Saturday, March 15, 2003
Democrat - You believe that there should be a free
market which is reigned in by a modest state
beaurocracy. You think that capitalism has
some good things, but that those it helps
should be obliged to help out their fellow man
a little. Your historical role model is
Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Wierdly, a couple more changes had me coming out as a Green. I think that there are a couple of questions where none of the answers fit. E.g. the "who should control the economy" doesn't really admit of an answer from someone who isn't fascist, corpratist or anarchist, and the "tighten security" answers are particularly hard to identify, as most people would presumably think "tighten security with concern for civil liberties and avoiding racism", but differ wildly in what they mean by those qualifications.
Via lots of places.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Within hours of the announcement, large queues began to form at police stations in Aston, Erdington, Great Barr and Sutton Coldfield. Reports suggested that telephone switchboards were being jammed, as fans who were not even in the country phoned in their confessions to astounded police officers.
Major incidents were reported when riots broke out as several desperate fans rushed the front of the queues. Internal police inquiries were quickly launched, as accusations flew, that officers had been bribed by desperate fans to try and get their names on the lists.
Precious Fire Service resources were diverted to many police stations, as desperate fans chained themselves to railings and needed to be cut free. Chaos ensued as up to fifteen fans chained themselves to a police officer's bicycle, after he had stopped to tell someone the time. Several passers-by witnessed the shocking sight of grown men weeping and begging, as they desperately pleaded to be put on the list.
The police have called for public calm and assured the fans that all cases will be carefully investigated and the bans will be issued entirely on merit, with no preferential treatment for anyone.
Chief Inspector Gussett of the Aston constabulary, in a short public announcement said, ' I can assure the public that this will not be handled on a first come first served basis and there is no need for panic'.
The latest reports suggest that calm has at last been restored and refreshments are being handed out by compassionate Salvation Army volunteers; to the many fans who are so determined to keep their place in the queues, they are willing to camp out overnight.
One fan was quoted as saying: 'This is a once in a lifetime chance and I'm determined not to miss out!'."
From a damned Blues fan.
Prior to America pulling the plug on supplies of heavy fuel oil, North Korea was receiving 500,000 metric tons a year from them. It appears that in June 1999, 110,000 tons was being stored by North Korea, and we may assume that a broadly similar level of storage of supplied fuel would have applied when supplies ceased after the October admission that their nuclear program was continuing.
Per the Heritage Foundation "China ..supplied 88% of North Korea's oil imports [last] year", plus substantial free oil (1.3m tons). Similarly, the World Bank suggests that:
"DPRK imports of crude oil and petroleum products in 1994 and 1995 averaged 1 million tons a year—less than half the 2.2 million tons a year reported in 1986 and 1987. Soviet/Russian shipments plummeted from 1 million tons in 1986 to a mere 19 thousand tons in 1995. China’s reported oil and oil product exports to the DPRK also declined over that decade, albeit only gradually"
These numbers aren't entirely compatible: if the previous consumption was 1m tons a year, and 2.2m tons in the "good" times, then if China supplies 1.3m tons and the US 0.5m tons for free, and North Korea buys some oil, then their supplies would be close to historic levels, and if China were really supplying 88% of oil, total imports would have to be circa 3.7m tons a year.
Working through the numbers another way, North Korea imported "47,300 bpd [barrels per day] in 1998". The US supplied "500,000 metric tons (approximately 3.3 million barrels)" a year.
Hence total consumption circa 17m barrels a year, or circa 2.6m metric tons. The US therefore supplied a fifth of North Korea's oil needs. It's entirely possible that North Korea can make further economies in their use of oil. But given relatively low stores suggested above, any reduction in free oil from China (or in their sales) might well put the peninsula on a predictable track for war.
If China puts on pressure, therefore, it's unclear whether it will lead to capitulation, or, as in 1945, to war: the Dear Leader can hardly be rated saner than the Japanese military leadership, but his situation is starker. Unfortunately, the information isn't obviously available to calculate further how long we may have until disaster looms.
However: the fuel consumption of one model of MIG is 400 gallons per hour . Eight hour's operation of a standard tank requires 300 gallons, increased by 25% when using a mine plough, as would be needed in the DMZ. One hour's flight therefore requires approximately one barrel of oil. One day's operation of a tank probably needs two barrels, assuming 8 hours down time.
In "1992 the air force comprised about 1,620 aircraft". The current armour of North Korea is estimated at 3,500 units (plus 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles - I'll assume half the fuel use of the tanks i.e. 1 bpd).
Assuming a slightly unrealistic 50-50 split between the two halves of the armed forces, the US annual cuts in supplies to North Korea equate to 26 days of fuel for military vehicles, and 154 hours flight time a plane.
If we assume that no supplies would come in during a conflict, and that destruction of stock-piles would parallel destruction of equipment, then it seems North Korea can have only a limited ability to withstand having its oil supply reduced, and still stand ready to fight when it chooses.
I.e. to ready itself for conflict either civilian use of fuel would have to be cut drastically for a period of a month or more (to build up a store of fuel), something that should be readily detected by the CIA, or it has a limited time-frame to take action.
The only hopeful reading is that the situation is so precarious that the current provocations are precisely because there is so little slack in their system that they are not able to make credible threats through manoeuvre of regular forces, and must try other stratagems.
Update: Steven Den Beste suggests a less time-pressured, but more destructive scenario: due to North Korea's supply situation, an attack might only be plausible as a suicidal last gasp for the regime. Even if this makes it less likely in the short-term, it also presents a greater problem of managing the situation:
"It's not clear that fuel is the limiting factor on their ability to wage mechanized war. Especially regarding their air power, the limiting factor is probably spare parts. As a statistical matter, you consume a certain amount of spare parts for every 20 hours in the air, and NK doesn't have damned much any more, and in fact its pilots hardly fly at all. According to this article, it's on the order of 13 hours per year, which isn't remotely enough to maintain anything like what we'd think of as combat readiness:
While spare parts for tanks and trucks are not as expensive, they also have more tanks and trucks which would be presumed to be part of any war, and it is not at all clear just how much of their park is actually even capable of running any longer. And even among the vehicles which do still work, it's not clear how long they can be kept running before unrepairable breakdowns immobilize them. (Ignoring their destruction at SK hands by guns or antitank missiles or attack by SK or US jets.)
Indeed, once they break down in the field, they may be useless even if the parts exist, since in many cases there'd be no way to reach them to effect repairs.
I don't think that they actually have anything like a credible invasion threat. Such armor as they can actually get running will be slaughtered; their jets will fall from the sky as soon as any US or SK jets get within range. The primary concern is that they'll do catastrophic damage to SK before themselves dying, in one of two ways.
First is a sustained artillery bombardment of Seoul from adjacent NK territory, possibly as a way of trying to induce us to attack them (giving them the advantage of built-up defenses. Second is the grand human wave, with hordes of foot soldiers heading south. In that scenario, the armor only has to survive long enough to plow paths through the DMZ mine fields; after which it's basically irrelevant.
Both of these amount to the equivalent of the Cold War's "Mutually Assured Destruction". It means that if the government of NK thinks it no longer has any chance of surviving, it's going to make sure to hurt SK as badly as possible before the end. That's the thing that has me worried. And the means available to them to do so -- their artillery and their foot soldiers -- are neither limited by oil nor by spare parts."
Personally, I just liked that he reproduced an old joke about a small-town paper's front page:
"Boring Stuff Debated at Dull Meeting
Something Crashes, Burns or Blows Up
Some Old Politician Retires or Dies
Another Project That Will Cost Lots & Lots of Dollars
Hey! They’re Doing That Wacky Thing Over There "
Roughly the content of any paper anywhere...
Monday, March 10, 2003
An improvement from a circumstance of wild violence and anarchy to an intrusive level of surveillance but very little crime seems worthwhile - it is the equivalent, perhaps, of a policeman on every street in a rough area. On the other hand, UK CCTV seems like a 24-hour informant the authorities could ask about your activities, be they criminal or not, without actually improving your protection. The policeman, though more intrusive, is surely preferable?
"At a cost of 180 million Rand (£15 million), about 300 cameras have been installed in the central business district, transforming what was largely a no-go area into one of the safest parts of the city. They are linked to television screens inside the 50-storey Carlton Centre, where security staff are able to monitor and record almost everything taking place on the streets below them.
Unlike the grainy blurs produced by many closed-circuit television cameras in Britain, the Johannesburg cameras provide high-resolution images that are then used to convict offenders. In contrast to most British street cameras, which passively monitor what is taking place, the Johannesburg system is used to patrol the streets, looking for signs of criminal activity.
“If we receive a report that there is a madman running about in a red T-shirt, we can use the cameras to search the city streets and locate him within five minutes,” John Penberthy, managing director of the Johannesburg surveillance project, called Business Against Crime, said.
“When we started the project three years ago, this city was facing serious decay. When we started laying the cables for the cameras, our workmen were mugged four times.
“On several occasions, would-be bank robbers have been arrested before they even entered the bank because they were picked up by the cameras carrying guns. Crime has dropped dramatically because people are aware that they are being watched and they know they are certain to be caught.”"
"SHOPS in Tokyo, already hit by a depressed economy, have another problem to contend with: business is literally running out of their doors.
They are the victims of “keitai” clubs — professionally run mobile telephone chat groups that inform members the instant that there is a bargain to be had somewhere in the city.
The club might send out a text message informing members that a particular food outlet will be selling salmon-flavoured rice balls at half price for the next hour. Because the membership of the clubs can run into hundreds of thousands, the shop will be mobbed within minutes by young shoppers. Nearby stores can empty in seconds.
Maki Hoshizaki, a junior college student shopping in central Tokyo, constantly dropping her eyes to the screen of her phone, said: “The keitai clubs shape the whole day out. If you and your friends keep an eye on the messages, you can just spend your time going from bargain to bargain. The clubs mean none of us are paying full price for clothes, food, anything.”"
"TERRIFIED Iraqi soldiers have crossed the Kuwait border and tried to surrender to British forces - because they thought the war had already started.
The motley band of a dozen troops waved the white flag as British paratroopers tested their weapons during a routine exercise.
The stunned Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade were forced to tell the Iraqis they were not firing at them, and ordered them back to their home country telling them it was too early to surrender."
That says something about Iraq's border defences and troops' morale, one hopes.
Particularly given Cambridge still only gives half-Blues for "dancesport", this seems a little silly.
There are a number of issues to unpack here.
Firstly, few, I expect, would deny that pupils from poorer backgrounds, or worse schools, are less likely to perform to their potential than well-educated middle class children. This would strongly imply that to get the best students, you should pitch your admission requirements slightly lower for students from state schools - if "coaching" can boost results by a grade in a subject or two, then a sensible admissions policy will make allowances. This, however, does not amount to a numerical quota, only to differential admission standards, something many universities have used over the years.
Secondly, it must be borne in mind that the failures of secondary education can be so extreme that even bright students with high potential might be rightly turned away by universities. Even unable to read or write, the very brightest might be able to overcome their difficulties quickly and with good (and expensive) support from a university: the best foreign students can rapidly overcome difficulties with the English language.
But without a decent grounding in their subject, and perhaps with relatively limited literacy, the ground students falling substantially below the usual admission standards for achievement have to make up is so large that there may be many a university just could not help. This sugggests sharp limits to how free a hand universities have to meet targets: there is no suggestion that the premier universities are near this point, but the expansion of "access courses" to some institutions suggests that there are many students in degree courses who lack any real grounding for university, and some of those might, with better schooling, have been candidates for serious study.
Thirdly, there is the question of how to assess the merits of candidates without the appropriate grades: without interviews (which many universities use only sparingly), and without tests theoretically "independent" of teaching, it is hard to see how the "deserving" candidates for a helping hand may be spotted.
Finally, and most seriously, it seems that the real obstacle has been grade inflation and/or dumbing down at lower levels in the system. The more dumb recitation of facts and short-form question technique play a role in scoring highly, the easier it is to coach an exam, and the harder it is to display raw intellectual passion and energy. This, of itself, would tend to compress marks at the higher levels.
Coupled with the increasing proportion of students being placed in the highest grade bands, differentiation between the very intelligent and well-coached, and the merely moderately intelligent (or slightly dim) and well-coached becomes impossible without further information from interview or testing.
Hence, as the number of students predicted 4 A's at A-level increases, the more likely it is that the best middle class students will be denied places at leading universities, as the admissions tutors cannot identify these students. Coupled with exam formats that arguably favour dumb but well-coached (by expensive tutors or dotting parents), then it seems that naturally bright pupils at all points in the social scale will be disadvantaged.
This is especially the case given that GCSE grades from age 15 or 16, the main "actual" results universities have available to them and historically the best predictors of university success have suffered the most from the above trends. The number of students apparently getting almost all A*'s is staggering compared to performances in the first year of the exams when even very good students would get perhaps five at most.
Hence my prescription for the current admission woes, before any serious structural reforms of university admissions, is to make A-levels and GCSE's harder. This would at least mean that the RIGHT middle-class/privately educated students were denied places, and, if done properly, might place more of a premium on native wit in the marking of other students.