Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family Feud

h/t: Foreign Policy

Prince Khaled of Saudi Arabia accused Prince Walid bin Talal [1] of disseminating vice and violating the rules of Islamic Sharia in the conservative kingdom. [lol]

Prince Khaled said he had been forced to speak out after quiet efforts to advise his brother to mend his ways had fallen on deaf ears.

Prince Walid, known for his liberal lifestyle, owns a media empire which features entertainment channels that have long angered conservative Saudis.

Prince Khaled, told an Arabic website that his brother's plan to introduce cinema into Saudi society was the straw that broke the camel's back.

h/t: Foreign Policy

Family Feud: "September"

Notes: [1] Prince Al-Walid bin Talal a.k.a. Prince Al-Walid, is a member of the Saudi Royal Family (as is Prince Khaled), and an entrepreneur and international investor. He has amassed his fortune through investments in properties and the Stock Market. As of 2007, his net worth is estimated at US$50.5 billion, according to the Arabian Business rich list published December 2, 2007. He is ranked by Forbes as the 9th richest person in the world, and is the second richest man in royalty next to the Sultan of Brunei. He has been nicknamed by Time magazine as the Arabian Warren Buffett. -- Watch the video links posted in the princes' names, for lol.

Was Skynet just conceived?

Prelude: What would you do with virtually limitless computing power?

Integer factorization is believed to be computationally infeasible with an ordinary computer for large integers that are the product of only a few prime numbers (e.g., products of two 300-digit primes). By comparison, a quantum computer could efficiently solve this problem using Shor's algorithm to find its factors. This ability would allow a quantum computer to "break" many of the cryptographic systems in use today, in the sense that there would be a polynomial time (in the number of digits of the integer) algorithm for solving the problem. In particular, most of the popular public key ciphers are based on the difficulty of factoring integers (or the related discrete logarithm problem which can also be solved by Shor's algorithm), including forms of RSA. These are used to protect secure Web pages, encrypted email, and many other types of data. Breaking these would have significant ramifications for electronic privacy and security. The only way to increase the security of an algorithm like RSA would be to increase the key size and hope that an adversary does not have the resources to build and use a powerful enough quantum computer. -- Wikipedia

~ ~ ~

Chapter 1: A Processor is Born

Scientists Create First Working Model of a Two-Qubit Electronic Quantum Processor

A team led by Yale University researchers has successfully implemented simple algorithms using a quantum processor based on microwave solid-state technology--similar to that found in computers and cell phones. The new processor is far from conventional, however, in that it uses the potent power of quantum mechanics to bring the dream of quantum computing a small but significant step closer to reality.

The work was supported in part by the Yale Center for Quantum and Information Physics (CQUIP), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Materials Research and Division of Physics, and by the Army Research Office and National Security Agency. The findings were published online in the June 28 issue of Nature.

"This result is an important step forward towards all-electronic quantum information processing," said Wendy Fuller-Mora, program director for the NSF Division of Materials Research/Condensed Matter Physics.

"Our experiment can only perform a few very simple quantum tasks, which have been demonstrated before using other systems such as photons, trapped ions, and nuclear magnetic resonance," said Robert Schoelkopf, a principal investigator and professor of applied physics and physics at Yale. "But this is the first time it has been done in an all-electronic device, which looks and feels much more like a regular microprocessor."

The team used artificial atoms as quantum bits, or qubits. Although made from over a billion aluminum atoms in a superconducting electronic circuit, these qubits behave as single atoms. The difference is that the manufactured atoms are much larger and therefore easier to control than single atoms or other types of qubits.

Just like a single atom, an artificial atom can be stimulated into different energy states, akin to the "on" and "off" states of the bits in conventional computers. But following the counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics, the scientists can also place these artificial atoms in "superpositions" of quantum states-both "off" and "on" at the same time. This wider variety of possible states allows for greater information storage and processing power.

As an example, imagine searching through a set of four phone numbers, including one for a friend, without knowing which number belonged to the friend. "It's like being able to place one phone call that simultaneously tests all four numbers, but only goes through to the right one," Schoelkopf said.

To perform this kind of "reverse phone book" search, the scientists used logic gates made from two qubits, which communicated with one another using a "quantum bus" design previously developed by members of the team.

"We had done some earlier experiments that connected two artificial atoms in a resonant cavity bus, which is basically a microwave transmission wire," said Schoelkopf. "The setup is analogous to two hydrogen atoms held between shiny mirrors--when they emit an ultraviolet photon, it bounces back and forth between the mirrors. In the same way, a microwave photon bounces back and forth between the two qubits, transmitting information to each other along the bus."

"The success of the experiment relied on integrating three previously demonstrated capabilities " said Leonardo DiCarlo, lead author of the Nature paper.

According to DiCarlo, the key building blocks included: local tuning of qubits on nanosecond timescales, which enabled the researchers to switch the interaction between the qubits "on" and "off" abruptly; a joint readout scheme that efficiently details two-qubit correlations; and state-of-the-art coherence times of about 1 microsecond for both qubits.


(a) Interferometric cz gate. Gate operation is enabled by transforming each qubit from polarisation to spatial encoding, and back again. This requires high interferometric stability and spatio-temporal mode-matching for correct operation. -- (b) Partially-polarising beam splitter (PPBS) gate. Thequbits can remain polarisation-encoded, since thevertically-polarised modes are completely reflected by the first PPBS, and do not interact. Nonclassical interference occurs between the horizontally-polarised modes, with η=1/3. The subsequent PPBSs give the required losses in the cV and tV modes as shown in (a). -- source


"There have been several earlier instances of two-qubit logic gates, but to do a quantum computation, you need to be able to control single qubits, and you also need to be able to make two qubits interact," said Schoelkopf. "With this experiment we don't just operate one gate; we string together 10 one-qubit gates and 2 two-qubit gates."

Solving simple problems such as the reverse phone book search using solid-state qubits hasn't been possible until now, in part because scientists couldn't make the qubits coherent for long enough to get to the solution. But with their quantum bus design, the team was able to keep the qubits stable for up to a microsecond.

"Both qubits in the two-qubit gates have to work at the same time, so you have to be able to reliably make two qubits with long coherence times," added Steve Girvin, co-author of the paper and co-principal investigator. We used a charge-based qubit, which normally would be sensitive to electrical noise. But we developed one that stays insensitive to noise for a long time, up to 3 microseconds."

"There's a tension between using larger-scale manmade systems like ours as qubits, which are easier to make, test and control, versus using individual atoms, which stay coherent longer, but are much more difficult to couple together in complex ways," said Schoelkopf.

"But there's an advantage to using a superconducting circuit, which is all controlled electronically," he said. "The goal is to make a scalable device, with thousands and thousands of qubits working together. This is still a long way off, but the idea of using standard integrated circuit technology makes it easier to imagine that it might be possible someday."

Although the quantum processor itself must be kept just above absolute zero in order to maintain the superconducting properties of the circuit, DiCarlo said that the rest of the system looks like a typical processor, with only wires going into the system and wires coming out.

But Schoelkopf cautions it will still be some time before solid-state quantum computers become the industry standard. "The work we have ahead in the future is one of continuing to improve coherence times and increasing the number of qubits in the register, knowing that the power of the processor will grow exponentially with each added qubit," he said.

"I'm relatively optimistic that we should be able to combine three or more qubits soon," Schoelkopf said. "But to make a system which will actually perform computations on your laptop would take a thousand qubits. It's hard to see that far into the future, but this experiment is a significant step forward."

Other authors of the paper include Jerry M. Chow, Lev Samuel Bishop, Blake Johnson, David Schuster, Luigi Frunzio (all of Yale University), Jay Gambetta (University of Waterloo), Johannes Majer (Atominstitut der Österreichischen Universitäten) and Alexandre Blais (Université de Sherbrooke). -- National Science Foundation -- Press Release with Links

Merry Christmas, Ahmadinejad!


He's making a list.



Checking it twice.



Gonna find out who's naughty and nice.



Twelfth Imam is coming to town!


Oh, you'd better watch out...



A Caliphate of Toxic Assets

Excerpt from article [with links] by Alyssa A. Lappen for FrontPage Magazine.

In July, Hizb Ut Tahrir [an international pan-Islamist, Sunni, political party whose goal is to combine all Muslim countries in a unitary Islamic state or caliphate, ruled by Islamic law] plans to launch its U.S. arm with a huge Chicago [Where else?] “Khalifah conference” heralding the coming Caliphate and global Islamic supremacism. After 9/11, Germany and Sweden outlawed Hizb Ut Tahrir. In July 2005, Pakistan's then-president Pervez Musharaf warned Britain not to tolerate its continued U.K. presence. But in the U.S., Hizb Ut Tahrir has proudly announced intentions to replace capitalism with Islam.

Founded five years into Jordan's illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1953, Hizb Ut Tahrir labels itself “peaceful” but strategically objects to violence only for the time being. The group sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood, considers Europe's democracies “a farce” -- and deems the U.S., UK, and Israel works of “the devil” -- and seeks to impose Islamic law (Shari'a) worldwide.

Major banks from Citigroup, HSBC, Chase, Bank of America and Lloyds TSB -- probably unaware of the etymology of Islamic finance -- established subsidiaries offering Shari'a-compliant products. Mutual funds at Principal Financial Group, UBS, Amana Funds and SEI Investments, among others, followed suit. [Slowly selling America's children and grandchildren into slavery... IMO, traitors all.] Especially late last year as the devastating toll of sub-prime mortgage lending mounted, clients were assured that Islamic banking -- in many respects a dangerous financial fad -- was much safer than other banks and investment houses.

“Islamic banking is in the toxic derivatives genre,” says Columbia MBA Joy Brighton. Each counter-party agreement within its complex “boxes” of interwoven counter-party risks, is a contract for “payment” and “delivery/receipt of funds.” Issuers create derivatives when they “peel off and resell pieces” from individual securities containing multiple counter-party contracts. One default by a party to any of the interwoven contracts in a “box” can cause its whole structure to collapse.

Moreover, Islamic finance is doubly toxic. Many banking corporations have created Islamic subsidiaries, says Brighton -- segregated oil wealth managed by “outside money managers” and Islamic radicals who don't circulate money globally, but keep it “within the Islamic community, as a charity- and jihad-funding mechanism.” They're just another economic time bomb that financiers have blindly bought. -- ###

Alyssa A. Lappen is a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy, former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor, Working Woman and Corporate Finance, and former Associate Editor of Forbes. Her website is www.AlyssaaLappen.org.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama Blasted on Honduras Developments: "Shame on You"

Obama Blasted on Honduras Developments: "Shame on You"

Power-mad Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was peacefully replaced by Interim President Roberto Micheletti following Zelaya's illegal attempt to rewrite the nation's constitution so as to extend his term-limited 4 years in office.

Zelaya had lost the confidence of the other two branches of government, his populace and Honduras' law-enforcement units.

The Honduran Congress said that Interim President Micheletti will serve out the remaining 7 months of Zelaya's term.

Zelaya is widely regarded as a stooge for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. It is unclear whether Chavez or other international leaders will seek to usurp -- or 'meddle in,' to use a Barack Obama phrase -- the affairs of the sovereign Honduran nation.

Obama has steadfastly chosen not to meddle in the election in Iran, so any interference in Honduras' affairs will be properly viewed as hypocritical.

BBC: New Honduran leader sets curfew

WSJ: Honduras Defends Its Democracy

UPDATE: Zelaya accused of drug ties

Iraqis take control at midnight, fears remain

U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police leave their base for their last joint patrol in Khan Bani Saad, Iraq, ahead of Tuesday's deadline for the American pullback. Photo by Agence France-Presse.

Iraqi officials formally take control of the cities at midnight, a handover that filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise.

Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection. [Red spray-painted X’s have shown up overnight on several Sunni homes.] American troops fear that the 650,000-member Iraqi military is not ready to maintain stability and deal with a stubborn insurgency. -- CBS News

The challenge for the Iraqis is immense.

Air Assault Mission - Iraqi national police officers run inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter after completing Operation Winged Lion II, an Iraqi-led air assault clearance operationin the Ma’dain region outside eastern Baghdad, Iraq, June 26, 2009. More than 240 Iraqi police and U.S. Army soldiers conducted the mission to deny enemy movement into the city, collect intelligence and search for weapons caches. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea.

US forces set to leave Iraq cities

So Sorry, Sonya

So sorry, Sonya. Seems you're not Supreme Court caliber after all...

US Supreme Court Reverses Radical Barack Obama Nominee Sonia Sotomayor [FOX News]

Court Rules for White Firefighters in Discrimination Case

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a group of white firefighters in Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision endorsed by high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

In the high-profile, controversial case, white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., argued they were discriminated against when the city tossed out the results of a promotion exam because too few minorities scored high enough on it.

"The city's action in discarding the tests violated (federal law)," the Supreme Court majority wrote Monday, adding that the city's "race-based rejection of the test results" could not be justified.

The city argued its action was prompted by concern that disgruntled black firefighters would sue. But that reasoning didn't hold sway with the court's majority.

"Fear of litigation alone cannot justify the city's reliance of race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions," the court ruled. -- FOX News

Sonia Sotomayor Doesn't Deserve a Promotion

Read the full Supreme Court ruling (PDF)

WSJ: Decision Reflects Court's Deep Division

A concurring opinion from Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, effectively accused New Haven's leadership of pandering to a local black political leader in throwing out the test results. Notably, Chief Justice Roberts didn't join that toughly worded opinion.

Anybody Seen Our Gold?

The gold reserves of the United States have not been fully and independently audited for half a century. Now there is proof that those gold reserves and those of other Western nations are being used for the surreptitious manipulation of the international currency, commodity, equity, and bond markets.

The Federal Reserve’s general counsel, J. Virgil Mattingly, acknowledged as much when he told the Federal Open Market Committee on January 31, 1995, that the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund had undertaken gold swaps.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledged as much in testimony to Congress on July 24, 1998, when he said that “central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise.”

Barrick Gold Corp. acknowledged as much in a filing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on February 28, 2003, asserting that the mining company was the instrument of the central banks in shorting the gold market.

The Bank for International Settlements acknowledged as much on June 27, 2005, when the head of its monetary and economic department, William S. White, declared at a convention of central bankers in Basel, Switzerland, that a major purpose of international central bank cooperation is “the provision of international credits and joint efforts to influence asset prices — especially gold and foreign exchange.”

Since last May the U.S. Treasury Department’s weekly report of the government’s international reserve position has cited loans and swaps from the U.S. gold reserves.

Since 2004 four major international investment houses — Sprott Asset Management, Cheuvreux, Citigroup, and Redburn Partners— have issued reports stating that Western central banks have been manipulating the gold market.

The objective of this manipulation is to conceal the mismanagement of the U.S. dollar so that it might retain its function as the world’s reserve currency. But to suppress the price of gold is to disable the barometer of the international financial system so that all markets may be more easily manipulated. This manipulation has been a primary cause of the catastrophic excesses in the markets that now threaten the whole world.

Gold’s recent rise above $900 per ounce shows that the price suppression scheme is faltering. When it is widely understood how central banks have been suppressing gold, its price may rise to $3,000 or $5,000 or more. -- GATA

Watch gold at www.24KT.us

Disclaimer: covertress holds no positions.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Whose side are we on?

Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

The case has put the Obama administration in the middle of a political and legal dispute, with the Justice Department siding with the Saudis in court last month in seeking to kill further legal action. Adding to the intrigue, classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families. The Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed [!] and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.

The Justice Department said a 1976 law on sovereign immunity protected the Saudis from liability and noted that “potentially significant foreign relations consequences” would arise if such suits were allowed to proceed. -- The New York Times

UPDATE: SCOTUS Denies 9/11 Families Appeal Without Comment

Three Dishes

I can hardly believe that I am this hungry at 7 in the morning. Dreams of spanakopita lulled me to sleep last night and while there must have worked overtime on my stomach.

If I could wish three dishes to magically appear before me now, they would be Greek. So, thanks to the internet, here they are, my favorites, and the methods to conjure them for yourself.

Appetizer: Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Recipe by Patti Moschonas.

"These are grape leaves, stuffed with a tantalizing mixture of rice, fresh dill, mint and lemon. 'Yum' is the only one word to describe these. These can either be a main dish or an appetizer, depending on your appetite. Serve with good crusty bread and a Greek salad, if desired."

Prep Time 40 Min, Cook Time 1 Hr, Ready In 1 Hr 40 Min, Serves 12.

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 quarts chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
60 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
hot water as needed
1 cup olive oil

Directions

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the rice, onion, dill, and mint for about 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Pour in 1 quart of broth, reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until rice is almost cooked. Stir in 1/2 of lemon juice and remove from heat.

2. Take one leaf, shiny side down, and place 1 teaspoon of the rice mixture at the bottom (stem) end of the leaf. Fold both sides of the leaf towards the center, roll up from the broad bottom to the top, and place into a 4-quart pot. Repeat with all leaves, leaving no gaps as leaves are placed in pot (to prevent from opening while cooking). Sprinkle with remaining lemon juice and with olive oil.

3. Pour chicken broth over all to cover grape leaves. Cover pot and simmer for about 1 hour (do not boil, because this will make the stuffing burst out of the leaves). Remove from heat, remove cover and let cool for 1/2 hour. Transfer to serving dish and serve.

Footnote

If using fresh grape leaves, plunge into a deep container of very hot water for about 10 seconds, to soften (don't let the leaves lose their fresh green color).

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Main Course: Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Recipe by SilverWolf.

"This is an authentic, really rich pie stuffed with spinach, onions, cheeses and herbs that are all enfolded by crispy, flaky phyllo dough."

Prep Time 30 Min, Cook Time 1 Hr, Ready In 1 Hr 30 Min, Original recipe yield 1 - 9x9 inch pan, Serves 5.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
8 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

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Dessert: Baklava

Recipe by NeonWillie.

"A Greek favorite that makes everyone think you are a master chef and is sooo easy to make!! I taught a Greek friend how to make apple pie and she taught me this fabulous recipe. The phyllo dough for this recipe is found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Add a little lemon zest to the sugar sauce, if desired."

Original recipe yield 3 dozen, Serves 18.

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.

2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.

3. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

4. Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

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All of the above user-submitted recipes are from the aptly named AllRecipes.com.

For best results, read the user suggestions I've added to the comments and serve with your favorite Chardonnay or Pino Grigio.

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The King and Queen of Worms Explain Worm Gruntin'

Gary Revell, The King of Worms.

"It may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as the earthworm." -- Charles Darwin, 1881

Worm Gruntin' in Sopchoppy, Florida

35 miles and 100 years southwest of Tallahassee... live Gary and Audrey Revell, the undisputed King and Queen of Worms. In the 35 years that they've been married, Gary and Audrey have "rooted" enough earthworms to reach to the moon and back. It just goes to show that you can reach the moon from your own backyard -- if you do what you love.

It's part of my backyard too.

And you wonder where I've been all day... ;) - c

Fascinating earthworm facts:

  • One acre of land equals one million earthworms.
  • One acre of earthworms can recompose 10 tons of leaves in one year.
  • There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.
  • The largest earthworm ever found (in South America) was 22 feet.
  • Earthworms have a total of 16 hearts.
  • Earthworms hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.
  • Earthworms keep the earth soft and plants healthy.
  • Earthworms are 82% protein and edible - yum!
  • Eating earthworms can reduce cholesterol.
  • Earthworm castings (a.k.a. poo) are used as premium fertilizers.
  • With a wooden stake and iron, you can raise a family.

Audrey Revell, The Queen of Worms.

In the peak months of March, April, and May earthworms bring $25 to $28 a can to the baiters who grunt for worms in the sandy soils of Apalachicola National Forest. In the flatwoods of the Florida Panhandle baiting is not the act of threading worm on hook but an earlier step -- the extraction of the worm from the ground. To "grunt" -- or "scrub," or "rub" -- for worms, the baiter drives a wooden stake into the earth. The stake, carved from black gum, or cherry, or white hickory, is called a stob -- a fine old word, a Medieval English survival by way of Scots dialect transplanted to the southern woods. The baiter drives in the stob one-handed, with blows from the long bar he calls his iron. Then, kneeling, he grips the iron firmly at both ends. Leaning his weight into the task, like a man planing wood, he strokes the length of the iron repeatedly and rhythmically over the top of the stob, producing a deep metallic croaking. The sound is vibrant, interrogative, lovesick, alien, like the mating call of some giant amphibian in an iron mine on Mars.

East of the Ochlockonee River, in the soft soil of Wakulla County, the stob is huge. The baiters there -- "those Sopchoppy boys," as they are known on the other side -- use a flat, heavy iron with a kind of paddle grip cut into one end. Around the little Wakulla County town of Sopchoppy heavy gear seems to work best. West of the Ochlockonee, in the firmer, more resonant soil of Liberty County, the stob is smaller, and the iron more delicate and graceful -- a curving length of steel cut from the leaf spring of a car or truck. On either side of the river the technique is the same. With his iron held edge-on, the baiter knocks in his stob. Turning the iron flat side downward, he commences grunting. When he has hit the stob five or six licks, a magical thing happens. For reasons unknown to science but resonatingly clear to worms, the song of the iron drives pale legions of annelids from the safety of their tunnels. The baiter becomes a Pied Piper of worms. The finest bait in the entire South -- finest, some say, on the planet -- begins appearing everywhere on the surface of the ground.

Hungry for more? Read the entire article on worm grunting at The Atlantic Online.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Milky Road

Click photo to enlarge.

Inspired by the night skies of planet Earth in the International Year of Astronomy, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view.

The composited image suggests a luminous Milky Way is the heavenly extension of a country road. Of course, the name for our galaxy, the Milky Way (in Latin, Via Lactea), does refer to its appearance as a milky band or path in the sky. In fact, the word galaxy itself derives from the Greek for milky, galaxias.

Visible on moonless nights from dark sky areas, though not so bright or colorful as in this image, the glowing celestial band is due to the collective light of myriad stars along the plane of our galaxy, too faint to be distinguished individually. The diffuse starlight is cut by dark swaths of obscuring galactic dust clouds.

Four hundred years ago, Galileo turned his telescope on the Milky Way and announced it to be "... a congeries of innumerable stars ..." -- Astronomy Picture of the Day

Repel mosquitoes with common garden plants

Last weekend, Sam helped me in the garden. Thankfully, he soon wore out, and flopped in the cat cove catnip. - Central Texas Gardener Blog

Repel mosquitoes with common garden plants

By Catherine Mezensky for Baltimore Gardening Examiner, edited by Puter and c

With the frequent rains this spring, most gardens are doing well. So are the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a ½ of an inch of water, such as in a bottle cap. The best way to eliminate mosquitoes is to remove any standing water in your garden.

If you need a safe, organic, and environmentally sound mosquito repellent, many plants that you may already be growing in your home garden can do this job.

Citrosa and Rue are commonly considered to be good against mosquitoes, but some findings suggest that citrosa doesn’t repel mosquitoes as well as other plants. Lemon thyme is said to be stronger.

Catnip is supposed to be great at driving away mosquitoes and some sources say it is even better than Deet, which is the main ingredient in chemical repellents.

Rosemary and basil are also good. The best way to use these leafy herbs is to crush the leaves and rub them on your skin. (Test a small patch first to make sure you are not allergic.)

Garlic also wards off mosquitoes. Not only should you grow garlic, but you should eat it so bugs get the scent off of you and leave. (Unfortunately, this may also make everyone else stay away.)

Marigolds are known for pest control in garden beds but mosquitoes also dislike their smell. Put a few in pots and place them on tables or benches in outdoor sitting areas. If you are having a gathering pick a lot of marigolds and scatter the bouquets around the outdoor party area.

Many gardeners are fond of the mosquito plant. This is a hybrid that was developed from a geranium and was bred with citronella grass traits. Also called the citronella geranium, the plant grows well in pots and has a nice lemony scent. Like with other herbs, crush it and put it on your skin or grow it in pots placed in frequently used outdoor areas. The leaves are very lacy looking and the flowers are purple spikes. As a side benefit, this plant attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies.

Herbs and plants are not only a beautiful way to keep mosquitoes away, they are also the safe way to protect your family during the warm summer months.

Puter made me add this. ;) - c

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nuclear war is Kim Jong-il's game plan

[This article is written from the DPRK viewpoint. See note on author at end.]

By Kim Myong Chol for Asia Times

"Our military first policy calls for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, retaliation for retaliation, ultra-hardline for hardline, war for war, total war for total war, nuclear war for nuclear war." - Kim Jong-il

A little-noted fact about the second nuclear test conducted on May 25 by the Kim Jong-il administration of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is that it was a highly successful fission trigger test for multi-megaton warheads.

These types of warheads can be detonated in outer space, far above the United States, evaporating its key targets. This is a significant indication of the supreme leader's game plan for nuclear war with the crippled superpower and its allies, Japan and South Korea.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on April 29 announced its plan to test-fire what it termed a long-awaited "intercontinental ballistic missile" (ICBM), the first public ICBM test after numerous missile tests, short-range, medium-range, and long-range, were conducted without notice.

On March 9, the General Staff of the nuclear-armed Korean People's Army had begun preparing to launch simultaneous retaliatory strikes on the US, Japan and South Korea in response to their act of war.

Although no appropriate test site for a thermonuclear bomb is available on the Korean Peninsula, North Korean scientists and engineers are confident, as a series of computer simulations have proved that their hydrogen bombs will be operational. The North Korean message is that any soft spots of the US, Japan and South Korea's defense lines will be used as the testing grounds for their thermonuclear weapons.

The Korean Central News Agency said on May 25 that the underground nuclear test was carried out at the request of nuclear scientists and engineers and reported:

The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control and the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology.

John Pike, the founder and director of globalsecurity.org, told the Weekly Standard on October 19, 2006, that the North Korean nuclear test that year may have been a test of a "trigger device" for a much larger hydrogen bomb. Writing in The New York Times on April 7, 2009, he revealed that "North Korea's low-yield nuclear test in October 2006 did "coincide with the sub-kiloton tests of the fission trigger for a hydrogen bomb". He added, "possibly North Korea's hydrogen bombs can be easily fitted on missiles".

The Kim Jong-il administration has developed its global nuclear strike capability primarily as a deterrent to US invasion to keep the Korean Peninsula out of war. Secondly, it needs operational nuclear missiles targeted at US and Japanese targets in the event of a DPRK-US war.

The North Korean state-run newspaper, Minjo Joson, vowed on June 9 to use nuclear weapons in war as "merciless means of offense to deal retaliatory strikes" against anyone who "dares infringe upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK even a bit".

Scenario for nuclear war

After shifting to a plan B, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il has put in place a nuclear game plan as a part of the plan's military first policy to deal with nuclear rogue state America and its allies South Korea and Japan. (See Kim Jong-il shifts to plan B, Asia Times Online, May 21.)

The nuclear game plan is designed firstly to militarily prevent the US from throwing a monkey wrench into the plans of the Kim Jong-il administration for economic prosperity by 2012 - the centenary of the birth of founding father Kim Il-sung - in a bid to complete its membership of the three elite clubs of nuclear, space and economic powers.

Its second aim is to win the hearts and minds of the 70 million Korean people, North, South and abroad, and leave little doubt in their eyes that Kim Jong-il has what it takes to neutralize and phase out the American presence in Korea. This will hasten the divided parts of ancestral Korean land - bequeathed by Dankun 5,000 years ago and Jumon 2,000 years ago - coming together under a confederal umbrella as a reunified state.

It is designed to impress upon the Korean population that Kim Jong-il is a Korean David heroically standing up to the American Goliath, that he can lead the epic effort to settle long-smoldering moral scores with the US over a more than 100-year-old grudge match that dates as far as the 1905 Taft-Katsura Agreement and the 1866 invasion of Korea by the US General Sherman.

Third, Kim Jong-il has described the shift to plan B as a stern notice for the governments of the US and its junior allies that they cannot get away with their hostile behavior any longer, unless they are prepared to leave their booming economies consumed in a great conflagration of retaliatory thermonuclear attacks.

The game plan assumes that the US is unlikely to shake off its aggressive behavior until it is wiped off this planet. The Barack Obama administration has not taken much time to reveal its true colors, which are no different from the George W. Bush administration. There have been four compelling signs:

First, the March 9-20 Key Resolve (Team Spirit) joint war games between the US and South Korea.

Second, the US-led United Nation Security Council's (UNSC) condemnation of an innocuous April 5 satellite launch.

Third, the rehashing of counterfeit money charges that the US has failed to produce compelling evidence to support. As Newsweek wrote in its June 8 issue, "The Treasury Department couldn't find a single shred of hard evidence pointing to North Korean production of counterfeit money."

Fourth, the presence of Bush holdovers in the Obama administration, such as Stuart Levy, the architect of Bush-era financial sanctions intended to criminalize the DPRK.

Four types of hydrogen bomb raids

The game plan for nuclear war specifies four types of thermonuclear assault: (1) the bombing of operating nuclear power stations; (2) detonations of a hydrogen bombs in seas off the US, Japan and South Korea; (3) detonations of H-bombs in space far above their heartlands; and (4) thermonuclear attacks on their urban centers.

The first attack involves converting operating nuclear power plants on the coastline of the three countries into makeshift multi-megaton H-bombs.

The New York Times on January 24, 1994, quoted Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, warning that North Korea could easily launch de-facto hydrogen bomb attacks on South Korea.

"North Korean retaliation to bombing could result in vastly more fallout in the South than in the North ... North Korean retaliatory bombing could bring Chernobyls multiplied."

If bombed, one average operating nuclear power station is estimated to spew out as much deadly fallout as 150-180 H-bombs. Bombing one nuclear power station would render the Japanese archipelago and South Korea uninhabitable. Doing the same to the US may require bombing one plant on its west coast and another on its east coast.

Nothing is easier than bombing a power plant on a coastline. There is no need to use a ballistic missile. Primitive means will do the job.

The US has 103 operating nuclear power stations with onsite storage of a huge quantity of spent fuel rods and Japan has 53 operating atomic power stations. Japan has a stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium - enough to assemble more than 1,000 atomic bombs in a short period of time. South Korea has 20 operating nuclear power stations with onsite storage of a huge quantity of spent fuel rods.

The detonation of sea-borne or undersea H-bombs planted on the three countries' continental shelves will trigger nuclear tsunamis with devastating consequences.

A 2006 RAND study of a ship-based 10-kiloton nuclear blast on the Port of Long Beach had some harrowing conclusions:

"Within the first 72 hours, the attack would devastate a vast portion of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Because ground-burst explosions generate particularly large amounts of highly radioactive debris, fallout from the blast would cause much of the destruction. In some of the most dramatic possible outcomes:
  • Sixty thousand people might die instantly from the blast itself or quickly thereafter from radiation poisoning.
  • One hundred and fifty thousand more might be exposed to hazardous levels of radioactive water and sediment from the port, requiring emergency medical treatment.
  • The blast and subsequent fires might completely destroy the entire infrastructure and all ships in the Port of Long Beach and the adjoining Port of Los Angeles.
  • Six million people might try to evacuate the Los Angeles region.
  • Two to three million people might need relocation because fallout will have contaminated a 500-square-kilometer area.
  • Gasoline supplies might run critically short across the entire region because of the loss of Long Beach's refineries - responsible for one-third of the gas west of the Rocky Mountains.
RAND projects that the economic costs would exceed $1 trillion.

The third possible attack, a high-altitude detonation of hydrogen bombs that would create a powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP), would disrupt the communications and electrical infrastructure of the US, the whole of Japan, and South Korea.

Many of the essential systems needed to survive war would be knocked out, as computers are instantly rendered malfunctioning or unusable. Military and communications systems such as radars, antennas, and missiles, government offices, would be put out of use, as would energy sources such as nuclear power stations and transport and communications systems including airports, airplanes, railways, cars and cell phones.

Ironically the ubiquity of high-tech computing gadgets in the US, Japan and South Korea has made them most vulnerable to EMP attacks.

The last and fourth attack would be to order into action a global nuclear strike force of dozens of MIRVed ICBMs - each bearing a thermonuclear warhead on a prefixed target.

The Yongbyon nuclear site has always been a decoy to attract American attention and bring it into negotiations on a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. Since as far back as the mid-1980s, North Korea has assembled 100-300 nuclear warheads in an ultra-clandestine nuclear weapons program. The missiles can be mounted on medium-range missiles designed to be nuclear capable.

A prototype ICBM was assembled by the end of the 1980s. Two prototype ICBMs were test-fired on May 29, 1993, with one splashing down off Honolulu and the other off Guam. The Kim Jong-il administration gave an advance notice to the US government of the long-range missile test. But the American reaction was skeptical.

In April 2001, the Associated Press quoted Navy representative Mark Kirk's "terrifying encounter in 1993 with what seemed possible nuclear attack" from North Korea. He recalled:

It was a no notice, no warning missile launch out of North Korea, and for the first and only time in my career in the NMJIC [National Military Joint Intelligence Center], I got to see all of the panoply of the United States military wake up in a few seconds.

We did not know what kind of missile it was, so the impact area, at the beginning, was the entire United States, and you thought about what we might be doing in the next 12 minutes: would we be notifying the president that we had lost an American city? We were going to know the answer in 12 minutes.

At first it still included the Pacific Coast, then it included Hawaii.

AP added: "Little was made of the 1993 launch at the time because it wasn't determined until later that it likely flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean, Kirk said."

It was not until 1998 that the US notified the Japanese government of the flyover of a North Korean long-range missile before splashing down off Hawaii. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration quietly labeled the 1998 satellite launch a success.

According to a February 12, 2003, AP report, US intelligence had concluded a few years earlier that North Korea has a ballistic missile capable of hitting the western United States and possibly targets farther inland. ###

Kim Myong Chol has authored a number of books on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il's Strategy for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an "unofficial" spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea.

Three Stars Exit the Stage - R.I.P.

The King of Pop is dead. Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors at UCLA Medical Center this afternoon after suffering cardiac arrest in his home. He was 50. -- The L.A. Times

Michael Jackson: Life and Times - Photo Gallery

Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal

How MJ Defied Gravity: The Secret to 'Smooth Criminal'

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Actress Farrah Fawcett best known for role in Charlie's Angels lost her battle with cancer today at 62.

Farrah Fawcett

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Tuesday, at age 86, Ed McMahon passed away, taking what was left of the old Tonight Show with him.

Carson Show- Ed McMahon

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And with their passing goes another part of my childhood. - c

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

California Slippin'

By blackfridayarmy on PhotoBucket.

Signaling that California is slipping deeper into financial crisis, the state’s controller said Wednesday that his office would soon be forced to issue i.o.u.’s to scores of the state’s creditors, as lawmakers failed at their first attempt as a body to close the state’s multibillion-dollar shortfall.

If the i.o.u.’s are issued as threatened, it would be the first time since 1992 — when Gov. Pete Wilson paid roughly 100,000 state employees with them — that the warrants were used to hold over those to whom the state owed money. Before that budget crisis, California last issued the warrants during the Depression. -- The New York Times


UPDATE: California Collapsing

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Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin'

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees
And I pretend to pray
You know the preacher likes the cold
He knows I'm gonna stay
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
If I didn't tell her
I could leave today
California dreamin'
On such a winter's day

Saeed Mortazavi: Torturer of Tehran

Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi (2nd L) attends the execution by hanging of Majid Kavousifar and Hossein Kavousifar in Tehran August 2, 2007. -- DayLife

Saeed Mortazavi, who has reportedly been given the job of pursuing Iranian democracy protesters through the courts, is a formidable hardliner with a decade-long track record of cracking down on reformists.

As prosecutor-general of Tehran since 2003 and as a judge before that, he has earned the nickname "the butcher of the press" for ordering the closure of more than 100 newspapers, journals and websites suspected of being hostile to the establishment.

He has also led the clampdown on Islamic morality in Tehran that has seen women arrested for immodest clothing.

Read more on the "Torturer of Tehran" at TimesOnline.uk.

In 2005, The New York Times reported that the administration was investigating whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the hostage-taker pictured second from the right, with a blindfolded American, when the embassy was seized in 1979. I hope they also took a closer look at the hostage-taker on the far right.

Saeed Mortazavi, the Torturer of Tehran.

Bad Air and New Flu

Environmental factors continue to make a case for greater risk of catching the new flu, H1N1/A.

Click maps to enlarge.

Though the following article addresses the increased risk of cancer due to air pollution, it's also easy to make a connection to the rates of new flu infection (mapped above) with bad air (mapped here.)

EPA study: 2.2M live in areas where air poses cancer risk

The government's latest snapshot of air pollution across the nation shows residents of New York, Oregon and California faced the highest risk of developing cancer from breathing toxic chemicals.

The results, compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, represent the most sweeping analysis to date of the state of the nation's air. The analysis is based on emissions from 2002, the latest year for which the EPA had detailed estimates of pollution from across the nation. -- more at USA TODAY.

Today's Geomagnetic Storm

Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake. Photo by United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang.

It may turn out to be just a pretty light show in the high latitudes of northern Michigan and Maine -- or -- today's geomagnetic storm may affect power stations across the country and even satellite operations.

Real-Time Geomagnetic Data. -- Warning issued at 0628 UTC.

Classified as a G1 Minor Geomagnetic Storm, today's ongoing event could cause weak power grid fluctuations. Brownouts or blackouts are possible.

Be mindful of excessive energy use today. Give those non-essential electrical appliances the day off, unplugged, to prevent damage in the event of power loss.

And if that cell phone service seems to be acting up, keep in mind that minor impact on satellite operations is also possible today. Take a deep breath and try your call again.

Oh, and while you're breathing, don't forget that "sigh of relief" -- that today's geomagnetic storm wasn't the big one.

An erupting solar prominence photographed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Evidence is mounting: the next solar cycle is going to be a big one. Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 "looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. -- more at Physics.org.

NOAA Space Weather Scales (pdf)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barter Care

With no health insurance and little money, Gilberto Carrasco, a Reno, Nev., auto mechanic, didn't see much point in getting a physical. At 50, he felt healthy and couldn't afford treatment even if a doctor found a medical problem.

Then his girlfriend, Eren Hernandez, figured out a way to get Carrasco a free checkup. She found a family physician who was willing to trade for his services. During the physical, the doctor discovered that Carrasco had prostate cancer, but caught it before the disease had spread.

"We couldn't have afforded" Carrasco's examination, said Hernandez, who also uses bartering to get extensive medical and dental care for other family members.

With the economy in recession and many people strapped for cash, bartering of various kinds has increased. Now, health care is surpassing auto repair and advertising as the service in most demand, said people who run local barter exchanges.

Alan Zimmerman, a spokesman for ITEX, the largest network of barter exchanges in North America, said that in the past two years the demand for health care has jumped by more than 20 percent. The company has 551 physicians and 618 dentists who participate in its 100 local barter groups.

Barter is little more than a stopgap solution for the uninsured. But with doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, chiropractors and even cosmetic surgeons offering their services, bartering is providing a temporary safety net of sorts for some workers who've lost their jobs and health coverage. And in some cases, people who have inadequate insurance are using barter to get services such as dental and vision benefits.

There are two main types of bartering: direct and indirect. In the former, people engage in direct trades of goods and services without using money. In the latter, small-business owners and individuals accumulate credits, or barter dollars, by providing specific services ranging from painting a porch to putting on a dance performance. Those barter dollars can be used to buy the services of any other network member. That way, a barber with a toothache can barter for dental work without having to find a dentist who wants a haircut. -- more via St. Louis Dispatch

Beware of trading with the barber / taxidermist. ;) - c

A Tale of Two Depressions

Scene from A Tale of Two Cities, 1935.

By Barry Eichengreen, Kevin H. O’Rourke, VoxEU.org

The parallels between the Great Depression of the 1930s and our current Great Recession have been widely remarked upon. Paul Krugman has compared the fall in US industrial production from its mid-1929 and late-2007 peaks, showing that it has been milder this time. On this basis he refers to the current situation, with characteristic black humor, as only “half a Great Depression.” The “Four Bad Bears” graph [below] comparing the Dow in 1929-30 and S&P 500 in 2008-9 has similarly had wide circulation (Short 2009). It shows the US stock market since late 2007 falling just about as fast as in 1929-30.

The Four Bad Bears. -- Click graph to enlarge.

Comparing the Great Depression to now for the world, not just the US

This and most other commentary contrasting the two episodes compares America then and now. This, however, is a misleading picture. The Great Depression was a global phenomenon. Even if it originated, in some sense, in the US, it was transmitted internationally by trade flows, capital flows and commodity prices. That said, different countries were affected differently. The US is not representative of their experiences.

Our Great Recession is every bit as global, earlier hopes for decoupling in Asia and Europe notwithstanding. Increasingly there is awareness that events have taken an even uglier turn outside the US, with even larger falls in manufacturing production, exports and equity prices.

In fact, when we look globally, as in Figure 1, the decline in industrial production in the last nine months has been at least as severe as in the nine months following the 1929 peak. (All graphs in this column track behaviour after the peaks in world industrial production, which occurred in June 1929 and April 2008.) Here, then, is a first illustration of how the global picture provides a very different and, indeed, more disturbing perspective than the US case considered by Krugman, which as noted earlier shows a smaller decline in manufacturing production now than then.

Figure 1. World Industrial Output, Now vs Then

Source: Eichengreen and O’Rourke (2009) and IMF.

Similarly, while the fall in US stock market has tracked 1929, global stock markets are falling even faster now than in the Great Depression (Figure 2). Again this is contrary to the impression left by those who, basing their comparison on the US market alone, suggest that the current crash is no more serious than that of 1929-30.

Figure 2. World Stock Markets, Now vs Then

Source: Global Financial Database.

Another area where we are “surpassing” our forbearers is in destroying trade. World trade is falling much faster now than in 1929-30 (Figure 3). This is highly alarming given the prominence attached in the historical literature to trade destruction as a factor compounding the Great Depression.

Figure 3. The Volume of World Trade, Now vs Then

Sources: League of Nations Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, http://www.cpb.nl/eng/research/sector2/data/trademonitor.html

It’s a Depression alright

To sum up, globally we are tracking or doing even worse than the Great Depression, whether the metric is industrial production, exports or equity valuations. Focusing on the US causes one to minimise this alarming fact. The “Great Recession” label may turn out to be too optimistic. This is a Depression-sized event.

That said, we are only one year into the current crisis, whereas after 1929 the world economy continued to shrink for three successive years. What matters now is that policy makers arrest the decline. We therefore turn to the policy response.

Policy responses: Then and now

Figure 4 shows a GDP-weighted average of central bank discount rates for 7 countries. As can be seen, in both crises there was a lag of five or six months before discount rates responded to the passing of the peak, although in the present crisis rates have been cut more rapidly and from a lower level. There is more at work here than simply the difference between George Harrison and Ben Bernanke. The central bank response has differed globally.

Figure 4. Central Bank Discount Rates, Now vs Then (7 country average)

Source: Bernanke and Mihov (2000); Bank of England, ECB, Bank of Japan, St. Louis Fed, National Bank of Poland, Sveriges Riksbank.

Figure 5 shows money supply for a GDP-weighted average of 19 countries accounting for more than half of world GDP in 2004. Clearly, monetary expansion was more rapid in the run-up to the 2008 crisis than during 1925-29, which is a reminder that the stage-setting events were not the same in the two cases. Moreover, the global money supply continued to grow rapidly in 2008, unlike in 1929 when it levelled off and then underwent a catastrophic decline.

Figure 5. Money Supplies, 19 Countries, Now vs Then

Source: Bordo et al. (2001), IMF International Financial Statistics, OECD Monthly Economic Indicators.

Figure 6 is the analogous picture for fiscal policy, in this case for 24 countries. The interwar measure is the fiscal surplus as a percentage of GDP. The current data include the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Update forecasts for 2009 and 2010. As can be seen, fiscal deficits expanded after 1929 but only modestly. Clearly, willingness to run deficits today is considerably greater.

Figure 6. Government Budget Surpluses, Now vs Then

Source: Bordo et al. (2001), IMF World Economic Outlook, January 2009.

Conclusion

To summarise: the world is currently undergoing an economic shock every bit as big as the Great Depression shock of 1929-30. Looking just at the US leads one to overlook how alarming the current situation is even in comparison with 1929-30.

The good news, of course, is that the policy response is very different. The question now is whether that policy response will work. For the answer, stay tuned for our next column [update below].

References

Eichengreen, B. and K.H. O’Rourke. 2009. “A Tale of Two Depressions.” In progress.

Bernanke, B.S. 2000. Bernanke, B.S. and I. Mihov. 2000. “Deflation and Monetary Contraction in the Great Depression: An Analysis by Simple Ratios.” In B.S. Bernanke, Essays on the Great Depression. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bordo, M.D., B. Eichengreen, D. Klingebiel and M.S. Martinez-Peria. 2001. “Is the Crisis Problem Growing More Severe?” Economic Policy32: 51-82.

Paul Krugman, “The Great Recession versus the Great Depression,” Conscience of a Liberal (20 March 2009).

Doug Short, “Four Bad Bears,” DShort: Financial Lifecycle Planning (20 March 2009).

Scene from A Tale of Two Cities, 1935.

UPDATE:

This is an update of the authors' 6 April 2009 column comparing today's global crisis to the Great Depression.

World industrial production, trade, and stock markets are diving faster now than during 1929-30.

The update shows that trade and stock markets have shown some improvement without reversing the overall conclusion -- today's crisis is at least as bad as the Great Depression.

New findings:

  • World industrial production continues to track closely the 1930s fall, with no clear signs of ‘green shoots’.
  • World stock markets have rebounded a bit since March, and world trade has stabilized, but these are still following paths far below the ones they followed in the Great Depression.
  • There are new charts for individual nations’ industrial output. The big-4 EU nations divide north-south; today’s German and British industrial output are closely tracking their rate of fall in the 1930s, while Italy and France are doing much worse.
  • The North Americans (US & Canada) continue to see their industrial output fall approximately in line with what happened in the 1929 crisis, with no clear signs of a turn around.
  • Japan’s industrial output in February was 25 percentage points lower than at the equivalent stage in the Great Depression. There was however a sharp rebound in March.
  • The facts for Chile, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Sweden are displayed below; note the rebound in Eastern Europe.

Updated Figure 1. World Industrial Output, Now vs Then (updated)

Updated Figure 2. World Stock Markets, Now vs Then (updated)

Updated Figure 3. The Volume of World Trade, Now vs Then (updated)

Updated Figure 4. Central Bank Discount Rates, Now vs Then (7 country average)

New Figure 5. Industrial output, four big Europeans, then and now

New Figure 6. Industrial output, four Non-Europeans, then and now.

New Figure 7. Industrial output, four small Europeans, then and now.

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A Tale Of Two Cities - Entire Movie

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us... in short, it was a period very like the present...

-- Charles Dickens

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Click cartoon to enlarge.

Yes, the Charles Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, that I had to read in high school, but cannot remember 90% of.

I always wondered what it was like for the guys who had to do all of that beheading. It could not have been an easy job, you know?

Written by RJ White, illustrated by Edmund Osterman. -- via ClassicsAlive!