Rare Earth Less Rare

China recently started to use its supply of rare earth elements as a political bargaining chip - or possibly just a nationalistic play based around their desire to start shifting over their entire car fleet to hybrids, a stated goal.

Any way that you look at it, the move (preventing the export of many rare earth elements) was going to screw over Japan and the US. Japan, never a fan of China (though tied to them economically much more that even the US is) quickly inked an agreement with China's smaller rival to the south, Vietnam (yes - China helped Vietnam in the Vietnamese war, but they are not traditional allies, and because of the Spratly islands and other reasons, they have not been allies for quite some time, and are becoming increasingly antagonistic towards each other).

The US has now figured out a way to deal with the ban also. A US company has decided to reopen a mine near LA which will be able to supply of the US demand within a few years. This mine closed 10 years ago, when Chinese imports put it out of business.
Molycorp's Facilities at Mountain Pass AlanM1 via Wikimedia

UAW Targets Asians and Germans

So, the UAW has succeeded in (nearly) killing off the American auto companies. Chrysler is mostly dead, Ford and GM needed government money (GM a full on purchase from the American people - $150 per person or so).

The UAW is to a large degree to blame for this. They are a bunch of lazy overpaid workers who fight hard to ensure that pay is based on tenure rather than skill and hard work. They really are one of the worst, most despicable, most destructive organizations still operating in the US.
Bob King

And now, they are trying to organize the US plants of the foreign automakers. What assholes. Those plants have been able to do well and grow precisely because they have NOT had the UAW working there. And these are not underpaid and unhappy workers. They are paid well, have good satisfaction, and oh wait, he is a big one... STILL HAVE JOBS. Lets see whats happened to Detroit, home of the UAW and all the love and joy that they bring...

Yeah. Detroit is in one of the worst states of urban decay of any city in the world, and that is what the UAW has to offer. They have killed off the body they have been so long feeding off of, and they are now looking for a new host. Please, please if you work in a foreign auto plant, do not allow in the UAW. I like the idea that some of my cars, even if they are not made by American brands, are still made in American factories. Well, actually, I dont care at all if my car in particular is made in America, but in general, I think this country should still be able to operate high value-added factories, considering our focus on technology.

Anyway, my rant for today, and I apologize for being away for so long. I will be bombarding this blog with my thoughts for the next few days, catching up before the new year.

Chrome OS = Fail

Google has just handed out its first netbooks, with the first public version of Chrome OS onboard.

In my opinion, it is a complete failure. You can read the detailed review here from engadget, but basically, the critical piece of information is this "if you have seen the Chrome browser, you have seen Chrome OS."

That, in my opinion, is not a good thing. You see, I have a netbook, and I love it. It has Windows XP Pro on it, which is relatively lightweight (better than Mac OSX or Win 7 in terms of battery use), but is compatible with... everything. Really, just about everything runs on XP.

So why then would I want a netbook which does just a fraction of what my current netbook does?

The Google plan is to sell you a netbook which comes with a lightweight OS and a data plan from Verizon wireless. This is at a time when more and more smartphones come with the ability to tether (something I have always had on my Pre), so that you can simply hook your laptop to your phone and use that connection. It is also at a time when netbooks are dying out in favor of tablets. On a tablet, you accept the limitations of it not being a full computer, because it is clearly not a full computer. I see absolutely no reason anyone would pay more to get a Google branded netbook which does less than a regular netbook.

It seems ridiculous to me that Google is coming out with this now, when it is hard at work on Android 3.0 which is designed for tablets, and is really the most direct competitor to Chrome OS. There is no way anyone would use this on a real laptop, and so... what the hell has Google made here?

Too little too late on this one Google. If it came out 3 years ago, it might have made some sense. Today, its just stupid.


Bittorent and Tracking

Yes - if you download things illegally, you are breaking the law. Unless you have fair use of the article in question.

I have gotten a takedown notice from Verizon for copyright infringement, which is pretty frigging annoying. I downloaded an epsiode of True Blood which was available through OnDemand as I am an HBO subscriber. I did so to watch the episode over at my girlfriends house.

However, they are claiming that I am somehow still sharing the file. Which means that they have no goddamn idea what they are doing, because I never shared the file. Dumbasses. For more info on the epic fail that is IP tracking for torrents, read on.

Researchers discover that “Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today,” and that “Even without being explicitly framed, innocent users may still receive complaints.”

University of Washington researchersreleased a new study today that suggests that the current tactics being employed by the entertainment industry to target copyright infringement amongBitTorrent users are flawed and prone to false accusations.

“Because current enforcement techniques are weak, it is possible that anyone, regardless of sharing content or using BitTorrent, could get a DMCA. takedown notice claiming they were committing copyright infringement,” said Mr. Piatek.

Tadayoshi Kohno, an assistant professor, Michael Piatek a graduate student, and Arvind Krishnamurthy, a research assistant professor, argue in “Challenges and Directions for Monitoring P2P FileSharing Networks” that the current method employed by copyright holders to identify illegal file-sharers can not conclusively determine if actual copyright infringement has taken place.

“We have conducted the first scientific, experimental study of monitoring and copyright enforcement on P2P networks and have made several discoveries which we find surprising,” they write.

The study is curious result of a previous measurement of BitTorrent conducted in August of 2007 in which they received more than 200 DMCA takedown notices without having actually downloaded or uploaded any data whatsoever. They then recently realized that this was worth revisiting to determine just how rampant or widespread the practice is.

Among their findings:

  • Practically any Internet user can be framed for copyright infringement today.
    By profiling copyright enforcement in the popular BitTorrent file sharing system, we were able to generate hundreds of real DMCA takedown notices for computers at the University of Washington that never downloaded nor shared any content whatsoever.

    Further, we were able to remotely generate complaints for nonsense devices including several printers and a (non-NAT) wireless access point. Our results demonstrate several simple techniques that a malicious user could use to frame arbitrary network endpoints.

  • Even without being explicitly framed, innocent users may still receive complaints.
    Because of the inconclusive techniques used to identify infringing BitTorrent users, users may receive DMCA complaints even if they have not been explicitly framed by a malicious user and even if they have never used P2P software!
  • Software packages designed to preserve the privacy of P2P users are not completely effective.
    To avoid DMCA complaints today, many privacy conscious users employ IP blacklisting software designed to avoid communication with monitoring and enforcement agencies. We find that this software often fails to identify many likely monitoring agents, but we also discover that these agents exhibit characteristics that make distinguishing them straightforward.

The purpose of their study was to highlight the need for greater transparency among copyright holders and law enforcement when it comes to the methodology and techniques they use to identify illegal file-sharing.

In the study they “…intentionally try to receive DMCA takedown notices.” To do this they measured and analyzed tens of thousands of live BitTorrent swarms with and the DMCA complaints these measurements attracted.

As we all know, the way it works is that copyright holders monitor P2P and file-sharing collecting evidence of infringement, and then issuing Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices to people it suspects of illegal file-sharing. These notices are formal requests to stop sharing the copyrighted material in question and are usually sent to a user’s ISP when then forwards it to the individual whose IP address stands accused in the notice.

The researchers asked themselves “how are infringing users identified?” There are two options – indirect or direct.

Indirect detection means simply looking a the list of connect IP addresses in the BitTorrent client and assuming illegal data transfer has actually taken place.

Direct detection involves connecting to one of the peers in a swarm and then actually exchanging data with that peer to confirm copyright infringement. This method is obviously not the preferred choice since it is much more labor and resource intensive.

Despite the “direct detection” method being the most conclusive and the standard approach for monitoring other file-sharing networks like Gnutella, the researchers conclude that the “indirect detection” method is being used to monitor BitTorrent.

They even went so far as to implicate three laserjet printers for illegally downloading copies of “Iron Man” by using the network device’s IP address as a proxy server in the BitTorrent client.

Moreover, it’s long been argued that the BitTorrent community is immune to the type of lawsuits targeting users of Direct Connect-style file-sharing programs since it does involve much more labor and resources. Also, since it concerns packets, or pieces of data, could one really be accused of illegally sharing 12% of a song? Would they then face 12% of the standard fines for copyright infringement?

I think what the study really shows is that copyright holders are merely trying to scare users away from using BitTorrent and aren’t doing any of the real investigative work currently employed to catch users of direct connect programs like KaZaA or Limewire which is much, much easier to ascertain.

The 4th Amendment

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Just wanted to make sure everyone had a quick read up on their constitution. Because, you see, when you read it this way it should be pretty clear: the searches currently going on in airports across this country are, in fact, unconstitutional. The issue is that no one has the balls to say what freaking makes sense: no plane has been hijacked by a US citizen since at least the 1960's, and I could find no clear reference to any incident at all.

Its not about searching everyone. That's unconstitutional, in the same way that you don't get recorded every time you make a phone call because some people use phones for crime.

Of course, with the current administration, the chances of there being any push back against the TSA is minimal, not that Bush was anything but a massive liability on that front as well.

Russia Is Crazy... Truck Edition

This movie is just Russian trucks being Russian trucks. And it is awesome.

Harvard Scientists Reverse Aging in (certain) Mice

Yes - aging can be reversed. If you are a mouse, and you have a shortage of telomerase.

Laboratory mouse in a scientist's hand

The cute little white fluffy guys managed to rejuvenate their ageing organs:

"The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing.

At Harvard, they bred genetically manipulated mice that lacked an enzyme called telomerase that stops telomeres getting shorter. Without the enzyme, the mice aged prematurely and suffered ailments, including a poor sense of smell, smaller brain size, infertility and damaged intestines and spleens. But when DePinho gave the mice injections to reactivate the enzyme, it repaired the damaged tissues and reversed the signs of ageing.

"These were severely aged animals, but after a month of treatment they showed a substantial restoration, including the growth of new neurons in their brains," said DePinho"

There is one major issue: the reason that we age is, more or less, cancer. It was a genetic trade-off made over millenia made to keep more of us alive, longer. You see, cancer is when cells go haywire and replicate out of control. The older that cells get, the more likely that they will go out of control.

So even if you could introduce a whole shit ton of telomerase enzyme into the human body and slow down/reverse the ageing process (it is more complex than that, but lets start there) - you would still be facing down a very high rate of cancer.

The answer, of course is simple. If we can cure cancer (and yes - we are getting better at that) we will be much more able to cure ageing. And damn would that be a good day.

Obama Administration Considering Cellphone Jammers in Cars

Nope, this is not April 1st. The Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an MSNBC interview a few days ago that they were looking into requiring the instillation of cellphone jamming equipment in every car.

Really, not just banning cellphone use, they have jumped right past that to crazy fucking nanny state insanity. They say this could save up to 5,500 lives a year. I would not be surprised if it cost that many lives as well, not to mention billions and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

It is completely ridiculous on many levels, and a sign of how idiotic this administration is that it was even brought up in a serious interview. It is unlikely it will save lives: distracted driving is very hard to pin down to cellphone use - why not ban eating food in your car, changing radio stations, looking at billboards, talking to a passenger, or having kids in the back seat. Furthermore, the cellphone companies paid the FCC for that spectrum, and now the government wants to install 100 million jammers? I call bullshit. Finally, the very idea that the government will regulate behavior in our cars (which really, most Americans see as personal extensions of the home) not through laws, but through a device which forces behavioral change? Even in 1984, Orwell only had cameras watching people, not devices which stopped them from "breaking the law."

Insane motherfuckers. I am so glad they no longer had the power they did. Lets hope they dont do too much damage in the next month. Luckily, they are too stupid to get much done.


Excuse me, I'm a carnivore - Hilarious

For Sale: HMS Invincible

Not kidding. Its for sale. Right now. Good chance it will be bought up by China (they have been buying up a number of old aircraft carriers in preparation of trying to build their own), but in the meantime, you can see if they will accept your offer.

Click through here

You are here: Tenders > Sale by Tender - HMS Invincible
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Sale by Tender - HMS Invincible

HMS Invincible is for sale by tender. Laid down in 1973 at Vickers Shipbuilding, Barrow-in-Furness, she was completed in 1980. She is currently stable for tow, subject to buyer confirmation.
Displacement - Current 17000 Tonnes
Estimated metal weight - 10000 Tonnes
Estimated metal % - 95% mild steel
Length - OA 210m, W/L 193m
Draught - Fwd 5.2m, Mid 5.8m, Aft 5.8m
Beam - Extreme 35m, Ex-walkways 32m, W/L 27.53m
Height - 46m (estimated at current draught
Engines - Removed
Generators and Pumps - Generally unserviceable or not working
For fuller information, please see the General Particulars.

Product ID: Sale by Tender - HMS Invincible
Manufacturer: Vickers Shipbuilding
Availability: In stock
Our Price: N/A
For items without a price please contact the supplier using the details below

Address: Disposal Services Authority
Building H9
Ploughley Road
Lower Arncott
OX25 2LD
Phone: 01869 256 827
Fax: 01869 256 070
Email: orderquery@edisposals.com
Homepage: www.edisposals.com

Product Details

Notification Agent

Additional Specifications

Closing Date - 10:00am Wednesday 05th January 2011
Further Information - Click Additional Specifications
Location - HM Naval Base Portsmouth
Point of Contact Details - Janet Kynman 01869 256017 or email desdsa-mst1a2@mod.uk
Viewing Details - All viewings are by appointment only, between 29th Nov 2010 and 10th Dec 2010

Holy Crap

A couple holy craps today

First up:
Comcast is screwing Level 3 (an internet backbone provider) when L3 is trying to push through netflix movies. Why? Because netflix directly competes with Comacst, and their new baby NBC as well.

What is the holy crap moment? Right now some studies show that at peak times, Netflix streaming is up to 20% of internet traffic. 20%!! That's HUGE. That is including youtube, hulu, facebook etc etc. And there is not even that much available on Netflix.

Second up:
Google is looking to buy Groupon. I have been a member of groupon for a while - but the damn thing is now supposedly going to be bought for $5.5-$6 billion. Billion. Holy crap. Why holy crap?

Read this:
"Groupon pioneered the group-buying model through its deal-of-the-day business model. Launched in November 2008, the company has grown from an offshoot of ThePoint to a multi-billion dollar empire with thousands of employees worldwide. In April 2010, Groupon raised $135 million from Digital Sky Technologies, setting its value at over $1 billion.

If the Google deal does go through at a $6 billion valuation, that would mean that Groupon’s value has grown by more than $625 million per month or more than $20.8 million per day. That skyrocketing value is simply mindboggling."

Yeah. $21 million a day. Holy shit. From April to November, they went from $1 billion company to $6 billion company.



This is not a sports blog. In fact, this might be the first time that I write about sports here. But just to say, I am loving the current season.

You see, right now if you want to watch a dynamic team with great passing, impressive penetration, big dunks and lots of generally good games, you watch the Celtics. If you want to be bored to death, you watch Miami - which ranks 2nd highest in freethrows, a low on assists (its in the middle on points per game).

Basically, I can't stand LeBron and all of his bs. Which brings me to this, one of the greatest rebuttals ever made. Yes, Michael Jordan is an ass, but he is also the greatest basketball player of all time, and he worked his ass off to get there. In terms of pure talent and physical ability, I think LeBron is better than Jordan, yet he does not have the drive and determination to make it to be on of the all time greats.

Just watch this. Its not 'real' - its a mashup of two commercials. But in a way, it is real - it is the difference in attiude between the two players. Plus, its friggin sweet.

Cancun vs. Copenhagen

Ahh Cancun. Sun, sand, se... you get the idea.

You would think that paler-than-santa-claus journalists would love the opportunity to head down to Cancun, and write all about the latest round of climate talks for the UN.

A year ago, Copenhagen was a big deal. A huge deal. We heard about it all the time, for weeks and weeks. And then, when it came around... more or less nothing happened. All of the countries agreed that... well.. they said they would agree to agree to something in the future and would try some stuff on their own. Actually, some of them did not even agree to that.

So... Copenhagen was setting up the agreement, and now with Cancun, they can all get together and get closer to a real agreement. Right?... right?

Interestingly though, there have been 1% as many news stories about Cancun as there have been about Copenhagen at the same point. 1%. That's pretty damn low my friends.

And why this sea change? Simple. No one gives a shit.

You see, there are things that are real, and that matter. These things include your job, your family, your home. In the bigger picture are the economy etc etc. Being green... well, you can take care of that when all of the more important things are all set. And preventing climate change? Well - that's a pretty goddamn difficult thing to pin down anyway, even more so than whether you should recycle (hint: on anything but aluminum, recycling probably does not make any sense where you live). This is even more difficult after the hackers of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit showed the world that a large portion of climate science is based on bullshit. While that does not mean the conclusions are "wrong," it does mean that they are utter crap. A monkey with a dart might be able to pick winnings stocks, but his monthly newsletter would still be as useful as

A year ago somehow the world was riding this wave of hope (which coincided with economic meltdown... yeah... odd that...) and everyone hoped that we would be saved from billions of dollars in damages by cutting trillions of dollars out of our economies. A year later... and well... for how many of you is this the first time you have read about the UN summit in Cancun? Yeah, I thought so.

Norm's Nuggets

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

iPad and Marshalls - a Match Made in Heaven??

Last night I walked past the local Marshalls to return a movie to Blockbuster - yes I was partying like it was 1999. And I saw an odd sigh (and by sign, I mean laminated piece of printer paper taped to the window at an angle), it had a blurry picture of an iPad and some text "iPADs NOW AVAILABLE!!!! GET THE IPAD WIFI NOW FOR $399!!!!!". I was a little surprised. Apple's latest halo product showing up next to pink and purple striped Ralph Lauren rejects and the piles of brown and beige housewares dumped at the back of the store (I actually like Marshalls, because I love cheap shit, but then again, I own a $100 nokia tablet--from a while back--, a Palm Pre because I get unlimited everything for $45/mo on Sprint, a $200 Asus netbook, a $350 Compaq work laptop, and a $1,500 '96 Chevy Tahoe - the Dutchess, whom I dearly love. I am not your typical Apple customer).

Endadget confirmed my findings today: the iPad is now for sale at TJX (TJ Maxx and Marshalls) stores across the country.

This makes a lot of sense, because....



Yeah. I don't get this at all. Honestly, even look at that crappy sticker haphazardly applied to the box: this is not where you keep your brand honest, white, and shiny. It is modern, rural, America's shady alleyway, where good deals with dubious provenance can be had with a wink and a nod... or a slowly mumbled "hello, would you be interested in a Marshalls card today?"

This is far below Wal-Mart in terms of branding - this is a store where inventory goes to die. Customer service is... minimal. Sales support... I don't think they have any.

I just don't understand how Marshalls buyers got hold of the iPad, and who at Apple let it happen. However it happened, its bad news for Apple.

Tuna and the French

When it comes to fishing in international waters, the true Dr. Evil is Japan, but France is not far behind.

France, as usual, is full of crap and looking out for only its best interests. They really are just scummy.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat) is the organization which is meant to monitor and maintain a healthy limit on the annual catch of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. It is, however, generally referred to as the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tunas - because tuna stocks are at an all-time low, and we seriously risk wiping out major species.


You see, the French claim that their fishermen were "the most controlled, the most responsible and the most respectable" in the Mediterranean. Which is about as likely as French cars being the most reliable, or French soldiers for that matter.

They say the fleet should be allowed to catch 13,500 tons of tuna this year, which they described as "recommended by scientists." Bullshit. Even the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tunas' scientists stated that at those levels "tuna stocks have a 60% of recovery by 2022." Which also means they face a 40% risk of collapse. Like playing Russian roulette with three rounds cambered?

The French, quite simply are being short-sighted idiots interested in only their own personal payoff. In other words, they are being French.

Maggie Was Right (As Usual)

Baroness Thatcher's government believed in the pound sterling (Photo: Getty)

Yes - she knows what you did in Brussels.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Next week it will be 20 years since Margaret Thatcher fell. Pressure had been building on a number of fronts, but the issue which finally destroyed her was the yet-to-be-born euro. In the last weekend of October 1990, she travelled to a European summit in Rome, where Jacques Delors’ dream of European Monetary Union was high on the agenda. But while Mrs Thatcher was fighting her lone battle against the prospective single currency abroad, she was being fatally undermined at home. Geoffrey Howe, her bitterest cabinet critic, went on television to tell the interviewer Brian Walden that in principle Britain did not oppose the euro.

In her Commons statement after returning home, she was forced to slap Howe down: “this government believes in the pound sterling.” Howe resigned, and days later delivered the famous speech from the back benches that set in motion a leadership contest.

Today, Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, first published in 1993, reads like a prophecy. It shows how deeply and with what extraordinary wisdom she had examined Delors’ proposals for the single currency. Her overriding objection was not ill-considered or xenophobic, as subsequent critics have repeatedly claimed.

They were economic. Right back in 1990, Mrs Thatcher foresaw with painful clarity the devastation it was bound to cause. Her autobiography records how she warned John Major, her euro-friendly chancellor of the exchequer, that the single currency could not accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece. Germany, forecast Thatcher, would be phobic about inflation, while the euro would prove fatal to the poorer countries because it would “devastate their inefficient economies”.

It is as if, all those years ago, the British prime minister possessed a crystal ball that enabled her to foresee the catastrophic events of the past year or so in Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Indeed, it is one of the tragedies of European history that the world chose not to believe her. President Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Kohl of Germany dismissed her words of caution. And when Mrs Thatcher was driven from office in 1990, a crucial voice was lost, and a new consensus started to form in Britain in favour of the euro.

This consensus stretched across the entire spectrum of the British establishment. It took in Tony Blair’s New Labour and all of Paddy Ashdown’s Liberal Democrats. The CBI came out for the euro, and so did the trades unions. The Foreign Office was doctrinally pro-single currency. Leading businessmen, such as Peter Sutherland (chairman of BP and Goldman Sachs International) and the fashion-conscious Richard Branson were strongly in favour. The Financial Times, a newspaper whose judgment has been wrong on every great economic issue of the last 40 years, was another supporter.

This consensus was all the more powerful because it contained Conservative grandees. The Britain in Europe campaign, featuring an ambitious young Liberal Democrat called Danny Alexander, now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was launched in 1999. Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine treacherously spoke alongside Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

“The price we would pay,” announced Mandelson, “in lost investment and jobs in Britain would be incalculable.” He projected that “outside the euro, there is little we can do to protect industry against destabilising swings in the value of sterling.” Michael Heseltine spoke apocalyptically about the terrifying consequences for British competitiveness outside the euro. Chris Huhne, now a Lib Dem cabinet minister, was scathing about eurosceptics who warned that entry to the euro would cause the Irish economy to overheat – warnings that proved to be all too accurate.

Irishman Niall Fitzgerald, chairman of the industrial giant Unilever, forecast British economic obliteration outside the euro. In a dark irony, it is his native country that now faces obliteration. Those who challenged this consensus were ridiculed. Even William Hague, then leader of the opposition, received this contemptuous treatment. Hague made a series of speeches which, reread today, rival Margaret Thatcher’s in their prescience. He predicted that membership would “lead to huge booms and deep recessions”. Hague chillingly added that “the single currency is irreversible. One could find oneself trapped in the economic equivalent of a burning building with no exits.” He noted that euro membership could lead to a “full-blown banking and financial crisis.”

Nobody listened, many mocked, and Hague was accused of dragging the Tory party to the Right. The BBC, an integral part of the pro-European alliance, played its full role in marginalising critics such as Hague. The state-owned national broadcaster lumped the Tory leader in with cranks and xenophobes. By contrast, euro supporters were invariably presented as mainstream and sensible.

But it is Hague’s speeches that have stood the test of time, while the excitable expostulations of Heseltine, Blair, Mandelson and Clarke all look ridiculous today. So let’s try a thought experiment and ask where Britain would be today if they had won the argument.

The first point to note is the British economic boom which ended in 2008 would have been headier still, thanks to the soft interest rate policies pursued by the European Central Bank in the early years of this century.
The second is that the subsequent crash would have been far, far worse. We would not have been able to lower rates as far and as fast as we did. We could not have devalued out of trouble. We would have been unable to fuel economic growth by printing money.

With these options unavailable, the recession would have turned into depression. It is likely that unemployment would now be heading towards five million and our already broken public finances would be in ruins. Just like Greece and Ireland, we would be unable to raise funds on the international markets and the IMF would have moved in. Angela Merkel of Germany would be offering a bail-out – but only on condition that we follow policies set for us in Europe. We would have lost our independence and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Brussels – the fate Ireland faces today.

Yesterday, I tried to reach the leading politicians who tried so hard 10 years ago to abolish the pound – Heseltine, Leon Brittan, Mandelson, Neil Kinnock, Charlie Kennedy. I wanted to ask them whether they stood by their extravagant warnings. I wanted to ask them for an apology. Not one of them came back.

Other apologies are called for. From the BBC, which distorted the debate. From the superior commentators who sneered at politicians like William Hague, John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith as they fought against the euro. From Heseltine and Clarke for their calculated betrayal of Hague. From the CBI, which (under its then director general Adair Turner, now chairman of the Financial Services Authority) sold the interests of British business down the river.

One other point. Margaret Thatcher may have been the first victim of the single currency, but there have been many more since: the millions who have lost their jobs and the nations that are being stripped (as she forecast) of their pride and independence. Baroness Thatcher has often been accused by her politically motivated enemies of callousness. But backers of the European project are today happy to countenance unlimited human suffering in their mission to enforce economic and monetary union. Mrs Thatcher knew this would be the result of their deranged plan, which is why she fought to stop it. Her last battle as prime minister could not have been fought in a greater or more compassionate cause

FDA to Ban Caffiene, Alcohol

"Let these rulings serve as a warning to anyone who tried to peddle dangerous and toxic brews to our children. Do it and we will shut you down," Schumer, D (Dumbass) -New York, said in the statement.

"Young people have been dying after drinking this stuff. It's about time we're finally doing something about these dangerous drinks." said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff

According to the FDA, drinking alcohol can lead to dying, or stupid actions that lead to dying. Also, drinking late, and heavily, while using caffeine to stay awake (or amped up) likely increases the chance of doing something stupid, which leads to dying, or a trip to the emergency room. Shockingly, when underage individuals illegally consume alcohol (and caffeine), bad things can result. Somehow, according to them, selling caffeine with alcohol means you are "peddling toxic brews to our children" - WTF?

Leading brands like Four Loko mix as much as three cups of coffee with three cans of beer.

The FDA is completely out of line on this one. Basically they are saying that somehow, mixing two completely legal and commonly available drinks is illegal. Caffeine and alcohol? The first "Highball" (whiskey and soda) was brought to this country in 1894 (by a Brit I might add). And what has it done? It's been goddamn delicious for the last 116 years.

The FDA has now decided that caffeine with alcohol is dangerous, because of a bunch of hyped up events around the country where college students got drunk and died/almost died. That is goddamn idiotic. College kids making bad decisions when it comes to drinking? No shit. Its because of this country's puritanical approach to drinking at home/before you go to college that college kids have no freaking idea how to handle alcohol when they are off at college.

There is no causal relationship between these drinks and events, just a political reaction to something which should not be politicized (the FDA). I goddamn hate this administration (and yes - it does come back to them and their belief that the masses are a bunch of idiots who can't take care of themselves, or make intelligent decisions).


Euro Crises: Tear Europe Apart or Cement it Together?

Sorry folks (especially US folks) - the worst may not be over yet. I have remained skeptical of the economic recovery because of contagion in the Eurozone, and the huge piles of bad debt hiding in China.

Turns out that the Eurozone is in terrible shape. Ireland, Portugal and Greece are all on the brink of requiring massive bailouts (well - massive for normal people - hundreds of billions of dollars, not massive for America, which seems to think any bailout under $1 trillion is just not worth talking about).

Portugal is currently claiming that it does not need a bailout. Greece will pretty much take any money that they can get. But Ireland is the real sticking point. They don't want the rest of Europe's money.

Why is that? Well - the why is the original risk of the Euro, and why I always thought the single currency was a bad idea. When the Euro was being created, I was a headstrong high school student competing in Econ Challenge and Fed Challenge (econ nerd contests) for my school. I was asked by a board of economists if I thought Euro was a good idea, and I told them flat out no. The issue is ambiguity: the Euro leaves countries with only partial control over their fiscal policy and absolutely no control over their monetary policy. In return they got big piles of cash from other EU countries as "development funds," as well as lots of FDI from other Eurozone countries.

The question of currency pegs (or in this case, a common currency, but it has the same effect) in order to stimulate growth in developing countries (Ireland, Portugal and Greece are still 'developing' relative to their European peers) is of particular interest to me, and something I have studied extensively. Mostly, I looked at the dollarization of LatAm countries, in particular Argentina.

The issue is this: the value of a currency peg is in the monetary stability it creates, especially when the currency your are pegged to (or part of) is your major source of FDI, or a global reserve currency.

The problem is usually this: pegging your currency (or joining the Euro), if you do it well, leads to high levels of FDI, and GDP growth. What do high levels of FDI and GDP growth do? They create bubbles, especially in your fiscal policy (taxes are always going up, you can budget huge spending etc). You see, economists tend to take the slope of current GDP growth and draw a line out to infinity. Normally, you would counter bubbles in growth with raising interest rates... but you can't, because you don't have any monetary policy any more. Even worse than that, the country--or ECB--which controls your interest rates is keeping them damn low usually, for the benefit of the much larger and more stable nation(s) it represents.

This is fine.... while everything is going well: money is cheap, companies love you, neighboring countries' presidents envy the new Mercedes Benz limo you roll in (it has a Grey Goose martini bar).

But when things start to turn on you, you end up with huge fiscal deficits and no ability to adjust your monetary policy other than total collapse (de-pegging the currency and going into hyper-inflation mode is usually what happens). Because your fiscal policy relied on--what you thought were sensible--economic estimates of future growth and tax revenues, even if you have a fiscal straitjacket (EU countries are required to have deficits of no more than 1.5% of GDP) you can end up wildly overspending when your economy heads south.

This is where Portugal, Greece, and Ireland now find themselves. They are facing down huge budget deficits which were created because their spending was based on projections, while revenues are based in reality, and governments change direction slower than oil tankers. Options historically available at the point include de-pegging (leave the Euro), defaulting on debts, and then printing money like your name is Barack.

But these nations have another option, the Roman option: simply accept Roman rule, and all will be well with the world. You can still have your government, you can still call yourselves a country, but on anything big you have to defer to Rome.

And by Rome, I mean Brussels, but it is pretty much the same thing. When the Roman Empire expanded they allowed local rulers to remain local rulers as long as they accepted the ultimate authority of Rome. And paid their taxes. Brussels is offering pretty much the same deal: we will bail you out, if you agree to give up national sovereignty, especially on fiscal policy.

It is a very interesting time in history. Because if Ireland accepts, it sets the EU on a path of unification and eventual aggregation of sovereignty (think 13 colonies -> the United States). Once you give a political body control over something (such as your ability to spend money) you are going to have a hell of a time getting it back.

On the other hand, if Ireland decides "f* it all, we'll follow our own road," it is quite possible that the Euro will collapse, or at least fall back to an inner core anchored by France, Germany, and Benelux. That would reaffirm the British (and my) view of the EU: that it should be an economic union, dedicated to lowering trade barriers, and that's all.

Ireland, as of today, is still indicating that they will refuse bailout funds from the EU, as that bailout includes stringent EU and IMF imposed limitations on sovereignty. British conservatives are proposing a "pounding" (my word, not theirs) of Ireland - offering the pound as an international currency alternative to the Euro - something which is exceptionally unlikely in reality.

What will actually happen remains to be seen - but right now Ireland is playing chicken with the EU, and I wonder who will turn first, if anyone.

Interesting times indeed.

Naples Suffers at the hands of the Camorra

Ahh the Camorra. Much less glamorous than La Costa Nostra - the Sicilians we all know and love - but at this point, much more successful as well.

The Camorra is much less centralized than the 'mafia' that you know. There is no head of the Camorra - it is a loose collection of families and clans, which each operate and control certain regions.

The city where they have historically had the most influence is Naples. And right now, it is suffering.

You see, one of the way the Camorra makes its money is through the control of trash. This is really not that different from the US, where historically, the collection and disposal of trash has always been... well... a dirty business.... (sorry).

Italy though, it has been, and is, much more so:

'The pungency of 250,000 tons of rotting garbage is almost indescribable. “It is like a heavy, soiled blanket that smothers us each night,” says Ferdinando Mosca, who owns a fruit shop across the street from the entrance to the Cava Sari landfill in Terzigno, Italy. “It burns your eyes. It closes your throat. The children vomit and cough. Our bodies are covered with rashes.”

Rising rates of leukemia, throat cancer, and respiratory illnesses are a testament to the severe pollution of the air and water. They can’t open their windows, and the children can’t play outside because of the intensely sickening smell. No tourists come here, despite the picturesque landscape, and no one wants to buy any of the agricultural products grown in these fields. As if that’s not enough, the landfill sits inside the Vesuvius National Park on the flanks of a live volcano. “We live in a tumor factory,” says Oreste. “How can we accept that we have to pay for the Camorra’s profits and the government’s convenience with our health and that of our children? Enough with the trash. Enough with the lies.”'

Basically, the Camorra is making a ton of money by importing toxic waste and other environmental hazards from all over Europe, and dumping them in the massive hellhole just outside of Naples (and inside Mt. Vesuvius national park).

When Berlusconi came to power (again) three years ago, he promised to solve the Naples garbage crises. He hasn't. His 'solution' was to announce plans for an even bigger landfill nearby. The Cava Vitiello landfill is also being dug inside Vesuvius National Park, about nine miles from the Cava Sari site and will hold 3 million metric tons of trash. It will be the biggest landfill in Europe, and it will be completely controlled by the Camorra.

The not-so-pleased residents of Naples responded by... setting all of the garbage trucks in Naples on fire. Which means the trash is just sitting there.

Locals are also trying to fight back against the Camorra controlled trucks which are still dumping toxic waste, but rather than opposing the Camorra, the Italian government is helping them break the locals rudimentary blockades and protests.

Yeah... and you thought recycling only coming every two weeks was annoying.

Chia Obama

Chia Obama is a lot happier than real Obama...

RNA vs DNA: Not what you think

When I took genetics way back in 2003, we were taught a very simple idea of the function of RNA, DNA, and proteins. We discussed, a little, how mapping the human genome did not really work out the way we planned, because the folding of proteins was more complicated than we thought.

Fast forward 7 years and that little fact has become a full-blown revolution in our understanding of genetics. And it has set us back a long way. You know all those theories about how we would have the blueprints for life? Yeah. We don't. We didn't really have much at all. We had taken a picture of a skyscraper and assumed that we knew how everything worked inside. Turns out, we were wrong. Really wrong.

We were wrong first on the proteins. But we turns out we were also wrong with the RNA. Of the past few years a lot has come out about how RNA is much more important, in a number of different roles, than was originally thought.

Turns out that RNA is not just the office copy boy, the crazy SOB has some decision authority as well. A central dogma of genetics is that RNA copies the DNA, and then heads over to other parts of the cell, and has itself turned into proteins. The reasons for this is pretty simple: you dont want the original copy of the blueprints being used out at the work-site: its going to get torn up, covered in coffee, and then forgotten under a lunchbox somewhere. Now we are finding that RNA is not a faithful copy of DNA: it has a tendency of switching around letters (especially G and A).

A study of RNA in white blood cells from 27 different people shows that, on average, each person has nearly 4,000 genes in which the RNA copies contain misspellings not found in DNA. Which is a lot.

To break down what this means? The whole damn thing is really friggin complicated, and it might be a long time before we really have it all figured out. Which sucks, because I really want my own set of wings.

The Pre-cogs

Ahh precognition. Knowing something before you should be able to know it.

We have all experienced it, I am sure. Some of use more than others (in the limited experience I have with such things). You know who is calling you (this happens quite often), or you and your girlfriend call each other at exactly the same time, repeatedly.

On a personal note I had a friend in college who frequently answered my IMs, before I sent them. Seriously. I would be sitting at my computer, writing up a question, and would get an answer.

Recent medical studies have begun to confirm statistically significant evidence of precognition.
Cornell study shows some proof to human precognition -- at least when it comes to porn

A recently Cornell study showed that users could pick out which curtain there was an image behind 54% of the time. Obviously, the number should have been 50%, if there were no precognition. Another study gave statistical backing to the fact that many people intuitively know who is calling them, before they answer the phone (and no, I don't mean because you looked at the screen of your cellphone) - turns out people guess right more often the closer they are to the person who is calling them (emotionally/family-wise, not physically).

Interesting, because I have always believed strongly in intuition. I have personally experienced very strong moments of intuition which have proven to be completely correct (and unfortunately, sometimes ignored them).

Of course, what the studies don't tell us is any reason why all this works the way it does. There are of course a million reasons as to why (as is always the case where something currently unexplainable by legitimate science occurs), and as usual in such cases, the active support of these ideas often does more to undermine the validity of the phenomenon than anything else. Which is, of course, where I come in. Precognition is real. Why it is real is a whole different matter.

A Government Of Idiots

One of the provisions of Obamacare was all about getting prescription drug prices down. This is seen as a major part of socialized medicine.

And now, the drug companies (originally thinking that they were getting a pretty good deal, they went along with the bill) realized that Obamacare will screw them over in the long run.

And what does cutting back on profits in the pharmaceutical industry do? Why, it saves the poor people from those money grubbing corporate assholes who make money off of people suffering, and make grandma pay exorbitant fees, and just issue and re-issue the same drugs under different patents and combinations for centuries muaahahah MUAHAHAA.

Yeah, thats what you think. If you are an idiot.

Really, what happens when you drastically cut back on profits of drug companies? And listen up because this one will be a shocker to anyone who supported Obamacare: the drug companies don't have any money to make new drugs.

"Like ohmygod really?"

Yes, really. Drugs are very very expensive to develop, and they need the profits on patented drugs which--yes--only cost $2 a bottle to manufacture, because otherwise they don't have any money do develop new drugs. There are two logical solutions to this, if you think drugs are a good thing (and they are): lower the costs of approval (about $500million over 7 years, last I read), and allow drug companies to charge the prices that they set and the market to operate efficiently, allocating capital where it should be allocated (something Obamacare does not do).

And so what is the Obamination looking at doing next? Well, paying people to develop drugs of course. Who the fuck is this Adam Smith guy anyway?

According to Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as someone I have personally dealt with and confidently say is a huge fucking moron: “There is a market failure." We need to look at ways to spur development of this market.”

Wow!!! Spur development of a market!!! How can you do that??? Oh yeah!!! We have all this money fresh off Obama's presses - lets use that!!!

Honestly - I think that is Mr. Waxman's level of intelligence. And the level of intelligence of many others currently in office. Their solution to totally fucking up a free market is to fuck it up further (mortgages... healthcare... now pharmaceuticals).


What Germany Thinks of Obama

You know when you are in a relationship, and all of your friends know that it is a bad relationship, but you keep thinking "gee, its not that bad." Well, in this case, that friend hated your ex, I mean really, really, hated your ex. And was so incredibly happy that you got your new special friend that they held national rallies. Yes, national rallies, just for you.

But now, two years later, the shine is gone. Now your friend is saying things like "Two years ago [their] vision inspired [friends]. Today the same [person] often sounds strangely bloodless. Back then [their] cool, self-assured composure impressed many, now the same character comes across as cold, arrogant, even elitist. The [people who dont like him] may well put on a shrill rough performance, and stand in the media spotlight. However, this [special friend] was never going to win [support] [from the people who dont like him] anyway. [The special friend's] historic victory in 2008 was created by the middle of [your heart and mind]-- the independent [cells] and the [other kind of similar neurons]. It is this center that has abandoned him."

And it turns out that this is your friend in a good mood. In a bad mood he thinks your friend is a money-spending, achievement-hating, no-good home-wrecker, just like the idiot they dumped not that long ago.

And yes, in our little story, Obama is your special friend (ugh), and your real friend is Germany - who is coming around to the opinion that Obama is an idiot. The "good mood" was actually one of Germany's major left-of-center newspapers. Which means... yeah... the right-of-center is not really such a big fan of Obama. He still has much higher approval ratings in Germany than over here (maybe he could run for office there... it would be a lot better for us to just get rid of him...) but they are slowly coming around to the opinion that yes, Obama is a dumb dumb.

by the way, this is the original quote...

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Europeans have to understand that America is different, and that means it is also different from how they would like it to be. And secondly any autopsy of the Democrats' massive defeat on Tuesday shows that the right did not prevail simply due to their own strength. This was a collapse of the Obama coalition -- because the president has lost the support of America's middle class."

"In Western Europe Obama still enjoys almost messianic approval ratings of 80 percent. Nowhere else on earth regards Obama's program as more self-evident. Reforms such as health insurance for all, an active state and more environmental and climate protection are seen as catch-up Europeanization, a simple normalization. Millions of Americans, on the other hand, see this as an audacious if not revolutionary agenda to serve the interests of the state."

"The fact that Obama's new state is too slow and has produced too few successes has also been politically disastrous. More than $800 billion (€ 562 billion) was supposed to stimulate the economy -- but the unemployment rate has stagnated at almost 10 percent. And while state money has saved Wall Street and the auto industry from bankruptcy, this year alone sees one million families facing the prospect of losing their homes."

"Two years ago his vision inspired voters. Today the same man often sounds strangely bloodless. Back then his cool, self-assured composure impressed many, now the same character comes across as cold, arrogant, even elitist. The right may well put on a shrill rough performance, and stand in the media spotlight. However, this president was never going to win votes on the right anyway. Obama's historic victory in 2008 was created by the middle of American society -- the independent voters and the suburbanites. It is this center that has abandoned him."

Health Care, the Election, and A New Hope

Yeah, so basically, the last election was a referendum on Obama, and well, he got his ass kicked. Yes, a lot of the shit that he had to deal with was due to previous idiocies on the part of the government (notice I did not say the previous administration - a lot of it was dumb ass shit which was passed under Clinton as well, such as the Fannie/Freddie disaster), but the big thing he did? Healthcare. And be a obtuse, frustrating, arrogant and ignorant idiot. But yeah, healthcare.

Its a disaster. People realize now that it is a disaster. If you still think there is anything of value, anything at all, which is best achieved with that bill, you are an idiot. It will cost this country a few trillion dollars over the next ten years, and it will give us... well most of us, all it will do is make healthcare cost more. That's it. If you currently have health insurance, all this does is make your life much more expensive, and as a net result, put a major drag on the US economy, leading to fewer jobs, less growth, and a generally lower standard of living. Thanks so much Obama.

The interesting thing is also the emergence of the Tea Party. Somewhat libertarian in values, it has teamed up with right wing leave-me-the-hell-alone-with-my-bible-and-my-shotgun Republicans. This is because, and it hurts me to say this, those crazy hicks are closer to the true libertarian principles upon which this country was founded (seriously - the founding fathers were all about economic liberty) than either of the major political parties.

And therein lies the beauty and difficulty of the Tea Party. The party is pretty much aligned with where I see the majority of intelligent individuals: economic freedom, social freedom.

Most (certainly not all) intelligent 'Democrats' call themselves Democrats because social freedoms (abortion, gay rights, no church+state, no police state {patriot act}, due process, racism, equality before the law, child welfare, our broken jail and legal sytem etc) are the most important to them, at the same time most intelligent Republicans (especially those not indoctrinated in Christianity) are Republicans because they believe in economic freedoms (low taxes, limited government involvement in our economic lives and decisions, less regulation, less spending) and they see those issues as paramount.

Yes, there are a lot of other factors out there, but the basic truth - in my opinion - is that a very large swath of our population (largely incorporating the intelligent part of it) would generally see themselves in the upper right quadrant.

The issue is branding. Right now the libertarian party has a terrible brand, which has now been largely subsumed by the Tea Party... which has an even worse brand, with most people.

So what do I want? I want a new party, the "Society and Freedom Party" or something like that, but with a much better name. And I want to start this party, run for office, and become President. Because goddamn would the world be better off.

Obama Prints another $600 billion, Secures His Place In History

This guy is a fucking idiot. He will always be remembered as classical 'liberal' policies taken to their logical extreme, and as such, leveraging the shit out of this country in order to pay out to the people and causes he cares about. I have had goldfish with better long-term planning skills.

Toyota Breeds Snotty Little Kids

Yeah - this little shit is the new face of Toyota. Do you want to just punch him in the face? Because I do. Every commercial he is in is annoying. Really annoying. More annoying than the dipshit in the Prius on my way home who sat in the left lane doing 60, then tried to cut me off because he did not think he had to wait in line like the rest of us to get off at the major exit. He got the living piss scared out of him, and I wish I could do the same to this kid. On a second note, the Buick Roadmaster woodie is far far cooler than a Highlander. Ugh.

Insanity: US to spend $200 mn a day on Obama's Mumbai visit

That's right. $200 Million Dollars. Per day. If he spent 5 days there, it would cost $1 billion.

This includes all of the increased military expenditure, and the retinue of 3,000 that Obama will be bringing with him. Who the hell does this guy think he is? The last emperor?

This is insane.


Norm Gets Funding

Can't tell you what it is yet, but I just got funding for a business idea of mine in the automotive space. More to come... more to come =)

UK, France, Agree Not to Fight Each Other

This is a sad day. A very sad day.

The militaries of France and the UK have agreed to a cooperation agreement which would include inter-operable systems, including off of aircraft carriers (all one that France has...). It also means, more or less, that they will not be able to go to war against each other, or at least it will make it more difficult.

Which is really sad, because honestly, as a stoic to my core Brit, there is nothing I would like to do more than reclaim Normandy for Queen and Country, and then have a cup of tea.


Google Gets in Trouble for Recording Public Information

Yes - Google makes money off of information. They read your emails, keep your search history, follow your finances, remember where you go on google maps, and if you have an Android phone, use the Chrome web browser etc, they know pretty much everything about you.

And what does big and evil Google do with all that information? Well, generally, not a lot. They target web ads at you... which I am pretty much immune to at this point.

Now they are getting in big trouble, because it turns out that when they were doing street view, they were also collecting information on wifi spots (and IP info) in order to give better location services based on IP, not just GPS/AGPS/cell triangulation.

And I think this is a really cool service. When I was staying in the Lake District in the UK, miles from anywhere, my Pre on Google Maps knew exactly where I was. And that was a good thing.

Anyway, as they were collecting and storing all of this public information, about unencrypted wifi, turns out that some people were sending unencrypted wifi back and forth. And Google saved some of that data along with other data that they recorded.

Let me make this very clear: when you send data over publicly available bandwidth, in range of a public area, and without any attempt to make it not public (ie encryption), that information is public. It is not hard to encrypt a network - if you are capable of logging into a network and using it, your are capable of encrypting it. If you decide to make your network public anyway, and send information publicly, then you have not right to privacy.

It is absolutely ridiculous that Google is getting in trouble for this. It would be like me claiming that it was illegal for someone to walk through Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner with a audio recorder running. Ridiculous.

I generally believe in the protection of privacy. But in this case, there is no privacy being protected.