Through Thick and Thin
Another Friday, another week gone. It’s been hot and dry here in Berkeley. And it’s going to get drier. The locals managed to cut back on water use some 4% in May, and we needed to cut back 19% to make it to the fall. So late summer and fall are going to be interesting indeed. Voluntary methods rarely achieve much I am afraid, we’re not exactly a nation of “I’m happy to sacrifice for the common good” types. In fact most Americans are pretty much programmed the opposite: “It’s someone else’s fault, let them make the sacrifices.” How one of the greatest pioneer/do-it-yourself cultures on Earth tuned into the “me first” generation is quite the mystery. Oh well, I’ll let someone else figure it out.
There has been a positive developments in the world this week. Israel has negotiated a cease-fire with Hamas and is negotiating with Syria. It never hurts to negotiate, so this is a good thing. I’ve heard people claim “How can Israel negotiate with people who have sworn to destroy them?” My answer to that is “Well then, they can’t harden their position any more than that, so negotiation can only improve things.” I suspect this is mostly realpolitik emerging else. Most Americans are only dimly aware of it, but the American Empire has crested and our influence is on the wane everywhere. And without infinite American backing, Israel is in a much more vulnerable position and would be best served making peace. So I’m cautiously optimistic about the Palestinian problem, in some ways it was another Cold War relic.
And with the retreat of America, the last Cold War relicss around the world are going to change. Cuba and North Korea would be the other two big ones. Well, NATO, but NATO is no longer a relic. It’s morphed into a cancerous growth that knows no bounds. Damned if I know what’s going to happen with that. Europeans have the most wonderful veneer of civilization, but they are the ones that conquered the world in the name of God and greed…not to mention fighting two of the bloodiest most genocidal wars in history. We just need a new Napoleon or Hitler to get things rolling again. Fun times.
And while on a roll here, a new study has come out claiming that the war deaths in 13 countries since 1955 has been wildly underestimated. According to the study, typically war deaths are two or three times higher than official figures would indicate. Nearly four million dead in Vietnam for example, compared to the usual figure given of about 2 million. Sadly, it’s probably a pretty accurate study. Previous methods for estimating war deaths were petty crude and relied a lot on media reports and government figures. The media is obviously going to miss a lot of deaths, especially the small scale events, and governments generally are highly motivated to undercount and underestimate war deaths. Go figure.
In space exploration news scientists have apparently found ice on Mars. They were hoping to, they expected to, and now they have. No luck yet getting any of it into the lander’s lab for analysis yet, but in time no doubt. In other space news Google has announced a 20 million dollar prize for the first private team to get a rover to the Moon by 2012. Team Italia’s concept rover is pictured above. The rover has to land, travel at least 500 metres, and send back data, images, and video. It is doable, but it’s not going to be easy. Coolness, the era of private space exploration may be upon us. While the teams are private, I do wonder if some big corporate sponsors might get into this. It would seem to make sense, think of the publicity. Corporations are paying millions for the naming rights to stadiums, surely they could afford to bankroll “naming rights” to the Moon.
In a final bit of good news, lest people claim there’s nothing but bad news in Doug’s Darkworld, the two women hikers who went missing in Alaska have been found alive and well. As I explain frequently, Doug’s Darworld isn’t depressing, it’s the world that’s depressing.
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image of the Team Italia Moon rover concept is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, and its use here not only does not harm or interfere with the copyright holder’s use of the image, arguably it benefits it. Credit and copyright: Team Italia/Google Lunar X Prize. If anyone would like to sponsor Doug’s Darkworld to the tune of twenty million, I’ll gladly build a rover and send it to the Moon. Serious enquiries only.)