Oct 31 2009

Pontius Pilate Washed His Hands Too

Category: Afghanistan,Obamaamuzikman @ 12:03 am

General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan originally came in a report he submitted on August 30, 2009.  Since then at least 97 American soldiers have died while President Obama tries to decide on a course of action in that war-torn country.  One cannot help but wonder if Obama considers this primarily a political decision.  In fact, it has even been suggested the president has been waiting to announce his decision until after next Tuesday’s elections. I hope that is not the case.

Mr President, two months you have now delayed making a decision.  Two months since your hand-picked general first gave you his frank assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. You obviously valued his opinion or you would not have placed him in that most difficult of command positions.  He has asked you for an increase of 40,00 more troops and he has explained why.  Yet you have still not made a decision.  Perhaps you have taken that time to reflect on the difference between skillful utterance of campaign rhetoric and actually being Commander in Chief.  Perhaps you are really struggling with this terribly difficult choice.  I hope so – it’s not supposed to be easy.

Mr. President, I suggest you look down at your hands, do you see the blood there?  It is the blood of brave soldiers who have died on your watch.  Don’t bother washing your hands, the stain will never go away – just ask any other President who has faced the extremely difficult choice of sending troops into harm’s way.  I’m sure they will tell you how many times they washed their hands… to no avail.  I’m not saying the deaths of those 97 soldiers could have been avoided had you decided on a course of action sooner – it is impossible to say,  But I am saying that you can no longer claim to be “mopping up someone else’s mess”.  It is now your mess.  It is now time for you to understand and embrace what is meant by the phrase, “The buck stops here”.

It is my most fervent prayer that you will make the best possible decision – not the most expedient or the most politically calculated, not the one that might endear you to the most people, or shine the best light on you – but the one that is best – best for our troops, best for their families, best for the people of Afghanistan, best for the people of The United Sates of America, best for the cause of those who hold freedom and liberty dear.  But I do know this – decide you must, and no matter what you decide that stain will still be there on your hands, long after you leave office.  It comes with the job.

Oct 30 2009

The Next Great Awakening part 11: Seeing a bit too clearly?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 2:34 pm

The previous post in this series is here.

It would seem that a Shrimp’s eye points way to better DVDs.

The amazing eyes of a giant shrimp living on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could hold the key to developing a new type of super high-quality DVD player, British scientists said on Sunday.

Mantis shrimps, dubbed “thumb splitters” by divers because of their vicious claws, have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom.

They can see in 12 primary colors, four times as many as humans, and can also detect different kinds of light polarization — the direction of oscillation in light waves.

Now a team at the University of Bristol have shown how the shrimps do it, using remarkable light-sensitive cells that rotate the plane of polarization in light as it travels through the eye.

Manmade devices do a similar thing in DVD and CD players but they only work well for one color, while the shrimp’s eye operates almost perfectly across the whole visible spectrum from near ultra-violet to infra-red.

Transferring the same multi-color ability into a DVD player would result in a machine capable of handling far more information than a conventional one.

“The mechanism we have found in this eye is unknown to human synthetic devices. It works much, much better than any attempts that we’ve made to construct a device,” researcher Nicholas Roberts told Reuters.

He believes the “beautifully simple” eye system, comprising cell membranes rolled into tubes, could be mimicked in the lab using liquid crystals.

Details of the mantis shrimp research were published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Just why the mantis shrimp needs such a rarefied level of vision is unclear, although researchers suspect it is to do with food and sex.

That could be said of every single feature of every single organism, or course.  Personally, I think maybe God just likes to make things.  Living things.  With really, really incredible designs that are lurking underwater for millions of years so that eventually His creatures with souls and intelligence will find them and marvel.

The non-explanation that such incredible design “has to do with food and sex” is risible, of course.  What’s that supposed to mean, that all the rest of the denizens of the sea are lonely and hungry?  Besides….  if you were a shrimp, you might just find that your libido was improved by not seeing all that well.

A few million years isn’t enough time for something like that particular eye design to happen by accident.

The next post in this series is here.

Oct 28 2009

Music in Hell #1

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:20 pm

I’m not convinced there will be music in Hell, but if there is, it will presumably be ugly.

Which is what makes the following review of a piece by Rachmaninoff seem so unfair, since his music is usually quite beautiful….  but not everyone agreed.  From the music critic Cesar Cui, in the St. Petersburg News, March 16, 1897:  (from Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Music Invective)

If there were a conservatory in Hell, and if one of its talented students was to compose a symphony based on the story of the Seven Plagues of Egypt, and if he had written one similar to Rachmaninoff’s, he would have brilliantly accomplished his task and would have delighted the inhabitants of Hell.

This is surely hyperbole.  First off, one presumes that those in Hell do not enjoy their suffering, which means they would not actually LIKE ugly music.  And in any case, the really ugly music coming down the pike in the next century was much worse than whatever mild harmonies the great Russian pianist might have used.

I’m guessing that if Rachmaninoff was disturbing to Mr. Cui, then the music of Stravinsky (not the ugly music i was talking about) less than 20 years later must have caused him to spill his borscht and vodka.  And I’m willing to bet that Pierrot Lunaire made him choke on it.

Oct 27 2009

Who owns hummus?

Category: humor,Israelharmonicminer @ 8:11 am

My niece married a man from Lebanon. They lived in Lebanon for awhile after they were married, and his family taught her how to prepare Lebanese food, including hummus.  And I have to say it, the stuff is delicious.  But the evil Israelis, not content with stealing Palestine from the people who stole it from the people who stole it from them, have begun making hummus themselves, and worse, making money on it.  So, in a last ditch effort to assert their bragging rights to intellectual property, some Lebanese chefs prepare massive plate of hummus.

Lebanese chefs prepared a massive plate of hummus weighing over two tons Saturday that broke a world record organizers said was previously held by Israel – a bid to reaffirm proprietorship over the popular Middle Eastern dip.

“Come and fight for your bite, you know you’re right!” was the slogan for the event – part of a simmering war over regional cuisine between Lebanon and Israel, which have had tense political relations for decades.

Lebanese businessmen accuse Israel of stealing a host of traditional Middle Eastern dishes, particularly hummus, and marketing them worldwide as Israeli.

“Lebanon is trying to win a battle against Israel by registering this new Guinness World Record and telling the whole world that hummus is a Lebanese product, its part of our traditions,” said Fady Jreissati, vice president of operations at International Fairs and Promotions group, the event’s organizer.

Hummus – made from mashed chickpeas, sesame paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic – has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. Its exact origin is unknown, though it’s generally seen as an Arab dish.

But it is also immensely popular in Israel – served in everyday meals and at many restaurants – and its popularity is growing around the globe.

Of course, the declaration of recipe infringement hardly rises to the level of, say, the Soviet “invention” of the 57 Chevy, not to mention half the other cars invented in the West.

I think the entire discussion of who owns the rights to hummus is…. wait for it….. humorous.

Maybe if Hamas and Hizbullah were more interested in hummus, and less fascinated by homicide, we could hope for harmony in Haifa.

Perhaps Netanyahu could send them a nice copy of “The Joy of Cooking.”

Oct 25 2009

Hello World Government? Goodbye freedom? UPDATE

Watch this, from Lord Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute.

I haven’t heard much about this from other sources…. I’m trying to get more information about it.  But if this fellow isn’t exaggerating, this is looking really ugly.

More info here and here and some especially scary nonsense from Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister.

Oct 24 2009

Punishing the “haves”: and, cancer survival rates in Canada and Britain

Category: Congress,healthcareharmonicminer @ 9:37 am
Keep in mind that these cancer survival rates are for the full population, not just “insured people,” which means that the total survival rate of cancer patients for the entire US population, which INCLUDES those without insurance, is better than the total rates for Canada and Britain.

Oct 23 2009

No Tolerance for Common Sense

Category: education,societyharmonicminer @ 9:10 am

Here’s the story of a New York Eagle Scout Suspended From School for 20 Days for Keeping Pocketknife in Car

A 17-year-old Eagle Scout in upstate New York has been barred from stepping foot on school grounds for 20 days — for keeping a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car.

Read the whole thing.

Then ask yourself what’s wrong with the public schools, the education system, the courts, and maybe America in general.  Some people have well and truly lost their minds, and unfortunately they are the ones with power over the rest of us, and our children.

It’s simply embarrassing.  What would the American founders say about this?  What would anyone even 50 years ago say about this?

I do know this.  If I am ever in a tight situation, an earthquake maybe, or tornado, or flood, or just in need of help, I won’t be getting any useful assistance from the nitwits who pass these kinds of laws and make these kinds of regulations, but I will be getting help from any Eagle Scouts who happen to be around.  They will be the ones who are prepared to help, which means having both knowledge and the proper tools.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Oct 22 2009

Shutting your mouth in Britain

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:31 am

Press freedom and the internet

THIS week a national newspaper ran a fascinating story about absolutely nothing. The Guardian reported on its front page on October 13th that a question had been tabled by an MP in Parliament, but that the newspaper could not reveal “who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found”. The reason, it explained no less cryptically, was that “legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret”.

In other words, you can’t talk about what you can’t talk about, and if you even mention that you are not going to discuss the existence of something you aren’t supposed to talk about, you’re in big trouble, buddy.

These guys would be right at home in the modern university.

Oct 21 2009

Was Marx Right?

Category: Uncategorizedsardonicwhiner @ 9:10 am

A report from Russia that Karl Marx Predicted Collapse of US Dollar in 1857

The great October fall of the US dollar is turning into an avalanche. On Tuesday, the American currency lost nine kopeks in Russia and reached a new minimum mark this year – 29.5 rubles per dollar. Within six months (April through September) the dollar lost over 10 percent at the world foreign exchange trading, which marked the sharpest decline since 1991. Some experts believe that the American currency is close to collapse, which may lead to a new financial crisis.

The tendency of the US dollar devaluation has been observed for a few years, but the current rate of decline is unprecedented. Some jokesters even rushed to re-read the letters of Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels written during the US financial panic of 1857 discussing the collapse of America. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so serious.

The chief economist of HSBC Bank Stephen King believes that if the US officials fail to stop the fall of American currency, it may provoke another financial crisis. “A dollar collapse would be a disaster all round… It would leave the international monetary system short of stability and long of fear. It would unleash economic upheavals on a similar scale to those seen in the 1970,” King wrote for The Independent.

American officials don’t seem to be overly concerned since nothing is being done about it. The US hasn’t done anything to support the currency since 1955. But is a collapse inevitable? From the viewpoint of macroeconomic indicators, the US state of affairs is, indeed, scary: record budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, record state debt that now exceeds $11.9 trillion, high unemployment and weak currency. Huge inflows of capital into the economy that Obama is proud of haven’t yet shown results.

But on the other hand, weak currency may be good for the US.

“The economy is supported by industrial orders based on the current weak dollar and higher prices in the future. Key players in the market are ready to support their manufacturers by weakening the currency,” says Alexander Kuptsikevich, FxPro financial analyst.

If the state debt is growing, it means that the US continues to obtain loans.

“Market participants prefer to borrow money in dollars, and dollar loans are relatively affordable. They invest into more active instruments denominated in currencies of developing countries,’ explains Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist of Trust Investment Bank.

This causes growth of stock index. For example, Russian Trading System increased by 34 percent within two and a half months.

World center banks, who used to be trusted American partners, also turn their backs to dollar. They reduced investments into assets denominated in American currency. According to Barclays Capital , in April, May, and June, the banks invested 63% of their gains in euro or yen. If it continues, this may lead to further devaluation of dollar.

However, central banks of the countries that depend on export try not to let it happen. For example, last week a group of Asian central banks carried out unprecedented intervention in the financial markets by actively buying American currency. Bank of Russia was not a passive observer either. According to experts’ evaluations, the bank purchased over three billion dollars.

The good thing about it is that it helped Russian manufacturers to maintain competitiveness and bank reserves. The question is whether we would have to spend much more when investors change their minds and flee the Russian market changing their rubles into dollars. Last year we paid a high price for it.

“I’m not afraid that the events of the last year will repeat. The circumstances now are different. The world touched the bottom of the crisis and revival began, so there won’t be sharp moves,” says profile manager of Pilgrim Asset Management Olga Izyumova.

Yevgeniy Nadorshin agrees with her. He also thinks that dollar will continue weakening. But many experts think that as soon as the US announces the raise of interest rates, American currency will stop falling and even start growing. When is it going to happen?

Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve evades the answer. All he says is that this will happen when the US is sure of stable growth. On Tuesday investors discussed information obtained from the US official sources that the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates no earlier than the second half of the next year.

The USA may soon literally be more socialistic than Russia… if it isn’t already.

Oct 20 2009

Earth and Jupiter in same photo

Category: science,spaceharmonicminer @ 9:26 am

Stunning photo: Earth and Jupiter in the same shot

Sometimes the planets line up in such a way that you can see Earth and Jupiter in the same wide-angle shot. That is, if you were aboard the Mars Global Surveyor on May 22, 2003. When the Mars Orbiter Camera snapped this unique view, Earth was 86 million miles away, and Jupiter was 600 million miles away.

How on earth is it even possible to take such a shot? Continue reading to see a larger version of this magnificent photo, and then you can see a diagram of how the planets were lined up to enable such a thing.

Click the link above for a really stunning photo.

Next Page »