Gravity, the EPA, Israel, and Turkey

While it is not, as this article might lead you to believe, the only construction of Gravity as an emergent phenomena, one of the best fleshed out reconstructions of gravity as an emergent force has been repudiated by a recent paper. This gives a boost to the current, but periodically challenged, view that gravity is in fact a force.

Barack Obama has replied to Boehner’s request for an enumeration of pending regulations that the administration is working on. This list ranges anywhere from 30 billion to 200 billion dollars in new regulatory costs depending on who is counting. It is likely to be a new flash point for partisan debate as republicans argue that these regulations are what is killing the economy, and democrats argue that some regulations save money and that if one fairly values environmental improvement and saved lives they pay for themselves.

Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system has proven moderately effective at thwarting the latest bombardment scoring an impressive 85% interception rate. Recent deals have failed because Israelis don’t feel they’ve gotten any peace for the land traded to date, and Palestinians don’t feel that they are being returned land quickly enough. Once Israeli’s feel they can secure their own defense regardless of Palestinian motives they may again be willing to return to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, Turkey is facing similar problems from their Kurdish independence movement. Turkey’s need for Israeli military equipment may bring the countries back together, following a significant row over the Gaza blockade.


Giving credit where credit is due

First the news:

NASA is seriously considering the prospect of abandoning the international space station. Between the recent retirement of the space shuttle, and the recent failure of a Soyuz capsule we may be unable to resupply the space station. There are sufficient supplies to allow the current crew to remain aboard for 12 months, but the escape pods are not rated to last that long.

Chancellor Merkel may be unable to force the latest Eu-bailout through the German parliament. This may mark the end of the “rescue everyone” phase of the Euro crisis, and begin the EU dissolution process. I suspect that before this mess is resolved at least Greece will be kicked out of the Euro, others may follow.

I’ve been sitting on this for a few days, but I think it is more relevant closer to its maximum visibility, which is still a week or two out. A new supernova has been spotted in its early stages in the Pinwheel galaxy. I expect that there will be some interesting scientific discovers out of this one because of both how close it is and how early it was first spotted.

The US economy continues to hang precariously between an anemic recovery and a new recession with August showing a continued slowing of small business hiring, while the latest consumer spending report, from July, indicates a slight increase in consumer spending.

As the battle for Tripoli draws to a close. I felt it is time for a review of the war in Libya.
As some may have guessed, I was among those who did not vote for Obama in the last election, not that I voted for McCain either. It is incredibly unlikely that I will vote for him in the next election and I am not happy with everything he has done in Libya. I am not so myopic however, that I do not believe that he deserves some praise for his handling of the Libyan crisis.

In terms of how this war has been carried out I think that NATO’s approach of using air-power to support a true rebel army was laudable. An army made primarily of native civilians proved to be vastly more effective against a brutal dictator than a foreign “peacekeeping” mission. It is my sincere belief that it will leave a better impression on the Libyan people and the people of the world, and have a better chance of forming a stable government. Honestly, I used to be a “Neo-con”, I never imagined something like this would work and I think that Obama deserves credit for resisting the calls of McCain and others to put boots on the ground.

I also like that Obama was actually able to get France, England and others to actually share the heavy lifting for once. I hope that one long run result of this conflict is that future international missions are less reliant on the United States.

I wish that this were the whole story. However, Obama did one thing that disturbs me greatly in this conflict. Not only did he follow the precedent of several Republican and Democratic presidents in going to war without a declaration. But, Obama hypocritically went so far as to ignore the war powers act and went to war without consulting Congress. This is in my opinion a clear abuse of power by the executive branch. This is irresponsible and it is dangerous. The next time we elect a president who wants to push us to war, no one will have done more than Obama to clear the path for him to act unilaterally. Such a president could commit troops to a conflict without consulting the American people, or providing any justification for such a war.

Actual News

Today will be another day where I’m lazy and just post a few articles which I think actually contain new or interesting information rather than say anything particularly relevant myself.

BART has finally conceded that cell phone networks are an important communication forum and should only be shut down in “extreme circumstances such as a hostage situation or a bomb that could be detonated by a cell phone.” A major victory for those of us who still value the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.
Don’t give me that cell phones are not speech crap; BART shut down the cell phone network to prevent people from speaking out against them for another of their outlandish crimes.

There is a link on the bbc to a very interesting article from a mercenary hired to fight for the Gaddafi regime.

Though Libya now seems to be the squirrel of the day, I think it is important that we keep our eyes on other countries like Tunisia that have already had their revolutions but are still struggling to create viable governments.

Don’t hold your breath on Tripoli

Along with most of the world’s news junkies, I watched with enthusiasm and amazement as the Libyan rebels swiftly invaded fortress Tripoli. It seemed that Gaddafi’s vile regime was at an end.

Now it appears that this sudden turn of events was well orchestrated but did not signal the demise of the Libyan regime.
Lesson: Don’t appoint a man whose brother you’ve killed in charge of the army defending your capital against an insurrection. He just might order his troops to surrender.
“When the rebels reached the gates of Tripoli, the special battalion entrusted by Gadhafi with guarding the capital promptly surrendered. A senior rebel official says the battalion’s commander, whose brother had been executed by Gadhafi years ago, was secretly loyal to the rebellion.”

With little resistance to speak of, the rebels were able to walk into Tripoli, and probably caught loyalists off guard. Now they’re reorganizing and defending the parts of the city that are most loyal to Gaddafi.

As we are seeing tonight, there are still substantial forces loyal to Gaddafi within Tripoli. The BBC is currently reporting that at least some Libyan rebels are leaving the city because it is not safe to sleep there at night. Both sides have claimed to control a majority of the city, my guess is that neither side really controls the city. I suspect that the final battle will be street by street, will take days or perhaps even weeks, and will be comparable to the bloody fight for Misrata by the time this war is over.

An interesting question that is now arising, is what this means for Syria. Certainly there will be increasing talk of a military intervention in Syria. As much as I feel for the people of Syria, I think it would be best if we gave Libya at least 6 months to calm down, and see if the rebels can actually establish a better government, before we pursue another war.

News of the day

As an apology for writing and posting a crappy blog post at 2 am. Here’s a more normal one of what I consider to be the real news of the day.

The search for extra-terrestrial life is back on at the Allen telescope array. While, I am in the camp that believes we are unlikely to find something, I am glad to see that they were able to find private donors to continue a very important search. The search for something is not pointless simply because it is unlikely to be found. An unexpected discovery somewhere is really what all scientists are hoping for right now.

France may be next in line in the credit crisis. While its books are in better shape than even Italy’s what we’re essentially watching is a domino effect, as each countries banks realize they’re over exposed to the debts of countries in worse shape. This I believe is the real reason why the French pushed the German’s so far in trying to defend Greece. Future growth projections across Europe are falling to anemic levels. Low GDP growth means that debt to GDP ratios are going to continue to get worse. The global economy IS stalling.

Don’t think that China is suddenly about to rule the world though. China’s newly emergent middle class is starting to look around and see how little they’re getting for their work. Protests are becoming larger, and more effective.

Why should I care what about philosophy?

A friend of mine once asked me, “Why is philosophy important?” I think what he was really asking is, “why should I care what about philosophy?” At the time I struggled for a quick answer. I’ve revisited the question more than once and tried to string one together. This is the one I have today.

I think most people are confronted, at some early point in there life, with the question “what should I do with my life?”. For some the answer comes easily. They may have been raised by parents or some other role model that imparted some beliefs, perhaps a religion, or a sudo-religious set of principles that one may use for guidance. For those “lucky”? ones, the answer can be derived from said beliefs.
For others there is no answer, or the answer is unknowable, either way, some seem to be able to live without the need for an answer.
For the few of us that remain, either because we find we cannot blindly accept the words of our elders, or because none were given, we must search for that answer; that search leads us to philosophy, for us it is what makes philosophy important.

I suppose for the friend in question, there was no need for that search. Thus the part of philosophy that has occupied more of my time than I care to admit, might well appear to a be a waste. But there is a second part to this answer.

For eventually, we find that we cannot live alone. We must interact, we must find a way to live together, to share resources. Moreover, history has shown us that those people who can interact are able to achieve much greater things than they could have done alone. Though sometimes too, much worse.
Here again philosophy becomes important, because its intimately related with both the question of “how should I interact” and with how satisfied various parties are with the result of these interactions. Furthermore, the answers to this later question of interaction, depend strongly on the individuals answers to the first.

Today, as with all times in recorded history, humanity is in a many party struggle to determine how we should and will interact with one another. If we honestly seek an answer to this question. We must start with philosophy.