Pledge Week ends. TWIT this Afternoon. Interesting Week


Chaos Manor View, Sunday, March 01, 2015


Pledge week ends tonight. Thanks to all of you who subscribed. Of course you can subscribe anytime, 


Subj: It’s going to be an interesting week

I’ve been wondering what Bibi Netanyahu was planning to say during his address to Congress this week. I had assumed that his purpose was to take an appeal for aid to the American people, bypassing a President whom he know will ignore him, and what he believes is the existential crises of ISIS and Iranian nukes staring him in the face.

Reading the article about this leak, another thought gelled: knowing that the Obama Administration had leaked every plan Israel has formulated for the past six years to attempt to stop the Iranian nuclear program, knowing the relationship that the Obama administration has maintained both towards Israel and towards Moslem groups in the Middle East, knowing the intense opposition that the White House is bringing to bear against Bibi’s speech, is it possible that Bibi is aiming higher:

Is it possible, perhaps even probable, that Bibi’s objective is to reveal the international crimes of the Obama Administration, of the White House and Democrat leadership, in a way that even the rank-and-file Democrats of the House and Senate cannot ignore or wish away. Is is possible that Bibi’s objective is to lay the case for Obama’s impeachment that the Republican leadership refuses to touch, because there is no way politically that they can bring the Democrats to consider impeachment if they bring the charges.

All I can say is, we’ll see.

Unlikely that sort of bombshell, but Israel is in a pickle. We are fast approaching a point where the only to stop the Iranians from acquiring Hiroshima bombs – several of them – is air power, and there is some question of whether Israel can accomplish that – at least without nuclear weapons. The White House is sure they cannot; some in the Pentagon are not so sure.

It is definitely going to be an interesting week.


Subject: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel

A major conflict in the Middle East remains beyond U.S. interests.

The talks with Iran indicate this. Israel has, for years, wanted pre-emptive strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities — much like it did with Iraq. The main problem with this policy is that Iran’s infrastructure is well dispersed and well-protected. Not only can we not guarantee that a strike will disable the capability, it seems likely that such a strike will not accomplish this objective.

Thus, we need a process to slow down or handicap the capability since we cannot be certain that we will disable it and a failed attempt could create the scenario we wish to avoid in disabling this capability. Hence, the Geneva talks — or so the story goes. Other factors drive the United States to these talks e.g. a resurgent Russia. Whether U.S. interests exist in Ukraine is irrelevant, certain policy makers see U.S. interests in this and they’re positioning accordingly and I maintain this also drives an interest in the Geneva talks. Other factors also influence this impetus.

An Israeli media source ran with the story that Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli airplanes if they were to attempt an attack on Iranian facilities.

I suspect U.S. policy makers assume that Israel would fly over Iraq to make these strikes. What if they flew over Saudi Arabia?


[Saudi intelligence and defense officials] had asked for a private meeting with Pardo [Head of Mossad], at which he was offered the reassurance that the Chinese rockets that Israeli spy satellites had spotted in Saudi Arabia’s desert were only there to protect their country from an enemy they both shared — the Republic of Iran.

Prince Bandar added they both knew that their countries shared concerns which at times put them at odds with the United States. The crown prince felt the Iran threat had reached a stage where it must be handled.

That began the start of several meetings which had taken Pardo to Riyadh and Amman to meet with both the royal princes and senior Saudi military officers. By November, a mutual cooperation had been agreed that Israel could use Saudi air space to launch air attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and for Israeli drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes to be positioned over Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea and have refuel facilities at various Saudi airfields.


The situation in the Middle East just got a lot more complicated and, perhaps, more rides on these talks than we might suspect. What would the Middle East look like if Israel attacked Iran with Saudi help?

After all, the House of Saud are not the natural rulers of Saudi Arabia; their dominance is a historical fluke.

So, what happens if Israel moves forward and fails? What does Iran do? What does Saudi do? What does Turkey do? What do the rest of the world do? Matters in the Middle East look more interesting with each passing day.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

The Hashemite King of Jordan is the most “legitimate” pretender to Arabia – although he does not pretend to the position.  Turkey abolished the Caliphate in the 20’s, and the last Sultan has died, although there are pretenders.

ISIS has a qualified pretender to Caliph (he is from the right tribe) but to rule by that reasoning he must make all Shiites apostates, worthy of death.  That’s a lot of apostates. He also


Leonard Nimoy, RIP.


Roland Dobbins

I never knew him although I did know Roddenberry. I’ve nothing to add, except that we know the young man who is to have the part of Spock in the Star Trek opera – but I know nothing about that, either.


I will have more after TWIT. Good afternoon.


Running cars on water

A real quick Chem eng analysis suggests the aluminium route to hydrogen in a car is not going to fly.
Converting aluminum oxide to aluminum metal takes lots and lots of electricity – Wikipedia says the best plants use 46MJ/kg, but the chemical energy of aluminium metal is only 31MJ/kg. (67% efficient)
Then in the on board step
2Al + 3H2O -> Al2O3 + 3H2 the aluminum has chemical energy of 1675 kJ/mol (converted to mol terms from weight terms earlier), but the 3 moles of hydrogen released only has 857kj of chemical energy (50% efficient). To make matters worse the other 50% will be released as heat in the liquid bath. A typical car uses ~20kW of actual running power, so at 50% efficient there will be another 20kW that needs to be removed from the water bath, which makes quite the kettle.
Multiply the two steps together and the process is only 33% efficient at turning electricity into hydrogen.
I’m pretty sure that the liquid metal really is mercury. It’s why they don’t let you take mercury on planes. The issue will be that now you have alumina contaminated with mercury that I doubt any aluminium refinery is going to be happy to have to deal with.
The upside is the energy density is not bad – roughly 8MJ/kg with perfect conversion and no boiling losses – compared to gasoline at 50MJ/kg not great, but most batteries are well under 1MJ/kg.

Jesse Huebsch

TWIT isn’t up yet, and it’s Sunday evening. See you tomorrow.




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Net Neutrality; Space Access; Run Your Car on Water?; Robots

Chaos Manor, Friday, February 27, 2015


The FCC seized control of the Internet yesterday. Many cheered.

John Fund gives the political right view in NRO but they don’t permit quotes.

A Libertarian view on Net Neutrality comes from Forbes. Recall that the Interstate Commerce Commission clung to its regulatory powers long after highways and airports made most of its work irrelevant. When it was abolished few noticed. Some regulation was needed in the days when railroads were the only means of fast transport, (see The Octopus as a fictional view) but it continued long after highways and airlines which it could not regulate changed the whole transport picture. Its meeting Room with thrones for the Commissioners (who were full time regulators) became a subject of scorn. David Friedman argues persuasively that it hindered competition.

The FCC no longer has Ma Bell, as many other communications organizations emerged, but now it claims the Internet as its own. Adam Smith said ““People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” They do this by having government make rules about entering their business…

The Forbes essay comes close to my own sentiments. It is months old.

= = = =

Am I The Only Techie Against Net Neutrality?

If you watch the news, it seems just about everyone is in favor of “Net Neutrality” legislation. Despite being a tech-addicted entrepreneur, I am not. No, I am not a paid shill for the cable industry. I am no fan of Comcast or any other ISP I’ve ever had the “pleasure” of dealing with. I’m skeptical of large corporations generally and dislike the fact that in this debate I appear to be on their side. While I have no problem with net neutrality as a principle or concept, I have serious concerns about Net Neutrality as legislation or public policy. And since a false dichotomy is being perpetuated by the media in regards to this matter, I feel an obligation to put forth a third point of view. In taking this stand, I realize I may be the only techie, if I can aspire to that label, opposed to Net Neutrality and that I open myself to accusations of killing the dreams of young entrepreneurs, wrecking free speech, and destroying the Internet. Nevertheless, here are three reasons I’m against Net Neutrality legislation.

I Want More Competition

Proponents of Net Neutrality say the telecoms have too much power. I agree. Everyone seems to agree that monopolies are bad and competition is good, and just like you, I would like to see more competition. But if monopolies are bad, why should we trust the U.S. government, the largest, most powerful monopoly in the world? We’re talking about the same organization that spent an amount equal to Facebook’s first six years of operating costs to build a health care website that doesn’t work, the same organization that can’t keep the country’s bridges from falling down, and the same organization that spends 320 times what private industry spends to send a rocket into space. Think of an industry that has major problems. Public schools? Health care? How about higher education, student loans, housing, banking, physical infrastructure, immigration, the space program, the military, the police, or the post office? What do all these industries and/or organizations have in common? They are all heavily regulated or controlled by the government. On the other hand we see that where deregulation has occurred, innovation has bloomed, such as with telephony services. Do you think we’d all be walking around with smartphones today if the government still ran the phone system?

The U.S. government has shown time after time that it is ineffective at managing much of anything. This is by design. The Founders intentionally created a government that was slow, inefficient, and plagued by gridlock, because they knew the greatest danger to individual freedom came from a government that could move quickly–too quickly for the people to react in time to protect themselves. If we value our freedom, we need government to be slow. But if government is slow, we shouldn’t rely on it to provide us with products and services we want in a timely manner at a high level of quality. The telecoms may be bad, but everything that makes them bad is what the government is by definition. Can we put “bad” and “worse” together and end up with “better”?

I don’t like how much power the telecoms have. But the reason they’re big and powerful isn’t because there is a lack of government regulation, but because of it. Government regulations are written by large corporate interests which collude with officials in government. The image of government being full of people on a mission to protect the little guy from predatory corporate behemoths is an illusion fostered by politicians and corporate interests alike. Many, if not most, government regulations are the product of crony capitalism designed to prevent small entrepreneurs from becoming real threats to large corporations. If Net Neutrality comes to pass how can we trust it will not be written in a way that will make it harder for new companies to offer Internet services? If anything, we’re likely to end up even more beholden to the large telecoms than before. Of course at this point the politicians will tell us if they hadn’t stepped in that things would be even worse.

If the telecoms are forced to compete in a truly free market, Comcast and Time Warner won’t exist 10 years from now. They’ll be replaced by options that give us better service at a lower price. Some of these new options may depend on being able to take advantage of the very freedom to charge more for certain types of Internet traffic that Net Neutrality seeks to eliminate. If we want to break up the large telecoms through increased competition we need to eliminate regulations that act as barriers to entry in the space, rather than create more of them.

I Want More Privacy

Free speech cannot exist without privacy, and the U.S. government has been shown to be unworthy of guarding the privacy of its citizens. Only the latest revelation of many, Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place To Hide reveals that the U.S. government tampers with Internet routers during the manufacturing process to aid it’s spying programs. Is this the organization we trust to take even more control of the Internet? Should we believe that under Net Neutrality the government will trust the telecoms to police themselves? The government will need to verify, at a technical level, whether the telecoms are treating data as they should. Don’t be surprised if that means the government says it needs to be able to install its own hardware and software at critical points to monitor Internet traffic. Once installed, can we trust this government, or any government, to use that access in a benign manner?

While privacy and freedom of speech may not be foremost on your mind today because you like who is running the government right now, remember that government control tends to swing back and forth. How will you feel about the government having increased control of the Internet when Republicans own the House and Senate and Jeb Bush is elected President, all at the same time?

I Want More Freedom

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. – James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

Many of us see the U.S. government as a benevolent and all-knowing parent with the best interests of you and me, its children, at heart. I see the U.S. government as a dangerous tyrant, influenced by large corporate interests, seeking to control everyone and everything. Perhaps these diverging perspectives on the nature of the U.S. government are what account for a majority of the debate between proponents and opponents of Net Neutrality. If I believed the U.S. government was omniscient, had only good intentions, and that those intentions would never change, I would be in favor of Net Neutrality and more. But it wasn’t all that long ago that FDR was locking up U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and Woodrow Wilson was outlawing political dissent. More recently we’ve seen the U.S. government fight unjust wars, topple elected democracies, and otherwise interfere in world affairs. We’ve seen the same government execute its own citizens in violation of Fifth Amendment rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Simply put–I don’t trust the U.S. government. Nor do I trust any other government, even if “my team” wins the election. I see any increase in regulation, however well-intentioned, however beneficial to me today, as leading to less freedom for me and society in the long term. For this reason those who rose up against SOPA and PIPA a few years ago should be equally opposed to Net Neutrality.

What Instead?

Internet bandwidth is, at least currently, a finite resource and has to be allocated somehow. We can let politicians decide, or we can let you and me decide by leaving it up to the free market. If we choose politicians, we will see the Internet become another mismanaged public monopoly, subject to political whims and increased scrutiny from our friends at the NSA. If we leave it up to the free market we will, in time, receive more of what we want at a lower price. It may not be a perfect process, but it will be better than the alternative.

Free markets deal exceptionally well in the process of “creative destruction” economist Joseph Schumpeter championed as the mode by which society raises its standard of living. Although any progress is not without its impediments and free markets aren’t an instant panacea, even U2’s Bono embraced the fact entrepreneurial capitalism does more to eradicate poverty than foreign aid. Especially in the area of technology, government regulation has little, if any place. Governments cannot move fast enough to effectively regulate technology companies because by the time they move, the technology has changed and the debate is irrelevant. Does anyone remember the antitrust cases against Microsoft because of the Internet Explorer browser? The worse services provided by the large telecoms are, the more incentive there will be for entrepreneurs to create new technologies. Five years from now a new satellite technology may emerge that makes fiber obsolete, and we’ll all be getting wireless terabit downloads from space directly to our smartphones, anywhere in the world, for $5/month. Unrealistic? Just think what someone would have said in 1994 if you had tried to explain to them everything you can do today on an iPhone, and at what price.

Update 6 February, 2015: Today, it was revealed by FCC commissioner Ajit Pai that the proposed Net Neutrality plan the FCC is considering is 332 pages long. It will not be released to the public until after the FCC has voted. Pai claims this regulation will give “the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works.”

The one certainty is that it will be years in courts, and will enrich many law firms.


A year or two ago I read about a technique for using aluminum, wetted with a room-temp liquid metal, sitting in a tank of water. I forget which metal they used, other than it not being mercury.

Aluminum is unique in that it’s very unstable, instantly oxidizing, but, very *stable* because the oxide layer is incredibly durable. This is why it’s so difficult to solder.

By wetting it with the layer of liquid metal, it’s unable to form its oxide layer. Instead, the oxide is shed into the water, as it combines with the “O” from the H2O, liberating the H2, which can then be used to drive a fuel cell, or, an internal combustion engine.

Because the hydrogen is stored in water, which is on par with the stability of the aluminum block, the supply can be stopped by lifting the block out of the water, creating an on-demand hydrogen system, obviating entirely the question of storage. (When the aluminum block is fully converted to a pile of aluminum oxide, it can be quickly replaced

– “five minutes” not being an unreasonable guess — and the oxide returned to the “fuel refinery” to be reduced to metallic aluminum (with the oxygen byproduct utilized to help improve the efficiency of the process).

I wonder if Toyota is using something like this? If so (and even if not

so!) I have to wonder why they’re going the fuel cell route rather than simply piping it to one of their engines. If I were a betting man, my money would be on politics rather than technology. It’s hard to conceive of a hydrogen/fuel cell/electric motor system having higher efficiency than a hydrogen/engine system. (In either case, the “exhaust” would be the same: water.)


I remarked that efficient and reliable energy storage would change the world. I got this reply:

Yup. For some, a change for the better; for others, a change for the worse (I’d hate to be deeply vested in an oil refinery if cheap water-to-hydrogen becomes practical.)

As an aside, I have to wonder if those tales of “The inventor who created a pill that let him drive his car on water” were more of a practical joke than “invention.”

I can easily see some wag rigging his car with a pile of aluminum shavings, wetted with mercury, and placed in his empty fuel tank — a tank rigged so that the fuel line was at the *top* of the tank rather than the bottom. When the witnesses verified that the tank was “empty”

(no liquid), and that the water was indeed water, he would pour the water into the tank, and then, with great fanfare, drop his “invention”

into the tank (in reality, an aspirin), and then wait a few minutes, then start up his car and drive it, to the amazement of the spectators.

Assuming that any of the apocryphal tales are true, it was inevitable that nothing would come of them, since the premise — a Magic Tablet — was pure hokum.

I know of no reports of progress in making fuel out of water without putting in a great deal of energy, It makes for great science fantasy though. And really efficient batteries would do wonders. But my experience with hydrogen is that it really wants to be free.





Pete Worden is leaving NASA at end of March. Readers of NEO News will remember that Pete has been a consistent supporter of NEA studies and planetary defense, in the Air Force where he rose to the rank of Brigadier General, in several policy related positions in Washington, and for the past nine years as Director of NASA Ames Research Center (and my boss).

In the early 1990s Pete invited several of us (including Gene Shoemaker) to visit Falcon Air Force Base and discuss the observations of bolides being made by surveillance satellites, and he organized one of the first meetings on planetary defense in Erice, Sicily. This meeting included astronomers who were calling for the Spaceguard Survey, Edward Teller and others from the nuclear establishment who favored experimenting with nuclear deflection, and a few representatives of the public including Lori Garver (later NASA Deputy Administrator) and Bob Parks (long-time writer of the weekly blog What’s New for the American Physical Society). Pete basically locked us all up for a week in a monastery until we agreed on a joint statement about the NEA impact hazard and planetary defense.

Back when II was active in politics, Then Col. Pete Worden was my (and General Graham’s) candidate to head a big X-project. We had some chance of success, but politics got in the way. Alas.


Henry Vanderbilt’s space conferences are among the best gatherings of this sort you can possibly attend. An announcement:

The announcement is that we (finally!) have a site nailed down for our next Space Access conference – Thursday April 30th through Saturday May 2nd, at the Radisson Hotel Phoenix North, three intensive days on the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation.

Full conference info is at (I’ll attach a copy

also.) We should have first-pass agenda details up in a week or so – as usual we’re putting this all together on a just-in-time basis, and the agenda will evolve (and improve) right up through the conference.

Henry Vanderbilt

SA’15 Conference Manager

I keep hoping I will be up to going.


Will robots reduce the demand for labor? I am perhaps skeptical. Consider that in the 1980’s Apple computers were assembled in highly automated factories in the United States – now they are assembled by hand in Asia by armies of workers jammed into shacks like battery hens using jewelers screwdrivers. Your clothes were sewed by hand, your fruits were picked by hand¦ If wages are down it’s not because of automation, but the population explosion and all that cheap third-world labor. I mean, if robots are making human labor obsolete, why are the rich in the United States so adamant that they simply must have immigration to expand the size of the labor force? Answer: it is supply and demand, not automation, that drives down wages.
Sure, there are processes like making nails or weaving simple textiles where machines are so efficient that no matter how cheap labor gets nobody will ever use human labor again. There are also some processes, like precision welding, where machines are simply more repeatable and precise. But for many other tasks, in Bangladesh you can get a human for 50 cents an hour, with no up-front capital costs, no maintenance costs, no retirement costs. Simple, cheap, disposable (plenty more where they came from). Whereas a machine could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars up front, maintenance contracts for industrial machines are not cheap, and you can’t just throw away that kind of capital investment if the need for the machine goes away.
Historically automation does not cause low wages – rather, because automation is so expensive, automation is a reaction to high wages. I mean, if automation caused wages to fall we would see more robots in poor countries, and that’s not the pattern, is it?
I think the big question ultimately will be capital costs. A robot could surely be made to pick strawberries faster than any human being. But how much is it going to cost? A million dollars? Or 5000? That I think is the issue, not the theoretical ability of a robot to do human work.


I commented on this yesterday. I can only point to tasks that robots and AI do routinely that not long ago were considered peculiarly human. I would not bet heavily against the robots; and the Asian sweatshops won’t be there forever. How long before you can print a special purpose robot?


It’s still pledge week.  If you have never subscribed, this would be a good time to do it; and if you haven’t renewed in a while, right now’s a good tome to do that.


Government Food Cops Are Out to Lunch

Dietary guidelines look nothing like how people really eat. Maybe that’s why they don’t work.


Cheryl Achterberg

The classic American sandwich is about to get a radical makeover. Forget about roast beef or cold cuts. Red meats and processed meats are out. A slice of cheese is permissible, provided it is low-fat and low-sodium. Skip the chips, even if they’re baked. Dinner needs an overhaul too: Less pizza, fewer cheeseburgers and casseroles, or change their recipes to make them healthier. At mealtime, water is the preferred beverage of choice—unless you are an adult, when moderate alcohol consumption is acceptable.

That, at least, is how the modern American family should eat, according to recommendations submitted this month to the federal government by 15 experts in nutrition and health—the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Every five years the committee is formed to advise the government on how to update its Dietary Guidelines for Americans according to the latest “scientific” data. I sat on the committee in 2010.

To fulfill its task and complete its 571-page report, the committee “developed a conceptual model based on socio-ecological frameworks to guide its work.”

If government committees of experts will tell you what you ought to eat, why would you suppose experts in mental health will not tell what you ought to have available on the Internet?


After net neutrality vote, an uncertain future for the Internet (WP)

By Larry Downes February 27 at 8:00 AM

Thursday, during a rancorous meeting of the Federal Communications Commission, the agency voted 3-2 to impose public utility regulations on Internet access providers, resurrecting a 1934 law known as Title II.

According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s comments at the meeting, this milestone decision, which undoes nearly 20 years of bipartisan “light touch” regulation for the Internet, was necessary to provide the agency with the authority it needed to pass enforceable Open Internet rules, or what is sometimes known as “net neutrality.”

Two previous efforts over the last decade were rejected by federal courts, who held that the FCC had failed to make the case that Congress had ever authorized the agency to police broadband, regardless of the agency’s best intentions.

So Wheeler decided to turn back the clock to a time when Congress had given the FCC broad power over an earlier communications technology — the monopoly phone company of the early 20th century.  Through a legal fiction the chairman referred to as “reclassification,” the Internet will be redefined as a telephone service. The agency can then regulate broadband using laws passed to oversee Ma Bell, treating it the way it does the old (and now nearly dead) copper phone network. Those laws, or some uncertain subset of them, will now apply to the Internet.

The Iron Law at work. It needs regulating. What must we do to make that happen?



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Robots, Net Neutrality ; RIP Armand de Borchgrave; Progress in Reorganizing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


The big buzz is about Net Neutrality. We are going to get it, and we’ll get it good and hard.

Progress today.  Saw my regular physician and he is happy with my progress.  Later Eric came over and we moved the Surface Docking Station downstairs. We also brought down a wireless router, and I now have secure and seamless Wi-Fi all over downstairs.

Now I can experiment with Cortana. I definitely have reliable fast Internet connections.



Taki’s obituary of Arnaud de Borchgrave.


Roland Dobbins

I only met de Borchgrave once, in Moscow in 1989. He was impressive, and very respected. We had lunch once, and I have never forgotten it. RIP  Taki knew him well.  There is also a good piece from a former subordinate in the current Weekly Standard.


Update on robots and jobs

Oh, something else that hardly anyone seems to talk about. Moore’s law certainly does seem to keep reducing the price of computer power – but that law does not seem to apply to industrial machinery, which remains very expensive and is not getting significantly cheaper, I think. Honda may drop 50 million on a set of precision welding robots for an assembly line – but will a farmer do the same to pick strawberries on a 40 acre farm? So phone-based customer service may be at risk – but janitor? Carpenter? Plumber? Perhaps not so much.
It’s like that old saying, that the human body is a remarkably sophisticated device that can be easily constructed using only unskilled labor and tools and materials that you probably have lying around your house…


When I was growing up it was a given that no one would ever be able to invent a machine to pick cotton. You could harvest wheat, and even beans, but cotton picking took human labor and lots of it. It was one reason for share-cropping. Schools let out for Cotton Picking. Day workers left other jobs for the week or two needed to bring in the cotton crop.

Just as crucial was cotton chopping. That was in Spring and schools let out for Cotton Chopping for a week or so. It took even more skill. When cotton seeds – carefully preserved by the cotton gin which separated seeds from staple – were planted, generally you planted three to a hill. One or more sprouted. So did weeds. Chopping consisted of selecting the strongest cotton sprout and with a hoe carefully eliminating everything else on that hill. Cotton planting hills are about 24 inches apart. You used the hoe to break up the clods around the one cotton plant that you allow to survive. It’s hard work and requires judgment.

After cotton picking machines were developed cotton farming still required massive amounts of human labor in Spring for cotton chopping.

Now cotton farming is automated. Planters plant at precise intervals. Cotton chopping devices thin the hills and cutout weeds. Mechanical pickers pick the crop. This change pretty well eliminated share cropping. When I was growing up we plowed and planted using mules to pull the planter, part of that being done by hand; chopping was done by hand; and I earned my first rifle picking cotton. I wasn’t good at it, and I wasn’t skillful enough to chop cotton.

Now it’s all done by robots.

You’d be surprised want robots can do, particularly with a bit of human assistance.

I agree, there jobs that will be a long time resisting algorithms; but it used to be self evident that cotton chopping could never be done by machine.


Verizon had a clever response to today’s big net neutrality vote

The government just gave a big win to net neutrality advocates by voting to regulate broadband internet, also banning companies from paying for faster service that could prioritize their content.

Many of the big players, however, aren’t happy about it.

Verizon released the statement below, which calls the FCC’s decision “badly antiquated regulations.” To drive the point home, the company’s PR team published the statement in Morse code.

clip_image002Verizon Wireless

The translated version also appears in a typeface that looks like it came from a typewriter.

Whether you agree with the decision or not, it’s a pretty clever move.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

An interesting response. Buzzfeed had this to say:

Net neutrality won. The internet is ours! We’ve taken it! Stolen it back from the people who, well, provide it to us at a pretty reasonable rate, truth be told. The entire library of human everything delivered right to your doorstep for a mere $20 to $50 or so a month, depending on how fast it is that you want that everything. Now that the FCC has voted to enshrine net neutrality, there is nothing left standing between you and the great unlimited gush of audio and video bits and packets slip-sliding right into your Sonos at democratically arrived-at speeds, unencumbered by fast or slow lanes. It means that your startup porn comes right to you with the same speed as your well-established, big business, legacy pornography. Let the binge-watching bonanza begin, this is America!

And yet, it still could serve as a political bludgeon. An example of the way President Obama overreaches. Something that divides Democrats and Republicans. In other words: politics as usual.


Bell Labs was for years the default advanced basic research department for the human race. It sort of went away when Judge Green broke up Ma Bell. This ZD article is about what happened next.

Bell Labs unveils its vision of the future, from SDN to teleportation with 3D printing (ZD)

Summary:The Israeli ‘franchise’ of the technology innovator is remaking networks – and where it leads is anyone’s guess, says CEO Danny Raz.

By David Shamah for Tel Aviv Tech | February 26, 2015 — 08:40 GMT (00:40 PST)

Nearly 70 years ago, Bell Labs staff created the transistor, a component that went on to change the world. Now, the company is looking to Bell Labs Israel, the latest ‘franchise’ of the venerable tech organization, for the next big thing.

One of the next technologies to change the world, according to Bell Labs Israel CEO Danny Raz, could be Star Trek-style teleportation. This futuristic transportation would be products rather than people, however; new networking protocols already under development, combined with 3D printing technology advances, could in the near future allow a product ‘beamed’ in one location to be printed out on a high-speed 3D printer on the other side of the world.


Only 40 percent of the global population has ever connected to the internet: report (ZD)

Summary:According the Facebook-led initiative, there are expansive gaps in connectivity throughout developing parts of the world.

By Natalie Gagliordi for Between the Lines | February 25, 2015 — 20:43 GMT (12:43 PST), the Facebook-led initiative to foster global internet connectivity, published a report this week that shines light on the expansive gaps in connectivity around developing parts of the world.

The report on global internet access found that only 40 percent of the world’s population has ever connected to the internet, and that only 37.9 percent of the global population uses the internet at least once a year.

Of course one might think that “only” 40% is a pretty large number.


Why the FCC’s Net Neutrality Vote Matters to Hollywood (Variety)

Ted Johnson

Senior Editor


John Oliver may have used his “Last Week Tonight” perch last June to explain net neutrality to the public, but the impact on showbiz won’t be clear even after the results of the FCC’s landmark Feb. 26 vote on the future of the Internet.

Confusing and involving lots of regulatory jargon, net neutrality has nevertheless drawn more than 4 million comments to the FCC, setting a new record. Actors including Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly and singers including Michael Stipe have weighed in. Chris Keyser, president of the Writers Guild of America West, called net neutrality “the issue of our time for the creative community.”

Those in favor of robust rules of the road have a myriad of concerns, but they share a common fear: that left unchecked, the Internet will morph into something resembling cable TV, including its expensive bundling structure. That’s why net neutrality advocates have sought rules that would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or selling faster access to subscribers.

While the goal of net neutrality may be the status quo — to keep the Internet the way it is — the FCC’s proposed tough regulatory approach could impact Hollywood in two key areas: the pathways consumers take to receive programming, and the price they pay for it.

There is considerably more, but the only agreement is that there will be lawsuits and members of the plaintiff bar will get richer. So will lawyers contracted by government to defend.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.