Tory stupidity

I think this complements Michael`s post about attempts to impeach Tony Blair quite nicely:

Michael Howard last night accused George Bush of seeking to protect Tony Blair in an extraordinary row sparked by news that the Tory leader has been banned from the White House.

Mr Howard hit back after it emerged that his calls for Mr Blair to stand down over the Iraq war have enraged the US President. The simmering feud was
laid bare yesterday as it emerged that Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s most powerful official, told the Tory leader that he “could forget about meeting the President”.

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Free rope here – help yourself

Now that the Olympics have concluded, another gymnastics exhibition has begun, as the Kerry campaign should be doing some very challenging contortions to distance themselves from the anti-RNC protests going on in New York. I was watching some coverage last night of a young man throwing dixie cups of water at middle-aged Republican delegates while yelling “Yeah?!? C’mon!! Whatya gonna do about it?!?” High dialogue there. And then these pearls: “Republican murderers go home and kill your babies!” and “Bitch, go home! We don’t want you here!”. Wonderful examples of erudite, tolerant young Dems. I don’t think this will “play in Peoria”, and I’ll mete out all the rope they need to fashion their noose.

Global Warming Solved!!

Update: It appears this story was meant as humor.
(My thanks to Patrick)

Bruce Callander, writing for the Cheboygan Daily Tribune:

…the weather has continued to deteriorate and the forecast is that it will be worse next year.There are two possible explanations, both of them connected with the space program although not in the way the old wives’ tales suggest.

The first theory is that although landing on the moon had no effect on terrestrial weather, the more recent unmanned probes of Mars well may have disrupted our climate in ways just now becoming apparent. It stands to reason.

Ummm, no it doesn’t. But please, do go on….

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The least knowledgeable of “Chicago Boyz” asks: The Detroit News’ graphic of the effect of Bush’s tax cuts (via Instapundit) is interesting. Is their observation: “What a victory for compassionate conservatism. Everybody gets an income tax cut, and when it’s all done the rich end up paying proportionately more” accurate, inaccurate, a good thing, a bad one?

Will Tony Blair Be Impeached?

According to David Hencke, writing for the Guardian:

MPs are planning to impeach Tony Blair for “high crimes and misdemeanours” in taking Britain to war against Iraq, reviving an ancient practice last used against Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago.

Eleven MPs led by Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, are to table a motion when parliament returns that will force the prime minister to appear before the Commons to defend his record in the run-up to the war.

Nine of the MPs are Welsh and Scottish Nationalists, including the party leaders, Elfyn Llwyd, and Alex Salmond, and two are Conservative frontbenchers, Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of the Spectator, and Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley.

A number of Labour backbenchers are considering whether to back the motion, though it could mean expulsion from the party.

The MPs’ decision follows the commissioning of a 100-page report which lays out the case for impeaching Mr Blair and the precedents for action, including arguments laid down in Erskine May, the parliamentary bible, on impeachments dating back to medieval times.

The authors are Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and Dan Plesch, honorary fellow of Birkbeck College, London.

Under the ancient right, which has never been repealed, it takes only one MP to move a motion and the Speaker has to grant a debate on the impeachment. This means, at the least, Mr Blair will have to face a fresh debate on his personal handling of the war and there will have to be a vote in parliament on whether to institute impeachment proceedings.

If that weren’t bad enough, Cherie Booth’s legal firm, Matrix, has been selected to draw up the impeachment document. Cherie Booth is the Prime Minister’s wife.

Maybe she thinks he’s spending too much time at the office.

However, according to the BBC News, this procedure probably won’t make it to a vote:

Labour MP and former minister Keith Vaz told Newsnight: “This is a silly story for the end of the silly season.”

Mr Vaz said the evidence in the academics report was thin and questions over the Iraq war had been raised numerous times in Parliament, as well as in a string of inquiries.

“This matter has been put before the nation day after day over the last few years,” said Mr Vaz. “All these reports have exonerated the government and it’s time to move on.”

Donald Anderson, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, called the impeachment call a “political stunt” and a “no-hoper in legal terms”.

I can’t believe it was coincidental that Matrix was chosen to draw up the impeachment. I suspect they were picked to maximize political embarrassment, maximize publicity and possibly to create dissension between the PM and his wife. Had they refused, no doubt there would have been accusations of political interference. The impeachment papers are proceeding.

If You Don’t Want to Bleed During War….

So the summer Olympics are in full swing and the speechifying both annoyed and amused me, like it does every time someone steps up to the podium. They always start blathering about peace this, peace that, spirit of peace, blah blah blah. They want you to think that the Olympics celebrate and are dedicated to peace.

Not so. The Olympics are very definately all about war.

Just take a look at the traditional events. Open hand martial arts like boxing, wrestling and a sort of anything goes cage match called pankration. Missile weapons were represented with the javelin throw. Chariots and cavalry were very important in combat, so those events were represented.

Should a hoplite become seperated from the line, his only chance to survive was by constantly moving in a swirling attack pattern so an enemy couldn’t attack from the rear. The discus throw was considered a good way to train for that.

The most famous of all Olympic events is the marathon, named after a famous battle in 490 BCE. The Greeks that won the battle knew that everyone back home in Athens was expecting them to lose, so it was very possible that they would surrender the city without knowing that they had kicked ass. So legend has it that one of the soldiers stripped off his armor and weapons and ran the 25 miles back to the city to give news of the victory before dying of exhaustion.

Before 490 BCE they did include relatively short distance running events in the Olympics, the longest of which was about 2.5 miles long. Some of these events called for the hoplites to run in full armor which illustrates the martial air of the games. But after 490 BCE they decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to train couriers for some long distance runs.

It’s true that the almost constantly warring Greek city states would have a truce when the Olympics were held. But this wasn’t an indication of a desire for the celebration of peaceful competition, but more a way to gauge your own training methods against those of potential enemies.

So the Olympics are a throwback to a time when your warriors’ physical fitness was the most important factor in the survival of your nation. If the members of the IOC were honest they’d admit it.

19th Century Mentality

Reading through a “news” paper the other day, I read the comments of an ardent Kerry supporter accusing Bush of having a “19th Century mentality”, apparently because Bush thinks that killing dangerous enemies and producing fuel are worthwhile activities. As I so often do when hearing the comments of Bush opponents, my reaction was “I wish!” I guess you know you’ve definitely become someone’s political enemy when you hear him accusing your candidate of things that would make you a fanatical supporter if only they were true.

At any rate, it constantly amazes me to hear people speak of a “19th Century mentality” as if it were a terrible insult, and to speak of the 19th Century itself as if it was a time when our benighted policies kept us on the road to disaster until 20th Century heroes took the reins of power and saved the day. I suppose that I must confess that I myself harbor a 19th Century mentality.

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Quote of the Day

“The Left’s description of the War in Vietnam is like a watching a Kung Fu movie where the bad guys have all been digitally edited out. The hero thrashes about punching air, breaking things and hurling through walls for no apparent reason.”

Shannon Love

Music Piracy

I’ve been following this story for several years. The major record companies, with the connivance of the union representing the performers (AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), failed to pay into the artists’ pension fund. This came to public attention when some of the great R&B performers of the 1960’s went to retire and found they would get either nothing or very little from the AFTRA pension plan, which was supposed to be administering the funds. Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, found out that from 1965 through 1992, Atlantic Records had contributed exactly nothing towards his pension, and he was entitled to only $64 per month. Jackie Wilson and Mary Wells died in poverty and without health insurance. In 1994, Moore, with Lester Chambers (Chambers Brothers), Curtis Mayfield, Wilson’s estate, and others, brought suit against the RIAA and the record companies. USA Today had an update a couple of months ago. The suit is still going on, ten years later.

Also, the recording industry had been holding on to about $50 million in royalties owed to artists they could not find, and so could not pay. The missing artists included David Bowie, Dave Matthews, and Sean Combs. NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer persuaded them to try harder.

I was reminded of this when I read this story about the RIAA suing another 744 people for file sharing, along with about 4,000 others in the past year. This is the sort of thing that gives capitalism a bad name.
The RIAA website has an anti-piracy statement with this noble sentiment:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the creative artists lose. Musicians, singers, songwriters and producers don’t get the royalties and fees they’ve earned.

It’s nice to know they care.

The Getty Center

Reed College hosts a website dedicated to the spectacular architecture of the Getty Center. The architectural design firm, Richard Meier & Partners, is also responsible for another stunning and widely praised structure, the Jubilee Church in Rome.

One thing that immediately jumped out at me is the use of shape. Curves contrasting orthogonal elements and angular elements, often nesting one inside the other, or integrally constructed together and opposed to each other, or even echoing each other.

The second thing was texture. Notice how the texture of the stone contrasts the smoothness of the tile, and how it has the effect of accenting each?

Finally, we have contrast of color. Greens against tans against against blue. It creates some remarkable effects. Astonishingly good work. Of course, when you’ve got a billion dollars to play with it’s amazing what you can create. I wonder what, for instance, the Palace at Versailles cost in year 2000 dollars?

More: || Gallery1 || Gallery2 || Full site map ||

Time For a Tax Hike? Or a Budget Cut?

Pete Peterson, Secretary of Commerce for Nixon, chairman of The Blackstone Group, chairman of the Institute for International Economics and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations (How’s that for a CV?) has written an article in Foreign Affairs entitled Riding For A Fall, which is adapted from his book Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.

It’s a pretty damning article. First he lays out all the nasty facts:

* In short, the stunning effectiveness of the U.S. armed forces has come with an equally stunning price tag. For most of U.S. history, going to war was like organizing a large federal jobs program, with most of the work done by inexpensive, quickly trained recruits. Today, it is more like a NASA moon launch, entailing a massive logistical tail supporting a professionally managed and swiftly depreciating body of high-tech physical capital.

The Congressional Budget Office recently recalculated the administration’s projections…The results are eye-opening: total defense outlays over the next decade may cost 18 percent more than the administration’s official projection. Including interest costs, this excess amounts to $1.1 trillion in new spending…Even this number does not reflect the cost of any new military operations abroad, which three of every four Americans believe are “very likely” in “the next few years,”…

* He then goes on list all the unfunded homeland security issues that almost certainly need to be addressed, including: properly equipping first responders, costs to improve health-care capabilities over the next five years for radiation or biowarfare attacks (about $36 billion), reducing the threat posed by cargo containers ($20 billion upfront, plus recurring costs), improving our ability to deal with immigrants of both the legal and illegal variety and safeguarding critical infrastructure.

He concludes that section by saying, “For the first time in the post-World War II era, the United States faces a future in which every major category of federal spending is projected to grow at least as fast as, or faster than, the economy for many years to come.”

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Blog Improvements

– Comments now have permalinks. You can link to an individual comment without having to link to the entire post that it’s associated with. For example.

– Clicking on a comment in the “Latest Comments” list on the right side of this page now takes you directly to that comment rather than merely to the top of the post it’s associated with.

– Site Meter is now public. The link is below everything else on the right side of this page.

Further Thoughts on Barnett’s Proposed SysAdmin Force and State-Building

My previous post about Thomas Barnett’s book The Pentagon’s New Map was so well-received (see the comments to that post), that I decided I’d put down a few further thoughts on it.

Barnett’s call for a distinct SysAdmin force to handle peace-keeping, stability operations, nation-building, etc. is probably his best idea. These tasks will not go away. We can either do them well or do them badly. We can either allow them to erode our military’s core function of war-fighting, by misusing a war-fighting military to undertake tasks it is not trained or equipped to do, or make sure we have the full range of capabilities in place. The very good article Why Great Powers Fight Small Wars Badly. Its author, Maj. Robert M. Cassidy makes this point.

[t]he military organizations of great powers …embrace the big-war paradigm, and because they are large, hierarchical institutions, they generally innovate incrementally. This means that great-power militaries do not innovate well, particularly when the required innovations and adaptations lie outside the scope of conventional war. In other words, great powers do not win small wars because they are great powers: their militaries must maintain a central competence in symmetric warfare to preserve their great-power status vis-ŕ-vis other great powers; and their militaries must be large organizations. These two characteristics combine to create a formidable competence on the plains of Europe or the deserts of Iraq. However, these two traits do not produce institutions and cultures that exhibit a propensity for counter-guerrilla warfare.

Moreover, however dire the need for low-intensity and reconstruction capabilities may be, the Big War capabilities must be created and maintained, a point which Barnett is very clear about.

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Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map

For some time now I have had a stack of books I’ve been going to blog about. The top of the stack is Thomas Barnett’s book The Pentagon’s New Map. First, the book is good, it is worth reading, and you should do so. Barnett is engaging and smart and is seriously trying to think through important questions. This is demonstrated not only by the book, but also by Barnett’s website. Barnett’s book has been reviewed far and wide, and on his website he publishes the reviews and responds to them. In fact, his website is almost the ideal of what a web-minded author can do. He engages in a dialogue with reviewers and responds to criticisms. Others, hopefully, will adopt his approach. May they also have the stamina to sustain it.

I read the book a few months ago and I hope I can make sense of my notes. I’ll focus on points that relate to issues which interest me. There is much in the book which I simply won’t touch on here. There are plenty of summaries on his site, if mine is too cryptic. But everybody reading this blog has heard about it and has some idea what it is about — The Core and The Gap, to get it down to five syllables. These terms, as well as many others, are part of Barnett’s idiosyncratic nomenclature.

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Hurricane Hiatus

Ever been hurricaned? It’s interesting. Last week I had to travel to Florida. I barely pay attention to weather forecasts here in Maryland, so I was totally unaware of the hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Duh. I got my first hint that trouble lay ahead on Friday morning, eating breakfast in a hotel in South Carolina. As I ate a big toasted bagel with cream cheese, CNN was reporting live from Tampa on the coming storm. Hmmm. Not good.

Since I was driving down I-95, I figured I’d be fine. I’d be along the Atlantic coast and the storm was coming ashore from the Gulf. How intense could it be, I reasoned, after passing all the way across Florida? Hurricanes lose power rapidly once they make landfall, don’t they?

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Excess Sentiment

The tale of two bicycles, linked by Instapundit and commented on by Volokh, makes broad economic points. Advocates often complain about the punishment meted out to those who prey on the poor. This seems wildly disproportional. It reflects a certain lack of imagination; caught up in the moment, sympathies extend across the room but not across time.

Tangentially, I remembered an experience from the early seventies. My children laugh at our life in Austin before they were born – but now they live in similar places. Then, Austin reflected both red neck and hippy culture and was brought together in that first Willie picnic, at Dripping Springs. There was less of the Yuppie culture that came (and went) with the boom. We spent our first married years in a house previously rented by a drug dealer. People would show up at odd hours trying to score dope and we were repeatedly robbed, in a petty sort of way. (Once, for instance, a sheet and blanket disappeared from the waterbed, although the other sheet and quilt remained.) We didn’t have much, so it never bothered me. And a nice thing about the old drug dealer was that his incontinent monkey had left the house in such bad repair the landlord repaneled & painted. We loved Austin; it was quirky and fun. Once we started thinking about children, our perspective broadened and lifted. We wanted a bit more control and were willing to take on some responsibility–we needed to grow up.

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QSP: Quiet Supersonic Platform

Speaking of jets, DARPA, the famous Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been funding a new technology demonstration which, if successful, could revolutionize air travel. At the heart of the technology is the abilty to mathematically model, and so predict and control, the shape and intensity of shock waves as they propogate away from the leading and trailing edges of supersonically flying aircraft and expand into the atmosphere and across the ground below them. These shock (pressure) waves are translated inside our ears into sound and are what are commonly know as sonic booms. According to Aviation Week:

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin have concluded that it may be possible to meet DARPA’s target for the sonic boom by changing the shape of the aircraft, and without using exotic technologies such as plasmas. The idea is not to eliminate the pressure wave (‘Ye canna change the laws of physics, Jim’) but to change the normal ‘N-wave’ profile of the boom to a smooth hump, removing the rapid pressure rises at the nose and tail of the aircraft.

Working from pure acoustic theory in the late 1960’s, Cornell University’s Dr. Albert George and his colleague, Dr. Richard Seebass, found a way to reshape the sonic boom into a soft, harmless pressure wave. The result became the Seebass-George theory and was published in 1971.

The problem was that, until this DARPA program, no-one had ever actually tested the theory. It’s extremely expensive to build planes, set up instruments for monitoring performance, analyse the results, change the aircraft, make more tests, then deal with a whole new set of test results. It’s only recently that low cost, high speed computers and the advent of advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software have combined to allow engineers to model various aircraft configurations and test them against Seebass-George theory.

In order to verify its accuracy, DARPA provided funding to modify a supersonic, 1960’s era F-5 with a different nose configuration. Sonic boom pressure measurements were taken with an unmodified F-5 and compared to the modified F-5. In each test, the modified pressure waves matched the Seebass-George theory predictions both in their intensity and shape. Quite an accomplishment. This is exactly the kind of thing takes aerospace design and ‘kicks it up a notch’.

There’s still one major hurdle left though, basic engine noise and long term performance. General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney are studying the problem. Civil engines have to be quiet on takeoff and landing but supersonic military engines don’t. Also, supersonic engines run at full blast all the time, making it hard to run several thousand hours between overhauls. Pratt & Whitney is said to looking at a version of their new F-119 Supercruise engine developed for the F-22. It’s powerful, with 35,000 lbs of thrust, and fuel efficient since it does not require fuel guzzling afterburners to run supersonic.

DARPA envisions a plane with a 6,000 nautical mile unrefueled range while running at mach 2 to 2.4. The plane would weigh in at approximately 100,000 lbs, compared to the Concorde’s 400,000 lbs, and with a payload to weight ratio of around 20% (20,000 lbs of payload), compared to the Concorde’s 7% (28,000 lbs of payload).

So what does this mean for us? In the next 10-15 years we could begin to see supersonic overland travel becoming available. Imagine taking off from Boston at 8:00 AM and landing in San Diego at 11:00 AM. Now imagine taking off from New York at 8:00 AM and landing in Honolulu at 2:00 PM, nonstop. What do you think that will do tourism worldwide?

Bill Sweetman’s Popular Science Article
Affordable Supersonic Flight (NASA)
Darpa News Release (2002)

C-SPAN 1 & 2 (times e.t.)

As we begin the countdown to Lamb’s last book notes (see last week’s post) on C-SPAN 1. This Sunday’s Booknotes is an interview with Dorie McCullough Lawson, Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to their Children The daughter of historian David McCullough, Lawson edits

letters that span more than three centuries of American history, Posterity is a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, wisdom, and family lives of those whose public accomplishments have touched us all.

The interview will be 8:00 p.m. and again at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Check the Book-TV schedule for its 24-hour weekend book discussions; these also link to more detailed descriptions.

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MT-Blacklist Blocking Valid Comments?

If anyone has tried posting a comment here, and received a message indicating that his comment was being blocked “due to questionable content”, please email me. Include, if possible, the text of the comment that caused problems. I don’t know whether false positives are a big issue for MT-Blacklist, but I was just blocked from commenting on another blog, and I don’t know why, and I wonder if we are inadvertently blocking some legitimate comments here.

I apologize for any inconvenience if we blocked your comment.