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Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 12:33 AM PDT

Rebranding Al-Quaida

by Autonomeritus

In May 2011, as all the world knows, the SEALs cut Al Quaida's balls off.  But there still remain more levels of pointed humiliation and defeat that need to be inserted deep into the residue of cowards and dishonorable criminals that used to be known as "Al Quaida", or "the base" as it translates.  The laughter of the world will soon follow the dying shell of that organization to its grave.

Since the world no longer respects the failed and emasculated organization formerly known as Al Quaida, the time is ripe to "re-brand" it for them.

Going forward, all government and media sources should refer to the bungling terrorists as "Al Saraesir" - "the cockroaches" (click "listen" button under the Arabic translation).  In this way the United States, and the world, can erase the very name of this once-feared group, and ensure that its terrified remnants--constantly running and hiding from our vengeance like scurrying insects--perish bearing an appropriate title of eternal disrespect, derision, and contempt.

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What we badly need in the military department is to field large forces of remote-controlled, "dumb" disposable ground battle drones ("groundbots")--smallish plastic and metal robots run from far away over a comm link.  Using drone groundbots will save the lives of many soldiers, save money, and put lower-tech adversaries in a position of extreme disadvantage.

Since the Predator program has already devastatingly proven the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and practicality of remote-drone combat, extension of this technology to ground drones is inevitable and highly desirable.  While some groundbots are already in use for specialized missions (e.g. mine clearance), they aren't being used in direct combat as proxy soldiers.  One problem is the unwise attempts to make some of these bots autonomous--which is to say: expensive, complex, unreliable, and dangerous to our own troops.  Far more useful are less complex, dumb drones that require full human control over a comm link--pure "proxy" drones with no onboard decisionmaking intelligence or autonomy.

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For fifty years the smartest people and the biggest power brokers in the world have designed and funded and constructed huge, expensive tokamaks, laser arrays, and other awe-inspiring mega-technology, trying in vain to reach breakeven energy output in a thermal plasma fusion reaction - relying on the random collisions of nuclei in a chaotic, high-temperature confined plasma to produce a small percentage of fusion events.

But in 2008 Yue Shi, a DARPA-funded grad student at Cornell, designed and constructed prototypes of tiny linear particle accelerators on microchips, capable of significantly boosting the energy of input particles.  Inevitably, she and her advisor Amit Lal examined the tantalizing possibility that chains or arrays of such semiconductor accelerators could push ionized deuterium nuclei to fusion energies.  The math is encouraging--read their 2009 patent application here.

This development has the hallmarks of a breakthrough "small is better" approach that could well bypass the entire "big fusion" debacle.  By contrast with the brute force, hard-way approaches of the last five decades, which attempted to heat volumes of fuel plasma to over 150 million degrees, precision manipulation of smaller numbers of fuel particles in a tightly-confining microstructure may reach much higher efficiency levels in a "microchip fusor"--perhaps high enough to produce small net power in a small package, e.g. at a flashlight-battery level.  Then we would have a safe, sane, and scalable fusion power cell, capable of being "stacked" by the thousands into commercial power arrays--or vehicle power plants ("Mr. Fusion"?).

It would be ironic (though, somehow appropriate) if the macho big-dumb-fusion effort, long the stronghold of elite male physicists, were trumped by a lady grad student with a clever little microchip. :)

Discuss

Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 02:46 PM PST

We Wouldn't Find a Trace...

by Autonomeritus

... if there had been a high-tech civilization on this planet, or on Mars, 200 million years ago.

Using a conservative erosion rate of 5 millimeters per millenium (in the ballpark for rock surfaces exposed in dry desert conditions where most weathering is due to sun and wind action), one can estimate what would happen to even the most gigantic structures over geological time scales.

For example, at that rate a cubic mile of solid rock sitting in the desert would just completely crumble away to dust and blow away in the wind in 325 million years, even if no other events intervened to hasten the process.  This would happen much faster in a moist climate with running water, freeze-thaw cycles, and plant life--perhaps up to a thousand times faster, because erosion rates in mm./year do occur in some non-arid environments.

Artificial structures, even gigantic structures produced by advanced civilizations surpassing our own, would be far less durable than a block of stone a mile on a side.  A vast concrete dam 500 feet thick would likely be completely gone in 30 million years or less.  Mega-scale buildings with walls 50 feet thick would vanish without a trace in 3 million years.

Given the above, even if there had been a vast thriving high-tech civilization 20 million years ago, we'd find nothing unless artifacts or fragments were buried and fossilized before weathering could destroy them, and those items would be buried so deeply now that our chances of running into them would be remote.

For all we know, the red iron oxide dust that covers Mars is all that remains of ancient steel structures that once stood there.

Discuss

Rather than attempting to deter people from evil via religious traditions of Hell in the hereafter, we should instead use public funds to construct and operate Hell here on Earth.

Presuming a Constitutional amendment similar to that proposed in my last diary, Congress should simply appropriate tax money to be used in the design, construction, staffing, and operation of Federal facilities where all who enter abandon hope, and appropriate cruel and unusual punishments can be carried out on the inmates--for what will seem to them like eternity.

The deterrent value of a national system of Federal Hells would be immeasurable.  Currently, psycho killers and twisted losers know in the back of their perverted minds, that the worst that can happen to them if they're caught is that they'll go to a Federal Supermax prison to live rent-free for life, with all costs covered by the taxpayers.  No luxury to be sure, but hardly anything to inspire mortal dread.  After all, it's a far better deal than being homeless on the street.  Wouldn't you agree that a Federal inmate is far better treated and in far less personal peril than a homeless person?  So there's no deterrent value whatsoever in the current justice system.  And there's no meaningful punishment in it either.  But if perps knew that they could legally be sent on a one-way trip to say, "Screamhell 4" under the desert in Utah, never to return... that thought would lurk in the back of their minds. Subliminally urging caution.

Imagine what a great jobs program it would be, building Hell on Earth!  And the ongoing employment of workers and management to staff each Hell would be even more helpful to the economy.  Motivated people to work with whips and spears and clubs and big oxygen cutting torches and wood chippers.  Recruiting them would be no problem.  Just poll the ranks of families bereaved and traumatized by psychos and molesters.  You'd get volunteers by the thousands.

(You've got to admit that this, at the least, would make a splendid movie--Anthony Hopkins could be the warden, and the doomed inmates need not be fed by the taxpayers--aye, they eat their own, smallest first, summarily butchered and barbecued over the roaring fire-pits of Hell, Inc. facility no. 4.)

Discuss

Just as the Second Amendment stands in the way of effective gun control and licensing, the Eighth Amendment stands in the way of true justice for murderers and molesters.  The one should be outright repealed, the other needs to be modified by a further Amendment:

In exception to the requirements of the Eighth Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment leading to death shall be mandatory for all crimes of mass-casualty terrorism, aggravated mayhem, or premeditated murder, and for all crimes against children; and further, such punishment shall be allowed for all violent crimes.
This Amendment would require judges to impose torture-to-death sentences on the worst killers, without the possibility of bleeding-heart liberal leniency standing in the way.  It would require our justice system to send child-killers to scream-hell before they died--true justice for the victims and their parents.  It would create a deterrent bringing real terror to the gut of every prospective perp.

Surely, a majority of Americans would support such a True Justice Amendment.

Discuss

Because Federal infrastructure projects create new National assets, they increase the net worth of the nation.  When the net worth of any sovereign nation increases, it is possible for it to increase the money supply without inflationary risk. The increase should be exactly equivalent to the construction cost of the projects, and the new money should be used to fund the construction.  Tax dollars, or borrowed funds, need not be used for any of these "hard asset" projects.

In this way, the nation creates new money in direct synch with national asset creation--which is not inflationary.  This is the way out of the box we are currently trapped in.  Because infrastructure projects, specifically, can be funded by "printing money" without inflation risk, there is no innate limitation to the funding that can be responsibly provided for such projects.  (Of course, eventually one runs out of construction labor, but this is a problem we might like to have in America today as we slowly recover from the Great Recession.)

Literally, within the limits imposed by the size of the relevant labor force, the government could safely green-light all proposed infrastructure projects concurrently, and simply issue new funds to pay for them, without delay or triage.  The resulting benefit to the economy, and to the capital strength of the nation, would be historic and revolutionary.

This may be nonintuitive, because corporations and individuals can't fund construction in this way.  Corporations and people have to save, and/or borrow funds, to pay for projects.   But sovereign nations operate at a higher level and have the unique ability to issue currency, to print money, to increase the money supply electronically.  It is narrow, foolish, and wrong to think that we should limit the nation to the financing models that apply to individuals!

So the nation may provide limitless bounty for constructive activity, without collecting taxes, without borrowing, and without inflation, as long as the end result is a set of new, tangible national assets corresponding closely in value to the new money created.  Of course, in such a system, depreciation must also be recognized by a regular, perhaps annual, reduction of the money supply in correspondence to the slow aging of dams, bridges, roads, and buildings.

This does not require a completely asset-based money supply.  It only requires that one component of the money supply be locked in step with the increasing (or decreasing) value of hard national assets.

Discuss

As we've seen over and over again, when consumer products become commoditized, their retail prices eventually converge on the cost of production, and competition forces that cost lower and lower, until the market price reaches a technologically-determined minimum range and stays there, so that producers are unable to extract any meaningful profit from the activity of manufacturing and selling the product.  Simultaneously, market competition relentlessly drives innovation, functional enhancement, and quality improvement so that the end-state products are generally remarkably excellent, powerful, and high-quality items produced for the lowest possible cost, and provided at the lowest possible price.

Since little or no "surplus value" is being created in its delivery, this end-state product of competitive capitalism is arguably equivalent to an ideal Communist production outcome--maximum benefit for the consumer masses, with no profit for the producers.  In this way, the free market eventually forces many self-interested profit-motivated private enterprises to function as if they were public-benefit communes in a planned economy.  Ironic.

Discuss

Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 01:47 AM PST

You F**ng Humans

by Autonomeritus

It's impossible to describe the nausea that civilized Galactic godminds have for primitive individualized cultures like yours.  Your pathological egotism and small-mindedness have as it were, a stink that offends us all.  Wonder why we've never come to visit your crapass little planet?  Take a look in a mirror.  We've got better things to do.  For the next ten million years or so.  While you grow up.

A few words of advice: first, get rid of your males.  Every civilization gets to the point where they entirely dispense with this archaic gender that causes most social problems.  That's right, all Galactic citizens are female.  Get over it.  Welcome to your distant future.  You've already got the technical solutions to make it happen, and your violent crime stats should be telling you loud and clear that it needs to happen.  A gender-specific engineered virus ought to do the trick.

Second, hurry up and straighten out your physics theories.  You have the most hilarious, convoluted ideas about physical reality.  Your so-called "string theory" is a comedy hit with some of our wavelengths... er, channels... well you don't really have a word or even a concept for godmind-microspectral-attention-quanta... never mind.  Focus on electrogeometry, everything else will follow so easily.  Haven't discovered it yet?   Just solve your "Maxwell's equations" for x, y, and z, and you're almost there.

So let's see, once you're unigendered and you've got basic physics down, you'll have a peaceful society with permanent, sustainable solutions to most material problems.  When we think you're ready we'll arrange for some unsuspecting nanochip engineer to "discover" level 1 of the galactic quantum network.  There's something like Wikipedia on it, and a bunch of tutorials.  That will keep you busy for a good million years or so.

Then we grant you formal recognition in your home starsystem.  And startitle.  The single most valuable asset your race will ever receive--transferable ownership rights to your own sun.  It's very important later in various complex cultural negotiations and... gaming.

Then you'll be ready to tackle the next 511 netlevels. Sorry, it took 9 billion years to produce all that material, and it's just going to take you a while to assimilate it.  When you do, we'll finally introduce ourselves personally so to speak.  See ya then...

Discuss

Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 03:12 PM PST

The Twilight of the Republicans

by Autonomeritus

In November, Republicans were humiliated at the polls, despite circumstances and funding that should have favored them.

That signals a historic transition.  It clearly shows a changing nation--a smarter nation--beginning to turn away forever from privileged, patriarchal, entitled white male conservatives and their failed, increasingly stale and dated ideologies. The Romneys of this world have simply become... uncool.  And more and more people are realizing that.

Setting aside all factual and policy issues at hand, people are just turned off by the irrepressible nuances of condescension, the silent rays of smugness and divine right, that leak out of people like Romney despite their every effort to ingratiate themselves.

The November 2012 election foreshadows the end of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, and the final demise of the ghostly undead spirit of the Confederacy that still haunts the South. It will be another generation before that process plays out entirely, but we passed the tipping point on November 6.

There may never be another white male President. That might be a good thing.

As America continues its slow transition to a more modern, European style, socialized democracy, we can look ahead with optimism now to an enduring dynasty of agile, intelligent progressive leadership holding executive power, outmaneuvering a less-intelligent, dying right wing that has clearly become its own worst enemy, and that is now in its twilight, being left behind by history.

Discuss

National security threats to the United States in decreasing order of priority:

1.  Imminent strategic nuclear attack on US homeland
2.  Terrorists attacking US classrooms to massacre children
3.  Terrorists attacking US cities or businesses
4.  National-scale public health or safety threat (epidemic, hurricane, nuclear meltdown, water/power crisis)
5.  Mass urban rioting, insurrection, national breakdown of civil order
6.  Attack on US citizens or interests abroad
7.  Military attack on a US ally or treaty member
8.  Cyber-attack on critical government or commercial systems
9.  Financial crisis, imminent economic collapse
10. Espionage, treason, loss of critical secret information or alliances...

Sandy Hook was a domestic terrorist attack with a national security priority just below a nuclear attack on the homeland. Defending the lives of our children in our homeland is the absolute primal essence of national security. Even an animal instinctively understands that. Therefore, the recurring series of school massacres using assault weapons and high-capacity magazines constitutes a high-priority national security emergency. Therefore, the President is obligated as the Executive, to respond with emergency Executive action.

An Executive Order freezing all assault weapon and multiround-magazine sales, and prohibiting public carry, may provoke intense controversy, resistance, lawsuits, even civil disobedience and outright public defiance, but so much the better. We need a crisis at the level of the 1960s school-integration showdowns to finally turn the tide.  America needs to see Federal marshals arresting defiant gun-dealers and owners and NRA members.  We need to see an entire "militia" group disarmed and led away in shackles.  If there's high drama and outcry and months of front-page news, what more could we ask to accelerate the pace of change and defend the children?  The President needs to hit this with everything he's got--win or lose, the ensuing events will at least keep the issue in the spotlight.  And, a few Executive Orders in place could be badly-needed "bargaining chips" in the upcoming second round of "fiscal cliff" politics.

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Directly responding to Newtown, the President should issue a Homeland Security Presidential Directive (see Wikipedia) banning the sale, carry, or use of assault weapons - ALL assault weapons, "grandfathering" none.  All assault weapons would become felony-possession weapons, pending further legislation.  Sales would be banned retroactive to the date of the Newtown massacre--voiding and illegalizing all of the "buy before the ban" sales since that date.  Compensated weapon turn-ins at local police stations should be allowed for 90 days, following which direct seizures and arrests would follow for defiant owners.  Pre-Newtown weapons would be "confined to quarters"-carrying them outside the owner's home, even in a locked case, would be felonized.

Events such as the Newtown massacre constitute a NATIONAL SECURITY EMERGENCY.  Mortal threats to children in schools by domestic terrorists such as the Newtown murderer are very high at the high end of the spectrum of national security concerns--just a little bit short of nuclear attacks on the homeland.  So the President has the right to pre-emptive Executive action without immediate Congressional or judicial mediation, in defense of national security and the nation's children.

Now is the time for the President to use the full force of Executive authority--directly in the face of the NRA, the compromised Congress, and the Supreme Court (emasculated by the obsolete Second Amendment).  Presidential Executive Orders are the proper response under the circumstances.  Let the NRA and their stooges in Congress scream and sue--meanwhile the massacre weapons will be pulled out of circulation across America.

Later, we can work on repealing the obsolete, disastrous Second Amendment:  "Since we don't need no militia no more, let it be clear that no citizen has an innate right to keep or bear arms."  Firearm ownership and use should be a revocable privilege administered by the States, handled exactly like motor vehicle licensing and registration--with mandatory pre-license testing, periodic license renewals, annual fees, inspections, and insurance requirements.

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