Sunday, October 29, 2006

Extreme Environments

At one time I had a research project being conducted in my lab which involved organisms which were able to grow at low temperatures. This was some 3 decades ago and there was a prevailing interest in such organisms since we had space probes to Mars, for example, which were attempting to discover if life existed elsewhere in our universe. Since that time, we have found numerous examples of life in such places as oil reservoirs, solid rock, acidic waste from mining operations, and many other places once considered too inhospitable for life. There have been bacteria found at the bottom of an Alaska pond which were frozen 30,000 years ago. When thawed, they proliferate nicely.
This has been known to microbiologists for years, but I recently read about the discovery of organisms being discovered in rocks 2 miles below the earth's surface which are able to live and reproduce using the radioactivity in uranium, and other substances to exist. Basically, the radioactivity breaks down water and sulfur to produce sulfate which the bacteria use to grow, metabolize, and reproduce. The significance of this is that these orgainsms are able to exist and reproduce in the complete absence of sunlight, which has been previously assumed to be required for all life on earth. Since this is no longer the case, life on Mars and other planets is not now considered such a remote possibility and we should perhaps go back and look at the earlier conclusion that no life can be found on Mars.

Not surprising

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. Oct 27, 2006 (AP)— A teenager who decided to get her breasts pierced for her 18th birthday faces reconstructive surgery after a flesh-destroying infection forced doctors to remove her left breast.

Doctors diagnosed Edington, who had the piercings on Aug. 29, with necrotizing fasciitis, or gas gangrene a rare condition that results from rapid bacteria growth and leads to tissue destruction. It is only the third documented case in the world of gas gangrene in the breast area, Goulet told The Paper of Montgomery County.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Iraq Solution

Conservative supporters of President Bush are rapidly coming to the conclusion that support for the current Iraqi government in general and Maliki in particular is rapidly coming to a halt. The Prime Minister has no heart for the task of confronting the Sadr and other militias and the situation can't be allowed to continue. There are two solutions as far as I can see. The first is for our military to take off the politically correct gloves and use our resources to eliminate the Sadr problem as rapidly and as brutally as necessary. This would mean we would have to stop worrying about how others see us and what the Europeans think.
The other positive suggestion is to hand oil-rich Kirkuk to the Kurds, establish military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, and let the Sunnis and Shias fight it out. In order for the mess in Iraq to be resolved, the Iraqi people have to want freedom from Islamic domination as much as we want freedom for Iraq. Right now, that is not the case.

Water from air

There is a small private company called Aqua Sciences which has developed a way to extract drinking water from the air. FEMA now has two of these systems which in their case come in 40 foot trailers and cost $1 million each. The trailers can be brought to the site of a disaster and quickly produce 2500 gallons of pure fresh water a day at a cost of 15 - 30 cents per gallon. This compares to a cost of $15 per gallon to have water trucked in. This means that FEMA can pay off the cost of each trailer in 4 days of a single disaster.
The systems work like your salt shaker in absorbing moisture from the air. Salt is hygroscopic in that it is highly attractive of water and the water, unlike ground water is pure and can be used directly. Each trailer, however, comes with a reverse osmosis system which can also produce water from brackish or contaminated water sources at the site of a hurricane, for example.
Naturally, the military is very interested in the technology since each soldier in Iraq, for example, requires 3 gallons of water per day and water convoys are common targets for our enemy over there.
It is estimated that 1 billion people around the world lack a steady source of potable water. It would be nice to have a market like that to target with a novel technology like this. I wish I could buy stock in the company.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More from Opinion Journal

Debbie Stabenow, Michigan's junior U.S. Senator, says President Bush and Vice President Cheney don't follow the law when it comes to national security issues, and the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to hold them accountable. "The reality is, both the president and Dick Cheney don't believe they are hampered by the law," Stabenow told the News-Review editorial board. "They believe the general powers of the presidency allow them to do whatever they need to do to keep us safe.

It is hard for BestView to find a negative with her conclusion.

A view from Iraq

This letter from a sargeant in Iraq makes a lot of sense to me and it confirms my long-held thought that the U.S. should not be using its military to build a nation or a democracy. It is trained and should be used to kill people. This came to James Taranto at Opinion Journal.

There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.

First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every are of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.

I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.

There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.

This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.

For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.

In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.

If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.

We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.

If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.

James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.

At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.


Last week an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll reported the lowest public approval rating for Congress since 1992. The mystery is where do you go to find the16 percent who approve?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Liberals getting loopier and loopier

BestView loves to point out the idiotic antics of the loony left, but this may be the one that tops them all. This was in the Wall Street Journal this morning so there is no link that readers can follow to read it themselves, but here is an accurate summary of the latest liberal obscenity. It should be no surprise that this comes from San Francisco. It seems there is a section of that fair city called the Tenderloin. An owner of an architecture firm decided she would move there and try to improve and revitalize the area. She wanted to plant trees, clean up the streets of garbage and that sort of thing. Well, she soon found herself the subject of pamplets being circulated which thoroughly disparaged her efforts. It turns out that the neighborhood is populated by pimps, drug addicts, transvestites and transgenders, prostitutes, etc. Those opposed to changes maintained the residents give the Tenderloin its special personality and any clean-up efforts would destroy the atmosphere that welcomes this fringe of society who, if their world were cleaned up, would have no other refuge. One irate resident summed up the situation thusly---"This was a place where people who don't fit in, the ostracized and cast-off, could find a place of their own". The guy who was behind the objections is named Matt Bernstein Sycamore , a former prostitute and member of the gay activist group called Gay Shame. Mr. Sycamore is also known by his drag queen name, Mary Hedgefunds.
Beam me up, Scottie.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Liberals never learn

The latest example of liberal idiocy comes from California where many such examples originate. Consider Proposition 87 on the ballot for the upcoming election. This would raise the tax on all oil extracted from California by 1.5% to 6% depending on the price of oil. The logic? Well, they want to reduce energy consumption and dependency on foreign oil. In sum, they want to tax California oil so consumers will use less oil from Saudia Arabia. This is stupid enough, but they go further. This measure would cost California oil producers an estimated 4 billion dollars over the next 10 years and there is a separate section that would prohibit oil companies from passing the increased cost of the higher taxes on to consumers. So the logic is that consumers will use less of something when the cost does not increase. In fact, the net effect will be a tariff on our oil which will actually make America more rather than less dependent on foreign sources. Amazing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The bottom line

As Thomas Sowell has said, the Republicans are disappointing and maybe even bumbling, but the Democrats are dangerous. The liberals who control the Democrat party say they "support the troops", but their actions give them away. Consider:
1. Missile defense of America---Democrats voted against it
2. Patriot Act---Democrats voted against it
3. Intercepting terrorist messages into the U.S.---Democrats voted against it
4. Tracing terrorist money flow between foreign banks---Democrats voted against it
5. Interrogating captured terrorists---Democrats voted against it
6. Reinforcing our southern border with Mexico to at least slow down infiltration of terrorists, dope dealers and other criminals---Democrats voted against it
7. Telling the world and our enemy the timetable for withdrawing from and deserting Iraq---Democrats are all for it.

If you go back and study the foreign policy failures of Carter with respect to Iran, Afghanistan, and Korea combined with the missed opportunities brought about by Clinton's insistence on a legalistic approach to terrorists like Al-qaida in the 1990s, you should see just how dangerous a return to the liberal Democratic political agenda could be.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Election Fraud

One of the things to look for in the coming elections is fraud. In the past few elections when the democrat loses, it is easily explained by those cheating republicans--even when it occurs in counties where democrats operate the machinery. Someone scared all the old black people away from the polls or made the ballots so difficult that the stupid voter couldn't understand it. If not that, there were crooked election officials like Katherine Harris, the voting machines had been rigged, or something. Efforts to have someone show a picture ID to vote like you have to show to get on a plane is just another case of intimidation, and the liberals can't stand the idea of a fair election. It is as predictable as the sunrise.

That brings me to the current election. All the polls show the democrats will win big and take over the House of Representatives and maybe even the Senate. My focus on election day will be on how many close races will be challenged by Democrats and how many by Republicans. I can assure you that if the dems don't actually retake the House, it will be because of fraud. We wuz robbed! There will be many close races and I am almost sure we will have weeks of suspense before the results are actually known. Should be fun.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Republicans to the woodshed

...the Republicans deserve to lose, though alas the Democrats don't really deserve to win, either. I realize that you go to war with the political class you have, but even back in the 1990s it was obvious that we had a lousy political class. It hasn't improved, but the challenges have gotten greater. Can the country continue to do well, with such bad political leadership? I hope so, because I see no sign of improvement, no matter who wins next month.

This is a summary of the reasons the Republicans have alienated their base. It can be read here.
I agree with every point and especially the Harriet Meirs and the William Jefferson debacles. The Foley matter is really the least of the offenses.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stop the presses

Some one must have screwed up badly. The Nobel Peace prize this year actually seems to have gone to someone who deserves it (contrast Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sex and Politics

Here is the lead paragraph from a Reuters article yesterday.

President George W. Bush and Republicans are sinking under the weight of the Iraq war and the Capitol Hill sex scandal, according to a flurry of polls, endangering their control of Congress in the November 7 elections.
Bill Clinton engaged in what later came to be declared non-sex since it was just oral. We now have a sex scandal on Capitol Hill because a gay Congressman sent E-mails about oral sex or whatever it was. I am getting so old I am confused about what sex is anymore.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Election Results

If you are interested in the coming elections and are dubious about such things as polls and pundits, you can get a great idea how they will come out from TradeSports. This is a futures site where you can buy and sell futures on any number of things, but one is whether or not the Republicans will retain the House and Senate. The advantage of this site is the participants are risking their actual money on the trade, so they tend to be very accurate. Each of the past two general elections have been correctly predicted, for example. Right now, the Republicans have a 42% chance of retaining the House and a 71% chance of retaining the Senate. The latter sounds a little high to me, but am I willing to go the other way with real money?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Democrat Legacy

If anyone is interested in the history of how we got where we are today, it might help to review the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the President who has destroyed the credibility of the democrats in foreign policy. Here are some of the reasons he is widely considered the worst president we have ever had.
1. Made human rights the central focus of his foreign policy and thought the U.S. had an inordinate fear of the Soviets. So, he stopped production of the B1 bomber, lifted the travel bans to Cuba, North Korea, Viet Nam and pardoned draft evaders.
2. He withdrew support for our primary ally in the Mid-east, the Shah of Iran and thought the Ayatollah Khomeini would be better because he was a religious man and the Shah was mistreating the Soviet spies who were trying to take over Iran so they could get their oil and warm water ports. This lead to the declaration of Iran as an Islamic nation and executions followed which were carried out by Palestinian hit men so the mullahs wouldn't be blamed. So much for human rights.
3. The byproduct of this blunder was the creation of the Hezbollah, a terrorist organization which bombed the barracks in Lebanon and killed 241 Marines and sailors. More recently they attacked Israel and started a war which damaged much of Lebanon infrastructure.
4. In 1979 the Iranians including their current puppet president stormed the U.S. embassy and held 52 U.S. personnel hostage for 444 days. The Carter response was a bungled rescue attempt which was conducted in a sandstorm because the pilots were forbidden to meet with the weather forecasters for security reasons. The result was a loss of 8 aircraft, five airmen, and 3 Marines.
5. Shortly after Carter kissed Brezhnev on both cheeks the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Carter was shocked. " I can't believe the Russians lied to me", he said. But, during Carter's administration the communists took over Ethiopia, South Yemen, Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Grenada, and Nicaragua.
6. Compared to the pre-Viet Nam war defense budget in 1964, the 1982 Carter defense budget request was for a 45% decrease in fighter aircraft, a 75% reduction in ships, an 83% reduction in attack subs, and a 90% reduction in helicopters. As a percentage of the total government spending in 1980 our defense spending was less than before Pearl Harbor.

Credit IBD for most of these facts and Ronald Reagan for pulling us out of this morass.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another education failure

I just ran across an interesting study and survey. The study quizzed 14,000 randomly selected students at schools of higher education nationwide and tested them on such things as the Monroe Doctrine and the Declaration of Independence. Seniors failed this exam with an average score of 53%. In 16 of the 50 schools (like Brown, Georgetown, and Yale) there was negative learning. This just means that the seniors scored worse than freshmen.
Here is a snippet from the study:

Seniors lack basic knowledge of America's history. More than half, 53.4 percent, could not identify the correct century when the first American colony was established at Jamestown. And 55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end (28 percent even thought the Civil War battle at Gettysburg the correct answer).

So, even though students arrive on campus with inadequate knowledge of America's history and institutions and in great need of improved civic literacy, institutions of higher education in America do little to facilitate this learning. On average, three years of higher learning adds a dismal 0.2 percent to students' already limited knowledge of American history and a meager 0.9 percent in government and political thought. Colleges and universities fared little better in teaching about "America and the World," adding 1.7 percent in average student learning.

My theory is the liberals who dominate the "liberal arts" are content to send their students into the world with scant ability to discern the fallacies inherent in the campaigns of demogogic politicians and the bias of the main stream media so they can orient the curriculum around the politically correct courses such as women's and ethnic studies.

Weather Forecasts

If anyone is still out there with an IQ over their hat size who still believes those who are predicting a temperature rise of some specific amount over the next 100 years, they should go back a few months and re-read what these weather experts were saying about how bad the hurricanes were going to be this year.

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