Friday, July 28, 2006

TFFQ: Brave New World

Editor's Note: You may have noticed that this blog has been awfully quiet about the Destiny Norton kidnapping and murder. I said nothing because I really didn't have anything to say, just prayers that she would be found and doubts that she ever would.

Sadly, events have borne out my fears. All I have to say now is this: cases like this one are the reason I support the death penalty.

Questus Furore - Brave New World

Found this article the other day: "Confessions of a Genetic Outlaw."

Cases of Downs Syndrome are declining - but not because it is being cured. New technologies have made detection possible during pregnancy. Many parents are choosing to abort Downs Syndrome children rather than bring them to term - and often with the best of intentions, to spare their child a life that is dominated by disease.

This will happen more and more, as tests emerge to discover the presence of other genetically-caused diseases.

The question is, where will these tests lead us? To more and better cures and therapies, applied as soon as possible? Or down the road of eugenics - the deliberate breeding of humans for certain characteristics, and elimination of "undesirables"? Eugenics with a smiley face - since, in the minds of some, fetuses do not count as people anyway?

Now don't take this as an anti-techology rant. These tests are just tools, and tools have no say in how they are used.

It is what we choose to do with these tools that is good or evil.

What is strange is there is little discussion of it - have any of you heard about this before?

Our technology has outpaced our understanding of the implications - as it usually does. The opportunities being offered by recent advances in the biological sciences are going to come flooding out, so it is time we began to ponder these things. It is too late to wonder when the decision stares you in the face.

For a bit more on eugenics, genetics, and their implications, consider reading the following pieces by Jonah Goldberg: this, this, or this.

Recommended Reading
VDH, "The Vocabulary of Untruth."

Jonah Goldberg, "Beavis and Butthead Democracy." Jonah Goldberg writes against making voting easier. He's right.

From the Denver Post: "Military to Put Cheyenne Mountain on Standby." So the old Cold War base, from which the first 30 minutes of Armageddon would be fought, is being idled. Given the threats posed by rogue nuclear powers, I'm not sure this is a good idea. But nobody asked me.

Thought of the Week
"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."
Rep. Robert Goodloe Harper, Chairman, Ways and Means Committee (Address, 18 June 1798)

Churchill Quote of the Week
"A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril."
Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Literary Interlude: Slice of Wedding Cake

For every men who has ever seen a good, gorgeous woman going out with a complete loser:

Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.

Repeat "impossible men": not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).

Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.

Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
Do I?
It might be so.

Robert Graves

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quotable: Bill Whittle on Civilization

"Civilizations fall because people bitch and complain when the electricity is off for fifteen minutes, and never give a thought to the fact that it has been on for their entire lives."

Bill Whittle

Work This Week, Put Succinctly


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TFFQ: A War Everybody Can Play In

Crossposted to The Wasatch Front.

Wednesday Edition

Heading out to Spokane tomorrow, so here's the Questus a little early.

Questus Furore - A War Everybody Can Play In
From today's New York Sun:
Hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel are on the ground in Lebanon fighting Israel, security sources say.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that they are there and operating some of the equipment," an Arab diplomatic source told The New York Sun yesterday.

Another foreign source, based in Washington, said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps contingent in Lebanon is based in Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. He said the troops usually number a few dozen, but that the size of the force increased in connection with the hostilities that have broken out between Israel and Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, over the past week.

The sources said the Iranians had directly operated a radar-guided C–802 missile that Iran acquired from Communist China and that hit an Israeli navy missile boat off the coast of Lebanon on Friday, killing four Israeli seamen.
Now a question you may be asking is, "And why should I care?"

For the first time in the decades of war between Israel and the various terror groups, the involvement of Iran and Syria is being openly noted and discussed. Before, it was only hinted at. Now, it is more or less in the open.

And the United States does have a stake. A functioning Lebanese democracy is in the best interests of peace in the Middle East - and the United States has a few scores of its own to settle. Hizbollah has long been a client of Iran. While the exact nature of the relationship is unknown - is Hizbollah a puppet, or a pet? - their relationship is not. Hezbollah is also responsible for the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing. They are linked to some of the most notorious terrorist acts of the 1980s - hijackings, kidnappings, and bombings - and also engage in international terror from time to time.

So we have an interest in the region, and seeing Hezbollah get what it richly deserves. But it opens a whole host of questions.

How far will this go? Hezbollah has demonstrated that it is not interested in peace - so what good can a peace settlement accomplish? The discussion of a UN or international force to keep the peace is pointless - unless that force has the authority and the means to pursue terrorist rocketeers and raiders, across international boundaries.

Can Lebanon be salvaged from this mess? From the "Cedar Revolution" to this in less than a year. It is in both American and Israeli interests to let that fledgling democracy grow. But can it survive this war? For the most part, Lebanon has furnished the battleground, while Hezbollah and Israel fight.

And what of Iran? The timing of this crisis is fortunate for them - suddenly their nuclear ambitions are no longer on the front burner. What role did they play in formenting this war? How far are they willing to let it go?

And what will happen if Israel finds some way to hold Iran to account?

Lots of questions. Precious few answers.

Questus Furore – Fickle Felicitous Fury
I am old, and still single.

Dating bites. Lately, my lack of progress on this score has been eliciting this sort of feeling from me:

"OK, now we can panic."
Picture courtesy
The Happy Carpenter

In case you were wondering.

Recommended Reading
As you might have expected, most of it deals with Israeli-Hizbollah war occurring in Lebanon.

James Robbins, "Payback by Proxy."

Michael Rubin, "Eradication First."

Ben Stein, "Eretz Israel."

Andy McCarthy, "Whither The Bush Doctrine?"

Jay Nordlinger's latest Impromptu.

For your edification, and something a little different, an essay on the ongoing philosophical conflict currently happing in the west, and its implications: "Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism," by John Fonte.

Thought(s) of the Week
"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
Supreme Court Justice William Douglas

In light of the transnational progressivism essay above, take this thought into account:

"Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism upon a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? Such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation from government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment."
Ronald Reagan

Churchill Quote of the Week
"The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair."
From the ending of Churchill's last major speech in the House of Commons on (1 March 1955)

RomneyWatch: "Don't Count Out The Mormon."

Kathryn Jean Lopez has a new column in today's National Review Online on the role religious bias may play in a Romney run. The key:
However, these current generic numbers, Green says, “don’t necessarily predict outcomes. The reason is that the candidates are real people with records, skills and programs — all of which can matter more at the ballot box than generalized opinions about religious groups.”

So as the discussion moves from an anonymous Mormon candidate to the real, live Mitt Romney, and from abstract speculation to actual primaries and caucuses, polling will become more meaningful. Those opposed to a generic Mormon candidate may reveal that their opposition is prompted much more by political ideology than by sectarian concerns about religion.

But this really caught my eye:
In the 2006 [Los Angeles Times] poll, self-described “liberal Democrats” were those most likely to oppose a Mormon candidate.
So much for tolerance, I guess. I wonder how Senator Harry Reid feels about that?

[Comments have been disabled on this post. If you'd like to discuss this, please join my friends and I on our group blog, The Wasatch Front.]

[Back to RomneyWatch '08.]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel & Lebanon: Jim Geraghty Weighs In

Jim Geraghty, weighing in at TKS:

No, sometimes we can't just talk it out
07/18 08:37 AM

Do you get the feeling that some folks’ opinions and rhetoric regarding Israel and its neighbors have been stuck on autopilot?

For example, one of the safest, least controversial, and least substantive responses to the crisis is to call for a diplomatic solution.

Yes, we would all like that, as we would like to be rich and for chocolate to be a health food. When the reaction to a withdrawal – take your pick, the Lebanese border or the Gaza Strip – is setting up military positions, kidnapping soldiers, and firing rockets into cities, it’s a pretty clear signal: One side isn’t interested in negotiating.

On a related note:

A former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright - speaking unusually bluntly considering the traditional injunction in U.S. politics against speaking ill of foreign policy while the president is abroad - said of the administration, "I'm stunned, I'm frankly stunned that they have not been involved" more in the region. "I wish that the secretary had announced that she was leaving St. Petersburg and going with other foreign ministers to the region to begin shuttle diplomacy," she said on ABC-TV. "We can't wait for the violence to stop."

Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that Rice should head to the region immediately.

"We're late into this game," he told Fox News. "This could spin out of control to such a degree that we could have a major, major war in the Middle East."

We send Rice to the region, and… then what? Just how do you see these folks see negotiations progressing?
Rice: How about you guys cease fire? Or at least stop bombing Beirut?
Olmert: No.
Rice: How about you guys stop sending rockets into northern Israel?
Hezbollah: No!
Rice: How about releasing the kidnapped soldiers?
Hezbollah: No!
Rice: How about using your influence to get Hezbollah to knock off this, er, stuff, as the President said?
Bashar Assad: No!
Many of the same folks who rhetorically flay President Bush for hubris seem to think the U.S. has enough leverage over all the parties to get them to stop defending themselves. Sure, we have some leverage over Israel, but not enough to get them to stop bombing guys who are firing missiles into their cities. And if we had much leverage with Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria or Iran, we wouldn’t be having these problems.

E.J. Dionne offers this suggestion:
The "international community'' cannot engage in its usual dithering. When British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Monday for an international force to disarm Hezbollah, it seemed an impossibly impractical demand. But if there's something more practical than avoiding a full-scale regional war, I don't know what it is. And in this case, it will take a genuine international effort, not a narrow "coalition of the willing."

So let there be at least a brief cease-fire so the world can take account of the catastrophe on its doorstep.

Of course the whole world should join together to form an international military force tasked to disarm Hezbollah. And after that, we can join Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sugar Plum Fairy at the Teddy Bear picnic. Look, no nation is going to offer a significant number of its forces to go in and step into a war zone, with fanatics and extremists, a stockpile of Iranian and Syrian weapons, and attempt to "disarm" groups that have enthusiastically embraced massacres and suicide bombings in the past.

And frankly, we can take account of the catastrophe on our doorstep while the fighting is still going on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

One Anti-Human Camp

Jay Nordlinger, writing today at National Review Online:
There has been talk about World War III, or maybe World War IV, if you count the Cold War as the third world war. Interesting how Chávez lines up with Ahmadinejad, lines up with Castro, etc., etc. This is an Axis for our time, all the worst, in one anti-human camp. As before, there are those willing to confront the worst; and those trying to frustrate the necessary confrontation.

It is very, very important that the Churchills and the Bushes win out — don’t you think?

The statement I have just made is of the type people call “simplistic.” It may be so. But what matters, I’m afraid, is what’s true.

Israel & Lebanon: Latest Analysis

From Haaretz:
ANALYSIS: Israel-Hezbollah fighting yet to reach its zenith

By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent

The fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has still not reached its zenith. The Israel Defense Forces' operational plans against the Shi'ite organizations have not yet been carried out. The next two days are the most critical and a lot depends on whether Tehran decides to take a chance and authorize Hezbollah to launch long-range missiles with more powerful warheads. This is a capability Hezbollah still retains, despite the heavy blows it has suffered in the IDF air strikes.

On Sunday, Israel bore witness to the use of more powerful rockets against Haifa, which killed eight people and injured dozens more. The Syrian-made 220 mm rocket has a warhead weighing more than 50 kilograms. Hezbollah was supplied with these rockets as the Syrian armed forces were receiving them off the production lines. The decision to give Hezbollah the rockets was made when it was concluded that the group would be considered part of the Syrian army's overall emergency preparedness.

The risk to Iran is not military, but rather that Hezbollah would suffer such damage that it would no longer be counted as the sole external element of Iran's Islamic Revolution. It is difficult to assess what the Iranian leadership will decide. If it does opt for aggravating the situation, it will certainly encourage the Syrians to become involved in the confrontation, but all indications suggest that Damascus is not eager to get dragged into war.

Israel is also not interested in a third front, so long as Syria does not intervene in the fighting on the side of Hezbollah.

Another option is that Iran will decide that it is not advantageous for Hezbollah to launch "one too many" rockets at Israel's civilians. In the past 24 hours, there has been a slowing in the air strikes against Lebanese national infrastructure. Now attention is focused on Hezbollah infrastructure, including rockets, positions and bunkers, in southern Lebanon, the Beka'a and Beirut.

From a military standpoint, the mobile Fajr rockets pose a special problem because they are more difficult to locate and destroy. On Sunday, the air force concentrated on attacks against regular Katyusha rockets whose range is shorter and many of which have already been launched against towns in the Galilee. But the presence of some 600 Hezbollah storage bunkers, a third of which were prepared for the longer range rockets, makes the task difficult.

Israel will also try to target the 12 most senior members of Hezbollah, who are hiding in bunkers deep in the Dahiya quarter in southern Beirut. These men are strategic targets and they include Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, Ibrahim Akil, Imad Mughniye and others. These senior figures constitute the group's equivalent of a General Staff and its political-diplomatic cabinet.

One of the reasons for the repeated attacks against Dahiya is that the Hezbollah's top headquarters are situated there. The area is described by IDF as a "terrorist center" and although the aim is not to harm civilians, the IDF hopes that the permanent residents will leave their homes so that they will not be hurt. A total of 40 targets have been marked in Dahiya, some linked by underground tunnels; one of them is a subterranean factory for special types of ammunition.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Western Lack of Seriousness

From The Corner:
Re: "Mideast Nears Regional War" [Michael Rubin]
The last days’ events do validate Michael Ledeen’s thesis about the regime in Iran as problem #1. State sponsors of terrorism hide behind their proxies, and their proxies have since the 1990s felt themselves secure in the belief that diplomats would always intercede to prevent them for paying the price of their terrorist actions. Terror masters do not even consider that we might hold them accountable. During the first two years after 9/11, Bush shook their self-confidence, but at its root, the problem with the West is that our officials and diplomats have for too longer eroded the seriousness with which adversaries view our deterrence. Too many in the West negotiate with terrorists. We reward adversaries for the most outrageous behavior. We are infected with moral equivalency. Our progressives speak of multiculturalism as all positive. It’s not all about sushi, mojitos, and smoking an overpriced water pipe at a New York nightclub, though. Inherent in multiculturalism is the notion that people growing up in different cultures think differently. What we see as compromise, they may see as weakness. Ayatollah Khamene’i said as much on June 4 when, addressing Washington, he said, “Why do you not admit that you are weak and your razor is blunt?” Culture goes both ways, though. While it’s un-PC to address such topics in our universities, as Hezbollah and Hamas get pounded and as Syrian leaders empty their bowels in recognition that terrorists on their soil might be next, it might be useful for Cornerites to re-read Col. Norvell de Atkine’s seminal article, “Why Arabs Lose Wars.” Posted at 9:03 AM
[Emphasis mine.]

Hear, Hear.

TFFQ: The Last 48 Hours

Questus Furore - My View of the Current Israeli-Terrorist-Palestinian-Lebanese Conflict

Did I leave anyone out?

Yes, I did - Syria and Iran.

The events in Israel of the last 48 hours did not well up in a vaccuum. Continued provocations, such as the periodic rocket attacks across the borders into Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, have been gradually turning up the heat; then the attacks on Israeli outposts and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border last week and the Lebanese border this week set off the explosion.

Israel feels they are getting gamed - and they are. Since the rise of the Ayatollahs in Iran, Iran has backed and supported Hizbollah, providing arms, funding, and training, and possibly more. We do know that the Iranian intelligence services have extensive contacts with Hizbollah. And Iran also works with Syria, a nation which has been manipulating and stirring up the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since 1947 for its own ends.

What's different this time is very clear warnings to Iran and Syria that they will be held to account if events grow any worse. This raises the spectre of general war - and possibly nuclear war, if Iran is closer than suspected or Israel is pushed into a corner.

The Israelis are out to teach a lesson: you can choose to live in peace or rest in peace. We really don't care which anymore.

This casual observer of the world can't say he blames them.

The rest of today's Friday Furo Questus can be found at The Wasatch Front.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Israel Is At War"

So says the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Israel has begun to respond to the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers by Lebanon-based Hizbollah by blockading the Lebanese coast, bombing the runways and fuel terminal at Beirut International Airport, and launching a series of air strikes and bombardments against Lebanese air bases, suspected Hizbollah bases, and Hizbollah rocket launch points.

Both before and since the Israeli response began, Hizbollah launched rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. While the timeline is not perfectly clear, it appears that Israel moved from simply blockading Lebanon to more actively striking Hizbollah targets after Hizbollah stepped up its rocket efforts and began hitting towns in northern Israel. The initial airstrikes on two Lebanese air bases and the Beirut airport only targeted the runways, in order to shut them down. After rockets landed in the Israeli city of Haifa, Israel attacked and destroyed the fuel terminal at the Beirut airport, and other air strikes and bombardments are ongoing.

The situation is changing fast, and it is not entirely clear how far Israel intends to go - or how far Hizbollah is willing to go. Hizbollah is actively trying to escalate the conflict. There is also the question of how much Iranian involvement has occured - Israel claims that Hizbollah intends to send its two captives to Iran. I do not believe Israel would make such a claim without good intelligence to back it up.

If that happens, that is effectively an open admission by Iran that it is elbow-deep in this mess. And it also means that Iran is openly a combatant - which implies the risk of general war between Israel and Iran.

There is no question the Iran is involved to at least some degree - one of the rockets aimed at Haifa has been examined and found to be made in Iran.

For the latest:
Jerusalem Post
Hot Air

Pajamas Media

"The Same War"

Michael Ledeen, writing today in National Review Online:
No one should have any lingering doubts about what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted “insurgency” in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable.
War by proxy is wonderful - minimal expenses in treasure, none in blood, and no repercussions for the bankroller.

That may be changing. Read it all.

See also Austin Bay's
"No Targets Are Immune."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First Gaza, Now Lebanon

First Gaza goes south, now Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Yesterday, Hizbollah terrorists crossed the Lebanese border into Israel and attacking an Israeli Army outpost, killing three Israeli soldiers and taking two more hostage, dragging them back into their lair somewhere in Lebanon.

As you might imagine, Israel is extremely angry. They have mobilized some of their reserves, and are preparing to bomb most of Lebanon back into the Stone Age. Well, maybe not that extreme,
but close:
A very high ranking military officer said that if the soldiers were not returned in good condition, Israel would turn Lebanon back 20 years by striking its vital infrastructure.
In other words, quit screwing around, or we will hurt you. And we won't feel bad about it.

Once again, the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East have failed. Once again, it was Muslim terror groups that destroyed it.

Hizbollah has no interest in peace. They are a pawn of Iran, and the sole reason for its continued existance is the fact that it allows Iran to continue to fight an undeclared war by proxy against Israel, with minimum expense, no real exposure, and no consequences.

Oh, and Iran wants nuclear weapons. Keep that in mind.

P.S. If you want to keep track of this story, I recommend you bookmark and check The Jerusalem Post - a right-wing English language Israeli newspaper. This story won't be falling off their front page, unlike my hometown papers.

Bombay Bombings

I'm sure you have now heard of the bombings in Bombay, the death toll for which now stands at 200.

I was holding comment in the hopes that some idea of who to blame would emerge. That has not yet happened.
The usual suspects are denying involvement.

Simultaneuous attacks with no claim of responsibility is an Al Qaeda hallmark. One wonders.

But so far, I wonder in vain, and the Indian investigators have a lot of work ahead of them. I wish them good luck - and good hunting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rogue Wave!

Picture of a 60 ft. high rogue wave from NOAA.

The figures of maritime myth are slowly becoming accepted as scientific fact. From William Broad in the New York Times:
July 11, 2006
Rogue Giants at Sea
The storm was nothing special. Its waves rocked the Norwegian Dawn just enough so that bartenders on the cruise ship turned to the usual palliative — free drinks.

Then, off the coast of Georgia, early on Saturday, April 16, 2005, a giant, seven-story wave appeared out of nowhere. It crashed into the bow, sent deck chairs flying, smashed windows, raced as high as the 10th deck, flooded 62 cabins, injured 4 passengers and sowed widespread fear and panic.

“The ship was like a cork in a bathtub,” recalled Celestine Mcelhatton, a passenger who, along with 2,000 others, eventually made it back to Pier 88 on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Some vowed never to sail again.

Enormous waves that sweep the ocean are traditionally called rogue waves, implying that they have a kind of freakish rarity. Over the decades, skeptical oceanographers have doubted their existence and tended to lump them together with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters.

But scientists are now finding that these giants of the sea are far more common and destructive than once imagined, prompting a rush of new studies and research projects. The goals are to better tally them, understand why they form, explore the possibility of forecasts, and learn how to better protect ships, oil platforms and people.

The stakes are high. In the past two decades, freak waves are suspected of sinking dozens of big ships and taking hundreds of lives. The upshot is that the scientists feel a sense of urgency about the work and growing awe at their subjects.

“I never met, and hope I never will meet, such a monster,” said Wolfgang Rosenthal, a German scientist who helped the European Space Agency pioneer the study of rogue waves by radar satellite. “They are more frequent than we expected.”

Drawing on recent tallies and making tentative extrapolations, Dr. Rosenthal estimated that at any given moment 10 of the giants are churning through the world’s oceans.

In size and reach these waves are quite different from earthquake-induced tsunamis, which form low, almost invisible mounds at sea before gaining height while crashing ashore. Rogue waves seldom, if ever, prowl close to land.

“We know these big waves cannot get into shallow water,” said David W. Wang of the Naval Research Laboratory, the science arm of the Navy and Marine Corps. “That’s a physical limitation.”

By one definition, the titans of the sea rise to heights of at least 25 meters, or 82 feet, about the size of an eight-story building. Scientists have calculated their theoretical maximum at 198 feet — higher than the Statue of Liberty or the Capitol rotunda in Washington. So far, however, they have documented nothing that big. Large rogues seem to average around 100 feet.

Oh, I feel much better. Only 100 feet tall.
Most waves, big and small alike, form when the wind blows across open water. The wind’s force, duration and sweep determine the size of the swells, with big storms building their height. Waves of about 6 feet are common, though ones up to 30 or even 50 feet are considered unexceptional (though terrifying to people in even fairly large boats). As waves gain energy from the wind, they become steeper and the crests can break into whitecaps.

It's kind of amusing what a scientist considers "unexceptional." Although as Mr. Broad notes, the casual observer would disagree that a 50-ft wave is unexceptional.
The trough preceding a rogue wave can be quite deep, what nautical lore calls a “hole in the sea.” For anyone on a ship, it is a roller coaster plunge that can be disastrous.

Over the centuries, many accounts have told of monster waves that battered and sank ships. In 1933 in the North Pacific, the Navy oiler Ramapo encountered a huge wave. The crew, calm enough to triangulate from the ship’s superstructure, estimated its height at 112 feet.

In 1966, the Italian cruise ship Michelangelo was steaming toward New York when a giant wave tore a hole in its superstructure, smashed heavy glass 80 feet above the waterline, and killed a crewman and two passengers. In 1978, the München, a German barge carrier, sank in the Atlantic. Surviving bits of twisted wreckage suggested that it surrendered to a wave of great force.

Despite such accounts, many oceanographers were skeptical. The human imagination tended to embellish, they said.

Moreover, bobbing ships were terrible reference points for trying to determine the size of onrushing objects with any kind of accuracy. Their mathematical models predicted that giant waves were statistical improbabilities that should arise once every 10,000 years or so.

That began to change on New Year’s Day in 1995, when a rock-steady oil platform in the North Sea produced what was considered the first hard evidence of a rogue wave. The platform bore a laser designed to measure wave height.

During a furious storm, it registered an 84-foot giant.

Then, in February 2000, a British oceanographic research vessel fighting its way through a gale west of Scotland measured titans of up to 95 feet, “the largest waves ever recorded by scientific instruments,” seven researchers wrote in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Once-skeptical scientists were soon holding conferences to discuss the findings and to design research strategies. A large meeting in Brest, France, in November 2000 attracted researchers from around the world.

It quickly became apparent that the big waves formed with some regularity in regions swept by powerful currents: the Agulhas off South Africa, the Kuroshio off Japan, and the Gulf Stream off the eastern United States, where the Norwegian Dawn got into trouble off Georgia. The Gulf Stream also flows through the Bermuda Triangle, famous for allegedly devouring large numbers of ships.

Dr. Bengt Fornberg, a mathematician at the University of Colorado who studies the giants, said the strong ocean currents appeared to focus waves “like a magnifying glass concentrates sunlight.”

“It’s the same idea,” he said. “There are a few places in the world where there is a regular current, like a steady magnifying glass. In other places, the eddies come and go, and that makes the waves less predictable.”

One way that rogue waves apparently form is when the strong currents meet winds and waves moving in the opposite direction, he said. The currents focus and concentrate sets of waves, shortening the distance between them and sending individual peaks higher. “That,” Dr. Fornberg said in an interview, “makes for hot spots in a fairly predictable area.”

A particularly threatening spot, he said, turned out to be where big oil tankers coming from the Middle East ride the Agulhas current around South Africa. There, the westward-flowing current meets prevailing easterly winds, at times disastrously.

“Three or four tankers a year there get badly damaged,” Dr. Fornberg said. “That’s one of the few places in the world where the phenomena is regular.”

“With a big storm, you get lots of big waves,” he added. “You have regular waves and then one or two giants. Then it’s back to regular again.”

The scientists who met at Brest in 2000, eager to track the phenomenon globally, laid plans to use radar satellites to conduct a census, calling it MaxWave.

They worked with the European Space Agency, which had lofted radar satellites in 1991 and 1995, as well as the German Aerospace Center and several other European research bodies. The radar beams were seen as potentially ideal for measuring the height of individual waves, based on the time it took the beams to bounce from orbit to the sea and back to space.

The MaxWave team, led by Dr. Rosenthal, examined three weeks of radar data and to its amazement discovered 10 giants, each at least 82 feet high. “We were quite successful,” he said.

The team even tracked monster waves in a region of the South Atlantic where two cruise ships, the Bremen and the Caledonian Star, had come under assault.

Further confirmation with a different set of instruments came in September 2004 when Hurricane Ivan swept through the Gulf of Mexico.

It passed directly over six wave-tide gauges that the Naval Research Laboratory had deployed about 50 miles east of the Mississippi Delta. Dr. Wang and his colleagues analyzed the data and found to their surprise waves measuring more than 90 feet from trough to crest.

“We had no idea,” Dr. Wang recalled. “It was the right time and the right place.”

Already, the scientists said, naval architects and shipbuilders are discussing precautions. Some of the easiest are seen as increasing the strength of windows and hatch covers. But even the best physical protections may fail under assault by tons of roiling water, so the best precaution of all will be learning how to avoid the monsters in the first place.

Increasingly, scientists are focusing on better understanding how the big waves form and whether that knowledge can lead to accurate forecasts — a feat that, if achieved, may save hundreds of lives and many billions of dollars in lost commerce.

A suspected culprit, in addition to wind-current interactions, is the amplification that occurs when disparate trains of waves (perhaps emanating from different storms) come together. Such intersections are seen as sometimes canceling out waves, and other times making them higher and steeper.

Another birth ground is seen as choppy seas where several waves moving independently merge by chance. But scientists say a giant of that sort would live for no more than a few seconds or minutes, whereas some are suspected of lasting for hours and traveling long distances.

As for forecasts, oceanographers are focusing on the interplay of exceptionally strong winds and currents, especially in the Agulhas off South Africa.

Dr. Fornberg said that several years ago South African authorities began issuing predictions. “That’s the only place the theory has succeeded,” he said.

Dr. Rosenthal said that in the future the continued proliferation of radar satellites should create an opportunity to better understand not only the habitats of the giants but in theory also individual threats, bringing about a safer relationship between people and the sea.

“There will be warnings, maybe in 10 years,” he said. “It should be possible.”

"OK, now we can panic."
Picture courtesy
The Happy Carpenter.

Crossposted to The Wasatch Front.

Friday, July 07, 2006

TFFQ: An Exciting Fourth

Questus Furore - An Exciting Fourth

The Fourth of July was a little more exciting than usual this year. In addition to celebrating the 230th anniversary of the USA's founding, a couple of events made news in their own right.

The first was the spectacular Independence Day launch of the space shuttle Discovery, on a mission to the International Space Station. (For you space geeks like me - okay, you probably already know this - the shuttle successfully docked with the station yesterday. You can get the latest on the mission over at

Unfortunately, later events knocked the shuttle to the bottom of the front page.

North Korea launched six ballistic missiles on Tuesday and a seventh on Wednesday. One of the Tuesday launches was North Korea's new Taepodong-2 missile, a new missile believed to be capable of hitting U.S. targets. Intelligence is certain those missiles can hit Alaska and Hawaii; the missiles may be able to hit West Coast cities as far south as Los Angeles.

Fortunately, the missile unexpectedly blew up 30 seconds after launch.

Then today came this piece of news:
N. Korea missile aimed at area off Hawaii - report
TOKYO (Reuters) - A North Korean missile launched on Wednesday was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday.
Experts estimated the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile to have a range of up to 6,000 km, putting Alaska within its reach. Wednesday's launch apparently failed shortly after take-off and the missile landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a few hundred kilometres from the launch pad.

But data from U.S. and Japanese Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and surveillance aircraft on the missile's angle of take-off and altitude indicated that it was heading for waters near Hawaii, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing multiple sources in the United States and Japan.

North Korea may have targeted Hawaii to show the United States that it was capable of landing a missile there, or because it is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific fleet, the paper said.

An alternative explanation might be that a missile could accidentally hit land if fired towards Alaska, the report said.

A separate report in the Mainichi Shimbun daily cited U.S. and Japanese government officials as saying a piece of the Taepodong-2 missile fell off immediately after take-off, strengthening the view that the launch was a failure.
There's some good news.

Now, I should caution that this is just a report; this hasn't been officially announced yet.

But if true, it shows the North Koreans are willing to step even closer to the brink than I thought.

And by the way - any of you still think missile defense is a bad idea?

The rest of the Friday Furo Questus can be found at The Wasatch Front.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day 2006

Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

WHEN in the Course of human Events,
it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of the Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton