June 19, 2013
Forest Fire, Forest Service, House of Representitives, Politics, President Obama, republican, Sequestration, United States
Fire Fighters Struggle With Flames and Budgets
Every summer there is another record breaking forest fire immolating homeowners and ravaging communities. 2013 is no exception.
Throughout the American West, the United States Forest Service is scrambling to evacuate homes and contain destructive wildfires. These fire epidemics are getting worse every summer. Analysts blame urban encroaching into forests, global warming drying out the West, and bad luck.
Meanwhile, Washington’s sequestration and budget cuts have just axed the wildfire protection budget by more than forty-percent.
A gridlocked congress’s inability to act has pushed President Obama to preemptively reducing programs to offset future spending caps. These cuts are on top of the millions lost to the sequestration eroding the Forest Service’s budget. The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, responsible for controlling damaging megablazes, has lost $208 million of its original $500 million dollar budget. As the Forest Service chooses how to allocate its meager resources, experts are predicting worsening fires throughout the foreseeable future.
The United States must invest in wildfire protection instead of cutting funding. It also must spend smarter. Proactive strategy, ranging from clearing at-risk brush to lighting clearing fires, are progressively considered the best option for the fiscally starved Forest Service. Rather than fighting megablazes head on preemptive action curtails megablazes from ever burning out of control of threatening communities. These preventive methods are the cheapest option to saving endangered towns; every dollar spent on prevention multiplies itself into ten dollars saved on firefighter costs. To unlock the funds needed to reinstate funding to the Forest Services it will take political action from Congress, the institution originally responsible for the crippling cuts.
Many Republican Congressmen, ironically representing the fire-plagued west, are responsible for the sequestration and budget cuts. These austerity hawks are endeavoring to “starve the beast” of big government; by choking off the federal programs and taxes these zealots intend to force the nation towards smaller government. The Republican leadership is now self-immolating its own districts to uphold a deranged ideology. It’s no wonder Congress’s approval rating has plunged to ten percent. Another record.
June 11, 2013
Afghanistan, Bradley Manning, Cablegate, Iraq, Jihad, leak, trial, war crime, wikileaks
Bradley Manning: Beleagured Whistleblower
After three years of arduous delays Bradley Manning has finally had his day in court. The documents and videos that he made public to the world revealed thousands of unreported killings and gruesome maimings of civilians throughout Afghanistan and Iraq during the American occupations. Even an attempted attacks on journalists were publicized. Manning’s Cablegate was the single largest disclosure of classified American documents in history. Needless to say, many are interested why Manning would go to such lengths to deface American troops and her allies.
Here is the answer.
Manning’s leaked documents in Cablegate exposed a systematic under reporting of war crimes by Americans in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Many of incidents Manning exposed were unreported killings of civilians, surrendering terrorists being shot to pieces, rapes and murders by unchecked local policemen, sadistic torture, and countless other acts of horror. While often these incidents were noted by American troops, the war crimes were only reported internally; legal actions and reprimands were almost never carried out. This transgression resulted in 15,000 unaccounted for deaths of civilians. These malfeasance were not deliberately masterminded nor broadly coordinated. They just happened; its part of war. There has not been a war in history where such travesties have not occurred and it would be pretentious to assume otherwise
The gut-wrenching letdown is these crimes were allowed to go unreported. To be hidden, to be wished away and forgotten.
The United States, backed by its NATO Allies, went into Afghanistan and Iraq to purge corrupt regimes and install unfettered democracies. Yet they allowed widespread killings, just as the preceding governments did. This conceited hypocrisy devalues the liberties and rights the Allied forces espoused. What Afghan or Iraqi would trust the supporters of rapists and murders? The American-backed governments in these states lost hearts and minds whenever these war crimes went unpunished. The global community may not have known about this secret slaughter, but the civilians on the ground did. They were the ones who lost friends and loved ones. They were the ones who justice was denied. They were the ones who sided with jihadists to claim their righteous vengeance.
The United States has to hold itself to a higher standard. It has to pursue the criminals in its ranks and flush their crimes out publicly. It will be hard and painful, but it is right. If the military can show purge itself of its fiendish criminals it can reclaim the virtue it stands for, winning back the support of the Afghans and the Iraqi nations . As the sadists are rooted out there might be even fewer unintended killings. This transformation was the goal of Bradley Manning’s Cablegate. The cost of such a dream will probably be a life sentence in prison for Bradley Manning. I hope his sacrifice will return righteousness to our armies.
Afghanistan thanks Manning
September 8, 2012
Kickstarter, Planetary Annihilation, Real Time Strategy, Uber Entertainment, Videogame, war
Every would-be world conqueror gets their start playing tactical video games; some classic examples are Civilization, Age of Empires, and StarCraft. A new contender is being added to the list of great strategy games, Planetary Annihilation. This latest real-time strategy vision pioneers a new trail; rather than just a single map being the battle field whole solar systems are up for grabs.
Space, the final frontier … of warfare
The loose premise for Planetary Annihilation is robot armies are fighting each other for galactic control. Fun, right? The real focus of the game is in revolutionary global combat. Most games have square maps which cut off suddenly to prevent flanking armies from falling into the void. In Planetary Annihilation the battlefields are spherical planets. Troops march and fly around the world, doing combat in all three hundred and sixty degrees.
More complex maps add a solar system of battlefields. Moons can be mined. Asteroid can be turned into continental sized missiles. Gas giants fill up the screen as multiple lunar battles take place across space. It is hinted that whole planets can be thrown at unsuspecting opponents.
Already Uber Entertainment, the producers of this strategic and hilarious game, has surpassed their initial goal for Planetary Annihilation. With a whopping $900,000 in pledged funds production has already. Yet as more funds were pledged new ideas were birthed for each new threshold.
Upon passing the $1.1 million dollar barrier water worlds, complete with a whole new variety of aquatic robots, were added to Planetary Annihilation. Two hundred thousand dollars later orbital units were added and gas giants entered the warzone. The next threshold of $1.5 million will add strange new worlds coated with lava and cloaked in metal. The $1.8 million dollar threshold seems to be the most interesting to me; it activates the galactic campaign. By doubling their initial goal battlefields Uber Entertainment will make the whole galaxy open for combat.
The rewards for aiding Planetary Annihilation are both novel and far-flung. $20 will garner you a copy of the game, alongside over 12,000 backers. For $50 you will get a unique commander exclusively to fundraisers, but for $1000 you can get a unique commander made exclusively for you. My favorite option allows you name planets within the game; I think naming a planet after myself might just be worth $150.
I support intergalactic warfare; click here to support Planetary Annihilation!
September 6, 2012
Alex Hornstein, Automation, Energy, international, Kickstarter, Mirco Solar Plates, news, Shawn Frayne, Solar
I believe that passionate and invested inventors are the best innovators. Now it is time to add Alex Hornstein and Shawn Frayne to the ranks of the Wright Brothers and Alexander Fleming. Our two new revolutionaries are pushing the boundaries of solar energy. They are not pushing them upwards for large panels, instead they invested in small hyper efficient solar panels which can power every small object in any home.
Micro Solar Panels, A Plethora of Opportunities
Small solar plates are increasingly becoming an integral part of the world’s solar supply. In the past, only devices like throwaway calculators and a few outdoorsy tools were powered by small solar panels. Today, there are already niche solar markets arising; everything from cell phone chargers to glow in the dark bricks are powered by the sun.
Most small solar panels are produced in a slow and inefficient manner. There are whole factories dedicated to outdated and time-consuming. Panels are hand glued together; as many as one in five are discarded due to workmanship faults. The annual output of one factory is around a 300,000 units. These panels will last approximately two years, under the best conditions.
Currently, our two new inventors are gathering funds to finalize their invention, the Solar Pocket Factory. Just one of these table-top factories can produce a whopping 2,103,793 panels in a year; a panel can be produced every fifteen seconds. These durable have a ten-year guarantee. The factory can fit in a pickup and run anywhere in the world or even on the go.
This project is currently a favorite on Kickstarter. This grass-roots site connects inventors, innovators, and artists with people who want to support their causes (and get nifty prizes). For instance if you give our lauded innovators a scant $35 they will ship you everything you need to build a few small solar devices with their patented plates. Big spenders can select the $10,000 option; with this prize our inventors bring their micro factory to your hometown and crank out hundreds, if not thousands, of plates and products. A whole town could be powered by one little trip. The future looks sunny.
Wanna help the cause? Their Kickstarter Project continues until September 14, 2012. Click here to green up your home!
March 24, 2012
Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, international, Iran, Israel, Israel-Iran War, United States, war
How long till war?
All eyes are on Iran and its nuclear program. The Iranian government has stated that it pursues only peaceful ends in its new-found interest in uranium enrichment. Israel and the United States have accused Iran of building nuclear WMDs. In this article, Part 1, we will review how Israel and Iran are igniting the next world war and how conventional methods of defusing this situation have failed. In Part 2, we will examine the diplomatic failures which have allowed this situation to persist and worsen. In Part 3 we will review unlikely alternatives which might be able to prevent the United States from being dragged into a 21st century Vietnam.
Why are Iran and Israel Moving Towards War?
Iran and Israel have the keys to peace or war in the Middle East; they both choose war. we can see the rational explanation behind this absurd decision by looking into game theory and the Prisoners’ Dilemma. Both sides have the option of backing down; however, if either side took enacted peaceful measures it would open itself for attack from the opposition. Without mutual trust or a shared allied superpower to help negotiate a thawing of relations these nations are locked onto the war path.
How Will the War Begin on Our Current Course?
Israel has talked openly about a preemptive strike. With a surprise attack Israeli fighter jets plan to cripple the Iranian nuclear program beyond repair. Iran will doubtlessly strike back; igniting a regional war against Israel. The United States will most likely be dragged into the conflict with the inevitable Iranian retaliations. In an American military war-game codenamed Internal Look, which played out many possible scenarios following an Israeli preemptive strike, United States ships were attacked by Iranian planes attempting to intercept the retreating Israel fighters. This is one of dozens of possibilities which could throw American into a pan-Arabian war in one of the world’s most volatile and important regions,
Why is It Important to Prevent War?
Life and energy.
It is of primary importance to maintain peace to prevent wholesale slaughter on a scale not seen since the end of World War Two. Iran uses human waves of millions of loyalists to crush enemies while Israel decimates invaders with overwhelming air power and possibly nuclear. A conflict would kill thousands; if there is an alternative, it must be pursued
Second, oil is something critical to the Middle Oil flow will slow to a trickle if war explodes across the Persian Gulf; either blockades of the Straits of Hormuz or wholesale destruction of regional oil tankers could cut off the world’s energy supply. International blackouts would cause unprecedented chaos.
The question becomes that if war would be so disastrous why would the powers that be allowed it to deteriorate to this strained point? Find the answer in Part 2; it will be up tomorrow.
All comments are appreciated and will be answered promptly.
March 14, 2012
Aviation Industry Corporation, Case Study, China, Economics, General Motors, Industry, Jobs, Manufacturing, Market, Market State, Nexteer Automotive, Union, United States
Made in China (for now)
Outsourcing is the bane of American manufacturing… except for in a little town in Michigan named Saginaw. The great wrecks of the rest belt dot the town. Meanwhile one Nexteer Automotive is adding jobs by the dozens.
Who is injecting money into the American economy? If you were to follow the money trail your answer would be “China.”
In 2010 the national Chinese firm Aviation Industry Corporation bought the factory from General Motors. The previous owners had been determined to sell the plant or demolish it. The Chinese are determined to make a profit. I believe the Chinese are correct in this case, otherwise they would not be investing in new machinery, technology, and above all workers at the same plant that General Motors had given up on.
The lynch pin in the success of the factory under its new leadership has been a stellar relationship with the factory’s union. Careful and respectful negotiations were made concerning wages. Bloated union contracts were watered down; however, the terms were still generous for the plant’s union. New employees are paid less than half of what they would have been paid ten years ago. This matters little to the workers whom are just happy to be employed. Over 600 hundred jobs have been added to the factory in the last two years. More are on the way.
Many workers had apprehensions about the foreign acquisition of Nexteer Automotive. Some worried the firm would be liquidated. Others were concerned the experience and technological knowledge of the employees would be sponged from the plant and the factory itself would be leveled. These fears have been unfounded. Rather than taking away from the plant the Chinese have pledged to invest over 15 billion over the next couple of years. Nexteer Automotive is quickly putting in cutting edge systems to secure the factory’s future. The only criticism Aviation Industry Corporation has of Nexteer Automotive is the factory is not expanding fast enough.
While General Motors, the previous owner of the Nexteer Automotive, had seem only a money pit Aviation Industry Corporation found a gem. The American worker is second to none; it is a proven fact that on average Americans work more diligently and with greater output than any other country in the world. The Chinese are simply cashing in on this hard-won fact. In addition, the highly developed infrastructure throughout American and the sunk costs of existing factories means that future developers will also invest in America. We are the best and most economic choice. In virtually every industry American leads the way with a culture of intrepid determination, it is only right manufacturing is coming back to America.
February 12, 2012
Deep Thought, Spotlight
Afghanistan, assassination, Civil War, Corruption, Desertion, Drug War, Election Fraud, Foreign Policy, Hamid Karzai, IED, India, Mujahideen, NATO, Operation Enduring Freedom, Pakistan, Politics, Poppy, President of Afghanistan, September 11, Suicide Bomber, Taliban
Meet President Hamid Karzai, the first elected president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. After 2014 his government will be responsible for protecting the country which thousands of Americans, Afghans, and international troops have died to sustain. It is in debate if he is up to the task.
In order to answer this question we must analyze who Hamid Karzai is
Karzai was always going to be a politician. He first made a name for himself in the ranks of the Mujahedeen, freedom fighters resisting the Russian annexation of Afghanistan. He gained notoriety fundraising for the Mujahedeen in Pakistan and fame by leading negotiations uniting conflicting factions and directing mass defections of domestic opposition. In 1992 he served as the Deputy Foreign Minister in the Afghanistan government. The Taliban’s growing influence hedged him out of the country. It was not until the 1999 assassination of his father, by the Taliban, that Karzai began his crusade to end the radical regime. It was not until the events of September 11, 2001 that Karzai got his opportunity.
During Operation Enduring Freedom, the NATO invasion of Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Karzai fought with his tribe to bring a new government to Afghanistan. He met stiff resistance from the Taliban, who were specifically targeted him to deny Afghanistan of one of his finest negotiators. Friendly fire, from American missiles, hit his troops and seriously injured Karzai. He became the chairman of the transitional government and was essential to the negotiations which brought about a unified government in Afghanistan.
2004 was the peak of Karzai’s career. He was elected the President of Afghanistan with 55.4% of the vote. Numerous obstructions marred his presidency and public opinion depreciated. Systematic corruption eroded public faith in the government. Isolated and accidental killings of civilians by Afghan and NATO forces turned distrust into anger. The Taliban was still at large in the southeastern parts of Afghanistan. Illegal poppy fields remained the cash crop for the insurgency and the Afghan government could not cull the fields. Karzai fiercely insisted to not use chemical herbicides against the poppy growers, due to fears of a much more volatile civil war, have stifled progress against the drugs. IED’s, suicide bombers, and ambushes have only spread anger and dissention.
In 2009 Karzai won the reelection with only with just over fifty percent of the popular vote. Accusations of ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, and a key opponent mysteriously dropping out just before the runoff election have left Karzai’s government under heavy suspicion. It took over a year for him to place all of his advisors because the Afghan Parliament rejected many due to the candidate’s ties with warlords and inability to perform.
Criticisms are multiplying. International activists have denounced his administration as one of the most corrupt in the world. Millions of dollars of international aid have simply disappeared. Widespread desertion is common in the Afghan military and discipline in the ranks is nonexistence. Deserters often turn up in the ranks of the Taliban.
Karzai will be the President of Afghanistan until 2014, at which time international forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is my opinion that Karzai is not up to challenge. He has failed to rejuvenates a country which desperately needs strong leadership. He is probably one of the best men in Afghanistan to mediate fair negotiations. However, that is not the role of the President: presidents must act, and Karzai does not seem to be reforming in a hurry.
Source: BBC, New York Times, Biography.com, Wikipedia
January 28, 2012
2012, Alternative Energy, Electricity, Energy, Germany, Nuclear, Nuclear Radiation, Nuclear Reactor, Protests
Nuclear Power Plants: A Dying Breed?
The radiation tormenting Fukushima struck a chord in Germany; amidst widespread protesting the government shut down the seven oldest nuclear reactors in Germany to placate the public. While the general population was captivated by the celebrations of the protesters, apprehension filled the halls of government, and a window of opportunity was presented to green energy firms. Nuclear power plants are an essential player in producing German electricity. Unless the German’s would favor being dependent on Russian oil pipelines the only viable path left to them is a rapid adoption of green energy.
Germany needs a silver-bullet solution to answer the energy vacuum left behind by the absentee nuclear plants and the declarations that the ten remaining nuclear reactors would be shut down ahead of schedule. It’s solution is as ambitious as it is green. By 2030 Germany plans to take a third of its power from green sources. By 2050 Germany plans be on eighty percent green power the 205o. the government will spearhead incentives in every field: biogas, biomass, solar, wind, and hydro. In addition, the country is abandoning the production of new nuclear plants and is pledging to decommission those that remain in operation ahead of schedule.
This is nothing short of a dangerous gamble. Germany will become the flagship for alternative energy production of the world, if they succeed. If they fail, the rest of Europe will have to sell power to the Germans to keep the country lit up. The German people are coming to a hard ceiling; either they break through and prosper or they fail tragically and suffer a decline with cumbersome and unreliable energy fees. When it comes to heating homes and power industry their is only a small margin of error for Germany.
It will be interesting to see what Germany will look like in thirty years: will it be a green paradise or a darkening backwater?
January 28, 2012
Chicago, Economics, General Electric, Green, Incandescent, LED, lightbubls, Lighting, Markets, Phillips, Sylvania, Technology, Think Tank, United States
Second Generation Lighting Finding a Home in Your Home
The average lightbulb lasts for two thousand hours before going *pop*. In ten years yours lightbulbs will last fifty thousand hours [article]. How is this possible: LED Lightbulbs. This next generation of lighting, distinguished by their use exciting electrons to create light with maximize efficiency, are poised to replace the incandescent lightbulbs which have remained mechanically the same since the days of Edison. They are set to change the world; over the next ten years the LED lightbulbs are projected to take over sixty percent of the world’s markets [article]. The future will be a little bit brighter.
LED lightbulbs are vastly superior to antique incandescent lightbulbs. They have no filaments which can burn out, nor do they have toxic mercury. In addition, LED lightbulbs produce almost heat. This is a drastic improvement over current lightbulbs which are often too how to touch [article]. LED’s currently are not quite as bright as traditional bulbs; however innovators are pushing the envelope to close the gap and surpass incandescent lightbulbs. Finally, the pricing difference is extraordinary.
One the surface, incandescent lightbulbs seem cheaper. One traditional lightbulbs costs a mere $1.25 while LED’s are projected to cost $30 dollars. With a deeper look we see that LED’s are twenty-five times more effective than incandescent lightbulbs. With every LED lightbulbs you will save a $1.25, twenty-five lightbulb exchanges, and preventing incalculable amounts of damage to the environment from the toxic chemicals of the traditional lightbulbs. This decision is a no-brainer.
General Electric began with building incandescent lightbulbs; today, they are once again preparing to revolutionize the world of lighting. Alongside Sylvania [lightbulbs] and Phillips [lightbulbs] these three American companies are preparing for the next generation of LED lighting. These three companies will not only save consumers billions on lighting they will also secure a cutting edge market for the United States.
Chicago is ground zero for these three companies blooming LED bulb markets. A recent think tank report claimed that the cities trifecta of engineering colleges, government support, and concentration of lightbulb manufactures has position this city to oversee an explosion of new lighting across the world [report]. This is one market for that the American economy has in the bag for the economic future.
January 21, 2012
2014, Afghanistan, Agriculture, Air Power, Allied, Drug War, Economics, Hamid Karzai, Hearts and Minds Campaign, Opium, President Obama, September 11, silver-or-lead, State of the Union, Taliban, terrorism
A Look at Afghanistan
With the looming 2014 deadline for NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan many officials are anxious about the state of affairs in the nation. Two intertwined issues endanger the unstable fledgling state: drug crops and a president Taliban. Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan and the Obama administration are working jointly to solve these problems and attempt to bring peace to the war-torn nation.
The economic lynch pin of the Afghanistan economy is the humble poppy. Poppy’s are the plant which produces opium, an addictive drug which had killed millions. Approximately forty percent [article] of the world’s opium production is grown in the mountains of Afghanistan. In 2008 a British spearheaded campaign drove the Taliban and poppy sharecroppers out of prime growing land. Ongoing campaigns to educate farmers, plant wheat and cotton, and enforcing security have reduced the poppy output signficantly. However, these reforms are suffering from diminishing returns. The Taliban and their poppy-sharecroppers have established new havens in semi-arable deserts and are reestablishing a profitable trade. Corrupt officials are additionally undermining the efficiency the reform efforts by protecting drug growers for kick backs. The food zone’s in Afghanistan are currently are largely secured; however, the drug problem is certainly not eradicated.
The Taliban are still a major player in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the unstable sovereign government. Every year since the abrupt destruction of their government after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the Taliban have been rebuilding more ruggedized networks and orchestrating the assassinations of more Allied troops. Explosive suicide bombers, rouge gunman, and improvised explosive devices are the chief killers of the near 2800 allied casualties [article]. Countermeasures against this terrorism have been slow to mitigate the killings. Peak levels of Allied casualties were suffered over the summer of 2010 and current levels of casualties are still nearly double what they were five years previously [article]. Many locals believe once the international forces leave then the killings and disruption will make a resurgence.
There are many different programs attempting to defeat this persistent enemy. The Afghan military is focusing on building up its own air force to replace the American warplanes after 2014 [article]. These ambitious goals of this program are to have approximately 165 active aircraft online by 2016. Just as importantly, the government is training in total 8,000 personal to keep these aircraft in fighting condition. These planes will be able to supply isolated outposts, decimate Taliban patrols, and assure the Afghan people who their government can enforce the national security. In addition, the Obama Administration is taking innovative steps to freeze this possibility and stabilize the region. The American and Afghani governments have jointly begun to open dialogue with the Taliban [article]. While initial communications are still classified multiple officials have expressed optimistic first impressions. Peace is a viable possibility.
I personally believe this silver-or-lead policy will stabilize Afghanistan. Government supporters will be able to farm wheat and common in peace. The firepower of the Afghan army and the dialogue will corner the Taliban into consenting to peace. The country will doubtlessly be plagued by isolated extremists for at least the rest of the decade; however, peace will become de facto in Afghanistan.