For City Journal, Joel Mokyr writes: The statement “everything that could be invented has been invented” is frequently misattributed to the late-nineteenth-century American patent commissioner Charles Holland Duell. The Economistonce credited him with the remark, and sites such as “kool kwotes” still reproduce it. In fact, Duell believed the opposite. “In my opinion,” he wrote at the turn of the century, “all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” While this prediction turned out to be on the money, the belief that “the end of invention” is near is very much alive in our age, despite ample evidence of accelerating technological progress.
“Most states today realize that peaceful interstate competition in the marketplace requires staying current with the most advanced technology—but terrorists and rogue states want to stay current, too, for very different reasons…”
Pessimism is most prevalent among economists such as Northwestern University professor Robert J. Gordon, who expects growth to slow to a small fraction of what it was in the past. Gordon predicts that the disposable income of the bottom 99 percent of Americans will grow at just 0.2 percent per year—one-tenth the average rate of U.S. economic growth in the twentieth century. Innovation, he maintains, will not be enough to offset the headwinds that will buffet Western industrialized economies in the next half-century—aging populations, declining educational achievement, and rising inequality. And he is not alone in this dismal view. In The End of Science, published in 1996, journalist John Horgan declared that “the modern era of rapid scientific and technological progress appears to be not a permanent feature of reality, but an aberration, a fluke. . . . Science is unlikely to make any significant additions to the knowledge it has already generated. There will be no revelations in the future comparable to those bestowed upon us by Darwin or Einstein or Watson and Crick.”
“The argument that “if we don’t do this, someone else will” should prove more powerful than the concerns of groups that regard a new technology with suspicion.”
Certainly, it is difficult to know exactly in which direction technological change will move and how significant it will be. Much as in evolutionary biology, all we know is history. Yet something can be learned from the past, and it tells us that such pessimism is mistaken. The future of technology is likely to be bright. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Gun-Trafficking Senator Update: Leland Yee Appears in Court, Bail Kept at $500,000, Plans to Plead Not GuiltyPosted: March 31, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO — Suspended State Sen. Leland Yee appeared briefly in federal court in San Francisco Monday and was told that his bail will remain at $500,000 while he awaits a trial on corruption and gun trafficking charges.
“Yee is also accused of a seventh charge of trafficking in firearms without a license, in connection with an alleged proposal to ship guns to a Muslim rebel group in the Philippines. The alleged plan was discussed with an undercover agent who was posing a Mafia member.”
Yee, 65, wearing a dark gray business suit and white shirt, said nothing during the appearance before U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins.
Cousins ordered him to return to court on April 8 for either an arraignment on a possible grand jury indictment or, if no indictment is issued, a preliminary hearing on a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week.
Outside of court, Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, said he expects an indictment and said Yee will plead not guilty.
How a 20-Year-Old British Sniper Killed Six Taliban Insurgents With a Single Bullet — From Half a Mile AwayPosted: March 31, 2014
For The Telegraph, Holly Watt reports: A British sniper in Afghanistan killed six insurgents with a single bullet after hitting the trigger switch of a suicide bomber whose device then exploded, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The 20-year-old marksman, a lance corporal in the Coldstream Guards, hit his target from 850 metres, killing the suicide bomber and five others around him caught in the blast.
The incident in Kakaran in southern Afghanistan happened in December but has only now been disclosed as Britain moves towards the withdrawal of all combat soldiers by the end of the year.
Lt Col Richard Slack, commanding officer of 9/12 Royal Lancers, said the unnamed sharpshooter prevented a major attack by the Taliban, as a second suicide vest packed with 20 kg of explosives was found nearby.
The same sniper, with his first shot on the tour of duty, killed a Taliban machine-gunner from 1,340 metres.
“I think I’ve just shot a suicide bomber”
Several hundred British and Afghan soldiers were carrying out an operation in December when they were engaged in a gun battle with 15 to 20 insurgents.
“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Lt Col Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun.
“They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded. There was a pause on the radio and the sniper said, ‘I think I’ve just shot a suicide bomber.’ The rest of them were killed in the blast.”
It is understood the lance corporal was using an L115A3 gun, the Army’s most powerful sniper weapon.
The Armed Forces are gradually decreasing their presence in Helmand, handing over security of the country to the Afghan armed forces. Last month, three major bases were closed or handed over to Afghan control. At the height of the campaign, there were 137 bases across Helmand – now there is only one base outside Camp Bastion, Sterga 2, which is staffed by a company from 4 Scots and the 9/12 Royal Lancers. Read the rest of this entry »
Christopher Mims writes: A pair of advocates—they do legitimate research too, but their ardor is so intense, it’s hard to call them scientists—believe that they will, within their lifetimes, make ours the first generation of humans to live forever.
“Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over. We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”
— Aubrey de Grey
Their quest is elegantly laid out in The Immortalists, a new documentary making its way around the film festival circuit. The Immortalists follows the triumphs and tragedies of three years in the lives of William H. Andrews and Aubrey de Grey, two men who prove just as interesting as the work they’re doing. The Immortalists is really a film about death, not life, which is what makes it so fascinating.
Here’s the trailer:
The goal of Andrews and de Grey is not merely to extend life, but to actually reverse the aging process. “Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over,” de Grey says in the film. “We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”
“The preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that immigration enforcement in America has collapsed…”
— Senator Jeff Sessions
The report, provided to Breitbart News ahead of its late Sunday evening release, reviews internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) metrics to conclude that the Obama administration released 35 percent—or 68,000—convicted criminal aliens back into the U.S. general population when they could have been deported. “The criminal alien releases typically occur without formal notice to local law enforcement agencies and victims,” CIS’s Jessica Vaughan, the report’s author, added.
“…American citizens have a legal and moral right to the protections our immigration laws afford – at the border, the interior and the workplace…”
By “criminal,” ICE means people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony that is not a traffic violation. For instance, traffic violations like Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or even vehicular manslaughter do not count toward this description of “criminal alien.” As for the definition of “alien,” ICE mostly means illegal aliens, though some are legal aliens when they are considered deportable legal aliens—which is possible for legal immigrants who have committed a serious crime, like a felony.
“…The administration has stripped these protections and adopted a government policy that encourages new arrivals to enter illegally or overstay visas by advertising immunity from future enforcement. “
The documents also show ICE only deported a small fraction of the aliens they encountered overall.
ABC’s Rachael Ray hosted Vice President Joe Biden for a pre-taped interview which was planned to be aired on Monday March 31. In what was meant to be a cheerful televised interview to help promote Obamacare, Ray shocked the studio audience by announcing that she was going to cook and eat Joe Biden, because his skin looked so perfect, and delicious.
“…The most glowing, perfect skin of any person I’ve ever seen…”
Law enforcement officials have seized the tape of the broadcast, and are holding it for evidence. The FBI, the Justice Department, and the Secret Service are all declining to comment. Joe Biden’s family has also declined to comment, pending the investigation. Details of what happened are unclear, but this much is known, according to witnesses who were in the studio:
Ray began the segment by beaming that Biden had “The most glowing, perfect skin of any person I’ve ever seen” before telling the Vice President “I really want to know what moisturizer you use. I love moisturizers, my husband is a moisturizer as well. Would you tell me what moisturizer you use?”
Then she shocked her studio audience by calling for two bodyguards, who restrained Biden, moved him into the middle of the studio, opened a panel on the floor, then violently threw the Vice President into a deep well.
Ray then began taunting Biden, as he tried helplessly to claw his way out of the hole. Many horrified audience members headed for the exits, trying to get out of the studio, only to find the doors locked. Ray laughed, and lowered a basket of skin care products into the well.
“It puts lotion on its skin…”
Ray said, then instructed Biden to strip naked and apply the moisturizing lotion to his entire body. The Vice President’s screams were were so upsetting to audience members, Rachel Ray and her staff rushed to proceed with the cooking project she had planned.
Matthew Continetti writes: Another man might have assumed, correctly, that launching a campaign of insult and insinuation against two billionaires would result in renewed attention to his own finances. Not Harry Reid. The Senate Democratic leader since 2005, and the Senate majority leader since 2007, is not one to reflect before speaking. His mouth runs far ahead of his brain.
“Reid and his family appear to work within the confines of the law, which should not be surprising, because Reid writes that law…”
In recent years Reid has declared an American war “lost” while our troops still fought overseas; praised President Obama for his “light” skin and “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”; asserted falsely and without evidence thatMitt Romney had not paid any taxes for a decade; and said “Why would we want to do that?” when asked if he would fund cancer research during the government shutdown.
“What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations, and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms.”
Now, with his majority in danger, his president unpopular, his floor agenda obstructed by members of his own caucus, Reid thrashes about uncontrollably. He calls Obamacare horror stories “untrue.” He says Obamacare numbers are not as high as projected because Americans “are not educated on how to use the Internet.” His Senate Majority PAC launches a $3 million ad campaign tying Republican candidates to two men most Americans have never heard of, two men who, funnily enough, are more popular than Reid.
“…the Washington Post in 2012 ‘uncovered nearly 50 members who helped direct millions of dollars in earmarks to projects that either held the potential to enhance the surroundings of a lawmaker’s own property, or aided entities connected to their immediate family,’ and one of those members was Reid.”
From the floor of the Senate Reid says these two men, Charles and David Koch, are “un-American,” are trying “to buy America.” Without the terrible specter of the Koch brothers Harry Reid would be disarmed. He has no issue for his Democratic Senators to run on; the minimum wage and climate change are not enough. Nor has he another means of inspiring donors to open their checkbooks. He only has fear, fear of the Kochs, fear of extractive industry, fear of the portion of the elite that favors economic freedom. The Koch brothers, Reid says, “rig the system to benefit themselves.” He should know.
You’ll never think of the Vespa quite the same way
By guest writer Scott of Pipeburn.
Many times I’ve wished I had a Bazooka attached to my bike, usually after almost being killed by someone who didn’t check their side mirrors. Luckily for them, all I had to unload was my middle finger. So when I first saw this Vespa, I knew most motorcyclists would love the concept—even if it was made for a different purpose. It is named the Vespa 150 TAP (Troupes Aéro Portées) and it’s an Italian Vespa scooter modified by creating a hole in the legshield to carry a M20 75 mm recoilless rifle. The recoil or ‘kick’ from the rifle was counter balanced by venting propellant gases out the rear of the weapon; this eliminated the need for heavy mounts, and enabled the weapon to be fired from the Vespa frame.
“Aja” was a great album, wasn’t it? Everyone’s got their own memories associated with it — I won’t bore you with mine, but I have a lot of affection for the song “Peg”, and a lot of respect for the artistry of the whole album — like all great pop-rock albums, they become embedded in our memories, the soundtracks of our wasted youth. Released during a time when Steely Dan was at the peak of their craft, Aja was probably Steely Dan’s last fully-developed album before they disbanded. Deacon Blues, too, is a great song, great lyrics.
I bet this makes you want to pull out the album and listen to the original Peg. Unless of course you don’t have it. In which case, you’re in luck,
Or you can probably download just the song Peg, via iTunes or Amazon or one of the instant-play services. Or you can enjoy it on YouTube right here.
Unknown to the public, shaped like a kite, sketching a contrail tens of thousands of feet in the air.
David Axe & Robert Beckhusen & Matthew Gault report: Photographers have spotted what appears to be a previously unknown type of stealth warplane flying over Texas.
Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett, both veteran plane-spotters, snapped photos of at least one, and possibly three, examples of the new aircraft and their contrails near Amarillo on March 10. Ace reporter Bill Sweetman first posted the pics on Aviation Week’s Website—and Douglass followed up with a blog post.
The photo atop our story is a generic image of an airplane producing a contrail at high altitude.
Douglass described the circumstances on his blog. “The sky was severe-clear and the three contrails stood out like white chalked exclamation points across a deep blue sky.” He didn’t realize what he had until he got home and inspected the digital files.
The Founders’ epistemic humility and progressives’ epistemic arrogance is a lesson for all time.
For The Federalist, David Corbin and Matt Parks write: From the “climate change” debate to policy disputes over early childhood intervention programs and the minimum wage, the American Left prides itself on following the facts: what they posit and describe is there for everyone’s eyes to see. When the unrepentant blind demur, Progressives can claim at least a moral right to shut down debate–after all, there is no reason to pretend that those who ignore the facts have any real standing to dispute Progressive findings.
“The American founders’ humility led them to propose less comprehensive solutions for the social and political problems of their day. But even more important, it made them tolerant of differences even on important questions and magnanimous toward those whose judgment led them to very different conclusions.”
What, then, is to be done when the facts don’t follow the Progressive script?
Consider a couple recent fact-based reports:
Nancy Pelosi on the minimum wage report: “The C.B.O. made it absolutely clear: raising the minimum wage would lift almost one million Americans out of poverty, increase the pay of low-income workers by $31 billion and help build an economy that works for everyone.” In other words, pay no attention to the 500,000 people behind the curtain.
“Progressive overconfidence shows itself most obviously in their serial efforts to remake American society, but most ominously in their lack of tolerance for those who endanger their deepest commitments.”
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the National Resources Defense Council on the pipeline report: “We’re taking the inclusion of that scenario as good news” – referring to the hypothetical case, considered by the State Department, where future demand for oil is too low to encourage the development of the Canadian oil fields absent the pipeline. In other words, imagine a world where the facts fit one’s pre-determined values.
Our government is always hiding something
For USA Today, Betty Medsger writes: The Obama administration has used the Freedom of Information Act to increase rather than decrease government secrecy. In 2013, it increased use of exemptions to bar release of requested files by 22% over the previous year, according an analysis by the Associated Press. The government fully denied or redacted large portions of files in 36% of the 704,394 requests submitted
There also was a substantial increase in citing national security concerns as reason for withholding information. The administration did so 8,496 times in 2013 – more than double the rate in President Obama’s first year in office. The National Security Agency censored records or denied FOIA requests 98% of the time in 2013.
This growing disregard for openness is especially disappointing from a president who, on his first full day in office, announced he would have the most transparent administration in history. It is evident not only in the administration’s handling of FOIA requests, but also in the recent CIA dispute with the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee over the committee’s report on the government’s use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the scope and nature of mass surveillance by the NSA, known because of files made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The need to reverse this trend is evident in the critical role the FOIA has played in revealing secrets that, once public, led to major reforms. The revelation of COINTELPRO, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s secret illegal operations, is an example of the fundamental importance of the FOIA.
From this morning’s media roundup at The Corner: When asked this morning whether he thought the first round of American sanctions on top Russian officials has helped bring Putin to the negotiating table, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia had a blunt answer: “No.”
I’ve been a black aircraft enthusiast all my life (and that goes back to the days when the SR-71 was still “secret”). Sweetman is one of the best aerospace/defense/mil-tech journalists around, although he’s been accused of being willing to run with a story a little too soon. I personally feel like he does sometimes report on rumors and informed speculation, but is careful to identify them as such.
At least as far as the available information on this one goes, I feel like this is a solid lead. The photos do not look photoshopped at all (there is a history of shopped pics among back plane chasers), and the aircraft does fit into a niche that many have wondered about — the US lacks a large, high-altitude, stealthy ISR platform and, as Sweetman points out, sat photos of Groom Lake (Area 51) show way more capability than can be accounted for with known programs.
So I put this one in the “definitely possible, maybe even probable” category.