Tag Archives: current-events

Punching Geriatrics

Posted By lex, on January 6th, 2012

Sometimes there is justification.

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Posted by lex, on January 5th, 2012

Good ideas represent opportunities that fleetingly come and go. Bad ideas, on the other hand, never seem to have expiration dates:

In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.

As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.

There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat U.S. missile defenses.

And what’s the likelihood of that? And, more importantly, what would be the consequences?

On the plus side, there’s every chance that Vladimir Putin would like us more.

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

(For those not a part of the system, the definition of “top secret” information is data which, if revealed, could cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security.)

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Cloaking Device

Posted By lex, on January 5th, 2012

DARPA gets that teensiest bit closer to making one **:

Pentagon-supported physicists on Wednesday said they had devised a “time cloak” that briefly makes an event undetectable.

The laboratory device manipulates the flow of light in such a way that for the merest fraction of a second an event cannot be seen, according to a paper published in the science journal Nature.

It adds to experimental work in creating next-generation camouflage — a so-called invisibility cloak in which specific colours cannot be perceived by the human eye.

“Our results represent a significant step towards obtaining a complete spatio-temporal cloaking device,” says the study, headed by Moti Fridman of Cornell University in New York…

After proving that the “cloak” is possible, the next step for the researchers is to expand the time gap by orders of magnitude, firstly to microseconds and then to milliseconds, said Boyd and Shi.

The time cloak has a potential use in boosting security in fibre-optic communications because it breaks up optical signals, lets them travel at different speeds and then reassembles them, which makes data hard to intercept.

Last year, scientists reported a step forward in so-called metamaterials which act as a cloaking of space, as opposed to time.

Metamaterials are novel compounds whose surface that interacts with light at specific frequencies thanks to a tiny, nano-level structure. As a result, light flows around the object — rather like water that bends around a rock in a stream — as opposed to being absorbed by it.

Tinkering with time and space.


** 03-21-21  Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.

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Casus Belli

Posted By lex, on December 28th, 2011

Iran threatens to create one:

A senior Iranian official on Tuesday delivered a sharp threat in response to economic sanctions being readied by the United States, saying his country would retaliate against any crackdown by blocking all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for transporting about one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.

The declaration by Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, came as President Obama prepares to sign legislation that, if fully implemented, could substantially reduce Iran’s oil revenue in a bid to deter it from pursuing a nuclear weapons program…

Apparently fearful of the expanded sanctions’ possible impact on the already-stressed economy of Iran, the world’s third-largest energy exporter, Mr. Rahimi said, “If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” according to Iran’s official news agency. Iran just began a 10-day naval exercise in the area.

Oh, if only we had a Strategic Petroleum Reserve against such an eventuality.


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Loose Talk

Posted By lex, on December 29th, 2011

Having threatened to shoot itself in the foot by closing the Strait of Hormuz, and having heard the US 5th Fleet reply that “it’s just not going to happen,” cooler heads are prevailing, for now, in the Islamic Republic:

Iranian officials insist that the U.A.E. pipeline and others that are being constructed in the region will not lessen the strategic importance of the Hormuz Strait. But they have raised the issue repeatedly, which analysts say is a sign that they are nervous about it.

And Iran — which has enjoyed record oil profits over the past five years but is faced with a dwindling number of oil customers — relies on the Hormuz Strait as the departure gate for its biggest client: China.

“We would be committing economical suicide by closing off the Hormuz Strait,” said an Iranian Oil Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Oil money is our only income, so we would be spectacularly shooting ourselves in the foot by doing that.”

Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani, a political scientist running for parliament from the camp of hard-line clerics and commanders opposing Ahmadinejad, said it is “good politics” for Iran to respond to U.S. threats with threats of its own.

“But our threat will not be realized,” Ardestani said. “We are just responding to the U.S., nothing more.”

Domestic politics, in other words. Nothing to see here, move along.

Well, perhaps. But the rational actor theory has its critics.

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Solyndra Update

Posted By lex, on December 26th, 2011

Partisans may have long suspected that the Solyndra fiasco had much more to do with politics than policy, but when the Washington Post piles on in concurrence, the goose is fairly cooked:

Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.

The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra

They show that as Solyndra tottered, officials discussed the political fallout from its troubles, the “optics” in Washington and the impact that the company’s failure could have on the president’s prospects for a second term. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra’s collapse would have on laid-off workers or on the development of clean-energy technology.

Well, those are just little people and little things.

It’s the power that counts. Political power, that is.

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There First

Posted By lex, on December 26th, 2011

Theodore Dalrymple wrote what might as well be a companion piece to VDH’s “Vandal” post below, but citing instead the case of last year’s riots in the UK:

It is true that the British police have come to resemble not the force of uniformed citizens of which Sir Robert Peel (the founder of the modern police) dreamed, but a paramilitary occupier, feared mainly by the innocent and law-abiding. The police have become simultaneously bullying and ineffectual, the worst of all combinations, barking rudely at motorists who stop where they shouldn’t but disregarding manifestations of serious criminality entirely. The reasons for the degeneration of British policing are (again) complex, but one of them is the extreme leniency of the courts. For a long time, the police had little incentive to pursue criminals short of murderers, for the courts will impose a trivial punishment on them.

There’s a lot more where that came from. And sadly, likely to be a lot more like that in the coming years.

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Acta, Non Verba

Posted By lex, on December 13th, 2011

President Obama said all the right words during Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to the White House this week:

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Firm Fixed Price

Posted By lex, on December 13th, 2011

Congress attempts to clap a stopper over the ballooning acquisition costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter:

Future Pentagon purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin will have to be based on fixed-price contracts under a defense authorization measure approved on Monday by a joint congressional panel.

The provision, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, would require fixed-price contracts beginning with the sixth low-rate production batch of fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp .

The Pentagon is currently trying to finalize a contract for 30 fighters – its fifth lot of aircraft being produced even as final testing of the radar-evading jet fighter continues.

The Pentagon entered into an initial contract with Lockheed on Friday for production of Lot 5 aircraft. The agreement established an initial price ceiling of $4 billion for the planes, but a final contract will not be concluded until sometime in 2012.

Lawmakers inserted the fixed-price language into the bill after learning about Lot 5 contract, angered that the decision had been taken even as the Senate was debating whether or not to require the deal to be a fixed-cost contract.

The advantage to the taxpayer of a firm fixed price contract vehicle is that all of the risk is shouldered by the vendor. It’s generally suitable for commercial off-the-shelf equipment with casual value added, but for bleeding edge technologies, that risk can become unbearable. Should the vendor find a way to reduce per unit cost of manufacture, whether through efficiencies in time or by cycles of learning, the “extra” cash goes straight to the corporate vault and thence to stockholders.

On the other hand, a “cost plus fixed fee” contract places the risk on the government, as the vendor may – within the constraints of the total contract value – charge for whatever additional labor, manufacturing and non-recurring engineering work is required, while being guaranteed a profit.

If the F-35 is as mature as its proponents profess, this could be a good deal for Lockheed Martin. If it’s not, well: It’ll be a dog’s breakfast.

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Time and Space

Posted by lex, on December 14th, 2011

Dennis Ross, who was until recently President Obama’s principal adviser on the Middle East, says that we still have time and space to prevent the nuclearization of Iran, which he admits would represent an existential threat to our foremost ally in the region, as well as a significant security threat ** to the United States:

The Obama administration is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms as a “vital national security interest” but believes there is still time to change Iranian behavior through economic and political pressure, a former top adviser on the Middle East said Tuesday.

Dennis Ross, who stepped down last month as special assistant to President Obama, portrayed Iran as behind schedule on its nuclear program and battered by some of the worst strain seen in the country in three decades. Yet, more pressure is needed to prevent its leaders from acquiring a nuclear capability that would destabilize the region and heighten the risk of war, he said.

“This is not about containment; it’s about prevention,” Ross said in his first public address since leaving the White House. “I believe we still have time and space to achieve that objective.”

Ross appears to hope that the internal challenges Iran faces will somehow bounce in our favor, taking the nuclear issue off the table before kinetic actions are required. But in the case of Iran, hope is not a strategy, and what is required is neither time nor space, but the will to act vigorously in our own self-interest.

In an unselfconsciously ironic addendum, he notes that Israel would do well to negotiate for peace with its neighbors now, rather than awaiting events:

“There are many in Israel who look at the region and say, ‘Now is not the time,’ ” Ross told a gathering at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank to which he returned after quitting his government job. “If you sit back and wait for things to clarify, you will be acted upon. Your options shrink; they don’t expand.”

Good advice. I hope his former boss is listening.

** 03-19-21 Original link gone; substitute found – Ed.

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