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  • Archive for July, 2011

    Feed the Body, Feed the Cancer

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th July 2011 (All posts by )

    [Note: If you or a loved one is currently fighting cancer, you might want to skip this post.]

    Whenever I hear someone with cancer talking about fighting the disease by adopting some supposedly super-healthy diet or taking some supplement, I always wince inside because I strongly suspect they are actively harming themselves.

    Our intuitive model of fighting disease comes primarily from our experience fighting infectious diseases and the degenerative diseases of aging. In the intuitive model, anything that is good for the body’s cells, tissues and systems, e.g., eating “right”, taking anti-oxidants etc, helps the body to build immune cells and to repair damage caused by infection or life’s wear and tear.

    However, cancer isn’t like any other disease.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Medicine, Science | 6 Comments »

    Could This Company Have Been Saved?

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2011 (All posts by )

    In March 2008, I asked the question If you were the new owner of Borders, what would you do?…which sparked a fair amount of discussion.

    Yesterday, Borders announced that it would close all stores and liquidate. Something like ten thousand people will lose their jobs.

    In retrospect…given the state of the economic and the transition to digital books delivered via devices such as the Kindle…could Borders have been saved by better management, or was its demise inevitable?

    See also this dumb company tricks post, which describes some experiences with Borders.

    Posted in Business, Management, Tech | 21 Comments »

    “Dancing In The Glory Of Monsters” Book on Congo War Review

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns

    —-

    The “World War in Africa” occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The first Congo war occurred in 1996-7 when the deranged Seko was taken out of power by the elder Kabila backed by Rwandan troops following their victories against the Hutus that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide. The second Congo war occurred in 1998-2003 as the Rwandans and Ugandans attacked again and many other nations intervened; the elder Kabila was assassinated and replaced by his son as leader of the DRC.

    Ultimately elections were held in 2006 and Kabila won the election, based on his popularity in the Eastern part of the country (nearer Rwanda) for orchestrating the peace accord, while Bemba was popular in the West of the country nearer the capital Kinshasa. Bemba lost to Kabila in a run-off election for President and went into exile in the West; Bemba is now standing trial in the ICC.

    Another confusing element of the conflict is the fact that Uganda and Rwanda, who were allies in the East against the DRC and its backers, had a fall out and started battling each other over the mineral riches in the areas they controlled. They had a cease fire but then one of the Tutsi leaders formerly part of the Rwandan-led Congolese Tutsis named Nkunda took a major role; in another odd turn the DRC allied with the official army of Rwanda and they both attacked Nkunda (Rwanda was also attacking Hutu militias on its border with the DRC) and Rwanda is now holding Nkunda prisoner (Nkunda is wanted by the ICC).

    In addition to all these ongoing military events, it must be remembered that the DRC is VERY WEALTHY with regards to commodities. Per wikipedia:

    the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 24 trillion

    The Chinese are attempting to invest in the country, bringing construction capabilities and investment funds in exchange for access to DRC resources. This article is a NY Times interview with Kabila about the Chinese investment. On the one hand, China is willing to work with corrupt governments and do what it takes to get the deal (presumably including bribes, but this is never proven); Western countries are barred by their own laws (for the most part) from doing this type of contracting. On the other hand, the Chinese are actually intending to build infrastructure, rather than shower money on corrupt politicians, and this infrastructure would be tangible and in the words of the locals “you can’t put a railway in a Swiss bank account”.

    In the light of the importance of these events to the world in terms of scale (the most deaths in an armed conflict since WW2, if you believe the unverifiable figures), I try to learn what I can from whatever sources are available, including the excellent book by Prunier (which I review here). Thus with this background I am bringing you my review of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns (here is his blog which is also full of interesting information).

    The book is sprawling – if I hadn’t read Prunier’s book first, I would have been very confused (or vice versa; I had to read Prunier’s book twice to make half-sense of all the acronyms and various nationalities and battles).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Military Affairs | 11 Comments »

    Then What is a Driver’s License For?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 18th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Instapundit ask: Why have driver’s licenses at all?

    Driver’s licenses began in America back in, IIRC, the 1840s when drivers of large cargo wagons in urban areas were licensed, supposedly to insure that they wouldn’t let the horses and the rig get out of control and plunge thorough crowded city streets. More likely, it was a tool to create a barrier of entry to protect established cartage companies against competition. The cry “it’s for safety” is a powerful economic tool of established concerns.

    Supposedly, the government requires automobile drivers to have licenses to demonstrate that they have at least minimal driving skill and understanding of traffic laws. However, I’m not sure that is really the case anymore.

    Take this recent story from here in Austin, Tx:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Libertarianism, Transportation | 10 Comments »

    Poverty and Statistics

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th July 2011 (All posts by )

    I am repairing a gap in my education by reading Thomas Sowell’s classic, Vision of the Anointed, which was written in 1992 but is still, unfortunately, as valid a critique of leftist thought as it was then. As an example of his methods, he constructs an experiment in statistics. This concerns poverty and inequality and, in particular, the poverty of leftist thinking.

    He imagines an artificial population that has absolute equality in income. Each individual begins his (or her) working career at age 20 with an income of $10,000 per year. For simplicity’s sake, we must imagine that each of these workers remains equal in income and at age 30, receives a $10,000 raise. They remain exactly equal through the subsequent decades until age 70 with each receiving a $10,000 raise each decade. He (or she) then retires at age 70 with income returning to zero.

    All these individuals have identical savings patterns. They each spend $5,000 per year on subsistence needs and save 10% of earnings above subsistence. The rest they use to improve their current standard of living. What statistical measures of income and wealth would emerge from such a perfectly equal pattern of income, savings and wealth?
     

    Age

    Annual Income

    Subsistence

    Annual Savings

    Lifetime Savings
     

    20

    $10,000

    $5,000

    $500

    $0
    30

    $20,000

    $5,000

    $1,500

    $5,000
    40

    $30,000

    $5,000

    $2,500

    $20,000
    50

    $40,000

    $5,000

    $3,500

    $45,000
    60

    $50,000

    $5,000

    $4,500

    $80,000
    70

    $0

    $5,000

    $0

    $125,000

     

    Unfortunately, even with an Excel spreadsheet, I cannot get these numbers to line up properly.

    [Jonathan adds: Many thanks to Andrew Garland for providing html code to display these numbers clearly.]

    Now, let us look at the inequities created by this perfectly equal income distribution. The top 17% of income earners has five times the income of the bottom 17% and the top 17% of savers has 25 times the savings of the bottom 17%. That is ignoring those with zero in each category. If the data were aggregated and considered in “class” terms, we find that 17% of the people have 45% of the all the accumulated savings for the whole society. Taxes are, of course, ignored.

    What about a real world example ? Stanford California, in the 1990 census, had one of the highest poverty rates in the Bay Area, the largely wealthy region surrounding San Francisco Bay. Stanford, as a community, has a higher poverty rate than East Palo Alto, a low income minority community nearby. Why ? While undergraduate students living in dormitories are not counted as residents in census data, graduate students living in campus housing are counted. During the time I was a medical student, and even during part of my internship and residency training, my family was eligible for food stamps. The census data describing the Stanford area does not include all the amenities provided for students and their families, making the comparison even less accurate. This quintile of low income students will move to a high quintile, if not the highest within a few years of completion of graduate school, A few, like the Google founders, will acquire great wealth rather quickly. None of this is evident in the statistics.

    Statistics on poverty and income equality are fraught with anomalies like those described by Professor Sowell. That does not prevent their use in furthering the ambitions of the “anointed.”

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Personal Finance, Politics, Statistics | 8 Comments »

    ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Politics, RKBA, USA | 15 Comments »

    Use Government Assets

    Posted by TM Lutas on 17th July 2011 (All posts by )

    The government of the United States has a large number of assets. Some of them we use. Others we leave idle. Of the idle ones, some of them have people lined up, right now, willing to pay good money to buy or lease them. For political reasons the Obama administration is turning down a portion of that money every day. Instead, they would prefer to increase our taxes and have bumped us up against our debt ceiling and are threatening default rather than lease assets for oil exploration, mining, or timber production.

    When our executive is in the midst of an unofficial and arguably illegal campaign to leave certain productive assets idle and not permit the logging, oil drilling, and other natural resources exploitation leases that Congress has authorized to take place, it is obscene to insist that increased tax rates must occur to protect these revenue limiting policies.

    Let’s be clear. These permit slowdowns cost the Treasury money, are not authorized by any statute, and if they would stop would both increase employment and revenue. The NIMBY and environmentalist interests who disproportionately supported this President in 2008 and are poised to do so again in 2012 are making our fiscal crisis worse in a misguided attempt to create idle assets.

    We can increase revenue by maximizing our leases. This does not take any act of Congress. Congress long ago did its part of the job. This is a problem created by, and wholly solvable by the President and his political backers who have their people appointed to the posts approving those leases.

    We are not maximizing our revenues. We are leaving money on the table and this administration’s explicit policy is to take money out of ordinary american’s pockets in higher tax rates and keep them unemployed rather than allow the creation of resource extraction jobs. Shouldn’t clearing the lease and permit backlog and putting americans back to work be the first priority in these times?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    The Government is the Only Game in Town for Mortgages

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Today the US government basically controls the US mortgage market for housing. Per this article in the WSJ “Government Stays Glued To Mortgage Market” in the WSJ:

    The government took over Fannie and Freddie in 2008 to prop up the housing sector, and taxpayers are on the hook for $138 billion…Together with the Federal Housing Administration and federal agencies, Fannie and Freddie are behind nine in 10 new mortgages.

    The US government increased the limit on the dollar amount that these agencies can issue in order to keep housing prices from collapsing; now, much to the bewailing of the real estate industry, they are looking to tighten those limits.

    Unfortunately, if the US government stops supporting loans, there aren’t going to be many new loans at all. If you attempt to get a mortgage that isn’t covered by one of these Federal agencies, expect to see a very large down payment, a higher interest rate, and to have sterling credit in order to close the loan.

    Some regions are moving to cash in order to “clear the market”. In Miami 64% of transactions were “all cash”, with foreign buyers comprising the majority of the sales.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Real Estate | 4 Comments »

    High-Handed Outrage at Utica

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Abraham Lincoln like to start his Cabinet meetings with a little humor to relax everyone. On September 22, 1862 he began the Cabinet meeting by reading the following little nugget by the then popular humorist Artemus Ward (spelling in the original.)

    High-Handed Outrage at Utica

    In the Faul of 1856, I showed my show in Uticky, a trooly grate sitty in the State of New York.
     
    The people gave me a cordyal recepshun. The press was loud in her prases.
     
    1 day as I was givin a descripshun of my Beests and Snaiks in my usual flowry stile what was my skorn disgust to see a big burly feller walk up to the cage containin my wax figgers of the Lord’s Last Supper, and cease Judas Iscarrot by the feet and drag him out on the ground. He then commenced fur to pound him as hard as he cood.
     
    “What under the son are you abowt?” cried I.
     
    Sez he, “What did you bring this pussylanermus cuss here fur?” and he hit the wax figger another tremenjis blow on the hed.
     
    Sez I, “You egrejus ass, that air’s a wax figger–a representashun of the false ‘Postle.”
     
    Sez he, “That’s all very well fur you to say, but I tell you, old man, that Judas Iscarrot can’t show hisself in Utiky with impunerty by a darn site!” with which observashun he kaved in Judassis hed. The young man belonged to 1 of the first famerlies in Utiky. I sood him, and the Joory brawt in a verdick of Arson in the 3d degree.

    I have no idea why this story is supposed to be so funny. That in turn tells me that I am missing an important understanding of the culture of the era and the mind of Abraham Lincoln and others of that generation.

    Supposedly, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton didn’t get the joke either and grumbled about the waste of time. To placate Stanton, Lincoln hurried along to the real work of the meeting: announcing his intention to finally release the Emancipation Proclamation. Stanton didn’t think that was funny either.

    I think that the trivial and/or popular works of an era tell us more about the tenor of the times than do the tiny minority of works in any era that time eventually elevates to canon.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, Humor, Rhetoric | 14 Comments »

    Booze and Minnesota

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 15th July 2011 (All posts by )

    A few times Dan and I have joked that Wisconsin has the highest per-capita drinking in the USA. I’m sure that Minnesota isn’t far behind, with winters just as brutal as those in Wisconsin and not too much sunlight during those dark days and nights.

    It is summer now in Minnesota and the state is shut down. As it turns out, apparently that isn’t a big deal. They don’t let all the prisoners out of jail, they just shut down the inessential services such as the annoying bureaucracy that requires you to get innumerable permits and papers to conduct your daily business. These not-so-essential state workers total 22,000 in Minnesota; probably a great batch of employees to cut next.

    The new Democratic governor in Minnesota, Mark Dayton (wealthy heir who turned into a stone-redistributionist Dem) actually ran on a platform of taxing the top 1%, which is literally the stupidest thing in the world from a state tax perspective, since THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT CREATE ALL THE JOBS IN MINNESOTA. As it is, you’d have to be nearly out of your mind to live in the darkness, snow and miserable mosquitoes (in summer) of Minnesota in the first place; but to put dis-incentives for the rich to live there is even more insane (note – I worked in Minnesota for many years and long winters and met some of the nicest, smartest people in that hard working state. But they are still insane for living in that weather).

    As in Illinois, with our governor Quinn, the Democrat eked out a win (with 43% of the vote in the case of Minnesota) and then took this as a “mandate” to implement all of their programs as if they were Roosevelt trying to get the country out of the great depression (although that didn’t work so well, either). In the case of Quinn he raised Illinois taxes 67%, abolished the death penalty, appointed his cronies to state positions, and didn’t cut any spending. Awesome. In the case of Dayton, his plan was to raise taxes on the richest to 13.95%, on top of the Federal rates. Unclear in his plan is WHY anyone wealthy would intentionally stay in Minnesota to have all of their income taxed away while many other states with better climates (Florida, Texas) don’t have any state income tax AT ALL.

    I think Dayton was crazy enough to hold out forever, as a populist. Unfortunately for him, the state was running out of booze. Apparently bars need to fill out a permit for $20 or so in order to buy booze and as they expired the bars would have to shut. Miller was going to have to shut down their operations for a clerical snafu (they overpaid so the state sent their permit back) and not distribute booze at all.

    I really do think that the impending stopping of alcohol in the state of Minnesota helped precipitate a resolution to this budget standoff, where the governor gave in on his plan to drive all job-creators from the state.

    Hats off to the Minnesota legislature for standing firm. Unlike Illinois, where not only do the dems run our legislature but our red representatives aren’t creative enough to flee the state at the prospect of a giant tax increase, like they did in Wisconsin to attempt to block Walker’s reforms.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Politics, Taxes | 4 Comments »

    End of an Era?

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Future generations may read with amazement that there was once a time in America when people were allowed to select their own light bulbs without the choice being micromanaged by government. They will learn that that era ended in July 2011, when the effort to overturn the incandescent-bulb-ban failed in the House.

    ..if I were forced to choose the best lighting for residential overall, it would have to be incandescent. I feel that we as humans have had a deep connection to flame for many thousands of years. It’s almost like it’s in our DNA. It’s interesting that as time moves on, people are still drawn to sitting around the camp fire, a fireplace, even a barbecue. Think of a Yule log. It’s just that this particular quality of light is ingrained in us. You can even get a screen saver of log flames. Incandescents with their glowing filaments are a form of flame and are thus an extension of this inborn affinity that we have for fire.

    –lighting designer Ed Cansino, quoted here

    But it no longer matters what this lighting designer thinks, or what you think…neither you nor he will be allowed to exercise your own aesthetic preferences and make your own economic tradeoffs. All that matters is the opinion of the holders of political office.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Politics, Tech, USA | 11 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Wingsuit

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th July 2011 (All posts by )


    Carl from Chicago has been keeping it quiet, but his new wingsuit hobby is starting to catch on.

    Posted in Sports, Video | 8 Comments »

    Bastille Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Vive la France.

    Posted in France, History, Holidays, Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

    Time for a bracing dose of economic populism.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th July 2011 (All posts by )

    …no one in a capitalist country should begrudge the earned wealth of the rich. But there must be some sense that the prospect of greater prosperity extends beyond the privileged. The policies of Fed chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have done little for the small businesses on Main Street while enriching the owners and managers of financial companies by showering them with cheap money and implicit government guarantees for their survival. Top pay for CEOs of financial companies, including those bailed out by the taxpayers, has soared. The rise in stock prices has benefited the wealthiest 1% of the population, which owns some 40% of equities and 60% of financial securities.
     
    [. . .]
     
    …To succeed, the GOP needs a viable alternative to middle and working class voters who are losing faith in Obama-style crony capitalism but who do not want to replace it with policies focused on enhancing the bottom-lines of the top 1% of the population.

    Joel Kotkin

    Kotkin calls for a more populist GOP economic strategy.

    Defense of crony capitalism has to be distinguished from defense of free markets.

    That should be do-able.

    But will they?

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Elections, Politics, USA | 25 Comments »

    On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 11th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Detente’s greatest achievement was the opening of consistent contact between the United States and the USSR in the early 1970s—a gradually intensifying engagement on many levels and in many areas that, as it grew over the years, would slowly but widely open the Soviet Union to information, contacts, and ideas from the West and would facilitate an ongoing East-West dialogue that would influence the thinking of many Soviet officials and citizens.

    From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert M. Gates. (I am currently reading this book).

    Indeed Washington’s on-again off-again attention to the region, driven by relatively short term developments like the Soviet-Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war against terror, makes Iranian and Chinese overtures appealing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

    A Sino-Persian grab for the Indian Ocean? by Jamsheed K. Choksy (Small Wars Journal)

    Earlier this month the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, twisted his mouth into the shape of a pretzel to explain why it was okay for the U.S. to support Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal but not okay to support North Korea’s arsenal and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He also saw no problem with the United States as much declaring war on India when he sympathized with Pakistan’s need to use nuclear weapons against India in order to feel safe.
     
    Then Americans wonder why Pyongyang and Tehran laugh at Washington’s lectures on nuclear proliferation. The leaders of both regimes have been doing clandestine nuke business with Pakistan for decades. They know Pakistan is the biggest nuclear weapons proliferator on the planet — and so does Mullen, who is the highest ranking military officer in the USA and as such is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
     
    That’s not the half of the double standard America has practiced with regard to Pakistan. Barely a day goes by that the American news media doesn’t warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran because of the regime’s end-of-time religious views, which American news analyst John Batchelor has termed “hallucinatory.”
     
    It doesn’t get more hallucinatory than the views of Pakistani media mogul, Majeed Nizami, the owner of the Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation, and Waqt TV channel. During a recent speech at a function given in his honor he declared that Pakistan’s missiles and nuclear bombs were superior to “India’s ghosts,” and that unleashing nuclear war against India was imperative. “Don’t worry if a couple of our cities are also destroyed in the process.”
     
    That would be the same Nation newspaper that cites the United States government as being behind every terrorist incident in the world, including the Times Square attack.
     
    If you think Nizami is an isolated nut case, you don’t know much about him, or Pakistan. He is the true face of the most powerful factions in Pakistan including its military leaders.
     
    But in the view of the U.S. government and news media it’s okay for Pakistan’s military to hold hallucinatory views whereas it’s not okay for Iran’s leaders because, well, because.
     
    It’s the same for anti-Semitic views that abound in Pakistan. In the same article that discussed Nizami’s view that nuclear Armageddon was the ticket to peace in South Asia, Pakistani journalist Shakil Chaudhary reported on a June 18 column in Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt paper in which Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum (ret), former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, approvingly quoted Adolph Hitler as saying: “I could have annihilated all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so that you can know why I was killing them.”

    He ain’t heavy, he’s my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced ‘ally’ by blogger Pundita.

    Why do you suppose certain factions in DC appear so adamant on retaining Pakistan as a “strategic asset” post 9-11 and post Abbottabad? CBz blogger Joseph Fouche recently posted a nice piece about the tendency for some to see patterns and intrigues when mere muddle may well explain reality. Sadly, I am prone to this….

    So what exactly is our muddle? Is what I’ve posted above overstated and alarmist? State and USAID want to keep its various lucrative aid programs? The Pentagon/DOD want to keep its favorite “proxy” Army for future use against any kind of “sino-islamic” alliance – or Russia or Iran? Tons of money (supposedly….take all of this with a grain of salt) sloshing around DC from various foreign entities, such as the Saudis or the Pak Mil/ISI? Plain old strategic “incompetence” typical of a big, energetic and free-wheeling democracy?

    What other rationales might be keeping warring DC factions up at night? Placating the Saudis and keeping the oil flowing? Monitoring Pakistani nukes? (Okay, this one for sure). Preventing even more proliferation via Pakistani-Saudi transfers?

    The world is three dimensional and complicated with various currents pulling our policy makers in different directions. I’d be delighted to hear creative thinking on any of these topics by one of the Republican presidential candidates. Your thoughts? Opinions? Relevent anecdotes, articles, films, or books?

    Help a gal out, people.

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, China, Economics & Finance, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Russia, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    Around Chicago July 2011

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 11th July 2011 (All posts by )

     

    Hotfoot! While it has been hot recently it also was cold earlier in the month and we turned on the (gas) fire pit at a friend’s condominium.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th July 2011 (All posts by )

    The leader of the United States should never leave those willing to sacrifice their lives in the cause of freedom wondering where America stands.

    Tim Pawlenty

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East, Political Philosophy, Quotations, USA | 5 Comments »

    UBL and the African elephant

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 10th July 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit — UBL, global warming, elephants, and Al-Shabaab ]
    .

    3c02973r.gif
    Natives with ivory tusks, Dar Es Salaam, Tanganyika” ca 1900, LOC

    I’d like to quietly propose a few dots or data points…

    *

    Alex Shoumatoff has a fine article titled “Agony and Ivory”, in Vanity Fair:

    The riverbank is littered with elephant dung. Andrea kicks apart one of the boluses, and it is full of big, hard-shelled seeds — Pandanus, Drypetes, and Gambeya. A new study has found that forest elephants are essential to central Africa’s forests for tree-seed dispersal. They can carry heavy seeds like these (which wouldn’t get very far on their own) in their gut for 50 miles before voiding them. Another study measures the rapid, prodigious growth of the forest trees and concludes that central Africa is the second-most-important equatorial sink for atmospheric carbon after the Amazon, so elephants are important for controlling global warming, on top of everything else.

    Here is Shaykh Usama bin Laden, in his radio message “The Way to Save the Earth” from As-Sahab Media:

    This is a message to the whole world about those who cause climate change and its dangers — intentionally or unintentionally — and what we must do. Talk of climate change isn’t extravagant speculation: it is a tangible fact which is not diminished by its being muddled by some greedy heads of major corporations. The effects of global warming have spread to all continents of the world. Drought, desertification and sands are advancing on one front, while on another front, torrential floods and huge storms the likes of which only used to be seen once every few decades now reoccur every few years.

    From UBL’s perspective, this is clearly a moral issue:

    First, the corruption of the climate stems from the corruption of hearts and deeds, and there is a close relationship between the two types of corruption.

    And here’s Shoumatoff again, on the situation in Kenya:

    A few weeks ago, two poachers were killed and a ranger was wounded in a firefight in Meru National Park. Al-Shabaab, the Islamist youth militia which is in league with al-Qaeda and controls most of Somalia, has been coming over the border and killing elephants in Arawale National Reserve. Ivory, like the blood diamonds of other African conflicts, is funding many rebel groups in Africa, and Kenya, K.W.S. director Julius Kipng’etich told me, “is in the unenviable position of sharing over 1,700 kilometers of border with three countries with civil wars that are awash with firearms: Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.” Nothing less than a full-scale military operation is going to stop the poaching in the north.

    *
    Now, as EM Forster suggested, Only connect!

    Posted in Environment, Terrorism | 8 Comments »

    Let’s Not Forget This

    Posted by David Foster on 10th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Steven Chu, Obama’s astonishingly arrogant (Nobel-prize-winning!) energy secretary, defends the Edison-bulb ban:

    We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.

    Read the PowerLine post at the link, and continue to the Mark Steyn post….Steyn is, as usual, in fine form. But I’m mainly posting this because we need to remember Chu’s comment at election time, to be added to the very long list of statements and actions that show just how disconnected this administration is from traditional American ideas of liberty. I don’t think most Americans yet understand just how extreme this disconnect is, and we need to help ensure that it is made visible.

    This is an administration, as I’ve noted before, that is comprised of two kinds of people: theorists and agitators. They do not value individual freedom, and they are not interested in problem-solving.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Unhappy Medium: The Perils of Annoyance as Your Strategic Default

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 9th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Last week saw its share of sound and fury. One again, commentators from around the globe, ranging from noted Clausewitzian to unnoted COINdinista, gathered to answer, once and for all, one question: does America conquer through love or through death? (hint: the answer is yes). However, last week saw something more important: substantive and troubling hints of the reemergence of a real threat, a specter that has haunted American defense thinking since 1844: unapologetic magic bulletry.

    Quoth the Committee:

    Iraq 2003 was the last hurrah of the dotcom era. Echoing a classic “netizen” conceit, Pentagon planners believed that American forces would interpret the Iraqi army as damage and route around them to victory. Intensive “network-centric” warfare would combine data from each network node (soldier) into a grand central clearinghouse that would deliver total information omniscience. Commanders could then move forces to needs, on demand. Any enemy infantryman that sneezed in the night would draw instant, exactly targeted fire that would hermetically package and deliver them to Allah with the best IT driven efficiency that the private sector could provide. Light shows of dizzying precision would capture enemy eyeballs, break their will to resist, and leave Mesopotamia the newest target demographic for Madison Avenue.
     
    This thought was the logical endpoint of dotcom mania. Governmental institutions, the military being one such institution, lag behind the private sector in tech mania adoption. Dotcom groupthink hit the military hardest after it had passed its peak of hysteria in the rest of American society.

    In its nineties heyday, techno-opiates promised a future where U.S. forces moved freely like network packets across an antiseptic information battlespace. These force “packets” would be effectively omniscient since enemy forces would continue to unheedingly mass Soviet style forces in large formations across flat, treeless, and unpopulated terrain. There the enemy could be anesthetized in detail with precision, with laser-guided fluffy down pillows lulling enemy soldiers gently to sleep. The American military would simply interpret resistance “as damage and route around it“. The result of such thinking was an American military that could deter a large country, destroy a medium-sized country, or occupy a small country.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Law Enforcement, National Security, Obama, Politics, Predictions, Tech, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    A Culture of Punitive Raiding

    Posted by Zenpundit on 9th July 2011 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted at zenpundit.com]

    Robert Haddick agrees with me, albeit with greater eloquence and length ( hat tip to Colonel Dave).

    From SWJ Blog:

    This Week at War: Rumsfeld’s Revenge

    ….Rumsfeld’s and Schoomaker’s redesign of the Army into a lighter, more mobile, and more expeditionary force seems permanent. Gone is the Cold War and Desert Storm concept of the long buildup of armor as prelude to a massive decisive battle. Instead, globally mobile brigade combat teams will provide deterrence, respond to crises, and sustain expeditionary campaigns. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current Army chief of staff (and soon to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) recently described a sustainable brigade rotation system, an expeditionary adaptation that the Navy and Marine Corps have employed for decades. In addition, both the Army and Marine Corps have drawn up plans to shrink their headcounts back near the Rumsfeld-era levels. Rumsfeld’s concerns about personnel costs sapping modernization are now coming to pass.

    There now seems to be a near-consensus inside Washington that the large open-ended ground campaigns that Rumsfeld resisted are no longer sustainable. The former defense secretary’s preference for special operations forces, air power, networked intelligence, and indigenous allies is now back in vogue. Even Gen. David Petraeus, who burnished his reputation by reversing Rumsfeld’s policies in Iraq, will now implement Rumsfeld’s doctrine in eastern Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the U.S. will counter the deteriorating situation there not by shifting in conventional ground troops for pacification, but with “more special forces, intelligence, surveillance, air power … [and] substantially more Afghan boots on the ground.”

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    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey:

    Ideas matter, and especially to intellectuals like President Obama. He is not a rigid ideologue and is capable of flexible maneuvering. But his interpretation of history, his attitude toward sovereignty, and his confidence in multilateral institutions have shaped his views of American power and of American leadership in ways that distinguish him from previous presidents. On Libya, his deference to the UN Security Council and refusal to serve as coalition leader show that he cares more about restraining America than about accomplishing any particular result in Libya. He views Libya and the whole Arab Spring as relatively small distractions from his broader strategy for breaking with the history of U.S. foreign policy as it developed in the last century. The critics who accuse Obama of being adrift in foreign policy are mistaken. He has clear ideas of where he wants to go. The problem for him is that, if his strategy is set forth plainly, most Americans will not want to follow him.

    Posted in International Affairs, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Quotations, United Nations | 20 Comments »

    France and children

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th July 2011 (All posts by )

    With apologies to all, I can’t resist posting the photos, the ones the Maitre d’ took, of Paris on July 4, 2006.

    And here is the other

    The view was spectacular and so was the food. The waiters were very complimentary to the girls. The one on the right is my youngest daughter; the other two are her cousins. We had two marvelous weeks, beginning in Bordeaux and ending in Paris. She is now working on getting an internship with the French aerospace company her uncle works for.

    Posted in Diversions, Europe, France, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    What If…

    Posted by David Foster on 8th July 2011 (All posts by )

    What if there was a “shovel-ready” project that:

    **would create a significant number of American jobs

    **would require no government money and no government guarantees of private debt

    **would provide America with a secure new source of energy supplies and would reduce dependence on certain unfriendly regimes, such as the one in Venezuela

    **would benefit an important and trusted American ally

    And what would we think of an American administration that continually threw obstacles in front of this project?

    It turns out that there is indeed such a project…

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    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Politics, USA | 14 Comments »

    Thoughts About Rural France

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 8th July 2011 (All posts by )

    For those who are interested, I have begun blogging about a two week bike trip I recently took to the Pyranees at Life In The Great Midwest. It will probably end up being a fifteen or twenty part series so feel free to follow along over the next several weeks if you like.

    For this blog I have a few short thoughts about how I felt as a tourist in southern France.
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    Posted in France, Personal Narrative, Sports | 16 Comments »