Friday, April 30, 2010

Mr. Spock's Buick

Leonard Nimoy with his 1964 Buick Riviera:


For the truly whimsical

Something else I really should have on my desk: A bar-of-gold doorstop/paperweight.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Snowing Here, Cold Everywhere

As I look out my window right now, it is snowing heavily. The temperature is 33 degrees, which means that it won't last -- and indeed it is only sticking to grass and trees.  My fully bloomed-out crabapple has its blossoms covered with snow.

Late April snow is not particularly unusual on the eastern slope of Colorado, and a lack of late April snow would also not be unusual.

My point is that based on what I see -- cold, warm, wet, dry -- there is nothing unusual going on with the climate.  Some scientists, using data that is highly suspect, with further processing of the data that is even more suspect, say that the earth has warmed maybe a few tenths of a degree since 1980, with most of the warming seen from 1980 to 1998.

I don't think it matters. When you have daily temperature swings of 40 degrees, and annual extremes of 120 degrees here in Colorado, a few tenths of a degree is not going to make any difference.  It will not cause spring to be earlier or later. It will not cause streams to be fuller in March. It will not cause animals to migrate differently, or plants to change their range.  It will also not cause glaciers to melt faster or slower, or Arctic ice to decline or grow. (The glaciers have been receding in fits and starts since the end of the last ice age. I expect they will continue doing so until the next ice age.)

A few tenths of a degree change, coaxed out of already questionable data for political reasons, is simply not significant.

And here is the forecast for next week from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (part of the US National Weather Service).  Pretty much colder than normal throughout the western hemisphere:

By the way, the Arctic currently has more sea ice than at any time in the last 10 years on this date:


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Russian Missile System Hides in Shipping Containers

Russia is marketing a new missile launching system called the Club-K, that hides a complete missile battery in a standard shipping container, thus converting any cargo ship, semi tractor-trailer truck, or rail car into a covert Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL).

Each shipping container can hold up to four cruise or ballistic missiles.

Such a system could enter ports undetected, and have such short flight times that any defense would be problematic.  Identification of these systems would be difficult to say the least, since all shipping containers would be suspect.

With a few of these onboard, any merchant vessel could have the capability to wipe out an entire naval task force.

In this Reuters report, Robert Hewson, of Janes Defense Weekly, estimates the cost of the system at $10-20M.
One of the missiles on offer is a special anti-ship variant with a second stage which splits off after launch and accelerates to supersonic speeds of up to Mach 3.  "It's a carrier-killer," said Hewson of Jane's. "If you are hit by one or two of them, the kinetic impact is's horrendous."

Here is the marketing video from the Russian company CONCERN MORINFORMSYSTEM-AGAT that developed the system. It dramatically showcases the whole concept, including the supersonic anti-ship variant. The plot involves a little peaceful tropical country (i.e. the Russian propaganda version of Venezuela) being threatened by a neighboring country that so happens to have F-16s and C-17 Globemasters  (i.e. American-backed Columbia).  Click the button with the four arrows to view in full HD.

As the Russian company says in Borat-style English on their website:
With the help of Club-K and Club-U Missile Systems almost every type of ship can be turned into missile ship by installing of either 40-foot standard marine container with universal launching module (Club-K), either one of three launching modules (inclined, vertical or elevating) – Club-U.

Our solid experience in the constructive mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign and Russian customers and partners enables us to manufacture products that completely satisfy the customer’s requirements, as well as to offer flexible terms for financing our contracts.
 And then there is this very interesting nugget from their site:

While they state that they will carefully control sales, I imagine that Iran will get their hands on one, re-engineer it, and make several hundred over the next few years.  They have a history of doing that with Russian weapon systems.


Big Dustup Index Fund Performance

Tuesday provided a good measure of how the BDUIF functions in a down market.  Here are the statistics for the day:

The DJIA was down 1.9%.
Fund oil holdings in OIL, USO, and DBO were down 2.4%
Fund gold holdings in UGL were up 3.2%
Fund short stock holdings in BGZ and DPK were up 8.8%

Overall the BDUIF was up 1.36%.

The Fund is based on a balance between long oil, long gold, and short equity ETFs, and is designed to hold steady in volatile markets while gaining if oil and/or gold diverge upwards from the general stock market as could occur during various types of economic and military crises.

Tuesday's increase, while welcome, must be understood since it could indicate a lack of balance in the Fund; perhaps the short positions are too large.  In that case, they could drag the Fund downward if the stock market were to continue upward.

Indeed previous losses in the Fund as oil increased  hinted at having too much shorted -- although further analysis indicated that the issue was likely due to the under-performance of gold with respect to the general stock market.

At the end of March, we reduced the Fund's gold position by about half.  Early Tuesday afternoon we increased the gold holding by a little over 40% due to the bullish movement in gold described below.

The surprise increase in the Fund on Tuesday was mostly caused by a large gain of 11.9% in DPK (which is a triple short on developed markets, heavily weighted toward Europe) and a very unexpected gain in gold.  Both of these have been attributed to the sovereign debt crisis in Greece.

At this time, it does not appear that we are holding too large of a short position.  Indeed, the Tuesday gain was mostly due to economic turmoil of the sort that the BDUIF is designed to react to, thus indicating that it is performing on target.

The gold increase is particularly interesting.  The dollar was strong today (mostly against the Euro), which would normally force gold lower.  So in real terms, gold truly soared.  The parting of ways between gold and the stock market is an important bullish signal for gold -- at least in the short term.

In general, we are pleased with the performance of the Fund so far.  It has stayed within +4 and -2 percent of the stable goal with the upper extremes seen predominantly in times of world economic or military tension.  It is thus maintaining its mission of providing a way to invest in crisis gold and oil separated from normal economic volatility.  We are still confident that in a Mideast crisis, or a sovereign debt crisis, or in times of inflation (particularly stagflation), the BDUIF will do well.  It will do exceptionally well in any situation where gold and oil go up and equities go down.

Here are the latest BDUIF charts:

Performance compared to Gold/DJIA and Oil/DJIA ratios

Current Composition of the BDUIF

Composition of the BDUIF with leverage of 2x and 3x ETFs shown explicitly

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Big Dustup Index Fund (BDUIF) Alert

I have been waiting for a stock market drop so that I can assess the performance of the BDUIF in a downward market, and thus determine the proper ratios of stock shorts to oil and gold.  Initial data today (with the market down due to the Greek mess) shows that I am potentially a little heavy on shorts -- which is what I suspected anyway.  After the market closes, I will perform a detailed analysis and post the results.

Hopefully, the market will continue to stay down, and close down today, so that I can get a good analysis.   In the recent past, however, market drops due to Greek sovereign debt crisis events have been limited to just a few hours.

In the mean time:  Gold and the stock market have parted ways today, with the market going down, and gold going up.  This is also due to the Greek mess, and is a very bullish indicator for gold.  It is the kind of trend split that the BDUIF is designed to make money on. It also confirms the position of gold as a hedge against economic turmoil.

Hard to say if it will continue, but I am picking up a little more UGL today on this indication.

I wish I had more of my net worth in the BDUIF today; all of my other investments are down significantly.

For a more detailed explanation of what the BDUIF is, click here.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Crafting Alternatives as Normalcy Evaporates

Reihan Salam of the New America Foundation envisions a rather radically changed future.  This was also published in the 22 March 2010 edition of Time Magazine:

Imagine a future in which millions of families live off the grid, powering their homes and vehicles with dirt-cheap portable fuel cells. As industrial agriculture sputters under the strain of the spiraling costs of water, gasoline and fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated techniques that combine cutting-edge green technologies with ancient Mayan know-how build an alternative food-distribution system. Faced with the burden of financing the decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of the young embrace a new underground economy, a largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, and kibbutzim that passively resist the power of the granny state while building their own little utopias.

Rather than warehouse their children in factory schools invented to instill obedience in the future mill workers of America, bourgeois rebels will educate their kids in virtual schools tailored to different learning styles. Whereas only 1.5 million children were homeschooled in 2007, we can expect the number to explode in future years as distance education blows past the traditional variety in cost and quality. The cultural battle lines of our time, with red America pitted against blue, will be scrambled as Buddhist vegan militia members and evangelical anarchist squatters trade tips on how to build self-sufficient vertical farms from scrap-heap materials. To avoid the tax man, dozens if not hundreds of strongly encrypted digital currencies and barter schemes will crop up, leaving an underresourced IRS to play whack-a-mole with savvy libertarian "hacktivists."

Work and life will be remixed, as old-style jobs, with long commutes and long hours spent staring at blinking computer screens, vanish thanks to ever increasing productivity levels. New jobs that we can scarcely imagine will take their place, only they'll tend to be home-based, thus restoring life to bedroom suburbs that today are ghost towns from 9 to 5. Private homes will increasingly give way to cohousing communities, in which singles and nuclear families will build makeshift kinship networks in shared kitchens and common areas and on neighborhood-watch duty. Gated communities will grow larger and more elaborate, effectively seceding from their municipalities and pursuing their own visions of the good life. Whether this future sounds like a nightmare or a dream come true, it's coming.
There are tons of things wrong with Mr. Salam's vision.  Like how does he greatly increase productivity without working at a computer?  And what if I really like my privacy, and want a single family home?  And most of our standard of living (i.e. no starvation, good health care, lack of drudgery) is based on very high technology.  His little communal green organic farms will be horribly inefficient in terms of calories per acre and calories per manhour.   He will not be able to feed everyone.  With local-only foods the law of the land, forget fresh fruits in the winter -- or bananas at all.  Oh, and by the way, since almost everyone will have to farm by hand, your back and knees and hips will be shot by the time you are 40.  Without highly technical medicine, lifespans will drop dramatically.

And without shared culture, and with extreme diversity, this may be a socialist's dream, but to me it looks like Yugoslavia before the massacres.

Life will become what it was for thousands of years before the rise of United States and the touchstone of individual freedom:  plagued with disease, famine, and brutality.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Pillars of Creation, by Ball Aerospace (updated with larger image 2 January 2014)

The New Pillars of Creation 
New image from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3
Click on the image for a huge version

In a recent post, I mentioned that Ball Aerospace made the Halley Multicolor Camera that took the image of the nucleus of Halley's Comet back in 1986.

Despite a rather thorough internet search, I never found any reference to that fact.  Ball never seems to get credit for much of anything they do.  In news reports, space projects are always credited to JPL or NASA or the Air Force or the European Space Agency -- but those agencies very seldom design or build anything.  Or the reports mention the principal investigator -- usually some astronomer at a university who knows little of how to design and build a space probe or satellite or instrument.  He just knows the kind of data he would like to see.

I remember seeing the OSO spacecraft from the 1960's in the Smithsonian -- completely designed and built by Ball, and completely uncredited.  The Mars Exploration Rovers had numerous subsystems built by Ball, including panoramic cameras and their pointing systems, telemetry board, power systems, and the main high-gain antenna, but whenever I mention it to anyone, they say, "Oh, I didn't know that Ball did anything on MER."

Then there are the images on Google Earth/Maps.  Many, if not most of them are from satellites built by Ball for DigitalGlobe.  Again, no mention.

And the photo shown above, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and featured on news sites around the world today in honor of Hubble's 20th anniversary in space, was taken by a Ball instrument.  In fact, after the last servicing mission, all of the instruments now on Hubble were designed and built by Ball.

And Ball was the company that saved the whole Hubble mission, when it was determined after launch that the primary mirror had been made improperly by Perkin Elmer and had never been tested.  Ball made the highly complex optical system that was installed by astronauts to correct Hubble's focus.

But there is no mention of any of this anywhere today.

I think Ball needs to hire a good PR guy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Accumulate Gold": Marc Faber


"They will all bankrupt us and expropriate us, but it may not happen tomorrow. They'll give us something to play with, until the whole system breaks down...they'll just print money and print more money," he said on CNBC Thursday.

"What I object to the current government intervention in so-called 'solving the crisis', (is that) they haven't solved anything. They've just postponed it." In light of the current economic environment, investors should not own cash as it is going to be 'a disaster', said Faber.

"If you print money like in Zimbabwe... the purchasing power of money goes down, and the standards of living go down, and eventually, you have a civil war," he added.

The Weakening of the United States

Early in his administration, Mr. 0bama canceled the already-promised NMD missile interceptors for Eastern Europe saying new intelligence showed that Iran would not have long range intercontinental ballistic missiles until 2020, if ever.

Then, a couple of months after his announcement, Iran launched one. They have now unveiled the Simorgh, which would likely be able to hit the US with a single warhead. The path such a missile would take to get to Washington DC would be right over Eastern Europe. The alternative SM-3 interceptors 0bama is offering to Poland do not have the capability to go high enough or fast enough to knock down an ICBM in midcourse.

Then Mr. 0bama reduced the number of interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska. These are designed to protect us from North Korean launches. I don't see the North Koreans becoming any more tractable. They are still working on bigger and better missiles, and have demonstrated nuclear bomb capability. The Nodong-2 could probably reach the Pacific Northwest and Northern California right now, maybe further.

Then Mr. 0bama canceled the Airborne Laser program, eliminating our only way of knocking down missiles in their boost phase before they deploy countermeasures.

Now, he has essentially acquiesced to a nuclear capable Iran. He has no intent to do anything to stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons and ruling the Mideast. And he has placed US forces to stop Israel from any attempt at saving itself from complete annihilation.

Oh, I forgot to mention that he also canceled our entire manned space program.

Again, I must say:

If 0bama intended to destroy the United States, what would he be doing differently?

Is it naivete, or is he doing it on purpose?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hide the Decline

The organization "Minnesotans for Global Warming" created this parody video last December in response to the leaked emails from the East Anglican University (UK) Climate Research Unit referring to one of the "tricks" used by climatologist and Penn State professor Michael E. Mann to hide temperature declines in the global warming data record -- particularly involving tree ring analysis.  Dr. Mann created the now-debunked "hockey stick" graph showing large temperature increases in recent years.  The graph figured prominently in Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth".

Mann is now suing them because of the video, and they have removed it from their website since they don't really have the resources to fight the well-funded global warming machine.  In fact, the organization is really just one guy with an office in his RV.

The net result of the suit so far has been a huge influx of donations.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Halley Memories

The following is a posting from the old CompuServe service that I printed out when I was a subscriber in the early 1990s.  Since it was in a public forum and since I cannot find the author, I am assuming it is public domain.  I have added the images, which were not in the original post:

Halley's Comet, 1910 AD

Halley Memories
Submitted by Robert Morrell, 71513,1030

I wanted to share an experience, one that few of my friends could appreciate, but that I thought users of this forum would.

In 1986 I was working in a large hospital. Due to a manpower shortage I was asked to go up on the floors on weekends to collect blood specimens. Part of phlebotomy is patient identification, and part of all patient ID's is their age. This gave me an idea. Why not ask everyone over the age of 80 about their memory of Halley's comet, which had just made its muted appearance in the sky. Their viewing in 1910 was spectacular. If I couldn't enjoy this one at least I could listen to others.

The patients responded to the question enthusiastically. I was told of a comet like a kite across the sky, of a marvel and a wonder in an age before TV and radio, when sitting on the porch watching the wonders of the sky were the pastime of all, not an obscure few. One man, 97, told me of enjoying the sight tremendously.  When I asked him what he remembered thinking about it at the time, he said, "I remember thinking I would never live to see it again!" He was only slightly wrong.

The nucleus of Halley's Comet imaged by the European Space Agency Giotto Probe using the Halley Multicolor Camera, built by Ball Aerospace, 1986 AD

The best experience however, came when I approached an 84 year old woman and, while preparing her arm for the needle, asked her about the comet. She told me of watching from the porch of a large white house in the deep South. She described the wonder, and then as an aside, mentioned that she watched it with her great grandmother, who had seen Halley's the time before that, in 1834!  In that moment, in the predawn hours of a gloomy Sunday morning in 1986, our conversion stretched over 152 years.

Halley's Comet, drawn by Caroline Herschel, 1836 AD

I enjoyed Halley's much more after that. Even now when I look at the moon and stars, I see them a little differently. I see things my ancestors saw, pretty much as they saw them. (At least until they begin placing orbiting bill boards.)

When I looked at the humble Halley, I was seeing generations of mankind, one long life after another, connected, going back thousands of years.

Save this one and pass it around, maybe someone will come upon it in 2061.

Bob Morrell

Halley's Comet on the Bayeux Tapestry as seen during the Battle of Hastings, 1066 AD

The Big Dustup Index Fund (BDUIF)

Well, I have been waiting to report on the BDUIF status until the performance looked a little better, but it is still staying kinda bad, so here goes anyway.

As described in previous posts, the BDUIF is an investment strategy designed to follow the price of oil and gold against the stock market.  By investing in oil and gold futures, while shorting the stock market, the BDUIF hedges commodity losses that are due to economic decline, thus enabling an investment in oil and gold that is less exposed to general economic variation.

I have fine-tuned the BDUIF quite a bit since its creation.  For example, because gold was not performing well against the market and was not tracking Mideast tensions, I have gradually reduced the BDUIF holdings in gold-related issues.  The current make up is shown below, with ticker symbols of the various ETFs/ETNs, some of which track 2x or 3x their base index:

The BDUIF is designed to remain constant when stocks, oil, and gold move in sync.  It makes money when oil and gold go up compared to stocks.  It loses money when oil and gold go down compared to stocks.

In particular, it is meant to provide profit based on Mideast tensions or oil supply disruptions or economic upheavals, while reducing risk compared to a naked investment in oil and gold.  By reducing risk however, it gives up any oil and gold gains that track stocks.

The BDUIF is performing as designed, and is currently worth about the same as when I started it on 4 Feb 2010.  It has peaked twice, both during times of increased Mideast tensions.

Click image to enlarge

Of course during this period when the BDUIF experienced no gain, a naked investment in oil would have returned 10% (and last week, it was  almost 19%).  Gold would have returned 5%, and an investment in a DJIA index fund would have returned 11%.

Click image to enlarge

I have always said that the BDUIF is an investment strategy waiting for an event -- and no event has occurred yet.  Mr. 0's policy toward Iran may push any such event further into the future, but it will probably become a  much larger event than I originally anticipated.

Sanctions and the Upcoming Destruction of Israel

Mr. Barack Hussein Obama set a deadline of 31 December 2009 for Iran to start cooperating with us on their nuclear program, or face sanctions.  Note that this was not a deadline to stop working on nukes, just to start talking.

Ahmadinejad refused.  Not only did he say no, he said hell no.  The consequences from Mr. Zero were, well... zero. No sanctions, no attack on Iran's nuclear plants.  Nothing at all.

There are no sanctions forthcoming because China, Russia and Brazil all oppose them.  Even our European allies are iffy.

Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois sponsored a bill to ban US exports of gasoline to Iran, but it is stuck in conference committee because the Obama administration opposes it.  And even if it were to be miraculously made into law, China is already supplying all the gasoline Iran needs. (Iran has very limited refining capability.)

So actually, based on his actions and not on his words, Mr. 0 opposes sanctions too.

As former UN ambassador John Bolton said today, "There's simply no explanation for the administration's behavior ... other than they are prepared to acquiesce on a nuclear-capable Iran.  Even their rhetoric has changed, as they begin to prepare people for essentially the inevitability of a nuclear Iran."

Bolton said the U.S. faces two scenarios at this point: Either Iran gets a nuclear weapon, or Israel conducts a military strike to wipe out its capability.

But Obama has placed our Aegis warships in the head of the Persian Gulf so we can shoot down any Israeli missiles or aircraft on their way to Iran. It is like he wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons and is protecting them from any sanctions or military action.  Where are his loyalties?

If Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler, who is Obama?  Certainly not Churchill or Roosevelt.

It should be pointed out that Obama is not an African black.  His name, his father, his relatives, and his upbringing in an Islamic environment all show that he is Arab.  He is not the first black president.  He is the first Arab president.  
His actions confirm that he identifies with the Islamic cause.  Everything he is doing in the Mideast appears to be designed to further the expansion of Iran and cause the complete and utter destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

We have really declined as a nation in the last 70 years.

For example, I think the US citizens of 1940 would have been smart enough not to have elected Goebbels to be the President of the United States.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Volcanic No-Fly Zone

I don't really understand why virtually all of Europe has been declared a No-Fly Zone due to a rather normal eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.  Similar eruptions have occurred many times in the past, with no problems being reported.

When jet aircraft fly into a dense cloud of volcanic ash, the engines can sustain damage, flame out, potentially causing a crash. Less dense clouds can cause windshield pitting, paint damage, melted rock deposition, and engine compressor blade erosion.

Only twice in the history of aviation have commercial jet engines failed due to ash. Once was in 1982, when a British Airlines 747 (tag G-BDXH) bound for Jakarta Indonesia lost all engines while flying through a thick plume from Mount Galunggung.  The other occurrence was in 1989 when a KLM 747 (tag PH-BFC), on its way from Amsterdam to Tokyo, lost all four engines flying through an ash cloud from Mount Redoubt while descending into Anchorage Alaska.

In both occurrences, engines were restarted and the aircraft landed successfully.

KLM PH-BFC in recent years 

G-BDXH in 2003 after being sold to a charter outfit

The disruption in European air travel is greater than that seen following the 11 September 2001 attacks when flights were only shut down for three days in Europe.  Estimated losses by the airlines are $200M per day, plus of course the untold millions lost because business travelers are stranded and can't do business (although I saw that the President of Iceland was running his country via an iPad).

The airlines want to fly.  They have stated to regulators that it is safe to fly, and they have performed test flights over the last few days to prove it.  But the governments won't allow it.

It all seems rather silly.  Reasonably good-sized eruptions occur in Iceland every 2-3 years, with large ones every 5-10 years.  In the past, aircraft have been routed around the denser clouds.  For example, in 2004, Grímsvötn erupted and caused ashfall in Europe. No closures resulted.

When Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980, I saw significant ashfall in Colorado, more than 1000 miles away. (A layer of fine dust was visible on cars and other surfaces, with some particles up to a millimeter in size.)  It was a huge eruption, much larger than the current one in Iceland. Airspace closures only affected the areas right around the eruption -- and I know personally that research aircraft continued to fly directly into the plume (but not without some damage).

If this goes on much longer, airlines will start defaulting on debt and may require government bailouts or nationalization.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Economic Recovery is "Engineered Wrongly"

David Roche, the President of Independent Strategy Limited (London), says that the economic recovery is "engineered wrongly" and will result in a much bigger worldwide economic problem later on.  This new problem will be caused by sovereign debt defaults, and when it happens there will be no more tools left in the box to fight it.

What Mr. Roche doesn't seem to realize is that this is a purposeful strategy.
By overloading the system, the capitalist rule book can be made to fail, and then be replaced with the socialist rulebook.

But you can't overload it in one obvious move.  You overload it gradually with entitlements, regulation, taxes, and governmental expansions into previously private institutions -- all the while raising public expectations that the government will provide for them.  Then, as failures occur, you "solve" each crisis in ways that increase governmental power and sow the seeds of larger crises later on.  The people, clamoring for what they have been promised, beg the government to take over and save them.

This is the basic Cloward-Piven strategy of orchestrated crises, and it has been going on in fits and starts since the late 1960's.  Since Obama came to power, it has become the basic purpose of government in the United States.

For example, if you want a governmental takeover of the nation's entire healthcare system. you first need to destroy the existing system.  So you load it down with impossible demands to force the insurance companies to fail, and doctors to leave.  As the system gets worse and worse, the people become more and more dissatisfied, and are then ready to accept a completely government-run system.

In the mean time, you can execute the same strategy with banks, investment houses, car companies, and major industries of every sort.

The idea is to bring the entire capitalist system to its knees, and make the people completely dependent on government.  Then the government will have the power to run the country "correctly", with "true economic justice" and with "everyone's basic needs satisfied."

As Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Only a fool would think that diplomacy and sanctions will work

China's UN ambassador, Li Baodong, said today that the six party talks regarding Iran's nuclear program were "very constructive"--which means that there is no agreement.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said that the six would meet again "very soon" -- which means "someday maybe, but it is not on my schedule."

I figure that these two images must be from their UN badge photos.

It appears that sanctions against Iran are not forthcoming.  China is currently shipping gasoline to Iran to make up for the European countries that have stopped.  (Iran has vast oil reserves, but very little refining capability -- except for uranium refining capability.)  And both China and Brazil have steadfastly refused to go along with sanctions.  The head of Brazil even stated that Iran should indeed have nuclear weapons -- because Israel does.  Never mind the fact that Israel doesn't threaten its neighbors with apocalyptic genocide like Iran.  And Russia's Medvedev stated today that he was not in favor of paralyzing or crippling sanctions.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

It is interesting to note that Brazil has a fully functioning nuclear infrastructure.  It is estimated that they could produce about six weapons per year with the centrifuges they are currently known to have.

But sanctions are of no value anyway.  We could physically close Iran's borders and set up a naval blockade and they would simply keep on developing nukes.  This is why:
Ahmadinejad, socialized in the 1980s into the ethos of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is continuing the legacy of the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose global agenda aimed to destroy American hegemony in the Middle East and “wipe Israel off the map.” A unique aspect of this Shi’ite outlook is a dualistic division of the world into oppressors (the West) and oppressed (Third World countries), with radical Islam and the impoverished masses locked in an apocalyptic battle against the US and Israel, the Great Satan and its little brother.

Still more ominous, however, is the influence of Ahmadinejad’s mentor, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mezhab-Yazdi, who has instilled in Iran’s president the conviction that Shi’ites can, and must, hasten the coming of the mahdi, or messiah – the 12th and final Hidden Imam – by advancing “the clash of civilizations,” Armageddon and the end of days by, for instance, precipitating a nuclear war.

In his book A Lethal Obsession, scholar of anti-Semitism Robert Wistrich argues that “Western decision-makers have not fully internalized the jihadist and eschatological dimensions of Iranian policy – the full implications of its underlying ideology, aspirations, and values.” As a result, economic sanctions, no matter how “crippling,” won’t work. Rational cost-benefit decision-making processes are not in play.
Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mezhab-Yazdi

It is useless to attempt to dissuade a religious Armageddon imperative by using sanctions on trade.  It is like....hmmmm.  Well, I was going to try to make a comparison of a foreign power trying to convince the US to give up our beliefs, but now that I think about it, we have no beliefs that we wouldn't give up.

I suppose we used to.   We used to be a Christian nation, but we are no longer.  We used to believe in an American philosophy of individual freedom.  Now we believe in forced diversity and equivalency of all cultures -- except for those of old white men.  We used to believe in "The American Dream" of working hard and building your own life and wealth.  Now we want the government to punish all rich people and provide free housing, food, and health care.  We are fat dumb and happy -- barefoot and vulnerable in a world of rapine violence.

Actually this is quite a revelation in itself.  We are in a cultural war, but we have no strongly held shared cultural beliefs at all.  Our opponent is driven by a vast, strong, and absolutely imperative shared belief structure that drives him to jihad -- a conquering of all unbelievers.  Our enemy has billions of adherents willing to die -- to kill themselves even -- in order to propagate their faith and law.

Just based on that, if you were to place a bet on who will be ruling the world in 50 years, who would you pick?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Flat Tax -- Simple and Fair

You oughta watch this.  It's entertaining and makes you say, "Of course!  We should have a flat tax!  Why don't we do it?"

The answer of course is that politicians loathe anything that even smells of true fairness.  They trade in class envy and favors.  A flat tax would take away their power to grant favors to fat cats and the poor alike.

By the way, YouTube is having serious troubles running embedded videos through proxy servers. If you see an error message just click the image again to watch the video directly on YouTube.


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Second Coming


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats 1919


The Soros Institute for New Economic Thinking

Last week George Soros inaugurated his "Institute for New Economic Thinking" at Kings College, London.   You will be hearing much about this institute in the years to come.  It is a collection of socialist economists dedicated to remaking the entire world economic system.  It seeks to develop a new science of economics based on the concept of "economic justice" or "economic ethics", instead of property rights and capitalist freedom. 

Soros is known as the "Man Who Broke the Bank of England", famously making over a billion dollars during the UK currency crisis of 1992.  He recently retired from the chairmanship of Soros Fund Management.  He is the founder of the Open Society Institute and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations.  His wealth is estimated at $13 billion, but he has given away an estimated $7 billion more to a wide variety of charitable and political organizations -- much of which support socialist causes.

His record shows that he is against communism and advocates democracy -- but he extends that philosophy to "economic democracy" where the people (i.e. democratic governments) control industry and business.  He portrays himself as a champion of the oppressed, a devotee of liberty.  But he hates the United States and wants a very different world -- a world of governmental control.

He believes in a new world government capable of enforcing world laws, strong governmental control of markets and banks, a new world currency, direct wealth transfer to third-world countries via a worldwide tax, and limits on wealth and consumption.  He wants the US to be disarmed, and all private ownership of guns banned.  He sees European-style cradle-to-grave socialism as the ideal.  He sees China as a potential new world leader.

The name "Soros" is made up; his actual family name is Schwarz.  According to his Wikipedia article, in  Hungarian (his birth language), "Soros" means "next in line" or "designated successor".  In Esperanto, it means "will soar".  (Update: It has been pointed out to me that "designated successor" and "next in line" are synonymous with "Prince", which you might find somewhat disturbing after reading my comments below.)

Soros spent enormous sums of money in the 2004 US presidential campaign in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat George Bush (whose administration he called "The Bubble of American Supremacy").  In the last election, he spent enormous sums of money on promoting Obama.

Soros is the money behind Obama's throne:  He is seen below in this creepy image of Obama descending from a dark heaven.  He reminds me of the little demon shown off to the side in old medieval triptychs.  Or maybe the child of the devil glimpsed in Mel Gibson's movie:

Obama Descending from Heaven
A fund-raiser at Steven and Judy Gluckstern's home, April 9, 2007.
George Soros is the only one seated (to the right of the stairs).
New York Magazine 15 April 2007. Photo by Michael Edwards.
(click image for larger version)

In essence, Soros simply does not like the United States.  He doesn't like our freedom, our wealth, and our power in the world.  He has been working for at least 30 years to destroy the "empire" of the United States.  Clearly, he sees Obama as a way to further his goal.

It is difficult to describe all of the ways he has worked to destroy our country because there are so many.  I could list hundreds of films that the Soros Documentary Fund has produced (with Robert Redford's Sundance Institute) that are critical of virtual every aspect of US policy and culture, or a list of all the hundreds of anti-US NGOs and other groups that he has given millions to (maybe billions).  Then there are books, and investments in businesses founded by famous leftists, and legal support of anti-US terrorists, and the build up of the carbon tax infrastructure, and support to environmental organizations that seek the de-industrialization of the world.

It is an enormous propaganda and world action machine intended to overload the current capitalist economic system.  Failures in the system can then be counteracted with solutions that load the system even more, leading to larger and larger failures.  In true Cloward-Piven style, the "establishment" rule book will be destroyed and then replaced with a socialist one.  (For example, the new US health care plan is purposefully designed to fail, leading to the people clamoring for its replacement with a fully nationalized plan.)

George Soros Biographical Comic Book
(click image for larger version)

But whenever I dig into Soros's history and ideas, it gets very confusing.  He is exceptionally -- astonishingly --  intelligent.  He is a devotee of Karl Popper's philosophies, so to understand him you really need to be completely facile in Popper.  You need to understand all of world economics too.  On the surface, he hates communism, and totalitarianism, and often presents a face that looks like he is a lover of freedom.  But how can he do the things he is doing, and fund the groups that he funds -- and even name one of his organizations (the Open Society Institute, led by PBS's Bill Moyers) after Popper's book that argues against totalitarianism -- while building a vast new totalitarianism?   Perhaps he sees himself as a philosopher-king.  But Popper argued against that too.

I just don't understand the guy -- and that is probably intentional on his part.  But the basics are there:  Soros absolutely hates the United States and the freedom and inequalities inherent in capitalism, and wants to remake the world in his image.  He selected Obama shortly after the 2004 election to be his designated destroyer, and funded him with "whatever it takes".  He stated that the election was "the primary purpose of my life".

Soros is 79 years old, looks even older, and probably won't be with us too much longer.  But his "designated successor" Barack Hussein Obama will be.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Nuclear Surrender


An essential part of deterrence over the last 50 years has been our purposefully vague policy of nuclear retaliation.  While we have always specifically stated that any nuclear attack on our country or on our allies would be responded to with the full power of our nuclear arsenal, we have never really defined -- publicly at least -- under what other circumstances we would use nukes.  And we have never committed to a "no first strike" policy.

This, combined with the fact that we have actually used nuclear weapons on two cities, has left our adversaries with the belief that any significant attack could well earn them a hit with the big nuclear stick.

This nuclear posture has resulted in 50 years without a big war.  Europe has remained free, Israel's existence has remained unchallenged, the Russians have been deterred (after we explained the situation more fully in the Cuban missile crisis), China pretty much stayed out of Vietnam, and the US has remained the shining beacon of freedom.  All without even using one nuclear weapon.

But now, Obama has spelled out that we will never use nuclear weapons unless attacked by a country with nuclear weapons -- with the exception that we may attack North Korea and Iran, and any other NPT non-compliant nations.  We are also committed to reducing our arsenal and eventually eliminating it.

What does this do?

First of all, by eliminating the ambiguity and restricting our responses to attack, all of our adversaries can consolidate and revise their contingency war plans.  Everything becomes simpler for them.  The percentage of plans that have positive results increases dramatically, and viable plans with negative results have less severe negative results.  The world has instantly become more dangerous, since attacks on the US and our allies are now safer to make.  This is just basic game theory -- which Obama apparently does not understand.

Next, everyone needs to understand that the Cold War never ended.  We did not win.  The US and the Russians still retain their missiles, aircraft, subs, and nuclear weapons, and they are all still pointed at military targets and cities.  (Yes, I know that officially they are targeted to "broad ocean areas", but these are just the default targets.  In a real war, the targets next down on the list would be designated.  BOA is a political fiction.)

So we still need good old Cold War deterrence.

One of the main arguments since the 1950's  for developing and maintaining our nuclear deterrent has been that it is a very inexpensive way of defending our country and our friends and allies.  In Europe, for example, Russia has always had vast numbers of tanks and troops that could be used to invade.  We and our NATO allies have a token force -- backed up by tactical nuclear weapons.  Without the nukes, our defense was not credible, and would have required vastly more soldiers and equipment to become credible.

So, by reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, our defense costs will go up.  To get to the point where we have the same deterrence value as nuclear weapons could be exceptionally expensive.  Nukes kept the peace for 50 years.  What enormous level of conventional weapons would have been required without nukes?  How big would our army have had to have been to contain the USSR, even if they had not had nukes either?

Of course, we are now assuming that Russia will disarm too.  Maybe they will.  But over the last 15 years, they have been busy developing new nuclear bombs, and mobile and submarine-launched ICBMs with very modern capabilities.  We have been stagnant for the last 30 years, with no new nuclear weapon delivery system since the Peacekeeper missile -- and it has been decommissioned.  Our ICBM forces date from the mid 1970's.  This doesn't augur well for us.

And then there are the other upcoming adversaries like Iran and North Korea who are developing nuclear weapons -- and potential future adversaries like Pakistan who already have nukes, and could well be taken over by the Islamists.

The zealotry of our new adversaries is much different from that of our staid, basically rational Russian adversaries of the last half of the 20th century.  I would argue that the world is much less safe now than it was back then, and will likely be much worse in 20 years.

So by reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons, we will end up with a much more dangerous world, and it will cost us much more to defend the US and our allies.

One of Obama's statements is particularly concerning:  We will no longer be developing any new nuclear bombs or weapon systems.  This locks us into whatever we have now, while Iran, North Korea, the Russians -- and God knows who else  --  march ahead with nuclear technology.  It is easy to foresee a time in only a few years when the US has no nukes (or at least old nukes of dubious functionality, since we can no longer test them), and other nations have the ability to attack us with nukes.  We will then have to do whatever they say.

And we will no longer have the ability to build new nuclear weapons in the future.  The production of nukes is difficult and dependent on many subtle factors.  By eliminating our entire nuclear weapon infrastructure, Obama is eliminating the knowledge base we would have to rely on if we would ever need to develop new weapons.  A few years from now, after all of our true experts have died off, it could well take us 10 years -- even with a crash program -- to get back to where we were.  Maybe 20 years if we have to do it clandestinely in a world ruled by others.  Or more likely never.

If we want to remain free, we will need nuclear weapons.  And with the zealotry insanity of our new enemies, simple deterrence may fail.  That is a harsh fact of reality in the world today. 

Obama's apparent lack of understanding of basic nuclear game theory and basic foreign affairs, combined with his naive belief  and trust in our adversaries, is leading us to a completely untenable position in the world.

I say his "apparent lack of understanding" because once again I see the alternate explanation.  If Obama wanted to destroy our country, what would he be doing differently?