Rule Five Friday

2014_12_05_Rule Five Friday (1)For our Friday edification (and maybe warning) here’s another piece from the inestimable Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  War Clouds on the Horizon.  Excerpt:

In the decade before World War I, the near-hundred-year European peace that had followed the fall of Napoleon was taken for granted. Yet it abruptly imploded in 1914. Prior little wars in the Balkans had seemed to predict a much larger one on the horizon — and were ignored.

The exhausted Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were spent forces unable to control nationalist movements in their provinces. The British Empire was fading. Imperial Germany was rising. Czarist Russia was beset with revolutionary rebellion. As power shifted, decline for some nations seemed like opportunity for others.

2014_12_05_Rule Five Friday (2)The same was true in 1939. The tragedy of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was not that it had been too harsh. In fact, it was far milder than the terms Germany had imposed on a defeated Russia in 1918 or the requirements it had planned for France in 1914.

Instead, Versailles combined the worst of both worlds: harsh language without any means of enforcement.

The subsequent appeasement of Britain and France, the isolationism of the United States, and the collaboration of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany green-lighted Hitler’s aggression — and another world war.

Could we be headed into a third global conflict?  Dr. Hanson thinks there is a distinct possibility:

The ancient ingredients of war are all on the horizon. An old postwar order crumbles amid American indifference. Hopes for true democracy in post-Soviet Russia, newly capitalist China, or ascendant Turkey long ago were dashed. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism are the norms in the Middle East as the nation-state disappears.

2014_12_05_Rule Five Friday (3)Under such conditions, history’s wars usually start when some opportunistic — but often relatively weaker — power does something unwise on the gamble that the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. That belligerence is only prevented when more powerful countries collectively make it clear to the aggressor that it would be suicidal to start a war that would end in the aggressor’s sure defeat.

What is scary in these unstable times is that a powerful United States either thinks that it is weak or believes that its past oversight of the postwar order was either wrong or too costly — or that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, America is no longer a force for positive change.

A large war is looming, one that will be far more costly than the preventive vigilance that might have stopped it.

Yr. obdt’s concern is this:  America is weak, weaker than it has been since before the Second World War.  While we still maintain the shell of military might – in the post-Cold War world America has known a degree of unchallenged military supremacy unknown since the fall of the Roman Empire – it’s only a shell.  We can’t sustain it; we lack the industrial capacity or, worse, the will as a nation to sustain a lengthy struggle.  Were the WW2 Pacific conflict in progress today, one can only imagine the evening news broadcasts and frantic web videos showing carnage in far-away places like the Solomon Islands and the cries to “leave the west Pacific to Japan” and bring our Marines home.

2014_12_05_Rule Five Friday (4)And there’s more; a third world war will proceed with catastrophic speed.  One of the few constants in the history of war is that celerity has increased with technology.  WW1 armies fought bitterly for months over a few miles of ground, while in WW2 Allied armies smashed from Normandy and the Caucasus to the gates of Berlin in a few months.  Imagine a third world war fought in the modern world – where nonuniformed irregulars take advantage of commercial air travel and flow across porous borders with the greatest of ease.

America’s heavy industrial capacity is much reduced, and in a new world war, we will not have the luxury of time to ramp up.  The oceans no longer provide a barrier to aggressors, and our borders have become a sad joke.

But Americans are far more concerned with the coming Sunday’s football and Kim Kardashian’s ass than with the legions of thugs across the world who want to destroy America and kill Americans.  It’s Rome all over again, and too few of us see it coming – our political “leadership” least of all.

2014_12_05_Rule Five Friday (5)

Animal’s Daily News

Silver BearIn the style of the esteemed Dr. Sowell, here today are some random thoughts and notes on the passing scene.

Some interesting work possibilities are in progress.  Bids are out on four projects; two in the Bay Area, one in Cleveland, and one in Ogden, Utah.  Of the four the Ogden job is vastly preferable.  As far as the work itself there is little to differentiate the four, but the Ogden area is vastly preferable to the others; quiet, scenic, friendly, reasonably close to home, and the climate and landscape are familiar.  We are reliably informed there is some great waterfowling in the area.

Sleepy-BearGasoline prices continue to drop.  We filled up Mrs. Animal’s Explorer today for $2.66 a gallon.  Before the Thanksgiving holiday gas here in the metro Denver area was over $3.  Apparently the Saudis are ramping up production to try to squeeze out the boom in North American shale production, but either way it’s good for consumers, and when the sheiks run out of oil the shale fields will still be there.  And they can’t touch us on natural gas production, which will continue.

The 2016 presumptive Democrat Presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is underwhelming crowds.  In the considered opinion of yr. obdt., who has been a dedicated election-watcher since the 1976 contest, she won’t be the nominee.  She is carrying more baggage than a Samsonite factory, and she is old news.  And remember – she was the presumptive nominee in 2008 as well, and was adroitly taken out by a newcomer nobody much had heard of before that year.

Manly Arts.
Manly Arts.

One of our favorite state wildlife areas, the 891-acre Brush State Wildlife Area, no long requires reservations!  This SWA is a great place to jump-shoot some tasty wild mallards, and there are white-tailed deer, rabbits, a few pheasants, quail and squirrels on the land as well.  The Brush SWA is also not what most non-Coloradans think of when they think of our state; east of Ft. Morgan, it’s all Platte River lowlands, flat and lightly wooded with cottonwoods and ash trees.  It’s a fun place to take a shotgun and wander around for a couple of hours, and now that we can do it on short notice – which work schedules frequently mandate – it’s back on the list of Things That Need Doing.  Maybe this week sometime.

One that outdoorsy note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Hump Day News

2014_12_03_Hump Day
Happy Hump Day!

One more piece of news on the Ferguson kerfuffle, this from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell; Opinion Vs. Facts.  Excerpt:

Soon after the shooting death of Michael Brown, this 285-pound young man was depicted as a “gentle giant.” But, after a video was leaked, showing him bullying the owner of a store from which he had stolen some merchandise, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed displeasure that the video was leaked. In other words, to Holder the truth was offensive, but the lie it exposed was not.

Many people who claimed to have been eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting gave opposite accounts of what happened. Some even gave accounts that contradicted what they themselves had said earlier.

Fortunately, the grand jury did not have to rely on such statements, though some in the media seemed to. What the grand jury had, that the rest of us did not have until the grand jury’s decision was announced, was a set of physical facts that told a story that was independent of what anybody said.

The facts have been available for some time.

Item:  The confrontation was initiated by Officer Wilson when Brown and his companion were walking in the middle of a street and defiantly refused to move to the sidewalk.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceItem:  Michael Brown’s blood and DNA were found inside the police vehicle and on Darren Wilson’s service sidearm, corroborating Wilson’s testimony that Brown lunged into the vehicle and attempted to grab the officer’s weapon.

Item:  Several autopsies confirmed that all of the shots that struck Michael Brown did so from the front, not the back.

Item:  Several witnesses confirmed Officer Wilson’s testimony that Brown was charging the police officer, head down “like a football player,” when Wilson fired the fatal shots.

Add to this that the burden of evidence for a grand jury is quite a bit lower than that demanded in a trial.  In a criminal trial, the prosecution is required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  To return an indictment, all a grand jury needs is a preponderance of evidence, or a likelihood that charges are justified.

This grand jury found no such preponderance of evidence.

So what do the Ferguson protestors want?  The rule of law junked for this case?  The decision of a legally convened and conducted grand jury thrown out to appease the demands of a mob?

Such a thing is unthinkable in a nation that claims to value the rule of law.

Splashing-BearsDr. Sowell concludes:  Who benefits from the Ferguson riots? The biggest beneficiaries are politicians and racial demagogues. In Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young was one of many political demagogues who were able to ensure their own reelection, using rhetoric and policies that drove away people who provided jobs and taxes, but who were likely to vote against him if they stayed. Such demagogues thrived as Detroit became a wasteland.

This, True Believers, is why the paid protestors and out-of-towners in Ferguson are rioting, stealing and burning.  They don’t give a damn about Michael Brown.  They have their own agendas, and this is an opportunity to chip away at the rule of law.

Animal’s Daily News

Excellent BearThis just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  When The Law Is A Drag.  Excerpt:

In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.

In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.

While Dr. Hanson makes some excellent points, one has to wonder how much of the callous disregard for the rule of law has to do with the penchant of various levels of government have for passing laws they know are unenforceable, laws that will be routinely ignored, laws that will only be enforced when some elected or appointed official sees a chance to advance some agenda by so doing?

Case in point:  Our own Colorado’s recently-enacted magazine ban.  Recently a county sheriff in a press conference held up two 30-round AR-15 magazines.  “One of these,” he said, “has been in the state for a year.  The other was brought in from Wyoming this morning.  Can you tell the difference?”

No.  Nobody can.  That’s why this catastrophically stupid law is unenforceable, why it will be ignored, and because of that it cheapens the law as a whole.

Yes-YOU-bearDr. Hanson points out that in his own California Central Valley, he must “…accept that if I burn a single old grape stake that has been treated with a copper-based preservative, I will be facing huge fines by environmental protection agencies, whose zeal will not extend to nearby residents who have created illegal compounds of rental Winnebagos with jerry-rigged wiring and stop-gap sewage or who dump wet garbage along the side of the road.”

There can be no respect for the law when it is capricious and arbitrary.  The law should be two things:  Impartial and absolute.  In the United States today it is neither, and recent actions by the Imperial Federal government are accelerating that trend.

Nothing about this will end well.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Another Thanksgiving come and gone, and on this first day of December we all probably are wondering where the hell 2014 went.

Before we begin, once more we give our thanks to for the Rule Five links!  Aficionados of the Feminine Aesthetic should check out Wombat-socho’s extensive compilation of links.

An interesting data point noticed in our Thanksgiving travels was the drop in gasoline prices.  Some of the reasons for that are the explosion of gas and oil development in the Dakotas and Canada, but another explosion is taking place in the Utica Shale formation of  eastern Ohio.  Excerpt:

The Utica Shale is coming on strong as the nation’s second-fastest natural gas formation, right behind the Marcellus. The Utica lies just beneath the Marcellus and extends all the way from central Ohio to tiny slivers of Maryland and New Jersey (not shown). Production in the Utica has risen tenfold since the field was opened in 2012, from 155 million cubic feet per day to 1.3 billion.

Until recently, regular unleaded gasoline was well over $3 a gallon here in Colorado.  It was over $3 in Indiana for all of the year and three months I recently spent there.  When we traveled yesterday across Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Colorado, the highest we paid for petrol was $2.67.

Smiling BearSupply and demand works, True Believers.  Adam Smith figured that out 240 years ago, even if Congress and the other denizens of the Imperial City haven’t yet.

So why has the Senate not approved the Keystone pipeline, which will add 800 miles of pipeline to the well over 2 million already in everyday use around the lower 48?  The environmental lobby has had their say, but their argument is based on a sham; that oil will be extracted and sold, either to the U.S. or to China.  While the price of oil, a fungible commodity, is a global price, and that price will continue to drop as supply increases, it would be a far more efficient use of the resource to refine and use it closer to the point of origin.

And why not send U.S. energy dollars to a nation that is not only our neighbor but also our close friend and ally, rather than to Middle Eastern sponsors of terror, run by either thug-dictators or cabals of 7th century barbarians?

The recalcitrance of the Obama Administration on this issue is mind-boggling.

Rule Five Friday

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (1) (853x1280)Are we on the brink of creating artificial life?  Excerpt:

With 100 billion neurons and 37 trillion cells, the human body is simply too complex to be artificially designed by modern computers.

But in the quest to create artificial life, what if we started a lot smaller? That’s what team of scientists has done, creating a replica of the simplest form of life we know.

The worm Caenorhabditis elegans has just 300 neurons and around 1,000 cells – and now a robot has been created that mimics the actions of this simple organism.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (2) (861x1280)The OpenWorm project, a global effort including researchers from the US and UK, is attempting to create the world’s first digital animal.

Earlier this year they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a worm you can download onto your computer.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this.  First, the implications of digitizing a worm brain are far, far different than the implications of digitizing a human brain.  Ditto for the moral and ethical implications.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (3) (1280x845)Fortunately, the complexity of a human brain is also far more involved than a worm brain, making the differences in the project probably more of kind than of degree.

But what if we could do it?

That’s where the two ways of looking at this come in, here where humans are concerned.  You could use the process to make a copy of your own brain – a back-up, as it were, to be activated on physical death.  On the other hand, what if you could eschew physicality altogether, and go completely digital?  A disembodied sprite, wandering the Intarwebs.  Would you be an odd sort of living virus?  2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (4) (862x1280)Would you be able to interact with the living?  With other cyber-beings?  Would you still have rights, obligations, responsibilities?

I’m inclined to answer “no,” to those last three, because the copy of you would not be you – it would only be a programmed simulacrum of you.  It’s hard to see how a purely digital “person” could in fact be a person in any legal, moral or ethical sense.

But back to the worm; the linked article concludes:

The robot is very basic for now, and does not possess the ability to perform more complex functions such as eating.

It’s an important step, though, to creating artificial life that can think for itself.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (5) (861x1280)While this worm is a very basic form of life, it may be a precursor to making much more complex animals.

This will be a huge undertaking, though – even a mouse has 22 million neurons in its brain.

‘The mere act of trying to put a working model together causes us to realise what we know and what we don’t know,’ John Long, a roboticist and neuroscientist at Vassar College in New York State, told New Scientist.

In other words, creating a simulation of any mammal brain, much less a human brain, is a long, long ways off.  Still the stuff of science fiction (of which, as all True Believers may know, yr. obdt. is a fan and an author.)

But while it may be a long ways off, it may not be too soon to start thinking about the implications.  Besides, it’s entertaining.

2014_11_28_Rule Five Friday (6) (1280x844)

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.