June 19, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


A Better Way to Get Hydrogen from Water (KEVIN BULLIS, June 19, 2012, Technology Review)

An experimental approach to splitting water might lead to a relatively cheap and clean method for large-scale hydrogen production that doesn't require fossil fuels. The process splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using heat and catalysts made from inexpensive materials.

Heat-driven water splitting is an alternative to electrolysis, which is expensive and requires large amounts of electricity. The new approach, developed by Caltech chemical-engineering professor Mark Davis, avoids the key problems with previous heat-driven methods of water splitting. It works at relatively low temperatures and doesn't produce any toxic or corrosive intermediate products.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM


Occupy Wall Street movement has hit a wall (Dana Milbank, 6/18/12, Washington Post)

[Van] Jones, an Obama administration official who resigned under pressure because of his far-left positions, is a fixture at the annual gatherings and a fiery orator. But this version of his yearly pep talk was laced with disappointment. "I'm watching that movement that inspired the world . . . that stunned the world, in the moment of maximum peril now sit down," he lamented at the opening session, where half of the 500 seats were filled.

Suffering Americans, he went on, "need a movement that is willing to stand with them -- and yet there is this reluctance. We saw in Wisconsin what happens when we put our minimum against our opponents' maximum. . . . Are we going to let the tea party govern America?"

Jones was preaching to the choir. But surveying the demoralized state of the left, it's not unreasonable to think that his question will be answered in the affirmative. The failed gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin showed that momentum is against Democrats and their allies, and the still-lumbering economy has depressed President Obama's supporters.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 AM


The Obama Campaign Needs an Intervention (Albert R. Hunt, Jun 17, 2012, Bloomberg)

"The challenge for the president is not the current conditions, but the huge expectations he set that have not been met," said Hart, a leading Democratic pollster. "There is no road map, no program, no conviction of where the president wants to lead the country."

Too often, it's felt that Obama is playing political small ball or tactical games. Party critics note the fumbled response to the president's much-criticized statement earlier this month that the "private sector is doing fine."

When the president assembled the press, he really had nothing much to say about the European crisis or the domestic economy, so the slip dominated the story. After he later backtracked, the White House and campaign prolonged the story by insisting those remarks were being taken out of context by Romney and the press.

Not so. Go to the White House website and check the June 8 transcript.

All politicians make misstatements. And there was a plausible follow: corporate profits are soaring, the largest companies in the Standard & Poor's 100 Index (SPXL1) have increased earnings for 11 consecutive quarters and are now more profitable than ever, while demand for U.S. government securities reached a record last year. Corporate chief executive officers are as well compensated as ever, and the most recent figures show that the inflation-adjusted incomes of the 1 percent of wealthiest Americans rose by an average of $105,637 in one year.

The problem, the president could have declared, while citing these numbers, is that the middle class and small business have been left behind. Saying so would have afforded an opportunity for Obama to contrast his views on what to do with Romney's emphasis on the more affluent.

,,,but the notion that you can argue in favor of both record profits and increased hiring is even more divorced from reality.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 AM


A GOP bait-and-switch on disclosure (Fred Hiatt, 6/17/12, Washington Post)

Now Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have introduced legislation that would -- without limiting a single act of political speech -- promote disclosure, sunlight and disinfectant. Not a single Republican has signed on. [...]

"There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance," Scalia wrote. "Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."

Democracy is endangered, too, if politicians cannot hold to principle equally when it's politically beneficial and when it's not. Disclosure may soon come up for a vote in the Senate. Will any Republicans have the civic courage to remember where they stood a few years back?

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 AM


Fears of 'Creeping Sharia' : This chimerical battle in the culture war poses real dangers. (Matthew Schmitz, 6/18/12, National Review)

Sharia, of course, does not grant all the rights that the U.S. Constitution does; neither does Christian canon law or Jewish Halakhic law (or English or French law, for that matter). But why should this fact prevent a court from honoring a contract made under the provisions of one of these "foreign" legal systems if the contract does not itself violate any U.S. or state regulations, laws, or constitutional provisions? Under one reading of the Kansas law, a contract that makes reference to canon law or sharia -- but is otherwise perfectly legal -- would be thrown out, while an identical one that makes no such reference would be upheld. The other possible reading of the law is that it only bars rulings based on foreign legal systems when the rulings themselves would violate constitutional rights. But in that case, as Professor Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School has argued, the law is meaningless, for courts will not tolerate or enforce violations of constitutional rights in any case. 

The assumption undergirding the Kansas law, and similar laws enacted or being considered in other states, is that America faces a serious threat from "creeping sharia." While some Western countries do face real difficulties from large, radicalized Muslim populations, evidence for the Islamization of America is terribly thin. Sharia, moreover, is not one rigid legal system but rather an immensely varied set of legal, cultural, and ethical understandings. It varies between countries and regions, encompassing social custom and dietary habits as well as what Westerners consider matters of law.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 AM


Americans More Positive About Immigration (Jeffrey M. Jones, 6/18/12, Gallup)

President Barack Obama's decision not to deport young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children comes at a time when Americans' views toward immigration are much more positive than they have been in recent years. Currently, 66% say immigration is a "good thing" for the U.S. today, up from 59% last year and one percentage point off the high of 67% in 2006. [...]

In fact, the 35% who now favor decreased immigration is the lowest Gallup has measured on this trend since 1965. At the same time, the 21% who favor increased immigration is the largest percentage Gallup has measured.