Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Heckler's Veto

I wrote about the dastardly and cowardly acts of the administrations at Brandeis University and Rutgers University when they refused to follow through on their honorary degrees and scheduled speeches from Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condoleezza Rice, respectively. Those blog entries are in April and May of this year, I think.
Now comes forward the skilled practitioners of the “heckler’s veto” to limit free speech about North Korea (“The Interview” movie hubbub) and of course anything that is critical of Muslims. And these, like the demonstrators regarding Ferguson, come with a persuasive motive for anyone violating their edicts—death.
We expect extremely biased speech from certain politicians, from the Ku Klux Klan and racists like Al Sharpton. And we expect them to try to stifle free speech. We cannot accept such attacks on free speech from those who are the stewards of our universities.
We must resist. Imagine living in a totalitarian regime where we are not allowed to speak. Huge problems. Don’t succumb to the arguments they invent, cited here in an article you can look up on the internet, “Free Speech’s Shrinking Circle of Friends”:
Law professors have concocted influential concepts like “outsider jurisprudence,” “critical race theory,” “critical feminist theory, and “storytelling” theory to define some kinds of politically incorrect speech as not speech at all, but “mechanisms of subordination.”
The First Amendment is a fragile freedom, easily damaged by the loudest and the most violent.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NYC Cops Killed

Let's see if I got this right--Al Sharpton and the Ferguson family have no responsibility for inciting incidents like the shooting of the NYC cops, despite the references by the shooter. They encouraged the "peaceful" demonstrations, and the looting (called "shopping?") was due to something else.

Sharpton is more interested in Amy Pascal's Sony emails. At least they show the hypocrisy of the far left Hollywood when the curtain is pulled back a bit.

Is this the better race relations promised by this President? The President who praised the highly paid athlete who wore the "I can't breath" (sic) T-shirt?

Friday, December 12, 2014


Oil, black gold. But West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) traded at $59.23 at 0800 GMT this morning.

This is a disaster for North Dakota, but they will do fine. Watch out, however, for Venezuela and Russia. Whatever is worse than a disaster will play out there, even if oil stops dropping.

Without some sort of intervention, and I have no idea what it could be, this will have a major negative impact on the US economy, but even worse for a lot of other economies. The worst part will  be the social unrest.

These types of shocks have, in the past, caused wars, depressions and social change. With interest rates near zero, there isn't much room for monetary help.

We will see.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi Paradox

A few words on topics about which I know little. But that has never stopped me before! This time it’s about gamma-ray bursts and the Fermi Paradox, and I refer you to this article for a better review of the topic.
The point of the original article was that a gamma-ray burst may have been responsible for one of Earth’s “Five Great Extinctions.” While that is fascinating, my takeaway from the whole business was complete and utter amazement. I did not know that the gamma-ray burst is the largest known explosion in the universe, that they can last from less than two seconds (short) to a few minutes (long) and that one gamma-ray burst can emit as much energy in seconds as the sun does in its entire 10-billion-year life.
If a gamma-ray burst were to occur in the Milky Way galaxy and be aimed in the direction of the Earth, it could cause damage that would range from scorching the surface on the side facing the blast to altering the atmosphere to the point that ultraviolet radiation would make the earth unsuitable for life.
Moving on to the Fermi Paradox:
Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist, best known for his work on Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics. (Wikipedia)
I know so little about any of this that I had to copy and paste from Wikipedia, but one of the thoughts that came from that magnificent brain has been known as the Fermi Question, “Where are they?” referring to extraterrestrial life and based on the Fermi Paradox. The paradox is that there are billions of stars, probably with billions of planets and they have existed for about 13.8 billion years. Given that scale, the probability of life elsewhere in the universe is likely, but there is no evidence. A paradox.
Of course, you and I are not the first to be fascinated by gamma-ray bursts, extraterrestrial life, mass extinctions or the Fermi Paradox, but some really smart people have done additional research that connects these dots. Their basic premise is that stars are more numerous and closer together at the center of galaxies and the likelihood of collisions (one of the apparent causes of gamma-ray bursts) is more likely in that environment, so life, if it formed, would be fried out of existence in short order.
Adding up (or multiplying?) a bunch of factors surrounding life and these astounding emissions of energy, the odds start to become much smaller: 
·         Our kind of life could only exist in solar systems located in the outskirts of galaxies like the Milky Way since the inner parts are too dangerous

·         Most long gamma-ray bursts (the most dangerous) occur in galaxies that are different than the Milky Way in that they have a low level of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium

·         Formation of life is estimated to only have occurred in the last 5 billion years as before that the galaxies were closely packed, lots of activity and a high probability of high-energy blasts

·         Due to these factors, life could only exist on less than 10% of galaxies according to the researchers
On a personal note (Hey, it’s my blog, therefore my rules), my first introduction to gamma rays was the 1964 play, later made into a movie, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” about a dysfunctional family that deforms and stunts the characters, like the effect of gamma rays on flowers. But the marigolds, deformed and stunted, remain hardy and beautiful and the main character, a young girl, continues to believe that everyone is valuable.
Pardon me for a moment of “HOLY MOLEY” time. All of this is a bit large to contemplate, but it does come down to the fact that life as we know it on this small blue marble floating around in the vastness of the known universe is miraculous and worthy of our awe. Pretty crazy, eh?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Forgotten 500

I am just finishing The Forgotten 500 by Gregory A. Freeman, and while I find it fascinating, it is not earthshaking.

The flyleaf describes it as the "untold story of the men who risked all for the greatest rescue mission of World War II" and it is a remarkable story about the airmen who bailed out over Yugoslavia either before or after bombing raids on Ploesti, the location of most of Hitler's oil refining.

The downed airmen, mostly Americans, were organized by one of the Yugoslavian heroes, Mihailovich, who was unjustly abandoned by the Allies in favor of Tito, the Communist backed by the Soviets. Although the book is principally about the remarkable rescue of the 512 airmen, the back story about why the Allies abandoned Mihailovich and basically handed Yugoslavia to the Communists for decades after the war becomes, in my mind, the real story.

During WWII, the Communists in the OSS (later the CIA) and especially in the British intelligence branch (MI5) shaped policy, interfered with non-Communist goals and acted as traitors throughout. For instance, the OSS was hindered in its actions to organize the rescue, basically taking orders from Moscow to support Tito. Not only did they interfere with the attempts to insert them into the area where the airmen were being protected by the Serbs under Mihailovich, the British attempted to kill them by dropping them into an active battle. Off course and obviously intentional.

We have been schooled to think that Joe McCarthy was just a crackpot, that Vietnam was a mistake since Communism was never a threat nor was the "domino theory" more than a fiction. This episode in history tells us something different, that the Communists inside the OSS/CIA and the US government and the British government were real threats. Great patriots like the agents responsible for the rescue of over 500 airmen from behind enemy lines tell a different story.

Kim Philby was one of the "Cambridge Five," who attained high positions (Philby was head of counter-intelligence for the British government) but worked for Moscow. You need to read the book and other accounts of the damage done by these traitors, but their delivery of Yugoslavia to the Soviets is just detestable.

The Cambridge Five attained high rank due to their privileged background. Their positions in government would be similar to Cabinet positions in the US today. Wonder what would happen if five of the Cabinet officers today were actually working for the Chinese or other foreign governments?

Far fetched? It would seem that we are fed that as history about WWII and the Cold War, but the facts of the Rescue of these 500 and the subsequent martyrdom of Mihailovich says differently.