Toll and Speeding

Eric Muller has some interesting thoughts on giving speeding tickets on toll highways.

It arises for me specifically in the context of the NJ Turnpike, but it pertains to any highway that gives you a toll coupon when you enter the highway and then collects it from you (with a payment) when you leave the highway.

Highways like that strike me as huge potential revenue sources for the states that operate them. Why? Because they offer the possibility of entirely mechanized enforcement of the speeding laws.

Let’s say the distance between exit 1 and exit 5 is 65 miles, and the posted speed limit is 65 miles per hour over that entire stretch of highway. If a person is issued a time-stamped entry coupon at Exit 1 at noon and arrives at Exit 5 before 1:00, he has been speeding. Period.

Why not issue him a speeding ticket at exit 5 when he pays his toll and leaves the highway? This would be a superb revenue source for the state, and it would get people to stop speeding far more effectively (and cheaply) than sporadic enforcement by state troopers.

(And by the way, the state would not have to sit its ticketing threshold at the actual posted speed limit. It could set it for, say, three or four miles above the posted speed limit. Or more.)

It’s an interesting idea. Don’t other countries already implement something like this? Australia, South Africa or Canada? I am not sure what the long-term effects of this would be on traffic patterns and unsafe driving.

Saudi Nuclear Bomb?

Via The Poor Man and Tacitus, I read a news story on UPI and Washington Times (both stories are by the same guy) about Pakistan helping Saudi Arabia acquire nuclear weapons.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have concluded a secret agreement on “nuclear cooperation” that will provide the Saudis with nuclear-weapons technology in exchange for cheap oil, according to a ranking Pakistani insider.

[…]”It will be vehemently denied by both countries,” said the Pakistani source, whose information has proven reliable for more than a decade, “but future events will confirm that Pakistan has agreed to provide [Saudi Arabia] with the wherewithal for a nuclear deterrent.”

As predicted, Saudi Arabia —- which has faced strong international suspicion for years that it was seeking a nuclear capability through Pakistan —- strongly denied the claim.

Prince Sultan was quoted in the Saudi newspaper Okaz yesterday saying that “no military agreements were concluded between the kingdom and Pakistan during [Prince Abdullah’s] visit to Islamabad.”

Mohammad Sadiq, deputy chief of mission for Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, also denied any nuclear deal was in the works. “That is totally incorrect,” he said in a telephone interview. “We have a clear policy: We will not export our nuclear expertise.

[…]The Saudi rulers, who are Sunni Muslims, are believed to have concluded that nothing will deter the Shi’ite Muslims who rule Iran from continuing their quest for a nuclear weapons capability.

Pakistan, meanwhile, is concerned about a recent arms agreement between India, its nuclear archrival, and Israel, a longtime nuclear power whose inventory is estimated at between 200 and 400 weapons.

[…]Iran and India, located on either side of Pakistan, have also signed a strategic agreement whose aim is regarded with suspicion in Islamabad.

[…]To counter what Pakistani and Saudi leaders regard as multiple regional threats, the two countries have decided to quietly move ahead with an exchange of free or cheap Saudi oil for Pakistani nuclear know-how, the Pakistani source said.

This is obviously hearsay with a single anonymous source talking to a not-so-reliable paper. So I’ll hold off on considering it anything more than an unsubstantiated rumor for now.

On the other hand, it is an interesting and important issue and it does make some sense based on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. Consider the region from India to Israel. Pakistan, India and Israel already have nuclear weapons. Iran might be pursuing them as well. Relations between Iran and Pakistan have fluctuated quite a lot over the years. Nowadays, they are not on good terms and have been rivals for influence in Afghanistan for quite some time. There is also the Sunni-Shia troubles. Iran is alleged to support some Shia groups in Pakistan. For example, the followers of militant Sunni Azam Tariq of Sipah-e-Sahabah allege that Iran was behind his assassination. In addition, relations between Iran and India have been good recently. Pakistan probably wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between two hostile (though in different ways) nuclear-armed countries. Also, Saudi Arabia and Iran have been trying to counter each other for quite some time.

Aside: The above logic is also why I didn’t believe the Pakistan-Iran nuclear cooperation stories that were in the news recently.

Regarding nuclear proliferation, I think we are going to see a few more nuclear countries in the next decade or two and not just in the Middle East or in conflict zones. Nuclear weapons give prestige and make the country a bigger regional power. So we might see a few African and Latin American countries go nuclear as well. The idea that current nonproliferation policies are going to prevent acquisition of nuclear weapons is dead wrong. The current system is inherently unstable and acquisition of nuclear weapons is widely popular in a lot of countries that aspire to be regional powers.

Looking at the issue from the self-interest perspective of an aspiring nuclear country, why shouldn’t they get nuclear weapons when other countries have them? The nuclear option will give them prestige and power and will deter other countries, including those with nuclear weapons, from messing with them. From our perspective in a nuclear-armed state, it is bad. From a human perspective, it is worse as it’ll lead to a very unsafe world. I don’t believe that nuclear weapons are never-use weapons. There is a small probability that someone will use them. As the number of nuclear countries increases, so does that probability.

So what do we do? The nuclear genie has been out for more than 50 years now. We can’t just put it back in the bottle or wish it to disappear. For better or worse, nuclear weapons are here to stay. I think it’ll be a difficult going but we have only one option. Work on disarmament of current members of the nuclear club as much as possible and try to reduce the number of states seeking nuclear weaponry. That is why the concepts of international law, cooperation between states and collective security are so important. They are the only way to keep the world safe from nuclear war.

UPDATE: Via Talking Points Memo, The Nelson Report says that this story is bogus.

This is one of those “famous last words” risks … but … reliable sources in Washington (including Capitol Hill, professional Middle East watchers, and fellow journalists) all say that the “Pakistan/Saudi nuclear weapons” story being passed around by UPI, The Washington Times, and by the head of Israeli intelligence in testimony to the Knesset, is false. Sexy as hell, but false.

— several sources note the “coincidence” that the stories come barely one day after the EU, Iran and Russia reached separate but interlocking agreements which offer real hope of defusing the Iran nuclear weapons crisis before it gets out of hand.

UPDATE II: Here’s what the US State department said in the daily press briefing:

As far as the reports that you’ve mentioned, we’ve seen them, we’ve seen the allegations. We have not seen, however, any information to substantiate what would seem to us to be rather bald assertions. We are confident that Pakistan clearly understands our concerns regarding proliferation of nuclear technology, and we would also note that Saudi Arabia is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which it has agreed not to obtain nuclear weapons.

Dawn has quotes from the State department as well as Pakistani and Saudi officials.

Taller = Richer?

According to this article, taller people earn more money than short ones.

Apparently, size does matter.

According to a recent report by the University of Florida, tall people earn considerably more money than their shorter counterparts throughout life. They earn approximately $789 more per inch, per year, according to the experts.

Timothy Judge and Daniel Cable, both business professors — Judge at UF and Cable at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — analyzed the results of four large-scale research studies to come up with their conclusions.

Of the four studies used, three were conducted in the United States and one in Great Britain. All four studies followed thousands of participants from childhood to adulthood, examining details of their work and personal lives in order to come up with conclusions on success and habits.

Judge’s study, which controlled for gender, weight and age, found that mere inches cost thousands of dollars. Each inch in height amounted to about $789 more a year in pay, the study found. So someone who is 7 inches taller — say 6 feet versus 5-foot-5 — would be expected to earn $5,525 more annually, he said.

Does that mean that I should be earning $8,679 more than Amber?

The average height of Americans today is 69.1 inches — about 5-foot-9 — for men and 63.7 inches — nearly 5-foot-4 — for women.

Interesting. I thought American men were taller, close to 6 feet.

(Via Gene Expression.)

Graduate School

Brian has some good advice for surviving graduate school.

Most people go through periods of wondering if they’re smart enough to be in graduate school. My friend Jordan discovered that most people at her grad school wondered if they had been admitted by mistake. I’ve found the same thing here at UW. The reality is this: Getting into graduate school in most fields is highly competitive. If you got in, you belong there.

[…]People have a lot of stereotypes about graduate students, one of the most common being that they are simply too lazy to enter the workforce. That is so wrong it’s almost funny. When people who take a few years off before graduate school talk about their adjustment problems, they are not talking about the fact they might get to sleep an hour later in the morning. If you’re the typical American worker, you go into a job for 40 hours a week, then you leave and watch TV, spend time with friends/family, or do whatever else you want. In graduate school, you revert back to full work mode, where having an hour or so at the end of the day is considered a thing of rare beauty, and Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to head to the library and get started on that research project.

I want to add an important caveat here, though, and that is this: Everybody takes time off now and then. Thus, despite the rhetoric about continual work, grad students should not experience “relaxation guilt” when they decide to simply sit down and watch TV for awhile. Everyone will find their own level of this. […]Most people tend to be a lot more random, working feverishly in huge bursts and then crashing for an entire day. Whatever works for you, let it work, as long as you handle your classes.

[…]When the going gets tough, remember why you’re here. It’s not to fill out fellowship applications or navigate bureaucracy, it’s to become a great researcher or teacher or archivist or whatever. Sometimes it won’t seem worth it, but remember that the grass is always greener on the other side. I pay attention to web sites like Invisible Adjunct, but also consider the fact that if I don’t land a tenure-track job somewhere, I’m probably not worse off than most of the workforce.

[…]One thing you should definitely prioritize is getting to know people in your new school.

I would add one thing: enjoy yourself. Enjoy the work and enjoy the breaks. It’ll be tough at times but it’s one of the most important factors in surviving as a grad student.

Iraq and Philippines

I was amused to read about President Bush’s comparison of Iraq to Philippines.

President Bush told the Congress of this former American colony on Saturday that Iraq, like the Philippines, could be transformed into a vibrant democracy. He also pledged his help in remaking the troubled and sometimes mutinous Philippine military into a force for fighting terrorism.

In an eight-hour visit, Mr. Bush for the first time drew explicit comparisons between the transition he is seeking in Iraq and the rough road to democracy that the Philippines traveled from the time the United States seized it from Spain in 1898 to the present day.

“Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy,” Mr. Bush said, taking on the critics of his oft-stated goal to use Iraq as a laboratory for spreading democratic institutions in the Middle East. “The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. Those doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago.”

While the administration often speaks of the occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II as rough models for the effort to rebuild Iraq, Mr. Bush used the visit here to make a less explicit analogy to the American administration of the Philippines, which also led to the formation of a democracy. But the comparison has less power to reassure, given that the Philippine government did not gain full autonomy for five decades.

Unqualified Offerings wrote about it before I could.

And before that there were the concentration camps, the 200,000 civilian dead in the 1899-1902 insurrection – all the stuff Max Boot actually likes.

Curiously, Bush’s speech amounts to a claim that the Philippines became a democracy “nearly six decades ago.” This is true as far as it goes, which is from the mid-forties through the late 1960s, when the Philippines was merely an ordinarily corrupt client state. Then almost two decades of Ferdinand and Imelda. But we eventually let Marcos fall to the People Power rebellion, which was wise of us, though many hawks at the time considered it feckless and likely to embolden our enemies.

What I am Reading

I am busy, so no regular posts today. However, here is some stuff I am reading:

  • A New York Times article about the Lackawanna Six, the Yemeni-Americans in Buffalo who trained at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
  • An interesting article about the history of the oath of allegiance that naturalized citizens have to take.
  • Patrick Belton has written before on his blog about the Arab/Muslim-American community in Dearborn, Michigan (see my post about it). He now has published an article about it and plans to turn it into a book.
  • Juan Cole, a Professor of History, is an expert on the Middle East. He has an article in the Boston Review about the recent history of Iraqi Shiites. It’s a must-read for everyone. Juan’s blog is also full of great content and I would read it regularly if the formatting was somewhat better.

Fools

Curse the stupid person(s) whose actions resulted in a fire alarm at 4am. Crazy time to get up, quickly get dressed and then go out of the building. I couldn’t sleep for a while afterwards and feel tired today.

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak (1,530 ft) in the park. Lots of people go to the summit to watch the sunrise there. It was a lot of fun despite the wind-induced cold.

Schoodic Peninsula

Schoodic Peninsula

A part of Acadia National Park on the mainland.

A Bird at Schoodic Peninsula

A bird at the rocky beach in Maine…

A Bird at Schoodic Peninsula