Daily Archive: 11/13/2014

Nov 13 2014

Net Neutrality May Soon Be Dead, Thank You, Mr. President

The headline in the Washington Post, “Obama’s call for an open Internet puts him at odds with regulators“, is misleading. Yes, President Obama made one of his flowery speeches supporting a free and equal internet but he was the one who appointed  industry lobbyist Thomas Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission.

The dissonance between Obama and Wheeler has the makings of a major policy fight affecting multibillion-dollar industries. The president wants clear rules to prevent Internet service providers from auctioning the fastest speeds to the highest bidders, a scenario that could favor rich Web firms over start-ups.

Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications industry, has floated proposals that aim to limit the ability of service providers to charge Web companies, such as Netflix or Google, to reach their customers. But critics have argued that his approach would give the providers too much leeway to favor some services over others. [..]

But the move by the White House has put Wheeler in an uncomfortable spotlight. The two men have long been allies. Wheeler raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s campaign and advised the president on his transition into the White House. Obama last year appointed Wheeler to lead the FCC as it was poised to tackle its biggest issue in years – the rules that govern content on the Web.

A growing source of frustration for White House and congressional Democrats is that they have three of their own on the five-member commission at the FCC, a majority that should give them the power to push through a policy of their liking. But if Wheeler charts a different course, he could bring the other members along with him.

And, as Wheeler reminded participants at his meeting with Web companies Monday, the FCC does not answer to the Obama administration.

The article states that Obama campaigned on Net Neutrality and, according to aides, made the statement to energize his base of  young, tech-savvy progressives. Seriously? He does this now, after the drubbing in the mid-terms? Now Obama wants to curry support of the Democrats in Congress. What happened during the last six years?

And don’t forget, he appointed Wheeler because they’re friends.

Obama Calls for Net Neutrality, But His Own Industry-Tied FCC Appointee Could Stand in the Way

According to The Washington Post, Wheeler met with officials from Google, Yahoo and Etsy on Monday and told them he preferred a more nuanced solution. Wheeler reportedly said: “What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business. What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.” On Monday, protesters called on Wheeler to favor net neutrality as they blockaded his driveway when he attempted to go to work. Protests also took place in a dozen cities last week after The Wall Street Journal reported the FCC is considering a “hybrid” approach to net neutrality. This would apply expanded protections only to the relationship between Internet providers and content firms, like Netflix, and not to the relationship between providers and users. We discuss the ongoing debate over the Internet’s future with Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice.

The transcript can be read here

There is only one person to blame if the FCC sides with the industry, Barack Hussein Obama, shill for the 1%.

Nov 13 2014

So, How’s That Illegal War In Iraq And Syria Working Out Mr. Obama?

Pentagon: US ground troops may join Iraqis in combat against Isis

Spencer Ackerman, Guardian

Tuesday 16 September 2014 14.50 EDT

The Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel on Tuesday that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis), despite US president Barack Obama’s repeated public assurances against US ground combat in the latest Middle Eastern war.

It was the most thorough public acknowledgement yet from Pentagon leaders that the roughly 1,600 US troops Obama has deployed to Iraq since June may in fact be used in a ground combat role, something Obama has directly ruled out, most recently in a televised speech last week.

Dempsey, who has for years warned about the “unintended consequences” of Americanizing the Syrian civil war that gave rise to Isis, said he envisioned “close combat advising” for operations on the order of taking Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, away from Isis.

He also opened the door to using US “advisers” to call in air strikes from the ground, something Dempsey said they have thus far not done but which the US Central Command leader, General Lloyd Austin, initially thought would be necessary when pushing Isis away from the Mosul Dam last month.

Isis’s ultimate defeat will be a “generational” effort, Dempsey said, during which “moderate” Muslims abandon its ideology – raising questions about what the US military’s actual endpoint will be in pursuing the goal of “degrading and ultimately defeating” Isis, Obama’s stated goal.

Obama to send 1,500 more troops to Iraq as campaign expands

By Phil Stewart and Roberta Rampton, Reuters

Fri Nov 7, 2014 6:44pm EST

President Barack Obama has approved sending up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq, roughly doubling the number of U.S. forces on the ground to advise and retrain Iraqis in their battle against the militant group Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Obama’s decision greatly expands the scope of the U.S. campaign and the geographic distribution of American forces, some of whom will head into Iraq’s fiercely contested western Anbar province for the first time to act as advisors.

About 1,400 U.S. troops are now on the ground, just below the previous limit of 1,600 troops. The new authorization gives the U.S. military the ability to deploy up to 3,100 troops.

Kirby said many of the additional American troops would be dedicated to securing bases where training and advising would take place, but he cautioned that American troops still face risks.

“We already had a couple of military deaths associated with this conflict … Nothing we do is without risk,” he said.

Officials said one location to which military advisors would soon travel was western Anbar province, bordering Syria, where Islamic State fighters are on the offensive.

“This is Crazy”: Ex-State Dept. Official Matthew Hoh Blasts Obama’s Doubling of U.S. Troops in Iraq

Democracy Now

First US military death announced since Isis offensive started in Iraq

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Friday 24 October 2014 23.49 EDT

Marine Lance Corporal Sean P Neal, one of 1,600 troops serving in Iraq to support the Iraqi struggle against Islamic State (Isis), died of a “non-combat” injury, the US announced late on Friday. Neal, of Riverside, California, died in Baghdad, more than 7600 miles from his home, on Thursday.

Neal, 19, was the first American acknowledged to have died in Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military’s new name for the war Obama launched on August 7. Americans have been dying in Iraq since 1991, some four years before Neal was born.

Technically, Neal may not have been the first US fatality of the Iraq-Syria war against the Islamic State. Naval forces assigned to US Central Command, which has operational control of the war, acknowledged on October 3 that a Marine, Corporal Jordan L. Spears, went missing at sea in the North Arabian Gulf after bailing out of his MV-22 Osprey. Spears took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, which carried Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, assigned to support the war in Iraq and Syria.

Neal was a mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. He was part of the special Marine air-ground task force that deployed to Iraq around September, according to the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office. He had barely been in the Marines a year, having enlisted on July 22, 2013.

The Marines said the circumstances surrounding Neal’s death were under investigation. Marine Central Command did not immediately return inquiries seeking additional comment about how Neal died or what function he was performing in Iraq.

The second Iraq War, lasting from 2003 to 2011, claimed the lives of 4,487 American servicemembers.

Groups In Egypt And Libya Pledge Allegiance To ISIS

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Tuesday November 11, 2014 4:22 am

Militant Islamist groups in both Libya and Egypt have now pledged loyalty to ISIS and recognized the Islamic State. Despite efforts by governments in Iraq, Syria, neighboring states, and the US it appears ISIS has been able to continue to spread throughout the region. Though it is, in theory, incumbent upon Muslims to pledge loyalty to a caliphate once it is declared, most Muslims do not recognize the authority of ISIS. Not only do not all Muslims hold the theological views of ISIS but even many of those that do have yet to recognize ISIS as the best vehicle for the realization of the caliphate.

However, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis of Egypt and Jaish al-Isla of Libya have pledged their loyalty to ISIS and sought to both recruit others as well as emulate ISIS’ tactics of taking and holding territory. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is of a particular concern given both their location and capabilities while Jaish al-Isla appears more indicative of the collapse of Libya into fragments, providing another opening for ISIS.

What does seem to be clear is that the United States’ involvement in the fight against ISIS is not isolating the group. If anything, it has increased their popularity in the region and legitimized them among other Islamic militant groups.

The Slippery Slope of More Troops in Iraq Leads To Vietnam

The Real News

America’s George W. Bush disorder: Why our new Iraq war is doomed to fail

Peter Van Buren, Salon

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014 07:15 AM EST

Karl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military thinker, is best known for his aphorism “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But what happens to a war in the absence of coherent state policy?

Actually, we now know. Washington’s Iraq War 3.0, Operation Inherent Resolve, is what happens. In its early stages, I asked sarcastically, “What could possibly go wrong?” As the mission enters its fourth month, the answer to that question is already grimly clear: just about everything. It may be time to ask, in all seriousness: What could possibly go right?

Short answer: Almost nothing. Squint really, really hard and maybe the “good news” is that IS has not yet taken control of much of the rest of Iraq and Syria, and that Baghdad hasn’t been lost. These possibilities, however, were unlikely even without U.S. intervention.

And there might just possibly be one “victory” on the horizon, though the outcome still remains unclear. Washington might “win” in the IS-besieged Kurdish town of Kobane, right on the Turkish border. If so, it will be a faux victory guaranteed to accomplish nothing of substance. After all, amid the bombing and the fighting, the town has nearly been destroyed. What comes to mind is a Vietnam War-era remark by an anonymous American officer about the bombed provincial capital of Ben Tre: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

More than 200,000 refugees have already fled Kobane, many with doubts that they will ever be able to return, given the devastation. The U.S. has gone to great pains to point out just how many IS fighters its air strikes have killed there. Exactly 464, according to a U.K.-based human rights group, a number so specific as to be suspect, but no matter. As history suggests, body counts in this kind of war mean little.

And that, folks, is the “good news.” Now, hold on, because here’s the bad news.

The U.S. Department of State lists 60 participants in the coalition of nations behind the U.S. efforts against the Islamic State. Many of those countries (Somalia, Iceland, Croatia, and Taiwan, among them) have never been heard from again outside the halls of Foggy Bottom. There is no evidence that America’s Arab “allies” like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, whose funding had long-helped extreme Syrian rebel groups, including IS, and whose early participation in a handful of air strikes was trumpeted as a triumph, are still flying.

Absent the few nations that often make an appearance at America’s geopolitical parties (Canada, the Brits, the Aussies, and increasingly these days, the French), this international mess has quickly morphed into Washington’s mess. Worse yet, nations like Turkey that might actually have taken on an important role in defeating the Islamic State seem to be largely sitting this one out. Despite the way it’s being reported in the U.S., the new war in the Middle East looks, to most of the world, like another case of American unilateralism, which plays right into the radical Islamic narrative.

Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi chose a Sunni to head the country’s Defense Ministry and direct a collapsed Iraqi army, his far more-telling choice was for Interior Minister. He picked Mohammed Ghabban, a little-known Shia politician who just happens to be allied with the Badr Organization.

Even if few in the U.S. remember the Badr folks, every Sunni in Iraq does. During the American occupation, the Badr militia ran notorious death squads, after infiltrating the same Interior Ministry they basically now head. The elevation of a Badr leader to – for Sunnis – perhaps the most significant cabinet position of all represents several nails in the coffin of Iraqi unity. It is also in line with the increasing influence of the Shia militias the Baghdad government has called on to defend the capital at a time when the Iraqi Army is incapable of doing the job.

Those militias have used the situation as an excuse to ramp up a campaign of atrocities against Sunnis whom they tag as “IS,” much as in Iraq War 2.0 most Sunnis killed were quickly labeled “al-Qaeda.” In addition, the Iraqi military has refused to stop shelling and carrying out air strikes on civilian Sunni areas despite a prime ministerial promise that they would do so. That makes al-Abadi look both ineffectual and disingenuous. An example? This week, Iraq renamed a town on the banks of the Euphrates River to reflect a triumph over IS. Jurf al-Sakhar, or “rocky bank,” became Jurf al-Nasr, or “victory bank.” However, the once-Sunni town is now emptied of its 80,000 residents, and building after building has been flattened by air strikes, bombings, and artillery fire coordinated by the Badr militia.

Meanwhile, Washington clings to the most deceptive trope of Iraq War 2.0: the claim that the Anbar Awakening – the U.S. military’s strategy to arm Sunni tribes and bring them into the new Iraq while chasing out al-Qaeda-in-Iraq (the “old” IS) – really worked on the ground. By now, this is a bedrock truth of American politics.

Having deluded itself into believing this myth, Washington now hopes to recreate the Anbar Awakening and bring the same old Sunnis into the new, new Iraq while chasing out IS (the “new” al-Qaeda).

To convince yourself that this will work, you have to ignore the nature of the government in Baghdad and believe that Iraqi Sunnis have no memory of being abandoned by the U.S. the first time around. What comes to mind is one commentator’s view of the present war: if at first we don’t succeed, do the same thing harder, with better technology, and at greater expense.

Unlike the U.S., the Islamic State has a coherent strategy and it has the initiative. Its militants have successfully held and administered territory over time. When faced with air power they can’t counter, as at Iraq’s giant Mosul Dam in August, its fighters have, in classic insurgent fashion, retreated and regrouped. The movement is conducting a truly brutal and bloody hearts and minds-type campaign, massacring Sunnis who oppose them and Shias they capture. In one particularly horrific incident, IS killed over 300 Sunnis and threw their bodies down a well. It has also recently made significant advances toward the Kurdish capital, Erbil, reversing earlier gains by the peshmerga. IS leaders are effectively deploying their own version of air strikes – suicide bombers – into the heart of Baghdad and have already loosed the first mortars into the capital’s Green Zone, home of the Iraqi government and the American Embassy, to gnaw away at morale.

IS’s chief sources of funding, smuggled oil and ransom payments, remain reasonably secure, though the U.S. bombing campaign and a drop in global oil prices have noticeably cut into its oil revenues. The movement continues to recruit remarkably effectively both in and outside the Middle East. Every American attack, every escalatory act, every inflated statement about terrorist threats validates IS to its core radical Islamic audience.

Things are trending poorly in Syria as well. The Islamic State profits from the power vacuum created by the Assad regime’s long-term attempt to suppress a native Sunni “moderate” uprising. Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have just recently overrun key northern bastions previously controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups and once again, as in Iraq, captured U.S. weapons have landed in the hands of extremists. Nothing has gone right for American hopes that moderate Syrian factions will provide significant aid in any imaginable future in the broader battle against IS.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has twice made public statements revealing his dissatisfaction with White House policy. In September, he said it would take 12,000 to 15,000 ground troops to effectively go after the Islamic State. Last month, he suggested that American ground troops might, in the future, be necessary to fight IS. Those statements contrast sharply with Obama’s insistence that there will never be U.S. combat troops in this war.

Taken as a whole, the military’s near-mutinous posture is eerily reminiscent of MacArthur’s refusal to submit to President Harry Truman’s political will during the Korean War. But don’t hold your breath for a Trumanesque dismissal of Dempsey any time soon. In the meantime, the Pentagon’s sights seem set on a fall guy, likely Susan Rice, who is particularly close to the president.

The Pentagon has laid down its cards and they are clear enough: the White House is mismanaging the war. And its message is even clearer: given the refusal to consider sending in those ground-touching boots, Operation Inherent Resolve will fail. And when that happens, don’t blame us; we warned you.

The U.S. military came out of the Vietnam War vowing one thing: when Washington went looking for someone to blame, it would never again be left holding the bag. According to a prominent school of historical thinking inside the Pentagon, the military successfully did what it was asked to do in Vietnam, only to find that a lack of global strategy and an over-abundance of micromanagement from America’s political leaders made it seem like the military had failed. This grew from wartime mythology into bedrock Pentagon strategic thinking.

The idea worked almost too well, reaching its peak in Iraq War 1.0, Operation Desert Storm. In the minds of politicians from president George H.W. Bush on down, that “victory” wiped the slate clean of Vietnam, only to set up every disaster that would follow from the Bush 43 wars to Obama’s air strikes today. You don’t have to have a crystal ball to see the writing in the sand in Iraq and Syria. The military can already sense the coming failure that hangs like a miasma over Washington.

In or out, boots or not, whatever its own mistakes and follies, those who run the Pentagon and the U.S. military are already campaigning strategically to win at least one battle: when Iraq 3.0 collapses, as it most surely will, they will not be the ones hung out to dry. Of the very short list of what could go right, the smart money is on the Pentagon emerging victorious – but only in Washington, not the Middle East.

Nov 13 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Bill de Blasio: Don’t Soul-Search. Stiffen Your Backbone.

It’s a time-honored tradition.

After months of covering the midterm elections through a prism of polls and tactics, pundits will shift their focus to the defeated party’s so-called season of “soul-searching.”

As a Democrat, I’m disappointed in last Tuesday’s results. But as a progressive, I know my party need not search for its soul — but rather, its backbone.

The truth is that the Democratic Party has core values that are very much in sync with most Americans. [..]

So where do Democrats go from here?

The 2016 presidential election is two years off, but will have a huge impact on the lives of America’s middle-class and poor. Democrats simply cannot rely on shifting demographics and a badly damaged Republican brand to hold the White House and help countless Americans who are struggling.

We must demonstrate, from coast to coast, that we are a party dedicated to lifting people out of poverty; one committed to building a bigger and more durable middle-class; one that is unafraid to ask a little more from those at the very top — the wealthy individuals and big corporations who have not only rebounded from the depths of the Great Recession, but who’ve accumulated record new wealth.

Trevor Timm: Watch out: the US government wants to pass new spying laws behind your back

Dangerous cybersecurity legislation would allow Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your information to the NSA and FBI

Never underestimate the ability of the “do-nothing” US Congress to make sure it passes privacy-invasive legislation on its way out the door. In December 2012, the Senate re-upped the NSA’s vast surveillance powers over the holidays when no one was paying attention. In December 2013, Congress weakened video-rental privacy laws because Netflix asked them to and nobody noticed.

Now, as the post-election lame-duck session opens on Wednesday in Washington, the Senate might try to sneak through a “cybersecurity” bill that would, as the ACLU puts it, “create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws”. The vague and ambiguous law would essentially allow companies like Google and Facebook to hand over even more of your personal information to the US government, all of which could ultimately end up in the hands of the NSA and the FBI.

The House already passed a version of this bill earlier in the year, and the White House, despite vowing to veto earlier versions, told reporters an “information sharing” cybersecurity bill was on its list of priorities for the lame-duck session (while NSA reform is not).

David Cay Johnston: A ray of sunlight on secretive corporate welfare

Tell the Government Accounting Standards Board you want full disclosure on tax subsidies for corporations

Each year billions of your state and local tax dollars get diverted from public coffers for corporate subsidies. Just how much you are forced to pay for corporate welfare could soon move from the darkness of official secrecy into the light – but only if you act now.

A proposed rule requiring state and local governments to disclose the total amount of property tax and some other abatements in any year is being considered by the little-known private rule-making body known as the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

In 44 states, laws let county, city and other local officials grant tax reductions or exemptions to companies, often with little disclosure and no accountability. Exemptions from taxes benefit thousands of companies, from online retailer Amazon to shampoo maker Zotos International.

The proposal is tepid and narrow, but far better to let in a ray of light than to allow these deals the cover of total darkness in which they are typically carried out.

Dean Baker: Obama should devote final years to changing economic conversation

Intransigent Republican Congress and pro-austerity know-nothings need to have their views challenged

Presidents are rarely able to accomplish much in the last two years of a second term. Tuesday’s election results guaranteed that President Barack Obama will not be able to accomplish anything legislatively in the remainder of his term. The Republicans will demand that he surrender his firstborn just to get an undersecretary through the Senate approval process.

If Obama recognizes this reality, perhaps he can take the opportunity to spend his remaining years more constructively by permanently transforming the shape of the economic debate in the United States and overseas. [..]

By making it very clear that Obama can accomplish nothing by working with Congress, the elections last week put him in a situation where he has nothing to lose. This gives him the opportunity to step away from the Washington political nonsense and try to permanently change the nature of economic debates domestically and internationally.

If he succeeds, he will have done an enormous service to the country and the rest of the world. He can create a political environment in which his successors can talk honestly about the country’s economic problems and then work to fix them.

Scott Lemieux: In a divided America, partisan and race-based redistricting are indistinguishable

When the vast-majority of minority voters identify as Democrat, drawing Congressional lines based on party affiliation will have a racial component

One of the most profane parts of American democracy is the act of gerrymandering – which is to say, redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts less to reflect population shifts than to ensure the electoral results your party prefers. But like the word “fuck”, we’ve become so inured to gerrymandering that even in its ugliest incarnation – the “motherfucker” of all gerrymandering, if you will, racial gerrymandering – the scourge hardly registers as an epithet at all.

At the US supreme court on Wednesday, in a seemingly boring case about the particulars of this most insidious problem, chief justice John Roberts said he understood that states “have to hit this sweet spot between those two extremes without taking race predominantly into consideration”.

In other words, redrawing district boundaries to benefit Republicans over Democrats in party gerrymandering is totally legal (the “sweet spot”). Redrawing them to disenfranchise black voters instead of white voters are both a disgusting misuse of political power and illegal racial gerrymandering … even if the results – the diminution of minority voters’ electoral power – are the same. But then again, using semantics to avoid addressing racism is exactly the problem with a conservative Roberts court that has been gutting voter rights for going on two years now.

Jeb Lund: A flu shot won’t make Ebola go away, but it might kill our anti-doctor hysteria

Finally, something anti-vaxxers and smug liberal elitists can agree upon

Last month, I became a father for the first time, and with parenting has come a slew of unanticipated responsibilities. Did you know that you have to shop for a pediatrician? I had hoped someone looked at Google Maps and assigned the one closest to you. (They don’t.)

So with a new baby in hand and Ebola and annual flu shots in the news, I found myself asking a bunch of unfamiliar baby doctors a question I never thought I’d have to ask a medical professional: “How do you feel about vaccines?”

My first prospective doctor looked at me, bit her lip and squirmed, so I bailed her out and said, “Look, don’t get me wrong: herd immunity is extremely my shit.” She visibly relaxed then because conversations like that – and about Ebola – often turn rapidly and radically in the opposite direction. [..]

This is the state of our science conversation: hyped non-dangers, self-created unnecessary dangers, being wrong about the facts both coming and going. Polls still suggest that Ebola is a greater threat and that the authorities are deliberately doing less than they can to fight it; meanwhile, the measles have reached a 20-year high and parents are saying, Screw it, let’s roll the dice on Madison and Tyler getting some – at least it’ll be something to write about in that 17-page brick of a Christmas form letter we’ll send out printed in Comic Sans.

Nov 13 2014

On This Day In History November 13

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 13 is the 317th day of the year (318th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 48 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1982, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. after a week long national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War.

The Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Lin, is made up of two gabbro walls 246 feet 9 inches (75 m) long. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. At the highest tip (the apex where they meet), they are 10.1 feet (3 m) high, and they taper to a height of eight inches (20 cm) at their extremities. Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. Stone cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont. Stones were then shipped to Memphis, Tennessee where the names were etched. The etching was completed using a photoemulsion and sandblasting process. The negatives used in the process are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution. When a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, which is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together. One wall points toward the Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, meeting at an angle. Each wall has 72 panels, 70 listing names (numbered 1E through 70E and 70W through 1W) and 2 very small blank panels at the extremities. There is a pathway along the base of the Wall, where visitors may walk, read the names, make a pencil rubbing of a particular name, or pray.

Inscribed on the walls with the Optima typeface are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be KIA (Killed in Action) or remained classified as MIA (Missing in Action) when the walls were constructed in 1982. They are listed in chronological order, starting at the apex on panel 1E in 1959 (although it was later discovered that the first casualties were military advisers who were killed by artillery fire in 1957), moving day by day to the end of the eastern wall at panel 70E, which ends on May 25, 1968, starting again at panel 70W at the end of the western wall which completes the list for May 25, 1968, and returning to the apex at panel 1W in 1975. Symbolically, this is described as a “wound that is closed and healing.” Information about rank, unit, and decorations are not given. The wall listed 58,159 names when it was completed in 1993; as of June 2010, there are 58,267 names, including 8 women. Approximately 1,200 of these are listed as missing (MIAs, POWs, and others), denoted with a cross; the confirmed dead are marked with a diamond. If the missing return alive, the cross is circumscribed by a circle (although this has never occurred as of March 2009); if their death is confirmed, a diamond is superimposed over the cross. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “there is no definitive answer to exactly how many, but there could be as many as 38 names of personnel who survived, but through clerical errors, were added to the list of fatalities provided by the Department of Defense.” Directories are located on nearby podiums so that visitors may locate specific names.

Nov 13 2014

The Breakfast Club (Comets)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWhat we don’t know about them would fill a book and most of the books we’ve already filled are wrong.  

These periodic (short and long) or non periodic visitors to the inner Solar System have been observed since the dim mists of history at least, unsurprisingly so since some of them are bright enough to be easily visible even during daytime.  They were superstitiously thought to to be that harbingers of great, catastrophic, events.

Since the time of Tycho Brahe we’ve known that comets are exo-atmoshperic objects made more curious by the fact their commas, or tails, always point away from the sun regardless of their actual direction of travel.  This observation led to the discovery of Solar Wind.

You see the sun doesn’t just emit radiation (energy, which is matter), it likewise emits particles (which are also matter) and this stream hits the surface of the comet and erodes it, blowing away dust and gasses while ionizing them like a lightbulb and producing the characteristic ‘tail’.  Since the ‘wind’ is so much faster than the comet itself the tail points away from the sun even when the comet is moving outward in the Solar System.

The prominence of these tails led scientists to speculate that the composition of a comet was different from an asteroid, those rocky chunks of leftover planet making stuff most of which has been swept out of the Inner System and flung into the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud (if not into Interstellar space), or swallowed up by the Sun or Jupiter all because of their massive (heh, only like 99% of the entire mass of the Inner System) gravitational influence, or parked in a more or less safe orbit between Mars and Jupiter.

The scientific myth was that comets were made of more insubstantial things, like ice, and accreted of their own accord far from the warmer, more attractive (because more massive) climes closer to that sustained fusion bomb we call Sol.  Indeed some went so far as to assert that the bulk of Earth’s water comes from comet impacts.

Not so much.

As it turns out, comets are not that different from asteroids after all.  

Mystery of Earth’s Water Origin Solved

Andrew Fazekas, National Geographic

Published October 30, 2014

To pin down the exact time of the arrival of Earth’s water, the study team turned to analyzing meteorites thought to have formed at different times in the history of the solar system.

First, they looked at carbonaceous chondrite meteorites that have been dated as the oldest ones known. They formed around the same time as the sun, before the first planets.

Next they examined meteorites that are thought to have originated from the large asteroid Vesta, which formed in the same region as Earth, some 14 million years after the solar system’s birth.

“These primitive meteorites resemble the bulk solar system composition,” said Sune Nielsen of the WHOI, a study co-author. “They have quite a lot of water in them, and have been thought of before as candidates for the origin of Earth’s water.”

The team’s measurements show that meteorites from Vesta have the same chemistry as the carbonaceous chondrites and rocks found on Earth. This means that carbonaceous chondrites are the most likely common source of water.

“The study shows that Earth’s water most likely accreted at the same time as the rock,” said Marschall.

But comets have tails!

Comet-Like Asteroid Boasts Dusty Tail

By Jenna Iacurci, Nature World News

Nov 12, 2014 02:37 PM EST

In a case of mistaken identity, a newly active asteroid in our solar system’s famous Main Belt is boasting a dusty tail, thinking it’s more a comet than an asteroid, according to recent research.

Usually it’s easy to tell the difference between a comet and an asteroid. A comet is a body composed of rock and ice that, when it passes close to the Sun, heats up and begins to sublimate, displaying a visible tail or coma. Asteroids, on the other hand, are composed mostly of rock and typically have few comet-like qualities.

But in recent years several asteroids have broken the boundaries of their definition and begun to sport dusty tails. A dozen of such unusual asteroids in the main asteroid belt have been identified thus far, and now a long-known asteroid is joining the club.

Called 62412, it’s the first comet-like object seen in the Hygiea family of asteroids, and only the 13th known active asteroid in the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. Active asteroids, unlike others of their kind, sometimes sport a tail when dust and gas is ejected from their surface, giving them a comet-like appearance.

Not only that, but it should come as no surprise.  Quite a large percentage of Meteors are from comet trails rather than Asteroids and you know what?  They look exactly the same.  To the extent that Asteroids are slightly less volatile you should remember they’ve been sun blasted for about 4.5 Billion years.

Indeed it’s highly likely that most of the far Solar objects originated much closer to the sun than is commonly believed

(I)t is suggested that this planetary system evolved in the following manner. Planetesimals at the disk’s inner edge occasionally pass through gravitational encounters with the outermost giant planet, which change the planetesimals’ orbits. The planets scatter inwards the majority of the small icy bodies that they encounter, exchanging angular momentum with the scattered objects so that the planets move outwards in response, preserving the angular momentum of the system. These planetesimals then similarly scatter off the next planet they encounter, successively moving the orbits of Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn outwards. Despite the minute movement each exchange of momentum can produce, cumulatively these planetesimal encounters shift (migrate) the orbits of the planets by significant amounts. This process continues until the planetesimals interact with the innermost and most massive giant planet, Jupiter, whose immense gravity sends them into highly elliptical orbits or even ejects them outright from the Solar System. This, in contrast, causes Jupiter to move slightly inward.

The low rate of orbital encounters governs the rate at which planetesimals are lost from the disk, and the corresponding rate of migration. After several hundreds of millions of years of slow, gradual migration, Jupiter and Saturn, the two inmost giant planets, cross their mutual 1:2 mean-motion resonance. This resonance increases their orbital eccentricities, destabilizing the entire planetary system. The arrangement of the giant planets alters quickly and dramatically. Jupiter shifts Saturn out towards its present position, and this relocation causes mutual gravitational encounters between Saturn and the two ice giants, which propel Neptune and Uranus onto much more eccentric orbits. These ice giants then plough into the planetesimal disk, scattering tens of thousands of planetesimals from their formerly stable orbits in the outer Solar System. This disruption almost entirely scatters the primordial disk, removing 99% of its mass, a scenario which explains the modern-day absence of a dense trans-Neptunian population. Some of the planetesimals are thrown into the inner Solar System, producing a sudden influx of impacts on the terrestrial planets: the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Eventually, the giant planets reach their current orbital semi-major axes, and dynamical friction with the remaining planetesimal disc damps their eccentricities and makes the orbits of Uranus and Neptune circular again.

Why is this relevant today?

Well, we just landed a probe on a comet, first time ever.

Philae lander makes historic touchdown on comet

Ian Sample and Stuart Clark, The Guardian

Wednesday 12 November 2014 19.30 EST

The feat marks a profound success for the European Space Agency (ESA), which launched the Rosetta spacecraft more than 10 years ago from its Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. Since blasting off in March 2004, Rosetta and its lander Philae have travelled more than 6bn kilometres to catch up with the comet, which orbits the sun at speeds up to 135,000km/h.

Landing Philae on the comet’s surface was never going to be easy. When ESA managers got their first closeup of the comet in July, its unusual rubber duck shape left some fearing that a safe touchdown was impossible. The shape was not the only problem. The comet’s surface was hostile: hills and spectacular jutting cliffs gave way to cratered plains strewn with boulders. If Philae landed on anything other than even ground it could topple over, leaving it stranded and defunct.

On Tuesday night, hours before Philae had left its mothership, the chances of a safe landing took another dip. Overnight, a thruster on the lander failed to respond to commands sent from Earth. Engineers tried for hours to correct the fault but to no avail. The malfunction threatened to abort the mission, but at 0235 GMT on Wednesday mission controllers decided to go ahead with the landing regardless.

The nitrogen thruster, facing upwards from the top of the lander, was designed to fire for 60 seconds as Philae touched down to prevent it from bouncing off the comet’s surface where the gravitational pull is several hundred thousand times weaker than on Earth.

Can Philae hold on? Fears for comet mission as controllers reveal harpoons that should have tethered lander failed to work – causing it to BOUNCE as it landed

By Jonathan O’Callaghan and Ellie Zolfagharifard and Mark Prigg, Daily Mail

Published: 02:45 EST, 13 November 2014

Philae’s cold thruster is nitrogen-powered and is designed to fire on landing in order to prevent the probe from flying off into space due to the comet’s weak gravity.

In order to prepare cold-gas jets, scientists use one of two pins to puncture a wax seal on the thruster’s gas tank. Experts detect success by the change in pressure in the piping system.

However, this morning mission controllers did not see pressure increases after two attempts with each of the two pins. But according to the industry provider, there may still be a chance that retrying the puncture of the wax seal would succeed, even after four failed attempts.

Now this is an amazing feat of celestial navigation made more so by the irregular shape of the target, its speed and distance, activity of the landing area, and low gravity, but it was not perfect.  Since the engineers expected the surface to be icy they employed harpoons as anchors.  Well, it’s more rock than ice.  Moreover a top thruster was supposed to fire to ensure positive contact during a sub-surface drilling operation has so far been unresponsive and it’s unknown if that part of the mission can be completed.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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Nov 13 2014

TDS/TCR (Missed it by that much)


I love the smell of smog in the morning.  Smells like… prosperity.


Quit smoking my ass.

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