Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reason #874,558 Why The Entire UN Should Be Dumped In The East River...

(via McQ at QandO)

The UN is at it again fighting tirelessly against Human Rights Abuses, and seeing as how they've been so successful in places like Cuba, Saudi Arabia or Darfur, it's time to turn their attention on the big prize. You guessed it, The United States.

This headline is just so incredibly ridiculous I don't know where to begin-

Racial Poverty Gaps in U.S. Amount to Human Rights Violation, Says U.N. Expert

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 (OneWorld) - Despite enormous wealth and various federal and social welfare schemes at work, the United States is failing to help millions of its people trying to get out of poverty, according to an independent United Nations rights expert.

"Resource constraints have limited the reach of the assistance programs and social discrimination has aggravated the problems in many situations resulting in poverty clearly seen as a violation of human rights," Dr. Arjun Sengupta declared after visiting the United States last month.

"If the United States government designed and implemented the policies according to human rights standards much of the problem of poverty could be resolved," he added.

Dr. Sengupta, an expert on human rights and extreme poverty of the world body's Commission on Human Rights, said he chose to visit the United States because he wanted to illustrate that extreme poverty was not only prevalent in developing countries, but a phenomenon that is found in most nations in the world, according to U.N. officials.

"The case of the United States was particularly interesting as it presented an apparent paradox: as the wealthiest country on Earth, with higher per capita income levels than any other country, the United States has also had one of the highest incidences of poverty among the rich industrialized nations," Dr. Sengupta said.

Good lord. Human rights violations? Someone explain to me where in the Constitution it says that "all citizens will be provided free healthcare and no one will ever go hungry".

Is there extreme poverty in the US? Without question, yes. There are areas of the country where the jobs have evaporated and people were stuck with no immediate ways out, thus things are horribly bleak. Certain parts of West Virginia or Kentucky come to mind as examples. But to say that these people are without any assistance from the government or private charities and thusly are victims of Human Rights Abuses is beyond ridiculous. Here's a little list of How "Poor" are America's Poor-

* 38 percent of the persons whom the Census Bureau identifies as "poor" own their own homes with a median value of $39,200.

* 62 percent of "poor" households own a car; 14 percent own two or more cars.

* Nearly half of all "poor" households have air-conditioning; 31 percent have microwave ovens.

* Nationwide, some 22,000 "poor" households have heated swimming pools or Jacuzzis.

"Poor" Americans today are better housed, better fed, and own more property than did the average U.S. citizen throughout much of the 20th Century. In 1988, the per capita expenditures of the lowest income fifth of the U.S. population exceeded the per capita expenditures of the median American household in 1955, after adjusting for inflation.1

Better Off Than Europeans, Japanese
The average "poor" American lives in a larger house or apartment than does the average West European (This is the average West European, not poor West Europeans). Poor Americans eat far more meat, are more likely to own cars and dishwashers, and are more likely to have basic modern amenities such as indoor toilets than is the general West European population.

"Poor" Americans consume three times as much meat each year and are 40 percent more likely to own a car than the average Japanese. And the average Japanese is 22 times more likely to live without an indoor flush toilet than is a poor American.

The Census Bureau counts as "poor" anyone with "cash income" less than the official poverty threshold, which was $12,675 for a family of four in 1989. The Census completely disregards assets owned by the "poor," and does not even count much of what, in fact, is income. This is clear from the Census's own data: low income persons spend $1.94 for every $1.00 in "income" reported by the Census. If this is true, then the poor somehow are getting $0.94 in additional income above every $1.00 counted by the Census. Indeed, the gap between spending and the Census's count of the income of the "poor" has grown larger year by year till, now, the Census measurement of the income of poor persons no longer has any bearing on economic reality.

You want Human Rights Abuses that are worthy of international condemnation? How about this?

Horrific conditions and suffering make it the last worst place on Earth

By Jack Rendler
May 15, 2005

There are 23 million people living in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and all of them – men, women and children – suffer every day under the heel of the most repressive regime on Earth. Their plight has been abandoned and ignored by most of the world for nearly 50 years. But there is now new hope and opportunity to restore their freedom and dignity.

The suffering of the North Korean people does not benefit from the drama that attends well-publicized human rights crises such as Iraq and Darfur. Even when hunger and starvation killed as many as 2 million North Koreans in the mid-1990s, the world took little notice. And the greater toll is the continuing long-term day-to-day grinding down of the hearts, minds and souls of all North Korean people.

The North Korean government may be unique in all the world in its ability and willingness to both starve its people and oppress them, to deny them basic civil rights as well as access to food and health care. The government in its showcase capital Pyongyang does not permit international inspection, does not respond to inquiries, and does not fulfill its United Nations obligations. Officials concentrate on keeping the world from North Korea and Koreans from each other.

The regime does not tolerate opposition of any kind. Those who are assumed to be less than loyal are arrested, imprisoned, starved and executed. Entire families are detained or "resettled" because of the supposed political deviation of one relative. Under the concept of "collective retribution," children are punished for the political sins of their parents, denied education and socially ostracized.

Hundreds of thousands are held in a system of prison and labor camps.

Any unauthorized assembly or association is regarded as a "collective disturbance" that is punishable. There are reports of severe repression of people involved in public and private religious activities, through imprisonment, torture and executions. Many Christians are reportedly being held in labor camps.

Someone please explain to me again why the UN is still in New York. Because I am at a loss to see how this organization is anything more than soapbox for dictators and socialists.



Update: A little less than a year ago, I wrote about Reason #874556 Why The Entire UN Should Be Dumped In The East River......A world without the UN.......Hmmmmmm...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Truth In Headlines...........

Do you remember that Christmas commercial wherein: the Mom and Dad are arguing at like three in in the morning, on Christmas Day, about where the directions are for the new bicycle that Mopsie the seven year old or whomever got for Christmas? Then Mopsie hears Mom and Dad arguing at the top of the stairs about said bicycle and so she promptly dials up the website that has a PDF of the instructions for assembling the bicycle, which she then prints out (using the proper print settings of course) and then innocently drops through the railing to fall magically in front of Dad while he looks away? And then he turns around and finds the directions- Christmas is saved!

This headline made me think of that commercial.

"The Next Generation of video-game consoles will have a parental lockout feature, which allows kids to keep their parents from playing inappropriate games"

This is the actual headline-

Parents can control new generation video games

Mm-hmm..Considering most parents have had the kids set the VCR for the last twenty years...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More Stuff Worth Reading-Recent Additions to Ye' Olde Blogroll

Attention K-mart shoppers!

(Sorry, just felt like saying that.)

I have been remiss for not adding the following folks to my blogroll for all five you who read this site to check out. They are all excellent writers and are most worth of a click or two.

First is John from Wuzzadem, who does the whole picture-with-caption-conversation thingy really well. Some of my favorites of his are the "Blogging With Clippy" series- you know clippy, he's that annoying paperclip cartoon included with Microsoft Outlook to help assure you that you are most definitely PC-illiterate. I've linked his "Disaster Porn" series before as well, both hilarious.

Next is The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, a canadian nanny with a major in English and Cultural Anthropology. She's a huge Simpsons fan, rants well at moonbats and if that's her picture she's pretty frickin cute, so there's that. Read her FAQ for more.

Moving on we have the SobekPundit, he of the wacky and zany faux-interviews. He rants well and does a good job of pretending to be other bloggers. His faux-interview with John from Wuzzadem was pretty damn funny.

And wrapping it up we have Hubris, self described as "navel gazing at its finest". If you are a fan of Roadhouse, the movie, then you owe it to yourself to read his take. Easily the best revision of Roadhouse I've ever seen, even though it's really the only revision of Roadhouse I've ever seen. Just shut up and read it ok? You'll enjoy it trust me.

Roadhouse Revisited:Parts-
I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, and of course-
Road House Revisited: The Final Chapter

Aren't you glad I read the internet and find you all this good stuff? Of course you are. Enjoy the links folks. It's almost the Guinness hour for me! Hoo-Ray!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Slappy McBlueLips Doesn't Deserve the AL MVP

That should go to Big-Papi. Everyone knows that Slappy wasn't even the MVP of his own team, never mind the entire AL.

I present to you a picture editorial for my argument.

You would choose this-

Over this?

Yes, I'm biased. But still, without Ortiz, the Red Sox wouldn't have made the playoffs. Without A-Rod, the Spankees might actually have made it to the ALCS.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thank You All For Your Service......

Hopefully, I will get to see some of my friends tonight who just got back from Iraq so I can buy them a beer or three for their service. If you happen to run in to either a veteran of a soldier currently serving, I suggest offering them a round as they most definitely deserve it.

Taken at the New Korean War Memorial in Washington-

Once again our brave men and women are answering the call of duty right now and working to help those that they do not know, simply because they believe it is the right thing to do. For this they deserve our gratitude.

Thank you for your service, Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The B612 Foundation Is Getting Nervous.

And that makes me VERY nervous.

For those who don't know, the B612 Foundation "consists of a group of professionals, primarily scientists and other technical experts, who are involved in and concerned about the current lack of action to protect the Earth from the impact of near Earth objects (NEOs)."

They recently have had a discussion with NASA about the asteroid Apophis, concerning the future close fly-by's of this asteroid and the need to take it seriously enough to begin planning for not just a scientific/transponder mission to Apophis, but also a mitigation/deflection mission. In October 2005, NASA provided its formal response to B612 in a letter from Dr. Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate, and an appended detailed analysis by Dr. Steven Chesley (NASA/JPL).

The entire letter can be found at the following link here, but I will list the main points from the article.

In summary NASA's conclusions are:

1) Both a deflection mission (of the type required for Apophis) and a scientific/transponder mission to Apophis can be performed sequentially, if required, between the key radar apparition in 2013 and the Earth close approach in 2029. There is therefore no need for a scientific/transponder mission to refine the Apophis orbit at this time.

Note: B612 assumed that 10-12 years would be required (end to end) to plan and execute the first asteroid deflection mission. NASA's 7 year estimate allows a potential pre-deflection transponder mission to be delayed until after the anticipated 2013 radar acquisition.

2) In 2021 when a deflection decision would have to be made, the size of the 2029 error ellipse (even without a transponder mission) will yield a maximum impact probability of about 20% (one chance in five), sufficient to justify launching a deflection mission if required.

Note: NASA agrees with B612 that a precursor transponder mission is appropriate prior to mounting a deflection mission. Nevertheless NASA also concludes that by the time a deflection decision would have to be made in 2021, the error ellipse will have been reduced sufficient to yield a maximum impact probability of 20%, twice the required minimum assumed by B612. This conclusion assumes that the Arecibo radar will be available and successfully acquire Apophis at each opportunity through 2021.

NASA also states that these conclusions do not preclude scientific missions to Apophis at an earlier time, and that in fact the specific characteristics of the 2029 Apophis encounter provide a unique opportunity to investigate NEOs. Any such proposals would be handled via the existing Discovery program, according to NASA.

The tone of NASA and JPLS's response leads me to believe that the issue concerning future impacts has now gone from a fringe concern to a mid-level detail. Their comments seem to call for even bolder action than what the B612 Foundation was proposing, for instance sending a deflection mission at the 2029 encounter instead of simply tracking it at that time. Considering the agreed impact percentage for 2029 is around 20%, they quite accurately state that this will be "sufficient to justify launching a deflection mission if required".

That's the good news. Now for the bad news.

B612 observations and general comments:

1) Radar tracking plays an extremely important role in being able to rationally determine the future likelihood of a NEO impact and potentially in planning for a deflection mission when required (as evident in the Chesley analysis). Yet the availability of NEO radar capability in the future is highly uncertain, even precarious. This is especially true of the most valuable NEO radar facility, Arecibo.

For those who are unaware, ARECIBO is the enormous Radar observatory located in Puerto Rico. The huge "dish" is 305 m (1000 feet) in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about twenty acres. The surface is made of almost 40,000 perforated aluminum panels, each measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet, supported by a network of steel cables strung across the underlying karst sinkhole. The funding for Arecibo is currently back to full operational mode, thanks to Cornell University, but there was time that Arecibo was in danger of being shut down due to the fact that NASA was not willing to be the only one funding the operation any longer. Back in 2001 the story was- NASA Trims Arecibo Budget, Says Other Organizations Should Support Asteroid Watch. The B612 Foundation rightly points out that the availability of NEO radar capability in the future is highly uncertain, and this is a big problem.

2) The Apophis potential impact is a highly unusual, even unique case. Due to its close encounter with the Earth in April 2029, and its Earth-like orbit, a relatively inexpensive low-technology deflection technique will suffice to divert it from an Earth impact in 2036, should that condition eventuate.

3) In the typical NEO impact scenario however, a much more sophisticated, costly and advanced technology mission would be required. Moreover, a low cost, quick mission to place a transponder on such an object would not be a viable option. Apophis is not typical of the NEO impact threat and should not be seen as such.

Meaning, we won't need to completely turn this one around, possibly just nudge it a little. But this is not going to be the standard by any means for future NEO's.

4) All parties to this exchange of ideas acknowledge having learned a great deal in the process of working through the issues. However, absent B612 Foundation raising the question, the current understanding of the Apophis circumstances might not have developed. This is not an acceptable scenario. If instead, a specific US Government agency were assigned the responsibility of protecting the Earth from catastrophic NEO impacts, that agency would perform such an analysis as a routine matter for all potential NEO impactors.

There is no good reason whatsoever to fund future Space Exploration without solving the mitigation and detection of NEO's first. That it took the B612 Foundation to finally push NASA to start getting serious about it is a problem.

B612 Foundation therefore recommends:

1) That reliable NEO radar capability be assured in order to support early warning of pending NEO impacts and rational deflection mission planning. (National Science Foundation)

2) That the development of advanced space power and propulsion technology capable of providing access to and deflection of the general NEO population be initiated. (NASA)

3) That the responsibility for protection of the Earth from future NEO impacts be assigned to a capable US Government agency. Such responsibility should include, inter alia, early warning capability, deflection capability and related policy development authority. (US Government)

I realize that a Flu-pandemic is a bigger more pressing issue than NEO deflection in terms of large scale potential disasters. And it is far more likely that the human race will have to deal with a pandemic or a major terrorist strike before it will have to deal with a potential NEO impact. But this is no reason not to begin preparing for it.

As has been stated before, everyone who knew even a little bit about Hurricanes and New Orleans knew that it was only a matter of time until one inflicted the type of devastation we saw with Katrina. We have the same understanding of NEO's.

Evidence like this-

Barringer Meteorite Crater:Diameter (km): 1.186- Click Here for Barringer Crater Environmental Effects Page

One would hope that we have learned our lesson from Katrina. The present Bush administrations efforts to prepare for the possibility of a Pandemic are good signs. We need to take the same approach with NEO's, and Apophis is as good a target as any with which to begin.