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  • Archive for January, 2006

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 20th January 2006 (All posts by )

    I actually had an iPod compilation that I had the Psyops guys play in Iraq called “Iraqi House Party: Music to Search Houses to.” It started with Bowie’s “I’m afraid of Americans” and went on to include Limp’s “Break Stuff” Rollins and Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” among others. Segues were awful, meant to throw the locals all out of kilter and to give the boys a chuckle.

    Capt. Zeigenfuss

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Stratfor on Iran

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Strategic Forecasting, Inc. has published a report on Iran by George Friedman that is well worth reading. I am posting the entire content of the report below. (Stratfor permits republishing with attribution.)

    UPDATE: In posting the Stratfor piece I did not make my own position clear and some readers may have misinterpreted it. I think that Iran is a serious threat and that we should treat Iran’s apparent impending acquisition of nuclear weapons very seriously. Indeed I have argued on this blog in favor, essentially, of preventive war.

    I posted the Stratfor report not because I agree with all of its premises and conclusions (in particular, I think Friedman is unwise to assume that Iran cannot soon acquire nuclear weapons), and not because I do not take Ahmadinejad’s threats at face value (I do), but because the report seems to explain well the geopolitical dynamics underlying Iran’s recent foreign policy. While the situation looks bad and I share the concerns expressed by many bloggers about apocalyptic scenarios, I also suspect that like most frightening situations the Iran problem will become more tractable as it becomes better understood. The Stratfor analysis seems like a step in the right direction.

    —————————

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Teaching Fathers

    Posted by Shannon Love on 20th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes a link to this article in the New Republic about the growing gender imbalance in education. Boys are falling behind to the extent that colleges are running a 60/40 female to male graduation ratio. The article’s most significant point isn’t the imbalance itself but rather the fact that the imbalance only opened up in the early 80s and appears to be accelerating. The article mentions many possible factors but neglects one I think probably has a significant impact:

    Absent Fathers.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    “Never, under any circumstances, urinate or defecate in an elevator.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Here’s an important website for people who need to know the rules.

    Posted in Humor | Comments Off on “Never, under any circumstances, urinate or defecate in an elevator.”

    Organic Farming = Species Extinction? Oopsie!

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 19th January 2006 (All posts by )

    The Law of Unintended Secondary Effects provides for the imposition of the death penalty. In this case, it is insecticide rather than homicide. In gardening and agriculture, “natural” pest control includes the introduction of beneficial insects to prey on insect pests. Unfortunately, some of these beneficial insects become pests themselves. The asiatic ladybug is still available by mail-order, even though they have become a nuisance in the US because of their habit of nesting indoors. A vacuum cleaner is recommended for removing them; they leave a nasty stain if you squash them.

    In the UK, the problem is more serious. There are similar native species that are being destroyed by being out-competed by the aliens, or even by the more direct method of being eaten by them. The various native species may go extinct as early as 2008.

    “Natural” does not mean “benign.” When we as a species were in a state of nature, we were prey. Stuffed amanitas, anyone?

    Posted in Environment | 3 Comments »

    All’s Fair in Love and Divorce

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 18th January 2006 (All posts by )

    There are some fascinating posts that I’d like to bring to your attention. The first one is to be found at Glenn’s. He discusses a book where a woman successfully disguised herself as a man in order to gain insights into how the other side lives. One passage that made an impressions was where the author entered the dating world, only to find that many women were distrustful and downright hostile to any man because they had been through failed relationships where a man had treated them badly.

    Glenn links to a post at Dr. Helen’s, his wife’s blog. The good doctor was surprised to find that many men are shunning marriage, fearing jail due to false accusations about being an abuser if the relationship goes sour and a divorce is necessary.

    Dr. Helen links to this essay on a blog called DADvocate. The author discusses why he and many other men are no longer interested in marriage. The potential penalties are too severe, while most women don’t bring enough to the table to make it worthwhile.

    The posts are all interesting. Click on the links and give them a read. But what I want to talk about are the claims that men are risking jail time every time they tie the knot.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 12 Comments »

    The Good Death – or Not?

    Posted by Ginny on 17th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Lehrer reported tonight on the Supreme Court decision on assisted death. I believe most of us have conflicted feelings about end-of-life questions. This may have been the best choice – but the remark by an opponent that suicides are often victims of depression was answered a little too glibly by his opposite, who quickly contended that none euthanized had suffered from depression.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics | 1 Comment »

    “Alleged virtues”

    Posted by Ginny on 17th January 2006 (All posts by )

    This afternoon “All Thing Considered” did a pleasant, affectionate & informative segment on Benjamin Franklin; tomorrow is his three hundredth birthday. His breadth & wit make him a great subject. What struck me, however, was the underlying assumption that irony & wit & a sense of his own fallibility meant that he wasn’t serious about self-improvement. He doesn’t take himself seriously, he doesn’t think with pride that he has or ever will reach “perfection”: this is not just his charm but his common sense. But we can laugh at what we still hold seriously. This paradox seemed lost. D. H. Lawrence is a fool as well as completely lacking a sense of humor. However, Joel Rose simplifies in another direction when he describes Poor Richard’s moralistic aphorisms on (in Rose’s words) “temperance” and “frugality” as “alleged” virtues, I doubt Franklin would have agreed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 3 Comments »

    Were the NSA Revelations Staged?

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Aaron raises an interesting question. Personally, I’m skeptical that this or any other administration could be that clever, or that the NYT, which sat on the story for a long time before publishing it, would have cooperated, or that such an ornate plan would make sense. I also think there’s plenty of evidence that the NSA has been doing this kind of mass-monitoring of communications for decades, which makes me think that they are still doing it. But who knows.

    Posted in War and Peace | Comments Off on Were the NSA Revelations Staged?

    Micromachine Movies

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 15th January 2006 (All posts by )

    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.

    Image Gallery
    Movie Gallery

    Posted in Tech | Comments Off on Micromachine Movies

    A Nuclear Armed Iran; Does it Matter?

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 15th January 2006 (All posts by )

    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?

    Let’s look at some possible courses of action.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Middle East | 23 Comments »

    Tea, Taxes and the American Revolution

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Good post on Nutrition and Life Expectancy in Colonial American vs. Engand, on the very good 2Blowhards blog, talking about Robert Fogel’s book The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100. (Fogel is a ChicagoBoy). Friedrich von Blowhard’s post provoked a good discussion in the comments. I made the following contribution:

    The American colonists were responding to changes in the way Britain sought to govern them. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 Parliament was supreme. Most of the colonies had been founded before that time. The colonies were governed by people who believed in an older model which focused on limitations on government power; they were descendents of people who had fled from over-reaching government power. They clung to a notion of limited government, with the King in particular being subject to limits on his power. The post-1688 British government, which prevails to this day in most ways, is in essence a parliamentary dictatorship. The British parliament, and now only the House of Commons, faces virtually no express limitations on its powers. The men who constituted the British House of Commons in the 1700s were a hard-nosed class who were interested in exploiting the territories under their control for economic advantage. They saw the American colonies as operating outside of their control, and they wanted to rectify that, to make them work for the benefit of Britain’s elite. The American colonists saw accurately where all this was going. In the years before the revolution, they wanted to have their loyalty be to the King, but not the new all-powerful parliament, with their own legislatures being in effect the local equivalent of the British parliament. The British governing class rejected the legal arguments for this, which were compelling. They were having none of it. They wanted control.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Bad News is Good News for Your Political Opponents

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 13th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Long time reader Robert Schwartz was kind enough to give me a heads up to an op-ed that was just printed in the UK Spectator. (Free registration required.) The author was Mark Steyn, and the subject is how the Democrats are desperate to find the One Big Issue that will prove to the electorate once and for all that the Bush administration is corrupt, incompetent, or involved in nefarious skullduggery. Just as soon as that happens, the reasoning goes, a royally pissed electorate will vote the Republicans out and the Democrats in.

    It could be that we’ll elect a Democrat for President in 2008, but to regain control of Congress in the numbers that the Dems dream of would mean that the voters would have to be pissed in the English sense instead of the American. As Steyn points out in his essay, the opposition is just not offering much of substance. Instead they’re pinning their hopes on a Republican blunder so amazingly huge that anger will motivate those going to the polls instead of reason. They just don’t get it that, since 9/11, the world has changed and they had better change with it.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 3 Comments »

    “Hard Kill v Soft Kill in Iran”

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2006 (All posts by )

    TM Lutas’s thoughtful post is worth reading, as is this post by Thomas Barnett, to which Lutas links. I don’t agree with Barnett’s conclusion but he makes his version of the “soft kill” case well.

    UPDATE: Barnett comments on Lutas’s post.

    Posted in War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2006 (All posts by )

    The point about markets can be explained more simply:

    It is very difficult to make people improve.

    It is very easy (and very cheap) to find out who does something best.

    -Commenter “P. Froward” in this thread at another blog.

    Posted in Markets and Trading | 4 Comments »

    A View From the Past

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2006 (All posts by )

    October 28, 1955

    Ariel Sharon (standing 2nd left) and colleagues. Also notable: Meir Har-Tzion (standing left), Moshe Dayan (standing 3rd left) and Rafael Eitan (crouching right). (For additional perspectives on Eitan, see this obituary and this recent interview with his widow.)

    The above photo, captioned “Israel’s legendary soldiers”, is taken from this gallery at the Jerusalem Post’s website. It’s worth a look, though it’s necessary to slog through a lot of relatively dull recent photos in order to see more-interesting material from the 1950s through 1980s.

    Posted in Israel | 1 Comment »

    Andrews Hall – 1963

    Posted by Ginny on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    The comments to which I responded in the post below made me think of the only article I published (in an obscure teaching journal) during the years at my business. This was written in 1987; I sold the business in 1992 and have been teaching English since 1993. Clearly, I’m a better teacher than I was businesswoman. But I don’t think the two are unrelated. So, here is one person’s take on a liberal arts education, first about ten years later and now about 25.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 1 Comment »

    Macbook does murder sleep

    Posted by Shannon Love on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Apple recently announced its new Intel-based machines at MacWorld. The absolutely neatest thing about the new laptop, called the MacBook Pro, has nothing to do with the processors.

    Nope, the absolutely neatest thing in the entire unit is its power cord. Power jacks have long been the achilles heel of laptops. The ridged jacks are easily broken by sudden tugs in on the cable and most jacks are built straight onto the logic board, so when the jack breaks the entire unit becomes a boat anchor. Apple solved this problem by turning to a tried and true technology.

    Fondue pots.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Macbook does murder sleep

    The “Overeducated” Typist

    Posted by Ginny on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    A person with a liberal arts degree is a fool to think it is a key to anything in the business world. Most of the people I knew saw those classes as an end in themselves, not a means to some kind of appointment. (If we wanted to do that, we could have gotten education degrees, which were a lot easier but which required listening to more bullshit.)

    This morning when I first saw the discussion of “overeducation”, I thought, how stupid. I’ve always felt people who thought that way were unwilling to actually enter the fray, get their hands dirty. And I thought about how often I met people who became my friends on Kelly Girl jobs – a group of us standing around a table, collating bits of paper or jamming phone directories into bags for mailing or typing up a grant report in a boiler room of typists. Often, most of the group had at least one degree and some were working on their third ones. My daughter, ABD in a rather demanding field, has taken some jobs like that in the last couple of years. They have broadened her understanding, taken her into offices she might never have entered otherwise.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business | 6 Comments »

    Secrets of the West

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Der Westen der USA…

    Wonderful photography of the American Southwest, courtesy of Steffen Synnatschke.

    Startseite = Home Page.
    Fotoalbem = Photo album.
    Gästebuch = Guest Book. Leave a comment.
    Touren = Maps of his photo excursions.
    Reiseberichte = Photos by locale.

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on Secrets of the West

    Rice Speaks Out

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    01:00 Condoleeza Rice is having a live press conference right now, talking about Iran and its nuclear program.

    01:02 Rice said that there was no peaceful rationale for Iran’s defiance of the international community. Is the flag going to go up?

    01:03 No, nothing that dramatic. The US is going to work with other countries and try to get some sort of resolution.

    01:04 The reporters are clueless. One of them even asked if the US would put the matter in front of the United Nations Security Council! Might as well put it in front of UNICEF for all the good it would do, even though a few of the EU countries are calling for just that. (Probably to appease the voters in case an invasion is necessary.)

    01:05 Another reporter asked what support the US was going to have from China and Russia, two countries that Rice mentioned specifically. She dodged with a bit of non-specific pablum, but it was a good question.

    01:06 CNN had cut from the Alito confirmation hearings for Rice’s little talk. Even they realize that nothing is going to happen because they just went back to that incredibly tedious show.

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN
    Iran broke the seals placed on their nuclear facilities a few days ago so they could continue working on atomic weapons. This indicates that they’re either rather close to a working bomb, or that they just don’t think anyone will try anything. It’s not good any way you look at it.

    So why did Rice hold this little talk with reporters?

    It’s probably just a way to ratchet up the pressure a little bit. You know, lay the groundwork in case a military solution is necessary. That is the only conclusion I can reach since I don’t see anything changing due to what she said.

    UPDATE
    I pretty much figured that there was a chance Condoleeza was going to announce something momentous during her press conference. It appeared to me that CNN and Wolf Blitzer figured the same thing judging by how they quickly cut back to the Alito hearings after it was obvious that Rice was just clarifying the official US position.

    The situation can’t be allowed to continue the way it is now. Sooner or later something will have to be done or else Iran will develop some nuclear WMD’s.

    Milblogger Murdoc Online has an interesting post where he discusses the chances for a variety of outcomes. I think it’s a little early to bet one way or another, but I’d have to agree with Murdoc until conditions change.

    Posted in International Affairs | 18 Comments »

    Liberty and privacy (cont’d)

    Posted by ken on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Instead of using privacy to help us evade the government’s attempts to enforce superfluous laws that people keep voting for, it may make more sense to investigate why people keep voting for them and address their concerns some other way.

    (This doesn’t always work. But it’s usually worth trying.)

    People generally vote for laws in the belief that it will make them safer. Sometimes it will even seem to work, but not for the reasons advertised.

    If there is some behavior that, for whatever reason, statistically marks someone as more likely to commit a real crime, it can be useful for a jurisdiction to outlaw that behavior. It may not prevent anyone from committing the associated real crime, but it can sometimes convince those people to move to some other jurisdiction and commit their crimes elsewhere. As long as no one actually comes out and says that, you can generally get such a law through without too many people complaining.

    (The amusing part is when the Feds completely misunderstand the situation and enact the same law on the Federal level…)

    People find themselves forced to resort to such expedients when the government is unable to enforce laws against real crimes by direct means. And in many cases, an expansive right to privacy will interfere with the direct approach. If the only alternative is having the authorities physically detain and interrogate you and seize your property without probable cause, we’re better off with expansive privacy rights. If there is an alternative of having the authorities gather information without molesting you in any way, and having a public trial where that information can be reasonably relied upon as genuine and unmodified, we may get more liberty overall by having the authorities freely gather such information (without releasing it except at trial!), more reliably punish real crime, and reduce the need to rely on mere statistical correlations to suppress or get rid of criminal activity.

    Of course, if this worked, we’d instead wind up with laws against the use of technology to thwart surveillance. And we’d be powerless to stage a revolution if our fearless leaders got completely out of hand. On the gripping hand, our fearless leaders have spent the past century going far beyond what drove our Founders to revolution and gotten away with it, so revolution as ultimate guardian of our rights is not that reliable anyway.

    Maybe a reliable lie-detector test will answer all of our concerns in the near future…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    One Step Closer

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 12th January 2006 (All posts by )

    Will they be able to fly in our lifetime?

    Posted in Humor | 2 Comments »

    Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO): Get The Facts

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 11th January 2006 (All posts by )

    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.

    Posted in Humor | 11 Comments »

    A Bit of Wind

    Posted by Shannon Love on 11th January 2006 (All posts by )

    From Yahoo News:

    “Natural-food grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. said Tuesday it will rely on wind energy for all of its electricity needs, making it the largest corporate user of renewable energy in the United States.”

    I rather like Whole Foods. I was shopping there when they were nothing but a slightly seedy hippy store in downtown Austin. I don’t begrudge Whole Foods doing what it can to sell itself as an eco-friendly company. Their upper income, over-educated target demographic is more than willing to pay a premium in return for getting a warm fuzzy feeling that they are helping the environment. However, this story reveals all the serious delusions about “alternative” energy that are systematically warping all our political debates about energy policy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »