Monday, January 29, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
As chairperson and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) from 2001 through the end of 2005, Feinstein supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars a year for specific military construction projects. Two defense contractors whose interests were largely controlled by her husband, financier Richard C. Blum, benefited from decisions made by Feinstein as leader of this powerful subcommittee. Each year, MILCON's members decide which military construction projects will be funded from a roster proposed by the Department of Defense. Contracts to build these specific projects are subsequently awarded to such major defense contractors as Halliburton, Fluor, Parsons, Louis Berger, URS Corporation and Perini Corporation. From 1997 through the end of 2005, with Feinstein's knowledge, Blum was a majority owner of both URS Corp. and Perini Corp.She is a Democrat. Do the ethics rules apply to her? The MetroActive article is very detailed. Feinstein received was supposed to not vote on issues relating to her husband's firms and she was informed what to avoid. But she voted anyway - when she should not have.
Friday, January 26, 2007
...regular marijuana smoking produces a number of long-term pulmonary consequences, including chronic cough and sputum, histopathologic evidence of widespread airway inflammation and injury and immunohistochemical evidence of dysregulated growth of respiratory epithelial cells, that may be precursors to lung cancer. The THC in marijuana could contribute to some of these injurious changes through its ability to augment oxidative stress, cause mitochondrial dysfunction, and inhibit apoptosis ....Habitual use of marijuana is also associated with abnormalities in the structure and function of alveolar macrophages, including impairment in microbial phagocytosis and killing that is associated with defective production of immunostimulatory cytokines and nitric oxide, thereby potentially predisposing to pulmonary infection. In view of the growing interest in medicinal marijuana, further epidemiologic studies are needed to clarify the true risks of regular marijuana smoking on respiratory health.That's pretty technical, but it's all bad. Read Matt's Rosenblog for more.
Do you trust government to regulate the Internet, which has flourished precisely because government has left it alone?
... For those unfamiliar with the deceptively-named “Net Neutrality,” it is simply the federal government dictating price controls upon companies offering Internet access. Moreover, it constitutes corporate welfare on behalf of powerful behemoths such as Google and Amazon.com.
Don’t be fooled by “Net Neutrality” proponents. The fact that they selected such a deceptive name is the first red flag. Proponents contend that introducing government regulation to the Internet will somehow protect consumers. Can you think of the last time that increased bureaucratic regulation accomplished such a feat?
The reality is that “Net Neutrality” will only weaken incentives to launch next-generation broadband services and build new networks.One of the fathers of the internet, some say The Father, Robert Kahn firmly rejects "net neutrality" at The Register:
Kahn rejected the term "Net Neutrality", calling it "a slogan". He cautioned against dogmatic views of network architecture, saying the need for experimentation at the edges shouldn't come at the expense of improvements elsewhere in the network.We certainly don't want future development slowed for any reason. Least of all to put money in the pockets of the successful entrepreneurs at Google and Microsoft. Lee explains it well.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
General Saprang Kalayanamitr, deputy Council for National Security (CNS) secretary-general said the generals had to give priority to national security.After all, he might say something that would be negative about the ruling generals. The general calls that protecting national security. We know what Thaksin said because the Wall Street Journal Aisa reported it on the front page, also on 1/16/07. Thaksin said what I just reported above - the military government's restrictions on foreign investment is hurting Thailand's economic growth. Quoting WSJA: "Such moves, he said, are steering Thailand away from the free-market course on which he had been guiding the country. 'Whether we like it or not, we have to live under a capitalist system." ... "And to live in it successfully, we have to open up our economy and our society. Competition is unavoidable, so we have to preapre for it." My opinion: the people of Thailand can compete. They are bright and hard working. Again I apologize for omitting links to the stories: internet access in our hotel is very expensive.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, warned that much more corn will be needed from the 2008 harvest to feed the ethanol plants that will be online by then. He blamed the lag on the failure of industry trade groups to keep up with development of ethanol plants. .... Brown said increasing corn use for ethanol also reduces exports to low-income grain importing countries, which could cause political instability and result in urban food riots in many low- and middle-income countries. "If the current scenario continues to unfold as we’ve projected here, it could create chaos in world grain markets and we should think through whether we want to do that or not," he said.Everyone has been screaming for replacing oil by alternative fuels. Now the blunt hand of government policy went too far. Maybe. But take another look. How about a market solution?
Dineen [head of Renewable Fuels Association] said Brown’s estimates fail to consider that as much as 10 million more acres of farmland could be put into production next year. "It ignores the reality of the marketplace," he said. "We can’t drive grain prices to the point that we can’t produce ethanol economically. There are limitations to what we’re going to be able to do. There are limitations to how much ethanol you can produce from grain." He said that’s why nearly all ethanol producers are looking at making ethanol from other feedstocks, including switchgrass, wood chips and corn stalks.Let's let the market decide. If people are hungry they will be willing to pay for the corn - a higher price then for fuel. It works.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a draft proposal that would permit limited private "sponsorship" of state parks. The commission is currently gathering comments from stakeholders and hopes to have a finalized proposal available for consideration early next year. According to the draft, "A sponsorship is a commercial relationship in which the Commission and the external entity exchange goods, services, or funds for public recognition or other consideration. 'Sponsorship' includes the right of an external entity to associate its name, products, or services with the Commission's name, programs, services, or facilities." Agency Seeks Sponsors The Seattle Times noted in a September 15 article, "The agency already has begun advertising for potential sponsors. 'Join the fun when Seattle's active urbanites go play in the great outdoors!' reads an ad the parks agency recently ran in a trade magazine for the sponsorship industry."But no Marlboro park." They strictly limit undesirable sponsors, including any for-profit company. No, not yet.
"It is encouraging to see the commission exploring ways to partner with the private sector," said Amber Gunn, policy analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Economic Policy Center. "Hopefully other areas of government will learn from this example and consider additional competitive contracting and private sponsorship opportunities."I agree.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
-1- Jimmy Carter admitted yesterday that he did not consult Dennis Ross' book, The Missing Peace , before writing his own volume on the Arab-Israel conflict. "I've never seen Dennis Ross' book. I'm not knocking it, I'm sure it's a very good book," Carter said on CNN. Which begs the question: Why not? As chief Middle East peace negotiator under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ambassador Ross knows perhaps more than anyone else the details of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the end of 2000—a topic discussed by Carter in recent interviews and his new book. The Missing Peace is described by Bill Clinton as "the definitive" account of those complicated negotiations, and has garnered praise from four past US secretaries of state. -2- Former President Jimmy Carter has written an egregiously biased book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid and is currently doing numerous interviews to sell the book and its ideas. Carter is attempting to rewrite history, and in his alternate universe, Arabs parties are blameless and Israel is at fault for almost all the conflicts in the world. One gets the feeling after reading just a few pages that if he could have blamed Hurricane Katrina on Israel, he would have -3- Middle East historian Kenneth Stein has resigned from the Carter Center over the former president’s new book which, he charges, is "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments."Those are 3 separate reviews/articles. Find these and more at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in ZMiddle East Reporting in America, an excellent source.
Monday, January 01, 2007
After years of hope and hype, there seems to be visible movement toward new energy sources that stand a decent chance in market competition with current oil, natural gas and coal. ... the Department of Energy has just announced a breakthrough in the efficiency of solar to electricity conversion. Boeing-Spectrolab achieved the 40 percent efficiency, more than twice a previous record, using a sunlight concentrator and a "multijunction converter". This is much like a normal solar voltage converter with several novel features, including the ability to convert the infrared and ultraviolet light spectrum, about half of the energy in sunlight, which has not been usable before. The Department of Energy claims that "This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation's energy mix." ... Are these technologies marketable? A lot of good ideas never make it to the real world. At the target of 8-10 cents per kW/hr, solar would not need extraordinary subsidies, once it is mass-produced. MIT's Technology Review argues that modern solar cells are essentially plastic sheets, much easier to make on a large scale than brittle silicon junctions.The bigger picture is covered by James Woolsey, former director of the CIA in the Wall Street Journal today (free link):
Bet on major progress toward independence, spurred by market forces and a portfolio of rapidly developing oil-replacing technologies. In recent years a number of alternatives to conventional oil have come to the fore--oil sands, oil shale, coal-to-diesel and coal-to-methanol technologies. But their acceptability to a new Congress, quite possibly the next president, and a public increasingly concerned about global warming will depend on their demonstrating affordable and effective methods of sequestering the carbon they produce or otherwise avoiding carbon emissions.One key to progress is high oil prices. True. While oil is expensive we are motivated to seek alternatives; when it drops, the motivation is killed. The danger is that OPEC will manipulate the price to lower it below the economic point where investors will put their big bucks on the development of plug-in hybrid cars, etc. Woolsey doesn't give a number, but a friend with an oil-industry leader in his family thinks it is around $60 per barrel. Woolsey points out how we can avoid OPEC manipulation. Plug-in hybrids are (will be) recharged overnight. There is less demand for electricity at night, so it has lower value. And it costs less. Large power plants that provide the "base capacity" are very expensive to start and stop, so they are only changed at monthly or seasonal times. So the marginal cost of providing more energy from these base plants is very low, as well. This increases the economics of hybrid cars. So? As we use substantially less fossil fuels for cars OPEC loses leverage over us. As OPEC's market gets smaller the members will be driven by pure economic need to get revenue and they will not want to reduce revenue for gaming their customers. Biomass:
... Indeed two years ago the National Energy Policy Commission (NEPC), making reasonable assumptions about improved vehicle efficiency and biomass yields over the next 20 years, estimated that just 7% of U.S. farmland (the amount now in the Soil Bank) could produce enough biomass to provide half the fuel needed by U.S. passenger vehicles, and that production costs for cellulosic ethanol were headed downward toward around 70 cents per gallon. Further, conversion of only a portion of industrial, municipal and animal wastes--using thermal processes now coming into commercial operation--appears to be able to yield an additional several million barrels a day of diesel or, with some processes, methanol.I firmly believe American ingenuity can make huge progress. But we have seen politics get in the way - ethanol won't stand on its own merits because the farm state Congressmen demand a gift for their farmers. And there will be more interference from Algore types. Woolsey covers the topic more thoroughly; read it.
Muslims sacrifice cows, sheep, goats and bulls during the four-day religious holiday [Eid al-Adha], a ritual commemorating the biblical account of God's provision of a ram for Abraham to sacrifice as he was about to slay his son. They share the meat with friends, family and neighbors and give part of it to the poor. In Turkey, at least 1,413 people — called "amateur butchers" by the Turkish media — were treated at hospitals across the country, most suffering cuts to their hands and legs, the Anatolia news agency reported. Four people were severely injured when they were crushed under the weight of large animals that fell on top of them, the agency reported. Another person was hurt when a crane, used to lift an animal, tumbled onto him, the agency said.We were in Tunisia during this holiday in 1981. It was strange. While walking past an apartment building you could hear the bleating of many sheep coming from the windows. On the other hand, it was probably positive for city kids to spend a few days taking care of their family's sheep. Ended by killing and eating their ward!! We were not disappointed that we were not invited to one of the sacrifices.