Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Massive Protest Shuts Down Iranian Port of Bandar Abbas

It is not a good idea to make it tougher on truckers and ferrrymen in Iran.

The port of Bandar Abbas is one of Iran’s major shipping hubs, as well as a big naval base in the Straits of Hormuz, and the site of a big refinery.  It is now in chaos.  Thousands of trucks, many of them loaded with imported foodstuffs, commercial goods of all description, and even oil products, have blocked the city’s roads, effectively ending all movement in and around the port.  The drivers simply shut down their rigs, took the coils out of the engines, and walked away.  On the water, there’s a similar shutdown of the hundreds of small boats and ferries that usually carry thousands of people each day to the nearby islands as well as to Dubai.  They have clogged the harbor, and nothing is moving.

These kind of strikes crippled the Communist Regime in Poland. Let's see if they cripple the Mullacrocy. Now the Saudis next move in the Great Game will be dump millions of barrels of oil on the market and tank the price of oil. As the Iranian economy gets worse so do the chances that the Mullahs will hold on to power.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Yet Another Sign of a Gold Bubble: A Gold Dispensing ATM

Yes, some idiot put in an ATM machine that dispenses gold in Florida.

Shoppers who are looking for something sparkly to put under the Christmas tree can skip the jewelry and go straight to the source: an ATM that dispenses shiny 24-carat gold bars and coins.

A German company installed the machine Friday at an upscale mall in Boca Raton, a South Florida paradise of palm trees, pink buildings and wealthy retirees.

I can kind of see such a thing in Abu Dhabi where people like to flush money down the toilet but now it is happening in the US in a retirement capital like Boca Raton. I hope these retirees are diversifying away from gold because there are more and more signs that there is a bubble.

The thing that pushed me over the top were these kiosks at Ala Moana that were willing to buy gold from you. There is nothing that says bubble more than trying to buy something from someone at the mall. That means the natural market is tapped so you are trying to solicit from whatever market you have left. Does this Gold Kiosk company actually think that people go "I'll think I'll have a Cinnabon and then sell some gold bullion I have laying around."

Kiosks and a push toward the lower end market is the exact bubble sign that we got before the debt bubble burst. I mean they were shoveling out loan refi offers to everyone in mailing distance no matter if they should be buying a house or not. Things got idiotic right before the bubble burst and I think it is happening in gold as well.

So as a consequence I am now short gold using the PowerShares DB Gold Double Short ETN. I mean there is no way the price of gold is sustainable when people are rolling out Gold spitting ATMs and trying to buy the stuff from you in front of the As Seen on TV Store. Now the last sign will be someone saying gold will go to $10,000 a ounce or say "this time the market for gold is different" or other nonsense.

Iran Blames the West for a Suicide Bomber? Um, it I think it Was the Saudis

These people are getting crazier and crazier.

Iran's supreme leader on Friday blamed the West for a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque this week, saying the country's enemies were trying to divide Muslims and halt its nuclear activities.

The armed Sunni militant group Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's double bombing outside a Shiite mosque in the southeastern port city of Chahbahar near the Pakistan border, which killed 39 people.

Um, earth to Ali Khamenei it was not the West that was behind this suicide bomber. I mean you couldn't get a Western non-Muslim suicide bomber with less than Manchurian Candidate level of brainwashing. I would be willing to look to your south for the culprit. I would bet you millions that Jundallah has more than a few Saudi Riyals in their bank account.

It is good to see Saudi money spent to fight against Iran but suicide bombing a Mosque is not the way to go. The Saudis really need to back the Green Movement in Iran in whatever way they can. You win the Game as soon as crazies like Ali Khamenei are shown the door and a moderate or even a democratic regime comes into power.

In any case I think this might be the first shots fired in a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran. I mean Wikileaks shows that Saudis would love to see Iran fall. Now the Saudis can play with a free hand and start to agitate in earnest. I guess using the idea of using the US as a proxy army is falling apart so they need to go to groups like Jundallah for the next stage.

IBMs 5 New Innovations for the Next 5 Years: Can't Wait or Waste of Time?

Well this is an interesting list of innovations. Here is my take on them.

1. Better batteries: Though battery capacity and power have traditionally only improved about 7 percent  a year, IBM thinks we may see smaller batteries that last 10 times longer than today’s.

Okay, I see these happening but what are the materials and will it be significantly more expensive than what we have now? If people are paying hundreds more for a few extra hours it will not be worth it. In any case getting more battery life from a smart phone will be well worth it to many people. However, the battery life on most of the products I use is more than efficient for my needs. I guess it is because I always plug in my netbook when it is on and my Blackberry gets like 3 - 4 days worth of charge. I will certainly not pay much extra for a super-battery.

2. 3D holograms: We’ve reported on early holographic tests, but things will get a lot more real. 3D holograms will infect phones, TVs, and all sorts of screens, making 3D something consumers actually want. No glasses needed. 

I'm pretty sure that this is a waste of time because I'm not sure how popular 3D actually is or will be. I mean there hasn't been a huge jump in people buying 3D TVs this holiday season as far as I know. I am certainly not clamoring for 3D on a phone. It will be a big shrug like watching TV on a phone has been. The idea of a tiny 3D image coming out of an IPhone does not thrill me in the least.

I know 3D is a big hit at the movie theater but it is mostly a way for them to charge a higher price for pretty much the same product. It is just value added and it doesn't "make the movie" in anything except for Avatar. Also there isn't a huge jump in total moviegoers due to 3D from the data I have seen. There might be a huge number of people clamoring for 3D everywhere but I just can't see it.

3. Computer heat: IBM hopes to harness the energy produced by massive farms of computer servers and use it to heat and cool other buildings.

I think this will be great for server farms and things but worthless to everyone else. The problem I have is that aren't most server farms are away from buildings that can harness the heat? I can see the heat being used for different things in the building that house the servers but not for much else. However, if IBM figured a way to harness the heat and turn it into energy then you would have something. Other than that this is basically a waste of time.

4. Personalized GPS: Android phones already have turn-by-turn navigation, but IBM predicts this technology can get a whole lot better by pulling real-time traffic data, advising alternate routes, and even telling you how many parking spots are available in a nearby lot. Pretty cool, right? 

Now this I believe will be the big winner in the next 5 years. The idea of a GPS pulling real-time data and using it for something like telling you if there is parking at your destination is awesome. This goes double for a GPS system that is tied into Google Maps that shows you the location of all sorts of different places around you. Kind of like a viewfinder App that scans your position and tells you all the food choices that are in your immediate area. There are all sort of interesting uses for GPS other than finding where something is. I think the usage of this technology will be very innovative in the coming years.

5. Citizen scientists: Finally, in five years, IBM believes that sensors in smartphones, cars, computers, and social networks will help scientists get a real-time picture of where and how you live. In other words, ordinary people will be able to donate their personal data to help scientific research. 

Ugh, I hope this doesn't become a norm especially with the chicanery that some scientists engaged in during the Global Warming mess. They were certainly not the sober-headed arbiters of facts that scientists are supposed to be. Instead they were zealots who cooked the books and obscured the real science that they were supposed to be doing.

However, the ordinary people donating personal data thing might take off in the hands of marketers who will pay you directly for your personal information. The idea of studying your browser history, your social network usage, your purchasing habits, and the pattern of your everyday life will become incredibly valuable. Especially if they can get a whole bunch of this data together to form certain patterns.

I think the personal marketing plan will be the next big thing going forward. Google or whomever will know you better than your do how to sell you stuff. Also from studying your habits and millions like you they will be able to sell marketers the best basket of information that they ever had. So I think the days of seeing generic pitches or scattershot marketing plans will be a thing of the past. So a person like me will only see ads for video games, sour candy, sports, and the things I like and will be the most likely to buy.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Taliban Tet Offensive?

This George Will article makes quite a bit of sense if you were Taliban fighting against the US.

Might the Taliban's tactics, techniques and procedures (in military argot, TTP) make possible a spike in violence in some way comparable to Tet in its impact on American opinion? No one knows this, or how another attack on America, perhaps launched from Yemen, might affect public support for what are explained as prophylactic operations in Afghanistan. 

The problem with the Tet Offensive it crippled the Vietcong and the North still had to fight on for 7 more years in order to achieve victory. Even then if the US had supported the South one more time they might have been able to beat back the offensive of April 1975.  It is not a done deal but I would be willing to bet the US would come to the aid of Afghanistan if Taliban Tanks started to mass outside of Kabul.

However, an all out attack by the Taliban might damage public opinion enough that the Americans might draw down sooner but it is quite a gamble. The Taliban wins as soon as the last American leaves the country and you are still around to see them go. To them a waiting game is the winning hand.

If the Americans were smart they would just say that they will be in Afghanistan for 200 years like the British did. That could be a lie and you would still draw down by a certain date but your enemy will think you are in for the long haul. The Taliban might need to negotiate if they know that they can never drive the Americans out no matter what they do.

In fact if the Taliban was a smart player in the Great Game they should simply found their own country and look to the UN to watch their back. I'm sure they could get Russia and China to back them simply to pin a defeat on the Americans. They can forswear violence and build up their "self-defense" forces and wait for the Americans to leave then attack Afghanistan or even Pakistan.

Here your bet will be on the Americans or NATO failing to return to the region after they have been run off. They would be betting that the world powers will "condemn with the strongest possible terms" but not send troops to bomb you. I would take that bet because you aren't threatening oil fields or Gulf Shipping or anything like that so the Great Powers would have more then enough reason to ignore you.

About the only thing the West would care about is if you took over a Pakistani nuclear site. If that happened you would have the keys to the kingdom and ransom the world if you wanted. But using the UN to forward your agenda is a time honored tradition of belligerent nations.

When Does Oil Cost $220,000 a Barrel? When the government Tries to Clean it Up?

Now this has to be the worst waste of money since the "Failed Stimulus Bill."

In the end, the report concludes, the berms captured "not much more than" 1,000 barrels of oil, compared with the nearly five million barrels that were released from BP's Macondo well. When considered against the $220 million BP has spent as of last month on constructing the berm project, it "does not survive a rigorous cost-benefit analysis," the report said.
Yup, these berms cost $220 million and trapped only 1000 barrels. That means BP shelled out $220,000 per barrel of oil captured. So that goes right up there with the $160,000 cost for every job the Failed Stimulus created.

The White House argues that the actual job number is actually larger than 640,000 -- closer to 1 million jobs when one factors in stimulus jobs added in October and, more importantly, jobs created indirectly, such as "the waitress who's still on the job," Vice President Biden said today.

So let's see. Assuming their number is right -- 160 billion divided by 1 million. Does that mean the stimulus costs taxpayers $160,000 per job?

This is the part I hate about giving the government my tax money every year. The Return on Investment is atrocious by any measure you use. It is either frittered away on something stupid or it costs 10x more than it should to get anything accomplished.

If you were investing in US Government Equities Inc. it would be trading on the Pink Sheets. You look at the balance sheet and there is too much debt, the growth is about 1/3 of the other big countries, and we have a clueless newbie at CEO. If we didn't have such a robust product with such awesome employees we would have gone bankrupt years ago. I guess we are like those hard luck investors who turn a loss into a long term investment while they wait for a turn-around.

The ObamaCare End-Around: Escalate the Fines for Not Signing Up at the Beginning

Well there seems to be a built-in fall back that the White House can take if the individual mandate in ObamaCare is declared unconstitutional.

Medicare's coverage for doctor visits is voluntary and carries a separate premium, yet more than nine in 10 older people sign up. The reason is simple: Those who opt out when they first become eligible face a lifelong penalty that escalates the longer they wait.

The same kind of penalty could be incorporated into the health care overhaul to replace its current mandate that all those who can afford a policy must get one. It would be a stiff nudge to enroll healthy people who are potentially reluctant. That's needed to help keep premiums affordable because the law takes away the ability of insurers to turn away sick people.

In other words if the person buys health insurance at 26 (when they come off of their parents plan) they will face no fine. But if they choose to go without health insurance and then decide to buy it at 36 they could face a huge penalty for non-compliance 10 years ago. This seems perfectly legal because Medicare has it the same trick in it and that wasn't declared unconstitutional.

One bad thing jumps right out at me though. Why would you sign up at age 36 or 46 or any time thereafter if you failed to do so at 26? I mean you would be on the hook for big penalties so there will be a financial disincentive to signing up later on. So if you could not afford to pay for health insurance at 26 (like many people who are just starting a career) you are screwed later on when you actually have the money to buy health insurance.

So the choice is to either have less money at 26 or pay a big fine later on. So you could possibly go your whole life without health insurance because you could not afford to buy in at 26. What this does is create messed up behavior like people not wanting to accept their companies insurance because they cant afford to pay the fine when they are enrolled. Then you will have some companies dropping their insurance because their employees cannot afford to pay the fine to sign up.

The funny part is that the only people that will take this one in the face is 20 somethings that voted Obama into office. They have to make the choice to buy a product that they statistically don't need for the sole purpose of making things cheaper for older people. Then they might even get penalized for waiting to make the decision to buy the thing when they can actually afford it. I wonder if this is the hope and change that they voted for?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Came out of the Cancun Climate Meeting? The First World will Subsidize Trees

It seems that the Climate Poo-Bas are trying something other than muzzling first world economies or trying to keep the poor of developing countries from becoming middle class. Now they are subsidizing trees.

How rich countries envision finding that $100 billion is suggested by a little-noticed provision concerning deforestation. Many participants have cited the Cancún Agreements concerning REDD (Reductions in Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) as another cause for optimism. After all, deforestation causes roughly as many emissions globally as transportation does, and the Agreements pledge to give developing countries financial incentives to leave forests standing.

In other words we will be giving Third and Forth world countries billions so that they don't cut down their trees. I'm not sure if we get to own the trees or if a country can double count trees so that they can get more money. I just came up with another headline from the future:

"Green Climate Fund Rife With Corruption and Abuse; Billions Unaccounted For"

I will be willing to bet even-money that this will turn out to be a $100 billion a year "Oil For Food" where hordes of UN diplomats siphon millions per year from it to fund their degenerate lifestyles/pay for villas in Gstaad. Everyone is going to get fat off of the so called Green Climate Fund. The Green won't stand for the environment I can tell you that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Oregon Ducks Unveil BCS Uniforms: What a Missed Opportunity

Well it looks like the Ducks have unveiled your uniforms for the BCS game and they look pretty mundane to me. I was hoping for something truly crazy since Nike is sponsoring them. The neon green socks are absolutely awful but they are pretty much generic white with an all gray helmet. Yawn, it is boring and has no soul. Plus the number looks like it was burned in or something.

What I really thought they should do was to use throwbacks to honor the Duck teams from the past. For instance this one is from the 1920 Rose Bowl. Instead of the leatherheads they would go with an all brown current helmets. Kind of what the Green Bay Packers did earlier in the season:

It might be too old for some people but it does show the tradition that the Ducks have had throughout the history of college football. However I really thought the 1957 team would have been a pretty cool throwback since it represents one of the best Oregon teams from the past. In 1957 the Ducks went 7-3 and went to the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately they lost 7-10 to the Woody Hayes coached Ohio State Buckeyes team that shared the National Championship that year. However, it would have been such a cool nod to the old Oregon teams of the past.

What was interesting is that Ohio State shared the 1957 Championship with Auburn. What would really be nuts is if Auburn busts out these uniforms that they used for a throwback game in 2007. They could honor that 1957 Championship team and get a little mojo to keep themselves perfect like they did that season.

What is The "Imagination" Diet?

What it is is an interesting experiment in habituation.

The experiments at Carnegie Mellon are the first to show that habituation to food can occur simply by thinking about eating, according to Dr. Morewedge and his colleagues Young Eun Huh and Joachim Vosgerau

The habituation occurred as people imagined eating 30 M & M’s or 30 cubes of Kraft Cheddar, one at a time. They were shown photos of each M & M for three seconds, and each cube of cheese for five seconds. 

The habituation effect didn’t occur when people imagined eating just three M & M’s or cubes of cheese. Nor did it occur when people imagined moving M & M’s one at a time into a bowl or doing other mental tasks, like feeding quarters into a laundry machine. 

So this is literally mind over matter when you imagine eating the food and then get full from the thoughts. So you don't just eat a few the whet your apatite but you actually satiate yourself using your imagination. I wonder if you have a good imagination you can actually experience eating the thing without actually putting it in your mouth? This is also an interesting wrinkle:

The effect required lots of mental eating, and it was specific to each food: the people who imagined eating chocolate didn’t lose their desire for cheese. 

The imaginary eating didn’t make people feel any fuller, and it didn’t change their overall opinion of M & M’s or Kraft cheese cubes. They just didn’t feel like eating as much of it at that moment. 

So they satiated themselves by mentally eating 30 M&Ms but it didn't stop them wanting to eat cheese? Now that is an interesting variation. I know most foods I eat are only good for like 3 or 4 bites then it becomes a slog to the finish. Oreo Cookie Shakes from Jack-in-the-Box are case in point. I like the first few sips then by the end I want to throw the thing away. I wonder if a really richly imagined drinking of the the shake would make me not want to drink it? I will do some research on this.

Monday, December 13, 2010

ObamaCare Dealt the First Blow by Federal Judge

Well, I guess this is the beginning of a long court process that will end up with the Supreme Court striking down the Health Insurance Mandate.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote that no court had expanded the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to allow the government to regulate a person's decision not to buy a product.

"At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it's about an individual's right to choose to participate," Hudson wrote.

This seemed like common sense that no law can compel you to buy something on threat of a fine. I had no idea how the Dems could have let that part stand up. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jaylor? Worst Couple Mash-up name Ever: Was Swillinhall Taken?

Who comes up with couple mash-ups like Jaylor (which is Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal BTW?) The other couple mash-up mentioned in this article was Robsten which is Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. I would prefer Stewpatt which is a little more catchy. I guess they don't make these celebrity mash-ups using their last names. Also Tayke which is the other mash-up for Swillinhall would have been too weird. 

In any case here is a headline from the future: "Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Swift Break Up After Several Months of Coffee Dates. Gyllenhaal Now Seeing *Insert Young Starlets Name*"

Congressional Dems Stab Obama In the Back: Urge Higher Taxes

Well, I guess they just can't wait to slip deeper into irrelevance.This has to be a rank betrayal of what Obama is promising when he talks about not raising taxes during a recession.

By voice vote in a closed caucus meeting, Democrats passed a resolution saying the tax package should not come to the House floor for consideration as written, even though no formal House bill has been drafted. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced the resolution.

Wait, they rejected the tax package even though there was no actual House bill written? Pelosi has the be the worst Speaker in memory. First she urges people to vote on Obamacare so we can "find out what is in it" now they are rejecting Obama's tax bill even though it hasn't been written yet. I think Americans are counting down the days until these idiots leave office.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Egyptian Shark Attacks are Blamed on the Environment

Ah, Global Warming what can't you prove?

George Burgess, a prominent shark expert and member of a team that flew in to Sharm el-Sheikh to help out with the probe, said they were working on the assumption something had altered the ecological balance in the coral rich coast.

"It is safe to say that the situation where you have a clump distribution in attacks, occurring after another in a limited geographical distribution, is very rare indeed," Burgess told AFP on Tuesday.

These rare cases are "associated with an attractive event that brings sharks into the area," he said, adding the event could be man-made or environmental. "There is something that altered the balance."

Um, I'm not a shark expert but the clump of attacks seem to be from one shark that hasn't been caught. Usually sharks keep going back to feed where the tasty food is. In any case this will probably show up the Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel next to all the glaciers melting in 30 years.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

BCS Tainted: Error Causes Flip Flop of Number 10 and 11 teams

I think the BCS dodged a freight train on this one because this isn't really a big deal this time.

Somehow, the domino effect from the omission of the Mountaineers' win from Colley's computer rankings – one of the six computer polls that make up a third of the BCS formula – was enough to bridge a razor-thin margin keeping LSU behind Boise State at the bottom of the top ten: When the final standings came out on Sunday night, the Tigers ranked 10th, and Boise State 11th. After independent BCS guru Jerry Palm caught the error in Colley's data, the revised standings moved the Broncos to No. 10, giving them their fourth top-10 finish in the final standings in five years.

Imagine if this happened with the No 2 and the No 3 team. Suddenly Oregon would be out and TCU would be in just like that. The only reason it would have happened is that some computer ranking service forgot to add Appalachian State beating Western Illinois 42 - 14.

What is worrying is that some BCS guru caught the error and not Colley's computer rankings. That means there is no self-checking in place and that these numbers could be tainted week to week. No one would ever know. The other 5 services guard their numbers, and their equations are proprietary, so even this Jerry Palm guy can't check them for accuracy.  Who's to say that they didn't include that same Appalachian State Game or maybe they omitted a different game instead.

This lack of transparency is a big deal IMO. We aren't talking about Pee-Wee football. Millions of dollars are at stake and this process needs to be beyond reproach. The difference between the BCS at large and the Las Vegas bowl is massive and should not be due to some shady computer model that goes on behind closed doors.

Instead we now have the idea in our heads that what other errors might lurking out there? And if there were errors did they get covered up? Did the 2004 undefeated Auburn team actually deserve to be #3 in the BCS or was there a computer glitch that robbed them of a title shot? What other teams were ripped off by these computers?

Of course there is only one answer to this mess and Ohio State's Jim Tressel has given it:

Tressel said that he thinks that we'll see change in the future with BCS. "Within five years we will be positioned for a playoff of sorts," Tressel said.

Yup a Playoff would settle all of this mess and provide some great games between now and New Years day instead of weeks of no college football with some teams having like 40 days off between the end of the season and their Bowl Game.

A Sign of a Recovery?: America Reaches for the Latte Again

It seems that Starbucks fix is starting to trickle back into America's spending habits.

But now customers who swore off frivolous spending during the recession are lining up again for their $4 caffeine fix. The company's net income nearly doubled and revenue rose 17 percent in the most recent quarter compared with a year earlier, as more Americans allowed themselves a small treat.

I guess this is what they call frugality fatigue where people miss the little luxuries and want to enjoy them again. I mean Starbucks has nearly recovered to pre-recession levels according to this. That might be as green a shoot as you can find if the consumer actually starts to spend some of the money they have been socking away.

I mean one of the top gifts this holiday season is supposed to be a $500 IPad. So as the consumer comes back to the mall we might see more of an upturn than you might think coming down the pike. Now we need to see businesses follow-through and increase production if this consumer demand continues. Maybe some of those trillions will now come off the sidelines as businesses know their tax rates for the next 2 years and they can actual chase some home grown demand.

Japan Enters the Space Age with Venus Probe

It is good to know that other countries can spare the cash to explore the heavens now that NASA has been relegated to making sure the Muslim World doesn't feel bad.

and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."

Too bad the Muslim world cannot go back to those times again. They were once the powerhouse of science but all that is in the past now. In any case it is great to see the Japanese pick up the ball now that NASA has become a self-esteem and outreach arm to Muslims.

A Japanese probe reached Venus on Tuesday and prepared to enter orbit on a two-year mission that would mark a major milestone for Japan's space program and could shed light on the climate of Earth's mysterious neighbor.

The probe, called Akatsuki, which means "dawn," would be the first Japan has ever placed into orbit around another planet and comes after the country recently brought a probe back from a trip to an asteroid.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Obama and GOP Reach Deal on Tax Cuts: At Long Last!

There might even be some goodies in this deal for regular middle class people like myself.

"For next two years, every American will keep their tax cuts," Obama said. Other provisions of the expected legislation, including the extension of unemployment benefits for another 13 months, a one-year reduction in the payroll Social Security tax rate to 4.2% from 6.2%, and a provision for businesses to write off all investments for the next year, the president said.

That payroll tax cut rate change is like a 2% raise for every working American right off the top. Now that may actually be stimulative to the economy since more Americans will feel a 2% raise then not. I would much rather they were cutting it from 6.2% to 0% but this should be a good enough start.

That second thing about writing off all investments sounds pretty good as well. I wonder if businesses with an overseas arm can now repatriate their profits tax free or not. In any case 2011 will be a good time to build a new factory or expand to another city if they haven't already done so.

Big Multiple Sclerosis Breakthrough: Stem Cells Might be Able to Regrow Myelin Sheaths

This is just the kind of medical breakthrough that I damned the Bush Administration about when it came to their asinine Stem Cell ban. We would have these kind of therapies slowly coming online if not for their stupidity.

The team identified a mechanism essential to regenerating myelin sheaths -- the layers of insulation that protect nerve fibres in the brain -- and showed how it could be used to make the brain's own stem cells undertake this repair.

The loss of myelin in MS sufferers leads to damage to the nerve fibres in the brain that send messages to other parts of the body, leading to symptoms ranging from mild numbness to crippling paralysis.

I love any treatment where the bodies own mechanisms are used to cure disease or regrow something. The body is less likely to reject its own fix-it plan like it would some foreign substance. In any case lets hope this same stem cell technique can be used to grow other parts of the body (my money is on the spinal cord next.)

Emma Stone Goes Blond for Spider-Man Reboot

Well, I guess this is a look at the new Gwen Stacy in the Spider-Man Reboot. I can't say that I like Emma as a blond but I guess the role calls for it so you really can't do anything about that. I wasn't a fan of the 70s Spider-Man that starred Gwen Stacy so I would go into this movie totally cold. It should be interesting because Stacy and Mary-Jane have a rivalry going over Peter so that will be a major theme in the Reboot.

Wikileaks Shows Red Chinse Positioning in the Great Game

I really thought Red China was further ahead of the Great Game curve but judging from this article it might not be the case.

The leaked memos, known as cables in diplomatic jargon, portray Chinese leaders as increasingly willing to leverage their nation's economic clout to pursue China's interests while challenging the global order without necessarily proposing workable alternatives.

"Muscle-flexing, triumphalism, and assertiveness" underpins Chinese foreign policy, according to one cable from this February, entitled: "Stomp around and carry a small stick: China's new 'global assertiveness' raises hackles, but has more form than substance."

In the cable, signed by U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman, China's posture is described as "losing friends worldwide," despite Beijing's attempts to build its influence through cultural and economic undertakings — so-called "soft power" tactics seeking to deflect concerns about a rising Chinese threat.

One nation that it might have lost permanently may be India.

An ambassador from India, with whom China has lingering territorial disputes, is cited as wanting closer cooperation with Washington as a protection against Chinese ambitions. Diplomats from China's historical rival and key U.S. ally Japan, meanwhile, are quoted as complaining that Chinese officials were "aggressive and difficult" during summit preparations.

In other words they are driving India into the US Sphere of Influence due to their broadening ambitions. India is one nation that really doesn't need as much from China as many others. They have fought a hot war in 1962 over border disputes so there is no love lost between the two countries. An India/US axis would be a boon to us both in terms of trade (nations full of billions of literate, well trained people don't come around every day) and militarily as well.

Now the Great Game inclination would be for China to start meddling in Pakistan. I mean it weakens India and the US at the same time. Also shaping the direction of Pakistan makes it so there isn't a nuclear powered terrorist threat on the Chinese border as well. Or if there was a terrorist threat you can point it toward your enemies in the US and India. One interesting development would be a China backed peace plan when it comes to Kashmir.  We would see China advancing Pakistani interests while the US backs Indian interests.

 It is also  interesting to see the extent of the anti-Chinese bloc though:

China's foreign policy hawks and U.S.-skeptics in particular are likely to find plenty in the leaked documents supporting their contention that Washington and others in the West are seeking to thwart China's rise through a campaign of bullying. In one memo from last year, then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to assiduously work to integrate China into the international community "while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong."

It seems that the rise of Red China might be on the mind of more world leaders than just the Americans.

Swiss Close Assange's Bank Account While Wikileaks Just Damaged World Security

Well at least the Swiss are finally choosing a side on this issue.

The Swiss Post Office's banking arm said it had closed an account set up by the embattled Australian after he gave false information.

"PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange," the bank said in a statement.

PostFinance said it shut down Assange's account after the Australian provided false information about his place of residence which his applicaton had said was in Geneva.

I guess you can't be on the run and still have a Swiss bank account to live the high life on. Unfortunately Wikileaks still does damage even as we speak.

The website released a State Department cable from February 2009 asking US missions to update a list of infrastructure and key resources worldwide whose loss "could critically impact" the country's public health, economic life and national security.

The list detailed undersea cables, key communications, ports, mineral resources and firms of strategic importance in countries ranging from Britain to New Zealand, via Africa, the Middle East and China.

Also listed were European manufacturers of vaccines for smallpox and rabies, an Italian maker of treatment for snake-bite venom, and a German company making treatment for plutonium poisoning.

Compilation of the list would help "prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit" sites deemed of "vital" importance to the United States, the cable said.

Yup, it just provided a road-map for every terrorist group both Islamic and Anarchist out there.  Now any radical group that wants to cripple the World in some significant way can just go to Wikileaks and find out the location of an undersea cable and cut the thing with a diver and an explosive charge.

Could we see a radical offshoot of Greenpeace send a diver off the coast of Japan to blow up the undersea cable that provides their data link to the rest of the world?

All they have to do is go to Wikileaks in order to get that information. Now they can no longer claim that only the US will be effected by this mess. Now everyone has to watch their back because the "Terrorist To-Do List" has just been leaked by Wikileaks.

It Seems That Living in the Middle Ages Wasn't So Bad

This is a pretty interesting study that kind of changes the perception of living in the Middle Ages.

He said a figure of $400 annually (as expressed in 1990 international dollars) is commonly is used as a measure of bare bones subsistence and was previously believed to be the average income in England in the Middle Ages.

But the researchers found that English per capita incomes in the late Middle Ages were actually of the order of $1,000.

Even on the eve of the Black Death plague, which first struck in 1348/49, the researchers found per capita incomes in England of more than $800.

A per capita income of double the subsistence rate is better then quite a few really poor nations today. It even allows people to put some money away for the next generation or sock some away for tough times. I know the Black Death paved the way for quite a bit of economic expansion because land was cheap and plentiful due to farmers dying. Also trade was quite pronounced in the Middle Ages as well. It is nice to see that with more scholarship on the issue we see that perceptions change.

Friday, December 03, 2010

US Inches Closer to Free Trade Deal with South Korea: Yook Gae Jang For Everybody!

Well, it is time for the GOP to put their money where their mouth is.

Negotiators for the U.S. and South Korea—the world's No. 1 and No. 12 economy, respectively—broke a three-year impasse over the bilateral agreement early Friday by reaching accord on a deal to gradually lower U.S. tariffs on Korean automobiles. 

President Barack Obama now faces a difficult final push to bring the pact into force. The deal will have to win ratification from the incoming Congress in January, in what promises to be a pitched battle amid eroding public support for free-trade agreements of any kind. 

If the GOP kills this thing then they are for growth in name only and simply don't want Obama to win anything for political reasons. Free Trade deals help both countries and the only people that should oppose them are Big Labor. Most American companies would love to have these sort of deals in place because they goose both economies. Both exporters and importers grow from these sort of deals.

Plus, this is a first world economy so we don't have to worry about crap like them dumping products on our markets at cut rate prices (I'm looking at you Red China.) This deal would lower the price of Samsung TVs and Hyundai cars and lower the price for them of Starcraft 2 games, Hollywood crapola, red meat, Boeing Airplanes, and whatever else we are good at selling. Hopefully more Americans can try something like the aforementioned Yook Gae Jang going forward.

The Sherpas Come to Bolder

I love these success stories on how people from far flung cultures come to America and make it big. This Jengbu Sherpa is one of those successes.

He's reached the summit of Mount Everest 10 times, seen men swept off high peaks, and survived an avalanche on K-2, the world's most dangerous mountain.

"When I stood on Everest," he said, glancing up from a pot of boiling oil, "I felt like I was standing on top of the sky."

These days he stands over a hot oven at Sherpa's Adventurers Restaurant & Bar in downtown Boulder, serving up Nepali and Tibetan fare.

Jangbu is one of a small but growing population of Sherpas who have left
Nepal for this well-heeled town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Naga Viper Becomes World's Hottest Chili Pepper

Well, take that ghost chili.

Researchers at Warwick University testing the Naga Viper found that it measures 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale, which rates heat by tracking the presence of a chemical compound. In comparison, most varieties of jalapeño peppers measure in the 2,500 to 5,000 range -- milder than the Naga Viper by a factor of 270.

The thing just looks evil as well.:

Wikileaks Running Scared: DNS and Hosting Companies Abandon It

At least their hosting companies are starting to wise up to the fact that they shouldn't be involved in the weaken of US security.

Manchester, New Hampshire-based company EveryDNS, which had been directing traffic to the website wikileaks.org — stopped late Thursday after cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network. WikiLeaks responded by moving to a Swiss domain name, wikileaks.ch — and calling on activists for support. Two companies host the Swiss domain name, one of which is in France. The other is in Sweden.

Even the French are turning on Wikileaks.

Officials in France moved to ban WikiLeaks from servers there, with Industry Minister Eric Besson calling it unacceptable to host a site that "violates the secret of diplomatic relations and puts people protected by diplomatic secret in danger."

Also I'm glad that Amazon wised up and decided to break ties with the site as well.

Amazon booted the site on Wednesday after U.S. Congressional staffers started asking the company about its relationship to WikiLeaks. The company later said it ousted WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks doesn't own its content and Amazon claimed it could be endangering innocent people by publishing unredacted material.

It does suck that they have to be given a talking to by Congress in order for them to budge. They should have taken off the material as any other company trying to post stolen files. I'm pretty sure they would cut ties to a company that provided streams of current TV shows that were ripped off of Hulu. What makes these stolen documents any different? They were stolen from the US government and were posted without permission. It seems cut and dried to me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Japan Opts Out of Kyoto Protocol

It does look pretty bad when the country that gave the name of its city to the flawed treaty opts out with this pretty blunt statement.

The brief statement, made by Jun Arima, an official in the government’s economics trade and industry department, in an open session, was the strongest yet made against the protocol by one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

He said: “Japan will not inscribe its target under the Kyoto protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances.”

I guess the Japanese are getting tired of falling further behind the Red Chinese in manufacturing. Now they can bring that other hand out form behind their back and move toward recovering the title of manufacturer to the world. Hell, I would buy a TV made in Japan 10 times faster then one made in China.

Wikileaks Hacker used a Freakin CD-RW to Betray America?: This is a New Low for our Intelligence Community

Um someone in the IT department at wherever this Manning traitor worked needs to be fired post-haste.

After 9/11, the government made an effort to link up separate archives of government information. In theory, anyone in the State Department or the U.S. military can access these archives if he has: (1) a computer connected to Siprnet, and (2) a “secret” security clearance. As Manning told a fellow hacker: “I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga’ … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing… [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.” Manning said he “had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months.”

So the guy was able to access a CD-RW in a PC that was connected to the Siprnet? Why wasn't that machine locked down well enough so you cannot access both USB and the CD-RW on it? It is as simple as erasing the drivers on the machine or buying security software that blocks hardware access. Even uninstalling the Burner Software he used or just blocking the one in Windows Media Player would have been secured that machine. Even having Admin password access to the CD-RW would have been sufficient.

Why do these machines have any software other than a browser in the first place? It should have just been a dumb terminal or a net-top connected to the Siprnet. I mean if this stuff needs to be read and reports made from them there are web-facing apps that can be accessed to bypass installing something like a burner program in the first place.

Those web-facing apps can be behind secured servers as well that logs all of the files that are accessed coming in and out. They would have showed that PFC Manning accessed Secret State Department cables on such-and-such date and then automatically emailed his commanding officer. That guy could have taken him aside and found out that Manning had no business accessing that data. This traitor would have been in the stockade in 20 minutes. Instead he had free reign for 8 months and could take the secrets home with him?

Also weren't there checks when the person leaves the secured area? I mean you would probably confiscate any CDs or thumb drives this grab-ass took into the place. I mean the TSA is checking our junk when we get on an airplane why doesn't someone check the PFC when he leaves the secured room that had Siprnet access? And if the room wasn't secured then why wasn't it?

In any case a court martial is in order and they need to hang this Manning and then find guilty of negligence anyone who was involved in securing this data. I hope General level people end their careers over this mess. If this is the IT that we expect from the US government then we are powerless to the Red Chinese.

Ha ha the Jokes on Iran: Star of David found on the Roof of Iran Air Headquarters

Ahmadinajoke was overheard saying: "The Zionists would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for that Crazy Google Earth."

Al- Arabiya reported this week that Iranian officials were outraged to discover a Star of David on the roof of the headquarters of Iran Air. Iran's national airline's headquarters was built by Israeli engineers three decades ago, but apparently no one noticed the symbol until a Google Earth user picked it up.

My question is how many of their nuclear facilities have bulls eyes on their roofs now that the Saudis are revealed as wanting to "cut off the head of the snake" when it comes to Ahamadinajoke.

Weird-Assed Bacteria Found that Lives on Arsenic

Now this might turn out to be one of the great finds this century.

In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks.

This creature actually lives off of an element that kills just about everything on this planet. What this discovery means is that the number of alien planets just jumped 10 fold. So life doesn't just need to 6 essential elements in order to survive. All they might need is one element which isn't even carbon based (in this case a poisonous element) to do all the work in order to survive. The idea of a bacteria that uses arsenic as building blocks is pretty nuts by itself. Of course some geek at NASA sums it up perfectly using Trek:

NASA's geobiologist Pamela Conrad thinks that the discovery is huge and "phenomenal," comparing it to the Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise crew finds Horta, a silicon-based alien life form that can't be detected with tricorders because it wasn't carbon-based.

I remember reading a book called Our Universe when I was a kid that speculated about life on other planets. One of the creatures was this blue silicate creature living on Pluto that jumped high into the air skirting the planetoids weak gravity. I'm not sure why it jumped it might have been just for fun. With the find of this GFAJ-1 bacteria such lifeforms might now be technically possible.

The World Cup Finally Comes to the Middle East

This is a big win for the Gulf States alright. I figure it would have gone to Saudi Arabia or Turkey before Qatar but it is still pretty cool.

But the shock of the day came in the 2022 race, where Qatar beat off stiff competition from the United States, Australia and Asian rivals South Korea and Japan in a remarkable result.

Qatar 2022 bid president Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani said his country's victory had defied the odds.

"We started off being written off, being the unconventional bid. And no-one thought we had a chance to win," he said.

"On behalf of millions living in the Middle East, thank you FIFA for having such bold vision. We have a date with history which is summer 2022."

At least Obama didn't have to show up person and lobby for our bid. That would have killed it for sure and made us look even more stupid on the world stage then we already do. So we just got beat by an unconventional bid. Plus, South Africa showed the world that a dicey part of the globe can host an awesome World Cup (vuvzelas excepted.)

So luckily we didn't have our President looking like a doof yet again like when Chicago's failed its bid for the Olympics. He did put in lip service though:

Even US President Barack Obama, who had recorded a personal appeal in support of the beaten American bid, criticised the FIFA ruling. 

"I think it was the wrong decision," Obama told reporters in Washington. 

Well, time will tell about that. The only problem I would have is that isn't Qatar like super-fricken hot during the summer? I guess a huge spate of indoor stadiums is in order for the UAE. In the words of the US Marines in Iraq "hydrate, hydrate, and when you are done hydrate some more."

Dems Try to Sweeten Bush Tax Cut Extension with Peanuts

I think in the mind of a Dem these "tax cuts" are actually a big deal or something. This is the second time they used this anemic number and said that it will somehow accelerate the economy.

Democrats sought to expand the package with other provisions that officials said would accelerate the nation's sluggish economic recovery. They included a tax break providing as much as $400 for individual working people and $800 for couples — even if they pay nothing to the IRS.

I'm sorry but $33 extra a month was peanuts when they added it into the Failed Stimulus and it will be peanuts now. However, if it was like $100 or even $400 a month then Americans would be taking notice. That would actually do some good even if Americans merely banked the money for a rainy day. Instead this $400 per year of "tax cuts" is yet another way for the Dems to pretend they are tax cutters instead of tax wasters.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

If Wikileaks Was Really Brave they would Go After Iran, Russia, or Red China

One thing I thought was interesting about this whole Wikileaks thing is that he went after the US which I guess is a pretty soft target. We condemn in the strongest possible terms and send strongly worded letters but we are basically powerless to fight back against Assange. He even gets a chance to lob pronouncements from undisclosed locations and the world media eats his stuff up.

However, if these were Iranian or Red Chinese diplomatic cables he would be in a whole new world of hurt. I can see Revolutionary Guard agents or Red Chinese Intelligence teams scouring the earth the get even with him for tipping their hand. I'm pretty sure that Sweden's sovereignty will be violated in the process. Instead our diplomatic corps is terrorized by this guy and we just paw the ground and look sheepish.

I guess this is the difference between being liked and being feared in the world. Obama wants America to be liked and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard that no other country does. Now we have our relations with the rest of the world damaged because of that higher standard.

I have read about what we should do about Assange. Well we can't assassinate him which would be what almost any other nation would do. Russia would give him the Polonium-210 treatment in a minute if for example he released 10,000s of Chechen war documents. I guess we just have to trust Swedish Authorities to catch him and then we beg them to extradite him to the US. In the meantime we need to punish the leaker Pvt. Manning with a full charge or treason with the potential for the death penalty. Hopefully, that will make these people think twice before they attempt to damage America from the inside.

Clinton Grilled over Wikileaks and is told to Resign by Assange

I would hate to have her job right now.

The WikiLeaks matter was discussed in virtually all of Clinton's private one-on-one meetings with European leaders and foreign ministers during the summit meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Kazakhstan summit is the first such high-level meeting of the 56-nation group in 11 years.

"I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing," Clinton said. "I have not any had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward."

I can see Putin taking her aside and saying "So you think I am Alpha Dog, Spasiba!" or Berlusconi button-holing her to say "so I am a party animal right? There is a party in my pants and you are *not* invited" Now that is one uncomfortable feeling. It is kind of like the diplomatic equivalent to showing everyone around the table your cards in a poker game.

Plus we have this Assange character calling for your resignation.

Assange on Tuesday had called on Clinton to resign "if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations" in violation of international agreements.

I guess this counts as Hillary Clintons's worst week ever.