America’s Shame

February 27, 2008

Ms. Rice wants more US cultural exchanges with, and visits from, North Korea. That makes her breathtakingly naive or a cynical appeaser – either way she’s betraying the 23 million poor devils suffering under that Fear State.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States should consider future cultural exchanges with North Korea, even if last year’s deal to end the North’s nuclear programs falls through.

Speaking in Beijing minutes after the New York Philharmonic played “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the Communist Party elite in Pyongyang, North Korea, Miss Rice said cultural programs would help promote the North’s “opening to the rest of the world.”

“I’d like to see North Koreans come to the United States,” she told reporters during an East Asian tour aimed at breaking the latest nuclear impasse.

Reporters asked Miss Rice whether future cultural exchanges should be arranged even if an October agreement in six-nation talks collapses.

Miss Rice replied: “I believe that cultural exchange is something that we ought to be looking at in any case.”

Natan Sharansky’s definitive book analyzes how Fear States work, based on his life in the Soviet Union. In such states a small group of thugs use their monopoly of force exclusively to enrich themselves and their supporters.

The controlling group is small (about 200,000 in Iran) and it runs all the businesses, takes all luxury goods, uses all foreign exchange, and gets the bulk of educational and medical services (Saddam spent the UN’s oil for food money for breast implants for his supporters’ women, not antibiotics for kids).

The left believes in the benevolent dictator – for example Castro – but it’s a myth:

…a Cuban-American anti-Castro activist, claims, partially based on the testimonials of defectors who were close to Castro, that Castro and his loyalists control several billions of dollars in real estate, bank accounts, private estates, yachts and other assets — called “the Comandante’s Reserves” — in Europe, Latin America and Asia – and a luxurious lifestyle for the top Cuban leadership.

Here’s how it works in North Korea:

Multiple international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation.

North Koreans have been referred to as “some of the world’s most brutalized people”, regarding their severe restrictions on political and economic freedoms.

North Korean defectors have testified to the existence of prison and detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder, medical experimentation, forced labour, and forced abortions.

Fear State thugs use every perk available to cement the loyalty of their supporters – the audience for the New York Philharmonic’s shameful performance in Pyongyang will have been all-thug.

And the North Korean dictatorship will ensure that all of its citizens Rice allows into the US will also be thugs, bent on self enrichment, espionage, and criminality.

By providing the dictator with the means to reward his supporters, Rice perpetuates the enslavement of a suffering people.

In our lifetimes, the US has five times overthrown dictatorships by the only means that works: steadfast opposition and, where necessary, force.

Ms Rice shames her nation, and the sooner she goes, the better.


Calibrating Brit Geneticists

February 14, 2008

A few days back we quoted a piece on cousin marriage (my ellipsis):

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, agreed that there was a higher risk of defects (in cousin marriage) but drinking or smoking in pregnancy was “as bad if not worse”.

But now it turns out the statistics on smoking in pregnancy are junk:

Smoking in pregnancy is far less damaging to the unborn baby than commonly supposed, detailed analysis suggests…

The study by Emma Tominey, a research assistant at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, throws new light on government efforts to stop women smoking when they become pregnant.

(The study) shows that the worst effects are suffered by women from the poorest backgrounds, because in their case smoking is often combined with other unhealthy activities, such as poor diet and consumption of alcohol.

Middle-class women suffer almost no damaging effects, the analysis suggests, even if they continue to smoke throughout pregnancy.

That would explain why Mrs G’s smoking in pregnancy failed to stunt the growths of our altitudinous offspring.

It’s extraordinarily depressing to find that, until Ms. Tominey, none of the statistical surveys have controlled for the many other variables that might influence a baby’s birth weight.

Controlling is essential in all attempts to establish causality from statistical surveys. That’s because variables are interdependent – a poor mother might, as well as smoking, eat badly, drink to drown her sorrows, suffer physical abuse, and so on.

These factors are called dependent variables, and their effects must be removed before it’s possible to pontificate on the effects of any single behavior, such as smoking.

Ms. Tominey’s study tells us that hasn’t been done until now, and that people relying on those junk results, including Mr. Jones, are fools.

Incompetence Kills

February 7, 2008

The incompetent US intelligence community’s gift to the people of Iran and Israel.

The incompetence (my sequencing and ellipsis):

The director of national intelligence is backing away from his agency’s assessment late last year that Iran had halted its nuclear program, saying he wishes he had written the unclassified version of the document in a different manner…

(That) estimate…drew rare rebukes from American allies, including Israel, France, and the United Kingdom who said their intelligence agencies did not concur with the American assessment that Iran had frozen its plan to produce an A-bomb.

At a hearing yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the intelligence director, Michael McConnell, said, “If I had ’til now to think about it, I probably would change a few things.”

He later added, “I would change the way we describe the Iranian nuclear program. I would have included that there are the component parts, that the portion of it, maybe the least significant, had halted.”

Now the US is powerless to stop the Mullahs, its allies don’t trust it, and a lot of Iranians and Israelis will likely die.

Brit Elite Rules

January 26, 2008

Members of the Brit elite are struggling to protect themselves from their own failures, and that’s dishonorable. The good news for Brit revolutionaries is this makes the elite an easy target.

The latest:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Thousands of “high profile” people have been secretly barred from using the online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk…

Their details are thought to be stored on a highly-restricted database with extra levels of security.

There’s no such thing as a secure database, so putting all the high-value targets in one place simplifies the task of revolutionary hackers.

A safer arrangement would be to remove the elite’s obligation to file tax returns, as in its database of Brit kids, which doesn’t include the elite’s progeny.

The elite also has its own rules when it gets caught:

Mr Brown accepted the Work and Pensions Secretary’s resignation “without hesitation” in a telephone call only minutes after the Metropolitan Police announced an investigation had begun into Mr Hain’s failure to declare £103,000 in donations to his failed deputy leadership campaign.

Senior Whitehall sources said they expected Mr Hain to be interviewed under caution by the detectives from Scotland Yard’s Economic and Specialist Crimes Command within a matter of weeks. He is unlikely to be arrested.

That contrasts with their treatment of ordinary citizens like Lionheart:

The offence that I need to arrest you for is “Stir up Racial Hatred by displaying written material” contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.

You will be arrested on SUSPICION of the offence. You would only be charged following a full investigation based on all the relevant facts and CPS consent.

The pol just gets an “interview” for alleged payola, while Lionheart is arrested, DNA profiled and fingerprinted for allegedly objecting to Muslim nasties.

Elites throughout history have avoided obeying their own laws, but the strategy bites them when they’re deposed.

Then its easy for the deposers to use the special databases, or absence from databases, to identify and track down their erstwhile oppressors.

Here’s the example of the East German elite:

During the regime’s final days, Stasi officials shredded documents with paper shredders and by hand. As people heard of this, they quickly formed a committee of citizen on December 4th, 1989. In a public demonstration they gained access to the Stasi headquarters on January 15th, 1990 and halted the destruction.

Some day, that will happen in the UK.

The Virus Gordon Brown Shares With Hillary Clinton

January 11, 2008

Both are lifetime seconds-in-command doing, or planning to do, the jobs of leaders. Brown is the latest of a long line of unfortunates proving the impossibility of this transition, and Dems should avoid following the Brit Labour party over this precipice.

Here’s a professor of history:

…during the past four months or so a profound change has come over British politics, with Gordon Brown and the Labour Party falling suddenly, remarkably, and apparently catastrophically behind in the polls, and the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, forging ahead…

In common with everyone else, I have been extremely surprised by this turn of events, which has come more or less out of the blue. When in mid-2007, Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, he entered with an enormous amount of goodwill and appeared to many to be just the ticket Britain needed after ten years of Tony Blair.

This collapse against a very weak opponent has a strong precedent:

Historically, in Britain when a strong Prime Minister who has been in power for a long time is followed by an obvious heir apparent who has been waiting to take over in a secondary but important post, that successor has generally proven to be an unfortunate choice: Balfour after Salisbury in 1902; Neville Chamberlain after Baldwin; Eden after Churchill; Callaghan after Wilson in 1976.

In effect, the successor has rusted in a secondary but important position which he performed competently – Chamberlain at the Treasury, Eden at the Foreign Office, for instance – but then found himself way over his head in the central limelight.

The cause isn’t “rust”, but the need for subordinates to have characters and skills completely inappropriate to the leadership role – here’s Karl Popper (paperback p143):

The authoritarian will in general select those who obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. Never can an authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type

People prepared to tolerate subordinate roles prosper under strong leaders, and those that won’t either leave or are fired. That explains why it’s much better to elect leaders than appoint them.

Incidentally, this effect explains why peacetime generals are usually useless in war – they’ve all advanced by obedience, whereas good generals are mavericks who prefer battle. Thus it took real adversity to allow General Petraeus to get to the top.

So poor Brown is doomed because he can’t lead.

In the the US, Hillary Clinton is another second in command. She’s been in her husband’s shadow for her entire adult life, in the process enduring a level of humiliation that no free spirit would accept.

In consequence she’s adept at indirect control, but incompetent as a leader, and I suspect people sense this when giving her such high negative ratings.

If she becomes president, she won’t be able to select, motivate and lead a top-rate management team, and will struggle to deal with life and death issues without support. Her experience is to have someone else do these nasty jobs, but there’ll be nobody there.

So, if she is elected, look for her popularity (and the fortunes of the US) to crash as quickly as Brown’s.

Our Dim Future

January 3, 2008

The US and Brit governments have mandated the replacement of our incandescent bulbs by Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). That will probably save energy, so is a Good Thing. But CFLs are awful lamps, so that’s a Bad Thing.

The UK ban:

On the 27 September 2007, the government announced plans to phase out the sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2011. Retailers will not replace 150 watt bulbs from January 2008, 100 watt bulbs from January 2009, 40 watt bulbs in 2010, and all remaining high power bulbs by 2011. These plans are voluntary…

This agreement between vendors is a cartel – common in the collectivist UK. But even in the non-collectivist US:

On December 19, 2007, Congress passed an energy bill that will see the incandescent light bulb phased off the U.S. market beginning in 2012.

The WSJ calls this dirty pool (my ellipsis):

…if you’re GE or Philips or Sylvania, the demise of the plain vanilla lightbulb is less a threat than an opportunity–an opportunity, in particular, to replace a product that you can sell for 50 cents with one that sells for $3 or more.

Yes, the $3 bulb lasts longer. Yes, it cuts your electricity bill. (The manufacturers lobbyist) says that when every one of those four billion light sockets has an energy-saving bulb in it, the country will be saving $18 billion a year on its electric bill. That’s $4.50 per bulb–and the bulb makers are standing by to make sure a substantial portion of those “savings” get transformed into profits for them.

Now it may be that those bulbs are worth more–because they last longer, etc. But some of those bulbs, like compact fluorescents and Philips’ new “Halogena-IR” bulb, are already available. Currently they command all of 5% of the lightbulb market. That means that, whatever value proposition GE and Philips are selling, consumers aren’t buying…

Note that the lightbulb makers didn’t need a ban to convince consumers to “upgrade.” Microsoft, Dell, Apple and any number of other companies manage to convince the Joneses that they need a better “one”–whatever it is–every few years. If Philips wanted a Halogena-IR bulb in every socket, it had only to put them on the market at a price that made them irresistible compared to the 50-cent bulb of yore.

The 5% market penetration is caused by the 6* price differential with incandescent plus three other negatives.

Health hazards:

The Migraine Action Association (MAA) said some of its members alleged the fluorescent bulbs had led to attacks of the powerful headaches…

The Lighting Association, which represents manufacturers, denied that modern designs produced a flicker.

A spokesman said: “A small number of cases have been reported by people who suffer from reactions to certain types of linear fluorescent lamps. These were almost certainly triggered by old technology.”

Since the “old technology” CFLs harmed people, and that doesn’t bother the suppliers, we can reasonably assume there are more negatives in store.

Poor function

CFLs give poor light, as measured by Color Rendering Index:

…a measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects being lit by the source.

Incandescents have almost perfect CRIs – over 95, while the best CFL is 87 and the typical is a nasty 80.

CFLs are bigger then incandescent, so don’t fit in many light fittings, and they burn out if heated, so you can’t recess them in ceiling cans. The need for new light fixtures can make switching to CFLs uneconomic.

If you don’t run CFLs for at least 5 minutes they burn out in 15% of their intended life. That makes them unsuitable for intermittently used rooms such as bathrooms.

The CFLs we use in Italy take about 1 second to light from cold – very annoying if you’re in a hurry.


CFLs contain mercury, which in all other contexts is regarded as a poison (the EU just shut down the Brit weather center industry since it used mercury thermometers). But there’s an argument that because CFLs use less power, we burn less coal, and produce less mercury vapor from that.

Popular Mechanics makes that case, but comments suggest its analysis is wrong, and CFLs will add to the mercury in our environment.

Bottom Line

There are good reasons why CFLs have only 5% of the market – they give lousy light, are expensive, often require pricey new fitments, and have limited application.

And, now our governments have killed their competition, it’s unlikely CFLs will get any better.

That leaves the LED lamp as our only hope for good lighting after 2010. The colors and brightness aren’t quite right yet, but otherwise they’re great replacements for halogen lamps.

But if the LED doesn’t come good, we face a dim future.

Bah, Humbug!

December 24, 2007

As I wandered down our high street glumly pondering the previous post, a passer-by noted my long face and called out the above.

Quite right too – it’s Christmas!