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Malaysia is a Federated Constitutional Monarchy annealed together out of thirteen states and three federal territories (the system is loosely based on that of the United Kingdom).  The monarch is elected every five years by the nine hereditary rulers of the Malay states (the remaining four states have governors who abstain from choosing the monarch and the four Federal territories seemingly also have no say).  In today’s Malaysia of parliaments and money this is all largely symbolic (although these sultans and high nobles certainly have influence and may have actual political powers which are not immediately apparent according to the letter of the law).

At any rate I bring this up not to launch into a true explanation of power and politics in Malaysia (which elude me completely), but instead to showcase the four extant crowns which remain among the nine hereditary electors.  Five of the sultans of the Malays states seemingly have eschewed crowns in favor of fancy fezzes and keffiyehs.  The remaining four crowns all seem based on nineteenth century European examples and are surprisingly ornate and attractive.  Sadly I could find out little about them, but here, at least are lovely pictures!

The Crown of Johor

The Crown of Johor

The Crown of Selangor

The Crown of Selangor

The Crown of Kelantan

The Crown of Kelantan

The Crown of Terengganu

The Crown of Terengganu

I especially like the yellow/gold crown of Terengganu and I was sad that I couldn’t find a larger picture!  If anybody knows more about the magnificent traditional crowns of these four states, kindly let me know in the comments!  They are certainly regal (even if they are not well documented or described on the internet).

I would like to interrupt the parade of anteaters, crowns, demons, and obscure colors for a brief but important political polemic.  It seems likely that the Federal budget sequester will take place tonight and that is very bad news.

As almost everyone now knows, this artificial crisis was created as an attempt to make America’s hostile and antithetical political parties work together to cut spending and balance the budget.  Unsurprisingly creating (another) arbitrary deadline failed miserably to accomplish this task–so unstructured cuts will hit big parts of the Federal budget.  Defense spending is slated to be cut by 13% and the rest of domestic spending will be trimmed by 9%.  The sequester will not touch entitlements like Medicare and Social Security (which make up the majority of the budget), because doing so would be political suicide for national politicians.

Take this and apply it randomly to existing programs.

Take this and apply it randomly to existing programs.

Some people are ok with this, and argue that the Federal budget is out of control and needs to be reined in by some means.  Nine percent and thirteen percent are not big numbers.  The American military is still the largest in the world…etc…etc… This is the wrong way to think.  As this article outlines, many of the budget cuts insidiously strike at our research budget which will direly impact the future not just of the United States but also of the other nations (and maybe the ecosystems) of the entire world.

The sequester will hurt basic science research.  Greedy Wall Street moguls will be just fine and (most likely) people at the bottom of the economic scale will be ok too, but, in twenty years humankind won’t have nanotechnology, space elevators, immortality potions, or whatever incredible thing today’s research was meant to foster.

Private companies, the Chinese, James Bond villain billionaires…all other entities capable of fundamental research are small potatoes (other than universities—which receive much of their science money from the government).  The US Government is the world’s largest source of funding of basic research money…by a lot.

Fundamental research is the one thing America is good at (well maybe we can still make pizzas, scammy software, and dumb action movies, but we can talk about that another day) and that’s okay because research is the most important thing.  Nations do not become superpowers because of indomitable spirit or cool national symbols, but because of engineering, science, and innovation. Research is the critical underpinning of economic, military, and cultural greatness.  It is also fundamental to humankind’s quest to understand and manipulate the universe (before it kills us and everything we care about).  Social security does nothing to further that objective!

Canceled due to budget cuts.

Canceled due to budget cuts.

The sequester cuts resemble a farm plan which leaves out the seed corn.  And what is the point of even running a farm then?   So, politicians, go ahead and make cuts to the budget.  Raise taxes even.  National leaders, do what you have to do, but please don’t cut the most important part of the budget because it is most abstract and lacks special interest lobbyists.  That is stupid…and it is what we are doing by default.

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