China surprise

What we can probably expect from China in the near future is specific demonstrations of strength—like its successful forcing down of a U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance plane in the spring of 2001. Such tactics may represent the trend of twenty-first-century warfare better than anything now happening in Iraq—and China will have no shortage of opportunities in this arena. During one of our biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercises the Chinese could sneak a sub under a carrier battle group and then surface it. They could deploy a moving target at sea and then hit it with a submarine- or land-based missile, demonstrating their ability to threaten not only carriers but also destroyers, frigates, and cruisers. (Think about the political effects of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, off the coast of Yemen in 2000—and then think about a future in which hitting such ships will be easier.) They could also bump up against one of our ships during one of our ongoing Freedom of Navigation exercises off the Asian coast. The bumping of a ship may seem inconsequential, but keep in mind that in a global media age such an act can have important strategic consequences. Because the world media tend to side with a spoiler rather than with a reigning superpower, the Chinese would have a built-in political advantage.

And so it has come to pass. Robert Kaplan wrote that in the Atlantic in June 2005. Just over two years later we have this:

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk – a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China’s fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was “as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik” – a reference to the Soviet Union’s first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

You can draw your own conclusions from the Chinese action.

Firefox 3 Beta impressions

It is a while before it will be released but I thought I would give Firefox 3 a whirl.

For some reason pages seem to be loading a lot faster, the text is more readable, both on webpages and the interface itself. But, all of my extensions are broken – I expect they will work once it is officially released. There is also a new ‘places’ tab on the bookmarks toolbar folder, allowing ‘starring’ of pages etc.

Overall it seems solid enough, including a new facility to specify which programs Firefox uses to open what sort of files.

I will test it on the Mac tonight and see if it works as well.

Please be aware it is a Beta 1, so it may break stuff.

Update: Zdnet give their first thoughts. They get the same impression, Firefox 3 is fast…

The download package is small which means that it comes in fast, the installation is fast, the browser fires up fast, pages and tabs open fast, the browser shuts down fast, and the uninstall process is fast and painless

In the post

I ordered some books this week for the first time in a while. Some relate to a new-found interest in day-trading as oppose to spread betting. But I won’t be going down that road for some time yet. Others are the normal politics/economics stuff.

The Age of Turbulence
, Alan Greenspan.

Invest Like a Shark: How a Deaf Guy with No Job and Limited Capital Made a Fortune Investing in the Stock Market
, James DePorre

A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Completely Revised and Updated Edition, Burton Malkiel

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Robert Pape

I Am America (And So Can You!)
, Stephen Colbert

Market Wizards: Interviews with Top Traders, Jack D. Schwager

The New Market Wizards: Conversations with America’s Top Traders, Jack Schwager

The Economist's view of the Irish economy

The Economist Intelligence Unit gives their forecast for the Irish economy 2008-2009. It does not make for pretty reading.

* We expect the multi-party coalition, formed in June 2007, to remain in office over the outlook period. There is a limited risk of the arrangement collapsing, with the Green Party the most likely participant to withdraw.
* Apart from environment-related policies, we do not expect the new administration to hasten the pace of reform, largely because of differences on policy and the power of vested interests to block change.
* Despite an estimated increase in the euro area inflation rate to 2.6% in October, the European Central Bank (ECB) is not expected to increase interest rates above the current rate of 4%.
* The fiscal position is deteriorating, and this will place constraints on government expenditure. A deficit is expected by 2009.
* GDP growth is expected to slow sharply in 2008, mainly because of the ongoing slowdown in the previously overheated property sector. However, there is a real risk of recession.
* Unemployment is expected to rise over the outlook period, as the construction sector shrinks, but inflation and the current-account deficit will both fall.

The Government can call the EIU doomsayers if they like, but the facts speak for themselves.

F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause

Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.

Is it so hard to believe?

Warning: graphic content. This video appeared in the film No End in Sight, and had been going around YouTube for a while.

Quote of the day

Jim Cramer, in an article about the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, brought up George Bush’s views on the US economy. He constantly says it is fundamentally sounds, even if things are not going quite so well.

Says Cramer:

I’m not surprised by President Bush’s sunny economic outlook—this president would praise the Weimar Republic’s hyperinflation as great for Home Depot and the wheelbarrow industry.