Monday, December 29, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Imitates Me

Igor Panarin, the Russian academic who predicted the collapse of the United States, is back. This time on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. They left out much of the nutty stuff:

He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

"It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time." A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. "It's not there for no reason," he says with a sly grin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Only In Seattle

Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the Puget Sound pretty salty already?

The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Russia Gets Scarier

As I have mentioned before, as a long time student of Russia, the Putin regime scares me. Things are getting worse as the prepare to essentially ban dissent:

Putin did not specify who might pose a threat to Russia's stability. But in the past, he has often blamed Western security services of trying to destabilize the country using opposition groups and non-governmental organizations as their instruments.

"Any attempts to weaken or destabilize Russia, harm the interests of the country will be toughly suppressed," they quoted ex-KGB spy Putin as telling an annual meeting of top spies and security officers ahead of their professional holiday.

But what do you expect from a country which has a national holiday for the secret police?

The Day of Security Officers is marked annually on December 20, a day when in 1917 Bolshevik rulers created the CheKa secret police to suppress their foes. After a string of transformations, the Cheka became the KGB.

As president, Putin always personally attended the holiday meetings of security officials. Medvedev, a former corporate lawyer with no security background, stayed away and sent his chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin to deliver his greetings.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Al Gore and the Broken Window Fallacy

One of the things that drives me nuts (admittedly, there are a lot right now) is the constant insistance among environmentalists and politicians that "alternative energy" will "create jobs", somehow justifying large government expenditures to pay companies to do things which they would not normally waste money on. As Obama said when he met Al Gore today:

"We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way," Obama said. "We have the opportunity now to make jobs all across this country, in all 50 states, to repower America. ... We are not going to miss this opportunity," he said.

OK, now if you want to argue that "green energy" has some sort of positive externalities in regards to the environment or national defense, you might have an argument, I am not saying it would be a good one, but you could at least make it, but to argue that it is an economic benefit in that it provides jobs, is a fallacy. Under no circumstances is it an economic benefit to subsidize people to do things in a manner which are a less efficient application of resources than they would otherwise. If solar power costs $20 per megawatt, and coal costs $10 a megawatt, it is never an economic benefit to pay someone $20 extra per megawatt in order to get them to put up solar cells. You might as well just use coal and pay them $10 to surf the Internet for Carrie Underwood videos.

This tactic, commonly used by politicians is a variation of the Broken Window Fallacy, by which you argue an economic benefit to smashing windows in order to employ window repairman, but at a loss to society as a whole.

The AP On Military Education

The AP, which has pretty much given up reporting the news and become an editorial service, has written an article on why soldiers are reenlisting in the military because... well apparently they can't get a job anywhere else. While obviously a bad economy probably has an effect, they take the John Kerry education approach.

Roughly 208,000 men and women left the military in 2007. Some were rank-and-file warriors, while others worked in specialized fields such as satellite communications or computer networking. Only about 30 percent of enlisted soldiers hold a bachelor's degree.

Only about 30 percent of enlisted soldiers hold a bachelor's degree? Well, how does that compare to the population at large? Well, according to the US Census, 27.1%, or less than the military, and this is not even counting officers, who almost all have degrees. So why exactly did they add the "only"?