$100 billion for broadband?

It might be worth the price.  Ars Technica[*1] :

The US is in desperate need of 100Mbps “big broadband.” That’s the conclusion of a new report from EDUCAUSE[*2] (PDF), a group that represents IT managers at over 2,200 colleges and universities. But these 100Mbps connections are coming slowly; in the meantime, countries like Japan already have them. To avoid falling further behind, the report calls for a national broadband policy to be passed this year, one that includes $100 billion for a fiber-to-the-home infrastructure that will connect every household and business in the country.

It would be the electronic equivalent of the Interstate Highway System, I guess.  But the Interstates wound up killing off the railroads.  Was that a good trade?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Warning on McCain, Lament for Fred

If you’re a Republican thinking of voting in the primaries for John McCain, read Mark Levin first[*1] :

I don’t pretend to speak for President Reagan or all conservatives. I speak for myself. But I watched the Republican debate last night, which was held at the Reagan library, and I have to say that I fear a McCain candidacy. He would be an exceedingly poor choice as the Republican nominee for president.

Let’s get the largely unspoken part of this out the way first. McCain is an intemperate, stubborn individual, much like Hillary Clinton. These are not good qualities to have in a president. As I watched him last night, I could see his personal contempt for Mitt Romney roiling under the surface. And why? Because Romney ran campaign ads that challenged McCain’s record? Is this the first campaign in which an opponent has run ads questioning another candidate’s record? That’s par for the course. To the best of my knowledge, Romney’s ads have not been personal. He has not even mentioned the Keating-Five to counter McCain’s cheap shots. But the same cannot be said of McCain’s comments about Romney.

Last night McCain, who is the putative frontrunner, resorted to a barrage of personal assaults on Romney that reflect more on the man making them than the target of the attacks. McCain now has a habit of describing Romney as a “manager for profit” and someone who has “laid-off” people, implying that Romney is both unpatriotic and uncaring. Moreover, he complains that Romney is using his “millions” or “fortune” to underwrite his campaign. This is a crass appeal to class warfare. McCain is extremely wealthy through marriage. Romney has never denigrated McCain for his wealth or the manner in which he acquired it. Evidently Romney’s character doesn’t let him to cross certain boundaries of decorum and decency, but McCain’s does. And what of managing for profit? When did free enterprise become evil? This is liberal pablum which, once again, could have been uttered by Hillary Clinton.

Anybody who’s aspiring to end the month with a few more bucks in the bank than they had when they started is working for a profit.  I think that describes what pretty much everybody wants, even though some people have more trouble getting there than others.  For the latter, there’s Dave Ramsey.

Levin continues:

Of course, it’s one thing to overlook one or two issues where a candidate seeking the Republican nomination as a conservative might depart from conservative orthodoxy. But in McCain’s case, adherence is the exception to the rule — McCain-Feingold (restrictions on political speech), McCain-Kennedy (amnesty for illegal aliens), McCain-Kennedy-Edwards (trial lawyers’ bill of rights), McCain-Lieberman (global warming legislation), Gang of 14 (obstructing change to the filibuster rule for judicial nominations), the Bush tax cuts, and so forth. This is a record any liberal Democrat would proudly run on. Are we to overlook this record when selecting a Republican nominee to carry our message in the general election?

Of course, if people cared about issues rather than atmospherics, if they worried about policies rather than the horse race, Fred Thompson would be the Republican frontrunner.  More and more, it’s looking like that’s the worst mistake the American people have made so far this political season.  Andrew Ferguson writes[*2] in the Weekly Standard:

In his recent memoir, Alan Greenspan says he’s been pushing a constitutional amendment of his own devising. It reads: “Anyone willing to do what is required to become president of the United States is thereby barred from taking that office.” If the Greenspan amendment is ever enacted, it will at last clear the field for Fred Thompson, who might then become president. But not until then.

Thompson withdrew from the presidential race last week. He ended his campaign as he had conducted it, with a minimum of fuss and no wasted words. He released a withdrawal statement over the Internet. It was three sentences long, and he hasn’t been heard from since. My guess is we’ll be missing him dreadfully by spring.

For better or for worse, Mitt Romney is the only guy left that a small-L libertarian like me can possibly support for President.  I don’t like Romney particularly, but everybody else is worse.  Some, like McCain, like Hillary, have exactly the wrong combination of bad temperament and bad policies which make them worse than their opponents.  Obama, for instance, has a decent temperament and bad policies.  But Romney is the only one left with the temperament and the policies to be President.

How can the government sell spectrum?

A thread on FreeRepublic brings up an interesting question[*1] :

What gives govt right to sell airwave spectrum. Why does it cost $6 billion and who gets the $6 billion?

Where did the idea of govt selling airwaves come from and is this good?

Why doesn’t the government institute vision tax. so, if you have a resort and it happens to be in a nice place, govt. charges vision tax for seeing pretty landscape.

Can someone enlighten me the provision of govt charging airwaves?

Thanks in advance..

This actually opens up an interesting philosophical discussion. The correct answer of course is “the police power of government.”  There is no more justification for the government selling off the spectrum as there was having the Government open up the American continent via the Homestead Act.  The government simply said “we own this,” drove off any competitors (i.e. Comanches, or pirate radio, or whatever) and then divvied it up according to its own perceived best interests.

Actually, this brings to my mind another, related point:  if you live in a state that has a property tax, do you actually “own” your property?  To determine the answer, consider what happens if you don’t pay your property tax.  The government takes it back, and “sells” it to somebody else.  By what authority?  Because they have more guns and more people ready to use them than you do.  You can dress it up any way that you want, but that’s the raw, naked truth.  It seems to me that nobody “owns” any property which is subject to a property tax.  You’re merely renting that property from the government.

Consider this when pulling the lever to vote for President McCain, Obama, your local Governor, Mayor, or anyone else . . .

Here comes the ice age?

Snow in Baghdad.

Snow in Jerusalem.

Oh, and the Sun may now be putting out so little energy[*1] that if trends continue, we’re looking at an ice age.  And not one with cute animated figures, either.  A real one.  With glaciers that carve out Great Lakes and wear down mountains and stuff.

CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun’s magnetic activity a “stethoscope on the Sun”. In this case, however, it is the “doctor” whose health is directly affected by the readings.

This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.

Tapping, who was originally from Kent, says that “Typically as you go through the ten or eleven year solar activity cycle you see the numbers go up or down. The lowest number is 64 or 68. The numbers 71 or 72 are very low, but they usually start to go up. We are at the end of a cycle, but the numbers still haven’t gone up. We have been joking around coffee that we may be seeing the Sun about to shut down.” (To date Tapping has been far more concerned about global warming.)

Do you still want to ban incandescent light bulbs?  Really?  It may be, ten years from now, we’ll all be saying that global warming would be a very good thing indeed.  We just don’t know, and honest scientists will tell you that.

Why cats are crazy

They come from the Middle East[*1]

The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East has long been identified as a “cradle of civilization” for humans. In a new genetic study, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have concluded that all ancestral roads for the modern day domestic cat also lead back to the same locale.

Findings of the study, involving more than 11,000 cats, are reported in the cover article of the January issue of the journal Genomics.

“This study confirms earlier research suggesting that the domestication of the cat started in the Fertile Crescent region,” said Monika Lipinski, lead researcher on the study and a doctoral candidate in the School of Veterinary Medicine. “It also provides a warning for modern cat fanciers to make sure they maintain a broad genetic base as they further develop their breeds.”

Self-organized criticality

I’m not exactly sure what it is[*1] , but it sounds cool, and I’ll have to look into it one of these days . . .

Ever since a forward-thinking trio of physicists identified the phenomenon known as self-organized criticality—a mechanism by which complexity arises in nature—scientists have been applying its concepts to everything from economics to avalanches.

Playing with string?

One of the trademark traits of string theory (a physics theory that, some say, explains EVERYTHING) is that it’s so nebulous as to be untestable.

Well, some science-type yahoos seem to think they’ve come up with a test for string theory[*1] :

Cosmic strings are defects in space. A network of strings is predicted by string theory (and also by other supersymmetric theories known as Grand Unified Theories, which aspire to unify all known forces of nature except gravity) to have been produced in the early universe, but has not been detected so far. Cosmic strings produce characteristic fluctuations in the gas density through which they move, a signature of which will be imprinted on the 21-centimeter radiation.

The cosmic string network predicted to occur with brane inflation could be tested by looking for the corresponding fluctuations in the 21-centimeter radiation.

Like the cosmic microwave background, the cosmological 21-centimeter radiation has been stretched as the universe has expanded. Today, this relic radiation has a wavelength closer to 21 meters, putting it in the long-wavelength radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

To precisely measure perturbations in the spectra would require an array of radio telescopes with a collective area of more than 1,000 square kilometers. Such an array could be built using current technology, Wandelt said, but would be prohibitively expensive.

If such an enormous array were eventually constructed, measurements of perturbations in the density of neutral hydrogen atoms could also reveal the value of string tension, a fundamental parameter in string theory, Wandelt said. “And that would tell us about the energy scale at which quantum gravity begins to become important.”

Damned if I know if they’re full of it or not.  Maybe we’ll see someday.

If you make it through your 40’s . . .

Researchers find that middle-aged misery spans the globe[*1]

Using data on 2 million people, from 80 nations, researchers from the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College in the US have found an extraordinarily consistent international pattern in depression and happiness levels that leaves us most miserable in middle age.

Their paper entitled “Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?” is to be published shortly in Social Science & Medicine, the world’s most-cited social science journal. The researchers found happiness levels followed a U shaped curve, with happiness higher towards the start and end of our lives and leaving us most miserable in middle age. Many previous studies of the life-course had suggested that psychological well-being stayed relatively flat and consistent as we aged.

Using a sample of 1 million people from the UK, the researchers discovered that for both men and women the probability of depression peaks around 44 years of age. In the US they found a significant difference between men and women with unhappiness reaching a peak at around 40 years of age for women and 50 years of age for men.

So for me, only two more years downhill, then it’s all gravy from there.  Cool.