February 16, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


In East Orange, Recalling Whitney Houston Before She Was a Star (JOHN LELAND, 2/17/12, NY Times)

EAST ORANGE, N.J. -- To the people who knew her here she was always Nippy, the long-legged girl who ran track and liked to act out scenes from television. Sometimes she introduced herself to strangers by her full name, Whitney Elizabeth Houston, but in the makeshift memorial at her old elementary school, it is the local name that carries the day: "Nippy," one card begins, "thank you for sharing God's gift, your voice."

East Orange was her town, an aspirational city where middle-class black families bought big houses and went to church alongside less-affluent neighbors. When she moved here from neighboring Newark at age 4, the family left behind a city on a downward arc for one then on the rise.

Henry W. Hamilton, the principal of her old elementary school, remembered when Ms. Houston arrived in the first grade with her two older brothers, the children of a famous gospel singer. The boys always had her back, he said.

"I never thought she had the potential to be a great singer," said Mr. Hamilton, 73, who is still the school's principal. 
"I thought her brother Gary had the potential. I missed that one."

...the biggest thing that happened was when East Orange's own John Amos came to visit Mr. Hamilton.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


Driving the green: New study suggests that electric-powered trucks will save money for businesses. (Peter Dizikes, 2/01/12, MIT News Office)

 A company looking to purchase an electric-powered delivery truck today will likely experience some sticker shock: Such a vehicle costs nearly $150,000, compared to about $50,000 for the same kind of truck with a standard internal-combustion engine. 

But before long -- perhaps surprisingly -- it's a purchase that should pay for itself. That's the conclusion of a new MIT study showing that electric vehicles are not just environmentally friendly, but also have the potential to improve the bottom line for many kinds of businesses. 

The study, conducted by researchers at MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL), finds that electric vehicles can cost 9 to 12 percent less to operate than trucks powered by diesel engines, when used to make deliveries on an everyday basis in big cities. 

"There has to be a good business case if there is going to be more adoption of electric vehicles," says Jarrod Goentzel, director of the Renewable Energy Delivery Project at CTL and one of four co-authors of the new study. "We think it's already a viable economic model, and as battery costs continue to drop, the case will only get better." 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Sovereignty, Syria, and the Arab Spring (Mario Loyola, February 16, 2012, National Review)

Article 2(7) of the Charter enshrines the principle of non-interference "in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state." If the text of the Charter is strictly followed, there are only two exceptions for this rule: (1) enforcement action by the Council under Chapter VII, on threats to the peace, and (2) collective or individual self-defense under Article 51, if an armed attack occurs.

That rule is silly in practice, and wrong in principle. Among other things, it implies that diplomatic recognition for the representatives of a given regime -- which requires only that the regime control its territory -- automatically triggers the full rights of sovereignty. It can't, and it shouldn't.

Our founding documents had a lot to say on this topic. The Declaration of Independence argued that the British King and Parliament had lost their claim to sovereignty over the American colonies because in the place of self-government, they had orchestrated a tyranny. The Declaration of Independence in particular was obviously and self-consciously derived from John Locke's Two Treatises on Government, written a century before, following England's own Glorious Revolution.

Locke's Second Treatise argued that only institutions of self-government could constitute a government properly so-called. Most explosively, Locke argued that where there was foreign occupation or tyranny (the two were equivalent in his thinking), there was no government properly so-called, and the people then had the right to establish a government, by force of arms if necessary. The right of rebellion claimed in the Declaration of Independence was straight out of John Locke.

So is the right of humanitarian intervention. The sovereignty of a tyrant is no greater than that of a foreign occupier. If that tyrant also happens to be an enemy of ours, and has already given us casus belli, our right of intervention should be asserted forcefully and explicitly.  

In Syria, even more than in Libya, Tunisia, or Egypt, the intrinsic illegitimacy and criminality of the regime has been manifest for decades. Despite his touching friendship with Senator John Kerry, Syrian dictator Basher Assad is a sponsor of international terrorism, facilitates the extension of Iranian military support for terrorists in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, facilitated the transit of thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of Arab insurgents into Iraq to kill Americans, and is up to his neck in clandestine WMD, including nuclear-weapons technologies. The justifications for ending that regime, to make no mention of stopping a massive humanitarian disaster, have been present for years.

The other side of the coin is this: What if the regime falls tomorrow? How do we know that the regime which replaces it is any more legitimate? Should we try to be "on the right side of history" by recognizing the new regime simply because it is acclaimed by a mob in the street and has some diplomatic support among non-democratic governments? That's how we got into this whole situation to begin with.

U.S. diplomacy needs to become much more focused on basic constitutional issues. The full rights of sovereignty should be recognized only when a government constitutes "self-government" in the Lockean sense. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Fields Apart: Physics, past and future: a review of The Infinity Puzzle, By Frank Close and Physics on the Fringe, By Margaret Wertheim (Sam Kean, Winter 2012, American Scholar)

The book's star, its driving personality, is Jim Carter, who manages a ramshackle trailer park in Washington state. (Some tenants used to barter guns for rent.) Carter is a genius with his hands--he can fix any car--and runs a booming side business that helps people salvage wreckage from the ocean. And this mechanical aptitude in turn informs his physics. Carter rejects field theory outright, preferring a mechanical universe based on particles he calls "circlons." Circlons look like long springs coiled into a donut, and he has reimagined everything from the big bang to the periodic table in terms of them.

Heavy stuff, but Wertheim notes that Carter is an outsider even among outsiders in that he doesn't take himself too seriously. In one capti- vating scene, Carter transforms a few trashcans and a smoke machine into a device that makes giant smoke rings. Carter believes that smoke rings behave as circlons do at a microscopic level, and the device will allow him to test a few ideas rattling his brain. But instead of getting down to business, he regales his neighbors by puffing rings across his yard all afternoon.

Wertheim uses the scene to make a discomfiting point. It turns out that Carter's smoke-ring experiments mirror almost exactly some experiments in the 1860s by William Thompson. One of the most establishment scientists of all time, Thompson, known as Lord Kelvin, did fundamental work in thermodynamics. But he also championed the idea that atoms behave like convoluted smoke rings on a microscopic level. And like Carter, Kelvin frittered away many happy hours with smoke machines, an aspect of his work that scientists today conveniently ignore.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Latino Groups Want GOP Candidates to Campaign Like George W. Bush (LAUREN FOX, February 15, 2012, US News)

Brent A. Wilkes, LULAC's executive director, points to George W. Bush as an example of how a candidate should reach out to the Latino community. Bush ran on the platform of "compassionate conservatism," supporting the creation of temporary work visas for illegal immigrants, appointing Latinos like Alberto Gonzales to key cabinet positions and inviting Mexico's President Vicente Fox to address Congress in a quest to develop a comprehensive immigration policy.

"We need a Bush Republican," Wilkes says. "He was familiar with what was important to Latino voters. He'd worked with Latinos when he'd been the governor of Texas."

Wilkes says Latinos and Bush didn't agree on every policy, but adds the Hispanic community respected Bush's willingness to engage with Latinos. With less than three weeks until Super Tuesday, and Hispanics not pleased with President Obama's deportation policies , Latino officials are encouraging the GOP candidates to reach out before it's too late.