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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: March 2010

At the 1:41 mark, the members of Congress are reminded to comport themselves accordingly.

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Looking for Bats By Day

March 21st, 2010 - 4:19 am

If you’ve ever wondered what bats look like one the best times to look them up is by day. Though they are mostly nocturnal they aren’t entirely inert in daylight.  Fortunately a whole bunch of them roost in Sydney’s Botanical Garden. The garden was once a vegetable patch for the early colonists, but it has since been turned into a 30 acre preserve for exotic plants. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a baobab looks, there are some there. The Little Prince was forever worried that baobabs would turn his little planet to dust. It’s not going to happen any time soon.

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The Dead Hand

March 19th, 2010 - 8:20 am

President Obama reminded his constituents that health care “reform” was a life support system for a number of political constituencies which would otherwise die without it. He reminded Congressional Democrats that their political fates were tied to the health bill and that they could not save themselves by voting against the President. Rep Suzanne Kosmas of Florida typified conflict. The Democrat represents a district whose economy was eviscerated by Obama’s NASA budget cuts. Now she can have some of them back — if she votes for health care “reform. She would only say about her health care discussions with President Obama that “I did have a conversation last week on NASA.” Mike Synan of WDBO says Kosmas insisted the conversations were unrelated.

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Unilateralism

March 17th, 2010 - 7:26 pm

Robert Kagan says that whether Israel deserved a tongue-lashing from Barack Obama or not, it can console itself by observing  that it is in good company on the outs. Britain, France, India, Poland, the Czech Republic and Japan are all huddled under the bus along with it. That’s not to mention the occasionally abandoned, like the Iranian dissidents or the Dalai Lama, who had to come through the door where they take out the trash to talk to the press. Israel is where all the other allies have been at one time or the other. What’s instructive, Kagan says, is who’s remained inside the bus and not crushed under the wheels.

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Days of Rage

March 16th, 2010 - 4:50 pm

Jerusalem was the scene of Palestinian riots expressing outrage over the reopening of a synagogue which had been destroyed by Jordanian forces in 1948 war and in the aftermath of a US rebuke of Israel for building settlements in East Jerusalem. The incidents were “part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by Palestinian leaders in response to the recent reopening of a historic synagogue in the Old City.”

Though the U.S. had been engaged in a high-profile dispute with the Israel government over a proposed 1,600-unit housing settlement in a disputed neighborhood of Jerusalem, the protests in recent days have stemmed from the reopening of the Hurva synagogue, which was destroyed by Jordanian forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

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Mid course

March 16th, 2010 - 3:49 pm

VOA quotes a top military official who says that US troops will be brought under NATO command. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the reorganization before traveling to Kabul last week.”

In another significant shift, NATO’s top commander, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, said he has brought most U.S. Special Operations forces in the country under his direct command.

Afghan officials have complained that Special Operations troops are responsible for a large number of civilian casualties, and they have pressed McChrystal to restrict their night-time combat missions.

Human rights advocates have accused Special Forces units of being out of control and a law unto themselves. “Meanwhile, officials say Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama held a video conference to discuss prospects of peace with the Taliban.” The conversation lasted for more than an hour. Special Operations have been a political sore point.

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The More I See You

March 15th, 2010 - 7:05 pm

Suppose you could watch something — or someone — by observing its doppelganger. Not the thing in itself, but its shadow. Ridiculous? Maybe not. According to the Guardian Lockheed Martin filed a patent application for a quantum radar system which operates on precisely that principle. The Guardian writes:

In theory entangled particles could be used to reveal details of objects they have never interacted with. If one particle bumped into an aircraft its twin would react in the same way, even if it never left the laboratory. Work out a way to read that behaviour, and an image could be built up, even with no information being directly transmitted from the target.

The patent application itself suggests that by entangling waves of different characteristics the radar can decipher one by observing the other. In this way the frequency which cannot travel far can pass on the information to the frequency which can. It is a kind of information relay race  in which the baton started by things which can look through walls, see IEDs emplaced underground and past stealthy coatings can be passed to something which can reach the radar receiver. The saying that you can run but can’t hide may be truer than ever.

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This Land is Mined

March 14th, 2010 - 3:00 pm

The recent exchange of testy words between Washington and Israel over the approval of new construction in East Jerusalem is ostensibly over the fate of the “peace process” now being shepherded by the US. VOA says that “for decades he United States has tried to act as a bridge between Israelis and Arabs. President Barack Obama, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, is looking for ways to end hostilities and bring about a long-elusive peace.”

The announcement of the East Jerusalem construction was said to have undermined Vice President Joe Biden’s diplomatic efforts. “This was supposed to be a period of heightened U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, with U.S. envoy George Mitchell named as a go-between in indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and Vice President Joe Biden making a high-profile trip this week to Jerusalem.” But what were the odds that Biden’s efforts were actually going anywhere? And if not, then why?

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The Age of Faith

March 12th, 2010 - 6:18 pm

Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University says the remarkable thing about the recent clashes between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is that they are not remarkable. In a process largely unnoticed in the West, billions of people in Asia and Africa have swapped out their indigenous faiths for either Christianity or Islam. And to an even greater astonishment of Western intellectuals most have chosen Christianity. Now the equalization of numbers has caused a fault line to appear through the Third World at about the tenth degree of latitude where the two aggregations face each other “at daggers drawn”.

The word “Christian”, associated in the 19th and 20th centuries with the missionary enterprises of Europe, has now come to mean something different in political terms. Today Christianity is a religion of the Third World. Europeans have largely converted to some soft and watered-down variation of  the West’s only indigenous creed, Marxism, as represented by John Lennon’s “Imagine” song. Christianity can no longer be associated largely with the West.  Ex oriente lux a phrase which once described the belief that all great world religions rose in the East is now truer than ever. With Marxism shrinking to the margins of the Guardian, the monotheisms have reclaimed the field at least in raw numbers.

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Nothing is Written

March 11th, 2010 - 7:21 pm

Robert Kaplan describes how in the process of muddling along through intractable situations, the US military has become the master of the possible, simply because they have had to be. Kaplan predicts they may succeed in Afghanistan yet again and that very success will become a poisoned pawn.

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