"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 30th November 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
First, watch this awesome slo-mo of a slinky being dropped.
Because it takes time for the tension to be released on the bottom of the slinky, it remains ‘held up’ while the top of the slinky falls. More subtly, the torsion is released faster than the tension and reaches the bottom first, uncoiling and rotating the bottom surface before the tension is released and the bottom finally begins to fall.
Social change behaves in a similar way. When a critical mass of thought or behavior changes state from OK to not-OK, it releases the social tension holding that thought or behavior in place. A wavefront of change moves through society from the change-point group outward to those most closely associated and onward from them in an expanding sphere of influence. The group farthest from the change point – either physically, socially or ideologically – is the last group to change.
The subtle part is that some part of that change may move faster. An idea, subordinate to, but foundational of the larger change may move through society first, followed later by large scale behavioral or ideological change. Examples might include the idea that tobacco smoking is unhealthy moving through society as a precursor to a later change that smoking is socially unacceptable, followed even later by policies and ideological reinforcement to discourage it. Another example being that information about stagnation in economic performance and high unemployment might move through society as a precursor to change in economic policy or even entire economic systems.
In the slinky, the inertia of the spring impedes the release of tension, which is why the bottom of the spring doesn’t fall at the same instant as the top. In society, not only does it take time for information to propagate, and for a critical mass of people to change opinion, but there is the additional impedance of disinformation, the inertia of entrenched interests hiding or distorting critical information in order to protect their power and income.
Finally, there is one other effect which is fascinating. Because the top of the slinky is released first, it the first thing to be affected by the change in state, therefore is the first thing to experience the acceleration of gravity. As a result, it actually outruns the tension-release propagating through the slinky, and reaches and passes the bottom of the slinky while it is still being held in place.
Again, this is mirrored in society. Those first to change have made large progress toward the new state of things before the last of the group has even begun to react. If they get far enough out front, they end up pulling the rest along even against their will. Revolutions can sweep through societies this way.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 29th November 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
I’m going to predict Hillary Clinton will not be elected. I believe the majority of Americans are fed up with the lack of economic growth, high unemployment, increasingly bad race relations, politically driven riots, politically driven campus unrest, and an increasingly chaotic international situation. They’re going to vote for a change of government.
The real question is what to do when the GOP controls all three branches of the federal government. What should it do, in what order? Ted Cruz, for example, will immediately repeal what he considers all of Obama’s illegal executive orders. Nice. But of limited impact in the great scheme of things. What I’m concerned about are the fundamentals.
My list of fundamentals:
1. Replace the tax code with a lower, flat tax. Everyone pays at the same percentage.
2. Pass a balanced budget amendment. Include debt repayment in the budget.
3. Require all rules and regulations from any federal agency be approved by Congress. Require a cost-benefit analysis be included for each. Each regulatory agency and its existing rule set should be reviewed and scrubbed.
4. Pass welfare reform. Only the old and infirm should be on social benefits long term. Everyone else should be working and contributing to society. I would be open to CCC and WPA type programs to make the long term unemployed productive.
5. Repeal ObamaCare. Go to a market based healthcare and insurance system. Vastly reduce the legal hurdles and risks to providers. Include tort reform.
6. Repeal Common Core.
7. Review the costs and goals of every federal agency. Close every unnecessary agency. Start with the Dept of Education.
At the state level, I would like to see every Republican controlled governor-legislature team perform a full scale review of its school system: its administrative burden, its curriculum, its goals and its metrics. Consider voucher and competition systems to give parents a choice of schools and make schools compete for students.
People are ready for change. The future of the nation requires it. What good is attaining political power if it is not used?
I noticed the usual Russian disinformation warriors are out in force blaming this on the United States, claiming that ISIS was trained and supplied by the USA/CIA, or they are tools of Israel and the USA, etc. Odd how PenGun always mimics the same talking points. Maybe not.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 12th November 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
A question I keep asking myself: Is this sudden explosion of campus activism related to larger political trends in the USA? Has the Obama White House and the Democratic Party looked out at the unfolding political landscape and surmised that a year from now the Democrats may have less political power than anytime in the last 75 years, and decided stir up trouble? In other words, if they can’t succeed via the ballot box, can they succeed through intimidation, social upheaval and violence? Are these professors and students their Brownshirts? Are the campuses both the ignition points and rally points? Consider, universities are the one social structure almost completely under Leftist control, and they have in their hands freshly indoctrinated young people under their control and authority.
I have long hated the current presidential debate format. It is either fawning adulation or gotcha shenanigans, depending. I get nothing in the way of actual knowledge from them, other than to see how the candidates perform under stress, which is useful, I admit. I was glad to see it all come to a head over the CNBC debate. I was very happy to see the candidates speaking out at the absurdity of it all. I was even happier when the candidates got together to plan a debate format among themselves. Unfortunately, The Donald decided he benefitted from the current format, so that idea is a no-go. At least for now.
I still believe both the candidates and the country would benefit from a wholly different format. My criteria are as follows:
– Allows them speak in paragraphs. Or not, depending on what’s called for.
– Allows them to debate a few topics, known to them ahead of time and mutually agreed on.
– Allows them to question each other’s solutions and approaches. Some actual reasoned debate.
– Employs a neutral moderator whose job is to monitor the format and keep things on track. Think C-SPAN-ish.
In fact, I think C-SPAN would make an ideal venue. And the neutral hosting approach left as a legacy by Brian Lamb would serve us well.
Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations 2007-2011, recently spoke to our organization. A U.S Naval Academy graduate, he was one of only two officers in the US Navy to have commanded both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. He’s currently on the board of directors of both Northrup Grumman Corp and The Center for a New American Security. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. I paraphrase some of his remarks below.
A Wilderness of Disorder
Clearly the old order we grew up with is rapidly disappearing. I use that in the Shakespearean sense, where the wilderness is this multitude, this mass of uncertainty that really surrounds us. That’s the period we’re in. And I do think Europe today, NATO today, epitomizes that. If you look at the structure of NATO it has started to parse into many different groups. If you’re in the East, the threat is Russia. If you’re in the South, it’s North Africa and the Middle East. If you’re in the West, Russia and the Middle East are, well, other people’s problems.
We’re in a time when we place a higher value on ‘The Narrative’ than we do on the substance of a problem. The idea is that if we get the narrative right, we’ve got it right; when in point of fact it is the underlying substance that is important.
A Changing Landscape in Asia
I’m not of a mind that China’s had it’s run and now it’s into a different phase. I think we’re going to see them work very hard with a very centralized approach to weather some of their economic issues. As China looks to the future, it has a strategy that has an economic underpinning and a military underpinning. At its heart is the “Belt and Road” initiative which consists of a Maritime Belt around the Indian Ocean, a Silk Road across Asia, and the Asia Development Bank. It a very interesting strategy that will press China deep into the heart of Asia.
Russia finds itself in a partnership with China that is historically inconsistent. China has been a strategic competitor of Russia, and Russia will soon find itself the junior in that relationship.
The associations and relations we have in Asia are going to be hugely important.
India, Japan and China will be pressing into space in a very big way. We need to think about the business and strategic effects of that.
Asia has found the submarine. We are going to see a proliferation of submarines and unmanned undersea systems there unlike anywhere else.
Our Focus is Too Close
We tend in think in terms of the next budget, what’s in the news, what’s capturing our attention at the moment. We need to spend more time thinking about the patterns of life, about what the drivers are and how they span a generation or perhaps two generations.
We are in a time when actions are more event driven than strategy driven. This is partly driven by the explosion of information availability, people now have instantaneous access to information that was once the purview of the elite. It has shortened the deliberation time leaders have before judgement is delivered from the public domain. It is forcing a compression of events. We need to act less hastily and think more.
Because of this information space we now exist in, we have gotten away from being able to thoughtfully assess whether something is an existential threat, or a vital threat, or perhaps not even a threat. But because of this flood of information, we have now begun to associate violence somewhere with a threat, which is not always the case.
He also touched on many other subjects including: the declining performance of our schools and toll that will take on our entire society, the loss of boundaries between the personal and the public and the corrosive effect that is having on our society, the rise of political and religious extremism, our loss of leadership in nuclear power development, the need to develop directed energy weapons, the increasing importance of unmanned vehicles, and the desperate need we have to develop cyber-warfare and cyber-defense capabilities.
Admiral Roughhead gave me the impression of someone intelligent, thoughtful, and someone aware of the questions that need to be asked but not sure of the answers.
Interesting to see McCain described as the Republican front runner for 2008. McCain/Lieberman? That’d be an interesting ticket. Drive the wings on both sides completely nuts. Strong center and cross party appeal, obviously.
More interesting perhaps, and certainly of more immediate relevance, is the article’s disclosure that submarine ballistic missiles are being refitted with conventional warheads. How odd. Why? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 12th February 2006 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Never Give In! Never Surrender!
~ The Chicago Boyz
So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.
Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance, we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation.
In sum: Iran is mountainous, full of hardened underground sites. Surgical anything is out. Conventional would be bad/really bad. Nuclear would be really really bad. Doing nothing would also be really really bad.
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Heard about the coming age of nanobots, have you? You’ll believe it when you see it, right? Me too. However, looks the building blocks for those micromachines are up and running. Ever thought you’d see a chip-scale motor? A gear train smaller than a pinhead?
This alignment clip is used in conjunction with a transmission. This complex device is entirely batch-fabricated, with no assembly required. Amazing!
(Sandia National Laboratories)
Here’s a birds-eye overview of a chip-scale, six gear train in operation. The black, pointed objects are tiny probes applying power to the “circuit” that runs the train. The tiny semi-circle in the center is the actual gear train. The object on the right is the actuator mechanism, where electrical forces are converted to mechanical movement, which then applies the mechanical power to the gears. This is a silicon machine.
And here’s a closeup of that tiny gear train running.
Here’s a comb drive linear actuator. The basic princle is that of opposite charges attracting and like charges repelling. The actuator in the center, attached to the bottom comb, is negatively charged. When the top comb is positively charged, the bottom comb is attracted, moving towards it. When the charge is reversed, the bottom comb is pushed away. Simple, no? You can see the charge reversing by the top comb alternately lighting up and going dark.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about these machines is their manufacturability. They are made from the same materials (silicon wafers and aluminum) and the same photo-lithography techniques as the chips in your computer. Most people don’t realize (why would they?) that those microchips are not single layer devices, but complex, 3-D, multilayer stacks of silicon, conductors, and dielectrics. Imagine building complex, reliable, low power, low cost machines using the same technologies. Impressive.
There are at least three facilities pursuing MEMS (micro electromechanical machine systems) that I’m aware of: Sandia National Lab, The Applied Physics Lab and UC Berkely. Darpa is a primary funding agency.
Amidst all the controversy, one needs to ask. Growing up in the Baltimore-Washington metro area, I spent most of my life with thousands of Russian ICBMs pointed at my head. I’m still here. So are you. Anyone who grew up in Moscow had the same, but polar opposite, experience. Because a nation is armed with nukes does not, by definition, mean those weapons will be used, whatever their dislike or distrust of the those people at whom the weapons are targeted. Which leads me to the larger question at hand, does the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran in and of itself justify a war, even a limited war, for their removal?
Following up on Shannon’s post below, a long overdue assessment on the dangers of DHMO contamination in our environment.
Pretty scary. One point they didn’t mention; despite it’s obviously dangerous nature and chemical persistence, the Clean Water Act makes absolutely NO reference to DHMO contamination in our rivers, lakes and reservoirs! Studies have shown you and your children are drinking water contaminated with DHMO. Be a proactive citizen. Act now. Ban DHMO. Your children will thank you.
When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, That I finally and inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction.
The future lies that way for me and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side. The outline which would bound my walks would be, not a circle, but a parabola, or rather like one of those cometary orbits which have been thought to be non-returning curves, in this case opening westward, in which my house occupies the place of the sun. I turn round and round irresolute sometimes for a quarter of an hour, until I decide, for the thousandth time, that will walk into the west or southwest. Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free.
Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And this time, we’re going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.
So opens the article How We’ll Get Back to the Moon on NASA’s website in their Vision for Space Exploration. Brave words. While I’ve no doubt they’re capable of doing it, I do have serious doubts whether we’ll see this program fully funded.
Why, you may ask, are we even going back to the Moon? Didn’t we already do that in 1969? Is there anything really left there to explore? Here’s NASA’s chief historian, Steven J. Dick, answer to Why We Explore:
In October 1995 – ten years ago this month – two Swiss astronomers announced the discovery of the first planet around a Sun-like star outside of our solar system. A few weeks later the American team of Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler confirmed the discovery, and a few months after that they added two more “extrasolar planets.” These landmark events were only the beginning of a deluge of new planets. Some 155 are now known in addition to the 9 in our own solar system. Hardly a week goes by without the discovery of more. In a way, each discoverer is a new Columbus, unveiling a new planet rather than a new continent. Although these planets are gas giants, Earth-sized planets are not far behind. A thousand years from now our descendants may explore them in person.