October 21, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


NBC/WSJ poll: Presidential contest now tied ( Mark Murray, 10/21/12, NBC News)

Obama and Romney both get 47 percent among likely voters in the latest edition of the poll, conducted entirely in the aftermath of the second presidential debate last Monday. In the previous national NBC/WSJ poll, which was conducted before debate season began, the president held a narrow, three-point lead over his GOP challenger, 49 percent to 46 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of  the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean.... We should be able to see that the kind of government which would succeed Lon Nol's forces would most likely be a government ... run by some of the best-educated, most able intellectuals in Cambodia. 
        -Senator George McGovern

Whatever else may be true of the life and work of George McGovern, the one unavoidable tragedy of his career is that he wanted a world in which we befriended the USSR, helping them to maintain the Iron Curtain in exchange for "peace".

One can't help but recall the line from Robert D. Kaplan's assessment of Henry Kissinger: "In perceiving the Soviet Union as permanent, orderly, and legitimate, Kissinger shared a failure of analysis with the rest of the foreign-policy elite -- notably excepting the scholar and former head of the State Department's policy-planning staff George Kennan, the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, the British scholar and journalist Bernard Levin, and the Eureka College graduate Ronald Reagan."

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


US home sales dip 1.7 percent on tight inventory (Associated Press, 10/21/12)

The inventory of homes for sale fell in September to 2.32 million. It would take 5.9 months to exhaust the supply at the current sales pace, the lowest sales-to-inventory ratio since March 2006.

The virtuous cycle requires importing a heck of a lot more immigrants to build the houses we require who in turn will require houses.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Libya Attack: CIA Found Militant Links 1 Day After U.S. Consulate Killings (KIMBERLY DOZIER, 10/19/2012, AP)

The CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of last month's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate that there was evidence it was carried out by militants, not a spontaneous mob upset about an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press. [...]

The two U.S. officials said the CIA station chief in Libya compiled intelligence reports from eyewitnesses within 24 hours of the assault on the consulate that indicated militants launched the violence, using the pretext of demonstrations against U.S. facilities in Egypt against the film to cover their intent. The report from the station chief was written late Wednesday, Sept. 12, and reached intelligence agencies in Washington the next day, intelligence officials said.

Yet, on Saturday of that week, briefing points sent by the CIA to Congress said "demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault."

The briefing points, obtained by the AP, added: "There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations" but did not mention eyewitness accounts that blamed militants alone.

Such raw intelligence reports by the CIA on the ground would normally be sent first to analysts at the headquarters in Langley, Va., for vetting and comparing against other intelligence derived from eavesdropping drones and satellite images. Only then would such intelligence generally be shared with the White House and later, Congress, a process that can take hours, or days if the intelligence is coming from only one or two sources who may or may not be trusted.

Keeping "intelligence" secret is always a mistake.
Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


CBO Lowers Estimated TARP Costs by 25% (Michelle Smith, 10/12/12, Moneynews)

The massive bailouts of 2008 are still a contentious issue, but those critics who point to the costs seem to have a little less ammunition, as the Congressional Business Office (CBO) now estimates that Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) will cost $24 billion, 25 percent less than previously expected.

TARP was initially positioned to purchase troubled mortgage assets from banks, but was ultimately used to inject capital directly into financial institutions in return for preferred equity stakes, according to Forbes. 

The initial losses will not come from that first round of spending, as all of the initial bank investments have been repaid, Forbes added.

The main danger of TARP was always that it would work too well and offer temptation in the future.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Poll: Romney gaining ground in Ohio (Jennifer Martinez, 10/20/12, The Hill)

The poll found Obama now has a 49-to-48-percent advantage over Romney among likely voters in the battleground state.

PPP said Romney was able to tighten the gap in Ohio due to his seven-percentage-point lead over Obama among independents and a boost in Republican voters reporting that they plan to vote for the former Massachusetts governor. Roughly 90 percent of the Ohio Republican base said they would support Romney, up from 85 percent who gave the same answer a week ago.

The president also lost his advantages over Romney on two top issues: the economy and Libya. Romney leads Obama in Ohio on the economy by four percentage points. On Libya, Romney's lead was two percentage points. 

Half of Ohioans disapproved of Obama's job performance, compared with 48 percent who said they approved of it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


Once-listless presidential race attracts intensity in closing weeks (Justin Sink, 10/21/12, The Hill)

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says the change in enthusiasm can be simplified down to one simple change: voters actually believe Romney can win the election.

"Americans like winners," O'Connell said. "There is no better cure for a lack of enthusiasm than instilling the belief in voters that a candidate can win."

The candidates also seem more engaged, showing a new willingness to mix it up on the campaign trail and aggressively target their opponents. On Friday, Obama debuted a new line of attack, mocking his opponent as suffering from "Romnesia" and suggesting he was abandoning the positions he staked out in the Republican primary.

...Mitt might nearly tie him for the female vote and get to 40% with Latinos.
Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Difference Engine: End of the electric car? (The Economist, Oct 15th 2012)

[T]he question becomes whether there is a more efficient way of packaging electricity for use in vehicles, other than charging batteries or making hydrogen by electrolysis of water?

A growing body of opinion seems to think liquid air is the answer (or, more specifically, the nitrogen component that makes up 78% of air). It is not exactly a new idea. Air was first liquefied in 1883, using essentially the same process as today--ie, compressing it to 200 atmospheres, cooling it to -190ÂșC, and then letting it suddenly expand and condense. The process turns 1,000 litres of transparent gas into 1.4 litres of light blue liquid.

As long as its storage container is well insulated, liquid air can be kept at atmospheric pressure for long periods. But on exposure to room temperature, it will instantly boil and revert back to its gaseous state. In the process, it expands 700-fold--providing the wherewithal to operate a piston engine or a turbine.

Liquid nitrogen does an even better job. Being considerably denser than liquid air, it can store more energy per unit volume, allowing cars to travel further on a tankful of the stuff. Weight for weight, liquid nitrogen packs much the same energy as the lithium-ion batteries used in laptops, mobile phones and electric cars. In terms of performance and range, then, a nitrogen vehicle is similar to an electric vehicle rather than a conventional one.

The big difference is that a liquid-nitrogen car is likely to be considerably cheaper to build than an electric vehicle. For one thing, its engine does not have to cope with high temperatures--and could therefore be fabricated out of cheap alloys or even plastics.

For another, because it needs no bulky traction batteries, it would be lighter and cheaper still than an electric vehicle. At present, lithium-ion battery packs for electric vehicles cost between $500 and $600 a kilowatt-hour. The Nissan Leaf has 24 kilowatt-hours of capacity. At around $13,200, the batteries account for more than a third of the car's $35,200 basic price. A nitrogen car with comparable range and performance could therefore sell for little more than half the price of an electric car.

A third advantage is that liquid nitrogen is a by-product of the industrial process for making liquid oxygen. Because there is four times as much nitrogen as oxygen in air, there is inevitably a glut of the stuff--so much so, liquid nitrogen sells in America for a tenth of the price of milk.

Finally, a breakthrough in engine design has made liquid nitrogen an even more attractive alternative than the lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars. An invention made by an independent British engineer called Peter Dearman dispenses with the costly heat exchanger that is needed to vaporise the liquid nitrogen quickly. Instead, a small amount of water and anti-freeze (eg, methanol) is injected into the cylinder just as the liquid nitrogen is drawn in, causing it to boil and expand rapidly--thereby forcing the piston down inside the the cylinder. "Without that," says Mr Dearman, "you had to have a multi-stage engine, which is cumbersome, inefficient and expensive."

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, the leading standards-setting and registration body for the profession, was so impressed with the Dearman Engine Company's developments that it has now established a working group comprising engineers, academics, government officials and industry leaders, to explore ways of exploiting liquid-nitrogen technology.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Making a moral case for capitalism (Arthur C. Brooks, 10/20/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Earlier this month in the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney made an unusual argument by modern political standards: that long-term deficit spending is not just an economic issue, but a moral one. "I think it's . . . not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation."

...against deficit spending, only a moral/aesthetic one.