Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Critique of "Falklands Oil Revenue Must Help Develop Argentina"

I have been attempting to follow the rhetoric thrown around about the future of the Falkland Islands for the past 6 months. What I've generally seen are (1) statements from the Falkland Islanders stating that they want to determine their destiny, (2) statements from the British government that the Falklands are entitled to determine their destiny, (3) threats and coercion from Argentina and other Latin countries, and (4) statements from liberals that the Falklands should be handed over to Argentina (with the implication that it matters not one whit what the Islanders want)--i.e., the standard liberal hypocrisy.

This op-ed, which I somehow missed when it was published on April 30, falls into the fourth category. Its author, Jonathan Glennie writes
The Falklands question became a development issue in 1998 when oil was discovered. Until then it had little relevance to the material wellbeing of poor people in developing countries. The Argentinian government did not invade the Falklands in 1982 for any economic reason (the main economic motor of the islands at the time was sheep products) but for internal political reasons; to provoke nationalist fervour to shore up a tottering dictatorship.

The outcome of the invasion has always piqued Argentina, but the discovery of oil has added fuel to the fire.

Brazil's former president Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva called the oil reserves found in Brazilian seas in the past decade a "gift from God" – that is pretty much how most Argentinians would like to think of the oil around the Falklands.

With an estimated 60bn barrels of oil to be found around the islands, and the oil price hovering around $100 per barrel, you can do the maths. If Argentina was able to take 25% of any oil sales, it could add up to $1.5 trillion to its coffers over the next few years.

There are two reasons why it is important from a development perspective for Argentina to benefit from this money. First, poverty reduction. Although Argentina is by no means one of the world's poorest countries, and has fairly good human development statistics, its GDP per capita ($9,000) is still only a quarter of the UK's. And it has some worrying social statistics: 13% of Argentinian children (aged 7-14) are economically active, according to the latest figures (for 2004), while 8% are malnourished. Moreover, the multiplier effect of Argentina's wealth would mean benefits for its regional neighbours as well, most of which are poorer.

The case is even clearer if we substitute a much poorer country, such as Haiti, Sierra Leone or Cambodia, for Argentina. It is hard to imagine anyone arguing that oil fields that might have fallen in the marine jurisdiction of these countries should come under a rich country's colonial jurisdiction in similar circumstances. It would be considered grotesque. The difference between this hypothetical situation and the actual one is of scale, not principle. Argentina and its neighbours still require development support.

Second, anti-colonialism. Development is not just about money; it is also about shaking off the past and engaging in new and equal relations between countries. Speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, in mid-April, the Argentinian foreign minister, Hector Timerman, said: "colonial aggression against one country is colonial aggression against all" and asked for solidarity with "the Argentinian decision to negotiate the return of the islands with the UK". All the 30 or so presidents at the hemispheric conference favour the Argentinian position, except the US and Canada.

The reason the Malvinas issue is felt so keenly across Latin America is that it is a reminder of Britain's history of economic imperialism in the region. The role Britain played in extracting resources and wealth from Latin America over the past two centuries, with little benefit to the local population, is well known, even if it is the Spanish who are most associated with colonialism. As Timerman puts it: "We have 21st-century challenges, and Argentina is still fighting against a 19th-century power." Of course, British people have next to no knowledge of this, just as they know little of their imperial history in general.
There are a few problems with this typical Liberal plan to assuage "white guilt." First, the author essentially argues that by turning the Islands over to the Argentina it will help eliminate poverty in Argentina. However, he never explains how.

Frankly, this reminds me of an early episode of South Park where the characters discover "underpants gnomes" with a three-part business plan: (1) steal underpants, (2) ?, (3) profit. The  gnomes had no idea of the intermediary step between collecting the underpants and realizing a profit.

So too with this plan, which can be summarized as: (1) give the Falklands to Argentina, (2) ?, (3) relieve poverty. Does Mr. Glennie think that money will magically flow into the pockets of the poor Argentineans?

Even if the Islands were handed over to the Argentineans, would they be able to develop the oil resources? Probably not. They would have to bring in outside help to develop it. Of course, building and operating oil rigs requires special industry and people with special skills. So, probably no jobs for the Argentineans there. The oil rigs will probably be built in South Korea or China or some other industrialized nation, towed to their location, and use labor from the U.S. or Europe to run the whole thing.

How about shipping the oil and processing the oil? Well, oil isn't pumped and then run through a bunch of countries so they can tack an excise tax onto it. Rather, in the real world, of which Liberals have so little experience, it has to be shipped to a refinery via the least expensive method and route, to be turned into various petroleum products, which are in turn distributed to the relevant markets. I don't pretend to know who the customers would be, but the odds are the oil would be loaded onto tankers headed to Europe or China.

Well, what about the money collected by the Argentinean government? I don't know the corruption index for Argentina, but assuming that it is like the U.S. (and every other industrialized country out there), the money will not be used to provide jobs but to benefit political cronies (Solyndra, anyone?) and otherwise be wasted in an inefficient bureaucracy. In other words, the money will benefit the politically connected. In a worse case scenario, the money will simply be skimmed off the top and into Swiss bank accounts.

Now for the "white guilt" portion of Mr. Glennie essay. "Anti-colonialism" is a red-herring. The Islands were never inhabited prior to the British settling there. No people were exploited when the Islands became a coaling station for ships and a place to raise sheep. Where the colonialism comes in is with people like Mr. Glennie that believe that the wishes of the Islanders--the natives--mean nothing, but the Islands and their inhabitants are only pawns for some greater Geo-political purpose. So, in the end, Mr. Glennie reveals the true face of liberalism/socialism: tyranny with a smiley face.

Friday, June 29, 2012

DOJ Refuses to Prosecute Contempt Charges Against Holder...

... before they even receive the request.
The Department of Justice, following longstanding practice by prior administrations, is declining to prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for being in contempt of Congress, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Thursday in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

* * *

In response, Republicans noted that they had not yet transmitted the contempt proceeding to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, whom federal law accords the authority to determine whether to prosecute.
Yet another example of how powerless Congress had let itself become.

Is Taxing Authority the New Elastic Clause?

The Commerce Clause has long been referred to as the "elastic clause" because Congress and the Courts have stretched it to cover about anything the government wants to do. Yesterday's decision from the Supreme Court on ObamaCare continues a recent trend of placing some restrictions on the Commerce Clause, and held that Congress cannot regulate economic non-activity (i.e., the government can't force you to engage in commerce). However, the Court then decided that although the government can't force you to engage in commerce, it can coerce you to do so through its taxing authority.

I noted yesterday the dangerous precedent that this sets.  Amidst the overall praise for Justice Robert's opinion, there are a couple dissenting voices that have concerns similar to mine. Joe Kristan writes:
Maybe the most depressing aspect of the decision is the way it seems to endorse using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Things that Congress can’t enact any other way are now possible if they can somehow be crammed into the tax law. The tax code is already groaning under its load of responsibilities for industrial policy, health policy, welfare policy and housing policy, for starters. The IRS Commissioner is now sort of a super cabinet member with a portfolio that dwarfs most of the “real” cabinet departments. Of course, the IRS is ill-suited to this role, resulting in poor policy administration and poor tax administration. Thanks, Justice Roberts!
(Emphasis in original; h/t Instapundit).

And from the Tax Prof Blog:
The idea has gained currency that the Taxing Clause in the Constitution gives Congress the power to do anything, or almost anything, that would be funded by taxation. Most recently, that argument has been advanced in connection with the litigation about the individual mandate in the Obamacare legislation — by, among others, legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin. If the penalty for failure to acquire suitable insurance will be a tax, then, it is argued, the requirement to acquire insurance, the mandate, will itself be a valid exercise of the taxing power. If that’s right, it certainly isn’t obviously so. Since almost everything the national government does is funded through taxation, that understanding would lead to a conception of congressional power that is effectively unlimited, and the Taxing Clause would trump almost all other grants of congressional power in Article I, section 8.
(Italics added; h/t Instapundit).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ObamaCare Decision -- The Good and the Bad

As you all doubt know by now, the Supreme Court has upheld all relevant portions of ObamaCare, including the individual mandate. (Text of the opinion here).

Frankly, there are pluses and minuses to a universal health insurance system, and obvious trade offs--you can't have your cake and eat it too. And a universal health insurance system might have been palatable. However, ObamaCare didn't create a universal health insurance system. It is a complicated patchwork of provisions drafted by and for the benefit of certain powerful Democratic constituents, including hospitals, doctors, unions, drug manufacturers, and the super wealthy. However, the point of this is not to address the structural flaws, but the opinion on the Constitutionality of the decision.

First, the good news: Obama loses on two points. (1) By upholding the ObamaCare, Obama has lost one of his biggest rallying cries for the November elections, which would have been the need to replace ObamaCare and replace a "conservative" court. With an immediate threat to ObamaCare out of the way, Obama will see some of his base lose their zeal. (2) Also, by its decisions that ObamaCare is a tax, although Obama swore up one side and down another it was NOT a tax, it has created a powerful argument for Romney--it is a huge tax on the middle-class, and Obama lied about that to get it passed.

Now the bad news: While the case appears to be a victory for limitations on government power under the commerce clause, holding that the government cannot regulate "non-activity," that victory is illusory. Once again, the Supreme Court has held that the government can regulate conduct through its taxing power of what would otherwise be impermissible under the Constitution. In this case, the Court held that the government could not force a person to purchase insurance, but it could tax him (i.e., punish him) if he did not, which amounts to same thing. Where will this go? Will we see people getting taxed if they do not allow the government to conduct random searches of their homes and and persons? We do not have to allow the government to quarter troops in our homes, but they can tax us if we do not? The Supreme Court was supposed to reign in excesses by the legislative and executive branches, not be a whip to hurry them on into the very excesses the Constitution was designed to prevent. In this case, the Court has failed miserably.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Global Warming is the Cause of Everything Bad

Daren Jonescu writes at the American Thinker about how global warming is now cited for almost everything that is bad or may be bad, without any effort to support or supply an argument for causation. Some highlights:
So why mention global warming in this context [causing the spread of Lyme disease] at all? Because the first rule of all modern discourse related to weather, disease, happiness, poverty, famine, wildlife, or almost anything else is that tribute must be paid to the god Climate Change Theory. One cannot discuss the spread of disease without mentioning climate change. So the article mentions it. No further reason is required. It is simply a matter of faith, of public policy, and of good breeding to acknowledge climate change as a preface to any observation about anything.

(If you think this seems overstated, I recommend this 2007 American Thinker blog post, listing over six hundred nasty effects that have been attributed to global warming. One suspects that if you mentioned that number to one of our sustainability experts these days, he'd earnestly tell you that the list is far too conservative.)

One senses that journalists, scientists, and laymen are afraid to talk about any subject that might be explained by climate change without mentioning climate change, lest they be seen as climate infidels -- i.e., as people who do not accept the centrality of climate change to all modern events. This leaves the rest of us reticent to utter casual niceties such as, "Boy, it's hot this week," for fear of getting some stupid response about global warming.

A few years ago, I was teaching a book of science readings to a very advanced group of Korean middle school students. One chapter of the book, regrettably, was on global warming. (This book was published before evidence of non-warming necessitated the "climate change" makeover.) I began the discussion by asking the students whether they had noticed any significant warming during their lifetimes. Dutifully regurgitating their public-school propaganda, they all promptly acknowledged that the summers were much hotter, and the winters shorter, than when they were young. (The oldest student in the room was fifteen.)

Once I had confirmed everyone's agreement on this, I proceeded to explain that according to the advocates of global warming theory, the global mean temperature has risen by approximately three-quarters of one degree Celsius over the past century. Then I asked them again whether they could feel the difference. They grinned bemusedly, and looked sheepishly at their desks.

And this utter falsification of one's own perception and memory, drilled into the heads of our children as the new catechism, is equally pervasive among adults. Who hasn't had to listen to someone drone on about how much hotter it is these days, or how much more violent the weather is these days, or how much less/more snow we're having in recent years, etc.? The advocates of global warming in the scientific, political, and educational communities have gone to great lengths to foster these data-defying assumptions of extreme change, and they do nothing to counter the absurdity of the resulting statements. And yet if the warming advocates' own numbers are correct, these statements, and the assumptions underlying them, are completely ridiculous.

Can you think of another scientific theory whose defenders promulgate urban myth folly and irrationality as a way of persuading the general population of the theory's truth? Ought not science to be in the business of divesting the public of urban myths and other silly ideas, rather than fostering them as a means to its own end? After all, what is the end of science, if not to discourage irrational beliefs?

DEA Playing Election Year Politics? (Updated)

You may find this interesting. You may remember last week that Mexican authorities had announced the arrest of the son of "El Chapo," the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Then it turned out that the detainee, Felix Beltran, wasn't the son, and the Mexican government blamed the American DEA for giving them false information.

Now, the detainees (Felix and his brother, Kevin Beltran) claim that the DEA tried to convince the two to admit that they were related to El Chapo until the election, after which they would be freed. From Borderland Beat:
Inside the offices of Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO) Personnel of the Drug Enforcement Administration Agency (DEA) offered the brothers Felix and Kevin Beltran, to accept the role of a relationship with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman Loera, leader of Sinaloa Cartel, and they would set them free after the elections, according to the lawyer Juan Heriberto Rangel Mendez, defense counselor of the two young men arrested by Marine/Army Secretariat (SEMAR) last Thursday in Zapopan, Jalisco.

The litigant said “the offering happened during Thursday night before the detainees gave their ministerial declaration. DEA approached them when we were not there to defend them.”

“First, they tell Felix to accept being son of El Chapo and that his situation could be resolved after the elections. They wanted him to sign the statements given by SIEDO. Then he told them that he was not going to sign anything, and fortunately he didn’t.”
“The DEA insisted: ‘Accept this, sign your statement and the we make the clarification that you are not the son’; then after he convinced them that he was not going to do it, they told him ‘we want you to blame the people that we tell you to and you are free right now”, but he didn’t agreed either, so says the attorney.

“Obviously, they couldn’t convinced him of anything, and Felix refers that another DEA agent appeared, a bald one, and asked him to turn around and to take his shirt off and then the agent added: ‘no he’s not it, Gordo, has a scare”. (Chapo’s son bears a scar)

How did you know it was a DEA agent?
Because they said that both agents were blonde, tall and they spoke English. Felix said that the words in Spanish were mispronounced and when Felix didn’t agreed they spoke between them in English.
I would note that the DEA is part of the Department of Justice, and therefore under Holder's authority. The DOJ sure has the appearance of being corrupt top to bottom.

Update: After re-reading this, I can't tell if they are discussing the U.S. election or an election in Mexico, so I decided to temper my comments. Nevertheless, even if it is the latter, why is the DEA involved in tampering in foreign elections?

Turkey Toughens Its Response to Syria

Turkey has toughened its response to Syria's downing of a Turkish military jet last week, saying it will ask fellow NATO members to consider the incident a Syrian attack on the whole alliance.

NATO envoys are due to meet Tuesday at Turkey's request, to discuss a reaction to the attack on the Turkish reconnaissance aircraft near the Syrian-Turkish maritime border. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc Monday said Ankara called the meeting under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one alliance member shall be considered an attack against all members.

NATO previously said Turkey requested the meeting by invoking Article 4 of the treaty that allows one member to hold consultations with others if it feels its security has been threatened.

Speaking after a Turkish Cabinet meeting, Arinc said Ankara has the right to retaliate under international law for what he called Syria's "hostile" act against the unarmed military jet. He accused Syrian forces of deliberately shooting down the aircraft in international airspace over the Mediterranean. But Arinc also said Turkey does not want to go to war over the incident, which left two Turkish pilots missing.
The article mentions, however, that Turkey has admitted that its fighter was briefly in Syrian airspace. This might be enough of an excuse for NATO to decide not to support Turkey in retaliating against Syria.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Collapse of Euro "Very Likely"

Der Spiegel reports:
Investment experts at Deutsche Bank now feel that a collapse of the common currency is "a very likely scenario." German companies are preparing themselves for the possibility that their business contacts in Madrid and Barcelona could soon be paying with pesetas again. And in Italy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is thinking of running a new election campaign, possibly this year, on a return-to-the-lira platform.

Nothing seems impossible anymore, not even a scenario in which all members of the currency zone dust off their old coins and bills -- bidding farewell to the euro, and instead welcoming back the guilder, deutsche mark and drachma.

It would be a dream for nationalist politicians, and a nightmare for the economy. Everything that has grown together in two decades of euro history would have to be painstakingly torn apart. Millions of contracts, business relationships and partnerships would have to be reassessed, while thousands of companies would need protection from bankruptcy. All of Europe would plunge into a deep recession. Governments, which would be forced to borrow additional billions to meet their needs, would face the choice between two unattractive options: either to drastically increase taxes or to impose significant financial burdens on their citizens in the form of higher inflation.

A horrific scenario would become a reality, a prospect so frightening that it ought to convince every European leader to seek a consensus as quickly as possible. But there can be no talk of consensus today. On the contrary, as the economic crisis worsens in southern Europe, the fronts between governments are only becoming more rigid.

The Italians and Spaniards want Germany to issue stronger guarantees for their debts. But the Germans are only willing to do so if all euro countries transfer more power to Brussels -- steps the southern member states, for their part, don't want to take.
The article goes on to state:
Until now, the defenders of the euro have been able to resort to the massive funds of the ECB, if necessary. If things got tight, the monetary watchdogs could inject new money into the market.

But now even the ECB has largely exhausted its resources. It has already bought up so much of the sovereign debt of ailing countries that any additional shopping spree threatens to backfire, causing interest rates to explode instead of fall. At the same time, the conflict between Northern and Southern Europe in the ECB Governing Council is heating up. Last week, the head of Spain's central bank managed to convince the ECB to ease its rules to allow Spanish banks to use even weaker collateral than before in exchange for borrowing money from the ECB. This could set off a tiff with the central bankers from the donor countries, who are loath to look on as the risks in the central bank's balance sheet continue to grow.
Although it's a lengthy piece, read the whole thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Ugliest Buildings in America

The Daily Mail has a feature on those buildings (and they use the term loosely, as it includes a doll house and a highway) that are so ugly, they should be torn down. It includes this monstrosity, the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego:

I'm surprised that the Walt Disney Concert Hall didn't make the list:

Source: Wikimedia

Obama "Black-Washes" His Life of White Ex-Girlfriends

David Maraniss' biography of Obama is making waves, at least in the foreign media, for pointing out errors and inconsistencies in Obama's version of Mein Kampf ("My Struggles"), called, Dreams of My Father.

I had recently posted about how Maraniss had investigated and found that Obama's account of his grandfather being arrested and tortured by the British was false. (Of course, even if the story was false, if Obama actually believed it was true, it would explain his antipathy to the British).

Now the Daily Mail discusses another part of Maraniss' biography about how Obama downplayed and ignored his past penchant for white girlfriends in order to boost his credibility as a black leader:
The U.S. president and his First Lady sometimes seem so well-suited to each other that it’s hard to imagine there ever having been any woman in his life other than the formidable Michelle, whom he met while working for a Chicago law firm in 1989.

Obama has reinforced this notion by making only fleeting mention of ex-girlfriends in his carefully calibrated memoirs, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

He gives the impression of a man in such a hurry to save the world that he had no time for such distractions as romance.

But now, in a blistering new biography, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist David Maraniss has pulled his exes out of the shadows.

In so doing, he has revealed an unflattering picture of a president so desperate to sell an image of himself as a pioneering race warrior that he has air-brushed many of the ‘white’ elements from his life — including that string of well-heeled, well-educated white girlfriends.

* * *

Time and again, Obama, who has had to fight hard to convince other African Americans of his ‘black credibility’, appears to have burnished his radical credentials, not least by playing up the roles of black people in his life and playing down the roles of the white.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in his romantic life.
Well, it is certainly convenient that he went from dating white women, to marrying a black woman that hates white people.

It's nice to finally see someone in the media establishment willing to start investigating Obama. One thing I'm interested in is the recent spate of Obama referencing his "sons." The author of the foregoing article speculates:
Who exactly are Obama’s “sons”? The term “my sons” is apparently a paternalistic figure of speech the president likes to use to describe some subset of the American male population who are other people’s children.
I've heard priests use that type of expression as part of their speech in referring to male congregation members, but not as a turn of phrase among political leadership. So here is another speculation: that, what with all of his past girlfriends, there actually may be some real Obama sons out there.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mars' Mantle May Contain Substantial Water

The scientists analysed what are called shergottite meteorites. These are fairly young meteorites that originated by partial melting of the Martian mantle — the layer under the crust — and crystallised in the shallow sub-surface and on the surface.

They came to Earth after they were ejected from Mars some 2.5million years ago. Investigating their geochemistry tells scientists a lot about the geological processes the planet underwent.

'We analyzed two meteorites that had very different processing histories,' explained Dr Hauri. 'One had undergone considerable mixing with other elements during its formation, while the other had not.

'We analyzed the water content of the mineral apatite and found there was little difference between the two even though the chemistry of trace elements was markedly different.

'The results suggest that water was incorporated during the formation of Mars and that the planet was able to store water in its interior during the planet's differentiation.'Based on the mineral's water content, the scientists estimated that the Martian mantle source from which the rocks were derived contained between 70 and 300 parts per million (ppm) water. By way of comparison, the upper mantle on Earth contains approximately 50-300 ppm water.

Romney May Not Repeal Illegal Immigration Order if Elected

A top Hispanic adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign has said that the presumptive Republican nominee would keep in place President Barack Obama’s controversial order to halt the deportation of up to 800,000 young illegal immigrants.

For the past week, Romney has repeatedly declined to say whether or not he would repeal the order, based on the DREAM Act and allowing to stay those under 30 brought into America illegally by their parents but who have since led productive lives.
Speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) annual conference on Thursday, he again sidestepped the issue.

‘Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action,’ he said. ‘The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure.’

Obama’s order, he said, was a ‘temporary measure that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election’. But Romney gave no indication whether he would maintain that temporary measure while pursuing a broader solution to the immigration issue.

Speaking to MailOnline after Obama’s speech to NALEO, however, Jose Fuentes, a co-chair of Romney Hispanic Steering Committee and a former Attorney General of Puerto Rico, said that he believed Romney would not repeal Obama’s order.

Asked whether his assumption would be that Romney would keep the order that Obama put in place last Friday, he replied: ‘Yes, he would make it a part of a comprehensive reform and make it permanent.’
I'm always amazed at how Republican politicians self-destruct, generally when they let their RHINO tendencies get the better of them.

Romney had been doing pretty good recently, keeping the focus on the economy. But now he and one of his advisors suggest that not only is he going to keep an illegal executive order in place, but he is going to go one better and make it part of a more comprehensive reform? Particularly an amnesty program that is highly unpopular? And when it sounds like he is flip-flopping yet again?

Obama Administration Creating "Black Swan Events"?

That is the take by Jeff Derstewitz, who notes all of the "unexpected" scandals and the "war on industry" by the Obama administration. He writes:
What we’re seeing increasingly with the Obama administration is that black swan events are being manufactured and loosed upon us by our government itself. It’s no consolation that they’re coming in the name of the progressive agenda of “helping” us. It’s of even less consolation to consider that the president apparently believes he’ll have “more flexibility” to do as he pleases after November.

* * *

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Kimberly Strassel writes that Al Armendariz, the EPA procurator who was going to crucify oil and gas companies just to let them know who’s boss, is hardly the exception to the rule within the Obama administration but rather exactly the kind of federal enforcer the president wants. In other words, Obama considers him a feature — not a bug — in his plan to totally transform America.

But if she’s correct, that would mean that Obama-style government could no longer be considered a “black swan” machine. Why? Because these disruptions are planned, not random.
(H/t Instapundit).

Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery

Ever since tantalizing hints of the Higgs turned up in December at the Large Hadron Collider, scientists there have been busily analyzing the results of their energetic particle collisions to further refine their search.

“The bottom line though is now clear: There’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote mathematician Peter Woit on his blog, Not Even Wrong. According to Woit, there are rumors of new data that would be the most compelling evidence yet for the long-sought Higgs.

The possible news has a number of physics bloggers speculating that LHC scientists will announce the discovery of the Higgs during the International Conference on High Energy Physics, which takes place in Melbourne, Australia, July 4 to 11.

* * *

The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model — a framework developed in the late 20th century that describes the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces. The Standard Model contains many other particles — such as quarks and W bosons — each of which has been found in the last four decades using enormous particle colliders, but the Higgs remains to be found. The Higgs boson is critical to the Standard Model, because interacting with the Higgs is what gives all the other particles their mass. Not finding it would severely undermine our current understanding of the universe.

While discovery of the Higgs would be a remarkable achievement, many researchers are also eager to hear the details from the experiments, which may indicate that the Higgs boson has slightly different properties than those theoretically predicted. Any deviations from theory could suggest the existence of heretofore-unknown physics beyond the Standard Model, including models such as supersymmetry, which posits a heavier partner to all known particles.
 (Full story here--h/t Instapundit).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Voyager 1 Nears Edge of Heliosphere

With absolutely no attempt at hyperbole at all, it is fair to say that this is one of - if not the - biggest achievement of the human race.

For, as we speak, an object conceived in the human mind, and built by our tools, and launched from our planet, is sailing out of the further depths of our solar system - and will be the first object made by man to sail out into interstellar space.

The Voyager 1, built by Nasa and launched in 1977 has spent the last 35 years steadily increasing its distance from Earth, and is now now 17,970,000,000km - or 11,100,000,000miles - away, travelling at 10km a second.

Indications over the last week implies that Voyager 1 is now leaving the heliosphere - the last vestige of this solar system.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

... And Then Panic Sets In

In case you missed it, John Sununu's op-ed at the Boston Globe that panic has set into Obama reelection campaign. Some exerpts:
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for President Obama, one of those stretches where everything seems to go south at once. The economy is soft, his poll numbers are down, and Europe has the markets on edge; Romney is even beating him in the money race. What was once hailed as personal confidence — or condemned as arrogance — is long gone. Panic has set in, and it’s making Team Obama do strange and disturbing things.

In Wisconsin, the result was merely a bit of comic relief. Fearful of making a personal appearance in a losing cause, Obama couldn’t even bring himself to phone it in. Instead, he packed the power of the presidency into a 95-character tweet endorsing Tom Barrett’s challenge to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Barrett, a plainspoken former congressman, is far too nice to speak the truth: Thanks for nothing.

Next came a more pronounced gaffe: Obama’s statement at a press conference that “the private sector is doing fine.” Panic can make anyone say crazy things, but blurting out irrational statements isn’t exactly ideal for a president of the United States.

Aides tried desperately to walk things back, but the damage was done precisely because it revealed an element of truth about Obama — that he views the government as the critical source for economic activity in America. That’s why the core of his “jobs” program consists of more infrastructure spending and bailouts for state and local governments. 
* * * 
Panic-driven responses aren’t just silly or embarrassing; they can be dangerous too. With no good economic news in sight, the White House has embarked on a mission to burnish the president’s national-security credentials. In their desperation to write a compelling narrative for their candidate, Obama’s operatives appear to have disclosed highly classified information.

More on the Mushroom Cloud in Beijing

I'd posted the other day about the mysterious mushroom cloud over Beijing. The Daily Mail has another article, as well as more photographs of the phenomenon. It is thought to be a giant cumulonimbus cloud, and completely harmless (or is that "mostly harmless").

New Evidence May Show Cracks in Standard Model

This theory, called the Standard Model, is the best handbook scientists have to describe the tiny bits of matter that make up the universe. But many physicists suspect the Standard Model has some holes in it, and findings like this may point to where those holes are hiding.

Inside the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., researchers observe collisions between electrons and their antimatter partners, positrons (scientists think all matter particles have antimatter counterparts with equal mass but opposite charge). When these particles collide, they explode into energy that converts into new particles. These often include so-called B-bar mesons, which are made of both matter and antimatter, specifically a bottom quark and an antiquark. ...

The BaBar researchers were looking for a particular decay process where B-bar mesons decay into three other particles: a D meson (a quark and an antiquark, one of which is "charm" flavored), an antineutrino (the antimatter partner of the neutrino) and a tau lepton (a cousin of an electron).

What they found is that this process apparently happens more often than the Standard Model predicts it will.
Obviously, this shows that there probably needs to be some tweaking to the standard model to account for this, if in fact the findings are verified. Question: Will this have any implication for theories concerning the extinction of antimatter after the Big Bang?

Another Unfunded Mandate Goes Down in Flames

The federal government loves to pass laws or create regulations forcing states and local governments to do things without fully compensating the state and local governments for the cost of whatever federal social experiment they have to follow. Essentially, the federal government is externalizing the costs of a federal program. In this case, it didn't go the way the feds wanted: "Victory for Native American Tribes as court rules must pay owed millions."

Bearing His Cross....

A story about Mormon couples where one spouse is "gay", yet still staying within the proper bounds of the law of chastity. (Link here).

Obama Lied About His Grandfather

Is there really anything true or genuine about Obama? The Daily Mail reports:
A new biography of Barack Obama has established that his grandfather was not, as is related in the President’s own memoir, detained by the British in Kenya and found that claims that he was tortured were a fabrication.

'Barack Obama: The Story' by David Maraniss catalogues dozens of instances in which Obama deviated significantly from the truth in his book 'Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance'. The 641-page book punctures the carefully-crafted narrative of Obama’s life.

One of the enduring myths of Obama’s ancestry is that his paternal grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, who served as a cook in the British Army, was imprisoned in 1949 by the British for helping the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebels and held for several months.Obama’s step-grandmother Sarah, Onyango wife, who is still living, is quoted in the future President’s memoir, as saying: ‘One day, the white man’s askaris came to take Onyango away, and he was placed in a detention camp.

‘But he had been in the camp for over six months, and when he returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty. He had difficulty walking, and his head was full of lice. He was so ashamed, he refused to enter his house or tell us what happened.’

In a 2008 interview, Sarah Obama claimed that he was ‘whipped every morning and evening’ by the British. ‘They would sometimes squeeze his testicles with metal rods. They also pierced his nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs tied together. He was lucky to survive. Some of his fellow inmates were mutilated with castration pliers and beaten to death with clubs.’

But Maraniss, who researched Obama’s life in Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaii and the mainland United States, found that there were ‘no remaining records of any detention, imprisonment, or trial of Hussein Onyango Obama’. He interviewed five people who knew Obama’s grandfather, who died in 1979, who ‘doubted the story or were certain it did not happen’.This undermines the received wisdom that Obama’s grandfather was a victim of oppression, an assumption that has in turn fuelled theories that Obama harbours an animus towards Britain based on a deeply-rooted rage about the way Onyango was treated.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mushroom Cloud Over Beijing?

I had posted last week about a mysterious green fog over parts of China. The consensus seemed to be that the fog was just a bad case of smog. However, there may be more to the story. The Huffington Post (h/t Instapundit) hints (and I emphasize the "hint") that there may have been an industrial accident in China that produced a mushroom cloud last week. Some of the dates suggest that this is something subsequent to the green fog, but the Huffington Post article then mentions the green/yellow fog from last week, again leading the reader to presume that the two (the cloud and the fog) were part of the same phenomena. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why We Should Stay Out of Syria

Here are a couple different op-eds from the National Review on why the U.S. should not involve itself in Syria. The first is by Daniel Pipes, a well-known expert on the Middle-East. He writes:
Finally (as earlier was the case in Iraq), protracted conflict in Syria offers some geopolitical advantages:

It lessens the chances of Damascus starting a war with Israel or reoccupying Lebanon.

It increases the chances that Iranians, living under the thumb of the mullahs who are Assad’s key ally, will draw inspiration from the Syrian uprising and likewise rebel against their rulers.

It inspires greater Sunni Arab anger at Tehran, especially as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been providing arms, finance, and technology to help repress Syrians.

It relieves the pressure on non-Muslims: Indicative of the new thinking, Tahawi recently stated that “the Alawi and Shi’i coalition is currently the biggest threat to Sunnis, even more than the Israelis.”

It foments Middle Eastern rage at Moscow and Beijing for supporting the Assad regime.

Western interests suggest staying out of the Syrian morass.
The second is by Andrew McCarthy. He similarly notes:
To be sure, we are skeptical of the presumption, championed by progressives, that because the United States is the most important country in the world, every conflict on earth is our business — which is to say, our burden, and in the eyes of many progressives, our fault. But mainly we believe American interventions ought to be driven by vital American interests. Many times, those vital interests are best served by butting out. That is particularly the case in the Muslim Middle East, where hatred of America has a unifying effect on our otherwise fractious enemies.

In Syria, this plays out two ways. First, there is no realistic prospect of regime change favorable to the United States; intervention thus necessarily portends making one set of America’s enemies stronger than they currently are. Second, it is in America’s interest that al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood (including Hamas), the Assad regime, the Iranian mullahs, and Hezbollah all become weaker; non-intervention while they beat each other’s brains in is therefore to our great advantage.
I agree that Syria does not present a situation that requires the U.S. to expend its blood and treasure. We have no pressing obligation to assist people that were suckled at the breast of anti-Americanism. Sometimes, the greater wisdom is to simply do nothing at all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Australia Gets Money and China Gets Australia"

A rather lengthy article from Business Week on Chinese mercantilism at work in Australia. As an example:
In June, Wiltshire was one of many locals surprised to see the Sino mine project in the Pilbara advertise for riggers, crane operators, and fitters who speak Mandarin. As an unhappy union official named Joe McDonald put it: "The only bloke I know who can speak Mandarin is Kevin Rudd."

John Sutton, the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the biggest representative of Australian mine workers, voices a widely held concern: "As more Chinese investment comes in, it's inevitable that they'll want to bring in their own workforce, with lower costs and conditions than the locals. Why else would a company advertise in a way that shuts out pretty much every Australian job applicant?"

Or, as Kinnaird puts it: "We've seen it before in the 1980s, when Japanese companies brought in Japanese-speaking workers. When the Japanese economy busted and they pulled out of Australia, they left nothing for the local workforce."

The Greek Vote, the Euro, and the Fall of Italy

I see a lot of doom and gloom stories coming from the European press over what would happen if Greece votes to reject the EU's conditions. There is, for example, this one today from the Daily Mail:
On Monday morning, this modern European nation could be waking up to a nightmare scenario, which runs as follows. The cash machines start drying up. Supermarket shelves are cleared by families fearful that food supplies will run out.

There are queues round the block for the last dribbles from the petrol pumps, and deliveries come to a halt. Within a day or two, protests have turned to looting and random acts of violence against strangers. Overwhelmed, the police retreat to their bases. The most vulnerable citizens lock the doors and pray.

And gradually, the country that gave the world ‘democracy’ descends into another word it also created — ‘anarchy’.
Is it really true that giving up its national sovereignty is the only solution for Greece, or is the media trying to scare the Greeks into voting in favor of turning control over to Brussels? Marc Faber has suggested that Greece should exit the Euro. Another economist, Martin Feldstein, suggests that it would also be better for Greece to leave the Euro and issue its own currency. (See also here).

This op-ed goes further, and actually suggest that it would be in the best interest of all if Germany were to withdraw from the Euro.
What, then, might a German exit do? With integration and multiple restructurings so unlikely and withdrawal of the weak members so fraught, it might actually be the best of all available options.

A single, powerful nation would have the best shot at executing a relatively swift exit that would be over before anyone could panic. No agonizing over who exits and who doesn’t. Stripped of its German export powerhouse, the euro would depreciate sharply, but would not become a virtually worthless currency, as, for example, any re-issued Greek drachma surely would. With the euro devalued, a Greek exit and devaluation would be relatively pointless. So, no contagion or bank runs. With new exchange rates making all the non-euro financial havens prohibitively expensive, and with the threat of forced conversion into devalued national currencies removed, depositors in southern Europe would lose their impetus to run.

Germany’s exit would provide immediate benefits to all the remaining euro-area nations. The currency depreciation would radically improve their trade competitiveness -- exactly what many observers have said the weaker nations in the south need most. The euro area’s balance of payments would improve, providing sorely needed funds to service its external debt. The benefits would accrue to the euro area as a whole, as opposed to serial exits at the weak end of the spectrum, which would crush one weak nation after another, with each exit increasing pressure on the next candidate.

Other relatively strong euro-area nations, such as the Netherlands, would probably pause before following Germany’s lead. If they left, they would lose the trade advantages offered by the newly depreciated currency, and would have to bear all the costs and complications of reintroducing their own money.

The cheaper euro, of course, would be bad for foreign investors holding euro-denominated assets. On the bright side, the losses would be simultaneous in timing, spread evenly across creditors, and more moderate in the southern European countries than they would be in a euro-exit scenario.
Meanwhile, Greeks have engaged in a silent bank run, as described in this story from CNBC from a couple days ago:
Greeks pulled their cash out of the banks and stocked up with food ahead of a cliffhanger election on Sunday that many fear will result in the country being forced out of the euro. Bankers said up to 800 million euros ($1 billion) were leaving major banks daily and retailers said some of the money was being used to buy pasta and canned goods, as fears of returning to the drachma were fanned by rumors that a radical leftist leader may win the election.

The last published opinion polls showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the 130 billion euro ($160 billion) bailout that is keeping Greece afloat, running neck and neck with the leftist Syriza party, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.

* * *

Fears that Greece will collapse financially and leave the euro have slowly drained Greek banks over the last two years. Central bank figures show that deposits shrank by about 17 percent, or 35.4 billion euros ($44.4 billion) in 2011 and stood 165.9 billion euros ($208.1 billion) at end-April.

Bankers said the pace was picking up ahead of the vote, with combined daily deposit outflows from the major banks at 500-800 million euros ($625 million to $1 billion) over the past few days, and 10-30 million euros ($12-36 million) at smaller banks.

"This includes cash withdrawals, wire transfers and investments into money market funds, German Bonds, U.S. Treasuries and EIB bonds," said one banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Retailers said consumers were stocking up on non-perishable food while almost all other goods were seeing a huge drop in sales as cash-strapped Greeks have no money to spare in the country's fifth year of recession.

"People are terrified by the prospect of returning to the drachma and some believe it's good to fill their cupboard with food products," said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the ESEE retail federation.

"It's over the top, we must not panic. Filling the cupboard with food doesn't mean we will escape the crisis," he said.
At the Wall Street Journal, Gerald O'Driscoll explains some of the underlying issues with the Euro and why it is ultimately doomed to failure:
The euro is the world's first currency invented out of whole cloth. It is a currency without a country. The European Union is not a federal state, like the United States, but an agglomeration of sovereign states. European countries are plagued by rigidities, including those in labor markets—where language differences and the protection of trades and professions in many countries impede labor mobility. That makes it difficult for their economies to adjust to cyclical and structural economic shifts.

For such reasons, when the euro was created in 1999, Milton Friedman famously predicted its demise within a decade. He was wrong about the timing, but he may yet be proven right about the fact.

Greece is the epicenter of a currency and fiscal crisis in the euro zone. Markets fear a "Grexit," or Greek exit from the euro. That exit is almost a foregone conclusion. The endgame for the euro will be played out in Spain.

But first to Greece, which is devolving from a money-using economy. Firms, households and even the government are short on cash. The government isn't paying its suppliers and workers in a timely fashion, so households cannot pay their bills to businesses with whom they transact. Businesses, in turn, cannot pay their suppliers. There is a cascade of cash constraints.

Normally, credit supplements cash in economic transactions. But there is scant credit in Greece. Anyone who can is moving their money out of the country, either to banks in other euro-zone countries, such as Germany, or out of the euro to banks in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and U.S. (the franc, pound and dollar, respectively).

Absent a truly dramatic event, Greece will exit the euro not by choice but by necessity. It will do so not because the drachma (its old currency) is superior to the euro, but because the drachma is superior to barter. Greek standards of living, which have already fallen substantially, will fall further in the short- to medium-term. It will then be up to the Greek people to forge a new future.

While a Greek exit from the euro zone will have substantial repercussions, it won't unleash the doomsday scenario painted by some. A Spanish exit would be an entirely different matter. Unlike Greece, Spain is a major economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, at official exchange rates in 2011 the Spanish economy was more than five times the size of Greece's. And unlike Greece, Spain has numerous banks, some large and global.

The Greek tragedy began with a fiscal crisis—brought on by the government spending more money than it took in—that became a banking crisis. In Spain, there is a fiscal crisis that exacerbates a banking crisis.

Fiscal and banking crises are often linked because in modern economics the state and banking are joined together. Banks purchase government debt, supporting the state, and governments guarantee the liabilities of banks. When one party is weakened, so is the other.

Spanish banks are impaired not only because the Spanish government is running large fiscal deficits, but also because of bad loans to the private sector. Many Spanish banks lent heavily to property developers and to individuals who wanted to purchase homes built by the developers. Spain's construction sector is substantially larger relative to the rest of its economy than is the construction sector in other euro-zone countries or the U.S. And bank debt to finance that sector grew much faster than elsewhere.
Finally, at the Ulsterman Report, in a recent interview with the unnamed "Wall Street Insider," he warns:
Related to this situation is not the situation in Spain, but the dire condition of Italy. If Spain buckles, the European Union will survive. If Italy soon follows, that may prove the Euro’s death blow. The man calling himself Obama, when most recently told of this potential outcome, was entirely indifferent. This indifference is likely the direct result of his ignorance. So let me re-affirm again, it is the situation in Italy that you must watch. Not so much Spain but Italy. The Italians are in very serious trouble and the implications of that economy collapsing are immense and the shock waves will reach America soon after. Measures are being taken to avert this crisis, but it is a crisis that stems from decades of fiscal neglect, and the outcome is at this time, entirely unknown to me. If Lagarde pushes but a bit harder, Italy will collapse.

Bye Bye Diesel and Wood Stoves (Updated)

EPA proposes stricter regulations on soot emissions, such as from diesel engines and wood burning. (Story here). Exactly what we don't need during a recession are a bunch of ivory tower regulations restricting the use of energy.

Update: Europe is also pushing this issue. From the Daily Mail:
Diesel engine exhaust fumes cause cancer and belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas, according to the World Health Organisation.

The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, has reclassified diesel exhausts from 'probable' carcinogens to a group of substances that have definite links to cancer.

Research has shown that regular exposure to diesel fumes is as likely to cause cancer as passive smoking.

Health officials have now called for governments to act on 'cleaning-up' the fumes emitted from vehicle exhausts. The experts, who said their decision was unanimous and based on 'compelling' scientific evidence, urged people across the world to reduce exposure to diesel fumes as much as possible.
I'm beginning to think that "compelling scientific evidence" when it is applied to scientists associated with the UN means "this evidence supports our continued funding."

Government Won't Deport Illegal Immigrants Brought Here When Children

The Obama administration announced on Friday that it would no longer seek the deportation of most young illegal immigrants, and would instead allow them to apply for work permits, a significant policy shift with potentially major electoral implications.

The Department of Homeland Security said that, effective immediately, the government would no longer seek the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and would allow them to apply for work permits if they meet certain criteria.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement Friday. 
A senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters that as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants stand to benefit from this change. Napolitano said that the shift represented neither immunity nor amnesty -- buzzwords for conservatives who oppose illegal immigration -- but instead represented an instance of "prosecutorial discretion" in which the government had re-evaluated its priorities in enforcing the law.

The announcement represented a major policy shift, and its political implications will be significant.

The shift essentially accomplishes many of the legislative intentions of the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill that had stalled in Congress due to Republican objections. ...

The new rule comes amid a bruising election year fight between Obama and Romney, in which the Latino vote could be decisive. Obama enjoys a strong advantage with Latino voters, winning 61 percent of Latinos vs. 27 percent for Romney in a mid-May NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll.

The Hispanic vote is of particular importance in swing states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida, among others. Those states could swing the election toward Obama or Romney, elevating the importance of the margin between the two candidates with Latino voters.
(Emphasis added).

In related news, the DOJ had announced earlier this week that it was suing Florida over efforts to remove ineligible voters from its voter rolls.
Florida was sued by the U.S. over claims the state conducted a “systematic program to purge voters” from registration rolls in violation of federal election law.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 “expressly forbids” such removal programs during the 90-day period before federal elections, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Tallahassee, Florida.

The U.S. Justice Department warned Florida in a May 31 letter that the state’s program to identify ineligible voters may violate federal law, including one aimed at reviewing voter limits in states such as Florida with a history of racial discrimination. The state responded by saying the initiative is valid.

* * *

The lawsuit names Florida and its Secretary of State Ken Detzner as defendants.

“We understand the law differently than the Department of Justice,” Lane Wright, a spokesman for Scott, said in a phone interview. “The people we are removing are those non-citizens who were never eligible to be on the voter rolls in the first place.”

Wright said Scott’s office has “irrefutable evidence” that non-citizens are on voter registration rolls illegally and has verified more than 50 who voted in at least one previous election. “We haven’t removed one eligble voter,” Wright added.
Make no mistake about it--the policy and suit are related, and intended to give Obama an advantage in the coming election. This is a clear violation of your right to vote by allowing illegal immigrants and opportunity to nullify the vote of a citizen. It is also another example of the President adopting unpopular legislation by executive fiat.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Tropical" Methane Lake Found on Titan

From (H/t Gates of Vienna):
An oasis of liquid methane has unexpectedly been discovered amid the tropical dunes of Saturn's moon Titan, researchers say.

This lake in the otherwise dry tropics of Titan hints that subterranean channels of liquid methane might feed it from below, scientists added.

Titan has clouds, rain and lakes, like Earth, but these are composed of methane rather than water. However, methane lakes were seen only at Titan's poles until now — its tropics around the equator were apparently home to dune fields instead.

Now near-infrared pictures of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn collected since 2004 suggest a vast methane lake exists on the surface in the moon's tropics, one about 925 square miles (2,400 square kilometers) large and at least three feet (1 meter) deep.

"Titan's tropical lake is roughly the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah during its lowest recorded level," study lead author Caitlin Griffith, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona at Tucson, told "Our work also suggests the existence of a handful of smaller and shallower ponds similar to marshes on Earth with knee- to ankle-level depths."  
A number of models of methane's behavior on Titan convincingly show that lakes are not stable at the moon's tropical latitudes. "Any liquid deposited in the tropical surface evaporates quickly and eventually is transported by Titan's circulation to the poles, where the large polar lakes appear," Griffith said.

"This discovery was absolutely not expected," Griffith said. "Lakes at the poles are easy to explain, but lakes in the tropics are not."

Some Thoughts on Liberalism and Paternalism...

... at the Economist.

More On The Worth of a Father

This is to follow up on my recent posting about the media, once again, bashing fathers as essentially useless. I've written before about the worth of a father. Now, the Daily Mail reports on a study on the impact a father has on his children. From the article:
A father's love is as important to a child’s emotional development as a mother’s, a large-scale study has confirmed.

Examining the cases of more than 10,000 sons and daughters revealed how a cold or distant father can damage a child’s life, sometimes for decades to come.

The review of 36 studies from around the world concluded that his love is at least as important to youngsters as that of their mothers.

Researcher Professor Ronald Rohner said that fatherly love is key to development and hopes his findings will motivate more men to become involved in caring for their offspring.

‘In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother,’ he said.

‘And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children.

‘But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realise the dad’s influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother’s.’
Read the whole thing.

Egypt's Parliament Dissolved

An Egyptian court ordered the newly elected, and Muslim Brotherhood controlled, parliament dissolved. According to this story from MSNBC, the decision will concentrate more power in the hands of the military. The Muslim Brotherhood is calling the action a coup. I wonder how many members of the military are members of the Muslim Brotherhood or sympathetic to its cause of establishing a strict Muslim state? Anyway, expect more riots in Egypt.

Australia Hedging Its Bets

A couple weeks ago, I had posted about China telling Australia to choose between the U.S. and China as its "Godfather." Looks like Australia is trying to hedge its bets. From Walter Russell Mead's blog at the American Interest:
The Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia has so far met with a warm welcome from China’s neighbors, who have been unnerved by Beijing’s more assertive posture in recent years. Still, Washington should be mindful of shifting public opinion among its allies in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, for instance, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made waves last week when he voiced concern that Australia was becoming too close to an America that he sees (erroneously) as responding to the rise of China with a Cold War, containment-first mentality. And Fraser is not the only Australian to think his country is singing just a little too loudly from the American hymn book. Eminent defense analyst Hugh White, while adopting a much more nuanced approach than Fraser to the nature of Canberra’s position within the Sino-US dynamic, is nevertheless convinced that America must cede at least some power in the region in order to maintain stability and avoid a devastating strategic rivalry
Read the whole thing.

China Flexing Its Muscles in the South China Sea

In the early years of China's rise to economic and military prowess, the guiding principle for its government was Deng Xiaoping's maxim: "Hide Your Strength, Bide Your Time."

Now, more than three decades after paramount leader Deng launched his reforms, that policy has seemingly lapsed or simply become unworkable as China's military muscle becomes too expansive to conceal and its ambitions too pressing to postpone.

The current squabble with Southeast Asian nations over territorial claims in the energy-rich South China Sea is a prime manifestation of this change, especially the standoff with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.

"This is not what we saw 20 years ago," said Ross Babbage, a defense analyst and founder of the Canberra-based Kokoda Foundation, an independent security policy unit.

"China is a completely different actor now. Security planners are wondering if it is like this now, what is it going to be like in 20 years' time?"

As China also continues to modernize its navy at breakneck speed, a growing sense of unease over Beijing's long-term ambitions has galvanized the exact response Deng was anxious to avoid, regional security experts say.

In what is widely interpreted as a counter to China's growing influence, the United States is pushing ahead with a muscular realignment of its forces towards the Asia-Pacific region, despite Washington's fatigue with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Pentagon's steep budget cuts.
Read the whole thing. The article goes on to discuss some of China's military developments, including warships specifically designed to mitigate the advantages in naval power that the U.S. enjoys. Unfortunately, the U.S. is in a difficult position to enter an arms race with China because of excessive sovereign debt, a poor economy, and the fact that China manufactures much of the military hardware used in the U.S.

The latter is a critical difference between China and the Soviet Union. In the 1940's and into the 1950's, there was, for the most part, technological parity between the Soviet Union and the U.S. However, the U.S. rapidly pulled ahead, and by the mid-60s an 70's enjoyed a clear technological advantage. The proof of that advantage has been borne out anytime Soviet and American equipment has faced off, such as the various wars in the Middle-East.

By the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was incapable of manufacturing the necessary high technology items to complete with the U.S. Not so with China because we (the West generally) have exported technological know-how and manufacturing to China. In fact, China is, in many cases, in a better position vis-a-vis heavy industry and many electronic components than is the U.S.

I see three-fold motivation here (and I don't believe that they are necessarily both held by the same factions within China). First, there are probably some that believe it is time for China to flex it power in order to dominate its neighbors and secure primary access to sea routes and natural resources. Second, these incidents are a useful test of American resolve and reactions (not just political, but also technological and tactical--see what we deploy, how effective it is, measure and record radar and other signals, test the sensitivity of sensors, etc.). Third, and related to the second, if the U.S. doesn't show much resolve, it weakens the faith that the U.S. allies or putative allies have in the U.S., and makes it easier for China to dominate them.

The unintended consequence, however, is that China's actions may strengthen the resolve of some neighboring states to take a more aggressive stance independent of the U.S., e.g., Japan, Australia, and India.

Into Africa

I noted several months ago that it looked like the next war zone for American troops would be Africa. (Here). This article from yesterday's Washington Post merely underscores that we are trending that way:
The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project.

At the heart of the surveillance operations are small, unarmed turboprop aircraft disguised as private planes. Equipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles.

About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

The nature and extent of the missions, as well as many of the bases being used, have not been previously reported but are partially documented in public Defense Department contracts. The operations have intensified in recent months, part of a growing shadow war against al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. The surveillance is overseen by U.S. Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.

The surveillance underscores how Special Operations forces, which have played an outsize role in the Obama administration’s national security strategy, are working clandestinely all over the globe, not just in war zones. The lightly equipped commando units train foreign security forces and perform aid missions, but they also include teams dedicated to tracking and killing terrorism suspects.

The establishment of the Africa missions also highlights the ways in which Special Operations forces are blurring the lines that govern the secret world of intelligence, moving aggressively into spheres once reserved for the CIA. The CIA has expanded its counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering operations in Africa, but its manpower and resources pale in comparison with those of the military.

U.S. officials said the African surveillance operations are necessary to track terrorist groups that have taken root in failed states on the continent and threaten to destabilize neighboring countries.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Above the Law (Update)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is essentially is intended to act as an international tax agency, wants diplomatic immunity. Fox News reports:
Despite its name, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, legal experts ruled in 2006 that it was not to be part of the U.N. system of organizations that has enjoyed diplomatic and legal immunities since the end of World War II. Now, it is scrambling to figure out how to get them. A meeting of a UNFCCC subsidiary in Bonn last month agreed to forward a new draft treaty covering the issue to another meeting in November.

Internal UNFCCC documents, examined by Fox News, show that among other things, top officials hope to use those immunities to avoid challenges in the future based on such things as:

--possible conflicts of interest in their duties,

--breaches of confidentiality in their work,

--violations of the due process rights of those affected by UNFCCC actions,

--making decisions or actions that are beyond the legal mandate of the organization or its subsidiaries.

The Bonn-based UNFCCC is responsible, among other things, for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the cap and trade emissions system created by the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. has not ratified. In the wake of Rio + 20, UNFCCC also hopes to manage a mammoth Green Climate Fund, intended to help mobilize as much as $100 billion a year for projects to lower global greenhouse gases.
If they are not doing anything fraudulent, why do they need immunity?

What I find interesting is that the conflicts of interest and breach of confidentiality issues seem to indicate that they want to be able to engage in self-dealing and insider trading type activities with impunity. Of course, this would be par the course with other U.N. programs, such as the Oil for Food program with Iraq in the 1990s. This is just another point to underscore that these international treaties on global warming and climate are just a scam.

Update: China refuses to play along with the scam, at least as to emissions from aircraft.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If You Don't Exercise Your Rights, You Will Lose Them

Gun toting advocates filled the Birmingham commission chambers Monday night, displaying their firearms in holsters and strapped to their backs in protest of charges against a teen they say had the legal right to do the same in public.

"It seems like cooler heads should prevail and the charges should fall," said Dave Campbell, a Westland resident involved with, a website and resource center for gun supporters.

At issue is the April 13 arrest of Sean M. Combs, a Troy High School student, after he strolled Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Birmingham with a M-1 rifle strapped to his back.

He faced three misdemeanor charges for brandishing a weapon, resisting and obstructing police, and disturbing the peace — each punishable by up to 93 days in jail.
Obviously, I don't know exactly what happened, but from the public reaction, it appears that something is not copasetic.

Mysterious Yellow Fog in China

From the Daily Mail:
Parts of China have been blanketed by thick yellowish cloud this week - sparking fears of pollution among its millions of inhabitants.

Witnesses in the metropolis of Wuhan said the haze appeared suddenly yesterday morning, with residents rushing to put on face masks.

'I looked out of my office window and couldn't believe my eyes,' said Li Yunzhong, describing the haze as opaque, with yellowish and greenish tinges.

* * *

France's consulate-general in the central city advised residents to stay at home, close their windows and limit the use of air-conditioning. It said on its website: 'The source of the thick cloud that has covered the city of Wuhan since this morning is at present unknown.

* * *

'Local authorities have promised us the information as soon as possible.'

Air pollution is increasingly acute in major Chinese cities and authorities are frequently accused of underestimating the severity of the problem in urban areas, especially in Beijing.

Official statistics are sometimes at odds with non-government measurements, and are often viewed with distrust.
Not as bad as the Great Smog of 1952 that hit London. But this may be precursor of worse to come.

While I have never been to China, I think the worst air pollution I've ever experienced was in Tokyo (and I say this having grown up on a city that had some of the worst air pollution in the U.S. at the time). Millions of people and cars, with most houses, apartments and other buildings heated with small kerosene heaters and stoves. It would look like the photo above sometimes for days on end. Your skin would darken during the day; you'd blow you nose and it would just be black gunk; poor visibility and smell. Ugh.

Using LiDAR to Find Ruins in Honduras

Underneath the thick, virgin rainforest cover in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, archaeologists have discovered ruins they think may be the lost city of Ciudad Blanca.

Legends say the "White City" is full of gold, which is why conquistador Hernando Cortes was among the first Ciudad Blanca seekers in the 1500s. But the method the modern researchers used was a little different from previous explorers' techniques. The modern-day researchers flew over the area in a small plane and shot billions of laser pulses at the ground, creating a 3D digital map of the topology underneath the trees.

This is one of the first times this technique, called light detection and ranging (LiDAR), has been used to map ancient ruins.

* * *

Airborne LiDAR works by sending more than 100,000 short laser pulses to the ground every second while a plane flies over the area of interest. The laser light hits the ground, then returns to the aircraft. The time it takes for the light to make the back-and-forth trip tells researchers the altitude of points on the ground.

The technology is able to detect height differences of less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) and maps to GPS coordinates within 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). "It's within a step, in many cases," said Bill Carter, University of Houston engineer who develops LiDAR systems for the National Science Foundation.

The Belize archaeology work and the new Honduras findings both used the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping's LiDAR system. There was one major difference between the two projects, however. At the Belize site, researchers thought it was likely there would be new ruins there. They used the LiDAR to scan regions surrounding structures they had already uncovered. On the other hand, in the new study in Honduras, researchers were running on just a hunch — and plenty of private funding.
Read the whole thing.

Now if they could use it to map the Mato Grosso region of Brazil and Bolivia to locate further ruins.

To Celebrate Father's Day, Let's Bash Fathers

At least, that is the gist of this article from MSNBC/Today:
What would you value more? Mom cooking dinner for the family, or Dad killing a spider in Junior’s room?

While women are still dealing with the gender wage gap at work, when it comes to the unpaid work moms do at home, their imaginary paychecks would be bigger than those of their husbands.

As Father’s Day approaches this weekend, it’s time to take stock of what dads do for their families beyond just bringing home a paycheck. Alas, the household chores they tend to do aren't worth as much as the sweat equity moms put in at home year round, according to two recent reports. calculated what they deemed to be daddy duties, including things such as barbecuing, killing bugs and mowing the lawn. The study found the domestic tasks would total about $20,248 a year if they were paid work. That compared to $60,182 annually for moms for doing things such as cooking, cleaning and nursing wounds. The value of the work was based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for how much similar jobs out in the real work world would pay.
 Here is's valuation of father's work, and the valuation of mother's work.

There are some basic economic flaws with the study, the most basic of which is not what the value of the work is in the workplace on average, but what it is worth to the person. In most households, if the father or mother aren't around because of death or divorce, the remaining parent is not going out to hire someone to do the task, but do it him- or herself. Similarly, many of the tasks should not be measured by hourly rate, but on a transactional basis because that is how you would most likely pay for it in the real world. In that case, the cost of killing a spider (a call to an exterminator), fixing a leaky faucet (a call to plumber), or fixing the car (taking it in to be repaired by a mechanic) are far higher than a per hourly wage an exterminator, plumber, or mechanic makes.

The study also fails to consider the psychological, emotional and other intangible benefits provided by good fathers. What should we compare that against? Years of counseling and medications, children that perform less well in school, higher incidents of drug abuse and crime in children from homes without fathers, etc.

In short, this is just the same man-hating crap the media has been spewing for years.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Evidence of a Cyclical Universe

This is interesting. The Daily Mail reports:
Professor Roger Penrose from Oxford University says concentric circles discovered in the background microwaves of the universe provides evidence of events that took place before the universe came into being.

The cosmic microwave offers us a ghostly look at the the universe just 300,000 years after the Big Ban' - a microscopic amount of time compared to the universe's estimated age of 13.7billion years.

The research by Penrose, who was awarded the 1988 Wolf Prize along with Stephen Hawkings for adding to our cosmic knowledge, adds evidence to the theory that the universe has expanded ('the Big Bang') and contracted ('the Big Crunch') many times.

* * *

The Daily Galaxy reports that Prof Penrose, along with Professor Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan State University, Armenia believe images of the CMB from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotophy Probe shows imprints in the radiation that are older than the Big Bang.

They say they have discovered 12 examples of concentric circles, some of which have five rings - which means the same object has had five massive events in its history.

The rings appear around galaxy clusters in which the variation in the background radiation appears to be strangely low.

* * *

They believe the circles are imprints of extremely violent gravitational radiation waves generated by supermassive black hole collisions in a previous aeon before the last big bang.

They say that this means that this means that the universe cycles through aeons dominated by big bangs and supermassive black hole collisions.

Professor Penrose believes that his new theory of ‘conformal cyclic cosmology' means that black holes will eventually consume all the matter in the universe.

According to his theory, when they have finished, all that will be left in the universe will be energy - which will then trigger the next Big Bang - and the new aeon.