Justus For All

None Sine Causa

Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

11:48 am on Monday, January 12, 2009

DailyTech
Rapid growth spurt leaves amount of ice at levels seen 29 years ago.

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

1979 was the first year they began collecting this data, so we don’t have a lot of history on it, but this is interesting anyway.  It is also interesting since, as I recall, in 1979 the great climate worry was the impending ice age.

(via Instapundit)

Deflation, Inflation, and Money from Thin Air

9:03 am on Friday, January 9, 2009

The Skeptical Optimist has for a while now been my go to site to understand economy, particularly as it relates to the national debt, the fed, and fiat currency.  This post:The Skeptical Optimist: Deflation, Inflation, and Money from Thin Air, is a wonderful explanation of why we need to ‘borrow’ to create stimulus, how it works, and what the dangers are.

I highly recommend it.

One thing it doesn’t address though is exactly how to spend the money we create.  Partially that is because creating the money is the number one goal, and the spending is just the mechanism.  I have a few unformed thoughts on some basic criteria for how the money should be spent such as long term infrastructure investments, spending that maximizes social justice, etc. and these are often contradictory or at least could be.  I was wondering if any of my readers had any thoughts on this though, if the government is going to spend a trillion dollars to stimulate the economy, how should they determine what to spend it on?

Merry Christmas

10:34 am on Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays to everyone.

RIP Majel Barrett Roddenberry

6:42 am on Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Roddenberry.com

Boldy Go

Pakistan, the ISI, Taliban and Al-Qaida

8:02 am on Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Strategy Page
These guys are not just “Taliban spies,” but Pakistani intelligence professionals that believe in Islamic radicalism.

The article gives a pretty good overview of how these factions relate to each other and how the history behind them.

An idea whose time has finally come

9:05 am on Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bacon Flavored Chocolate!

(via my little brother)

Detroit Bailout

8:38 am on Wednesday, December 10, 2008

washingtonpost.com
The agreement, which is set for a vote in the House today, calls for the government to speed $15 billion in emergency loans to the car companies as soon as next week, and for President Bush to immediately name a car czar to oversee the bailout. The companies would be required by March 31 to cut costs, restructure debt and obtain concessions from labor sufficient to report a “positive net present value,” according to a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because final language was still under discussion.

I am fairly agnostic about the idea of bailing out the american autocompanies.  On the one hand, they should probably fail and we should just let the market forces work.  However, that would at least in the short and medium terms devaste an entire region of the country, and one that doesn’t really have a whole lot going for it.  Proping up the not-so-big three might well be cheaper then just letting them fail.

As to the specifics that seem to be coming out of this deal, I don’t like any sort of czar, and a car czar is offensive both in concept and as a philogical abuse.  It does appear though that the deal is designed to give the auto companies a pretty big stick to use against the unions, which is the core of their problems in being competitive.

I also have some mixed feelings about the short deadline.  On the one hand it does put considerable pressure on them to get things done, but if it is an unrealistic deadline, and I think it might be, it is just wasting the money and the time.  I would rather an approach that had a chance of success rather then one that is doomed to fail anyway.

I’ll admit though that I don’t have enough real knowledge of the detail of the problems to make a really competant analysis, but I suspect that this will be a classic case of the worst of both worlds, which is an unfortunate danger of many politcal solutions.

Illinois governor taken into custody

8:53 am on Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CNN.com
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. “They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”

Good that he is caught.  Bad that the political environment is such that this sort of thing could happen in the first place.

Mumbai

8:17 am on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I haven’t blogged on this previously, since I was away from the computer when the actual events happened and since have simply been trying to make sense of what it means, both from direct geo-political consequences and as perhaps a signal for what we can expect in the future.

This article, from Asia Times Online does an excellent job of explaining the origins of the attack, and it’s rather complex pedigree. It is a must read if you wish to understand how Pakistan’s ISI and Al-Qaida are related to this attack.

There are a lot of troubling features about the Mumbai attacks, beyond of course the obvious horror at the loss of life and digust at the brutality of the killings and torture that were involved.  Tactically this seems to be a very difficult type of attack to defend against.  A whole lot of places, including American cities and towns, would have difficulty responding quickly and the multiple targets would confuse and slow any sort of response.  I had actually expected some of this sort of thing immediately following 9-11, and was grateful that that sort of threat didn’t manifest.  Now, I am afraid, it will become the terror tactic of choice for a while.  Of course this sort of attack is very unlikely to result in 3,000 deaths, but it is so much simpler to organize that I can easily imagine multiple attacks being very signifigant.

More troubling though then the tactical aspects of this plan is the strategic maturity it displays.  For the most part, even Al-Qaida tactical successes have been strategic failures.  The Mumbai attack though is almost certainly going to be a strategic success, pushing Pakistan and India into deeper animosity, and hence putting pressure on Pakistan to distance itself from the west.  It also seems to have incited further violence within Pakistan itself, which can only benefit Al-Qaida, and of course the inclusion of the attack on the Jewish center plays well in certain segments of the Arab world, and doubtless will help with recruiting and fund raising in that region.

Al-Qaida suffered a pretty bad blow in Iraq, where its tactics against Iraqi civilians backfired and caused a general loss of popularity for the group in the Arab world.  Killing Indians, Americans and especially Jews is a whole lot more palatable for Al-Qaida supporters then killing and terrorizing fellow Muslims, especially fellow Sunni Muslims.

Our Elected Officials

7:06 am on Monday, November 24, 2008

Yahoo News
US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute ISI.

“It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISIs civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned,” said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

I think there are two positives we can look at from these results. One is that if you are worried about any sort of government conspiracy you can probably relax, they are really too dumb for that sort of thing. The second is that are smarter people arn’t going into government, which means they are probably doing more important things like actually making the everything work.

You can take the test yourself here.

I answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

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