May 24, 2009
SOME INTERESTING efforts to support troops with science.
SOME INTERESTING efforts to support troops with science.
AVERTING DISASTERS: Some ideas on how to fix FEMA.
YEAH, LIGHT BLOGGING. I’m on a family trip and have no internet — getting one bar on a 1xrtt connection that craps out if a sparrow flies between me and the cell tower. So it’s mostly just been the posts I scheduled before I left. Back to normal later tomorrow.
SOME OF LAST WEEK’S COOL gadgets and technology.
FASTER, PLEASE: Healing The Heart With Bone-Marrow Cells: “Injecting the hearts of angina sufferers with cells extracted from their own bone marrow can reverse the condition and relieve its symptoms, a new study suggests. The Dutch cardiologists behind the placebo-controlled study say that the results may lead to radical new treatments for patients for whom surgery and medication bring little or no relief from this painful and debilitating condition, which results from narrowed arteries that cannot supply enough blood to the heart during exercise. All 50 subjects involved in the study were resistant to existing treatments. Three months after being given the injections, patients’ hearts were less starved of blood, and they were able to exercise more, researchers report in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
I THINK IT’S BECAUSE THE ENVIRONMENT HAS BECOME HOSTILE: Trying to account for the “lost men” on campus. I don’t think that efforts to “disrupt hegemonic masculinity” will do much to address the problem; I suspect, in fact, that the mentality revealed in this story is the problem.
I had some thoughts on this subject a while back, here.
UPDATE: Reader Andrew Berman writes:
I suggest that college administrators look to two organizations which have a spectacular track record in creating wonderful men: The United States Military and the Boy Scouts. The main difference between these organizations and most colleges is that they don’t treat men as imperfect women.
BEWARE THE DREADED Shatnerquake.
AUTOPHAGY AND cellular senescence.
HOW TO FIND BUGS in giant software programs.
IN THE MAIL: From Edward Willett, Marseguro.
COOL: Rotating Space Elevator Propels Its Own Load. “The idea of the space elevator just got a little crazier. While the ‘traditional’ concept involved using rocket propulsion or laser light pressure to propel loads up a cable anchored to Earth, a new study shows that a rotating space elevator could do away with engines or laser light pressure application completely. Instead, the unique double rotating motion of looped strings could provide a mechanism for objects to slide up the elevator cable into outer space. The space elevator could launch satellites and spacecraft with humans, and even be used to host space stations and research posts.”
NOMINATIONS ARE NOW OPEN for the Foresight Institute Nanotechnology Prizes.
PLUGGING MICROORGANISMS into the energy grid. “Microscopic organisms from bacteria and cyanobacteria, to fungi and microalgae, are biological factories that are proving to be efficient sources of inexpensive, environmentally friendly biofuels that can serve as alternatives to oil, according to research presented at the 109th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.”
BUY MORE, SAVE MORE: A Blu-Ray sale.
EDWARD TENNER ON GOVERNMENT EFFORTS TO FORCE TECHNOLOGY: “The problem of any legal mandate is that it is often impossible to say in advance what researchers are capable of. This is sometimes discovered only under great pressure.”
“JUNK” DNA: Not actually junk. “Now researchers from Princeton University and Indiana University who have been studying the genome of a pond organism have found that junk DNA may not be so junky after all. They have discovered that DNA sequences from regions of what had been viewed as the ‘dispensable genome’ are actually performing functions that are central for the organism. They have concluded that the genes spur an almost acrobatic rearrangement of the entire genome that is necessary for the organism to grow.”
STOCK PERFORMANCE: Energy vs. Financials.
A 60 MPH UNMANNED TANK.
RECIPE: The Panther’s Paw cocktail.
HINDSIGHT ISN’T ALWAYS 20/20:
But what do you say about a book that approvingly quotes the wisdom of Bernard Madoff, published the same month he was arrested for running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history?
How can you not wince at his decision to include the opening statement of Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd at hearings looking at the “mortgage market turmoil,” after Dodd became involved in his own turmoil, allegedly helping Countrywide Financial – one of the biggest subprime culprits of them all – after the company allegedly provided him with below-market mortgages on his property?
PIRATES AND THE LAW: A RETROSPECTIVE. “Most important in bringing pirates to their end was a series of early 18th-century legal changes that made it possible to effectively prosecute pirates.”
PETER ROBINSON: The protest of a patriot.
A CONVENTION OF Obama Administration auto-industry advisers?
HOME-BREWED BIODIESEL: Careful about the fires!
TO BOLDENLY GO: New leadership at NASA.
IN THE MAIL: From James Walsh, Libertarian Nation!: The Call for a New Agenda.
PUBLIC PENSION UPDATE: Baltimore Pension Dispute Illuminates Public/Private Divide.
Severe market downturns lay bare any number of Ponzi schemes, and under-funded defined benefits pensions, public and private, can be justly described as such schemes. The problem with private plans is large enough. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which insures the pensions of 44 million Americans, said in a report this week that its deficit has tripled in just six months to a record $33.5 billion. Chances are it will have to be added to the growing list of entities to be bailed out by Uncle Sam. But this is trivial compared to the under-funding in public plans, which cover about 22 million workers. The deficits in the latter systems are said to total more than a trillion dollars. And these are not insured.
So, when Mayor Dixon capitulates to Baltimore’s public safety unions, withdrawing a pension reform measure and suggesting there is a need for a “bigger fix,” we are left wondering what that could possibly be. If the public safety unions had their way in blocking this proposal, how will “more comprehensive changes” be enacted? Yet, how can they be avoided?
A “bigger fix” is a code-phrase for “higher taxes so we can continue business as usual.” But here’s why voters aren’t interested:
The gap between the public sector and private business in wages and benefits continues to grow. Last month, USA Today reported federal figures showing that public employees earned benefits worth $13.38 per hour in December 2008, compared to $7.98 for private sector workers.
A full-time government worker receives benefits worth an average of $28,830 per year. A private worker’s benefits are worth an average of $16,598. Yet in this time of recession/depression, the shrinking private sector foots the bill for massive bailouts of public employees. In the nongovernment world, jobs are being lost by the hundreds of thousands each month. Government workers are secure in theirs. As the ordinary American becomes more aware of the disparity and unfairness of the current system, anger builds.
Right now the Political Class is more interested in explaining that anger away than in doing anything about it. But I think a tipping point is in the offing.
DOLLAR LOSING ITS IMPORTANCE? Jeffrey Sachs says that’s a good thing.
WHY NOT negative interest rates?
SAN ANTONIO: Notes from the Underground Economy. Pay attention: By the second Obama term we’ll all be part of it. . . .
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE meddling with newspapers.
WE SHOULD BE ENCOURAGING RESILIENCE: Will Obama Kill Navigation Backup System as GPS Threatens to Fail? “Obama’s budget attempts to ax LORAN-C, a navigation backup program, even as experts at the Government Accountability Office sound warnings about satellite reliability. What will happen if GPS fails?”
Plus, a look at the backup system.
Meanwhile, Cringely says this is just the GAO playing politics.
An explanation, in the comments.
HOW TO KILL 66,000 JOBS.
BROADBAND AVAILABILITY around the world.
SOME TRAFFIC REPORTING from Tom Vanderbilt.
SWINE FLU UPDATE: WHO chief says world should prepare for severe flu.
BUY NOW, WHILE YOUR DOLLARS ARE STILL WORTH SOMETHING: Fed’s Plosser Says Inflation to Increase, Warns of Complacency. I suspect that he’s grossly underestimating the problem. But I hope I’m wrong.
WHY DON’T I GET ASSIGNMENTS LIKE THIS? Test-driving the Aston-Martin DB9.
THE NEXT STEPS FOR SWINE FLU: Predictions, Protection and Prevention. ” Federal health officials will probably recommend that most Americans get three flu shots this fall: one regular flu shot and two doses of any vaccine made against the new swine flu strain. Having had annual flu shots for the last several years gives ‘little or no immune benefit’ against the new virus, the officials said on Thursday as they released more details of blood tests briefly described on Wednesday.”
A PREGNANT 66-year-old woman.
SPACE STATION KITCHEN UPGRADED, Astronauts Drink Own Urine to Celebrate.
75 MOVIES every man should see.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? “Here we have President Obama and his administration saying, ‘Here we are for the common, middle class people,’ and here he is not letting 150 5- and 6-year-olds into the White House because he’s throwing a lunch for a bunch of grown millionaires.”
ANN ALTHOUSE: WOMEN ARE unhappier than ever. Despite all those choices:
Oh, how I loathe this liberal meme about choice and happiness! Though liberals believe fondly in “the right to choose,” they also love to say that choice makes us sad — but they only seem to mean that choice in the economic sphere is bad. (Notice how it softens you up to accept the crappy car the government wants you to drive and the good-for-everybody health care system it would like to provide.)
Anyway, why are women so sad? I think it’s because we think about our feelings so much and care so much about being happy.
Nothing is worse for happiness than a cultivated sense of entitlement.
SOME MORE Bussard / Polywell Fusion news. Faster, please!
TAXMAN TAKES HALF OF TEENAGER’S VIRGINITY earnings.
BARACK OBAMA: Conservative President! It turns out that the fierce moral urgency was really just about not having a Texas accent. Who knew?
WHY ELECTRIC VEHICLES still have air intakes.
JOHN SCALZI IS TALKING TO BUTTER, and the butter is talking back. “It takes a special sort of person to eat an entire stick of butter as it should be consumed, on its own, as a singular digestive experience. I see now that you’re not that person.”
BURGERS BECOME steadily more refined.
IN THE MAIL: Paul Chafe’s Genesis, a space-colonization novel.
THE FIERCE MORAL URGENCY OF CHANGE (CONT’D): Obama Faces Pitfalls With ‘Surgical’ Tack on Detainees.
“PUNITIVE LIBERALISM” at Ogilvy & Mather.
IS THERE A MEMBER OF CONGRESS DUMBER THAN ALAN GRAYSON? Well, sure — it’s Congress we’re talking about — but still . . . .
TEA PARTY PROTESTS: Being emulated in Spain.
STANDING UP TO CNN: Susan Roesgen video takedown effort fails, original video back on YouTube.
SHOCKER: Political corruption in Britain and Europe. It’s worse when they have no fear of the public.
A U.S. NATURAL GAS BOOM from Shale Gas.
TIM CAVANAUGH: Green shoots bustin’ out all over! “From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof, the benefits of the economic rescue packages bring forth savory fruits in rightwiseness abundantly. Sing their praises.” Plus this: “Goldbugs, please tell us you told us so politely.”
AIR FORCE ON GPS OUTAGE REPORTS: Calm down, civilians. Plus, some skepticism.
SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE: Don’t Blame Voters for California’s Financial Mess: Crisis due to leaders’ profligacy, incompetence. No wonder the “leaders” want them fired . . . .
PENSION UPDATE: L.A. police union wants San Diego newspaper writers fired.
For pointing out unsustainable public pensions. No entitlement issues here.
UPDATE: Bill Quick: “If nothing else, this demonstrates the problems with setting up financial ‘bailouts’ of newspapers that give special interests even the appearance of ownership authority over the content those newspapers deliver.”
RASMUSSEN: Voters strongly oppose federal bailout for California: “Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters nationwide favor federal bailout funds for states like California that are encountering ‘serious financial problems.’ The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 59% are opposed to such bailouts.”
So better than 2-1 against. But wait, there’s more: “Voters from outside the Golden State oppose federal loan guarantees by a 69% to 20% margin.” But there’s also this: “Voters have consistently opposed federal bailout funds for the auto industry, the banking industry and insurance companies. Looking back on the bailouts that were provided, most continue to believe they were a bad idea.”
So why did we get them anyway? An answer: “As on many issues, the difference in opinion between the Political Class and the rest of the nation is larger than the gap between the political parties.”
INVESTORS DUMP DOLLARS. “Adding to the dollar-bear view Thursday was concern about big tranches of Treasurys hitting the market soon and the prospect of the U.S.’s own triple-A rating taking a hit. The Fed’s release of minutes Wednesday showing that it mightn’t be done pumping money into the economy also affected the dollar.”
MICKEY KAUS ON THE BAILOUT: “I don’t want to sound like Veronique de Rugy here, but who will pay the price
if when this half-baked ‘restructuring’ fails? In normal ‘capitalism at work,’ those who would pay the price will be those who made the deal and put up their money–the capitalists. (Query: Would Scott Sperling invest his firm’s money in this dubious proposition?) If When Obama’s plan fails, the monetary loss will fall not on Obama, but on the taxpayers. It will likely be made up somehow by the taxpayers (via higher tax assessments or inflation). That’s not ‘capitalism at work.’ It’s something else at work. But I’d be all for it, if I thought it really would work. It won’t, and it will be Obama’s fault.”
NO INVESTIGATIONS: House rejects probe into Pelosi CIA claims. “House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects. The House voted 252-172 to block the measure that would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.” Apparently, all these calls for torture investigations are now just “partisan politics.”
MAYBE I SHOULD BUY A NEW CAR NOW, BEFORE THEY RUIN THINGS: House Panel Passes Limit on Greenhouse-Gas Emissions. “A bill to create the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions was approved by a House committee yesterday after a week of late-night debates that cemented the shift of climate change from rhetorical jousting to a subject of serious, if messy, Washington policymaking.”
HAPPILY, IT WAS STOPPED IN TIME: NYC terror case latest of many homegrown plots.
THE FIERCE MORAL URGENCY OF CHANGE (CONT’D):
President Obama and former Vice President Cheney weren’t so much a study in contrast today as a portrait of harmony. Both men agree that the Bush administration’s anti-terrorist policies were largely correct. Cheney signaled his acceptance of this view by vigorously defending those policies. Obama signaled it by largely adopting those same policies and emitting a fog of words to cover up the fact.
Meet the new boss, yada yada. Actually, he manages to yada yada on for quite a while.
Related: CNN Poll: Favorable opinion of Dick Cheney on the rise. Plus, a roundup of reactions from Tom Maguire.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? Fed Open to Buying More Securities. “Some Federal Reserve officials are open to raising the amounts of mortgage and Treasury securities purchase programs beyond the $1.75 trillion that they have already committed to buying, according to minutes from the Fed’s April meeting. Officials, meanwhile, projected an even deeper recession than they expected three months earlier and a more sluggish recovery over the next two years as labor markets remain under pressure.” Hope and change!
UH OH: S&P cuts New York Times rating deeper into junk status. Remember, the people who are running the Times are the people who think Obama is doing a good job running the country. . . .
ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: The videogame.
MEGAN MCARDLE: Will the Urban Renaissance Outlast the Bubble? I’m guessing “no,” though the over-five-buck-per-gallon gasoline prices produced by Obama’s carbon policies might encourage some people to live downtown. On the other hand, they’ll probably encourage other people to visit downtown less often, so probably a wash.
NICK GILLESPIE IS UNIMPRESSED WITH “the Citizen’s Briefing Book.”
SWINE FLU UPDATE: Scientists to Probe Mexican Town’s Flu Mystery.
Remember how President Obama blamed Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing last month on “a small group of speculators” who turned down Treasury’s $2 billion final offer for their $6.9 billion in debt? Well, it turns out that hedge funds and other short sellers weren’t the only secured creditors who got a raw deal from Uncle Sam.
Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock revealed this week that his state’s police and teacher pension funds have lost millions of dollars in the Chrysler “restructuring.” Indiana’s State Police Fund and Major Moves Construction Fund, which finances roads and bridges, together lost more than $1 million. And the Teacher’s Retirement Fund “suffered, at a minimum, a loss of $4.6 million due to the action of the Federal government,” reports Mr. Mourdock.
Far from being speculators, these funds represent retired public employees, including cops and teachers. The funds paid a premium to buy “secured” status, only to discover that they were politically outranked by the United Auto Workers in the White House hierarchy.
Obviously, they paid their premium to the wrong folks. . . .
THE FIERCE MORAL URGENCY OF CHANGE (CONT’D): Obama: Still Opposed to Truth Commission on Torture.
DOES IT REALLY WORK? Dry Shampoo.
A MEMORIAL DAY SALE ON housewares and kitchen stuff.
WHY JOURNALISTS DESERVE LOW PAY. This’ll make some friends.
MEGAN MCARDLE DISCOVERS an NYT bankruptcy tale that isn’t what it’s been made to seem.
THOMAS BARNETT: Despite Rhetoric, Obama Still Following Cheney’s Lead in Dictatorial Justice. But Obama has the fierce moral urgency of change! And that’s something. Because even without the change, you’ve still got the fierce moral urgency, you know. And that’s the really satisfying part anyway.
PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: What the Future of American Motoring Will Look Like.
BLOGGERS BEWARE: Of getting sued.
NO INTERNATIONAL TRADE IMPLICATIONS HERE: Warren mayor wants requirement for all municipal works to ‘Buy American’.
SHOOTING UNDERWATER HD VIDEO with new video-capable DSLRs.
SEVEN TIPS FOR making good conversation with a stranger.
A SOFTWARE ETHICS PACKAGE for battlefield robots. More Bolo than Skynet, one hopes.
AT REASON, a forum on Obama’s first Supreme Court pick. There appears to be a lot of support for Randy Barnett — more, I suspect, than we’ll find within the White House. . . .
Of people who actually have a chance, I like Kathleen Sullivan.
STUDY: Vitamin D improves cognitive function in middle-aged and older men. Is there anything better for you than sitting in the sun and having a glass of red wine?