I am quite certain that terrorist incidents would virtually disappear if we did this - just let anybody on a plane without screening of any kind. On an average flight, you would be almost guaranteed to have several retired military, law enforcement, and good ol' rednecks strapped and ready to waste a prospective terrorist or hijacker.
The first objection is, as usual from people who take what the government says without question, "we can't do that! Everyone would be shooting up planes." Right, and if heroine was legal I guess you would go stick a needle in your arm tomorrow. There is a growing body of research that suggests violent crime rates drop significantly when gun laws are softened. It's the age old truth that criminals with guns can usually avoid cops, and they are not afraid of citizens with knives. Didn't 9/11 show us that our elaborate security theater had done nothing less than make use mortally vulnerable to such treacherous weapons as box cutters? And did it not also show us that, given either a reasonable chance of success, or an overwhelming reason to try, ordinary citizens are our best defense against random acts of violence? Yes and yes.
The second objection is more rational, which is "but don't guns put holes in planes?" That one suggests some caution. After all, if the brave and intelligent Dutch tourist who stopped pantsbomber had been packing a .44, the cure could very well have been much worse than the disease. In that case, how's this for a compromise. Offer a course for military, law enforcement, and maybe ordinary citizens to become licensed "reserve air deputees." Once licensed, these deputees would be allowed to discreetly carry weapons on their person onto commercial airplanes. Of course, there would be a restriction on type of weapon - high-caliber handguns, explosives, rifles, and shotguns would be of little use in a close-quarters airliner fight. However, small caliber and non-lethal weapons like .22's and similar low-power handguns, tasers, mace, etc, would be allowed on. The key word is "discreetly" - the RADs would go through the same screening process as normal passengers, they would be required not to show their weapon to anyone, and they would be required to have their weapons on their persons at all times. The point is to make sure a terrorist can't know how many RADs are on a given flight, or where they are sitting.
The course would teach people the dos and don'ts of airliner combat. The course would cover small-caliber handguns, as well as non-lethal weapons like mace and tasers. Users would be instructed in an airliner mockup about things like where a small caliber bullet is least likely to cause explosive decompression, whether bullets will penetrate different types of partitions, what kinds of proximity effects a cloud of mace has, and so one. It might also cover such things as basic hostage situations, simple forms of non-verbal communication, ways to improvise weapons and/or create diversions with things commonly available in an airliner bathroom or galley, ways to contact the ground from the cabin, and steps to take in case of loss of crew. The class need not be especially long or expensive - probably no more than two days or several two-hour evening sessions should do - one could commandeer a derelict DC-8 in Mojave and shoot it full of any number of holes.
The worst case scenario is that several terrorists would take the course and be allowed on a plane with a gun. However, this is still better than the current scenario. First of all, there would be the requisity background checks. Anyone who took the course would be automatically red flagged by the FBI, and any commonalities where several people on the same flight took the same course, or were funded by the same organization, or have sketchy backgrounds, would come out. This would have stopped at least the Reids and Abdulmutallabs. Second, the worst that would happen is they would get on with a small gun - there would still be screening for explosives, large caliber weapons, etc. All this would not necessarily have stopped 9/11 however. But, potential terrorists would have no way of knowing how many other passengers were carrying weapons, or where they were. This is the most important line of defense. Terrorists are willing to lose their own lives; and if there is a 3.7% chance that they will go to jail because an air marshall happens to be riding then so be it. But if those odds went to close to 100% that there would be at least one and likely several people with the weapons and training to make every attempt at martyrdom as pathetic as pantsbomber, regardless of what kind of heat the terrorists were packing, then they will move on rather quickly.
There could, of course, be automated rules in place to put the odds even more in our favor. There would obviously be flags raised when an aberrant number of RADs chose a given flight. RADs could show up to the airport, and be either deputized (allowed to keep their weapon on their person) or demoted (with their weapon placed in checked bags or in safe storage at the airport police station) at random for their flight that day, so that no one could ever know whether he would be allowed a weapon on board for a given flight. Likewise, we could limit the total RADs on each flight to no more than 2% of passengers, or no more than 5 total RADs, or so on. We could arrange it so that the RADs on a given flight had a wide variety of birthplace, hometown, religion, ethnicity, and education, to reduce the likelihood of collaborators. RADs could be seated together without their knowledge, with air marshalls secretly seated around them, in any suspicious case. But this is all just working the odds. The point is, the program would open the RADs up to so much scrutiny that it would probably be unprofitable for a terrorist organization to attempt infiltration.
Fact is, the cops are never there when you need them. At any level of spending that won't kill mass air travel, we are not going to cover enough flights with air marshalls to make terrorists think twice.
The reasoning behind the slowness is that banks aren't lending. Well... duh. Here's some of the things they are looking at:
1. The bailout kept a huge amount of bad investments in the banking system that should have been purged through bankruptcy and pennies-on-the-dollar sales last Autumn. The resulting revaluation would have been extremely painful (as if what happened instead wasn't...), but it would have placed real income in the hands of healthy institutions rather than keeping deflated balance sheets on life support. We would have probably lost a lot of "too big to exist" banks, and in their place we would have some new names and a few old names with right-sized financing capabilities. Instead, we have a bunch of flailing brontosauri - giant institutions on cash-swallowing life support keeping the mammals around the fringe.
2. Barney Frank won't shut up. The regulations bill coming down the pike is the typical DC disaster. Long after the public has realized that maybe banks were just operating under instructions from the FDIC, FMA, FHMCA, GMA, CRA, and the rest of the alphabet soup of agencies that so blatantly fell into the "irrational exuberance" trap (probably for kickbacks... but that only happens in Central America, right?), this congress is trying to create a veritable pterodactyl. Banks don't want to move when doing so could break the law in a year. It is quite clear at this point to everyone in finance, and not clear at all to most of the voters, that banks do what the government says. If the government says to lend to questionable borrowers, you either lend or you get pushed out of business. I don't even know if lifting the regulatory burden would do anything good... the industry needs to be weened slowly from the Federal teat. Instead, BF wants to do the opposite.
3. Business sucks right now. The stock market is back to neutral. Housing may be bottoming out, but that's like saying the Michael Jordan had a "bad night" when he scored only 35 - it's really back to where it should be. IPO regulations have all but killed the venture capital industry as an agent of growth. The American government is currently acting like one big barrier to entry. To top it off, American people are shocked into saving, which is good, but their savings are going to feed the flailing brontosaurus. Instead of contributing lending cash to institutions on good footing, they are contributing the disappearing money that should have been destroyed months ago in bankruptcy court. So yeah, investment isn't going too well right now.
4. The government is using all the credit. True. Any cash that is in the system - from foreign government or US banks - seems to be flowing directly to the Treasury. People with money are spending it on treasury bills, notes, and bonds, which is kind of like a self-fulfilling bet on another turndown... although, another turndown without inflation, which is very unlikely. The point is, there's so much "safe" government debt out there, why would any institution actually do the hard work of building a portfolio? This kills big companies, because they have to out-price government bonds. Yields grow, profit dies, and people get layed off.
5. Finally, the fundamental flaw has not been fixed, if anything it has been further fundamentalized and flawed. We as an economy are in a precarious spot. We charge 5x more for our time than anyone else. As protectionism slowly falls away, the problem will get worse. I know a lot of laborers, and I feel for them, but I honestly can't look them in the eye and say that they should really be able to work for 5x as much as an Indian or Mexican who is willing to do the same work. The US needs to continue to create new industries better than anyone else, it is regression to the mean for us. But we are choking that off with inane immigration policies that treat smart people like slaves and kick them out of the country, and treat hard working people like criminals and force them under the table where they lower wage rates for everyone. Not to mention all the things in 3) that are killing wealth creation. And when we do create wealth, our politicians sic on the creators legally, rhetorically, and financially. It's unsustainable.
- NASA does not have enough money to do anything meaningful outside low Earth orbit (LEO), at least not the ways NASA has to do things thanks to aforementioned b's & c's.
- We will never develop the infrastructure and technology to change that fact unless NASA loses its literal deathgrip on the LEO launch and space-station market and lets commercial companies do what they do - try, fail, and then try better.
"1. Are beyond-LEO exploration and fitting the budget really incompatible?
Two of the goals in the Committee's charter were to fit the budget and to enable beyond-LEO exploration. However, only two of the options presented by the Committee fit the budget, and neither of these options enable beyond-LEO exploration in a meaningful time frame.
- A medium-lift rocket to get humans into orbit (Ares I)
- A pod to carry those humans into orbit, and also into deep space (Orion)
- A heavy-lift rocket to lift supplies and the lunar lander (Ares V)
- The lunar lander (Altair)
- The first was the program of record. It is an "option" because DC might have just gotten to the point where they see literally no point to NASA beyond buying votes in districts with NASA centers. This would be a quick, silent kill of the US civil space program. It would continue on in budget alone, but American space capability would essentially be done until the military or private industry took it up.
- The second was the second choice, with budget constrained to current sizes. It assumed that the civil human spaceflight program had some utility besides graft, and therefore it arranged for basic human spaceflight capabilities to LEO to be picked up by competent organizations (not NASA) on a fixed-price basis. At the same time, it still managed to throw the majority of taxpayer money down the rathole of a heavy lift vehicle we won't need for a hundred years, a deep space capsule that we can't launch, and a moon lander that... well, it's a fucking moon lander and we can't even get to LEO after 2011, so figure out how serious they are about that one.
- The third option wasn't presented because it was as much a political fairy tale as #2 was a technical and economic fairy tale. It was discussed in some of the meetings by Jeff Greason and Sally Ride, though, and it was as follows: shut down NASA centers that design vehicles. Contract each vehicle out to 3-4 commercial vendors on the COTS model. This is how a private company would do things. Private companies probably aren't quite there yet. But it was what could be if this was a market.
"2. Why wasn't a Phase I EELV HLV or similar HLV included in any options?...It also wouldn't be bad if a smaller HLV encourages us to perfect our skills at refueling, ISRU, reusable space-only craft, frequent low-cost launch, docking, and assembly. All of these skills may find productive use outside NASA exploration. Enabling such capabilities may prove to be more important than NASA's actual exploration itself.
"3. Should Earth orbit be included in the Flexible Path?there are Earth orbits beyond LEO that could be useful for satellite servicing, remote sensing, and other purposes.
"4. Should Venus orbit be included in the Flexible Path?
"5. What is the real goal of human space exploration?
The Augustine Committee's report states the following:
A human landing followed by an extended human presence on Mars stands prominently above all other opportunities for exploration.
- Politicians decide to take very big steps in space - rather than developing capabilities incrementally - because those seem more politically palatable.
- Big steps are expensive, so we only get to do it a few times - one urine recycler at one space station, rather than a dozen porta-potties at a dozen outposts.
- Since you have one of everything, it has to always work. More importantly, since there's only one of them, you don't have the option of six sigma or working out the kinks over time.
- Since you don't have that option, you need an army of bureaucrats (known by the euphemism "systems engineers") whose job it is to play the role of nature and nit-pick every inconsistency in results, test apparatus, interface (read: plug or bolt, literally), and so on.
- This is trading bureaucracy for causality. Instead of real-world shakeout, lots of people file enough paperwork to convince each other that the product will work.
- The result? Urine recyclers that don't work, falling foam that destroys multi-billion dollar space shuttles, a whole bunch of finger-pointing and denials, and more paperwork. NASA can't build a launch vehicle that blows up less than one time in 50... but I'd be willing to bet that every NASA employee can fill out at least 50 forms, perfectly, 999 times out of 1000, because they've screwed them all up once and got hounded about it.
But, apparently the Justice Department of this new, transparent administration, has no qualms about serving illegal subpoenas with gag orders about their existence to journalists. Between that, the hypothesized McCain-Feingold attack that the administration may or may not be setting Fox News up for, and the general crickets-chirping silence from the administration on repealing or amending laws that egregiously violate civil liberties, I'm realizing that Obama is no better on this matter too.
The question I would ask is not what the cause of these policies is, but what is the effect? We have a generation and then some of diversity admissions programs. What has the effect been? Have the diversified schools benefited in any objective measure, and which measures? Do African American Ivy graduates go on to make more money, or start more non-profits, or file more patents, or win more elections than white ivy graduates? Do hispanics Ivy graduates acheive executive positions, or sell more albums, or publish more journal articles, or defend more cases, than their asian brethren?
I never understood the use of race as a stand-in for diversity. I understand cultural diversity - Economics, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, whether you were raised by one or two parents - these all are huge contributors to value systems and learned experience that can make a community of any kind more resilient. A school enriches itself by bringing in new perspectives; but it enriches itself more by bringing in the white South African ghetto superstar than well-educated, upper middle class black South African. Without evidence to the contrary, I believe using race as a stand-in for diversity is lazy, divisive, and counter-productive.
But, similar to his empty words on every other promise he has chosen not to break outright, this is pretty empty. As a first policy initiative, it's fine, but if it is not followed by real change it is a limp carrot next to the deadly stick of the Drug War. Things it doesn't do:
- Prohibit federal prosecutors from prosecuting cases... it just makes it a low priority
- Prohibit the DEA from investigating and permanently seizing property of suspected drug users without actually charging them with a crime
- Make the people who use or sell medical marijuana lawfully any less vulnerable to the next rex publius
- Similarly, it does not make the actions of users and sellers legal - things they do now even if prosecutions cease for a few years can still be used against them in court down the road
The ruling seems nice enough, but it essentially estabilishes precedent that the Drug War is completely at the favor of the whims of the Executive. If it goes to the Supreme Court, it will be struck down as both a legal defense and a policy measure, because it essentially tells the DOJ and DEA to ignore Congress. In other words, it is typical of Obama: it is a nice propaganda measure with no teeth, the unintended consequences will probably end up being worse for those who support it than the status quo, and he will probably stand pat and consider his job done now that he's given a flowery statement.
It need not be terribly damaging politically either - Obama could simply introduce a bill with edits to existing drug bills that essentially suborns federal regulation to state regulation in drug cases when the two are in conflict. It could be pushed as a state's rights issue and would likely have a sizable number of Republican co-sponsors. This is pretty weak, and dangerous, if the administration does not follow it up with an actualy policy or legislative push.
"Mortgage brokers had to be able to sell their mortgages to someone. They could only produce what those above them in the distribution chain wanted to buy. In other words, they could only respond to demand, not create it themselves. Who wanted these dicey loans? The data shows that the principal buyers were insured banks, government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the FHA—all government agencies or private companies forced to comply with government mandates about mortgage lending. When Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the government in 2008, more than 10 million subprime and other weak loans were either on their books or were in mortgage-backed securities they had guaranteed. An additional 4.5 million were guaranteed by the FHA and sold through Ginnie Mae before 2008, and a further 2.5 million loans were made under the rubric of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required insured banks to provide mortgage credit to home buyers who were at or below 80% of median income. Thus, almost two-thirds of all the bad mortgages in our financial system, many of which are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, were bought by government agencies or required by government regulations."This requires a little mental gymnastics to understand correctly, because it is not intuitive. Normally, we think of demand coming from the consumer, but for firms that only lend it is the other way around. Their operating cash comes from businesses UP the chain, not loan interest. Therefore, they are really selling in reverse, to the banks, and their "product" is the value added by pulling a group of mortgage borrowers into a securitizable group.
The point: if wonky demand for bad mortgages was not created by the federal government, these companies would not have been able to sell their product. They would have either had to stick to traditional, safe mortgages, or else they would not have existed in the first place. Companies like Countrywide were probably originated because banks wanted to subcontract a layer or two of risk from the bad mortgages the federal government was forcing them to take. A kind of, "we know when the Countrywides fail that we have a sales cycle or two to purge our own toxic assets and lobby our congresspeople for a bailout." It worked for most of the big banks, and who can blame them for doing it? They were damned if they did, damned if they didn't.
MIT researchers present a new algorithm that could bring the same type of efficiency to systems of linear equations — whose solution is crucial to image processing, video processing, signal processing, robot control, weather modeling, genetic analysis and population analysis, to name just a few applications.A gotcha, of course, does exist. Namely, once the result is determined it is in a quantum superposition, so it takes order-N steps to read it out. Two possible solutions present themselves to my uneducated mind: the read-out step may be something that can be done massively in parallel; i.e. by entangling the "result" qubits and sending them to N readers which can be purpose-built cheaply to just be able to query a set number of qubits in a set way. The second way is working with the problem rather than around it. Many or most matrices a digital computer sees are either highly sparse (consisting overwhelmingly of zeros), and/or most of the answers are trivial. This can be exploited using digital computers in parallel. For instance, a finite element analysis might be run on a digital computer with a few million nodes, and simultaneously on a quantum computer with trillions of nodes. Then the digital computer could direct the quantum computer to only query the nodes with high stress concentrations to bring them to the higher quantum resolution. Similarly, systems can be set up so that the pertinent variables are in a known location. A market forecast, for instance, might take into account trillions of variables to forecast a stock price in the last row of the results vector.
This instability is caused by the ever-loosening concept of risk in the economy during good times, which leads to a "euphoric economy." When the crash comes, as it always does, investors pucker up and we get the death spiral we have all heard about. This is all true, of course, but the alternative is worse. The idea Minsky advocated was to have a Central Bank as lender of last resort, or the government as employer of last resort, in a financial crisis. The problem is, "crisis" is a highly subjective and politicized term. Was the 2002 recession a crisis? Whether it was or not, Minsky's "solution" was imposed to level out the stock market's fall. The Fed became the lender who pumped money into the economy. And it worked! The stock market recovered. It also blew up the dollar bubble, which led to the housing bubble, which led to the credit bubble.
Both Minsky and Keynes, and now people like Krugman and Tom Friedman, found fault with laissez-faire capitalism. Both devoted their career to understanding it, and offering solutions. Laudable by any standard. Unfortunately, both also commited the fatal flaw of socialism: in the absence of any rational solution, they made one up and called it government. It is there in Minsky's work just as it is in Keynes'. Keynes said government can bolster employment, and Minsky said government can bolster lending, but what they really meant was "some fairy tale figment of my imagination can bolster _______." They just went with "government" because you can fool more of the readers into believing it is real.
Problem #1: government is not above the rules. The Fed making loans to prop up bad bank debt on the expectation that the economy will keep growing and bail the country out is exactly the same thing, writ large, as the bankers taking on bad loans in the first place on the expectation that the price of housing (or stocks or a currency etc.) will keep going up. Same with the government of Keynes, as the provider of emergincy jobs. It is the same as a business going out and hiring for no good reason out of the kindness of its heart. It leads inevitably to deficits and massive debt, and there is nothing special about government debt. It's a transfer from the profit/loss account to the balance sheet, and it eats away future growth just as surely as interest payments from the bad times eat away at profit in the good times for a business.
Problem #2: government is below the rules. Keynesian stimulus works, if you can pump lots of jobs up almost immediately - say, with a program that is always around where people can just show up and work for a minimum wage if they don't have a job (makes a good case for replacing unionized government employees, at least) - then you can ease the lows (and the highs) somewhat. But as we've seen with this stimulus, that never happens. The money is fought over for months until after it is needed, then it gets passed into the hands of cronies and usually recycled into the election coffers of the people who voted for it. But this is not due to some imperfection in his math or some bad apples in government - this is the fatal flaw of every statist who imbues the government with a higher economic nobility than the market. In real life it turns out to be quite the opposite. Same thing with the Fed bowing to congressional or presidential pressures to ease the money supply during election years. The government is made up of people, and the are no better than the people who make up the market, but they have the power to make unilateral decisions, unlike the people in the market. And the only reason they have that power is because they have the guns.
- Move energy generation off-planet - this helps get rid of the 20-50% of the heat that comes from power plants themselves, but doesn't change the fact that all the rest is dumped into the biosphere. In other words, it changes the date but not the conclusion.
- Capture and dispose of waste heat - this might be done by using heat-loving microbes to create chemical compounds in endothermic reactions, which would then be shot off-planet and burned elsewhere, with the ash returned. This is horribly inefficient, and requires relatively high-quality heat.
- Move the Earth away from the sun - this is well beyond the capabilities of a K1.0 civilization, simply put.
- Limit solar insolation - this is the only real alternative. The possibilities range from the near-term (painting roofs white, cloud seeding), to the far-off (massive sunshades, breaking up asteroids to make rings, reflective mirrors).
My aunt and uncle heard about this, and decided to turn in their Sedona to trade up. Turns out, by the binary and arbitrary cutoffs, it gets 1 mpg too much. Now, some math. Let's say they got the car in 1999 for simplicity. Say they drive 15,000 miles per year. And say the Sedona gets 21 mpg, and the cutoff is 20 mpg. They would have saved about $1000 over the ten years on gas at $3/gallon. So, thanks to government changing the rules, my aunt and uncle lost $8000 by buying a fuel-efficient car. In fact, they could have bought an Escalade at 13 mpg 10 years ago and come out even! No doubt that will make them think twice next time they are in the market for a new car.
"Most journalists take a number of psychology, sociology, political science, and humanities courses during their early years in college. Unfortunately, these courses have long served as ideological trainingprograms—ignoring biological sources of self-serving, corrupt, and criminal behavior for a number of reasons, including lack of scientific training; postmodern, antiscience bias; and well-intentioned, facts-be-damned desire to have their students view the world from an egalitarian perspective. Instead, these disciplines ram home the idea that troubled behavior can be fixed through expensive socialist programs that, coincidentally, provide employment opportunities for graduates of the social sciences. Modern neuroscience is showing how flawed many of these policies have been—structural differences in the brains of psychopaths, for example, help explain why remedial programs simply helped them become better at conning people."
The movie was Sunshine Cleaners, starring Amy Adams and some other people. I thought it was a very good movie. The plot is a single mom who starts a crime-scene cleanup business so she can get her son out of public school, where they want to put the (intelligent but weird) boy on drugs and in special ed classes. Anyway, this is basically the vehicle that allows the woman to finally cut ties with her high school baggage, and it helps her family get over some nasty stuff in the past too. What I liked about it was that it wasn't a lottery ticket - I mean, getting an in on cleaning up dead people ain't exactly winning American Idol. Instead, the various characters taking on responsibility and risk and was their vehicle towards freedom and happiness.
Many people I know have had reconstructive knee surgery, a procedure virtually erected on the ruined careers of athletes. Today it seems like a no brainer distinction of health vs. unfair advantage, but at some point not too long ago the question about whether to have someone try and repair your knee, or try to continue playing on 75% of a knee, was not clear. HGH is one very interesting area - it promotes healing and and a lot of things we associate with youth, so it's a possibility that everyone will take HGH derivatives after major injuries and surgeries at some point in the near future - or even as a preventive therapy for old age. It is accepted therapy for some illnesses already. At some point soon, Rodney Harrison may stop being a cheater and start being an early adopter. Corticosteroids are similar - use them to promote joint repair while training, and you are a cheater. But you're an idiot if you are riding the Tour de France on preventable saddle sores.
Prostate cancer patients can evaluate and choose between options like watchful waiting, various radiation therapies, surgery, and soon, a new biotech immunological treatment. Information gathering would take no more time than the current wait for a follow up appointment.
Finally, one would expect that competition would spark that virtuous cycle in which innovation progressively drives down costs, just as it has in so many other areas of commerce. Medical care would become ever more affordable and thus reduce the perceived need for government intervention on behalf of the poor.
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which would allow ambulatory movement but would mean that strenuous exercise would slowly destroy his knee.
- A painful and costly operation that was only partly covered, which involved cutting an incision along the knee, flipping the knee cap, cutting a piece from the patellar tendon, and grafting it into the ACL spot. This would be followed by several months in a lower-body cast and extremely painful healing of a wound that was prone to infection.