounds are longer than boxing rounds (5 minutes to 3).

Also, the 10-point must system makes sense in that any other system other than a simple round-by-round tally would be harder to add. You win 5 rounds, you get 50 TPM points. Simple. Also, the advantage over a round-by-round approach becomes apparent when TPM points are deducted for fouls. Suppose a fighter wins a fight 3 rounds to 2 but get a point taken away for fouls in two of those rounds? Clearly, we need a system that awards more than one point per round.

The decision to prohibit 10-8 or 10-7 rounds was made simply because MMA fights typically have so few rounds (3 or 5 versus 8, 10, or 12 for most nationally televised boxing matches). Losing a round by a 10-8 margin puts an MMA fighter in a much deeper point-hole than it would a boxer.

In boxing, it is customary for a judge to score a 10-8 round if the referee rules that one fighter suffered an official knockdown, regardless of whether the referee is correct. For example, if a fighter slips to the canvas but the referee incorrectly calls it a knockdown, the judges most likely will score the round 10-8. In MMA, referees are not required to make such decisions, therefore there is no official rubric for judges to follow vis-à-vis 10-8 rounds. As it stands now, an MMA judge relies on subjective criteria to do this. Banning the 10-8 and 10-7 rounds is a way to minimize this.

Also, it is a way to keep out corruption.

In the 2001 boxing fight of the year, Micky Ward defeated Emmanuel Augustus by unanimous decision. Certainly, it was a close, thrilling fight. But according to ESPN, Augustus out-landed Ward 421-320 in overall punches, 386-314 in power punches, and had a 46% to 27% edge in punch accuracy. In hindsight, Augustus deserved the W. Yet Ward got the nod, partially because he scored the fight’s only knockdown in round 9, but also because one of the judges awarded him a very competitive first round by a 10-7 margin.

10-7 margin.

Yeah, something shady was going on there, wouldn’t you say? Watch the round yourself below if you don’t agree.

Rule 2: Double-Weighted Final Rounds

This essentially gives a nod to the fighter who ends best. It’s as if to say that the fighter who wins the final round would most likely emerge victorious if the fight were to go on indefinitely, even if he lost every round up until the final round. A fighter deserves credit for that.

Take for example, the chaotic end to the Scott LeDoux-Ken Norton fight from 1979. Norton, slick and talented boxer that he was, outboxed LeDoux for most of the fight but took a nasty shellacking in the 10th and final round. In fact, the fight ended with Norton semi-conscious leaning face-first over the ropes. Yet the fight was considered a draw. It should not have been considered a draw. I say this because by ending with such dramatic and unequivocal dominance, LeDoux proved he was the better man that night. Had they gone out for round 11, he most likely would have put Norton away.

Here’s round 10 of their fight:

Here is how Norton looked immediately after the 10th round, slumped over the ropes:

LedeuxNorton

This idea also is a way to help prevent coasting. If a fighter feels he has a commanding lead going into the final round, he might be tempted to stall or adopt less risky tactics since he already has the decision in the bag. This is fighting not to lose rather than fighting to win, and often leads to anti-climactic endings. Fans hate this. Double-weighted rounds would be a great way to convince a fighter not to indulge in this sort of thing.

The inspiration for this idea first came to me when watching Sugar Ray Leonard skirt around Marvin Hagler during round 12 of their disappointing 1987 title fight. Leonard clearly threw the round and, halfway through it, after landing a flurry, danced around Hagler trying to eat up the clock. He should have been penalized for that.

In collegiate and Olympic wrestling, if referee calls you for stalling, your opponent is awarded a point. Leonard was effectively stalling in that 12th round against Hagler, but why wasn’t he penalized for it? A final round worth double the TPM points certainly would have done that, or it would have convinced Leonard that he needed to fight until the end, thereby giving the fans the fight they had paid for and Hagler more opportunity for the knockout he craved.

Rule 3: Employing Only Two Human Judges

The logic behind this is fairly straightforward. Humans can judge the intangibles of a fight better than a computer can. However, since judging intangibles often involves subjective factors such as personal preference and opinion, it is probably best to limit human scoring and have two human judges rather than three.

Intangibles are also not always so subjective but would still be very difficult for computers to evaluate. How does one program for “affective aggression” or “octagon control”? How does a computer factor in how much damage one fighter does to another? A significant strike is a significant strike for a computer, regardless if it bounces harmlessly off of one fighter’s skull and sends the other reeling across the cage. In such an instance, a computer would call the round even despite the obvious superiority of one fighter over the other. In essence, a human can tell if one fighter’s significant strikes are doing more damage than the other’s.

A human can also evaluate if a fighter is dictating the tempo of a fight. In most cases, the aggressor is the one controlling the fight, but not always. Take, for example, the Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm title fight from UFC 193 on November 12, 2015. In that fight, Rousey was clearly the aggressor, but Holm was controlling the fight by making Rousey miss and landing accurate lead lefts and counters. At one point, Holm even ducked under a Rousey punch and sent Rousey crashing into the cage.

RouseyHolm

The story of a fight can often be told between the strikes, takedowns, and other tangible moments. It takes a human observer to see that.

Rule 4: Making the Computer the Third Judge

The obvious advantage computers have over humans is the ability to process data, calculate, and mostly, to remember. If a fighter dominates the first three quarters of a round in solid if unspectacular fashion and then gets dramatically dominated for the last quarter, will the human judges, in their state of excitement, be able to remember that? Will they be able to keep track of all the blows thrown and landed? Will they keep a running tally in their heads of how many takedowns and submission attempts there were?

Where humans may get lost in the intangibles or, even worse, succumb to bias, the computer is there to remind us of what really happened. But even a computer must interpret the data it gets. Not all strikes are equal, of course, and criteria can be standardized in such a way to impartially evaluate the dominance of both fighters. Just as human judges must adhere to official judging criteria, so should the computer. And this is where the Fight Categories come into play.

Keep in mind that while the standardized algorithms going into each of these categories may not always be simple or easy to remember, they will all remain under the hood, so to speak, when the computer renders its instantaneous decisions after each round.

To see how FightMetric scored the Lawler-Condit fight, click here.

Primary Fight Categories

In all cases, a fighter is awarded two points in a Primary Fight Category if he can achieve unequivocal dominance during in the round for that particular category. This is more than a mere technical edge in striking or demonstrating more talent. Essentially, Primary Fight Categories award fighters who do more to achieve a finish.

Primary Fight Category 1: Most Significant Strikes (+2)

Obvious choice here. A fighter is awarded 2 Category Points towards his overall round count if he lands more significant strikes than his opponent. However, there is a slight wrinkle. What to do if significant strike counts in a round are very close and many significant strikes landed? For example, one fighter lands 31 significant strikes, and the other 29. Is it right to give the first fighter a 2-point advantage over the other? And who’s to say that if the round went another 5 seconds, the second fighter wouldn’t have evened or surpassed his opponent’s count?

This is why I propose, as part of the computer algorithm, to only award the 2 Category Points if a fighter lands more significant strikes than his opponent plus 5% of the total significant strikes landed from both fighters. In the case above, there were 60 significant strikes landed. 5% of 60 is 3. So neither fighter would be awarded points for this category. A fighter would have to land 32 significant strikes to his opponent’s 28 to get the 2 Category Points.

Why did I choose 5%? Because a two-strike advantage will win the round if fewer than 40 strikes land. Anything more than that, and a 2-punch edge won’t cut it, which, I think, is fair. Further, to be honest, since I am not a mathematician, 5% is an easy number to calculate. I could be persuaded to change this figure by someone who understands MMA and statistics better than I do.

Primary Fight Category 2: Most Knockdowns (+2)

Maybe this was grandfathered in from boxing where a fighter is usually deducted a point if he gets knocked down by a punch. In boxing, a knockdown temporarily takes a fighter out of the fight where he is protected by the rules (no hitting a man while he is down). This is decidedly not the case in MMA wherein a fighter can pounce on a fallen fighter with few restrictions. Therefore, in boxing a knockdown necessarily means something. Not so in MMA. By awarding a fighter 2 Category Points for a knockdown, we are making it mean something in MMA as well.

Why do this? For 2 reasons: because a knockdown is an undeniable display of dominance and because fans love it. A fighter who is bested 20 to 5 in significant strikes in a round but manages to knock his opponent down with one of those 5 strikes deserves to be even with his opponent for that round as far as the Significant Strikes and Knockdown categories are concerned. This should be the case even if the knockdown is a flash knockdown and does little to turn the tide of the round. A fighter who can knock his opponent off his feet deserves credit simply for the thrill he gives a crowd. This is what people pay to see when they watch MMA.

A case in point is the 2011 Nate Diaz-Donald Cerrone fight from UFC 141. Diaz beat Cerrone from pillar to post for 3 rounds, but Cerrone landed multiple leg kicks which put Diaz repeatedly on the seat of his pants. Diaz probably would have won the fight regardless, but Cerrone’s knockdowns should have made the fight a lot closer than it was.

cerronediaz

Of course, judging what is and isn’t a knockdown can get a little tricky, and a human being must make that decision before entering it into a computer. In boxing, a referee may mistakenly interpret a slip as a knockdown or vice versa. This can happen in MMA as well. Therefore, we will need to define what a knockdown is and isn’t.

A knockdown should simply be any time a fighter is knocked off his feet because of a strike. In boxing, a knockdown occurs when a fighter’s glove touches the canvas or if he is on his way down and falls into the ropes. But since knockdowns are less meaningful in MMA than in boxing, it makes sense not to adhere to the same definition. I say that a fighter should be given credit (i.e., not be penalized) if he can keep his balance after a blow, even if it means he has to place his hands on the canvas or the cage to do so. Therefore, only a strike which knocks a fighter to the canvas in such a way that he not supported by both feet is a knockdown.

Primary Fight Category 3: Most Submission Attempts (+2)

Just as thrilling as the knockout in MMA is the submission. When one fighter capitulates, there can be no doubt who the winner is. All MMA fans will remember a 180lb Royce Gracie locking in a triangle choke on 260lb Olympic alternate wrestler Dan Severn in 1994. After dominating Gracie the entire fight, Severn was forced to tap. This is the moment that made American wrestlers and other martial artists realize that they needed to learn some ju-jitsu if they wanted to compete in this new sport.

Just as powerful are submissions in which a fighter either passes out cold or screams in agony. Picture Josh Burkman standing over an incapacitated John Fitch after their 2013 World Series of Fighting fight…

BurkmanFitch

or Bellator bantamweight champ Joe Warren screaming as he was knee-barred by Marcos Galvao.

WarrenGalvao

Rarely does a deliberate tap out lead to a controversial ending of a fight.

(This does happen, though. In June 2007, lightweight Rob Emerson tapped out after Gray Maynard slammed him to the canvas in their UFC Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale bout. But Gray knocked himself out with the slam and was unconscious when the tap occurred. The fight was ruled a no contest.)

MMA fans crave the submission as much as they do a knockout, and a fighter who attempts submissions deserves credit for that. Of course, there are dozens of different kinds of submissions, and the data entry people must be familiar with all of them. Further, the attempt has to be a credible attempt. Often fighters will grab their opponent’s head while being taken down, and to the uninitiated, this may seem like a submission attempt, but if the angle isn’t right or if there is only one arm around the neck, then it really isn’t one. Fighters will also attempt knee bars or heel hooks without securing enough of their opponent’s extremities to offer a real submission threat. These are also not real submission attempts.

For a move to qualify as a submission attempt, it must be fully executed, held in place for at least 3 seconds and must force an opponent to defend against the submission.

Primary Fight Category 4: Most Slams (+2)

Ask any MMA fan about the greatest MMA slam of all time, and they will probably tell you about how at Pride Critical Countdown 2004 in June of that year, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson lifted Ricardo Arona up over his head while in Arona’s guard and powerbombed him into unconsciousness. In fact, Arona’s head bounced off the canvas with such violence that it met Rampage’s as it was still coming down. It was, in effect, the brute force refutation against crafty Brazilian ju-jitsu. Arona had been attempting a fancy triangle choke, for all the good it did him. Truly, a chilling, unforgettable moment.

Where credit for the knockdown is grandfathered in from boxing, credit for the slam is grandfathered in from professional wrestling. Fans love to see combatants literally toss each other into the air, and the slam is closest thing combat sports have to that. Quite often it’s an instant fight-ender. And if not, then the fighter deserves credit for trying to end matters with a dramatic splat.

Primary Fight Category 5: Most Mount Positions Achieved (+2)

Another undeniably dominant position in MMA is called the mount. This is when a fighter has an opponent on his back and literally sits on his chest or abdomen. The mount is especially dangerous for the bottom competitor because he can’t easily use his legs for defense, he can’t threaten any submissions, and he can’t strike with any power. Further, the man on top is ideally situated to rain powerful blows down on his opponent’s head and neck. And if the bottom fighter tries to turn away from the punishment, he opens himself up to a variety of chokes. To achieve the mount is to achieve dominance, and quite often violence or submission attempts follow.

Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva famously used the mount to break down and defeat Russian heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko in their February 2011 Strikeforce fight.

BigfootFedor

As with submission attempts, a fighter must maintain the mount position for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

Primary Fight Category 6: Most Back Taking Achieved (+2)

Just as dangerous as the mount is when a fighter takes the back of his opponent. This occurs when a fighter gets behind his opponent and holds him in place by wrapping his arms and legs around him in various ways. Of course, the fighter taking the back can land blows almost at will if his hands are free. He can also threaten a number of submissions, the most common of which would be the rear naked choke. If a fighter’s back is taken, he is automatically placed in a defensive position and must maintain wrist control in order to prevent strikes or submissions. To take someone’s back is an unequivocal achievement of dominance in MMA, and it can very easily lead to fight-ending submissions.

Here Josh Koschek finishes off Anthony Johnson with a rear naked choke in their November 2009 UFC fight.

JohnsonKoschek

As with submission attempts and mount positions, a fighter must keep the back of his opponent for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

Secondary Fight Categories

A fighter is awarded a Category Point in a Secondary Fight Category if he can demonstrate some kind of superiority in the round. In general, superiority differs from dominance in that, unlike dominance, it usually does not threaten to end the fight. Judging superiority often takes into consideration more aesthetic concerns such as skill or heart. With all else being equal, the fighter with the most photogenic game will get the edge in the Secondary Fight Categories.

Secondary Fight Category 1: Most Strikes (+1)

Obvious call here. A fighter should get credit for strikes landed, regardless of whether they are significant. So, in this case, a flicking jab or leg kick counts just as much as a haymaker. This essentially rewards the busier fighter, the one most willing to fight and not bore the audience. It’s only worth 1 Category Point, of course, since landing more strikes does not necessarily translate into dominance. But it still should count for something.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 2: Most Significant Strikes Attempted (+1)

This category tallies all significant strikes that were attempted and did not land. And why should we reward fighters for not landing? Essentially because we want to encourage fighters to bring the heat. This is one of the things fans pay to see. Remember what ‘ABC’ stood for in Glengarry Glenn Ross? ‘Always Be Closing.’

abc

Well, in MMA and other combat sports, fighters should always be finishing. There’s a reason why fans loved to watch boxers like Arturo Gatti and Michael Katsidis fight. The same goes for all-action MMA brawlers like Diego Sanchez and Leonard Garcia. These guys fight with passion and they always bring it, even when they come up short. When all other factors are equal, the guys who always try to finish should always have an edge over the guys who don’t.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 3: Highest Significant Strike Accuracy (+1)

This category, quite simply, rewards skill over output. Often a fighter will exceed another in kicks and punches, but still be dominated because his opponent makes better use of the strikes he does throw. This category rewards a fighter for effective defense as well, either through blocking or evading strikes. Such displays of skill are also pleasing to watch. Take, for example, Anderson Silva with his hands down easily slipping bombs thrown by Forrest Griffin in their 2009 UFC 101 light-heavyweight encounter.

SilvaGrifin

The audience ate it up both times. Knowing when to strike and how to avoid being struck is an integral part of the fight game and is a clear sign of superiority.

The +5% edge that applies to the Significant Strike Category should apply here as well.

Secondary Fight Category 4: Most Takedowns (+1)

The same logic applying to knockdowns should apply to takedowns as well. Takedowns are most often a show of superiority and they get a crowd excited. However, a takedown itself does not necessarily benefit the fighter on top. Former NCAA All-American wrestler Cain Velasquez takes most of his opponents down. But when he took down Fabricio Verdum in their June 2015 UFC heavyweight title fight, he was immediately guillotined and forced to tap out (see bottom right, below). Sometimes fighters, especially those adept at Ju-Jitsu, want to be taken down. It’s part of their plan. This is why a takedown is worth only 1 Category Point as opposed to 2.

Takedowns work well for Cain Velasquez, except when they don't.
Take downs work well for Cain Velasquez, except when they don’t.

As with submission attempts, mount positions, and back-taking, a fighter must take his opponent down and keep him down for at least 3 seconds to gain credit in this category.

One caveat should apply, however. If the cage gets in the way of a clean takedown, then the takedown did not occur, even if the defensive fighter has a knee on the canvas.

Please note that reversals, such as when a fighter on bottom scrambles until he is on top, should also count as takedowns.

We should also note that knocking an opponent down with a strike and then achieving top position on the grounded opponent should count only as a knockdown, not a takedown. A takedown facilitated by blows which knock a fighter off his feet is not a takedown. In other words, a fighter should not simultaneously increase his count in both the Knockdown and Takedown categories. Every time a fighter hits the canvas, the data entry people should select one and go with it.

Secondary Fight Category 5: Longest Time in Dominant Position (+1)

This category goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, only it rewards a fighter who makes the most of his takedowns, regardless if he secures more of them in a round. Controlling an opponent from top position for most of a round with only 1 takedown should count the same as taking him down three times and keeping him there for all of 26 seconds. Unlike the previous category, however, this category should also apply if a fighter gains the top position as the result of a knockdown.

MMA rounds last 5 minutes, or 300 seconds. That is a lot of seconds, more than the typical number of strikes that can land in a high-action round. Do we really want to award the Category Point to a fighter who achieves top control for 131 seconds versus his opponent who keeps it for 129? This is why a +10% rule should apply for this category. To earn the Category Point, a fighter’s top position time must surpass his opponent’s plus 10% of the time the fight stays on the ground with either fighter in dominant position. So, if a fight spends 100 seconds on the ground in a round, then controlling the action for 55 of those seconds would not be enough for a Category Point, but 56 would.

Secondary Fight Category 6: Most Takedowns Defended (+1)

Nothing is more demoralizing to a fighter, especially one with a wrestling background, than having his takedown attempts continually stuffed. Fighter A wants to take the fight to the ground. Fighter A exerts tremendous energy trying the accomplish this. But Fighter B stays on his feet until Fighter A either gives up on the takedown or the referee separates them. This is a form of superiority. It undeniably thwarts the will of a fighter while wearing him down. If a fighter can get credit for taking his man down, he should also, in essence, lose credit if he tries and fails to take his man down.

Note that takedowns which last less than 3 seconds should not count in either case.

Foul Category: Most Unpenalized Deliberate Fouls or Repeated Accidental Fouls (-1)

Often a fighter will bend the rules in order to obtain an advantage. Sometimes this makes a difference in a fight’s outcome, and sometimes it does not. Sometimes it is spotted by the referee, and sometimes not. The purpose of this category is to penalize a fighter for attempting to use illegal conduct to change the outcome of the fight, which, of course, he shouldn’t do.

In this case, ‘illegal conduct’ should be defined as deliberate or accidental fouls that are not penalized by the referee but cause the referee to either issue a warning or temporarily halt the fight in order to let the fouled fighter recover.

So, a fighter will not be penalized if he simply grabs onto the cage to keep from falling and gets his hand slapped away by the referee. A fighter will be penalized however if he pokes his opponent in the eye or strikes him to the groin, forcing the referee to give his opponent time to recover.

Remember the grueling encounter between UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira from April 2014. This was a one-sided and bloody, yet competitive and action-packed encounter which ended in a unanimous decision for Jones. But Jones accidentally poked Teixeira in the eye multiple times and was never penalized for it. Could this have made a difference in the fight’s outcome? Unlikely, but still possible.

Therefore, by using this system, the computer would have deducted a Category Point from Jones’ overall round count, thereby making it harder for him to win the rounds in which the eye pokes occurred.

Using the Computer

At the end of each round, the computer will do the following:

1. Tally the appropriate counts and times and make the necessary calculations
2. Award the right number of Category Points to each fighter
3. Determine who has the most Category Points.
4. Subtract 1 point per round per fighter in which the referee deducted a point.

At the end of each fight, the computer’s score will be tallied with the scores from the human judges to determine a winner. And, in the case of a draw, according to the rules of this new system, the tie-breaking decision will come from a macro-application of the above algorithm onto the fight as a whole.

An easy way to envision the difference here would be to look at the World Series as if each game were a round and there were only 5 games. If you win games 1, 3, and 5 by a score of 1-0, but lose games 2 and 4 by a score of 5-0, you still win the series, despite the fact that the opposing team outscored you by 7 runs in aggregate. The tie breaker count would essentially add up all the Category Points across the rounds to determine a winner in the same way you can add up all the runs scored in a World Series across games.

The Power of the Audit

The advantage of this system, particularly of using a computer as a third judge, is our ability to audit. Where the human judgments are final, the computer’s can not be. This is because fights can be replayed, data re-entered, and Category Points re-tallied. Therefore, computer decisions can be audited and potentially reversed.

Data entry personnel can and will make mistakes. They will misjudge takedowns and knockdowns and significant strikes. They will not see a strike land. They will not realize that a submission attempt is being made. They will get it wrong at some point. Count on it. This means that the computer may not always be correct, since it is only as good as the data humans feed it. In fights that go the distance, this won’t matter as long as the human judges, the masters of the intangibles, agree. However, when they don’t, and the computer is used to render a split decision, the losing fighter will always have the right to audit, in which case all data will be re-entered with the help of the video recording, and the round counts re-tallied by the computer.

Final Thoughts on the New Scoring System

Not Perfect, but perhaps better than what he have now. We need to introduce an element of statistical rigor into the business of fight scoring. While not enough by itself to offset human bias or error, it should make the difference if the intangibles are hard enough to grasp that the human judges disagree.

And as for how this new system would have scored the Lawler-Condit fight?

60-55 in favor of Condit. But, oddly enough, if the scoring were forced to go to tie break, the computer would have scored it a 10-10 draw, due mainly to Lawler’s takedown in round 2 and his subsequent top control. So perhaps there are some intangibles the computer can grasp after all?

ConditLawlerScoreSheet

Note that all calculations were done in Excel 2016. The Total Columns (Q and R are simple row sums, except for row 12 (Significant Strike Accuracy), which is a row average. Here are the algorithms for the Total Rows (21-23, and 27):

ComputerScoringFormula

Against Kubrick 11

Welcome to the final installment of my 11-part polemic against the great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. My premise basically is that his great films had negative effects on the world and that Kubrick was anything but a humanist. I began this series in October 2010, and it was one of the main reasons why I started this blog. I just had to get this off my chest.

If you wish to start at the beginning of my Against Kubrick series, you can follow these links:

From the beginning, I identified four great Kubrick films to investigate: Dr Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Full Metal Jacket (1987). As I said then:

These films are considered great (aside from their technical brilliance) because they ultimately represent things beyond themselves. Important things. Kubrick’s intellectual scope was as broad as history, and his films make us reflect on who we are, not only as inheritors of Western Civilization, but as human beings.

I felt his other films were either not worthy of their director’s genius or were not indicative of my main thesis, namely that Kubrick has a bitter grudge against humanity and that he was anything but a humanist.

Later, I included Barry Lyndon (1974) because I had finally seen it and decided it would make a worthy contribution to this series.

Now, I would like to close the series with a brief discussion on Kubrick’s one truly humanistic (and, in my opinion, greatest) film: Paths of Glory from 1957.

paths-of-glory_kirk-douglas

Welcome to the final installment of my 11-part polemic against the great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. My premise basically is that his great films had negative effects on the world and that Kubrick was anything but a humanist. I began this series in October 2010, and it was one of the main reasons why I started this blog. I just had to get this off my chest.

If you wish to start at the beginning of my Against Kubrick series, you can follow these links:

From the beginning, I identified four great Kubrick films to investigate: Dr Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Full Metal Jacket (1987). As I said then:

These films are considered great (aside from their technical brilliance) because they ultimately represent things beyond themselves. Important things. Kubrick’s intellectual scope was as broad as history, and his films make us reflect on who we are, not only as inheritors of Western Civilization, but as human beings.

I felt his other films were either not worthy of their director’s genius or were not indicative of my main thesis, namely that Kubrick has a bitter grudge against humanity and that he was anything but a humanist.

Later, I included Barry Lyndon (1974) because I had finally seen it and decided it would make a worthy contribution to this series.

Now, I would like to close the series with a brief discussion on Kubrick’s one truly humanistic (and, in my opinion, greatest) film: Paths of Glory from 1957.

paths-of-glory_kirk-douglas

With Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick is actually on the side of humanity. To many of his cynical and sophisticated fans, his humanism may seem corny or naïve. To me, however, it is gut-wrenching and life-affirming. We’re in the French army during World War I, and three innocent soldiers are selected to be shot for cowardice. They are being held up as an example for the entire army, you see. It’s up to the honorable Colonel Dax, played by Kirk Douglas, to save them.

That’s a heck of a plot hook, isn’t it?

In Paths of Glory, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s definitely a duck, despite what the duck may tell you. You can find much of the cynicism of Kubrick’s later films in Paths of Glory, sure. But here only characters suffused with hypocrisy and arrogance exhibit such cynicism. We despise these characters. Further, we sympathize plaintively with their victims and root for the honorable men fighting against them. Where in any other Kubrick film do we do that?

The first aspect of Kubrick’s humanism on display in Paths of Glory is his respect for the Truth (note the capital ‘T’). The audience is always acquainted with it and is never given reason to doubt it. General Mireau emphatically rejects the order to take the well-fortified German position known as the Anthill. It’s a suicide mission, he explains, and there would be terribly casualties. His attitude changes quickly however when his superior General Broulard waves a promotion in front of him. Clearly tempted, Mireau waxes on and on about his loyalty to his men and how important their safety is, but his pompous airs tell another story. Of course, he wastes no time in ordering his men to storm the Anthill.

This duality plays an important role in Paths of Glory. There’s what you say and what you do. There’s what happens and what doesn’t happen. There’s what should happen and what shouldn’t happen. And the audience is in on all of it.

Lieutenant Roget panics on patrol and needlessly hurls a grenade, killing one of his own men. But that’s not what he reports to Colonel Dax, of course. Corporal Paris sees the whole thing, but Roget blackmails him into keeping quiet. So Roget is basically a scoundrel. A lying, cowardly, hypocritical scoundrel. The audience sees that and hates him for it. In later Kubrick films, such a character would be the clever anti-hero (as in A Clockwork Orange) or the handsome protagonist (as in Barry Lyndon). Such a character would be likable. In Paths of Glory, however, he’s a straight up villain. Imagine that. A villain in a Stanley Kubrick film.

Out of frustration because some of his men were unable to leave their trenches, Mireau orders artillery to be fired on French positions. When Dax accuses him of this before Broulard, he denies it, of course, and walks off in a huff declaring himself an honest man. In Paths of Glory we despise the hypocrite because of the way he abuses the Truth. Is this not a humanistic perspective?

Kubrick’s sets further display this duality as well as provide a sense of what’s real versus what’s unreal. The film opens in a vast chateau with Mireau and Broulard chatting about art and carpets. Kubrick never lets us forget the vastness of the interior, its beauty, its elegance, its opulence and superfluity.

Chateau

Compare this to his brutal and relentless treatment of the trenches. He tracks through one like a rat in a subterranean maze for nearly one and a half minutes before making a cut.

trenches

Kubrick is not just contrasting the trenches with the chateau. He showing us how real wars are fought and where the price in blood is paid.

Another duality of Paths of Glory deals with the nature of humanity. What does it mean to be human? Are we mere animals? Or are we something more?

When inspecting the trenches, Broulard is told that there had been 29 casualties from the night before, and blames the men for grouping together on the battlefield thereby making them easier to hit. His smug subordinate Major Saint-Auban and Dax then have the following exchange:

Saint-Auban: Well, they never learn it seems. They get in a tight spot under heavy fire. Gang up every time. Herd instinct, I suppose. Kind of a lower animal kind of thing.

Dax: Or kind of a human sort of thing, it seems to me. Or don’t you make a distinction between the two, Major?

When Dax is brought to the Chateau after the Anthill fiasco, Mireau forces him to answer for the fact that a portion of his regiment never left the trenches.

Dax: They’re not cowards, so if some of them didn’t leave the trenches, it must have been because it was impossible.

Mireau: They were ordered to attack. It was their duty to obey that order. We can’t leave it up to the men to decide when an order is possible or not. If it was impossible, the only proof of that would be their dead bodies lying in the bottom of the trenches. They are scum, Colonel, the whole rotten regiment; a pack of sneaking, whining, tail-dragging curs.

Notice how blithely Mireau applies scientific scrutiny to human beings in war. So are we no better than lab rats now? Dax knows this isn’t true. More importantly, so does the audience. Also, the audience gets the chance to witness how Dax’s men were pinned down in their trenches by enemy fire. They witness Dax himself attempting a charge and failing. So we know what the truth is. We always know the Truth in Paths of Glory.

Perhaps Kubrick’s crowning achievement in this film is the courtroom sequence. The French army leadership, embarrassed by their failure to take the Anthill, decides to try and execute three men for cowardice. Colonel Dax then represents these men as council during the trial. Throughout, soldiers stand at attention, either hulking in the foreground as ominous shadows…

Courtroom2

…or in the background like the sculptures which festoon the great walls.

Courtroom1

Earlier, they had been marching like clockwork while the officers lounged in their upholstered chairs and divans. The dichotomy is purely cinematic and impossible to ignore. Throw in the superb performances of the actors (Kirk Douglas especially) and a tight, evocative script, and you have filmmaking at its very best.

Watch and behold…

During this scene, it becomes clear that this trial is little more than rigmarole. The French army will have its cowards and will make an example of them, truth be damned. There is no evidence that Dax can provide that the court will consider. So what’s the point?

While making his final statement, Colonel Dax says the following:

Gentlemen of the court, there are times when I am ashamed to be a member of the human race. And this is one such occasion.

Where’s the irony? Where’s the sarcasm? You can keep looking for it, but it isn’t there. Kubrick’s humanism wouldn’t allow it. Only a profoundly humanistic film could have a protagonist say such a line without the slightest hint of irony. The human race is a good thing, you see. Or, it’s supposed to be…despite the fact that many of its members are not very good, and are often very bad.

The end of Paths of Glory is certainly one of the most heart-wrenching moments in cinema. A captive German girl is dragged out on a stage to sing for French troops before they return to the front. As Colonel Dax watches, they react to her with lewdness and loud, coarse behavior. So this is what Dax had been fighting for? A humanity that can’t rise above its lower urges? Are we really no better than animals after all?

But then in a beautiful moment, the girl begins to sing, and the men become overcome with emotion and sing along with her. Faith in humanity is restored. Where in any other great Stanley Kubrick film can we say that? In fact, where in any other great Kubrick film are women so sympathetically portrayed? While the bad guys win in Paths of Glory, they don’t all come out unscathed. Yet the true victor, in the eyes of the audience as filtered through Colonel Dax, is humanity itself. Again, where in any other great Kubrick work does this happen?

girlsinging

Nowhere, that’s where.

During his final argument, Dax calls the trial “a mockery of all human justice.” And he’s right.

But this trial can also be viewed as a microcosm of the remainder of Stanley Kubrick’s directing career. What goes on during the trial that you cannot say doesn’t go on in his other great films? You have weak, hypocritical elites doing great harm, as in Dr. Strangelove. You have the idea that human life is not very consequential, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey. You have psychopathic killers who get away with murder, as in A Clockwork Orange. And you have a willful denial of Truth, as in Full Metal Jacket.

Don’t believe me?

In Dr. Strangelove after it’s too late to stop World War Three, President Muffley and General Jack Ripper are encouraged by the fact that the post-apocalyptic mineshafts they will soon inhabit will have a 10-to-1 female-to-male ratio and that women will be selected for their “sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.” This is a good thing, you see. Well, the ex-Nazi titular character seems to think so. So how is this not a “mockery of human justice” when the American leadership during the Cold War was absolutely nothing like this?

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick presents the death of humans in an extremely offhanded way. We get mere seconds of one astronaut dying in space. We get a few more when the ones in cryogenic sleep are killed. Oh, but when supercomputer HAL dies, well, we get to witness every single excruciating second of that, as if a computer singing a little ditty in its death throes were more meaningful than an innocent man suffocating in space. Is humanity worth so little to Kubrick? He portrays us either as robot-like, as with his dry, soulless astronauts, or as complete savages, like the ape men in the beginning of the film who learn to brain each other with clubs. And this is supposed to be a good thing. It represents then next step in our advancement of humans. So, the Sermon on the Mount, the Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Geneva Conventions…that stuff doesn’t matter. No, of course not. Braining people with clubs. That’s where it’s at when it comes to judging the advancement of humanity. That’s all that we humans are good for anyway. So why not waste a few of them to make an example for the rest of the French army? The point is to win the war, right? Would you rather be killed by the club, or be the one swinging it?

In A Clockwork Orange, a psychopath kills in cold blood and gets away with it by pretending to be a victim and then faking rehabilitation. He thinks this is a good thing as well. “I was cured all right,” he tells us. How are Generals Mireau and Broulard any different? They are victims too, you see. Their brilliant plan to storm the Anthill was foiled by a bunch of “sneaking, whining, tail-dragging curs” too cowardly to leave their trenches. Imagine how that will look to the politicians and newspapers editors who so unfairly judge them? So of course they need to waste three innocent men to prevent this from ever happening again. And, like the psychopath in A Clockwork Orange, they get away with it.

In Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick places the US Army and the whole Vietnam War effort on trial. And what do we get? No witnesses for the defense. No evidence for the defense.  And who would want to defend American GI’s anyway? They’re just a bunch whoring bullies who glorify killing and sing happy songs after wasting little girls, right? And the American troops, including our hero in the end, sees this is a good thing. Clearly the North Vietnamese were better. Only they weren’t. And most of the American soldiers were not like how Kubrick portrayed them at all. But that matters as much as the innocence of the three men executed in Paths of Glory. That matters as much as Truth to Kubrick. Which is not.

At least not since Paths of Glory, which is when he last exhibited extensive humanism in his art. Unfortunately for those of us who appreciate the genius of Stanley Kubrick, that is not a good thing. In fact, it is a bitter shame.

Lucifer’s Hammer

LucifersHammer

In the late 1970s, Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, became a bestseller. The novel still generates controversy today.

The plot is something we are all familiar with by now: a comet (known in the story as “The Hammer”) strikes Earth, destroys civilization, and forces the few surviving souls to fight to rebuild it. But it is whom they must fight, how, and especially why, that makes Lucifer’s Hammer such a great—and controversial—story. The comet swiftly drags humanity back to a state of nature where life is “nasty, brutish, and short,” to quote philosopher Thomas Hobbes. People are both elevated to do great things and condemned to cruel and beastly behavior.

One is struck by how familiar all this is. Where much speculative fiction looks forward and anticipates how people are going to change in the future (often based often on the ideological, religious, or self-serving inclinations of the author), Lucifer’s Hammer takes us back. Imagine Charles Martell checking the barbarian horde at the Battle of Tours in 732. Imagine the Donner Party scrounging for survival in the Sierra Nevada in 1846. Imagine the Titanic passengers fighting over the last open seats on the lifeboats. People in Lucifer’s Hammer are desperate and barely hanging on, just like they were in all pre-industrial societies where food was scarce, enemies and wild animals aplenty, and cities out of reach. The moment the carrying capacity of the planet plummets by two orders of magnitude, the educated, civilized people in our story revert to a pre-industrial mindset with astonishing speed. There is no transition period.

That is one thing I love about Lucifer’s Hammer.

LucifersHammer In the late 1970s, Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, became a bestseller. The novel still generates controversy today. The plot is something we are all familiar with by now: a comet (known in the story as “The Hammer”) strikes Earth, destroys civilization, and forces the few surviving souls to fight to rebuild it. But it is whom they must fight, how, and especially why, that makes Lucifer’s Hammer such a great—and controversial—story. The comet swiftly drags humanity back to a state of nature where life is “nasty, brutish, and short,” to quote philosopher Thomas Hobbes. People are both elevated to do great things and condemned to cruel and beastly behavior. One is struck by how familiar all this is. Where much speculative fiction looks forward and anticipates how people are going to change in the future (often based often on the ideological, religious, or self-serving inclinations of the author), Lucifer’s Hammer takes us back. Imagine Charles Martell checking the barbarian horde at the Battle of Tours in 732. Imagine the Donner Party scrounging for survival in the Sierra Nevada in 1846. Imagine the passengers of the Titanic fighting over available lifeboat space. People in Lucifer’s Hammer are desperate and barely hanging on, just like they were in all pre-industrial societies where food was scarce, enemies and wild animals aplenty, and cities out of reach. The moment the carrying capacity of the planet plummets by two orders of magnitude, the educated, civilized people in our story revert to a pre-industrial mindset with astonishing speed. There is no transition period. That is one thing I love about Lucifer’s Hammer. The authors structure the novel into four parts: 1. Pre-Hammerfall (several months) 2. Hammerfall (several hours) 3. Post-Hammerfall (several days) 4. Post-Post-Hammerfall (several weeks) They spread the story across dozens of characters, but concentrate mostly on three: television producer Harvey Randall, amateur astronomer and comet discoverer Timothy Hamner, and Senator Arthur Jellison who is a big booster of the American Space Program. Important minor characters include genius astrophysicist Dan Forrester, militant whitey-hatin’ Black Muslim Alim Nassor, and the four astronauts sent into space to observe the comet. This is a joint American-Soviet effort, and the astronauts get a unique, satellite-eye perspective on the end of the world. It’s a breathtaking view. But before getting to that, let’s first dispense with the novel’s fairly prominent flaws. The language of Lucifer’s’ Hammer, to put it bluntly, resembles that of a screenplay. Its purpose is nearly 100% utilitarian: it gets us from plot point A to plot point B in the literary equivalent of a dusty old 4-wheel-drive pickup. At its best it is mercifully brief. It seems the authors took no joy in its creation. There is certainly no joy in its rendering. The authors also end chapters with italicized passages describing the comet from the perspective of God. Here they take more literary chances, but it amounts to window dressing more than anything else. Then there’s the authors’ annoying habit of beginning each chapter with some obscure quote about the end of the world.

Okay, okay. I get it.
Okay, okay. I get it.
Characters are equally stock and uninteresting. Anyone familiar with mid-century Hollywood war movies and film noir will pretty much not be taken by surprise by the characters in Lucifer’s Hammer. There are some more modern touches (Alim Nassor: see any Blaxploitation flick. Biker Mark Czescu: see Easy Rider). But one can get away with imagining Harvey Randall being a classic Humphrey Bogart performance. Jellison: an older Marlon Brando or perhaps Rod Steiger. Hamner: Tony Curtis all the way. Astronaut Jimmy Baker: Paul Newman or Steve McQueen in space, take your pick. And the women in many ways are worse. Often (or at least until the Hammer hits), they are little more than men with breasts. Of note are Maureen Jellison, the Senator’s beautiful daughter, and Eileen Hancock, an assistant manager at a plumbing supply store. These two are quite masculine in their feminine qualities, and the reader quickly ascertains that, despite the authors’ efforts to develop them, they exist primarily as love interests of the men the authors really care about. Exceptions include Forrester, who is overweight, diabetic, and has a sick, geeky sense of humor. Marie Vance also sparkles. She’s a housewife who demonstrates keen resolve when searching for her lost son while still looking classy in her fashionable slacks.
Yeah. I'm ready for the end of the world. How about you?
Yeah. I’m ready for the end of the world. How about you?
And then there’s Leonilla Malik, Soviet Kosmonaut and medical doctor. She’s the only woman among the astronauts. I never quite figured her out, but the authors presented just enough of her without spilling the beans to make me want to read more whenever she was on the page. Like most genre authors, Niven and Pournelle dispense with the mystery that goes into a great character. And that’s okay. I have always held that science fiction places boring characters in interesting situations. Lucifer’s Hammer—although perhaps not strictly science fiction….It’s more science fact that anything else—comes through like blazes on this count. And what’s more interesting in a historical sense than a comet striking Earth? In such a crisis, who would pay attention to Holden Caulfield’s duel with decadence? So what if Raskolnikov bumped off his landlady because of a Napoleon complex? People are too busy finding food and not becoming food themselves to pay attention to such things. They can’t afford very many moral scruples, you see. As Senator Jellison points out, “every civilization has the morality and ethics it can afford.” Post-Hammerfall, men behave like men, women behave like women, and kids grow up fast. Or else they die. Really, it’s John Wayne heaven but with more comets. you-john-wayne-pilgrim-punch-demotivational-poster-1244186068 Anyone with a scintilla of critical thought can tell from the title and cover art that the comet will hit. (It would be a hell of a maguffin if it didn’t!) We learn of Hamner’s discovery on page two of Chapter One, and soon have a pretty good idea which characters will survive the impact and which ones won’t based on the amount of time the authors dedicate to developing them. But the characters don’t know this, so the authors must develop them as if the comet were not going to hit.
There. See? Comet.
There. See? Comet.
And without that interesting situation in the first part of the novel, all we have are boring characters. Imagine Niven and Pournelle writing in the tradition of Trollope who derives interesting situations from the mundane lives of mundane people who are not about to be struck by non-mundane comets. No thanks. Still, the authors move the plot along well enough in the first part. Especially interesting is Dan Forrester’s likening the comet to a hot fudge sundae (afterwards, the authors keep reminding us that Hammerfall came on a Tuesdae. Cute, right?). Also, when it dawns on folks that the comet most likely will hit, how they scurry to prepare gives us some gripping reading. In many ways, Lucifer’s Hammer is a lot like the film Titanic. Uneven before the critical event but absolutely virtuosic after. With so much action, CGI, survival tech, and well-researched science, there is little time to fret over language and character once the Hammer hits. Basically, we are watching civilization disintegrate, and it’s horrifying. Niven and Pournelle do very well to stay out of the way rather than poetically pontificate like Vlad Nabokov. Just as critically, the authors serve up a seven course meal of science. Want to know what will happen when a comet strikes Earth? Well, you can attend boring classes on geo-physics and meteorology. Or you could read the decidedly less boring Lucifer’s Hammer. From the widespread flooding, to the incessant rain, to the blackened, Krakatoa skies, to the advancing glaciers of the incipient ice age, it’s all there. History too. Did you know that one of the waves triggered by Krakatoa washed a Dutch gunboat on shore at an elevation of 200 feet? I will bet that you did not. KrakatoaKomik After the impact, the main characters race to the Senator’s ranch in the highlands north of Los Angeles. Randall comes with Czescu and Marie Vance, Hamner with Eileen Hancock. The astronauts decide to land in Southern California for the same reason. Forrester comes on foot and alone, carrying enough insulin to keep him alive and a copy of The Way Things Work Volume 2 by C. Van Amerogen. Forrester has an extensive library, you see. He saved it from destruction before he left. One day he will use it to rebuild civilization.
Quick. Buy. While there is still time.
Quick! Buy. While there is still time.
Once they occupy what’s known as the Stronghold, the valley surrounding the Senator’s ranch, they must contend with the Christophers, a family of heavily armed farmers which holds real local power. Burly, intimidating, and ultraconservative, these guys think nothing of the shrewdest, most cynical tactics to keep everyone in the Stronghold alive and everyone else the f***k out. For example, within a day of the impact, they blow up every road and bridge leading to the Stronghold in order to stem the tide of refugees. Anyone who arrives who isn’t a physician, scientist, or engineer they simply aim rifles at and send on their way…whether to death by starvation, drowning, or the bottom of a cannibal’s cooking pot is not their concern. They may not have enough food for themselves to last the winter, let alone for strangers. And everyone outside the Stronghold is a stranger. The Christophers, Second Amendment survivalists that they are, were only semi-civilized to begin with. So, transitioning back to a state of nature is less of a stretch for them than it is for others. Oh, and they’re not very keen on black people. Sure, the few already in the Stronghold can stay, but city blacks, the ones who constantly whine about equality and the like, never. The same goes for hippies. The Christophers will kept that kind out personally if they had to. This is one reason why the Christophers are so popular in the Stronghold. Opposing the Stronghold is the even more racist Alim Nassor, renegade army sergeant-turned-cannibal named Hooker (who is also black), and a radical environmentalist preacher named Armitage who believes God sent the comet to blast humanity back to its pre-industrial state of idyllic innocence. And it is Man’s duty to wipe out any pockets of industry not eradicated by the Hammer. These men lead a well-organized army towards the Stronghold, a thousand-plus and bound together by the shame of their not-entirely-ritualistic cannibalism. Truly, a barbaric group. Sure, the Christophers are harsh and unforgiving, but they work within the confines of the government set up by Jellison and can be reasoned with and even overruled. The same cannot be said about Nassor and his group. These people aim only to destroy and conquer and oppress. Prejudice aside, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind whom to root for. Once swords are drawn, the presence of a still semi-functional nuclear power plant raises the stakes considerably. Hooker and Nassor want to take over the Stronghold, but without the charismatic Armitage they won’t have the manpower. Armitage, crackerjack kook that he is, wants to destroy the power plant, but without Hooker and Nassor, he won’t have the weapons and explosives. So they compromise and go after both. Now, this raises an ethical question among the citizens of the Stronghold (and please note that their barbaric enemies never address ethical questions). Do they save only the Stronghold which is necessary for survival? Or do they risk additional lives and resources by saving the power plant which is not necessary for survival? The Stronghold represents civilization as it is. But the power plant represents civilization as it could be. In an amazing speech towards the end of the novel, Rick Delanty, one of the astronauts and the first black man in space, exhorts the Stronghold citizens to save the power plant. Sure, they could survive in the Stronghold, he tells them. But without the power plant they would survive only as peasants. He reminds them that Mankind is capable of so much more. We’ve controlled the lighting before, he proclaims, and we can do it again. Let’s give our children the lightning! Anyone who loves civilization and all the great things it has accomplished will have to choke back tears when reading that scene. Of course, we don’t know what we have until it is gone. With civilization on the brink as it hasn’t been since before the industrial revolution, people in Lucifer’s Hammer begin to realize that the old systems—the political, military, agricultural, and familial systems which seem so cruel and unfair today—existed back then for a reason. And that reason was survival. For example, Gordon Vance, Randall’s middle-aged neighbor, leads a group of boy scouts into the mountains on the day of Hammerfall. Shortly after, they meet up with a troop of girl scouts. Shortly after that, one of these girl scouts becomes Vance’s new wife. It ain’t statutory rape if there ain’t no government to call it that. Plus, he’s keeping over twenty kids alive during the apocalypse. That counts for something, doesn’t it? Another thing people discover: feminism dies nanoseconds after impact, and no one seems to miss it. Without men to do the heavy lifting and to call upon all their farming, engineering, and military expertise, the women—and everyone else—would die, plain as that. Sure women do what they can. Eileen Hancock is a talented driver and administrator. Marie Vance is good shot with a rifle. And then there’s Leonilla Malik, MD. But along with the terrifying risk men take as soldiers and the backbreaking work they must perform (cracking boulders into pieces and transporting them long distances, for example), comes their aggression and need for dominance. No one denies that this need exists and no one challenges it. It’s as real as the rain. The decision makers in the story are all men, except for Maureen Jellison who attains influence through her beauty and the fact she’s the Senator’s daughter—that is, through her feminine qualities. Irony of Ironies. I’m reminded of the Wife of Bath story from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. What do women want? Sovereignty over the husbands. And when they can’t get it, they love their husbands all the more. But that sure doesn’t stop them from trying. Note, it is not political power women seek. Instead, it is the ancient familial power women wield as wives and mothers that is their Holy Grail. And in the story didn’t one of King Arthur’s knights rape a girl and then pretty much get off Scott free? In fact, he gets rewarded with the love of a beautiful maiden in the end. It seems people in King Arthur’s day (and Chaucer’s) valued able-bodied knights more than mouthy broads who marry primarily for the sex. Another sacred cow that goes down is that of slavery. In our modern, or postmodern, age, we are all taught that slavery is a great evil, a repugnant institution, and so on. And is it really all that? Sure. But what do you do when 41 cannibals surrender after trying to kill you in an unprovoked attack organized by a force hell bent on death, destruction, and, coincidentally, more slavery? It’s been four weeks since Hammerfall. That’s four straight weeks of rain and floods. It’s what? July? Early August? Crops are ruined. Food is scarce. Livestock is dying. Disease is rampant. And it’s getting awful cold. Winter might come in October this year. You can actually see the snow advancing down the mountains, snow that won’t

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melt for centuries thanks to the darkened skies. You can almost feel the glaciers creeping south to crush everything you’ve built. So what do you do? Setting them free is out of the question since they will only rejoin the cannibals. Killing them all is even more repugnant than slavery. What’s left? Imprisonment? Rehabilitation? Who has the resources for that? And what about the families of the men they’ve slain? Are they not allowed justice? So the Stronghold leaders take a real close look at the only other option available: slavery. The protagonist in Lucifer’s Hammer, more than any single person, is civilization. Western Civilization, to be precise. It is a good thing. What makes Niven’s and Pournelle’s story so special however is the way in which it identifies the enemies of western civilization. These enemies spring from very recognizable elements of modern society, namely religious kooks, radical environmentalists, and thuggish Afro-centrists who shake down whitey in the name of racial justice but who are really only lining their own pockets and consolidating their power. Doesn’t this all sound familiar? The authors even liken the rapid rise of the cannibals to that of 7th century Islam. Talk about controversy. Talk about balls. The final battle between pro-civilization and anti-civilization forces reminds me of the Romans after being defeated by the Carthaginians at Cannae as described by Victor Davis Hansen in his inestimable book Carnage and Culture. You’d think Rome was done after Cannae, right? They lost 50,000 to 70,000 legionnaires in a single afternoon; Hannibal, military genius that he was, was on a bloody rampage throughout the Italian peninsula; and his army consisted of a “who’s who of the old tribal enemies of Rome.” But instead of surrendering or joining their enemies, Roman citizens opted to fight on. Why? Because they had more to fight for. Carthage could only offer its soldiers money and the promise of plunder and revenge. Rome, on the other hand, offered citizenship in a republic of laws and the right to govern one’s own affairs. Most importantly, Rome offered the promise a great future that only a great civilization can provide. It is precisely this future that Niven and Pournelle have in mind when the citizens of the Stronghold opt to save the power plant and give their children the lightning again.

Forbidden Music

FM

From the title, you’d think that a book called Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis would begin just before the rise of Hitler, but author Michael Haas takes us back much further than that. He begins in 1814 as Europe was reorganizing after the Napoleonic Wars and really gets going after the emancipation of Jews in Austria and Germany in 1867 and 1871. By giving us what is essentially the history of anti-Semitism in German classical music, Haas shows us how closely intertwined musical and political history really are.

FM

From the title, you’d think that a book called Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis would begin just before the rise of Hitler, but author Michael Haas takes us back much further than that. He begins in 1814 as Europe was reorganizing after the Napoleonic Wars and really gets going after the emancipation of Jews in Austria and Germany in 1867 and 1871. By giving us what is essentially the history of anti-Semitism in German classical music, Haas shows us how closely intertwined musical and political history really are.

Of course, Richard Wagner plays the heavy early on. The opera giant’s anti-Semitism is well known, and Haas describes Wagner’s impact not only on Jewish composers of his day, like Giacomo Meyerbeer and Ignaz Moscheles, but also on those of the 20th century.

Offsetting this was Johannes Brahms, who embraced emancipation and did what he could for rising Jewish star Gustav Mahler. No composer epitomized the fully assimilated Jewish composer more than Gustav Mahler. It was from his shadow that many young Jewish composers spent their careers escaping. These were Erich Korngold, Alexander Zemlinksy, Hans Gal, Ernst Toch, and many, many others. Indeed, the extent to which Jews dominated German music in the early 20th century is astounding…not just with composers, conductors and musicians, but with publishers, impressarios, and librettists too. They dominated the music-savvy public as well.

Contrary to stereotypes, these men were no followers of Arnold Schoenberg. They were modern yet tonal, and were keen not to indulge in the heady excesses of Romanticism. At the same time they struggled to remain sufficiently “German” and contribute to a cultural heritage they felt was theirs as much as anyone’s. Some of them were also immensely popular.

Of course, the Nazis took a cudgel to all this. It was brutal and swift. We all know what happened. Only, we don’t. Haas walks us through the messy and untold aftermath of the Holocaust and the war from a musical perspective…the desperate escapes, the grinding refugee life, the depression and the sorrow. He tells of the Theresienstadt Ghetto, the “model” concentration camp which held geniuses like Viktor Ullman and Gideon Klein before they were killed. He tells of brilliant musical minds churning out schmaltzy Hollywood scores for steady pay. He tells of great careers ruined by indifference abroad or by a postwar Europe that had no interest in reliving the past.

Not all of it was tragic. Remarkably, the composer Walter Braunfels managed somehow to avoid all of this. In 1937 he moved to a town near Switzerland called Uberlingen and stayed there completely unharmed throughout the war. He made his living as a school teacher and composed several major works there. Haas relates a quote from Braunfels explaining why he never emigrated. It is particularly telling:

…I was a stone in the dam that was keeping evil from flooding everything; but also I realized that should I decide to leave my homeland, I would be ripping out the most important roots to my own creativity.
Walter Braunfels: Yeah, I was pretty lucky.
Walter Braunfels: Yeah, I was pretty lucky.

One of these composers I have found particularly moving is Ernst Toch. I’m not one for string quartets, usually. But I found a CD of his String Quartets 12 and 15 at the incomparable Encore Records in Ann Arbor, MI. They were stirring and heart wrenching and reminded me so much of the ending of Shostakovitch’s 5th Symphony, which I love. I wish any description I could give would do them justice.

Ernst Toch: Smoking cigarettes before they were cool.
Ernst Toch: Smoking cigarettes before they were cool.
(As an aside, I love how the sense of discovery of classical music never goes away. You can study and enjoy the music for years and always have something new to discover. It’s wonderful.)

But if these composers are so brilliant, why are they virtually forgotten today? Haas offers a blunt and chilling response: because most of their public had been murdered. This is a hideous wrong he tries to set right with the excellent book Forbidden Music.

Nakamura’s Miracle

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the highest rated chess tournament in history. It was the Sinquefield Cup, held in St. Louis, MO from August 27 to September 6, 2014. It featured 6 of the top 10 players in the world, including the 23 year-old world champion Magnus Carlsen. Half of the field had ratings over 2800, and, indeed, the average rating of the players was just over 2801. To give some perspective, Garry Kasparov, widely considered the greatest chess player ever, had a peak rating of 2851. That is an astounding 21 points higher than anyone else until Magnus Carlsen. Only 3 active players in the world today have ratings over 2800, and all of them were in St. Louis for the Sinquefield Cup.

And one of these players was having the tournament of his life.

Fabiano Caruana, the world's number 2 chess player as of October 2014

Fabiano Caruana, an Italian player who is now the world’s number 2, was crushing everyone in the tournament. Things like this just don’t happen very often at the highest levels of chess. As chess fans are well aware, draws are the most likely outcome between players who may step out of book after as many as 20 or 25 moves (and yes, that is a lot of moves). In St. Louis, Caruana won his first seven games.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the highest rated chess tournament in history. It was the Sinquefield Cup, held in St. Louis, MO from August 27 to September 6, 2014.

It featured 6 of the top 10 players in the world, including the 23 year-old world champion Magnus Carlsen. Half of the field had ratings over 2800, and, indeed, the average rating of the players was just over 2801. To give some perspective, Garry Kasparov, widely considered the greatest chess player ever, had a peak rating of 2851. That is an astounding 21 points higher than anyone else until Magnus Carlsen. Only 3 active players in the world today have ratings over 2800, and all of them were in St. Louis for the Sinquefield Cup. And one of these players was having the tournament of his life. Fabiano Caruana, the world's number 2 chess player as of October 2014 Fabiano Caruana, an Italian player who is now the world’s number 2, was crushing everyone in the tournament. Things like this just don’t happen very often at the highest levels of chess. As chess fans are well aware, draws are the most likely outcome between players who may step out of book after as many as 20 or 25 moves (and yes, that is a lot of moves). In St. Louis, Caruana won his first seven games. Seven games in a row against elite competition is such a rare accomplishment that you have to go back to Bobby Fischer to find a comparison. In 1971, Fischer won 13 games in a row leading up to the final candidates match to determine who would challenge for the world championship. His victims included top 20 grandmaster Mark Taimanov, top 10 grandmaster Bent Larsen, and former world champion Tigran Petrosian who was then number 3 in the world. From 1970 to 1972 Fischer won 39, drew 21, and lost only 5, all against the best in the world (and that includes game 2 of the world championship match, which Fischer forfeited). Unheard of. Simply unheard of.

Yeah, I never heard of it.
Yeah, I never heard of it.
Is Fabiano Caruana on such a similar hot streak? Who knows? Caruana is currently playing (and winning) at the European Chess Club Cup, but the competition there is not as consistently high. I can say with confidence that Fabiano Caruana’s 8.5/10 score is one of the greatest, if not the greatest tournament victory of all time. You’d have to go to former world champion Anatoly Karpov’s 11/13 performance at the Linares tournament in 1994 to find a comparison. But this post is not about Fabiano Caruana. It’s about the US champion Hikaru Nakamura who was basically having a crap tournament in St. Louis.
Hikaru Nakamura, the top rated player in the United States, October 2014
Hikaru Nakamura, the top rated player in the United States, October 2014
Languishing in last place, Nakamura had 4 draws and 4 losses going into the 9th round in which he was to meet Caruana. Caruana had just had his win streak snapped by Carlsen in the previous round with a draw. But it was a game Caruana probably should have won. So if there ever was a time when you’d expect a one-siding drubbing, this was it. I know from experience how losses can wear on your self-confidence. The anger, the disgust, the contempt…all aimed at yourself for this blunder or that miscalculation. When your head is swirling with putrid emotions, you really cannot play chess well, and getting clobbered over and over is just the thing to do that to you. Remember, chess can break your heart. Well, a one-sided drubbing it turned out to be. [Those unfamiliar with chess algebraic notation should reference this chessboard. Every square has a lower case letter and a number. Note the e4 square in the middle. Pieces are denoted by upper case letters: K=King, Q=Queen, N=Knight, B=Bishop, R=Rook. Pawns are not denoted by letters at all, just the squares to which they move.] algebraicNotation Here’s the game after move 28 for white (Caruana).
28. Kh3 ... Black to move
28. Kh3 … Black to move
According to Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian’s analysis from Chessbase.com, the position by move 28 is fairly even. But then Nakamura as black begins to find some inaccurate moves. First he plays 28…Rg6, followed by 29. c4 Ne7.
29... Ne7 (Yellow arrow). White is now threatening check along the white arrow.
29… Ne7 (Yellow arrow). White is now threatening check with his rook along the white arrow.
This last move basically allows a check on the back rank. This couldn’t have happened before since the king could have moved to e7 to threaten White’s rook and start blockading White’s passed pawn on e5. But now with his own knight occupying that square, Black has fewer options. Anyway, from that point on Caruana tortured Nakamura. He simply pressured his American opponent by advancing his pawns and his king, and by giving Black less and less breathing room with every move. At one point, Black had to sacrifice a pawn for nothing just to stave off imminent defeat. It got so bad that the commentators for the Sinquefield Cup were predicting Nakamura’s resignation. The computers were giving White an advantage of something like 4 points, which is crushing. No grandmaster should blow such a commanding lead. Indeed, by move 40, White had a forced win. It would involve a counter-intuitive yet elegant sacrifice that most amateurs would never see, let alone consider. Yet for chess grandmasters, finding such moves is their bread and butter. It’s elementary, actually. Here, see if you can find it.
40... Kg7 White to move and crush.
40… Kg7 White to move and crush.
No, I didn’t find it either. White captures the knight with his rook on g6, and then loses his rook when Black recaptures. This is called going down the exchange since a knight is less valuable than a rook, especially in an endgame. So why would White deliberately lose material like this? Well, because he can now march his pawn down the e file to the back rank where it can be promoted to a queen, and there is nothing short of sacrificing his own rook that Black can do to stop it. See for yourself. [pgn height=365 autoplayMode=none] [FEN “8/ppp3k1/r5nR/2p1PKP1/2P4B/8/P1P5/8 w – – 0 40”] 40. Rxg6+ Rxg6 41. e6 Kh7 {The king getting out of the rook’s way to let it defend. Going to the f file to blockade the pawn loses the rook} (41… Kf8 42. Kxg6) 42. e7 Rg8 43. Kf6 Rg6+ 44. Kf7 Rg7+ 45. Ke6 Rg8 46. Kd7 Rg7 47. Kd8 Rg8+ 48. e8Q Rxe8+ 49. Kxe8 {And Black is down a whole piece and completely busted.} [/pgn] At this point, Nakamura could have resigned. No one would have blamed him for it. His position was in shambles…again. Also, considering that he was playing a streaking wunderkind in the middle of a once-in-a-century rampage through the cream of the chess world, yeah…maybe he could have lived to fight another day. I’m sure by move 40 Nakamura was longing for the comforts of home. I’m sure whatever angst he was feeling about his impending defeat was nothing that some Ibuprofen, a tall glass of his favorite beverage, and a watching few Netflix reruns of Breaking Bad on a nice, comfy couch couldn’t cure. I mean, what’s one more loss after you’ve already been handed the big

goose egg 4 times in the same tournament? You get used to losing, really, and then after that it’s not so bad. And the guy who comes in last place still pockets $20,000. So there’s that. losingdemotivator But you see, Hikaru Nakamura didn’t resign. Wunderkind or no, if you’re gonna beat me, I am going to make you work for it every inch of the way. He must have been thinking something like this because he never once stopped fighting. Despite his previous sub-par performances, he never lost faith in himself. He never crumbled under the pressure. And sure enough, Fabiano Caruana missed his elementary win. Short on time, he played bishop to f2 instead, attacking Nakamura’s c pawn but at the same time taking his foot off the gas along the kingside. This allowed Black the time and space to mount sufficient defense to White’s attack. Black started with a check with the knight on e7, and then began threatening white’s pawns on the queenside with his rook.

40... Ne7+ 41. Ke4 Ra4 (Attacking 2 white pawns and pinning one of them to the white king.
40… Ne7+ 41. Ke4 Ra4 (Attacking both pawns and pinning one of them to the white king.
Despite White’s brutal onslaught on the king’s side (a rook, 2 pawns, and his king vs. Black’s undefended king), Nakamura was able to gobble up two pawns, exchange his knight for the bishop, and produce a passed pawn of his own along the d file. Most importantly, he was able to get his rook behind White’s king. From such a position, he could harass it at will.
50. Rd7 Rf3+
50. Rd7 Rf3+
From this point on, it was Nakamura’s game to lose. With constant pressure on the white king, if Caruana made the wrong move, Nakamura could actually win. He gave a check on the f file, and the white king moved out of the way along the g file. Note that Caruana had no other choice. Had he moved his king to the e file, it would have been trapped there. Black’s rook controls the f file, and moving the white king the d file would block his own rook and allow Black to eventually queen his pawn. And without king and rook for support, White’s pawn attack stalls. Meanwhile on the queenside, Nakamura’s 3-to-1 pawn advantage looks mighty menacing indeed. Not about to let the king out of his sites, Nakamura followed him to the g file and checked him there. Of course, White’s king had to return to his previous square on the f file. This happened again and again, and a draw was declared after the position repeated itself 3 times. They say that everyone loves a winner. But that’s not entirely true when it comes to chess. In chess everyone loves a fighter. Someone who never stops fighting for the win will always endear himself to the fans. Bobby Fischer once complained about many top players don’t try their best. They play for draws in order to protect their reputations rather than taking risks and playing for the win. “I play honestly and I play to win,” said Bobby. And people loved him for it. Some still do. In round 9 of the Sinquefield Cup, the greatest American player since Bobby Fischer never once stopped fighting for the win. And his near Phoenix-like resurrection from the brink was remarkable to behold. It really does serve as an inspiration for all of us. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings…over your grave. Until then, you fight for the win.

Obama vs Bush: Spending and the National Debt

A Facebook friend of mine proposed that I read this Doug Short article and reassess my disapproval of President Obama’s being on track to doubling our national debt. I believe my friend’s argument was twofold: that Obama inherited Bush’s policies and that he had wars to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. So these are the reasons why Obama had no choice but to let the national debt skyrocket.

Ehhh.

Here is why these arguments don’t hold up. Firstly, in 2009 federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Ah, but this was Bush’s fault, wasn’t it? As my friend pointed out in a recent FB post, “Every debt increase is essentially time-shifted as each president inherits the policies of the previous administration”.

Well, not so fast.

A Facebook friend of mine proposed that I read this Doug Short article and reassess my disapproval of President Obama’s being on track to doubling our national debt. I believe my friend’s argument was twofold: that Obama inherited Bush’s policies and that he had wars to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. So these are the reasons why Obama had no choice but to let the national debt skyrocket.

Ehhh.

Here is why these arguments don’t hold up. Firstly, in 2009 federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Ah, but this was Bush’s fault, wasn’t it? As my friend pointed out in a recent FB post, “Every debt increase is essentially time-shifted as each president inherits the policies of the previous administration”.

Well, not so fast.

As Peter Ferrara writes in Forbes:

But for fiscal year 2009, President Bush in February, 2008 proposed a budget with just a 3% spending increase over the prior year. Fiscal year 2009 ran from October 1, 2008 until September 30, 2009. President Obama’s term began on January 20, 2009.

Recall, however, that in 2008 Congress was controlled by Democrat majorities, with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and the restless Senator Obama already running for President, just four years removed from his glorious career as a state Senator in the Illinois legislature. As Hans Bader reported on May 26 for the Washington Examiner, the budget approved and implemented by Pelosi, Obama and the rest of the Congressional Democrat majorities provided for a 17.9 percent increase in spending for fiscal 2009!

I know this might come to a surprise to some Obama supporters who believe that Obama has slowed the rate of federal spending. And it would be true if you exclude 2009 altogether. That’s what Rex Nutting argues. He pulls this sleight of hand by claiming that since 2009 was the last year of Bush’s presidency, you can’t blame Obama for that 17.9% increase. Really? According to Nutting, Obama has outspent the 2008 version of Bush by about a half trillion per year since he has been in office. Try to spin that one.

Second, there is the stimulus. $787 billion. And for what? Remember the famous graph that exposed Obama’s unemployment rate projections as completely wrong?

UEgraph

It predicted that by the summer of 2009, the stimulus would cause unemployment to decrease steadily from its peak at 8%. Further, without the stimulus Obama predicted that the unemployment rate would peak at 9% by the start of 2010 and then steadily decline. What the stimulus gave us instead was a unemployment peak at 10% in the fall of 2009 and a very rocky road after that in which it continues to be just below 8%. Obama’s projected goal for this was supposed to be 5%. You think that $787 billion was well spent? With all the waste, and fraud, and foolish speculative investments?

Finally, there is Obamacare. Clearly, we are going to be increasing federal spending for this. ask siri . Charles Blahous of George Mason University predicts that Obamacare will add as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing spending by more than $1.15 trillion. And this expectation is repeated by the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the CBO. Are they all wrong?

So, if Obama were concerned about reducing the national debt, he could have done so and kept up the good fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has outspent the 2008 George Bush by about 2.5 trillion in total. He blew close to a trillion with the stimulus. And plans on blowing a whole lot more with Obamacare. The money is there. It’s just that Obama would rather spend it on failed and foolish initiatives than getting us out of hock.

As a side note, I thought the Short article was sneaky in that it showed our real national debt on a logarithmic scale. That way the increase in debt from the 1980s seems nice and gradual, which it most certainly wasn’t. Follow the red arrows below to see what I mean.

federal-debt-tax-brackets2

Further, I don’t see anything in it that indicates that Obama’s “time-shift” away from the Bush administration should last 5 years. Obama has had 5 years to reduce debt and has done just the opposite. Remember also that we have not been in Iraq since 2011. That’s 2 years of savings that could have gone to the debt but didn’t. Finally, Short tries to make Reagan look bad showing a very marked increase in national-debt-as-percentage-of-GDP during Reagan’s tenure. Yeah, well, Reagan had something to show for that: low unemployment rates and the fall of the Soviet Union, one of the most murderous and oppressive regimes in history. What does Obama have to show for all his debt, except, of course, for more debt?