Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go Joe!

I guess great minds think alike. Lieberman for SecState, not Veep. I posted about this only a few months ago.

Hat tip: Hot Air.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inside Georgia

Michael Totten is an amazing individual. He comes off as almost a daredevil reporter, going to the hot spots of the world and bringing back the story. In this case, he happened to be nearby Georgia in Azerbaijan, and he headed into the conflict. What he found was shocking.

The conflict has been going on a lot longer than people have thought. The war actually began August 6th, and had less to do with controlling the region and more to do with stopping the Russian advance. This has brought his website under cyber-attack, so be patient if you can't get in right away.


Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm with Georgia

To stand with Vladimir Putin or with the people who just finished helping us in Iraq - not a tough choice. I hope we back the Russians down and get them to hold to their borders. Our F-22s need some target practice, and our allies need a hand. Frankly, he US has a lot to gain from knocking Putin around.

Wretchard is providing excellent strategic analysis at the Belmont Club. He's following the Georgian strategy.

Interestingly, Georgia and other Caucasus republics are a common setting for conflicts in techno-thrillers and video games. The Tom Clancy stealth game Splinter Cell was actually set in Georgia. The reason is a tinderbox akin to the Balkans, and adventurer/journalist Michael Totten is headed there. He just returned from the Balkans, with stories of the most European Muslim country in existence.


Friday, August 1, 2008

A Pro-Nuclear Argument...

...that I hadn't heard before. Something rather rare, to be honest, as I follow the issues quite avidly.

The idea is more efficient use of energy will reduce energy use. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way:

And when it comes to arguing the merits of energy efficiency, Lovins’s prime nemesis is a dead guy – William Stanley Jevons – a British economist who in 1865 determined that increased efficiency won’t cut energy use, it will raise it. “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuels is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.” And in the 142 years since Jevons put forth that thesis, now commonly known as the Jevons Paradox, he’s yet to be proven wrong.

It makes sense, once you think about it. More discussion of the concept is here at the Nuclear Notes blog. "Negawatts", for all their usefulness, do not yield megawatts. Now conservation, that is a different story. The comment thread discusses the difference between conservation and increased efficiency. I consider the best way to illustrate the distinction to be the resulting effect.

Increased efficiency means you use less energy for the same effect. This is the result of improved systems in the product. Conservation is where less energy is used for a lesser effect. This is the result of changing consumption behaviors. Think of lighting: installing compact fluorescent bulbs increases energy efficiency, while leaving the lights off conserves energy. Conservation can reduce energy usage, but to actually take it to the point of useful reductions, it would need to reduce individual and collective standards of living, That is about as close to a politic sre loser as could exist...

More in the series in defense of nuclear power here.


Elephant House Party

Thanks to Allahpundit at HotAir, I just heard that our GOP representatives decided to stay in the House until they can pass the energy policy bill. Speaker Pelosi appears to be acting like a mother with rambunctious kids, by turning the lights and microphones off. Let's just say the party's just getting started. Heck, they ordered pizza!

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the dimly lit chamber is a "vision of the future by the Democrat Party: The lights are out, there's no power, and the air conditioning is gonna go off soon."

Good one.

More updates at Redstate

Politico has four parts of coverage here and here.
and the third update, featuring representatives coming back with quips in hand. The atmosphere gets wild in part four.

Apparently, there was a delay, and they closed the event at 5.

They just finished the press conference. Still staying as far as I know. Looks like the police thing was just a threat.

It's after 5 Eastern, and they are holding the fort and bring people down. It is on CSPAN-2 currently.

As far as I know they are still there as 4:45 Eastern.

I said Pelosi was acting like a Mom. Maybe Mommy Dearest might have been more appropriate. WLS at Patterico describes the Dear (majority) Leader threatening to call in the cops at 4:30 PM Eastern to clear the place out. This will get... interesting.


I'll pass on the chlorine trifluoride

One of the more interesting aspects of safety industry is the tales of danger that you pick up from fellow professionals and experience. I once heard of a response team finding a leaking can of potassium cyanide nearby a growing acid spill. They ran out and got the full self-contained breathing apparatus before going any further.

There are some experiments and chemicals which make that look like a picnic. These include condensing hydrogen cyanide and compounds that explode without much of a reason. And chlorine trifluoride

I have not encountered this fine substance myself, but reading up on its properties immediately gives it a spot on my “no way, no how” list. Let's put it this way: during World War II, the Germans were very interested in using it in self-igniting flamethrowers, but found it too nasty to work with. It is apparently about the most vigorous fluorinating agent known, and is much more difficult to handle than fluorine gas. That’s one of those statements you don’t get to hear very often, and it should be enough to make any sensible chemist turn around smartly and head down the hall in the other direction.

The compound also a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself, which also puts it into rare territory. That means that it can potentially go on to “burn” things that you would normally consider already burnt to hell and gone, and a practical consequence of that is that it’ll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile. It’s been used in the semiconductor industry to clean oxides off of surfaces, at which activity it no doubt excels.

Whoa... (Emphasis mine, taken from here)

You can see more like these here. It is a great little list of nasty substances.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apology for a Loser

Mary Eberstadt has produced an interesting defense of religion against the recent series of books on atheism. It is an interesting satire, and while it lacks the sheer brilliance of the Screwtape Letters (Demons as evil bureaucrats was just perfect, though having a strung-out addict call God a loser is still pretty good), they make some interesting points.

I think she overlooks the aspect of God as parent that many atheists argue explains the formation of religion, as well as the attempts to use the modern jihad against all religions. She is spot-on in assessing why atheism isn't going to take off.

It would have been nice to have some better explanation of why atheists in general do not slide down the slippery slope. My friend over at ChicagoCon is a fairly harsh atheist, but is not some crazy deviant or monster. There are good explanations for this phenomenon that support religion, but she does not present them.

As for myself, I am a lapsed Protestant of unusual beliefs around an orthodox core.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Funny Fly Geneticists

While searching the wiki, I ran across HERG in a serious article on arrhythmias. The acronym stands for Human Ether-a-go-go Related Gene. Thank the wonderfully crazy scientists who study the genetics of the fruit fly. I have done my share of time with FlyNap and tweezers, and I would imagine it would get to the most serious of scientists after a while. Reminds me of a classic I heard from a genetics professor: gene cheapdate, which when mutated will render flies more sensitive to alcohol.

A few other classics here and here


Saturday, July 12, 2008

A new age of Zeppelins?

As an airship aficionado I was quite pleased to read this story on the resurgence of airship development. It has some flaws - the journalist focused almost exclusively on French airship development - but it discusses the issue well.

The airship has had similar strengths and weakness to the ship that travels the waterways. Both the airship and the ship are slower than planes, have better fuel efficiency for the weight they transport, and are tolerant of mechanical failure. The market air freighters will require a more durable material for airship design to reduce the effects of weather.

Hat tip: Original Cin


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Science as an adventure

On National Review Online, I was pleased to see an excellent article on the refreshing new law in Louisiana. As one who has studied science at the graduate level, it was always amazing to see how different the perception of science that was presented in my earlier education from the actual practice of science. Theories go back and forth, researchers try to either extend or overturn conventional wisdom, groundbreaking work runs into bureaucratic and personal disputes, etc. Much like any other field of human endeavor, science is quite capable of making errors and barking up the wrong tree Fortunately, science includes many ways of correcting errors, including rival researchers eager to disprove your theory.

Science also avoids errors by using consensus. Generally, the more researchers who have tested a theory and found it superior to previous knowledge, the more likely it is true. This is necessary to have some form of knowledge in science. A group of researcher seeking to present findings that challenge consensus have to provide very convincing data, as scientists are taught to see most differences from consensus are erroneous. If you notice two like charges apparently attracting, as I experienced in a physics class, you do not assume Coulomb's law is in question.

However, most truly dramatic scientific discoveries involve adding up the problems facing the consensus, and composing a rival theory. Some of these types will be cranks or frauds like the cold fusion fiasco, but a significant number will have a useful perspective. After all, scientific consensus has been wrong in the past on the Earth being the center of the universe (Why can't we see an parallax if it is revolving?), the Ether (What wave propagates without a medium?), and even classical mechanics (You expect us to believe that we have an uncertain position and momentum?) Perhaps it could be wrong on something else. And there lies the adventure.

The Louisiana law frees up the science classroom from these attempts at enforcing an orthodoxy, and is thus to be commended. Teaching science as it is would be much more exciting for students and better for public knowledge. Next time a news article is reporting that scientists have found some odd medical discovery, people would wonder about what other scientists think of the matter and if other studies have backed it up. It also might make debates on areas where science touches policy, such as climate change and evolution. While my views on these subjects are for a later post, the efforts to crack down on differing theories and brand them as crazy or unscientific are reprehensible. They bring back memories not of the great scientists like Pasteur, Darwin, Einstein, and Curie. Rather, they bring to mind zealous inquisitors enforcing the tenets of an ideological religion.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama - whatever you want him to be

Obama is an interesting candidate. His supporters are all over the map, and remarkably enthused over him. Christians see him as a fellow Christian based on his professed faith, while Muslims see him as a covert Muslim based on his childhood. Racial separatists see him as the standard bearer for the beliefs he learned under Rev. Wright, while racial reconciliation activists look to his multiracial makeup. Hard leftists lookat his past community organizing activity and work with Ayers* and Dohrn, while moderates look to his current positions. He has courted the Israelis and Palestinians, patriots and anti-American activists, and all races. What is wrong with this? Is not wide appeal necessary to win the election?

Yes, but it leaves the candidate with no set position. If everyone projects their desires onto Sen. Obama, what is left that is distinctly Barack? What will he actually be in office? I'd appreciate some clarity, but it seems there really is no pressure on the Senator to do so. When he clarifies a position, he'll lose the other side, so why should he? Normally, you would expect the media to pounce on a politician playing a shell game like this, but they seem too enthralled (a thrill up their legs?) with him to ask tough questions. Sad, really.

Perhaps he will run this all the way the White House, but it could just as easily come crashing down. All it takes is a little reporting and a lot of guts.

*I met Ayers at an Iraq War Forum. For a man who still advocates explosives as a form of political discourse he was less than terrifying. I'd even say he was charismatic. All in all, he was a fairly likable terrorist.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

China: A uniter, not a divider

Witnessing the outbreak of protests against China's treatment of the people of Tibet is an interesting experience. It is striking just how much diversity there is among the protesters. Citizen photojournalist Zombie documents just how many different groups joined together to protest the Torch rally in San Francisco. I have to say I would normally be opposed to the protest, as I dislike protesting in general, but it seems to be a valid cause. After all, the point of the torch ceremony is to give public support for the Olympics, and what better time to remind people of the darker side of China? This points to a deeper issue.

How many of those protesters would be at each others throats on another day? The hard Left would likely have a problem with the South Vietnamese flags, as they are an unpleasant reminder of their past failures. The march even brought out 9/11 conspiracy nuts, who don't get along with any sane person. Conservatives are lining up behind this cause alongside hippies. This doesn't happen often, save in fiction. In fiction, the various enemies unite against a common foe so often it is a cliché. Usually, this foes is such a terrifying threat and menacing evil that it is in the best interests of all to unite.

Has China achieved that status? Perhaps it has. It is a post-Communist state that has kept the repression of Maoism while unleashing laissez-faire capitalism to line their pocketbooks. China has no use for petty regulations concerning clean air, drinkable water, worker safety, or even copyrights. Chinese spies regularly attempts to steal both state and corporate secrets, particularly from the United States. It is a state that annexes land for their own use. From a certain perspective, the usual caricature of the United States as a brazen imperialist capitalist authoritarian regime fits China awfully well.

The real question is why irhabi terrorists and Islamic supremacists have not united the civilized world against them. Their brutality is well documented, as is their hatred of gays, blacks, Jews, and just about every other victim group. Women are treated as intrinsically evil. They openly mimic the Nazi regime and have declared war on all countries that do not submit to them. How is it that a group of thugs with a level of evilness that would be unbelievable in a fictional work is unable to get people stand together against them?


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Secretary of State for President McCain

Senator McCain is going to want to outline cabinet choices for important departments. The state department is a particularly tough choice. Handling the foreign relations of the United States is a big job in and of itself. That is not the only challenge, however. The State department has a very liberal organizational culture (a bit like public health), likely due to the background of those working there. Most international relations students tend to be liberal. Getting Foggy Bottom (a nickname for State) on board with the president's agenda requires a lot of dedication. Condi was proof that being a genius was not good enough. You have to be stubborn and willing to be disliked, or you will go native.

Who then do I recommend for this contentious but important post?

Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democrat is a long-time friend of McCain, and even more of a maverick in his own party than McCain. His principled stances on foreign policy win him much praise from Republicans and Democrats. I've always hoped he could get a chance at a position in the executive, and I mentioned him in a discussion of pro-defense liberals here. Ralph Peters goes into detail about why Joe is a good choice in this NY Post article. Joe is particularly good on the war on terror.

He's also easier to confirm than someone like John Bolton, who deserves a spot with a tough bureaucracy like state or intelligence. Sadly, Bolton is so controversial that he will be a hard sell for a top level position. Lieberman could probably pull it off, and actually stay worthwhile as opposed to giving in to pressure.


Thursday, February 14, 2008


Cartoons are not worth killing over. Ever. Until Muslims learn that free speech applies to their religious figures, they will be unable to live in our societies. I pray the you remain safe, Mr. Westergaard.

The estimable Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters has a list of solidarity bloggers, which will hopefully include your humble author.


A man I'm happy to see dead

The Hezbollah terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah has reportedly bit the dust by a car bomb. (I sense some irony) If he is actually dead, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the people who took him out, probably the Mossad. I first read about at Pajamas Media where I came across a link to a bombshell.

It was listed as an "Alternate view", but is strangely no longer present. The link is from Jane's, hardly a disreputable source. It is dated 9/19/2001, and it alleges that Imad and Dr. Zawahiri were behind the attacks, sponsored by - Iraq. If this still held as an opinion it changes the entire national security debate. I am attempting to investigate this. (Update after the jump)

I sent this to Andrew Cochran , founder of the Counter-Terrorism Blog an email asking if this was the current thought among CT professionals. Here is his response:

No - and this article forgot that Al Qaeda was behind Ramzi Yousef's 1995 Bojinka Plot to bomb 11 US jetliners, and that KSM had already planned a second 9/11-type attack, which OBL iced. See Certainly Mughniyeh was more experienced as of 2001, but OBL and Zawahiri were brilliant pupils.

I'd also imagine the Iraq connection also did not fair well with time. I have read elsewhere that Imad was an inspiration to Al Qaeda. That, and and the blood countless innocents on his hands, is more than enought reason to celebrate his death.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let's get serious...

We all know that John McCain has clinched the Republican nomination for president. However, not many on the GOP side are happy. (Contrast this with the deification of Obama on the left) The question most are asking is why, but that is easily answered. McCain has repeatedly shown disrespect to the Republican base. His comments on evangelicals turned me off from him in 2000. His stance on immigration was foolish, and he defended it the in the most disgusting matter. For many, he was their last choice as a candidate. This means that a little lack of enthusiasm is understandable.

The sizable number of individuals deciding to favor the democrats is a different matter entirely.

How is this any different from the krazy kos kids blowing up over Lieberman? What happened to the big tent?

The question is one of victory. McCain is not going to surrender in the War. Ever. He does not have a surrender bone in his body. The problem has been and will be getting him lower his guard around us as opposed to staying in fighting mode.

The opposition candidates are worthless on the war. They are in a hurry to surrender as soon as they entire the role of Commander in Chief. They won't own the war - did the democrats get any flack for leaving our allies to die in Vietnam? The military also took a long time to recover. Honestly, is there any position where the Democrats are more conservative than McCain?

I understand the desire to keep ideological purity, but McGovern and Goldwater showed that this doesn't work. Carter did not inevitably lead to Reagan, and we are still dealing with his fallout. (Iran, anyone?) Clinton did not lead inevitably to Bush - that election was quite close. Not only that, but Bush and even Reagan were less conservative and more maverick than is often remembered. Notably, both favored amnesty for illegals...

I hereby endorse McCain-(insert actual conservative here) for president in 2008.


Back from the dead.

Sorry for the hiatus, I'll try to be better at maintaining this site.