November 19, 2012

“Ron Paul is the San Antonio Spurs of Congress”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:21

I don’t follow NBA teams, but David Boaz is making a valid point here:

One thing nobody ever points out is that Ron Paul is the San Antonio Spurs of Congress. When they won their third NBA championship in seven years, Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise praised the resilience of the Spurs, who kept coming back to win without ever being quite a Bulls-style dynasty. He said the Spurs “had their crown taken away twice since 2003 and got it back both times.”

Similarly, Ron Paul is the only current member of Congress to have been elected three times as a non-incumbent. Given the 98 percent reelection rates for House members, it’s no great shakes to win three terms — or 10 terms — in a row. It’s winning that first one that’s the challenge. And Ron Paul has done that three times.

He first won in a special election for an open seat. He then lost his seat and won it back two years later, defeating the incumbent. After two more terms he left his seat to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Twelve years later, in 1996, he ran again for Congress, again defeating an incumbent, this time in the Republican primary. Some political scientist should study the political skills it takes to win election to Congress without the benefit of incumbency — three times.

Like many libertarians, I’ve had my differences with Ron Paul on trade agreements, immigration, gay rights and federalism, and his failure to repudiate the associates who put his name on their bigoted newsletters. But as long as he keeps recruiting people, especially young people, to the cause of limited constitutional government, sound money, and non-intervention, I’m glad to see him making an impact.

Rethinking US immigration policies

Filed under: Americas, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

Steve Chapman on the need of both the Democrats and the Republicans to come up with more realistic approaches to solving the illegal immigration problem:

Both sides also agree that a balanced, two-part approach is in order: stricter enforcement and improved border security on one hand and a pathway to legalization on the other. It’s an excellent plan — except for that first part.

To say we need more enforcement to seal the border is like saying we should re-invade Iraq. In the first place, we’ve already ramped up enforcement in every way imaginable. In the second place, it hasn’t solved the problem — and in fact has largely backfired.

[. . .]

G.K. Chesterton wrote that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Enforcement enthusiasts think the same is true of their preferred option. From them, you would think every migrant sneaking across the Arizona border only had to get by an unarmed attendant sitting in a folding chair and playing Angry Birds on an iPhone.

In fact, the southern border increasingly resembles the Berlin Wall. Border security has become the poster child of big government programs that conservatives typically abhor. It never succeeds, and every failure becomes the rationale for additional funding.

Victims of state-sponsored violence in Pakistan and Gaza

Filed under: Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

Brendan O’Neill wonders why fans of Obama’s re-election (and therefore also of his bloody record of drone strikes in Pakistan) are almost uniformly against Israel’s counter-attacks in Gaza:

All the people who two weeks ago were ecstatically cheering the re-election of Barack Obama are now having paroxysms of fury over Israel. Where the blogs, Twitterfeeds and daily conversations of these caring, Left-leaning folk were packed to bursting point with glowing praise for Obama on 7 November, now they are full of scorn for Israel and its inhuman, bloodthirsty bombing of Gaza. The intensity of these individuals’ delirium over Obama’s second term now finds its match in the intensity of their disgust with Israel’s military antics.

Which is weird, when you consider that Obama, their hero, has already done to the tribal regions of Pakistan what Israel, their nemesis, is now doing to Gaza.

Obama, like Israel, launches bombing raids on foreign militants, and Obama, like Israel, ends up killing innocent people in the process. Indeed, of the 283 drone strikes launched by Obama in rural regions of Pakistan over the past four years, which have killed an estimated 2,600 people, only 13 per cent have successfully killed an al-Qaeda or Taliban militant. Shockingly, this means that around 2,200 non-militant Pakistanis — or what we might call innocents — have been killed by Obama: bombed in their beds, or while herding sheep, or while driving their cars. This death toll dwarfs what has been unleashed by Israel over the past week or during the first Gaza war in 2008, when around 1,400 Palestinians died.

[. . .]

What is behind these mammoth double standards? Is it that Pakistanis are considered less important than Palestinians, and therefore there’s no need to protest when they get killed? Is it that Obama is viewed as so supercool and liberal that he can bomb whom he likes and still his cheerleaders won’t kick up a fuss? Is it because Israel is a Jewish State, and we are more offended by the sight of Jews bombing brown people than we are by the sight of America’s Democratic Party bombing brown people? What is it? There must be some explanation. Perhaps if you are one of those people who cheered Obama’s re-election and is now jeering at Israel’s militarism you might take a few minutes to tell us why some forms of militarism make you see red, and others do not.

Space-Age technology on Earth, but not so much in space

Filed under: Science, Space, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

In The Register, Shaun Dormon explains why almost all the electronic components used on modern spacecraft, satellites, and the International Space Station (ISS) are actually not cutting-edge, top-of-the-line items:

I hate to say it, but most of what you think about space-age technology is a total fabrication. It’s the stuff of sci-fi.

Perhaps the biggest misconception of all is that spacecraft are equipped with cutting-edge computing platforms that any self-respecting technophile would commit unspeakable acts to get their mitts on.

If only. The fact of the matter is that even the most advanced chips up there were considered obsolete ten years ago down here. Although it’s true that in space no one can hear you scream, outer space is actually a very noisy place, electromagnetically speaking.

The computer on your desk is very unlikely to experience much in the way of EM radiation unless someone cuts a hole in the side of the kitchen microwave. Out in orbit, though, there are many sources of radiation, ranging from the relatively mundane stuff pouring out of the Sun and collecting in the Van-Allen radiation belts to more exotic things such as cosmic rays and other high-energy particles that cause so-called “single-event effects”.

[. . .]

The damage is cumulative. Individually, an impact causes the ionisation of a single oxide molecule present in the semiconductor. It’s not enough to cause instant failure, but as more and more impacts take place, the effects combine to significantly alter the electrical properties of the circuit until it can no longer function correctly.

More exciting dangers arise from exposure to gamma or cosmic rays. These ultra-high energy impacts cause localised ionisation which results in an unexpected flow of current. In the case of a lower energy event, this may result in a “single event upset” or “bit-flip”, and data corruption can ensue. These are not usually fatal to the system. No so the worst case “single event burnout”, which creates such high currents that the very circuitry itself is burned out almost instantaneously.

Hurricane Sandy, storm surges, and superstition

In sp!ked, Dominic Standish looks at how some recent extreme weather incidents are being attributed to climate change/global warming without sufficient scientific evidence:

Hurricane Sandy brought havoc in the Caribbean, especially Haiti, and caused approximately 60 deaths. Then the storm hit the US east coast; New York experienced exceptional floods and at least 40 people lost their lives. Next, Venice in Italy witnessed high flooding on 11 November, when the city’s tide measurements reached their sixth-highest level for 140 years. No one died from these floods in Venice, but — like Haiti and New York — the economic impact was significant.

Global warming was widely blamed for the flooding, yet in all three cases flooding was principally caused by storm surges. In the Caribbean and America, there was an unfortunate convergence of weather systems creating storm surges. As Hurricane Sandy swirled north in the Atlantic and towards land, a wintry storm headed towards it from the West and cold air was blowing south from the Arctic. After the hurricane devastated parts of the Caribbean, it moved towards the north-east of the US, pushing water up the estuaries of New York into the city. Venice’s floods were unconnected to Hurricane Sandy, but were also caused by high winds creating storm surges pushing water through the three inlets between the sea and the Venetian lagoon towards the city. Subsidence over the past century has made Venice more susceptible to storm surges. Nevertheless, after 70 per cent of Venice was under water on 11 November, Italy’s environment minister, Corrado Clini, insisted that global climate change was to blame.

Although storm surges were the cause of the floods in all three locations, global warming was widely identified as the culprit. Of course, we cannot ignore climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established in 2007 that there was a global temperature rise of 0.74 degrees Celsius between 1906 and 2005, which added to global sea levels rising by an average rate of 1.8 millimetres per year from 1961. We need to have an open debate about climate change and its relationship with bad weather events. Some argue that climate change has increased hurricanes and storm surges, while others suggest there is insufficient evidence to prove this link. Whether climate change impacts on the frequency and strength of hurricanes remains uncertain, yet global warming has definitely been deployed as a superstitious narrative to close down discussion.

Update: Of course, the storm damage will eventually repaired and the federal government will pay the lion’s share of the costs. This is one of the bigger causes of rising costs due to storm damage along the US coastline: properties that are more exposed to damage keep getting rebuilt. Here’s an example from Dauphin Island, Alabama:

The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since 1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand onto the roads.

Yet time and again, checks from Washington have allowed the town to put itself back together.

Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.

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