Friday Linkzookery – 10 Aug 2007

Security Council OKs wider U.N. role in Iraq
15-0. Though I’m not holding my breath, it sure would be nice if they could help get the national government on track.

Browser Market Report: Firefox Usage Down
Microsoft IE share of the browser market is still growing; Apple Safari is up slightly, while Mozilla and Opera usage decline.

Scared Straight: Iraqi Style
Trying to “de-program” jihadist teens. Good luck.

British Military Gags Blogs
This is going to go back and forth for years.

MV-22 Will Cruise, Not Fly, to War
Osprey’s won’t self-deploy. So what? I’m not the biggest V-22 fan in the world, but this is criticism isn’t worth the time.

Bittersweet
Andi’s World is closing down. She does so much in so many places, though, that we won’t have to worry about missing her.

Kids as Status Symbols and “Competitive Birthing”
I’ve seen several articles over the past few years indicating that some are bucking the “fewer kids as wealth increases” trend.

Aging Array of American Aircraft Attracting Attention
At some point in the near future, this is going to catch up to us in a bad way.

More Back To The Future
Orion to splash down (like Apollo) instead of land landing? This move is probalby to save weight because the proposed boosters suck. Why can’t they emulate a Saturn V if they’re going to spend money to save money? Commentary at Simberg’s.

Know Your Checklists…
Pinch Paisley wrote an article for a 1991 issue of MECH magazine, the Naval Aviation Maintenance Safety Review.

1934 is hottest again: How did we inaccurately calculate 1998 was ‘hottest year ever’?
Oops. And here is a photo of one temperature station that showed a drastic increase in temperature. Definitely man-made, though maybe not climate-wide, warming.

Importer recalls 255,000 Chinese-made tires
Defective because lack a safety feature that prevents tread separation

Destruction Of National Pastime Given Two-Minute Standing Ovation
It’s The Onion and it’s true.

Reuters Busted by a 13-Year Old
They used images from the movie ‘Titanic’ in their article on the Russian’s reaching the North Pole seafloor. You can’t make this stuff up.

For when the zombies come
Portable lasers. Just in case.

Giant Lego man washed up on Dutch beach
It says “No real than you are”.

Comments

  1. Pat Buchanan pretty well sums up our aging armed forces: Whom are we kidding? U.S. foreign policy is bankrupt. We can’t cover our commitments with the ground forces we have. And a world watching America thrash about in Mesopotamia is beginning to recognize it and act upon it. While the federal deficit is only 2 percent of GDP, the surpluses of the 1990s are history, and we are steering toward an entitlement iceberg. ‘Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid … already exceed 40 percent of the $2.7 trillion federal budget. By 2030, their share could hit 75 percent of the present budget,’ writes columnist Robert Samuelson. ‘To keep federal spending stable as a share of the economy would mean eliminating all defense spending and most other domestic programs. … To balance the budget with existing programs at their present economic shares would require … tax increases of 30 percent to 50 percent — or budget deficits could quadruple.’ We do not have the forces to fight and win our wars, or defend present allies. We do not collect enough in taxes to fund the coming deficits in Medicare and Social Security. High-wage jobs, technology and factories are pouring out of America into China. We hail the Global Economy, as they toast a Chinese economy that is growing at 12 percent, six times the rate of the U.S. economy in the first half of 2007. A day of reckoning for the boomers will arrive in the first term of the new president. So ‘has been’ that we are, we let China ship us products that kill us, that kill our children, and if we dare say anything they threaten to nuke our economy by dumping the trillion dollars worth of US dollars they’ve accumulated with their huge trade surpluses over the last decade. What a bunch of pussies we’ve become!

  2. And a world watching America thrash about in Mesopotamia is beginning to recognize it and act upon it.’ I don’t know who Pat Buchanan or what he does is but my respect for him is automatically several notches lower after reading that… he’s obviously totally ignorant of what’s going on over there and in that situation anyone with credibility keeps their mouth shut.

  3. We can’t cover our commitments with the ground forces we have’ Broadly put, he is right, that said, it has always been the case that American commitments (over the last 50 years) have greatly exceeded our manpower available. Its just like the banks, they keep far less cash on hand then what would be needed in the event if everybody withdrew their funds at once. Personally, I see the need to reactivate 2 Army divisions and 1 Marine division. However, more importantly, we need to retask from failed experiments to the properly equipping our forces and maintaining the all important war reserve. The military cannot scream that they are underfunded. Funding levels have never been higher in absolute terms. You cannot blame Iraq, as it is being funding mostly off the books. Three programs need to die – FCS, F-35, and DD(X). They are functionally, doctrinally, and technological dead ends. To expense to have a critical mass, and too dependent on dubious theories of warfare (The Information Revolution – where walls of knowledge and complexity are used to to replace the function of the simple and effective.) With respect to China’s growth rate of 12%. Do not care. The growth rates of an economy starting from a low level are always higher then established economies. Its only due to the shear mass of China do the numbers start to get scary. That said, China’s population is double edge sword. iple.cass.cn/file/Demographic_Transition_and_Economic_Growth_in_China.pdf Fears aside, China is walking on a cliff edge. They should be watched, and militarily overmatched, but demographics and economics are in our favor – if we want to have a stable world. If we want to maintain the role of being the absolute and sole superpower – then we have a problem. The issue of Social Security and Medicare are serious. We will need to confront that reality soon. That said, the US is virtually unique in that unlike the rest of the industrial countries, we have a positive population growth rate. This mean demographically, addressing SS & Med will be comparatively easier then Europe’s oldage time bomb. Japan & China – face the nightmare scenario of negative population growth & extended lifespans. Russia’s population – is rapidly shrinking and may lose half its population within the next 30 years or so. As for Pat Buchanan – umm I tend to disagree with him.

  4. Nicholas, I ask you this with no malice. Are you American, Australian or British? I ask because of some things you have posted in the past. Also, since you did not know who Pat Buchanan was, I figured you might not be from the US. FYI, Buchanan is considered a paleo-con. He runs a conservative publication called the American Conservative at http://www.amconmag.com/ In addition, he is syndicated on several online sites and appears on US talk shows such as the Mclaughlin Group and formerly CNN’s Crossfire. He worked for Nixon and Reagan and ran as a republican presidential candidate in 1992 and as an independent in 1996 and 2000. He differs from neo-cons in that he doesn’t support open-borders immigration, a trade policy that leads to the de-industrialization of the US, intervention in foreign affairs such as Kosovo and Iraq, and the belief that US foreign policy exists to support Israel. He also differs with them on social issues as he is against gay marriage and abortion. Whether one agrees or disagrees, he is very informative to listen to. He has a great knowledge of history and a lot of first hand experience in the white house.

  5. Yeah, I don’t agree with his economic isolationism, but I also find the fact that we are running a trade deficit that’s 7% of GNP frightening. The fact our biggest deficit is with communist red China makes it infititely more frightening. They are not our friends. Now I don’t think that means we shouldn’t trade with them, but holy hell, why on earth would we think it’s ok to run an over $200 billion a year deficit with them? As for what we’re doing in Iraq, that’s a mess, no doubt about it. We’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory there every way possible. I think Spacey has the right idea. We could have zipped in there, kicked all the ass we wanted to kick, zipped out, declared ourselves the winners, and moved on. Instead we’ve been bogged down there for way too long. It’s political suicide and a death by a 1000 cuts. It’s insane. The war has little to no support by any real conservatives. It’s pretty much the neocon’s war.

  6. Microsoft IE share of the browser market is still growing; Apple Safari is up slightly, while Mozilla and Opera usage decline. I dunno. When I think to check the stats on my blog, it’s about 60%, Firefox, 30% IE, with some Safari and Opera users in the single percentage points. Maybe I just attract users of Quality. Orion to splash down (like Apollo) instead of land landing? This move is probalby to save weight because the proposed boosters suck NASA’s plan to redo the 60s without learning any lessons proceeds apace. Good luck getting a Navy with few surplus carrier decks to assign a task force for each splashdown. So we’ll have the cost of a dedicated ship (or two or three) plus crew plus support facilities for the NASA fleet … NASA – it is said – designed the Shuttle program so it would employ the 20,000 people that managed Apollo. In a decade we’ll be able to say that Orion will employ the 20,000 people it took to launch Shuttle. I want to like Orion, I want NASA to be the guys they were in my youth – perky bright-eyed steely-eyed missile men exploring the heavens. They’re determined to break my heart, the bastards.

  7. Agreed the trade deficit is a concern – but there is a lot of evidence out there, that runs counter to the standard economic theory that prolonged trade deficits hurt the economy. On an individual country level, its generally clear that trade deficits absorb the countries savings rate, hence restrict capitol flows. That said, the US is in a unique position. Since our currency is an international hard currency and considered a safe haven and most items are denominated in US dollars – the usual effect of trade deficits on the strength of the currency do not seem to apply. Basically by internationalizing our currency we have marginalized the effects of foreign trade. Traditionally exports absorb a country’s savings, in our case, since every one pays in dollars, they convert their currencies into US dollars by using their savings not ours. In addition the trade deficit numbers are not really accurate as the numbers count as foreign trade transactions that within a US companies domestic and foreign subsidiaries. Additionally, our savings rate is miscalculated, as the savings rate does not factor in 401K’s and real estate values (the two largest vehicles of savings). For example: If GM buys an engine from a Michigan supplier it owns it does count a foreign trade. If GM buys and engine from a Japanese supplier (it owns) it is counted as foreign trade. However in both cases, the trade is denominated in dollars and the value of the goods and services is not exported from from the available US savings pool. Essentially, the US is the sole country capable of independent economic policy. Fluctuations in the value of the dollar on have a marginal effect on the US (or at least in the degree that it effects other countries.) Basically, there are two prime movers of inflation (money supply and currency value – in general both have the same effect) 1st Money supply – Is the amount of dollars chasing the goods of services. For the US, large amounts of dollars are ‘purchased’ and moved outside our economy never to return. If the value of the dollar ‘falls’ its cheaper to ‘buy’ more dollars, thus reducing the number of dollars in circulation / thus reducing the rate of inflation. If the value of the dollar ‘falls’ its more expensive to ‘buy’ more dollars, thus reducing the demand for dollars / thus increasing the the number of dollars in circulation / thus increasing the rate of inflation. As long as the Fed does not go crazy and prints money like its going out of style – we have built in counters to inflation effects. The one real danger we have is the federal budget deficit.

  8. Nicholas, I ask you this with no malice. Are you American, Australian or British? I ask because of some things you have posted in the past. Also, since you did not know who Pat Buchanan was, I figured you might not be from the US.

    No offense taken. I am Australian, but I lived & worked in the USA for a year or two – first Montana, then San Francisco, then the dot com bust happened. I liked Montana (Bozeman). SF was OK but I don’t really miss it.

    FYI, Buchanan is considered a paleo-con. He runs a conservative publication called the American Conservative at http://www.amconmag.com/

    Ah. I’ve heard the name, but I’ve never run across anything he’s written or otherwise contributed to (that I can remember).

    He differs from neo-cons in that he doesn’t support open-borders immigration, a trade policy that leads to the de-industrialization of the US, intervention in foreign affairs such as Kosovo and Iraq, and the belief that US foreign policy exists to support Israel. He also differs with them on social issues as he is against gay marriage and abortion.

    You might be able to call me a ‘neo-con’ (actually I’m more of a neo-centrist really). Funnily, it sounds like I have pretty much the exact opposite opinions to those you described above. Except that I’m really not sure what I think about abortion any more.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees, he is very informative to listen to. He has a great knowledge of history and a lot of first hand experience in the white house.

    That’s fair enough. And you know, I don’t really mind if someone disagrees with me about Afghanistan/Iraq – there are legitimate reasons to do so. But I really don’t see where describing the situation as ‘thrash[ing] around’ can come across as an informed opinion. There are a lot of things going on over there, some good and some bad, but ‘thrash[ing] around’ implies a lot of activity but no real progress in any direction. I don’t agree with that. The progress is not necessarily in the exact direction we would like, but the situation is not static and our actions are not having no effect. If he’s going to talk like that, I think he has a lot of explaining to do, to inform us of why he thinks such an extraordinary thing. I guess perhaps he’s done so outside the passage Dfens quoted. But that statement in isolation like that really makes me think of someone who is speaking emotionally rather than rationally.

  9. Agreed the trade deficit is a concern – but there is a lot of evidence out there, that runs counter to the standard economic theory that prolonged trade deficits hurt the economy. On an individual country level, its generally clear that trade deficits absorb the countries savings rate, hence restrict capitol flows.

    Interestingly, according to figures I’ve seen, Australia has a very low total external debt for a developed nation. I was saying that overall this is a good thing to some friends, and they countered by saying that it isn’t because we really could afford to spend a lot more money on infrastructure (e.g. roads, water supply, power plants). My response was, ‘well, it’s much easier to get into debt if we want to, than get out of it’. Maybe we should borrow money from overseas to spend on our infrastructure. But, right now the infrastructure is working. However, that could change, and we probably should take better care of what we have. So, it’s kind of hard to say just what level of external and/or public debt is acceptable. How much infrastructure development and maintenance is worth foregoing in order to reduce that debt? As for US currency.. a lot of my contracting works is paid in US dollars. Lately the exchange rate I’ve been getting has been awful. It’s a combination of weak US dollar and strong Australian dollar. I do hope your real estate price/sub-prime debt issues go away soon, or else I’ll be poor! Echoing the sentiments of the man that people love to hate, Mr. Bush, I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the US economy. Well, other than the bad effects of outsourcing, but that’s nothing new. I wonder how much of the current weak currency/stock markets are psychological. Some of it, I suspect. With any luck it will be over soon – it seems like a correction was necessary, it’s just a question of how harsh it will be.

  10. Basically a country is no different from a business. You can’t lose money forever and not suffer any bad effects from it. The US is losing close to a trillion dollars a year. China has threatened to dump the trillion US they have in reserve onto the open market: The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation. Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning – for the first time – that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (-

  11. First, to clear up something on Buchanan he is not an economic isolationist. Rather he doesn’t support the current ‘free trade’ model in place and he does not support belonging to supranational trade groups like NAFTA and the WTO. He believes, as demonstrated by the EU, that once you sign on to a supranational trade group, national sovereignty is slowy usurped. The EU predecessor started out making standards such as common railroad gauges, and ended up as the EU legislating immigration and human rights policy of the member states. Second, I think there is a subtle difference between outsourcing and offshoring. The US has practiced outsourcing for a while. This is where a company hires an external firm for a specific function. For example a company might not maintain its own advertising or legal departments. So it hires an independent ad agency or law firm. I have no problem with this. Offshoring is the relatively new phenomenon of outsourcing overseas. In effect an American company is utilizing a foreign workforce to support its American market. For example, your local phone company might have a call center in India just to support the American market, regardless of whether or not they even provide serice to India. I have no problem with a US company utilizing a foreign workforce to support their foreign market. For example, if Bank of America provides financial services to India, then by all means open support centers there to service that market. But that is not happening. The outsourced facilities are supporting the American market. As Buchanan has said, ‘they want to dump the American worker, but keep the American consumer.’ James brought up the fact that the dollar is the de facto world currency. I agree the effects of our deficits have been hidden because of the dollar’s position as the world currency. But what happens if that were to change? Already some nations are discussing selling oil in Euros. I think the Euro is getting in a position where it could become the world currency. If that were to happen, what becomes of value of the US dollar? Finally, Nicholas as an Australian can you tell me how your citrus growers harvest your oranges? My grocery store sells Australian oranges and I am amazed they are priced similar to domestic ones given the tremendous distance between us. How is that possible? Do you guys have migrant workers making slave wages or are you mechanized?

  12. He believes, as demonstrated by the EU, that once you sign on to a supranational trade group, national sovereignty is slowy usurped.

    Yes, that is a big worry for me. My question about people like the UN, or if you live in Europe, the EU, is: when did I get an opportunity to elect these people? If I don’t have a role in electing them, I don’t see why they have any legitimate control over what I do. The elected government can’t legitimately divest their responsibility to a third party without a referendum, and even then, I’m not sure it would be right.

    How is that possible? Do you guys have migrant workers making slave wages or are you mechanized?

    Firstly, I suspect part of it has to do with the fact that it’s very cheap to bulk ship goods across the pacific, mainly because a single ship can hold so much cargo. I don’t know for sure if this is true, but I read that it’s cheaper to ship Australian steel to California than it is to get it there from the east coast by truck or rail. Secondly, I am not aware of any large influxes of migrant labour for harvesting here. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of migrants who don’t travel to rural areas at harvest time in order to help with picking. I suspect automation is part of it. I found this article through Google:

    The Australian citrus industry is one of the world famous and highly commercialised where the various operations right from raising nurseries, planting, production techniques and harvesting is fully mechanised. Further processing and packaging of citrus fruit products are done through computer-aided, automated systems.

    That sentence is not very well-formed, but it does support your conjecture.

  13. Nicholas, thanks for the info on the Australian citrus industry. I figured it would have to be mechanized as you don’t have a border with Mexico. I think your cost advantage must be huge because shipping is probably done by air, not sea. Citrus has a limited shelf life so I would think they would need to fly it here. California farmers basically shaped our immigration program by refusing to mechanize and wanting to rely on cheap, illegal labor which the federal government allowed. Now of course this has spread to other sectors like roofing, but your answer only confirmed my suspicions that there are more efficient ways to harvest. In effect our farmers are skimping on innovation and making the rest of us pick up the tab for their newfound workers’ healthcare and education.

  14. The US is never going to be able to compete with China over the industrial capacity to produce low value added products that require a large workforce. This is not to say that the US lacks a large industrial capacity. Historically the US accounted for roughly 20% of the worlds output. The period after WWII is an exception. You could make the argument, that the world post WWII exception period has ended and the US has returned to its traditional share of GDP. US industrial production has been rising ‘U.S. industrial production (78 percent of which is manufactured goods) rose by 46 percent between 1994 and 2006.’ http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/hp423.htm However, the industrial workforce has been falling. This is following the trend first established in agriculture. Technology advances and the workforce is replaced by machines. We used to have 50%+ of the available workforce associated with agriculture. Now its down to around 3%,though food production is vastly more plentiful now. This is not to say that we should ignore industrial production. We should encourage it when possible. We killed the American ship building industry through poorly conceived ‘luxury taxes’ and other regulatory stupidities. That said, industries that employ large amounts of unskilled or low skilled workers, are simply not going to be able to compete with China. IMO the US is sitting on a gold mine and needs to actively encourage it. That gold mine is space exploration and development. The US should actively support the private space developments. Favorable tax treatment, backing catastrophic contingency insurance, creating a DARPA like program to focus solely on space development. In short, the US will never win the battle to make lego’s. The same thing that is happening to us, is happening to Japan and South Korea. The low value added industries are moving from those countries to lower wage countries. That said, we have an enormous advantage in space tech. If we play our cards right, I could easily see the space based industries becomming a major source of jobs and GDP growth – in the net 10-20 years.

  15. We are doing nothing but sitting on our laurels with regard to space. The Chinese will have been on the Moon opening their own gold mines, and copper mines, and platinum mines long before any of our private space, 1950s rockets are operational. Does this make it sound like the Chinese are going there for ‘national pride’ like the morons at NASA so often like to tell us? China plans to survey all of the moon’s surface before eventually bringing bits of the planet back to Earth, state media reported Friday. ‘We would like to survey every inch of the moon’s surface,’ Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of the China’s moon exploration project, was quoted as saying on the website of Chinese News Service. Ouyang, speaking at a conference in southwestern China this week, said China’s lunar exploration programme was divided into three phases: orbiting the moon, landing on the lunar surface and coming back to Earth with samples. And as for us shipping low tech, low wage jobs to China, that’s a bunch of bs. Have you looked at the kinds of jobs Boeing is shipping over there for their 787? They’re sending them composites technology developed at US taxpayer expense for the B-2 bomber. Gee, what a great idea that is. Meanwhile Japan puts car assembly plants here in the US, but where are the cars designed, where are the parts machined, where are the assembly robots designed and manufactured, where are they programmed? In all cases, the answer is overseas. Even our domestic auto makers have shipped all their parts production and machining to Mexico and Canada. The jobs we keep are the lowest skilled and lowest paid assembly jobs. Is that the promise of ‘free trade?’

  16. The Asian cars and trucks developed and designed within a 40-minute drive of Detroit read like a list of the most hated vehicles in Big Three boardrooms: Toyota Camry, Sienna minivan, and Avalon sedan; Nissan’s (NSANY ) Titan, Altima, and Versa; and soon vehicles from Hyundai and Kia.’ …’Toyota Motor Corp. (TM )employs almost 700 people at a 106-acre campus in Ann Arbor, and it’s building a second facility nearby with room to grow. Hyundai-Kia opened its tech center in Ann Arbor a year ago and so far has about 300 designers and engineers working on vehicles to be built at Alabama and Georgia plants. Nissan already has 1,200 workers, mostly engineers and designers, in nearby Farmington Hills. And Visionary Vehicles, the venture between entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin and Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co., is scouting a tech center location around Detroit’ http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_41/b4004058.htm?chan=autos_autos+index+page_news Dfens – In general, I do not disagree with you. That said, we cannot use the government to ‘protect American jobs’. Every time we tried that we end up with fiscal fiasco’s. (See military procurement costs)Economically, it makes very little sense to protect various classes of industries from foreign competition. (High tariffs was one of the proximate cause of the great depression.)

  17. Certainly you realize that it takes more than 300 engineers to design an entire line of cars and trucks, right? You know that these ‘design houses’ are mainly focused on modifying Japanese designed vehicles to accommodate the different cultural aspects of American drivers as well as the differing population size? This is not the same as designing the cars themselves. It makes a nice show piece, but it’s not employing very many engineers. Certainly no where near as many as would be employed by a truely domestic manufacturer. Also, where do you get the idea that the government cannot protect certain jobs? Tariffs are not a new thing. They have been used successfully by many countries for millenia. China is using them to sustain 6 times the economic rate of growth we have. As for the government protecting jobs in defense, they aren’t. They are trying their best to outsource defense. What do you think the ACS program was about, or presidential helicopter, or JCA, and, of course, the biggest prize of all the tanker competition? Why do you think the defense industry is putting a full court press on against ITAR? It’s all about offshoring defense. We have French, British, and UAE based companies buying up smaller domestic defense manufacturers while they tell us it is so we can have better access to foreign markets. What a crock that is! We spend as much as the entire rest of the world on defense. We spend 8 times what Britain spends. Hell, I was born at night, but not last night. How can the amount of contracting the government does double and the number of engineers employed in defense drop by half? And at the same time the cost and schedules for programs has gone up to 5 times the 1970s costs for similar hardware. They certainly haven’t made up for that in increase innovation, have they? We can and should protect our domestic engineering skills. Do you want to drive over a bridge that’s been certified safe for use by an engineer from Saudi Arabia? Do you want to buy our weapons from China? Wouldn’t you prefer an engineer who actually cares about the United States of America do those jobs? As I recall, offshoring weapons manufacture didn’t work out so well for the South in that little skirmish in the 1890s, now did it? Funny how cold overseas weapons manufacturers can be when you’re running out of gold reserves and appear to be waging a losing battle. Do we never learn anything from history?