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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bo Xilai's Spectacular Fall

The Economist has a brief article on Bo Xilai's stunning fall from the stratosphere of power in China:
IF HE ever fell, it was going to have to be a great spectacle. And so it has become. Bo Xilai, a former member of the Politburo who had aggressively sought promotion to the most elite circle of power, was expelled from the Communist Party of China in grand communist fashion, with a litany of lurid charges (including mistresses and bribe-taking) heaped high upon him in an account released on Friday, September 28th by Xinhua, an official news service.

The Politburo, which met earlier in the day, decreed that Mr Bo be handed over to judicial authorities. They are now expected to try him for corruption, for abuse of power, and for what amounts to some “major responsibility” in connection with his wife’s murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman. Mr Bo, who had been the party secretary for the south-western region of Chongqing until he was sacked in March, now becomes the third great figure to face trial for a role in the affair of the Briton’s death in November 2011. Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death penalty in August for poisoning Mr Heywood at a hotel in Chongqing. Wang Lijun, Mr Bo’s former police chief, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on September 24th for, among other crimes, his role in covering up the murder—also for his attempted defection to an American consulate in February, the event that triggered Mr Bo’s public downfall. Mr Bo’s trial (its date not yet known) will be China’s most high-profile political case since the Gang of Four were put in the dock 31 years ago for abuses they oversaw during the Cultural Revolution.
 The article goes on to discuss that after being made the party secretary of Chongqing province in 2007, considered to be a dead-end position for his career, Bo pursued a populist path to greater power, which included cracking down on corruption and resurrecting Mao-era "red songs." The author presumes that Bo's downfall was simply the result of accumulating more enemies than favors. Perhaps. Or perhaps Bo is a victim of a commitment to (or, at the least, a desire for) rule of law. As wealthy, powerful and popular as he was, it was not enough to save him from the consequences of conspiring to conceal his wife's involvement with a murder.

What Happens When You Shoot a Gun Underwater


Full article, with additional photos, here.

I wonder if the "grooves" in the "tornado" match up with the grooves on the bullet from the rifling?


Yellowstone Caldera Posses Little Risk

The Yellowstone Caldera has erupted as a super-volcano in the past. However, the Eruptions Blog at Wired Magazine explains that it is unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future:
Just because Yellowstone has produced three very large eruptions over the last 2.2 million years doesn’t mean that you should expect such an eruption. The caldera system has had plenty of smaller, dome-forming or explosive eruptions in the intervening years (and since the last caldera-forming eruption; see above), so in terms of the likeliest events, that is what to expect. In the paper by Guillarme Girard and John Stix in GSA Today, they suggest that the likeliest events to happen at Yellowstone in the near future are small, dome-forming eruptions or phreato-magmatic (water-influenced) explosions that follow pre-existing faults in the caldera, especially along the western rim. In fact, another study by Christensen and others (2007) showed that probabilistically, another caldera-forming eruption is the least likely scenario for future activity at Yellowstone. 
* * *

As for the future, it depends on what part of the caldera you are examining. Girard and Stix (2012) identify three zones at Yellowstone (see right) that could produce different potential eruptions: (1) fault-associated zones where voluminous rhyolite eruptions could occur – this is the most likely location for renewed activity; (2) a zone between Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth where phreatic or phreatomagmatic (water-driven) eruptions could occur and (3) a small fault zone on the east side of the caldera were basaltic eruptions could occur. All of these potential eruptive types present hazards to the general public, varying from significant ash fall and pyroclastic flows that could reach the neighboring area to localized hydrothermal explosions. However, none of these are the “endtimes” scenarios that jump to everyone’s mind the minute Yellowstone has another one of its many earthquake swarms or caldera floor inflation events.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Municipal Pensions--the Next Big Crises

Yesterday, I noted an article from the Atlantic about the coming economic crises in Japan. Today, I want to mention this article about the pension crises for local governments.
But there are other policies that have a lasting and devastating impact on the health of cities. That’s currently on sad display as municipalities try to deal with the ticking time bomb of public employee pensions.

State government pensions have dominated the headlines, beginning, as ever, with California. Less well known is the plight of local governments, struggling with the very same problem. There are 220 state pension plans but nearly 3,200 locally administered across the nation, wreaking havoc on municipal budgets already in tatters.

Like many urban renewal plans, generous pensions for a range of city employees were established with the best of intentions, in the context of another era. Awarding pensions – long since been phased out in the private sector and replaced with individual retirement accounts to which employers often contribute over the course of one’s career – was seen as a way of rewarding public service, particularly for salaries that were not competitive with the private sector.
* * *

Municipalities have an even harder time covering monthly pension obligations; most depend primarily on property tax revenue, along with dwindling state aid and limited other tax revenues. And then there is the ongoing post-2008 public finance crisis. Cities are struggling to pay for other things; many have drastically cut back services, from police patrols to keeping streetlights lit. They have laid off current employees as stimulus funding has run out. Some have declared bankruptcy.

The really bad news is in the future, however. Researchers have estimated that the aggregate unfunded liabilities of locally administered pension plans tops $574 billion. In what amounts to some scary reading in the world of public finance, Tracy Gordon and Ilana Fischer at the Brookings Institution and Heather M. Rose at the University of California, Davis, have detailed this unfolding story in a recently published paper, summarized as well by Gordon and Richard F. Dye of the University of Illinois at Chicago in the current issue of Land Lines. The conclusion is that local governments have not set aside enough funds for pension liabilities, and are borrowing heavily and shifting the burden to future taxpayers. On average, pensions consume nearly 20 percent of municipal budgets. But if trends continue, over half of every dollar in tax revenue would go to pensions, and by some estimates in some cases would suck up 75 percent of all tax revenue.
The bottom line of all of this is that governments, the world over, are finally running out of other people's money. Traditionally, during the little time most people had between when poor health forced them to stop working and when they died, "retirees" were supported by close family members--generally their children. Planning for retirement was necessarily an endeavor to have enough children.

The rise of public and private pensions upended this traditional arrangement, creating the typical freeloader problem. Since someone else's children were going to be subsidizing the system, there is a reduced incentive to expend the time, effort, and money to have enough of your own children. Now, however, the ratio of workers to retirees is declining. This is exacerbated in poorly run cities and states because they have driven out their tax base (Detroit comes to mind). So, there is just not enough other people's money to keep the pension ponzi scheme going. While the authors suggest that cities have to honor the pension agreements, I suspect that there will come a time when people rebel against having to pay taxes to a government from which they obtain no benefit. And the people that lose their pensions won't be happy either.

Femanism--Evolution in Action

Once again, a bitter feminist opens her mouth (or, rather, her word processing program) and reveals how truly shallow and selfish she really is. In this case, it is Sandra Tsing Loh at the Atlantic in her article about men being the weaker sex. She obviously is one of those feminists who believe that the ultimate goal of feminism is to crush and grind men into the ground.

Ms. Loh writes (with some of my comments interjected):
And—as Dr. Phil would ask—how’s all that freedom working … for us? Not very well, says Mary Eberstadt, author of Adam and Eve After the Pill. The sexual revolution’s legacy, she maintains, is “the paradox of declining female happiness.” She cites a 2009 study in which two Wharton School professors, using 35 years of General Social Survey data, found that despite educational and employment advances, women were reportedly less happy than they used to be. Ouch! [Geez, you mean that men didn't go off to "work" in order to play and have fun all day long?]

Into this gloomy landscape, however, strides Liza Mundy, her bold new vision encapsulated in The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family. Instead of being a castrating, unmarriageable harpy, today’s reproductively and economically free female
[translation: childless and shallow], Mundy asserts, is the trigger for a challenging but exciting new social order. In 2012 America, as she points out, women are better educated than men (women earn the majority of bachelor’s and graduate degrees); an escalating number of single women younger than 30 earn more than their male peers; and nine of the 10 U.S. job industries with the most projected growth are women-­dominated. [Wow. Over thirty years of bias against boys and men in education and employment--everything from drugging boys into submission, to preferential scholarships and admissions at universities, hiring quotas that benefit women--and she is amazed it finally worked. This is sort of like someone from the pre-civil war South using college graduation rates of rich whites to prove that they were the mental and moral superiors to the black slaves]. This last figure has resulted from various societal shifts, ranging from a late-20th-century fall in manufacturing jobs to the rise of such lucrative, almost exclusively female professions as psychotherapy. (Indeed—do you know a male therapist? I don’t, and my last therapist charged a murderous $275 an hour.) [I've never felt the need to pay someone $275/hr just to bitch about my life--maybe the gender disparity is because men don't need therapists].
Ms. Loh then relates how her one married friend storms into a girls-night out party to bitch about her husband not having gotten around to changing a light-bulb for several days and--surprise, surprise--transforming his neglect in this one task into an overall irresponsible personality. Her friend apparently doesn't appreciate that raising children and maintaining a household is actually work. So, rather than helping around the house, she instead runs off to a bar to drink with her buddies. Just like the men their mothers divorced in the 1960's and 70's.

She then relates:
Annette continues: “Those shallots. He may be an A-plus house­husband, but he’s a B-minus housewife. He knows the toilet’s clogged, so why doesn’t he call the plumber and—more important—arrange a time to let the plumber in so he can fix the problem? At midnight last Wednesday, I’m bailing out the flooded balcony with a four-cup Pyrex.”

“Well,” I say, in the sudden vibrating silence, “this is interesting. Here sit four divorced women who are okay with our exes, and one married woman furious at her husband. I wonder if part of the problem is that we have partitioned off our men’s tasks and you haven’t, because, um, what all married women maybe secretly yearn for is not one husband, but four.”

Every­one agrees; we tease it out and come up with, essentially: The Four Husbands of the Apocalypse.

Mr. X: the financial partner
. Not necessarily the financial provider—he’s more that calm, intelligent partner with whom to navigate the tedious finan­cial technicalities of life—the 401(k)s, the 529s, the various faintly conflicting health-insurance plans. If you are a mother in our economic class (we all married sensitive, intelligent, professional men, rather than barflies), this man will typically be the father of your children. You will feel that you chose correctly, never mind that you are no longer married (hence the name: “Mr. Ex”). [Translation: real nice guy, but boring; good to have around when the women was making less, but not so much now...].

Mr. Y: the feelings guy
[Translation: the gay boyfriend and/or "free" therapist]. He is all about the glass of chardonnay proffered with soulful active listening at the end of the day. “Pampering”—a vague enough word—may ensue, but the DPMs decide this needn’t include “massage” (as some “date night” guidelines arduously insist). We agree that any sensible human would prefer a massage from a professional. When your “mate” rubs your back, it’s impossible to relax while you anticipate what reciprocation will be required—five minutes of sex or, worse, a 20-­minute massage back. This is a complex role; while it falls to Mr. Y to provide amorous rela­tions if needed, for some—most?—women, it would be enough, or even preferred, for Mr. Y to function as the gentlemanly squire (Maurice Tempelsman holding umbrella aloft as Jackie O steps out of Doubleday into the rain). Or he could even be (or appear to be, although he says he’s not) gay. (David Gest, to the staff: “Liza will be home at 7 o’clock. Ready the Vosges chocolates, draw the bath!”—although of course, that ended, after 16 months, in lawsuits and allegations of beatings, herpes, etc.) (Doesn’t Sir Elton John have a Mr. Y?) (I’ll Google this.)

Mr. Z: The Brawny paper-towel man
[Translation: the guy that does all the man-jobs around the house]. This Mr. Fix-It wheels out the garbage cans, repairs the electronic garage-door opener, resets the computerized and (why?) tankless water heater.

Mr. Q: the cheerful intern
[Translation: the maid]. Mr. Q executes whatever tiny tasks you assign, without argument—he accepts a stack of envelopes and addresses them, picks up the dry cleaning before noon, is on call for 24/7 emergency carpooling, and, best of all, when handed a grocery list, returns with—get this—that grocery list’s exact items (“not Tropicana carton orange juice but fresh-squeezed Naked Orange Mango”).

The problem, of course, is that no one man can possibly be all four of these people. Mr. X is notoriously bad at processing feelings, Mr. Y is notoriously bad at fixing things, macho Mr. Z hates to be micromanaged, and Mr. Q does not actually exist in real life, although in modern marriages, husbands and wives often do treat each other as interns (“You pick up the dry cleaning!” “No, YOU should, by 5 o’clock! And put it on the United miles card, NOT Bank of America!”).
Dang-it. They want slaves, but it is illegal. And frankly, since they have the personalities of a pregnant dog, they wouldn't be able to attract the bevy of boyfriends they want for their harem.

Anyway, read the whole thing. It does a lot to explain the declining birth-rates in the United States. Evolution in action.

Consumer Spending Up--But Only Because of Rising Gas Prices


American consumer spending spiked in August but experts are attributing the bump to higher gas prices say the splurge may actually be a bad sign for economic recovery.

'The U.S. personal income and spending data for August are worse than the headline figures suggest and indicate that subdued jobs growth is hitting incomes,' said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Dales added the increase in spending "was largely due to extra spending caused by the surge in gasoline prices."

Personal consumption expenditures increased 0.5 per cent from July to August - the biggest increase since February - the Commerce Department said Friday.

Those figures measure spending on goods including cars, clothes, and food and services including health care and travel.

During the same period, gas prices rose nearly 50 cents a gallon. Factoring out increased expenses for higher fuel costs and other price gains and American consumer spending only 0.1 percent.

The numbers only look worse when you consider that income also grew 0.1 percent, taxes and inflation actually knocked American's disposable income down 0.3 percent as a whole.

That's the first decline in disposable income since November 2011, pulling American's rainy day funds spiraling down after it. In July, the savings rate tumbled from 4.1 percent of after-tax income to 3.7 percent.

Friday, September 28, 2012

After Europe ... Japan

The Atlantic has an article about the impending economic crises in Japan. The authors write:
This summer, many government officials and private investors finally seemed to realize that the crisis in the euro zone was not some passing aberration, but rather a result of deep-­seated political, economic, and financial problems that will take many years to resolve. The on-again, off-again euro turmoil has already proved immensely damaging to nearly all Europeans, and its negative impact is now being felt around the world. Most likely there is worse to come—and soon.

But the economic disasters of our time—which involve big banks in rich countries, call into question the viability of government debt, and seriously threaten the reach of even the most self-confident nations—will not end with the euro debacle. The euro zone is well down the path to severe crisis, but other industrialized democracies are hot on its heels. Do not let the euro zone’s troubles distract you from the bigger picture: we are all in a mess.

Who could be next in line for a gut-wrenching loss of confidence in its growth prospects, its sovereign debt, and its banking system? Think about Japan.

Japan’s post-war economic miracle ended badly in the late 1980s, when the value of land and stocks spiked dramatically and then crashed. This boom-and-bust cycle left people, companies, and banks with debts that took many years to work off. Headline-growth rates slowed after 1990, leading some observers to speak of one or more “lost decades.”

But this isn’t the full picture: after a post-war baby boom, population growth in Japan decelerated sharply; the number of working-age people has declined fairly rapidly since the mid-’90s.
* * *

About half of the Japanese government’s annual budget now goes to pensions and interest payments. As the government has spent more and more to support its growing elderly population, Japanese savers have willingly financed ever-increasing public-sector debts.

Elderly people hold their savings in the form of cash and bank deposits. The banks, in turn, hold a great deal of government debt. The Bank of Japan (the country’s central bank) also buys government bonds—this is how it provides liquid reserves to commercial banks and cash to households. Similarly, Japan’s private pension plans—many promising a defined benefit—own a great deal of government bonds, to back their future payments. Few foreigners hold Japanese government debt—95 percent of it is in the hands of locals.

Given Japan’s demographic decline, it would make sense to invest national savings abroad, in countries where populations are younger and still growing, and returns on capital are surely higher. These other nations should be able to pay back loans when they are richer and older, supplying some of the funds needed to meet Japan’s pension promises and other obligations. This is the strategy that Singapore and Norway, for example, have undertaken in recent decades.

Instead, the Japanese government is using private savings to fund current spending, such as pensions and wage payments. With projected annual budget deficits between 7 and 10 percent of GDP, Japanese savers are essentially tendering their savings in return for newly issued government debt, which is not backed by hard assets. It is backed only by an aging, shrinking population of taxpayers.

Japan’s taxpayers are already rebelling against small tax increases needed to limit escalating deficits. This leaves little room for hope that future taxpayers will accept the larger tax increases needed to repay debts.

Japan’s demographic decline will be hard to reverse—and even in the best-case scenario, the positive effects of a reversal would not be felt for decades. The economy, roughly speaking, is as healthy as it is likely to become. Yet the government seems incapable of steering away from the cliff, a characteristic that should strike no one as uniquely Japanese—just look at how the Euro­pean leadership has behaved over the past half decade, or how you can polarize American politicians with the phrase debt ceiling.

A crisis in Japan would most likely manifest as a collapse of confidence in the yen: At some point, Japanese citizens will decide that saving in any yen-­denominated asset is not worth the risk. Then interest rates will rise; the capital position of banks, insurance companies, and pension funds will worsen (because they all hold long-maturing bonds, which fall in value when rates rise); and fears of insolvency will surface.
 
* * *

The shock felt around the world will result not just from the realization that Japan is unable to meet its pension and other social obligations. Investors will also be horrified to see the disappearance of the private savings previously used to buy government debt, whether through debt defaults and bank failures or through high inflation. For ordinary Japanese, public promises about retirement benefits and price stability will be broken just as their private savings for retirement collapse.

No one can predict the timing, but without radical political change that creates a more responsible fiscal trajectory, this will happen.
Japan is well below the birth rate necessary for replacing their population. For a long time, they enjoyed a technological advantage in manufacturing over surrounding nations, as well as a more highly educated work force, that have allowed them to keep their per capita productivity in line with Europe. However, holding the status quo is not going to be enough to offset increasing pension and health care expenses of a rapidly aging population.  Japan's economic decline will continue, and perhaps accelerate. Nevertheless, I am left with the presentiment that Japan will not go quietly into the night.

Does Sharing Chores Lead to Higher Divorces?

The lead in to this article from the Telegraph is that couples that share household chores are more likely to divorce, suggesting that it is the sharing of chores that leads to divorce. (I would note that this study is from Norway, so it may not be applicable to other countries or cultures). But, when you dig deeper into the article, you actually find this:
But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of “modern” couples rather than the chores they shared.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.
 
Evolution in action.

"America's Dumbest War Ever"

I came across this (via Weasel Zippers) from Michael Yon. An excerpt from letter from a son, serving in Afghanistan, to his father:
Dad,

I am fed up. I cannot believe the lack of attention the recent changes in this war is receiving by the media or the country. I think I saw one thing on CNN about the following subject, but I had to dig extensively to find it. The purpose of this letter is to let you know of the garbage that our soldiers are going through right now. With this knowledge, I hope that you take action by writing your congressmen.

First, because of the recent green on blue incidents or "insider threats" as the new buzz phrase dictates, all coalition forces in Afghanistan have completely stopped partnering with the ANA, AUP, and ALP in order to prevent the death of anymore CF casualties by ANSF or Taliban disguised as them. This is also greatly spurred by President Karzi's indifferent attitude and lack of action to take measures to prevent further insider attacks.

Second, because of this massive change in policy (and complete change in mission) all U.S. forces are forbidden to actively patrol their AO and are to remain on their respective COPs/FOBs. There are only a few exceptions to this rule and they all pertain to "hardening" highway 1 in our AO. We have received orders that clearly state that all CF will no longer be allowed to drop air to ground munitions within the country of Afghanistan. This preempts Karzi's announcement that will be made shortly that states the above mentioned order, making it a tactical directive that he is ordering.

To the first point: Our mission in Afghanistan is to partner with the ANSF on all levels. Now the policy makers are telling us that we are not allowed to do that and further more we are to take immediate measures to secure ourselves from the ANSF that are co-located with us. So the question now becomes, what is our mission? Furthermore, the implication is that we have absolutely no reason to still be in this country if we are not partnering with the ANSF. So why are we here?

To the second point: I don't think that the American citizens would be happy if they knew that their soldiers were being prohibited from defending themselves in any way because of politically driven orders, but that is precisely what is happening in this war right now even as I write this letter. The soldiers of the U.S. never engage the enemy unless we know that we have will always have the tactical advantage in defending ourselves, that advantage is the use of close air support and air weapons team. To take those weapons away from us is to level the playing field for the enemy and thus exposing our soldiers to more danger. In the school house they teach us that the minimum ratio that we are to engage the enemy with, is a 3:1 ratio. In other words, we have the highest probability of winning because we don’t fight fair. The sound tactical principles behind this teaching have saved lives. The very presence of aircraft over our foot patrols has also saved lives and now our chain of command is being told by our political leadership that this is now not allowed. If we are not partnering with the ANSF and we are not actively patrolling to prevent our enemies from massing their attacks on our COP and we can’t drop a bomb on the enemy that we have positively identified, than what the hell are we doing here?

Give us a mission or send us home. I honestly have no preference on what the politicians decide, as long as they just make a decision. Of course this will be a terrible inconvenience on the current elections so I am sure we will be forgotten, which really does not seem to be too different for how things have been going for the last eleven years.
Read the whole thing. And, I agree. Let's bring them home. And next time, remember that punitive missions are more effective and less wasteful than "nation building."

The Bible--There is an App for That

Making the Bible accessible and shareable is what YouVersion’s Bible app is all about. About 300 versions of the Bible can be downloaded for free to smartphones and tablets, allowing people speaking 144 different languages to get their fix of Scripture.

“A lot of people in the U.S. have six or seven Bibles in the house and never use them,” says Bobby Gruenewald, 36, the man behind this mobile Christian mission. “Our goal was to help people engage with the Bible.”

If numbers are any indication, mission accomplished.

The app, also available at Bible.com, has been downloaded 65 million times and counting, Gruenewald says. Users can highlight verses, do searches and read devotionals.

* * *

As of Thursday morning, a running tally on Bible.com showed that since the app’s 2008 inception, users have spent more than 31.5 billion – yes, billion – minutes using it to read the Bible.
I would also remind readers that the LDS Church has an excellent app available for free called "Gospel Library" that allows you to read, search, make notes, mark, and link scriptures. (It's available through the App Store). You initially download the app, then separately (through the app) download the books or articles you want. Not only is the King James version of the Bible available (at least in English--I presume other versions in other languages), but you can also download (or not) other scriptures (Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price), Church manuals, magazines, etc. To save space, I have only downloaded the Bible, BofM, D&C and Pearl of Great Price, and the current priesthood/relief society manual.

If you have access to a Wi-Fi or unlimited data plan, I would also mention that the audio for the scriptures is great if you just want to listen to them.  It is someone actually reading, instead of the computerized voice that the Kindle offers.

Anyway, even if you are not LDS, you can just download the KJV Bible. It is a great app for studying the Bible.

Rule by Decree

Most people think that the antithesis of rule of law is anarchy. That is not completely accurate. There is also rule by decree of the tyrant or sovereign. Such as in East Saint Louis:
Angered by the recent murders of four young people, the mayor announced today that police are going to impose drastic new measurers [sic] to keep teens off the streets.
* * *

Among the new rules:

**Minors are to be off the streets at ten o’clock on both weeknights and weekend nights.

**Minors on the street during school hours will be arrested on sight.
[What about home-schoolers or those out for legitimate reasons?]

**Police will also perform I.D. checks on street corners and conduct gun searches, and Parks says he won’t hesitate to call in the National Guard if the spike in violence continues.
["Show me your papers!"]

“The loiterers will be arrested, not warned, but arrested. Those who are hanging out at 11th and Bond, 15th and Lynch, 38th and Waverly, wherever you happen to be, if you are loitering, you will be arrested.”
[Translation: If you stop for the cross-walk, that is loitering; if you don't stop for the cross-walk, that is j-walking; no matter what, we will arrest who we want, when we want]

Surrounded by police, Parks announced they also plan to arrest adult males and young men wearing gang colors, amounting to a city-wide dress code.
[The slippery slope begins--now we're moving beyond minors to adults males and young men. Does this include accessorizing?]

“No royal blue, no bright red to be worn by our men or our boys in this community,” Parks said. “Why is that? Those colors have long been affiliated with gang kinds of affiliations”
[Brilliant. Banned from their favored colors, unable to select different colors or symbols, the gangs will by stymied and have to disband]

Asked about Constitutional concerns, and the need for probable cause, Parks says the recent wave of crime is the probable cause and justifies the extreme new measures.
[Translation: The Constitution was written by a bunch of old, dead Crackers, so who cares]

“Vehicles that are moving will be stopped and searched for guns, weapons, drugs, and open alcohol and any other violations that are taking place,” Parks later told KMOX’s Mark Reardon. “People who are walking, people who are bicycling, can be stopped and searched for the same and, when it comes to state IDs, we’re going to be confirming that state IDs are in place for everyone involved.”
[Whoa. We're suddenly beyond minors and young men to just "people" in general?]

Parks noted the legal questions surrounding his new policies but said “most importantly, we have to do something.”
[Because it's more important to have a knee jerk reaction than to think things through]

“We have desperate times, they call for desperate measures and they call for extreme measures, things that we may not have done before, to get the desired results. You cannot grow as a city if your children are being wiped out and never given an opportunity to live.”
[East St. Louis must be smaller than I thought if four deaths risks wiping out all of the children]
Yeah. Give the mayor absolute power and he'll make sure you are safe.

Well, this type of ban provides fertile grounds for a lawsuit based on gender discrimination, violation of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and violation of the Fourth Amendment.

PC Run Amok in Britain

I've been waiting to see something about this in the American press, but it either has not been picked up, or downplayed, so here goes. Gates of Vienna has posted about police and government authorities in Rotherham, England, systematically covering up the rape of young girls by Muslim gangs to avoid stigmatizing Muslims. From the article:
The Times has a three page spread today (Sep 24, 2012) about the thousands of predominately Pakistani Muslim gang rapes of white English girls in the Rotherham area.

To say it is shocking is an understatement. The “Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board” appears to have known about this monstrosity since 1996 but in the interests of “Community Cohesion” set out to wilfully cover up the details. In one report they stated:

Such crimes had cultural characteristics… there are sensitivities of ethnicity with potential to endanger the harmony of community-relations. Great care will be taken in drafting this report to ensure that its findings embrace Rotherham’s qualities of diversity. It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided.
This racial cover-up means that thousands of children were raped and abused directly because of the actions of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board. In 2000-2001 the Muslim gang-rape of children was so bad it forced a Rotherham headmaster to write to his pupils’ parents, warning them of the situation. It would appear that no action was taken.

The British police seem to have lost all sense of morality, not to mention their duty of upholding the law. The Times has some horrifying examples of what surely amounts to criminal inaction in their multicultural response to adult Muslim men gang-raping under-age and vulnerable white girls:
Police went to a house outside which a father was demanding the release of his daughter, who was inside with a group of British Pakistani adults. Officers found the girl, 14, who had been drugged, under a bed. The father and his daughter were arrested for racial harassment and assault respectively. Police left, leaving three men at the house with two more girls.
 The author goes on to relate additional examples from the Times article describing specific incidents where the police either did nothing, or threatened to arrest the parents of the victims. The author goes on to write:
I’ve got into trouble for saying this before, but I really don’t blame the Muslims for this, they are simply following the example of their “perfect man” Mohammed who raped, pillaged and murdered in the name of the religion of peace. This is something they are encouraged to do today, in Britain, under the guise of state-promoted multiculturalism which elevates the savage and barbaric “religion” of Islam to a higher level than our own culture.

No, the people I really blame here are the Multicultural, PC, cowardly and shameful British Police and the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board. The entire board should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting the rape and murder of English children, as should each and every police officer involved in this decade-long cover-up.
Unfortunately, I don't have a link to the Times of London article, but here is one to a story on this at the Daily Mail and another at "The Bureau of Investigative Journalism."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Can the Middle-East Survive a Post-Western Era?

Short answer: no.

The long answer is explored by this article from Reuters:
Now leaders throughout the monarchical states of the Middle East Gulf are bracing for the sandstorm of what they fear may be a “post-Western era.” That is, potentially decades to come of regional upheavals and realignment shaped by reduced U.S. engagement, a dysfunctional Europe and the influence of less-enlightened state actors and emboldened extremist groups.

The past week’s wave of anti-American rage across the Middle East and North Africa has sharpened the reality that the region is facing an escalating double threat: that of a nuclear-charged, expansionist Shiite Iran and the spread of Sunni, jihadist extremism from Somalia to Syria and from Cairo to Benghazi. ...

... American voters are weary of war, worried about the economy and becoming less dependent on Middle East energy thanks to the expanding natural shale gas exploration in the U.S.

The past week’s events will at the same time dramatically complicate consideration of more concerted Turkish-Arab-U.S. efforts to counter Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and end a gruesome civil war that has already claimed 30,000 lives.

Gulf officials, who spoke to me under agreement of anonymity, must feel a sense of empty vindication now, after warning the Obama administration that it had been too quick to abandon Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and too slow to recognize the dangers of what forces or disorder might replace him. Stage two of the year-and-a-half-old Arab Awakening has begun. Although stage one, in their view, was driven primarily by idealistic youth and ordinary citizens, stage two risks being hijacked by more nefarious forces and political operatives aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies.

Rachel Carson -- Mass Murderer

This week Silent Spring will turn 50.

Rachel Carson’s jeremiad against pesticides is credited by many as launching the modern environmentalist movement, and the author, who died in 1964, is being widely lauded for her efforts. "She was the very first person to knock some of the shine off of modernity," says environmentalist Bill McKibben in a New York Times Magazine article from this past Sunday.

* * *

In Silent Spring, Carson crafted a passionate denunciation of modern technology that drives environmentalist ideology today. At its heart is this belief: Nature is beneficent, stable, and even a source of moral good; humanity is arrogant, heedless, and often the source of moral evil. Rachel Carson, more than any other person, is responsible for the politicized science that afflicts our public policy debates today.
 After noting the poor science underlying Carson's work, the author goes on to note:
The first notable triumph of environmentalism occurred in 1972. Ten years after Silent Spring, William Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the barely two year-old Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT, overruling an administrative law judge's fact finding after months of scientific testimony that "DDT is not a safety hazard to man when used as directed" and that its benefits outweighed its costs. As part of the justification, Ruckelshaus noted in his decision, "Public concern over the widespread use of pesticides was stirred by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring."

* * *

Carson described the choice humanity faced as a fork in the road to the future. "The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress at great speed, but at its end lies disaster," she declared. "The other fork of the road – the one 'less traveled by' – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth." This kind of apocalyptic rhetoric is now standard in today's policy debates. In any case, the opposition to Silent Spring arose not just because Carson was attacking the self-interests of certain corporations (which she certainly was), but also because it was clear that her larger concern was to rein in technological progress and the economic growth it fuels.

Through Silent Spring, Carson provided those who are alienated by modern technological progress with a model of how to wield ostensibly scientific arguments on behalf of policies and results that they prefer for other reasons. ...

... As trust in other sources of authority – politicians, preachers, business leaders – has withered over the past 50 years, policy partisans are increasingly seeking to cloak their arguments in the mantle of objective science. However, the Yale researchers find that greater scientific literacy actually produces greater political polarization. As Kahan and his fellow researchers report, "For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions." In other words, in policy debates scientific claims are used to vindicate partisan values, not to reach to an agreement about what is actually the case. This sort of motivated reasoning applies to partisans of the political left and right, who both learned it from Rachel Carson.
Although only tangentially discussed in the article is the important point that Carson ascribed "morality" to something inherently "amoral"--nature itself. (Obviously, Carson had never actually had to live under primitive conditions, or she would not have viewed nature as anything other than hostile and cruel). She essentially created a modern "mother nature" competitor to our affections and worship. She was an anti-Christ.

Here is more from Robert Zubrin about Carson, the mass-murderer (h/t Instapundit). After discussing the history of DDT, and Carson's falsifications and lies about it, he writes:
Initially, the ban [on DDT] only affected the United States. But the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) soon adopted strict environmental regulations that effectively prohibited it from funding international projects that used DDT.[23] Around the globe, Third World governments were told that if they wanted USAID or other foreign aid money to play with, they needed to stop using the most effective weapon against malaria.[24] Given the corrupt nature of many of the recipient regimes, it is not surprising that many chose lucre over life. And even for those that did not, the halting of American DDT exports (since U.S. producers slowed and then stopped manufacturing it) made DDT much more expensive, and thus effectively unavailable for poor countries in desperate need of the substance.[25] As a result, insect-borne diseases returned to the tropics with a vengeance. By some estimates, the death toll in Africa alone from unnecessary malaria resulting from the restrictions on DDT has exceeded 100 million people.[26]
* * *
While critics of Silent Spring have tended to focus on the one-sidedness of Rachel Carson’s case or on those of her claims that have not held up over time, the fraudulence of Silent Spring goes beyond mere cherry-picking or discredited data: Carson abused, twisted, and distorted many of the studies that she cited, in a brazen act of scientific dishonesty.[27] So the real tragic irony of the millions of deaths to malaria in the past several decades is that the three central anti-DDT claims made by Carson and other activists are all false.
Zubrin goes on to discuss the specifics lies Carson made. He concludes:
For the record, 1979 [when life in oceans was to have become extinct due to DTT] has come and gone, and life in the world’s oceans has continued to flourish gloriously. But, as a result of the mendacity and actions of Carson, Ruckelshaus, Wurster, Ehrlich, and their allies, DDT has been banned, and hundreds of millions of people who might have lived to enjoy those oceans, to sail on them, fish in them, surf in them, or swim in them, to play on their beaches or write poems about their sunsets, are dead.

In short, Carson (and her ilk) lied and, thereby, caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, in order to gain fame, power and fortune. Surely she needs to be included with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the other great butchers of history.

U.S. Press Doesn't Wear Prada--It is Pravda

From First Things:
... a recent Gallup study suggests that the press’ credibility is on the wane, with fully 60 percent of the country saying they have “little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.”

Given the events of the last two weeks, we may expect an acceleration of media-skepticism. Let us consider just how egregiously the press has abandoned its responsibilities to the public trust in the past few weeks:

On September 11, on the eleventh anniversary of the worst attack yet endured on our shores, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three aides were murdered, and their headquarters in Benghazi sacked. The U.S. Press unquestioningly accepted a White House explanation calling the event a “spontaneous demonstration” inspired by a poorly made anti-Islam film short that had been languishing online, all-but-ignored, for months.

Despite reports that the attackers had been chanting “Obama, we are all Osama,” (in reference to Osama bin Laden, whose America-effected demise was celebrated over 20 times during the recently concluded Democratic convention) the press duly reported the White House line, and they saw no First Amendment issues when the Obama administration asked Google (owners of YouTube) to remove the offending video. (Google refused.)

... The press did not blink when the film’s creator was publicly identified, handcuffed, and brought into police custody for questioning about “a possible parole violation” in the middle of the night. In fact, some journalists—utterly incurious about the possible constitutional repercussions of establishing such a precedent—began helpfully arguing that sometimes free speech ought to be limited, darn it! The work of cultural darling Andres Serrano—whose overpraised “Piss Christ” showcases a photograph of a crucifix submerged in a bucket of Serrano’s own urine—was free speech and “art” deserving protection, while an execrably produced anti-Muslim short, made by a cultural nobody, was not.

The press appeared not to notice that while embassies were under threat in multiple countries, the president traveled to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. ...

When the State Department threatened to go into a bureaucratic swoon of Judy-Garlandesque proportions if forced to answer questions about the attack, the press offered a thoughtful cold compress to soothe its frazzled brow, and then closed the door softly, as it made its way out.

After the administration finally admitted to Congress that the September 11th violence was, in fact, a terror attack ... the press corps heard White House Spokesman Jay Carney affirm that the attacks were “self-evidently” terrorist in nature. The press expressed no surprise at the change in story...

It took a Spanish-language interview with Univision for President Obama to be asked direct and pointed questions about Libya and other issues, and the president’s answers were largely meandering and unfocused, like the defensive moves of a boxer who has taken a surprise hit and is trying to run out the clock for the safety of his corner. The President quickly moved to the David Letterman Show—where the host allowed him to say he wasn’t sure what the national debt actually was, without reaction—thence to a forty-thousand-dollar-a-head fundraiser hosted by rapper-entrepreneur Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce.

... Meanwhile, Obama gave a speech at a 5,000 seat arena, and the press described it as given before 18,000. CBS News Director John Dickerson admitted that Mitt Romney needs to ask pointed, difficult questions of Obama in the upcoming debates, because, “the press isn’t necessarily going [to do it] for him.”
 See also this post from Walter Russell Mead from a few days ago on the same subject.

Obama: "I want to see us export more jobs."

Jamie Wearing Fool has the video. (H/t Instapundit). I don't think Obama misspoke. I think it was a Freudian slip. Part of his mission to fundamentally transform America.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Understanding the China-Japan Island Conflict

Stratfor has an analysis of the China-Japan island conflict and its history.
For decades, Tokyo and Beijing generally abided by a tacit agreement to keep the islands dispute quiet. Japan agreed not to carry out any new construction or let anyone land on the islands; China agreed to delay assertion of any claim to the islands and not let the dispute interfere with trade and political relations. Although flare-ups occurred, usually triggered by some altercation between the Japanese coast guard and Chinese fishing vessels or by nationalist Japanese or Chinese activists trying to land on the islands, the lingering territorial dispute played only a minor role in bilateral relations.

However, Ishihara's plans for the Tokyo municipal government to take over the islands and eventually build security outposts there forced the Japanese government's hand. Facing domestic political pressure to secure Japan's claim to the islands, the government determined that the "nationalization" of the islands was the least contentious option. By keeping control over construction and landings, the central government would be able to keep up its side of the tacit agreement with China on managing the islands.

China saw Japan's proposed nationalization as an opportunity to exploit. Even as Japan was debating what action to take, China began stirring up anti-Japanese sentiment and Beijing tacitly backed the move by a group of Hong Kong activists in August to sail to and land on the disputed islands. At the same time, Beijing prevented a Chinese-based fishing vessel from attempting the same thing, using Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status as a way to distance itself from the action and retain greater flexibility in dealing with Japan.

As expected, the Japanese coast guard arrested the Hong Kong activists and impounded their ship, but Tokyo also swiftly released them to avoid escalating tensions. Less than a month later, after Japan's final decision to purchase the islands from their private Japanese owner, anti-Japanese protests swept China, in many places devolving into riots and vandalism targeting Japanese products and companies. Although many of these protests were stage-managed by the government, the Chinese began to clamp down when some demonstrations got out of control. While still exploiting the anti-Japanese rhetoric, Chinese state-run media outlets have highlighted local governments' efforts to identify and punish protesters who turned violent and warn that nationalist pride is no excuse for destructive behavior.

Presently, both China and Japan are working to keep the dispute within manageable parameters after a month of heightened tensions.
* * *

China is struggling with the new role of the military in its foreign relations, while Japan is seeing a slow re-emergence of the military as a tool of its foreign relations. China's two-decade-plus surge in economic growth is reaching its logical limit, yet given the sheer size of China's population and its lack of progress switching to a more consumption-based economy, Beijing still has a long way to go before it achieves any sort of equitable distribution of resources and benefits. This leaves China's leaders facing rising social tensions with fewer new resources at their disposal. Japan, after two decades of society effectively agreeing to preserve social stability at the cost of economic restructuring and upheaval, is now reaching the limits of its patience with a bureaucratic system that is best known for its inertia.

Both countries are seeing a rise in the acceptability of nationalism, both are envisioning an increasingly active role for their militaries, and both occupy the same strategic space. With Washington increasing its focus on the Asia-Pacific region, Beijing is worried that a resurgent Japan could assist the United States on constraining China in an echo of the Cold War containment strategy.

We are now seeing the early stage of another shift in Asian power. It is perhaps no coincidence that the 1972 re-establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Japan followed U.S. President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands were not even an issue at the time, since they were still under U.S. administration. Japan's defense was largely subsumed by the United States, and Japan had long ago traded away its military rights for easy access to U.S. markets and U.S. protection. The shift in U.S.-China relations opened the way for the rapid development of China-Japan relations.

The United States' underlying interest is maintaining a perpetual balance between Asia's two key powers so neither is able to challenging Washington's own primacy in the Pacific. During World War II, this led the United States to lend support to China in its struggle against imperial Japan. The United States' current role backing a Japanese military resurgence against China's growing power falls along the same line. As China lurches into a new economic cycle, one that will very likely force deep shifts in the country's internal political economy, it is not hard to imagine China and Japan's underlying geopolitical balance shifting again. And when that happens, so too could the role of the United States.

Milky Way Surrounded by Gas Cloud


The cloud, called a halo, appears to be enormous, extending hundreds of thousands of light-years across. Scientists suspect it is composed mainly of hydrogen, with some oxygen and other elements. The halo's temperature, size and mass were estimated using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space observatory and Japan's Suzaku satellite.

Researchers think the mass inside this halo could be the answer to what's called the "missing baryon problem." Baryons are a class of subatomic particles that includes the protons and neutrons that make up the atoms inside stars and galaxies.

Theories of the formation and evolution of the universe predict there should be many more baryons than we see. In fact, the baryons that have been accounted for in our local cosmic neighborhood are only half of those predicted to exist there.

Galaxy-shrouding gas haloes, such as the one around the Milky Way, may be the hiding spot for many of these missing baryons.

"Although there are uncertainties, the work by Gupta and colleagues provides the best evidence yet that the galaxy's missing baryons have been hiding in a halo of million-Kelvin gas that envelopes the galaxy," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "The estimated density of this halo is so low that similar halos around other galaxies would have escaped detection."
 
Full story here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Comet ISON

Alan Boyle writes about a new comet:
A new comet superstar named C/2012 S1 (ISON) is heading for the spotlight starting in November 2013 — but will it perform as some hope it will, or will it be a dud of cosmic proportions?
* * *

That orbit is due to bring Comet ISON incredibly close to the sun — within just 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) in late November of next year. As a result, current projections suggest it could get very bright. How bright? Various estimates have set the brightest magnitude at -10 to -16. That suggests the comet could become brighter than the full moon — which led Astronomy Magazine's Michael E. Bakich to say it "probably will become the brightest comet anyone alive has ever seen."
* * *

Battams said a lot depends on Comet ISON's composition. "It could turn into a huge letdown if it's a comet that's just too fragile and dissipates as it makes its way into the inner solar system," he told me. That's basically what happened to Comet Elenin. Because ISON appears to be a "new" comet coming in from the far-flung Oort cloud, it's tough to predict how the comet will behave.

The comet is currently in the constellation Cancer, as indicated in this star chart from Astronomy Magazine. When the comet hits prime time, a year from now, it should be heading through the constellation Virgo and visible from northern latitudes before sunrise. Here's a night-sky animation from the Remanzacco Observatory that shows how things are likely to go down.

During the months ahead, astronomers of all stripes will be keeping a watch on Comet ISON and refining their expectations. "I would imagine that by next summer, we should have a much better handle on it," Battams said. In the meantime, check out the chatter on SpaceWeather.com, the Remanzacco Observatory's comet blog and the Comets Mailing List. (And on Twitter, keep an eye on @SungrazerComets.)

Panspermia

Extraterrestrial microbes might have brought life to Earth after travelling through space for millions of years, say scientists.

The theory is based on calculations showing a high likelihood of rock fragments from planets in other star systems landing on Earth long ago.

Some of them could have carried embedded micro-organisms, according to experts writing in the journal Astrobiology.

The research suggests the dormant bugs could easily have survived the long journey through space, despite high levels of cosmic radiation.

Simple life may equally well have travelled from Earth to planets outside the Solar System, the scientists believe.

The process, known as lithopanspermia, could mean the universe is teeming with Earth-like life.

'Our work ... says that lithopanspermia might have been very likely, and it may be the first paper to demonstrate that,' said lead researcher Dr Edward Belbruno, from Princeton University in the US.

'If this mechanism is true, it has implications for life in the universe as a whole.

'This could have happened anywhere.'

China Says First Aircraft Carrier Entering Service

China had purchased a Russian aircraft carrier to fix up, and now are saying that it is entering service.
So far the trial runs of the aircraft carrier have been to test the ship's propulsion, communications and navigation systems. But launching and recovering fixed-wing aircraft at sea is a much trickier proposition. It will take years to build the proper aircraft, to train pilots to land in adverse weather on a moving deck, and to develop a proper carrier battle group.

Syrian Kurdistan

Walter Russell Mead writes about Kurds in Syria obtaining some autonomy, and its implications.
Syria’s Kurds once waged a fruitless struggle with Damascus against discrimination and for basic rights like citizenship and official recognition of a distinct Kurdish language and culture. Now, however, the equation has changed, and large chunks of northeastern Syria are now under the sole control of the Kurds.

Back in July, Butcher Assad ceded the responsibility of governing and maintaining law and order in northeastern Syria to Kurdish leaders. In return they would keep out of the uprising. Syrian Kurdish leaders have taken this responsibility and run with it. ...

... Meanwhile, Assad also eased restrictions on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The PKK is mostly based in Turkey and Iraq, and its insurgency in Turkey has grown more intense in tandem with the Syrian civil war; observers suspect Assad is using the PKK to distract and annoy Turkey. The PKK, according to reports, now occupies towns along much of Syria’s border with Turkey. The past few months have seen an intensifying battle between the Turkish state and the PKK. Ankara claims to have killed hundreds of insurgents, and the PKK has been blamed for a spate of recent attacks on policemen and army checkpoints. A recent article in Turkey’s Zaman newspaper likened the PKK to the Taliban and described widespread drug cultivation in areas of Turkey controlled by the PKK, with enormous profits from the drug trade filling the coffers of Kurdish groups. All this suggests a renewed struggle in the Middle East between the Kurds and their host countries (see map above). We’re likely to see Syrian Kurds start to push harder and more successfully for the same kind of regional autonomy as in Iraqi Kurdistan. Depending on inter-Kurdish politics, we might see the PKK establish a safe haven and base of operations in northeastern Syria from which to launch attacks in Turkey. This could in turn lead to Turkish incursions into Syria.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Washington vs. America

An interesting op-ed at the New York Times on the disconnect between Washington D.C. and the rest of the country. Here is something to ponder:
The state of life inside the Beltway also points to the broader story of our spending problem, which has less to do with how much we spend on the poor than how much we lavish on subsidies for highly inefficient economic sectors, from health care to higher education, and on entitlements for people who aren’t supposed to need a safety net — affluent retirees, well-heeled homeowners, agribusiness owners, and so on.

There’s a case that this president’s policies have made these problems worse, sluicing more borrowed dollars into programs that need structural reform, and privileging favored industries and constituencies over the common good.

But this story is one that Romney and his party seem incapable of telling. Instead, many conservatives prefer to refight the welfare battles of the 1990s, and insist that our spending problem is all about an excess of “dependency” among the non-income-tax-paying 47 percent.

In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.

When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Warp Drive Possible?

It may be possible to travel faster than light after all. From Space.com:
An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind.

Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped at all.

"Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light," explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. "But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light."

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.

"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White told SPACE.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."

The Meaning of the Black Muslim Flag

I was reading a story on Fox News today about Egyptian President Morsi and read something disturbing in its ignorance or its intent to deceive readers. The story, which is from the Associated Press, states:
In the interview, Morsi dismissed criticism that he responded too slowly when protesters managed to scale the walls of the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. The demonstrators replaced the American flag with a banner carrying the Islamic declaration of faith.  
CBS reported at the time the following:
Dozens of protesters scaled the embassy walls, went into the courtyard and took down the flag from a pole. They brought it back to the crowd outside, which tried to burn it, but failing that, tore it apart. The protesters on the wall then raised on the flagpole a black flag with the Muslim declaration of faith on it, "There is no god but God [sic] and Muhammad is his prophet."
Here's a photo:


The black flag has special significance in Islam. As Joel Richardson explains in his book, Antichrist: Islam's Awaited Messiah:
In Islam there are two flags. One is white and one is black. Written across both flags in Arabic are the words, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger." The white flag is called Al-Liwaa and serves as the sign for the leader of the Muslim army and is the flag of the Islamic State. The black flag is called Ar-Raya and is used by the Muslim army. It is also called the flag of jihad, and is carried into battle. One flag is governmental and the other is a military flag. 
 * * * 
Islamic tradition pictures the Mahdi [the Islamic messiah] as joining with teh army of Muslim warriors carrying black flags. The Madhi will then lead this army to Israel and re-conquer it for Islam. The Jews will be slaughtered until very few remain and Jerusalem will become the location of the Mahdi's rule over the Earth.
(pp. 45-46).

French Alps Murder--Police Following Pakistan Lead

Looks like police are back to Saad Al-Hilli being the target of the murderer. From the Mirror:
The Sunday Mirror can reveal that the probe into the murders of British ­engineer Saad al-Hilli, his wife and ­mother-in-law, and a passing cyclist has now ­extended to Asia.

Detectives are trying to trace a mystery man from Pakistan who is believed to have been in touch with Muslim dad-of-two Saad, 50, in recent months.

Last week we told how one of Saad’s closest friends had become concerned about his extreme anti-Israeli rants in internet chatooms.

Gary Aked, who knew Saad for nearly 20 years, said his friend spent hours ­bombarding Arabic chatrooms with his beliefs on Israel, the invasion of Iraq and the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. Police are investigating the theory that he had been radicalised.

. . . “The police are trying to ­establish whether Saad had crossed the line, and one name has come up on the radar and this person is from Pakistan.

“It is the first time ­Pakistan has been brought up in ­relation to the investigation. Extremists from that country, where there are a number of terror cells, are regular visitors to these ­chatroom sites. Saad could have made himself a target.”

Obama's Religious Hypocrasy

Mark Steyn has a few words concerning the selective support of the First Amendment from the current Administration:
The more that U.S. government officials talk about the so-called film "Innocence Of Muslims" (which is actually merely a YouTube trailer) the more they confirm the mob's belief that works of "art" are the proper responsibility of government. Obama and Clinton are currently starring as the Siskel & Ebert of Pakistani TV, giving two thumbs-down to "Innocence Of Muslims" in hopes that it will dissuade local movie-goers from giving two heads-off to consular officials. "The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video," says Hillary Clinton. "We absolutely reject its content, and message." "We reject the efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others," adds Barack Obama. There follows the official State Department seal of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Fellow government-funded film critics call "Innocence Of Muslims" "hateful and offensive" (Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) and "reprehensible and disgusting" (Jay Carney, White House press secretary). Gen. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Senior Pentagon Advisor to Variety, has taken to telephoning personally those few movie fans who claim to enjoy the film. He called up Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who apparently thinks "Innocence Of Muslims" is the perfect date movie, to tell him the official position of the United States military is they'd be grateful if he could ease up on the five-star reviews.

Obama and Clinton's two-on-the-aisle act cost $70,000 of taxpayers' money. That may not sound much in the 16 trillion-dollar sinkhole of Washington, but it's a pretty big ad buy in Islamabad, and an improper use of public monies. ... I fought a long battle for freedom of expression north of the border when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, and I'm proud to say I played a modest role in getting Parliament to strike down a shameful law and restore a semblance of free speech to a country that should never have lost it. So I know a little about how the Western world is shuffling into a psychological bondage of its own making, and it's no small thing when the First Amendment gets swallowed up by the vacuum of American foreign policy.

What other entertainments have senior U.S. officials reviewed lately? Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical "Book of Mormon." "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others"? The Book of Mormon's big showstopper is "Hasa Diga Eebowai," which apparently translates as "F*** You, God." The U.S. Secretary of State stood and cheered. Why does Secretary Clinton regard "F*** You, God" as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but "F***, You Allah" as "disgusting and reprehensible"? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you'll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door. So the "Leader of the Free World" and "the most powerful man in the world" (to revive two cobwebbed phrases nobody seems to apply anymore to the president of the United States) is telling the planet that the way to ensure your beliefs command his "respect" is to be willing to burn and bomb and kill. You Mormons need to get with the program.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Electricity Rates Will Skyrocket

Blue Crab Boulevard (h/t Instapundit) writes about the impact of EPA rules that will shut down 241 coal generators in 30 states, amounting to a loss of 36,000 MW of generating capacity:
Look, folks, I am in this field. I have been for more than 30 years. Losing 36,000 MWs of the most cost-efficient generation capacity in the US is a disaster. You have no idea how bad the increases are going to be. They will be disastrous to the individual energy consumers and apocalyptic to large users – those who create jobs.

I shudder to think of what this is going to do to grid reliability as well. A lot of those coal plants help support the grid during disruptions. They regularly provide both energy and MVARs (Mega Volt-Ampere Reactive) that keep the grid from collapsing when large loads are added or lost. (That’s about as simple as I can make it and still be understood.) Losing these stabilizers will make it very hard to hold the grid. I pity the load dispatchers.

Trust me, people, this is a very big, very bad thing that is happening as a direct result of Barack Obama’s war on coal.

And the Media Wonders Why People Think He's Not Christian

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration wasted more tax dollars by airing ads in Pakistan apologizing for the "Innocence of Muslims" film and to make sure that the Pakistanis knew the U.S. government was not involved in making the film. (Don't know why they expect that the average Pakistani would understand that argument when they live in a country where the government routinely censors the media--they aren't going to understand how anyone could publish anything without government approval). (See also here where they went to Twitter to also bow and scrape before the mob).  They also, for all intents and purposes, arrested the man who made the film for, well, making the film. And requested that YouTube remove video about the film from their site.

However, when it comes to Christians, Obama doesn't care one whit:
“Piss Christ,” once branded as a “deplorable, despicable display of vulgarity,” will be displayed at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan on Thursday. The artwork features a “photograph of the crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine.”

The artwork debuted in 1989 and was funded through prize money provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The art gallery hosting the retrospective salute to Andres Serrano is privately owned.

Religious groups and some lawmakers have already started sounding off – and making comparisons to the controversy over a recent anti-Muslim film. The low budget movie “Innocence of Muslims” sparked violent and deadly clashes across the globe.

It also brought strong rebukes, condemnations and apologies from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a host of administration officials.

The administration tried to have the film removed from YouTube – but Google rebuffed their request. The State Dept. spent $70,000 on a Pakistani television advertisement rebuking the film. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff personally telephoned a Christian minister in Florida to ask him to withdraw his support of the film.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R, C-NY) wants to know why President Obama hasn’t denounced the exhibit and said he’s fed up with what he called the administration’s “religious hypocrisy.”

“The Obama administration’s hypocrisy and utter lack of respect for the religious beliefs of Americans has reached an all-time high,” Grimm told Fox News. “I call on President Obama to stand up for America’s values and beliefs and denounce the ‘Piss Christ’ that has offended Christians at home and abroad.”

So will the Obama Administration condemn the anti-Christian art display? Will they air a television ad denouncing the exhibit? Will the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ask the gallery to cancel the exhibit?

The White House did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did the Pentagon.

The State Dept. referred to a previous statement Clinton made in reference to the anti-Islamic film.

“America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation,” Clinton said. “And as you know, we are home to people of all religions, many of whom came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion, including, of course, millions of Muslims. And we have the greatest respect for people of faith.”

Grimm said the lack of response from the White House is unacceptable.

“Perhaps they’ve forgotten the controversy that surrounds this deplorable piece depicting a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine,” Grimm said. “It outraged Christians in American and throughout the world.”

Grimm, who is Catholic, said he found the artwork to be vulgar and offensive, “just as many in the Islamic world found ‘Innocence of Muslims’ to be highly offensive.”

“Like most Americans, I condemn both yet remain tolerant as the First Amendment demands,” he said. “Unfortunately, this administration has yet to echo these views in regards to the religiously offensive ‘art’ here at home.”

And the congressman isn’t the only one demanding a response from the White House.

“I would like to find out what my government is going to say about this,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “We have the United States government making apologies and some very critical statements about the abuse of freedom of speech because it might offend Muslims.”

Donohue said the Obama administration seems to have a double standard when it comes to incidents that might offend the Christian community.

“It seems like we have a protected class for Muslims as well as some other segments of our population,” he told Fox News. “But when it comes to Christians, it’s an all-out war.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the two incidents show a clear contrast between Islam and Christianity.

“You won’t have to worry about a mob of people storming the gallery after Sunday school lets out,” Perkins told Fox News. “Christ has been the subject of attacks for 2,000 years – as have his followers. As Christians, we have learned to turn the other cheek.”

Perkins said the lack of response from the White House over the “Piss Christ” display provide an unintentional recognition.

“It’s a recognition of the contrast between Christianity and Islam,” he said. “You don’t have to plead with Christians not to riot and burn and storm buildings simply because they are offended. That’s the difference. That’s why Christianity moves nations forward and Islam moves nations backwards.”

As for the display – Perkins said it’s being held in a private gallery – without taxpayer funding.

“They have their freedom to do what’s wrong,” he said. “That’s what’s great about America.”

But Donohue said he may very well be outside the gallery on Thursday – and he questions the timing of the exhibit.

“The timing is not a mistake,” he said. “The obvious reason is not because it’s something new – it’s the idea of throwing more salt of Christians. This is a pattern that’s calculated, it’s deliberate and it’s time the elites spoke out on this.”
It's too bad the Administration cannot show even half as much respect to Americans and their traditions and culture.

How Would Israel Attack Iran?

Some thoughts I've had as a follow up to my post yesterday on the difficulties facing Israel in attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.

The primary problem seems to be the lack of mid-air refueling capabilities. When Israel conducted the raid on Entebbe, the same issue arose. The initial solution was to purchase fuel at an airfield in a neighboring country where they could land and refuel. Although that remained a backup, the Israelis final plan involved refueling while on the ground at Entebbe.

I would suggest something similar here might work, by using one or more airfields closer to Iran where they could fly in refueling bladders to either refuel before an attack, or while returning from an attack. The ideal location would be in Saudi Arabia--it is close, and there are probably several abandoned airfields built for the wars against Iraq that would accommodate their aircraft. According to the Wikileaks documents, Saudi Arabia was prepared to turn a blind eye to an Israeli attack. The problem here is three-fold: (1) it is one thing for Saudi Arabia to turn a blind eye to an overflight, but quiet another to allow Israel to land and refuel; (2) the United States will presumably not want to allow the Israelis to attack and risk a more general conflict and closure of the Straits (plus, Obama is just as likely to warn the Iranians as not--he is a very evil man who has shown that he is more than willing to abandon allies when it serves him), but there is little chance that Israel could get past the U.S. fleet without our Navy knowing about it; (3) Iran's air-defense will be concentrated in that area if, for no other reason, because of the presence of the naval forces in the Gulf.

A secondary possibility would be to attack from the north from Russia or one of the former Soviet states. This would probably require the cooperation of the Russians, but Putin had recently visited Israel....

A third possibility would be to use the chaos in Syria to their advantage and try to secure and use an airfield in Syria to stage the attack. Very risky, though, and perhaps it doesn't get them close enough to be worth the risk....

If they are desperate enough, Israel could forgo using an air attack, and slip in small teams to detonate tactical nukes that might do the job. Unlikely, but it would remedy the issue of trying to get a large number of attack aircraft into Iran.

Whatever Israel does, it will require thinking outside the box, taking full consideration that Obama will probably betray them if he is given the chance.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Problems Israel Would Face in Attacking Iran

Here are some of the problems facing the Israelis if they attempt to attack Iranian nuclear facilities by air:

According to Joffe, the US air force ordered MOPs [massive bunker busting bombs] when the Fordo facility was uncovered, the first were delivered last fall. Israel does not have MOPs or American B2 bombers, which would be used to transport the bombs if the Americans attack. Yet Fordo is only one of the problems Israel is facing.

Another difficulty in a military strike against Iran is the distance. Out of the eight central air force targets in the Islamic Republic, only the Arak facility is reachable without refueling.

"An F-16I 'Storm' flies very high in very thin air, with extra fuel tanks it can cover 1500 km. Yet if it flies low to evade radar in Jordan, Iraq and Iran, its combat radius shrinks by half. The F-15I 'Thunder', the IAF’s mightiest jet probably has similar specs: 1000 to 1500 kilometers.

Joffe goes on to explain in detail why it just is not enough: "The pilots would have to turn back about a hundred kilometers short of the enrichment sites at Fordo and Natanz. If they were to fly on anyway, they would have to refill their tanks over territory that’s not exactly friendly: Jordan and Iraq using the direct route; or, on the northern variant, along the Syrian-Turkish border.

"They could fly undetected only over the sea, around the Arabian Peninsula. That would mean 5000 kilometers: an absurd venture…Geography, then, remains Israel’s foremost enemy, one that can be overcome only by midair refueling."

Yet refueling might be Israel's main problem, says Joffe: "Israel has only five tanker jets modified Boeing 707s. Time for some mental math: The IAF has 100 Storms and 25 Thunders. If they’re all deployed at once, they would have to be refueled twice, on each leg of the mission. 125 times two equals 250 – with a handful of tankers?

"Then with half the fleet, perhaps? That wouldn’t change much either, because bombers have to arm themselves against fighters and ground-to-air missiles. The Iranians’ 50-odd fighters (F-14s, Mirages and MiG-29s) may be old to obsolete, but still have to be reckoned with."

In line with American assessments claiming that Israel cannot destroy all of Iran's nuclear facilities, and would only be able to delay Tehran's efforts to achieve nuclear capability, Joffe believes that the IDF would choose to hit a few of targets rather than all eight of them.

He concludes that the air force might try to take out key components in the nuclear supplies chain by destroying the enrichment facility at Natanz, which is more vulnerable than Fordo, as well as the uranium converter facility at Isfahan.

Joffe explains that without the possibility of converting uranium to gas, Iran would be forced to halt enrichment activities.

Life Expectancy Declines for Poor Whites in U.S.

Poor white Americans are seeing their life expectancy decrease in trend that is close to what happened during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Researchers have found that white women who did not finish high school saw the steepest decline and lost five years of their lives between 1990 and 2008.

White men with a similar education died three years earlier than they should have over the same period.
Black and Latino men and women, however, all saw their life expectancy rise.

* * *

Until now rising life expectancies have been a given in the developed world and that decreases only happened in war-torn African countries.

But a combination of unhealthy lifestyles, obesity and prescription drug overdoses appear to be changing that.

The research found that a lack of education was the key factor - white women who did not finish high school lived to 78.5 years in 1990 but just 73.5 years in 2008.

By comparison white women who finished college lived for 83.9 years.

Men saw a drop from 70.5 to 67.5 years over the same period but when you factor in education, the gap was even bigger.


The researchers found that those who finished college lived for 80.4 years respectively - 13 years more than their less educated equivalents.

Lead researcher S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that such life expectancies were on a par with those seen in America in the 1950s and 60.

And at the same time, black men and women- even if they had a poor education - saw their numbers steadily rise.
I would suggest a different explanation as to why minorities are living longer and poor whites are not--discrimination against poor whites. Government aid and assistance is disproportionately aimed at minorities and urban areas. (See also this about reverse discrimination in college admissions).