Archive for November, 2007

Frozen Beaver, What’s Next Lunar War?

In 2005, the Canadian military launched Exercise Frozen Beaver to claim Hans Island, a hunk of rock off the coast of Greenland that’s long been claimed by both Denmark and Canada.  

The Wired article below talks about how competition over the now thawed arctic and it’s once unreachable oil deposits.  Perhaps more interestingly, this could foreshadow sovereignty claims on the moon.

It could get crowded up there, and the rules for lunar landgrabs will likely be patterned on what is happening now in the far north. “The recent Arctic events are relevant,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, an international space law expert at the University of Mississippi. “The seabed, high seas, Antarctica, and space are, as a matter of law, global commons. What happens in one can be argued to be legal precedent in the others.”

…In human history, anywhere there’s value, there are eventually property rights.

Hmmm… Book Club meet ups? I likey!

After Dave K. mentioned that there were other groups look to emulate the origional fightclub I thought I would dig a little further into how many other “guy book clubs” there were out there.  One in particular caught my attention!

One such group in S.F. actually had a book club meet up with an “all girls book club” – and all of the juicy details were shared.  You’ll have to read on since I just can’t do this story justice!  Let’s just say that books aren’t the only things fondled during the girl’s events.

Maybe we need to be a little more “social”…???

On Deterrence

There is a debate raging in the comments section of The Case for Israel about Israel’s loss of deterrence and its effects.  This debate is relevant to our discussion of America’s Secret War, especially the “Shock and Awe Strategy” going into the Iraq war.  It got me to thinking about the efficacy of deterrence in other contexts (Iran, North Korea, 2nd Amendment, death penalty, etc). But, first what is the definition of deterrence? 

de·ter·rence  // Pronunciation Key[di-turuh ns, –tuhr-, –ter-] – noun: the act or process of discouraging actions or preventing occurrences by instilling fear or doubt or anxiety  

This definition highlights the problem with deterrence which is that it is essentially a psychological situation for which there are no standards of measurement.  A deterrent is only successful in retrospect. 

Deterrent or Stimulant 

The Israeli army used to knock down a suicide bomber’s family home with the justification that it was acting “to deter future acts of terrorism”. After studying the effects the Israelis decided that the practice did not have a significant deterrent effect; indeed, home demolitions had probably acted as a stimulant for Palestinian terrorism.   

The same stimulant effect seems to be happening on the Iraqi streets where US forces drive through neighborhoods as a show of force – only to perpetuate the use of and targets for IEDs. How, after all, do you threaten someone who is already determined to die, and who has been promised extravagant rewards in an afterlife that is beyond your reach? 

Cold War 

Deterrence works best against entities with a basically materialist outlook. The reason that the American-Soviet deterrent system of “mutually assured destruction” worked as well as it did was that both nations, while differing in many other values, were fundamentally uninterested in “martyrdom”; communism and capitalism both justify their policies based on the prosperity and well-being they provide their populations, and neither system could find a way to portray a nuclear holocaust, even a “victorious” one, as a success. 

Don Radlauer argues in an article for International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT):   

In evaluating potential deterrence, it’s crucial to determine where the entity to be deterred belongs on the Soviet-Union-to-suicide-bomber scale. Syria, for example, is not at all opposed to death per se, but much prefers to see other countries doing the fighting and dying. (Dr. Boaz Ganor has suggested that Syria might be a more fruitful target for deterrence than Hezbollah itself in Israel’s attempts to solve its Lebanese problems.) Iran, on the other hand, is currently being led by a radical Shi’ite clique that appears to set a high value on “martyrdom”, even if Iran itself is the “martyr”. This is why the prospect of Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is so scary: a country that is willing to become a nuclear wasteland in return for destroying its enemies cannot be easily deterred, even by a country with superb second-strike retaliatory capabilities. Thus the confrontation between an eventual nuclear Iran and a presumed-to-be-nuclear Israel would not have the inherent deterrence-driven stability of the American-Soviet match-up, or even of India and Pakistan. 

Gun Control and the Second Amendment 

Each year, approximately 30,000 people in the United States die as a result of gunfire and about 80,000 people are wounded.  And for every 10,000 handguns sold, 3,000 are involved in robberies and assaults and 100 in homicides (Roth and Koper, 1997). 

It’s been 68 years since the Supreme Court examined the right to keep and bear arms secured by the Second Amendment, but it has decided to revisit the topic in Parker vs. District of Columbia this spring. 

Will more concealed hand guns on the streets of Washington deter criminals?  John Lott thinks so – in his book More Guns, Less Crime, he argues: 

Criminals are deterred by higher penalties. Just as higher arrest and conviction rates deter crime, so does the risk that someone committing a crime will confront someone able to defend him or herself. There is a strong negative relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and the crime rate—as more people obtain permits there is a greater decline in violent crime rates. For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect the murder rate declines by 3 percent, rape by 2 percent, and robberies by over 2 percent. 

The Death Penalty 

In the past ten years, the number of executions in the U.S. has increased while the murder rate has declined. Some commentators have maintained that the murder rate has dropped because of the increase in executions (see W. Tucker, “Yes, the Death Penalty Deters,”). However, during this decade the murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty. 


As Ami points out, deterrence may have a place in state to state relations.  But, it psychological nature doesn’t apply as well to individuals.  Like the theoretical (if elusive…see Wisdom of Crowds debate) “rational person” in economics, martyrdom, the need for a fix, will override the deterrent effect of force or even death. 

My November Guest by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
  Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
  She walks the sodden pasture lane.         5
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
  She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
  Is silver now with clinging mist.         10
The desolate, deserted trees,
  The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
  And vexes me for reason why.         15
Not yesterday I learned to know
  The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
  And they are better for her praise.         20

Getting Paid is the Name of the Game

Check out this “Not the Daily Show with Some Writer” for a perspective on the writer’s strike:

A House Divided


The House of Representatives sustained President Bush’s veto of a $151B labor, health and education funding bill (HR3043).  The vote was 277-141, (15 not voting, 100% of Democrats supporting, 74% of Republicans opposing), failing by two votes to override the veto.  Minnesota’s Michelle Bachman and John Kline voted against the measure. 

Essentially, the Democrats and Republicans are divided over $11 billion out of nearly $1 trillion in spending.  Which begs the question: where are our priorities as a nation?  President Bush vetoes a domestic spending bill because of a one tenth of a percent (0.1%) difference?

Meanwhile, the National Priorities Project estimates that we (taxpayers) will pay $456.1 billion for the cost of the Iraq War through 2007. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

·         130,069,152 People with Health Care OR
·         472,181,032 Homes with Renewable Electricity OR
·         10,206,434 Public Safety Officers OR
·         7,918,403 Music and Arts Teachers OR
·         75,290,580 Scholarships for University Students OR
·         45,880 New Elementary Schools OR
·         3,547,959 Affordable Housing Units OR
·         194,511,722 Children with Health Care OR
·         62,590,915 Head Start Places for Children OR
·         7,765,056 Elementary School Teachers OR
·         6,854,781 Port Container Inspectors

Abject Expressionism


Morgan Spurlock included paintings by Ron English in his 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”.  In December, English is publishing a coffee table retrospective of his work and the image, “MC Milkshake”, above is on the cover.  You can see more of his work at  Is it art?  Is English the new Warhol?  Either way I like it.

From Wikipedia:

 One aspect of his work involves ‘liberating’ commercial billboards with his own messages. Frequent targets of his work include Joe Camel, McDonalds, and Mickey Mouse. Ron English can be considered the “celebrated prankster father of agit-pop”, who wrangles carefully created corporate iconographies so that they are turned upside down, and are used against the very corporation they are meant to represent.


Thinking Outside the Turbine

With the recent upswing in ‘green awareness’, alternative renewable energy sources are being touted as the saving grace- and they likely are. But, they are not without their flaws.

For instance, as of April 2007 wind farms in the US were producing nearly 12,000 MW. But, at what cost? For many, the sight of a few wind turbines can be an awe-inspiring experience. But, you start to amass these monoliths across our sweeping plains and awe can quickly turn to disgust.

Enter Shawn Frayne, and his tragedy-inspired approach to harnessing the power of the wind. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State collapsed just months after it was completed. The cause? Mechanical resonance. The wind swept across the bridge like a bow on violin strings causing it to vibrate wildly until it disintegrated.

Shawn has applied this same concept to his next-generation wind-harnessing design, which can be seen here. If he’s able to scale this design out, the results would be dramatically less obtrusive and more cost efficient!

Shawn also received Popular Mechanics’ 2007 Breakthrough Award for his design.

Golden Age for Satire


In today’s Strib, Paul Lewis writes about the ascendancy of Stephen Colbert as one of America’s great satirists.  Colbert, seen above running for president in South Carolina (his home state), “takes his conservative politics to absurd extremes, exposing their grounding in bad values, including but not limited to homophobia, religious pride, American exceptionalism, and greed.”

Those who worry about the rising cynicism of the American electorate would be wrong to blame satirists like Colbert, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for the trend. Satire directed at politicians becomes convincing not by virtue of its cleverness but by virtue of its accuracy. They could not make Dick Cheney seem like Darth Vader or George W. Bush seem like a blithering fool — any more than Rush Limbaugh could make Bill Clinton seem like a rogue — unless their targets provided a wealth of material. It takes a good deal of folly, corruption, mismanagement and hypocrisy to support effective satire. A sense of these failings and of their serious costs intensifies the impact of the satirist’s dark wit.

Lewis compares Colbert with Thomas Nast who, in the 1870s, drove Boss Tweed and the Tammany Ring from power in New York.

Thomas Nast Cartoon

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