Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hope for Detroit?

Having grown up in this once proud city, watched its decay, it's corrupt mayors and city council clowns, having returned home in my late 40's, it's good to see a ray of sunshine break through the clouds hovering over this dark city...T

The Detroit News ran a fascinating editorial on Tuesday about the arrival of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, an accomplished bankruptcy manager assigned by the state of Michigan to spend the next eighteen months cleaning up that tortured, misgoverned city. The people who killed Detroit showed up to protest Orr’s arrival, but there were only about 150 of them, and little attention was paid to their antics:

Most city residents ignored the ministers who used their pulpits to raise the fervor against the state takeover, and also paid scant attention to ill-informed outside agitators such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and TV host Rachel Maddow, who are ranting incessantly about the loss of democracy.

Instead, Detroiters appear to be willing to give Orr a chance to show what he can achieve before they react. Or they simply are resigned to the inevitable. Or they prefer any option to the failed status quo.

They got their first look at what the city’s turnaround may yield Monday — as Orr was settling in to his new City Hall office — when Mayor Dave Bing detailed a plan by the business community to help equip the Emergency Medical Services and police departments with new vehicles.

Led by mega-mogul Roger Penske, Detroit’s Big Three automakers and other business leaders and foundations, the initiative will raise $8 million in private funds to lease 23 new EMS vehicles and 100 police cruisers. Another $6 million is promised for recreation programs, with $5 million of that money coming from Lear Corp. and $1 million from DTE Energy Co.

It’s an enormous private sector commitment that should help address the No. 1 concern of Detroiters — public safety.

  Imagine that! Private sector businessmen stepping up to help their city, now that they’re confident they won’t just be dropping money into the pockets of degenerate kleptocrats. The little band of protesters rallied by the likes of Maddow and Jesse Jackson (whose family knows a few things about corruption) are howling about the loss of “democracy,” but maybe this is the only way to dismantle rotting big-city political machines: let them prove their abject failure beyond question by crashing the city, use professional management to clean up the wreckage, and hope voters observing the process will have second thoughts about following political charlatans into ruin. Warning: this process will be several orders of magnitude more unpleasant, if run at the national level.

By the way, that’s Orr in the image above. It shouldn’t matter what he looks like, but let us not kid ourselves, it does.

A previous article in the Detroit News described an $11,600 tax lien on his Maryland home as a stain on “what colleagues say has been an otherwise distinguished career as a bankruptcy attorney and corporate turnaround specialist.” The tax liens mostly stemmed from his failure to pay unemployment taxes for his babysitter. The remainder of his resume is impressive:

Orr, 54, has some familiarity with the Motor City, having handled Chrysler LLC’s bankruptcy in 2009. He was the lead attorney who convinced a court to allow Chrysler to abruptly shut down 789 dealerships, a controversial decision at the time.

“He was sensitive and appreciative of the issues that he was litigating in those matters,” said Arthur J. Gonzalez, the retired bankruptcy judge who handled the Chrysler case.

[...] Orr has a 30-year career in bankruptcy law, business restructuring, commercial litigation and bank regulation. In discussing Detroit’s financial problems, Orr has said he is most comfortable in bankruptcy court, where municipalities are favored over bondholders, but he’d like to avoid that route.

After graduating from the U-M’s Law School in 1983, Orr first worked in private practice at a Miami firm.

He later moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for the federal government, first as a litigator for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and later as an attorney for the Resolution Trust Corp., a government-created entity from the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s.
He also earned high marks working as deputy director of the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustees Program in the late 90s.

Orr has his work cut out for him, and limited tools for accomplishing the job. Detroit is running a $327 million budget deficit, plus $14 billion in long-term debt. The Washington Post described Orr’s formal powers as follows: “State law allows emergency managers to negotiate labor contracts and deals with vendors. He can sell off city assets to raise money and cut the salaries of elected officials to save bucks. In some cities with emergency managers, elected leaders have been moved out of decisions involving municipal finances.”

It will be enormously helpful if Orr can augment these limited formal powers with arrangements such as the business community’s support for police and emergency medical services. He sounds both cheerful and confident, saying of his job in a recent interview, “If it doesn’t kill me, it’s going to make me stronger.” Isn’t that pretty much the message Detroit and its automakers have been striving to convey through their advertising and public-relations efforts? It sounds like the city and its emergency manager are on the same page, at least for now.
Full article in new window
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, March 25, 2013

The GOP: Delusional, Schizophrenic or Just Plain Stupid?

This from Bernie Goldberg today: Couldn't have said it better myself. Doesn't anyone in the GOP remember Ronald Reagan and his conservatism?...T

Another day of political news reports. Another day of flip-flops, ridiculously late recognition of the obvious and disjointed and dispiriting dribble from the Grand Old Party. Geez…can they possibly be this mindless and out of touch? Yes, me thinks.

Where in the world to start? There’s enough material for a whole season’s worth of political sitcom episodes…perhaps titled Bozos and Bureaucrats.

I read RNC chairman Reince Priebus “wants to explore the possibility of choosing who actually asks the questions during the debates.” Imagine that. The equivocations in his statement turn one’s stomach.

But, perhaps we should be thankful Priebus stumbled upon a glaring flash of the obvious: the deck has been stacked again Republicans and Conservatives (note the distinction) in presidential debates for, oh, let’s give it thirty years or so.

Perhaps if Priebus remains in his current position another thirty years his growing observational acuity will reveal another revelation, something small, not really significant…like not going to political gunfights with down-filled pillows.

We have good ‘ol John Boehner, God love him. He didn’t trust Obama, but now he does. He once believed the massive deficit is a fatal affliction; now it threatens the country’s financial health no more than a hangnail. He vowed to repeal Obamacare, now he doesn’t. What am I missing here?

And, according to Erick Erickson, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan and that stalwart defender of conservatism Mitch McConnell (just kidding) continue to talk the talk of Obamacare repeal, but, in reality are caving like the French Army in 1940.

John McCain and his sidekick Lindsey Graham are always good for a flashback…to the good old days of a permanent Republican minority in the Senate. Go along, get along and relish the positive press coverage for reaching across the aisle to the always reasonable and compromising Democrats.

But…it seems Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are getting a little frisky, not laying low in the bunker. The whacko birds are causing a little heartburn in the so called ‘world’s greatest deliberative body.’ John and Lindsey ain’t real happy about it.

Anybody wonder why four million Republicans sat out the 2012 election?

If you answered that question correctly, here’s another.

Does anyone not understand why that pesky talk of a third party just won’t go away?
Full article in new window

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Caused the Big Bang?

Fascinating. As a follow-up to our last post on "the God Particle" discovery as the building block of the universe, this subject compels, and shows that the human mind is currently uncapable of comprehending this subject. A truly humbling experience...T

For almost one hundred years, we have known that the universe is expanding. We have traced this expansion back in time, through to the very beginning when the universe occupied an infinitesimal point in space. This was the state of the universe at time t=0, over 13 billion years ago.

It is from this starting point that everything we are familiar with came into existence: protons, neutrons, stars, galaxies - even space and time itself are here. At time t=0, this point began an unprecedented inflation, in this instant time and space were born. This event has become known as the Big Bang.

The big bang is our current, most accepted theory for how the universe began. It was inspired by the discovery that the universe is expanding.

It was an unusual and highly counterintuitive event. It was not an explosion, it did not occur inside anything, rather, everything that we are familiar with: left, right, up, down, cause and effect, the stage for all physical laws, was getting larger.

We possess a natural curiosity of the world around us. We want to know how and why things are the way they are.

This curiousity has served us well because it carries significant survival benefits. If we see an event and ask ourselves why it happened or what caused it, we are more likely to spot a threat before it becomes dangerous in the future.

Our curiosity gives us the ability to look beyond the present moment. From it, we have evolved an urge to look for causes, it is an inseparable part of our biology. Because of this, we really can't help ourselves when we attempt to find a cause for creation, it is second nature for us to ask, 'What Caused the Big Bang?'

Any answer to this problem must begin with a key realization: both time and space are contained within the universe and came into existence only AFTER the Big Bang occurred. The cause of the universe must not include them, they are not available to us. It must come from outside our experience.

In this realm, the solution, whatever it is, will seem very strange to us, and it will almost certainly make no sense to our brains because here, it is possible to have an event with no cause. There is no time, there is no before in which the Big Bang could have occurred, there simply is no cause and effect.

We must somehow come up with a solution that exists outside time and space.


For many "God caused the big bang" is a perfectly reasonable response. This seems to help many cope with the unsatisfying prospect of an event without a cause.

The problem of course is that one is then immediately forced to ask, "From where did the creator come?"

If the answer is "he always existed" then we have a situation, from a causality standpoint, that is no more satisfying than a universe that springs forth from nothing. A creator that has always existed is an entity that somehow exists without a cause.

So this answer doesn't solve the causality issue whatsoever.


Further, the idea of cyclical universes doesn't solve it either.

For reasons having to do with entropy and the second law of thermodynamics the process of an ever cycling universe - one that continually expands and contracts - cannot be perfectly efficient. This means that each successive expansion will take a little longer than the previous one.

If each previous universe is, say, half as long as the one that succeeds it, and the one before that half as long, this infinite sum does eventually converge to a universe with zero length with no obvious past and we are back again to at least one big bang starting for no obvious reason.


The real problem with this question of what caused the big bang is ultimately a biological one; our brains have evolved to assume that everything has a cause, we can't imagine any event ever not having one.

But 100 years ago, we couldn't imagine that our galaxy was only one in an ocean of one hundred billion. 200 years ago, we couldn't imagine that the stars were more than 13,000 light years away. 500 years ago, we couldn't imagine that the Earth revolved around the Sun. If our past enquiries into the universe are any guide, the truth of the cosmos is always more than we have imagined.

The answer to the cause of the universe will almost certainly be something strange and, by definition, wholly beyond our experience. Our occluded brains must always be open the answer, especially when asking questions that push the limits of our capacity to understand.
Full article in new window

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"God Particle" found: Elemental building block of the universe

This is astounding.....If the universe is so elegantly organised, then the question begs: Who, or what, organised it?...T

The search is all but over for the so-called God particle that is a crucial building block of the universe.

 Physicists said on Thursday they believe they have discovered the sub-atomic particle predicted nearly half a century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorise occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.

A representation of traces of a proton-proton collision measured in the search for the Higgs boson. Photo: AP

The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the God particle.

 Advertisement Last July, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or some version of it.

Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data year and announced the results in a statement and at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

 "To me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN that each involve about 3000 scientists.

  Its existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.

  But, it remains an "open question", CERN said in a statement, whether this is the Higgs boson that was expected in the original formulation, or possibly the lightest of several predicted in some theories that go beyond that model.

But for now, it said, there can be little doubt that a Higgs boson does exist, in some form.

 Whether or not it is a Higgs boson is demonstrated by how it interacts with other particles and its quantum properties, CERN said in the statement. The data "strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson", it said.

The discovery would be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize, though it remains unclear whether that might go to Higgs and the others who first proposed the theory or to the thousands of scientists who found it, or to all of them. Read more:
Full article in new window
Enhanced by Zemanta