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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Timbuktu's Library Was Saved

Recent news reports had indicated that a priceless library in Timbuktu had been destroyed by the Al Qaeda rebels as they evacuated. However, it now appears that the reports of damage had been exaggerated, and that the locals had removed and hidden most of the manuscripts kept at the library last year. (See here). Hopefully, someone will digitize the contents of the library so that copies can be distributed and kept elsewhere.

The Greening of the Globe

The Earth is getting greener. From Matt Ridley's blog:
Did you know that the Earth is getting greener, quite literally? Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on the planet has been increasing for three decades. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, overdevelopment and ecosystem destruction.

This possibility was first suspected in 1985 by Charles Keeling, the scientist whose meticulous record of the content of the air atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii first alerted the world to the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Mr. Keeling's famous curve showed not only a year-by-year increase in carbon dioxide levels but a season-by-season oscillation in the concentration.

During summers in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth breathes in carbon dioxide as green plants (most of which are north of the equator) absorb the gas and turn it into carbohydrate. In the northern winter, the Earth breathes the gas out again, as the summer's leaves rot.

Mr. Keeling and colleagues noticed that the depth of the breathing had increased in Hawaii by 20% [by 1995] since the 1960s: The Earth was taking in more carbon dioxide each northern summer and giving out more each winter. Since the inhalation is done by green leaves, they reasoned, the amount of greenery on the planet must be growing larger. In the 1980s forest biologists started to report striking increases in the growth rates of trees and the density of forests: in Douglas firs in British Columbia, Scots pines in Finland, bristlecone pines in Colorado and even tropical rain forests.

Around the same time, a NASA scientist named Compton Tucker found that he could map global vegetation changes by calculating a "Normalized Difference Vegetation Index" (NDVI) from the data produced by a satellite sensor. The data confirmed Mr. Keeling's suspicion: Greenery was on the increase. At first, this was thought to be a northern phenomenon, caused by faster growth in the great spruce and birch forests of Siberia and Canada, but the satellites showed it was happening all over the world and especially strongly in the Amazon and African rain forests. Using the NDVI, one team this year reported that "over the last few decades of the 20th century, terrestrial ecosystems acted as net carbon sinks," i.e., they absorbed more carbon than they were emitting, and "net greening was reported in all biomes," though the effect had slowed down in recent years.
(Underline added).

I've noted before that there are several questions that need to be answered before hobbling our economies to stop global warming:

1.  Is there an increase in global temperature due to increased CO2?
2.  Is the increase in CO2 due to human activity?
3.  Is the increase in CO2 and/or global temperature overall detrimental?
4.  Is there anything we can do to stop or reverse the trend?

It is not clear that there has been sustained global warming over the past 100 years, and it appears to have stopped nearly a decade ago. We know that there has been a lot of bad science and active deception by those claiming that there is global warming. There is reasonable doubt that temperatures increase are due to human activity. The harm seems to be assumed--the Earth has been as warm or warmer in the past. In short, none of the questions have been satisfactorily answered in the affirmative.

Japan's Divergance Over Global Warming

Watts Up With That notes a significant divergence by Japanese climate scientists versus the U.S. for global surface temperatures since 2000--Japanese calculations are .25 degrees Celsius cooler than NASA or the NOAA. Watts notes that the issue isn't the difference, but how the difference was arrived at. He concludes:
So, it appears that Japan’s Meteorological agency is using adjusted GHCN data up to the year 2000, and from 2001 they are using the CLIMAT report data as is, without adjustments. To me, this clearly explains the divergence when you look at the NASA plot magnified and note when the divergence starts. ...
... If anyone ever needed the clearest example ever of how NOAA and NASA’s post facto adjustments to the surface temperature record increase the temperature, this is it.
Read the whole thing.

Egypt's Collapse May Be Inevitable

A couple days ago, the Egyptian defense minister, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, warned of a possible collapse of the state due to the political turmoil. (See also here).

David Goldman (aka "Spengler") has posted a rebuttal to certain attacks against him and analysis of the situation in Egypt. What is important to note, though, is in his opinion it is inevitable that Egypt will collapse into a failed state. Goldman writes:
I believe that the foreign policy establishment (including Dr. Cook) is engaged in a hapless and counterproductive effort to save the unsalvageable. That is my assessment as a specialist in country risk with thirty years’ experience, including a stint as Bank of America’s global head of bond research. I never wrote that an Egyptian collapse was desirable, only that it was inevitable. I might be wrong, but this week’s events in Egypt surely do not make me look wrong.

Dr. Cook refers specifically to my Jan. 22 essay, “Denial still is a river in Egypt,” in which I argue that Egypt’s economic collapse has made the largest Arab state ungovernable. He denounces as “a-historic revisionism” my “claim that economic collapse was the reason for the uprising.” Revisionism? I have been arguing since February 2011 that the global spike in food prices undermined Egypt, which imports half its food. I wrote back then:
Even Islamists have to eat. It is unclear whether President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will survive, or whether his nationalist regime will be replaced by an Islamist, democratic, or authoritarian state. What is certain is that it will be a failed state. Amid the speculation about the shape of Arab politics to come, a handful of observers, for example economist Nourel Roubini, have pointed to the obvious: Wheat prices have almost doubled in the past year.
Since then I have chronicled the unfolding economic and political breakdown in Egypt in more than two dozen essays.
... In fact, I wrote just the opposite, namely that Egypt would become a failed state whether or not Mubarak hung on ....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

European Carbon Trading Circling the Drain?

Der Speigel has reported on record low prices for carbon credits in the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). The Der Speigel article reports:
Indeed, the market for carbon credits has reached new lows. On Thursday, the price of carbon credits dropped 40 percent within 30 seconds before regaining most of the losses. In an indicator of just how vulnerable ETS threatens to become, the volatility followed a nearly meaningless vote for a non-binding recommendation by the industry committee of the European Parliament that the backloading plan be rejected.
... A failure on backloading would likely drop carbon credits to a level only slightly above penny stocks.
"This should be the final wake-up call," said EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, according to wire reports. "Something has to be done urgently. I can therefore only appeal to the governments and the European Parliament to act responsibly."

On Thursday, the price hit a low of €2.81 ($3.75) per metric ton of carbon and rebounded back above €4 before the end of the day. But it remains far below the €20 or €30 price point that analysts say is needed to spur the type of clean investment needed by industry to cut carbon emissions.
Back in April of 2006, credits peaked at €32 and neared €30 per ton in 2008. When the ETS was developed, credits were supposed to be based on expected growth patterns, but no mechanism was built in to compensate for the possibility of economic fluctuations.
Although the article blames a large measure of the price decline on too many carbon credits being initially issued, the price is really a reflection that the dismal economy has reduced manufacturing and, with it, carbon emissions. Instead of celebrating reduced emissions, the European technocrats are worried. Why? Because many government pensions are heavily invested in the ETS.

This article from last April, when prices fell below €7 per ton, noted:
However, in one of the most significant interventions to date the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), a coalition representing around 80 investment firms and pension funds that combined boast €7.5tr in assets under management, yesterday issued an open letter to ministers calling on them to reform the ETS and force up the price of carbon.

The group – which includes Aviva Investors, the BBC Pension Trust, BNP Paribas, Co-operative Asset Management, HSBC Investments, and Scottish Widows Investment Partnership....
(Underline added).

Watts Up With That has covered the carbon trading scheme, including a recent guest article noting that the value of carbon trading "credits" rests solely on the dubious conclusion that there is a correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures. This creates a conflict of interest for organizations, such as the BBC, which report on global warming and rely on global warming hysteria to fund their pensions. (See more discussion here, here and here). Faced with losing huge sums of money, expect the Greens to double down on the global warming scams.

French Troops Advance on Timbuktu


French and Malian troops are reported as having surrounded Timbuktu. From France24:
After recapturing the city of Gao on Saturday, French and Malian forced have switched their focus to Timbuktu. Early on Sunday morning, masses of heavily-armored troops arrived at the outskirts of the city, stationing themselves some 100 kilometres away from the city centre.

The French air force has laid the groundwork for an all-out offensive, using Dassault Mirage 2000s and Rafle fighter jets to destroy rebel points in the vast desert around the city. So far, the troops have experienced no form of counter-attack on the ground.

Attacking Timbuktu is a symbolic operation for Mali – overrun by Ansar Dine jihadist militants almost a year ago, the ancient city has been ravaged by its captors: its mausoleums destroyed, its people forced to obey Sharia law. The rare accounts we’ve heard depict scenes of social desecration.

Liberated villagers ‘hysterical’

When we travel through liberated villages, the residents become almost hysterical at the sight of the French and Malian tanks. They rush out of their homes with the national flag shouting “Mali!” These people are literally being liberated after experiencing the terror of Sharia law. The accounts we’ve heard are terrible: suspected thieves having their hands cut off; women forced to wear the veil; men banned from wearing long trousers.

Residents tell us that the rebels flee very quickly [when the French and Malian forces arrive], leaving behind weapons and vehicles. They dress like civilians so as not to stand out and then try to head for the border with Mauritania.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Obama's Global Warming Lies

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by Bjorn Limborg ("The Skeptical Environmentalist")--who believes in man-made global warming--noting outright misstatements in Obama's recent call to fight global warming. He writes:
Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won't resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century.

Claiming that droughts are a consequence of global warming is also wrong. The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that "there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years." The U.N. Climate Panel in 2012 concluded: "Some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia."

As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don't indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.

While it is likely that we will see somewhat stronger (but fewer) storms as climate change continues, a March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.

Book Review: War Before Civilization by Lawrence H. Keeley





BookWar Before Civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage by Lawrence H. Keeley (Amazon link here).

Overview: The title pretty well sums it up: the peaceful, noble savage is a myth of Western romantic culture. Instead, conflict, whether characterized as warfare or armed banditry, was rampant and a normal part of life. Your odds of dying a violent death in such societies is much, much higher than in a modern society, even putting together deaths from violent crime and warfare. Primitive societies only become peaceful when "peace" is imposed on them by an outside power, such as the colonial empires of the 19th and 20th centuries. Peaceful coexistence is a byproduct of civilization.

Impression: I read this book on the Kindle. I originally had downloaded a sample, which provided the author's introduction and, later, purchased the whole book.

Based on the introduction, which discussed neolithic and copper age sites in Europe, I was under the impression that the book would discuss specifics of primitive warfare--i.e., details of fortifications, discussion of weapons and tactics, and so. While such details crop up--for instance, the distribution of arrow points at different locations around an enclosure showing where most of the fighting occurred--the book itself was an argument to dispel the long-held belief, even among anthropologists and ethnographers, that primitive tribes are inherently peaceful and that organized warfare is a relic of civilization.

However, as the author goes on to demonstrate from both archaeological evidence and ethnographic evidence from modern tribes, the opposite is true. Organized conflict has always been with us, and "peace" is actually the byproduct of strong civilizations. The "peaceful savage" is based on observations made of tribes and peoples that had already been pacified by the West. The author notes, for instance, three independent cross-cultural surveys of recent tribal and state societies from the around the globe showed only 1/5 of the societies "infrequently or never" engaged in warfare, and the majority of those were groups that "might more accurately be classified as defeated refugees than as pacifists." Another survey indicated that "90 percent of the cultures in the sample unequivocally engaged in warfare and that the remaining 10 percent were not total strangers to violent conflict." Although some cultures were pacifistic, they did so my fleeing territory rather than engaging in combat.

The author gives some other specific examples, such as the Kung ("Bushmen") of the Kalahari, during the period of 1920-1955, had a homicide rate four times that of the United States; and during the 50's and 60's, they had homicide rates of 20 to 80 times that of most industrialized countries. In that regard, the author notes that "[b]efore local establishment of the Bechuanaland/Botswana police, the Kung also conducted small-scale raids and prolonged feuds between bands and against Tswana herders intruding from the east." He notes other examples, such as a Copper Eskimo community first contacted in the early 20th century where every adult male had been involved in a homicide, to that Yaghan of Tierra del Fuego whose murder rate in the late 19th century was 10 times as high as the United States. Later, he notes that "the homicide rate of the prehistoric Illinois villagers would have been 1,400 times that of modern Britain or about 70 times that of the United States in 1980." But this raises an important point: "the seeming peacefulness of such small hunter-gatherer groups may therefore be more a consequence of the tiny size of their social units and the large scale implied by our normal definition of warfare than of any real pacifism on their part." In other words, when dealing with small groups, you cannot usefully separate a "raid" using a small number of people from a "battle." They are one and the same.

The author also addresses the issue of whether it is unfair to compare homicide rates in a small culture against a major nation, without taking into account warfare statistics. The author writes:
Let us undertake such a comparison for one simple society, the Gebusi of New Guinea. Calculations show that the United States military would have had to kill nearly the whole population of South Vietnam during its nine-year involvement there, in addition to its [the United States'] internal homicide rate, to equal the homicide rate of the Gebusi.
In short, "the overwhelming majority of known societies have made war. Therefore, while it is not inevitable, war is universally common and usual," and "frequent, even continuous warfare is as characteristic of tribal societies as of states." "The only reasonable conclusion is that wars are actually more frequent in nonstate socieities than they are in state societies--especially modern nations." The cure to warfare, then, is not less civilization, but more civilization.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Anonymous "Insurrection in America" Video

Last week there were reports that Anonymous had released a video warning of insurrection in America if the government should attempt to ban firearms. Anonymous has disavowed the video, indicating  it was a fake. While recognizing the author's right to make the video, Anonymous states it does not endorse the video.

Free Speech for Me, But Not Thee

Only hours after students installed a “Free Speech Wall” at Carleton University to prove that campus free speech was alive and well, it was torn down by an activist who claimed the wall was an “act of violence,” against the gay community.

Installed on Monday in the Unicentre Galleria, one of campus’ most high-traffic areas, the wall was really more of  [sic; actually was] a 1.2 x 1.8 meter wooden plank wrapped in paper and equipped with felt markers.

By Tuesday morning the wall was gone, destroyed in an act of “forceful resistance,” by seventh-year human rights student Arun Smith.

“In organizing the ‘free speech wall,’ the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation, and this liberation is prevented by providing space … for the expression of hate,” he wrote in a 600-word Facebook post in which he identified himself as an anti-homophobia campaigner.

Calling the area around the wall a “war zone,” he intimated that it was “but another in a series of acts of violence” against gay rights.
A truly dizzying display of Orwellian logic and ignorance. 

And what prompted Smith's vandalism and destruction of property (i.e., actual violence)? A lone statement that “traditional marriage is awesome.” 

Smith obviously hopes to intimidate heterosexuals, but I'm guessing that the University probably won't be taking any action against Smith for his hate speech.

Attenborough: "Humans are a plague on Earth"

The Telegraph reports:

The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.
He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.
“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.
Sir David, who is a patron of the Population Matters, has spoken out before about the “frightening explosion in human numbers” and the need for investment in sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population in developing countries.
“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it’s going to get worse and worse.”
It is too bad that Attenborough is so busily preaching his Malthusian doom that he doesn't actually have time to keep up on demographics. Even the doom and gloom U.N. acknowledges that due to declining childbirths, the Earth's population is going to peak at about 9.5 billion in 2050, and will start to decline in 2070.

Even other environmentalists don't agree with Attenborough's position, noting that the best way to reduce the impact of population on the environment is to lift people out of poverty.

However, getting back to Attenborough, if he is serious about population control, maybe he should take a closer look at the solution proposed in Logan's Run. After all, "Sir David" readily admits in the interview cited by the Telegraph that he and his profession are no longer necessary. Doesn't that make him part of the surplus population? I'm guessing, however, that he would not agree in theory or practice that he should be part of the population to be reduced.

Obama's Inaugural Speech


As I sat in a hospital waiting room on Monday, I was essentially a captive audience to Obama's inaugural speech, as all of the televisions were tuned to CNN. Most everyone there was indifferent to the speech, as they probably should have been. Another vague, vacuous speech from the Ivory Tower. Maybe it was because I was tired and not feeling well, but I had a harder time than usual paying attention to his speech. But then, I think Obama has become an even more boring speaker over the years. He knows he doesn't have to try, and it shows.

Later, I decided to track down some analysis of his speech from outside the MSM, whose members were obviously beside themselves in fawning and hero-warship of the man who they believe can finally lead the United States out of the shabby worship of the middle-class and into the grand elitism of the European technocracy.

First, Barry Rubin at PJ Media notes that while couched in comfortable language, Obama's speech was in reality a repudiation of Constitutional principles and a call for collectivism, offered under the guise "to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time." And because America is in a as-yet-undetermined crises, all of this must be done without due deliberance or consideration. Rubin sums of the speech:
Thus, the following principles:
– Portray America as a disaster zone where inequality and unfairness run rampant, even though that is demonstrably untrue. Therefore, the United States must be fundamentally transformed.
– Portray those who don’t support you as engaged in evil, racist, etc., practices. Thus, those who criticize you are illegitimate and don’t deserve a fair hearing, much less compromise.
– Get away with breaking those principles yourself.
Ron Radosh, also at PJ Media, also noted the collectivism in the speech.

After repeating the generally accepted view of self-reliance, individuality, and rejection of central authority, the president made it clear he believes “times change,” and we must too. We must respond to new challenges through “collective action.”
And if you have about 10 minutes, you might want to check out the Feb. 22, 2013, "Trifecta" video commentary.

Hit by the Flu...

Even though I had a flu vaccination just a few months ago, I got hit by the flu anyway. I hope to get back to posting either later today or tomorrow.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"History and the Second Amendment"

Peter Alberice reminds readers at Breitbart that governments that recognize individual freedom and the rule of law are rare, and can be fleeting:
... By 1910, many in Europe, Asia, and the Americas felt that their societies had reached a high point in culture and freedom, with their governments beginning to recognize and codify basic human rights and the rule of law, albeit at different levels. Yet a mere 50 years later, nascent democracies in Russia, Germany, Turkey, China, and Japan had all been overtaken by totalitarian dictatorships which institutionalized the killing of their own or conquered citizens at a scale unimaginable in 1910. Indeed, government sanctioned killing of unarmed civilians continued with the Killing Fields in Cambodia in the 1970’s to the mass murders in Srebrenica in the 1990’s.

The brutal murder of school children in Newtown by a lone individual is horrific and unforgettable. Yet, every day throughout Nazi occupied Eastern Europe, groups of unarmed civilians were rounded up and executed; fully sanctioned by the Nazi government.

We tend to think of governments in a benign manner; minder of the infrastructure, deliverer of the mail, dispenser of the free stuff, “the only thing we all have together.” Those lying face first in mass unmarked graves throughout the world would disagree.

Sunni - Shiite War?

The Times of Israel reports today on a new influx of Hezbollah fighters into Syria to support President Assad:
A-Sharq Al-Awsat leads its front-page news coverage with a report of Shia fighters in the vicinity of Damascus.

According to “media and intelligence reports,” the gunmen have entered Syria from Iraq and Lebanon and are succeeding in repelling the anti-Assad opposition.

The daily features a photo of a veiled Syrian women, decked out in military garb and carrying a sniper rifle, walking through a destroyed street in Aleppo.

According to the report, Hezbollah has established a major presence in Syria, comprising a significant force within the “Abul Fadhl Abbas Battalion.”

According to a spokesman for the battalion, its role is limited to protecting Shiite holy sites frequented by Shiite pilgrims, but other reports indicate that the battalion’s role “surpasses mere defense.”
The article links this with the overall spread of extremist ideology throughout the Muslim world. However, this has the hallmarks of being just a continued escalation of a spreading general conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
 
For instance, on February 10, 2013, Fox News reported on a series of bombings across Pakistan targeting Shiite Muslims:
A series of bombings killed 115 people across Pakistan on Thursday, including 81 who died in twin blasts on a bustling billiards hall in a Shiite area of the southwestern city of Quetta.
Pakistan's minority Shiite Muslims have increasingly been targeted by radical Sunnis who consider them heretics, and a militant Sunni group claimed responsibility for Thursday's deadliest attack — sending a suicide bomber into the packed pool hall and then detonating a car bomb five minutes later.
It was one of the deadliest days in recent years for a country that is no stranger to violence from radical Islamists, militant separatists and criminal gangs.
Violence has been especially intense in southwest Baluchistan province, where Quetta is the capital and the country's largest concentration of Shiites live. Many are ethnic Hazara who migrated from neighboring Afghanistan.
The billiards hall targeted Thursday was located in an area dominated by the minority sect. In addition to the 81 dead, more than 120 people were wounded in the double bombing, said police officer Zubair Mehmood. The dead included police officers, journalists and rescue workers who responded to the initial explosion.
Ghulam Abbas, a Shiite who lives about 150 yard (meters) from the billiards hall, said he was at home with his family when the first blast occurred. He was trying to decide whether to head to the scene when the second bomb went off.
The issue of Sunni-Shiite conflicts is something to watch carefully. It is not just Pakistan experiencing Sunni-Shiite violence. Whatever other reason that the civil war started in Syria, it is ending in a Sunni-Shiite conflict. Assad (and many others in the Syrian military and government) are of the Alawite sect, which is recognized as part of the Shiite branch of Islam, whereas Al Qaeda is Sunni. The sectarian nature of the conflict threatens to spill over into Lebanon as well. (See here and here). The latter article, from the Global Post and dated Jan. 9, 2013, reports:
A few weeks ago, when the Syrian government returned the mutilated bodies of several Lebanese fighters who had crossed the border to fight with the rebels, a famous face was there to greet them.

It wasn't a senior member of the government who welcomed home the “martyrs,” as one might expect. The official line in Beirut is still one of “disassociation” from the Syrian conflict.

Instead it was an ultra-conservative Salafist Muslim leader who has gone from obscure preacher to household name in less than two years.

Sheik Ahmad Assir’s skyrocketing popularity is now threatening to turn a segment of Lebanon’s primarily moderate Sunni population more extreme, forcing the country’s long simmering sectarian tensions to a boil.

Assir is now the most high-profile of Lebanon's Salafists — an ultra-orthodox branch of Sunni Islam. His status is buoyed by the neighboring war in Syria, which has devolved into a mostly sectarian fight between Sunnis and Shiites.

The sheikh's core message resonates with a broadening segment of society, and though he is still considered an eccentric outsider by many, he is attracting increasingly mainstream followers.

Assir’s message is that Sunnis have suffered indignities — both at the hands of Syria as well as Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political group based in southern Lebanon — for far too long, and that Lebanon's elected leaders are useless.

A recent clash here in the sheikh's hometown, on the southern coast of Lebanon, showed that his supporters are willing to confront Hezbollah on a level not previously seen before.

Residents of Sidon were shocked in November when their otherwise quiet town suddenly fell into sectarian bloodletting. It seemed a gloomy harbinger of things to come if even this obscure byway in the Middle East could be darkened by the Syrian conflict.

A gun battle between the sheikh's men in Sidon and Hezbollah militants claimed three lives. Two of Assir's closest bodyguards were killed. The local Hezbollah commander and his bodyguard were wounded. A 14-year old Egyptian boy was killed in the crossfire.
 (See also this article from Al Monitor that argues that Turkey's foreign policy is essentially Sunni).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time to Remember Obama's "Mission Accomplished" Speech

As we contemplate the kidnapping of Americans (and other nationalities) in Algeria by Al Qaeda forces, that Al Qaeda forces in Mali are well on their way to carving out their own nation, the prominent role that Al Qaeda forces have achieved in Syria, and not forgetting the group's attack against the Benghazi consulate, we should not forget Obama's own "Mission Accomplished" speech in May 2012, claiming that "Over the last three years, the tide has turned. The goal that I set — to defeat al-Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild — is within reach." Later, in October 2012, Obama bragged that “Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama Bin Laden is dead.” In fact, Obama repeatedly made the same or similar comments last fall.

If the media was not so biased, they would remind Obama of his "path to defeat" comments with every new terrorist attack and military venture carried out by Al Qaeda. However, this is something that should be constantly echoing in Obama's ears. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nationwide Ammo Shortage Hits Police

CNS News reports:
Police departments nationwide are experiencing ammunition shortages, according to the online law enforcement resource, PoliceOne.com

Sgt. Chris Forrester of the Greer Police Department in South Carolina told local TV-news channel WSPA-7:

"It's never easy to get ammo, but since the tragedy in Connecticut, it's become even more difficult."

Forrester says the department began experiencing problems ordering ammunition a little less than a month ago. "You'll call and they say 'sorry we're out,' or 'it's on back order,'" he said.

... Jay Wallace, owner of Smyrna Police Distributors in Cobb County, Georgia ... said that some police departments could wait up to a year for bulk ammunition orders to be shipped.
 
Thank you, Mr. President (sarc.) At least DHS was planning ahead.

"No One Needs 10 Bullets...."

Or so says NY Gov. Cuomo (see quote at bottom of article). So, I guess the officers that used 18 shots to kill an armed teenager used unreasonable force? (For more on cops using more than 10 rounds to stop perps, see here).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Plans for Using Donated NRO Satellites

I had posted this past summer about the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) donating a couple obsolete spy satellites to NASA. Space.com reports that astronomers have come up with plans for using them:
Astronomers are excited by the possibility of using one of two cast-off spy satellite telescopes gifted to NASA to probe for dark energy.

They have already come up with a design that would incorporate the spy telescope into the proposed Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a high-priority NASA mission that would hunt for dark energy, exoplanets and supernovae.

Though a final review and economic analysis won't be released until April, the new design based on the donated scopes would boost WFIRST's abilities significantly, some researchers say. But the concept could also require more power and a bigger launch vehicle, potentially raising the project's roughly $1.5 billion price tag.

"Ethanol Scam Driving Up Food Prices"

More of the liberal's war on the poor and middle-class. Andrew Morriss writes:
... Ethanol is vastly inferior to gasoline.

Consider these glaring drawbacks: Its energy density is a third lower, reducing cars' emissions. It attracts water, so it cannot be transported in regular gas and oil pipelines, reduces lubricants' effectiveness, and shortens engine lives. It is caustic, corroding engine parts and dislodging contaminants from fuel tanks.

While ethanol doesn't make gasoline cleaner, the more intensive farming and water needs of ethanol refining harm the environment.

Moreover, mandates for ethanol don't enhance national security because production of corn-based ethanol - the main type of ethanol in use in America - requires roughly as much energy as the ethanol contains.

Running tractors, combines and trucks, making fertilizer, and refining corn into ethanol all require energy - mostly from oil and natural gas. If the weather is good, corn ethanol shows a slight energy gain over the fuel used to make it; if not, it might be a net loss. The ethanol mandate just burns money to turn oil and natural gas into corn.

The mandate for corn-based ethanol also drives up food prices. Meeting the 2015 mandate will require using 5.3 billion bushels of corn. As a result of the forced conversion of corn to ethanol, any food containing corn - including pork, beef and ice cream - costs more.

... An inconvenience for wealthy people, rising corn prices are disastrous for the poor, at home and abroad. A Tufts University study estimated that Mexicans paid $1.5 billion more for food from 2006 to 2011.

During 2012's drought, U.S. hog farmers imported corn from Brazil while U.S. corn was being made into ethanol. This is even more ridiculous than it sounds as Brazil is an efficient producer of sugar-cane based ethanol. Because of trade barriers designed to protect the U.S. ethanol industry, farmers were forced to import Brazilian corn instead of Brazilian ethanol.

NY Senate Passes "Assault Weapon" Bill

Reported at Human Events (h/t Instapundit). I don't have the specifics, but the general provisions are a tougher "assault weapons ban," restrictions on ammunition and sale of firearms, police registry of "assault weapons," stricter reporting by counselors/psychiatrists of threats by mentally ill people who say they intend to use a gun illegally, and "unsafe storage" of firearms. Citing an AP article, the "assault weapon ban" would be extended to any weapon with at least one "military rifle" feature, including a pistol grip. Also, the law would limit weapons to magazines of 7 rounds or less. Owners of higher capacity magazines will have 1-year in which to sell higher capacity magazines out of state.  The AP article seemed to indicate that, even in the interim, no more than 7 rounds could be loaded into a magazine.

The bill seems aimed at banning rifles such as the SKS and M-1 Garand.

Why Only LEOs Should Have Guns--Cop Murders Girlfriend/Daughter

The Stir (h/t Instapundit) reports on the start of a trial against Richmond Phillips, a D.C. police officer, who is alleged to have shot his girlfriend to death and left his not-quite 1 year old daughter to die strapped into a car seat in a hot car with the windows rolled up. Prosecutors contend that the reason for the crime was that Phillips did not want to have to pay child support.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sotomayor and Affirmative Action

From CBS's "60 Minutes" on its interview of Justice Sonia Sotomayor (h/t Weasel Zippers):
Affirmative action played a role in her admittance to Princeton, she recalls, and she remembers it drawing the scrutiny of an adult at her Catholic school in the Bronx. "The first day I received in high school a card from Princeton telling me that it was possible that I was going to get in, I was stopped by the school nurse and asked why I was sent a possible and the number one and the number two in the class were not," she recalls. "Now I didn't know about affirmative action. But from the tone of her question I understood that she thought there was something wrong with them looking at me and not looking at those other two students," says Sotomayor.
There are a couple of points that could be taken away from this. First, though, the implication from the paragraph is that at least two better qualified students had applied for Princeton and been denied. There is no suggestion that because of her race, Sotomayor was disadvantaged vis-a-vis these other students. She was, at the least, attending the same private school. Thus, it appears from the paragraph I've quoted that, absent "affirmative action," Sotomayor was not qualified for admission to Princeton.

So, what could we deduce? One is how affirmative action undermines merit. That is, there were at least two students in Sotomayor's school that had, presumably through their own efforts, earned better grades, yet were not merited an opportunity to attend Princeton. Presumably other students at other schools were better academically qualified. Yet all of these other more qualified students were discriminated against because of their skin color.

The other point is, assuming Sotomayor's subsequent success was due to merit, how accurate are the criteria that Princeton uses for admission? Again, absent her genetic background, Sotomayor would presumably not have been admitted to Princeton. Thus, somehow, Princeton's selection process must have been somehow flawed that it would have otherwise passed over Sotomayor. Or, if it was not flawed, then admitting Sotomayor meant that the school passed over another candidate that would have been more successful and contributed more to society than Sotomayor.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Solar Variability and Terrestrial Climate"

Although discounting its impact on global climate, this article reports on research showing a link between regional climate and even minor differences in solar output. From Phys.Org:
One of the participants, Greg Kopp of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, pointed out that while the variations in luminosity over the 11-year solar cycle amount to only a tenth of a percent of the sun's total output, such a small fraction is still important. "Even typical short term variations of 0.1% in incident irradiance exceed all other energy sources (such as natural radioactivity in Earth's core) combined," he says. Of particular importance is the sun's extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation, which peaks during the years around solar maximum. Within the relatively narrow band of EUV wavelengths, the sun's output varies not by a minuscule 0.1%, but by whopping factors of 10 or more. This can strongly affect the chemistry and thermal structure of the upper atmosphere.

Several researchers discussed how changes in the upper atmosphere can trickle down to Earth's surface. There are many "top-down" pathways for the sun's influence. For instance, Charles Jackman of the Goddard Space Flight Center described how nitrogen oxides (NOx) created by solar energetic particles and cosmic rays in the stratosphere could reduce ozone levels by a few percent. Because ozone absorbs UV radiation, less ozone means that more UV rays from the sun would reach Earth's surface.
Isaac Held of NOAA took this one step further. He described how loss of ozone in the stratosphere could alter the dynamics of the atmosphere below it. "The cooling of the polar stratosphere associated with loss of ozone increases the horizontal temperature gradient near the tropopause," he explains. "This alters the flux of angular momentum by mid-latitude eddies. [Angular momentum is important because] the angular momentum budget of the troposphere controls the surface westerlies." In other words, solar activity felt in the upper atmosphere can, through a complicated series of influences, push surface storm tracks off course.
... Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) presented persuasive evidence that solar variability is leaving an imprint on climate, especially in the Pacific. According to the report, when researchers look at sea surface temperature data during sunspot peak years, the tropical Pacific shows a pronounced La Nina-like pattern, with a cooling of almost 1o C in the equatorial eastern Pacific. In addition, "there are signs of enhanced precipitation in the Pacific ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone ) and SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) as well as above-normal sea-level pressure in the mid-latitude North and South Pacific," correlated with peaks in the sunspot cycle.
The solar cycle signals are so strong in the Pacific, that Meehl and colleagues have begun to wonder if something in the Pacific climate system is acting to amplify them. "One of the mysteries regarding Earth's climate system ... is how the relatively small fluctuations of the 11-year solar cycle can produce the magnitude of the observed climate signals in the tropical Pacific." Using supercomputer models of climate, they show that not only "top-down" but also "bottom-up" mechanisms involving atmosphere-ocean interactions are required to amplify solar forcing at the surface of the Pacific.


"3,000 Exoplanets and Counting"

From Discover Magazine:
... Christopher Burke of the SETI Institute highlighted one of the latest batch of Kepler planets, currently burdened with the catalog name KOI 172.02. Based on the latest analysis, this is a world just slightly larger than Earth (20,000 miles wide, perhaps) circling a very sunlike yellow star every 242 days, at a distance that is just right for liquid water. It is, so far as we can tell, a near-twin of our own planet—certainly the closest that anyone has found so far.

... But that is just a single example. Francois Fressin at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has done a clever analysis to find out how many Earth-size worlds are out there in total. After sorting through the Kepler dataset he has good news. “Almost all sunlike stars have planets,” he announced, “and at least one in six stars has an Earth-size planet.” The true fraction is very likely even better than that. John Johnson at Caltech pushed the numbers further and came up with an estimated tally of allthe planets in our galaxy. He made headlines recently when he announced his result: 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone. (There are also 100 billion other galaxies in the universe. Do the math, if you dare.) Again, that’s a lower limit, held back by the fact that Kepler has been operating for less than four years.

1,000 Priests Warn that Gay Marriage Could Lead to Religious Persecution

The Telegraph reports that a letter signed by 1,000 Catholic priests warns that government approval of gay marriage could lead to religious discrimination against Catholics. 
They claim that, taken in combination with equalities laws and other legal restraints, the Coalition's plans will prevent Catholics and other Christians who work in schools, charities and other public bodies speaking freely about their beliefs on the meaning of marriage.
Even the freedom to speak from the pulpit could be under threat, they claim.
And they fear that Christians who believe in the traditional meaning of marriage would effectively be excluded from some jobs – just as Catholics were barred from many professions from the Reformation until the 19th Century.

... Legal opinions commissioned by opponents have argued that teachers could face disciplinary measures under equality laws if they refuse to promote same-sex marriage once the change has been implemented.
Hospital, prison and army chaplains could also face challenges if they preach on marriage being between a man and a woman, it is claimed.

... The priests write: “After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.
“Legislation for same sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.
“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.” 

Latest on French Alps Shooting

Some further information released in the French Alps shooting of Saad al-Hilli and his family. From the Daily Mail:
A mystery motorcyclist seen around the Alpine beauty spot where four people were blasted to death is now the prime suspect for the murders, it emerged today.
The breakthrough in the baffling case came thanks to Brett Martin, a British cyclist who discovered the bodies close to Lake Annecy, in eastern France.
The 53-year-old ex RAF serviceman has told French police that he passed a motorbike driving away from the isolated lay-by where the slaughter took place on September 5th last year.
Between three and five minutes later he discovered a BMW containing the bodies of Surrey engineer Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74.
Lying next to the car was the murdered French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, while the al-Hilli’s daughter, seven-year-old Zainab, was stumbling around outside having been shot in the shoulder and pistol whipped.
French police today confirmed that - despite numerous appeals - neither the motorcycle nor its rider has been traced.
'It passed me three, four or five minutes’ before Mr Martin arrived, the Englishman told detectives during a number of meetings.
Mr Martin said the rider was wearing a full-face helmet, possibly white, and black clothing, and that the motorbike’s engine may have been white with a top case on the back.

The description is similar to that of a motorbike seen around the time of the murders on a stretch of private road at Col de Cherel, four miles further up the mountain.

A dairy farmer recalled seeing a white motorcycle with a top case and possibly with saddlebags.

'The farmer thought he [the motorcyclist] was acting suspiciously and looked lost as he stopped to check his route,’ a police source told the Sunday Times.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Putting Things Into Perspective

Adam Lanza killed 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Planned Parenthood killed 333,964 children in 2011.

Lanza was able to perpetuate his crime, in part, with Federal assistance--namely, the Gun Free School Zones Act, which helped make sure that there was no one nearby with any guns to stop him.

Planned Parenthood received $542 million in taxpayer funding, representing 45% of its annual revenue.

And Some More Elitist Hypocrisy

It never ends. Legal Insurrection notes that Washington D.C. prosecutors have declined to charge David Gregory, an NBC bobble-head, for illegal possession of a 30-round magazine. The evidence for the crime is uncontroverted--Gregory appeared on national television with the magazine. The explanation given was that Gregory was using the magazine to further his First Amendment rights and no violation was intended. (But it is illegal to possess one to further your Second Amendment rights).

The real reason for the decision, of course, is Gregory is an important person--a friend of the D.C. Attorney General, apparently.

White House Rejects Principle of Self-Determination

Our government has historically supported the right to self-determination by different political or ethnic groups. However, in response to several petitions, the White House has repudiated this principle. From the Huffington Post:
A handful of "We the People" petitions calling for the government to allow various states to secede cropped up following President Obama's reelection. The White House has responded to all those which received more than 25,000 signatures within a month, the minimum required to get a response.

...
 [Director of the Office of Public Engagement Jon] Carson goes on to argue for a united nation based on the Founding Fathers' intentions, with the "right to change our national government through the power of the ballot."
"But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, 'in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual,'" Carson writes.

He adds that the Civil War "vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States."

More Elitist Hypocrasy

Obama, who is so intent right now on taking away your right to own effective self-defense arms, has signed a bill granting him 24/7 armed protection for life at public expense. Of course, he gets better weapons too--his guards will be carrying fully-automatic weapons--something not permitted to us peasants--and probably have a SAM or two stashed nearby. He doesn't even want us to have semi-automatic weapons.

* * *

To anticipate a couple of potential criticisms of my post, I offer the following observations:

I know that, at least currently, a private person can get a tax-stamp to own a fully automatic weapon. But, in addition to the all of the other onerous requirements, because no automatic weapons made since 1986 are permitted to be sold to the public, this has driven the price of these weapons beyond the reach of anyone but the well-to-do and the rich, and obviously excludes citizens from obtaining more modern designs.

Some may argue that a president's life is more important and, therefore, deserves greater protection, and consequently he or she (or, rather, his/her security detail) should have access to better weapons. I don't believe so. First, different rules based on political status is alien to the egalitarian nature of our Constitution, where all persons are to be treated the same before the law. Second, valuing one innocent person's life above another's is contrary to Christianity, which holds them equal. Thus, for instance, there is no exceptions to the punishment for murder committed by someone "important" versus someone "common." Third, our source of government is the Constitution and the people, and the institutions set up thereby--not derivative from any particular man or woman. The threat of social disruption, such as might follow the loss of a monarch, doesn't happen in the U.S. Fourth, as the last several decades have taught us, there is, as a practical matter, little difference between different presidents and their administrations--they and their policies are, for all intents and purposes, fungible. So, again, there is no threat of social disruption from the loss of a president. I'm not saying a president should not have his security detail--it would be foolish not to do so--but that the "average citizen" is Constitutionally and morally just as worthy of the right, and means, of self-defense as a president.

Paper-Thin, Flexible Tablet Computers

A revolutionary new tablet screen the thickness of a sheet of paper that can be twisted and dropped without damage has been revealed.
Developed by Queen’s University in Canada in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs, it could lead to revolutionary new gadgets that are virtually unbreakable - and as thin as a piece of paper.
The firm behind the screen has even shown off a radical new version of the office desk - with sheets of paper instead of screens.

It plans to launch the screen later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
It has also shown off a concept for a new desktop - using sheets of paper for each app rather tahn a traditional screen with windows.
Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have ten or more interactive displays or 'PaperTabs', with each being a different app.
They can also be used as e-books, with users simply bending the screen to turn pages.
'Using several PaperTabs makes it much easier to work with multiple documents,' says Roel Vertegaal, Director of Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab.
Photos and diagrams at the link.

America -- The Heir to German Socialism


The other day I had posted about Oswald Spengler. One issue I sidestepped at the time, although central to Robert Merry's article, was Spengler's views on the resolution of the conflicts between England and Germany. Merry notes:
In 1911, he watched with mounting alarm as his country entered into a tense confrontation with France in what was known as the Second Moroccan Crisis. War was averted when Germany backed down—in humiliation—after Britain threw her weight behind France. But the episode left young Spengler with an indelible fear that war between Germany and the French-British alliance had become inevitable. He saw this looming conflict as a clash of epic proportions with profound consequences for Western civilization.

He set out to write a book predicting this conflagration and exploring the existential rivalry between Great Britain, the trade empire of democratic capitalism, perceived by many Germans as intrinsically decadent; and Germany, a rising socialistic empire widely viewed in Spengler’s country as representing a more hallowed Prussian Kultur. The question was which power would dominate the West during its civilizational phase.
Of course, as Merry describes, Spengler's efforts turned from merely a book about Britain and Germany to one analyzing the rise and fall of civilizations generally. But Spengler returned to his original question:
But, concluded Spengler, all that yearning, probing, exploration and artistic expression was finished in the West of a century ago. Signs of the new civilizational phase, he wrote, were evident in the new pseudoartistic expression that no longer celebrated the West’s fundamental cultural ideas but rather assaulted them; in the rise of impersonal world-cities whose cosmopolitanism overwhelmed the folk traditions of old; in the preoccupation with the money culture; in declining birthrates and the rise of the Ibsen woman who belongs to herself; and finally in the death struggle that had emerged between the democratic state of England with its ethic of success and the socialist state of Germany with its ethic of duty.

Spengler felt certain that Germany would win this struggle and emerge as “the last nation of the West,” spawning ground for that future Caesar who would lead the West to its final civilizational glory of world dominance. It was all written in the historical analogies he had studied so carefully. But he was wrong about that death struggle, and he died in 1936, too soon to see his native land crushed by the awesome force of the Anglo-Saxon world, led by a surging America, with its focus on liberal democracy, free markets and the control of the individual over his own destiny. He did not die too soon, however, to reject German fascism as an alien force incapable of taking Germany to the intracivilizational triumph he desired—or to be rejected by the early Nazis in turn after they took power in 1933 and banned Spengler’s book. In any event, it was America, not Germany, that emerged as the last nation of the West, that would define Western civilization and determine its fate as it made its way through its civilizational phase.
 But was Spengler really wrong? Or did German socialism transmit itself somewhere else?

A few days ago, Ed Driscoll published an article entitled "Scientists Discovery Unbreakable 90-Year-Old Mobius Strip." He writes:
I’ve written several posts over the years noting that modern art — at least the “shocking the bourgeois” brand of modern art — is a genre permanently trapped in the 1920s. Modern architecture often seems similarly trapped in the same decade, endlessly recycling the forms and styles created by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Sarah Hoyt has an interesting post this weekend that describes much of today’s bourgeois intellectual life as permanently trapped in that decade as well, as a byproduct of WWI and its aftermath....
The 1920s was the debut of the modern intellectual, as Tom Wolfe wrote in his essay “In the Land of the Rococo Marxist”:
After the First World War, American writers and scholars had the chance to go to Europe in large numbers for the first time. They got an eyeful of the Intellectual up close. That sneer, that high-minded aloofness from the mob, those long immaculate alabaster forefingers with which they pointed down at the rubble of a botched civilization-it was irresistible. The only problem was that when our neophyte intellectuals came back to the United States to strike the pose, there was no rubble to point at. Far from being a civilization in ruins, the United States had emerged from the war as the new star occupying the center of the world stage. Far from reeking of decadence, the United States had the glow of a young giant: brave, robust, innocent and unsophisticated.
But young scribblers roaring drunk (as Nietzsche had predicted) on skepticism, cynicism, irony, and contempt were in no mood to let such … circumstances … stand in the way. From the very outset the attempts of this country cousin, the American intellectual, to catch up with his urbane European model was touching, as only the strivings of a colonial subject can be. Throughout the twentieth century, the picture would never change (and today, a hundred years later, the sweaty little colonial still trots along at the heels of… sahib). In the 1920s the first job was to catch up with the European intellectuals’ mockery of the “bourgeoisie,” which had begun a full forty years earlier. ...
... Similarly, as the late Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, America in general transformed itself into the post-WWI-era Weimar Republic on a mammoth scale:
This popularization of German philosophy in the United States is of peculiar interest to me because I have watched it occur during my own intellectual lifetime, and I feel a little like someone who knew Napoleon when he was six. I have seen value relativism and its concomitants grow greater in the land than anyone imagined. Who in 1920 would have believed that Max Weber’s technical sociological terminology would someday be the everyday language of the United States, the land of the Philistines, itself in the meantime become the most powerful nation in the world? The self-understanding of hippies, yippies, yuppies, panthers, prelates and presidents has unconsciously been formed by German thought of a half-century earlier; Herbert Marcuse’s accent has been turned into a Middle Western twang; the echt Deutsch label has been replaced by a Made in America label; and the new American life-style has become a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic for the whole family.
In Germany, Nietzsche declared “God is Dead” in 1882; in the States, Time magazine would attempt to confirm the diagnosis 84 years later, in 1966. David Frum’s history of the 1970s is essentially a book about America’s decade-long collective effort at discarding its puritan roots and becoming 1920s Weimar in polyester pants and a Disco Stu shirt. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism approaches the same transformation, but over a much longer timetable.
So if we’re trapped in the Weimar Era Mobius Loop, can we head for the exits in a different and infinitely more peaceable fashion than Germany itself did? ...
(Interestingly, Driscoll updated his article since I had first read it to include a reference to Merry's article).

Of course, no discussion of the transplant of German socialism to America would be complete without pointedly noting the impact of the Frankfurt School.  The best explanation is the video (below) by Bill Whittle:


Thus, we see that American leftism is the descendant of German socialism. And, per Spengler's theories, will be (or rather, is) the source of the "that future Caesar who would lead the West to its final civilizational glory of world dominance."

Worldwide Aeros Completes New Zeppelin

A massive cargo-carrying airship has taken shape inside one of the 17-story wooden blimp hangars at the former military base in Tustin.

According to aircraft maker Worldwide Aeros Corp., construction is complete on a 36,000-pound blimp-like aircraft designed for the military to carry tons of cargo to remote areas around the world.

The Montebello company hopes to have a first flight in the coming months and to demonstrate cargo-carrying capability shortly thereafter.

Worldwide Aeros, a company of about 100 employees, built the prototype under a contract of about $35 million from the Pentagon and NASA.

...The Aeroscraft is a zeppelin with a 230-foot rigid skeleton made of aluminum and carbon fiber. It's a new type of hybrid aircraft that combines airplane and airship technologies and doesn't need a long runway to take off or land because it has piston engines that allow it to move vertically and a new high-tech buoyancy control system.

Ultimately, the company wants to be able to carry up to 66 tons.

Greens' Hysteria

Walter Russel Mead writes about the global-warming alarmists (a.k.a., "Greens"):
In recent days we’ve been hearing a lot of hysterical chatter, from the NYT, the National Geographic, and other media outlets—about how 2012 was the hottest year ever for the continental United States. Obviously, this is evidence that global warming will soon destroy us all ... [Docent: But see my post on why even this is questionable].

Meanwhile, in China, the FT reports the country is having its coldest winter in thirty years, leading to a sharp rise in food prices. India too has had a terribly cold winter. And in the Middle East, a snowstorm has been sweeping across the region and even hit Saudi Arabia, in an usually cold and wet winter for the area.

As we’ve said before, whenever it’s especially warm out, alarmists take that as decisive evidence of our impending doom. When it’s cold or normal, they dismiss it as mere “weather,” if they mention it at all. For much of the green movement, weather only counts as climate when it proves their arguments. A heat wave in Australia is proof that immense disasters are about to strike; cold waves in Eastern Europe and India that kill hundreds of people mean nothing at all.

... the habit of reading every warm spike and every storm as fresh confirmation of the coming apocalypse needs to stop. It’s bad science and it’s bad politics. Green hysteria is more likely to paralyze us then help us take the kind of steps we need to take towards sustainability.

The gravest danger to Earth these days isn’t climate skepticism; it’s the broken, Malthusian and statist green policy imagination. Wedded to grandiose and unworkable “solutions”, greens feel they must push the panic button at every opportunity to stampede the world into embracing an unworkable and unsustainable policy agenda.

... The Al Gore path (alarmism, hypocrisy, dumb policy solutions, green pig lipsticking or corporate subsidies disguised as green breakthroughs) will not bend the curve. Until the green movement internalizes this lesson and moves on, it will waste its energy on foolishness like the failed Kyoto Protocol and ethanol subsidies and greens will have little constructive impact on a planet they claim to love.
Mead misses the point. Alarmism and stampeding people into dumb policy solutions is the purpose. The issue here (and Al Gore provides the model) isn't about saving the planet. It's about powerful people living in huge mansions, making fortunes from government-subsidized "green" companies and government mandated carbon tax trading schemes, sexually harassing the peons that work for them, and selling out to Middle-Eastern oil interests through hindering development of our domestic sources of petroleum. In other words--it's all about money and power.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Most Earth-like Exoplanet

The Daily Mail reports on a possible exo-planet (the discovery has not yet been confirmed) that could be the closest match yet to Earth:
An alien planet spotted by Nasa's Kepler space telescope is the best candidate yet for an Earth-like world beyond our solar system, Scientists claim.
The planet - whose existence is yet to be positively confirmed. has a radius that is just 1.5 times that of our own and orbits in the 'habitable zone' of a star similar to our own Sun.
That means the planet would likely have a similar amount of gravity as Earth and liquid water could exist on its surface - making it a prime candidate to host alien life.

... The possible planet is called KOI 172.02 - with the initial trio of letters standing for Kepler Object of Interest, a prefix given to all planetary candidates found by Kepler until their existence is confirmed.
Dr Batalha said the find had the potential to be the closest so far to an Earth-twin beyond the solar system. It orbits a G-type star that is only slightly cooler than our own Sun, she said.

Why Do Liberals Hate Poor People? (Updated)

One of the most curious facts about liberals and their ideas is that, over the long term (several years to several decades), they always cause the greatest harm to the poor. Is it an accident, or do liberals actually hate poor people? For most part, I think it is a bit of both. The liberal elite has an incredible disdain for commoners, but they want to be hip and pretend to care about the poor. So, as long as they can accumulate wealth and power, but make it sound like it is for the benefit of the poor (or saving the world), they are okay with it. It's not that they expressly want to harm the poor; it just that it doesn't matter to them that their schemes and plans harm the poor. Hypocrisy is okay.

Case in point is this article on how corn production to produce ethanol (to save the planet, you know) is causing people to starve.

Update: I had barely posted when I saw this article about Mayor Bloomberg wanting to cut prescription pain killers for poor people. Bloomberg has announced new restrictions on the dispensing of prescription pain killers at New York City public hospitals. From the article:
But some critics said that poor and uninsured patients sometimes used the emergency room as their primary source of medical care. The restrictions, they said, could deprive doctors in the public hospital system — whose mission it is to treat poor people — of the flexibility that they need to respond to patients.

“Here is my problem with legislative medicine,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians and senior vice chairman of emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Eastern Pennsylvania. “It prevents me from being a professional and using my judgment.”

Hottest Year Ever? It Is When You Alter the Data

From Fox News:
2012 was a scorcher, but was it the warmest year ever?
A report released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) called it "the warmest year ever for the nation." Experts agree that 2012 was a hot year for the planet. But it’s that report -- and the agency itself -- that’s drawing the most heat today.
"2012 [wasn't] necessarily warmer than it was back in the 1930s ... NOAA has made so many adjustments to the data it's ridiculous," Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, told FoxNews.com.
A brutal combination of a widespread drought and a mostly absent winter pushed the average annual U.S. temperatures up last year, to 55.32 degrees Fahrenheit according to the government. That's a full degree warmer than the old record set in 1998 -- and breaking such records by a full degree is unprecedented, scientists say.
But NOAA has adjusted the historical climate data many times, skeptics point out, most recently last October. The result, says popular climate blogger Steve Goddard: The U.S. now appears to have warmed slightly more than it did before the adjustment.
"The adjusted data is meaningless garbage. It bears no resemblance to the thermometer data it starts out as," Goddard told FoxNews.com. He's not the only one to question NOAA's efforts.
"Every time NOAA makes adjustments, they make recent years [relatively] warmer. I am very suspicious, especially for how warm they have made 2012," Spencer said. ...
... One problem in weather monitoring occurs when there is a "break point" -- an instance where a thermometer is moved, or something producing heat is built near the thermometer, making temperature readings before and after the move no longer comparable.
"Version 2.5 improved the efficiency of the algorithm.... more of the previously undetected break points are now accounted for," Smullen [an NOAA spokesman] explained.
... Spencer says that the data do need to be adjusted -- but not the way NOAA did it. For instance, Spencer says that urban weather stations have reported higher temperatures partly because, as a city grows, it becomes a bit hotter. But instead of adjusting directly for that, he says that to make the urban and rural weather readings match, NOAA “warmed the rural stations’ [temperature readings] to match the urban stations” -- which would make it seem as if all areas were getting a bit warmer.
... Climate change skeptics such as blogger and meteorologist Anthony Watts are [also] unconvinced.
"Is history malleable? Can temperature data of the past be molded to fit a purpose? It certainly seems to be the case here, where the temperature for July 1936 reported ... changes with the moment," Watts told FoxNews.com.

"In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data."
Tweaking the data to make it fit the theory is not science.

Will Gun Confiscations and Bans Work?

No.

Zombie Planet....

Astronomers have found a mysterious 'zombie' planet circling a vast debris disc inside the 'Eye of Sauron' star system.

The newly released NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the eye shaped star, officially called Fomalhaut, and a mysterious planet, called Fomalhaut b, may provide forensic evidence of a titanic planetary disruption in the system.

Astronomers were surprised to find the debris belt is wider than previously known, spanning a section of space from 14 to nearly 20 billion miles from the star.

The images have also allowed a team of astronomers to calculate that the planet follows an unusual elliptical orbit that carries it on a potentially destructive path through the vast dust ring.

The planet, called Fomalhaut b, swings as close to its star as 4.6 billion miles, and the outermost point of its orbit is 27 billion miles away from the star.

It has been dubbed a 'zombie planet' because after its discovery in 2008 it was instead thought to be a dust cloud, until it was resurrected in 2012 after new observations.
Photos and video at the link above.

Advice on How to Pick a Husband If You Want Children

Penelope Trunk offers some strategies and trade offs. To sum up, you cannot have it all. You can have a great career, and children raised by a stay-at-home dad or (multiple) nannies and other staff; or you can stay at home and have a husband devoted to his career; or you can accept a loss of income and other tradeoffs and be somewhere in the middle.

Misleading Story on Life Expectancy and Gun Violence

I know that various media outlets are running this story or variants, but I want to pick on the NBC News story entitled "Americans far more likely to suffer violent death than peers." The statistic that forms the basis of the article is that Americans have a lower life expectancy than some 16 other "wealthy" nations. The nations aren't listed, so there is no way to see whether there has been some cherry picking, but I would note that it obviously doesn't include all 20 of the G-20 nations.

The article notes that there is a multitude of reasons for lower death rates, including:
For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.

The result is that the life expectancy for men in the United States ranked the lowest among the 17 countries reviewed, at 75.6 years, while the life expectancy for U.S. women ranked second lowest at 80.7 years. The countries reviewed included Canada, Japan, Australia and much of Western Europe.
... In attempting to explain why Americans are so unhealthy, the researchers looked at three categories: the nation's health care system, harmful behaviors and social and economic conditions. Researchers noted that the U.S. has a large uninsured population compared to other countries with comparable economies, and more limited access to primary care. And although the income of Americans is higher on average than that of other wealthy countries, the United States also has a higher level of poverty, especially among children.
However, the thrust of the article is to suggest that the disparity is largely due to gun violence, to-wit:
The researchers reviewed an array of studies over the years. They estimated that homicide and suicide together account for about a quarter of the years of life lost for U.S. men compared to those in those peer countries. Homicide, they noted, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24. The large majority of those homicides involve firearms.

The researchers said there is little evidence that violent acts occur more frequently in the United States than elsewhere.
[Correct--our violent crime rate is actually lower than in Europe's]. It's the lethality of those attacks that stands out.
But here is where it goes completely into the realm of speculation:
"One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home. The statistics are dramatic," the report said.
The Truth About Firearms Blog addressed the same (or similar) article at the New York Times, and noted some problems with the statistics:
The five years between 20 and 24 account for 1/5 of the population under investigation (these “children”), but provide the majority of the body count. Throw in another fifth (15 to 19) and you’ve got damn near 80% of the fatalities among the population being studied.

What the article would like to have you believe is that small children are being murdered and killing themselves because of the presence of firearms in the country, but that’s just not true. The leading cause of death for children is accidental, not murder. And among the murders committed in this country, some people place as many as 77% of those in the category of “gang related violence.”

We’re not talking about little 5 year old Suzie, children like those involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. We’re talking about adults. And specifically hardened criminals killing other criminals in most cases of homicide.

As for the rest of the murders, there’s nothing indicating that those murders would not have happened if guns were not available. England has almost no civilian firearms ownership, but their murder rate rivals the United States and is on the rise — the US, by the way, has seen a decrease in the murder rate even as firearms ownership has increased.

As for suicides, countless studies (and Bruce Krafft himself) have found that the suicide rate is independent of the availability of firearms. Just because the means to end your life is readily available in firearm form doesn’t make the population of a country more likely to take that way out. Japan is the prime example, with almost no civilian ownership of firearms and a skyrocketing suicide rate that far surpasses the United States.

The only statistic that actually applies to the point of the article is the accidental death column, and as you can see that number is nearly zero involving firearms. Remove those deaths that involve people who are able to vote and the number decreases even father.
Here is another factor they didn't look at in the article: race and ethnicity. The researchers also probably used studies from various years, and ignored trends, such as Britain's and Australia's upward trend in violent crime and Britain's upward trend in gun violence. (See also my post here).

Drug Could Reverse Hearing Loss

The Daily Mail has welcome news. It reports on the development of a drug that has been shown to regenerate the sensory hair cells in the inner ear. From the article:
The drug, codenamed LY411575, triggers the regeneration of sensory hair cells.

Until now it has not been possible to restore the cells once they have been lost due to factors such as loud noise exposure, infection and toxic drugs.

Scientists succeeded in partially restoring hearing to mice that had been deafened by loud noise.

Although the research is at an early stage, they believe it could lead to effective treatments for acute noise-induced deafness in humans.

The tiny sensory hairs in the cochlea are vital to hearing. Sound vibrations transferred from the eardrum shake the hairs, causing nerve messages to be fired to the brain.

Without the hairs, the hearing pathway is blocked and no signals are received by the brain’s auditory centre.

While birds and fish are capable of regenerating sound-sensing hair cells, mammals are not.

The new approach involves reprogramming inner ear cells by inhibiting a protein called Notch.

Previous laboratory research had shown that Notch signals help prevent stem cells in the cochlea transforming themselves into new sensory hair cells.
The drug LY411575 suppresses Notch. Mice with noise-induced hearing loss generated functioning sensory hair cells after the drug was injected into their damaged cochleas.