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Monday  May 16, 2011

Health care 

Hi Jerry,

You'd stated:

"The analogy to automobile insurance seems to be overlooked."

Actually I think that's exactly the right analogy. A State (not the Federal Government) can mandate insurance coverage, but only for liability (to protect other people from accidents you cause). Even a state can't force someone to purchase collision or comprehensive insurance, which covers your own losses. I reject out of hand the idea that anyone is entitled to healthcare that they haven't paid for. We may choose to provide immediate life-saving efforts, but if you've chosen to not purchase insurance, once you're stable, you're out.



P.S. I'm VERY glad Huck dropped out. We don't need the party to move to the social right any more than it has.

The problem is that rejecting out of hand the idea that anyone is entitled to healthcare that they haven't paid for is an exercise in futility. I reject out of hand most entitlements, but doggone it, they keep being paid, and I keep being taxed for it. I don't know the solution to the problem, but it is highly unlikely that people will be allowed to die in the admitting rooms of emergency hospitals.

We may use taxes to do what amounts to buying (paying for providing) catastrophic healthcare to everyone, and thus we won't call that "compulsory premiums" although it wouldn't be different if we did. We then look to see what limits we can put on everything else. Perhaps we look at medical savings accounts. But the notion that we will let people opt out for their children and then let the kids die in the streets is the plot of a science fiction story I don't think I can write.

Leaving the matter to the states is one solution and one I would favor, but then I favor leaving most problems to the states. But I do not think you will be able simply to abolish what amounts to tax paid health care, and if it's tax paid you are buying insurance, and it's a compulsory purchase. It's just not called insurance premiums, it's called taxes. And rejecting those out of hand gets eventually a call from the public officers.


On Health Care Costs


In your essay, "A ramble on health care and candidates", you almost come out and say the dirty little secret. It is impossible for all to get the health care they would like and will die earlier than what medicine could provide them. We are only discussing who gets the short end of the stick; TANSTAAFL.

At the end of all the Sturm and Drang in the health case argument no matter whether it's the Democratic or Republican solution, all of the insurance contracts, laws, executive orders, and regulations will say, "If you are not in one of these protected classes, you are screwed." The only difference will be the number and types of protected classes.

The fabulously wealthy will be OK, they will set up boutique hospitals outside the long reach of the government. So we are left with all who are not fabulously rich which is most everybody else including me and I assume you.

So the question is what sort of system can be set up that most people will consider "fair enough?"

A way to cut to the chase in the silly season is to ask the rhetorical question "Is your life worth the entire wealth of the United States, including every individual's wealth? If not, then we are discussing where do we draw the line and how."

It's amazing to see how people try to wiggle out of the conundrum. It took me about a decade to finally convince my sister, a nurse, that medicine is a limited quantity and thus subject to the dismal science.

My hope is that surgery will not be so subject to the dismal science because of the ultimate development of Niven's "autodocs" that will come out of "Watson-like" software and autonomous robotics. But it won't be in my lifetime...

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

You raise the key point: what sort of system can be set up that most people will consider "fair enough"? And who will it cover? Do legal residents have more coming than illegal immigrants? And so forth. These are all matters that need far more consideration than they have been given.

The obvious personal solution is to become one of the fabulously wealthy, or else be somehow entitled to a first class organization's services. Now how do we provide that?

The complaint of most physicians about insurance is the micromanagement by non medical people. That extends often to government paid programs as well. Some outfits like Kaiser seem to have managed to insulate most of their medical people from the payment process, and the result is that most patients have confidence in the system. It works. But whether something like that can be cloned is questionable; and often trying to grow successful institutions destroys them.

When health care is a free good the demand rises without limit.


Jane's Walks.

Hi Jerry.

How Jane Jacobs is now being honored and actively remembered:


and the Jane's Walks mentioned in the article:


The idea is to take a walk and observe your own community, just like Jane Jacobs would have!

Unfortunately, all the walks just took place - I would have liked to have gone on one. Hopefully next year....


Mike Casey

Sounds like a great thing to do. Jacobs remains well worth reading. I don't always agree but she makes one think of things that ought to be thought of.



I thought you might appreciate the delicious irony of draining the retirement funds of public employees to finance continued deficit spending. Perhaps this will encourage them to grow a brain.


Jim C



This is unbelievable:

<snip> Geithner, who has already suspended a program that helps state and local government manage their finances, will begin to borrow from retirement funds for federal workers. The measure won’t have an impact on retirees because the Treasury is legally required to reimburse the program. </snip>


So, now all we need to do is make a law and that fixes everything? They've lost their minds. non compos menti

-------- Most Respectfully, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo

Keep those printing presses working. Maybe we will have $3 million postage stamps.


Global warming, global cooling, or whatever? Just weather...

<snip>North Dakota's highest recorded temperature is 121 °F (49 °C) at Steele on July 6, 1936 and the lowest recorded temperature is −60 °F (−51 °C) at Parshall on February 15, 1936. North Dakota is 1 of only 2 states to record their highest and lowest temperatures in the same year (the other is Utah in 1985).<snip>

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Dakota 


I am sure there is some underlying process that can be modeled, if only enough money were spent on hardware and software ans studies by expensive people. Apply at any major university.


David Evans, formerly of the Australian Greenhouse Office, has become a skeptic.


Fundamentally, yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas and should in theory warm the planet, but it is only one variable among many in the equation. The planet, through a mechanism we don't quite understand, seems to compensate for the increased CO2. This has been clear since the mid-90s, when climate science stopped being about science and became about politics instead. According to our correspondent, at any rate.


Brian P.


Subject: A sign of the times

Jerry, there's a new program on TLC (The Learning Channel) that says quite a bit about the way things are going in the US: Extreme Couponing. The program features regular people going to the market and racking up a bill of several hundred dollars. Then they use their store loyalty card, coupons, gift certificates and so on to bring the bill down by anywhere from 80 to 95%. Granted, the show's on a cable channel, not broadcast, but there still has to be a reasonably large audience for such a thing to make a profit. Has the economy really gotten so bad that people find it interesting to sit and watch other people save money on groceries?


Perhaps we all ought to be watching...


Infected Android apps can hijack your texts

At least 11 Android apps contain malware that is rigged to automatically send text messages from your Google Android smartphone to phone numbers in China.

Email this Article <http://www.pheedcontent.com/






It's all true and it's all scarey.


Science fiction in action!

Thousands Of XM-25s Headed To The Troops

May 16, 2011: The spectacular success, and popularity, of the XM-25 grenade launchers in Afghanistan (since late last year, when five of them were sent to combat troops), has forced the U.S. Army to hustle and get more of them to the combat zone as soon as possible. Right now, 36 more are being hand-built (as all prototypes were), and these should be delivered to infantry units by late next year. Meanwhile, mass production has been ordered, and this will result in over 12,000 of the weapons being delivered, starting in 2014.

It was obvious that the XM-25 was a success after only 55 of the 25mm rounds were fired in combat. The users protested having to give them up after the few months of field testing. All this because the XM-25s work as advertised, firing "smart rounds" that explode over the heads of Taliban hiding behind rocks or walls, or hiding in a cave or room. Enemy machine-guns have been quickly knocked out of action and ambushes quickly disrupted with a few 25mm shells. Encounters that might go on for 15 minutes or longer, as U.S. troops exchange fire with hidden Taliban, end in minutes after a few 25mm, computer controlled, rounds were fired.

American infantry love gadgets, and they are extremely eager to get electronics that help them in combat. The XM-25 is all that, and the troops want more. In response, the U.S. Army decided to let the paratroopers keep the five XM-25s, and to speed up plans to produce more. The word has gotten around in Afghanistan, and every combat unit there is asking for XM-25s. Although warned to keep operational details off public Internet forums, XM-25 users are telling stories to other combat troops of a wonder-weapon that actually works.

All this comes after years of testing and debating whether the XM-25 was ready for a combat test. Finally, three months ago, after yet another year of testing and tinkering, the U.S. Army finally sent five of its high-tech, but long delayed, XM-25 grenade launchers to Afghanistan. This was supposed to happen in 2008, but testing kept revealing things that needed to be tweaked. The first troops to get the initial five XM-25s were paratroopers. It was always the plan that another 36 would quickly follow if there were no problems with the first five. But now those 36 are being rushed out as quickly as possible.

The years of testing and tweaking, in response to troop feedback, paid off. Even the current batch of users had suggestions for improvements, and some of these are being incorporated the next 36 being built. The mass production model will have still more changes. The troops also asked for a longer range (700-1000 meters) round, but this would probably require some major engineering and testing. But such longer ranges are required in a place like Afghanistan, where there's a lot of open terrain, surrounded by hills and places for hostile gunmen to fire from. Yet even with the current model, it's obvious that the XM-25 gives the troops something they need, and now want. The XM-25 won't win the war by itself, but it will make life much for precarious for Taliban fighters.

In development since the 1990s, the revolutionary, XM-25 grenade launcher has gone through several major design <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htweap/articles/20110516.aspx>  changes. It was six years ago that six XM-25s were delivered to the U.S. Army for troop testing. Two years, a few were sent overseas for testing in combat situations. While the troops have been very enthusiastic about the new weapon, there were a lot of suggestions, mostly about minor items. So the army kept tweaking and refining the weapon.

The XM-25 was originally one of two weapons (the other being a 5.56mm rifle) incorporated in the 8.2 kg (18 pound) XM-29 OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon). The OICW was originally developed as a replacement for the 40mm grenade launcher, with the intention of giving the grenadier some rifle firepower as well. Didn't work out as intended.

The big problem was effectiveness. The older 40mm, unguided, grenade rounds weigh 540 grams (19 ounces) each, the original 20mm OICW round weighed half that. This was one of the several major problems with the OICW. It was too heavy and ungainly, and the 20mm "smart shell" it fired did not appear capable <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htweap/articles/20110516.aspx> of effectively putting enemy troops out of action consistently, especially compared to the 40mm shell it was replacing. So, in August, 2003, it was decided to take the 5.56mm portion out of the OICW and develop it as a separate weapon (the XM-8) and develop the grenade launcher part that fired the "smart shell" as the XM-25. But the XM-25 would now use a 25mm shell, which would generate 50 percent more fragments (and heavier ones at that) than the 20mm shell of the OICW.

The 20mm and 25mm "smart shells" both use a computer controlled fuze. The XM-25 operator can choose one of four different firing modes via a selector switch on the weapon. The four modes include "Bursting" (airburst). For this to work, the soldier first finds the target via the weapons sighting system. The sight includes a laser range finder and the ability to select and adjust the range shown in the sight picture. For an air burst, the soldier aims at an enemy position and fires a round. The shell is optimized to spray incapacitating (wounding or killing) fragments in a roughly six meter (19 foot) radius from the exploding round. Thus if enemy troops are seen moving near trees or buildings at a long distance (over 500 meters), the weapon has a good chance of getting them with one shot. M-16s are not very accurate at that range, and the enemy troops will dive for cover as soon as M-16 bullets hit around them. With smart shells, you get one (or a few) accurate shots and the element of surprise. The smart shells can be used out to 700 meters, but not as accurately. At those longer ranges, you can't put a shell through a window, but you can hurt a crowd of gunmen standing outside the building.

The other modes are "PD" (point detonation, where the round explodes on contact), PDD (point detonation delay, where the round detonates immediately after it has gone through a door, window or thin wall) and "Window", which is used for firing at enemy troops in a trench, behind a stone wall or inside a room. The round detonates just beyond the aiming point. For buildings, this would be a window or door frame, cave entrance or the corner of a building (to get enemy troops thought to be around the corner.)

The XM25 is still a heavy weapon, with the final version coming in at 5.5 kg (12 pounds). The 25mm shells weigh over half a pound each (270 grams). On the plus side, there is already a 25mm armor piercing round (using a shaped charge capable of penetrating over 50mm of armor) available. This makes the XM-25 capable of knocking out light armored vehicles. Then there are the new versions of 25mm round, like fuel-air explosive (or "thermobaric"). Such a shell would cause greater <http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htweap/articles/20110516.aspx>  blast effect in an enclosed space, and actually suck most of the oxygen out of a cave or closed room long enough to make surviving troops at least a bit groggy. This gives the attacking troops an opportunity to rush in and kill the enemy, or take prisoners. In combat, every little advantage helps. With the XM-25, hiding behind rocks, trees, walls or in caves will no longer protect you. There is also a flechette ("shotgun") round. The magazine holds four rounds, which cost, on average $35 each. The XM-25, with its 4x thermal sight, costs $25,000.

Meanwhile, a year ago South Korea got its first export customer for its similar K-11 20mm infantry rifle. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) ordered 50 of the $14,000 20mm/5.56mm weapon, to try them out. It was two years ago that South Korea revealed it had developed the K-11, which appears to be identical in concept of the U.S. Army XM-29 (or OICW). The South Korean version weighs 6.1 kg (13.4 pounds) and combines a 5.56mm rifle, with one firing 20mm computer and laser controlled shells. The South Korean weapon appears to operate the same way as the 20mm shell of the XM-29. The South Koreans plan to issue the K-11, on the basis of two weapons per squad (an infantry unit containing 10-12 men). The K-11 is about 25 percent cheaper than the XM-29.

It's unclear if the South Koreans found solutions to the problems the XM-29 and XM-25 encountered, or simply developed an improved XM-29 and decided it was useful in small numbers. The South Koreans have found that the 20mm smart shell is effective out to about 500 meters. South Korean troops began receiving the K-11 last year, and there's nothing to stop any NATO nation from buying a few K-11s for their troops in Afghanistan. Then again, maybe not. South Korea recently halted production of the K-11 because nearly half of those already distributed to the troops had design or manufacturing problems. So it appears that the K-11 was rushed out the door, while the XM-25 spent years finding and fixing problems before turning some over to the troops to do whatever was needed with the reliable and effective new weapon.



“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight David Eisenhower




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Tuesday,  May 17, 2011

National Health Care

I feel like the discussion of health care gave too little emphasis to what I feel is the most important point.

You are correct that our current system is that everyone gets some minimal level of health care paid out of (a) tax dollars, and (b) higher health care costs for everyone. The latter cost is because the law mandates that emergency rooms treat in emergencies, and some of the cost of providing that treatment for the indigent is spread over paying customers. As such, the discussion of mandatory insurance becomes a question of how we pay for this minimal level of health care, rather than a discussion of what is or is not required.

The issue that interests me is that setting up a national health care system of any type, whether it is called Medicaid, ObamaCare, or a One Payer system like the British use is a terrible political decision. It results in two problems:

1) Concentration of power. This is the source of corruption and cronyism. The more diffuse power is kept the less corruption is tacked onto th final bill. 2) A one size fits all system is created that does not allow for any effective experimentation with better methodology. I am a huge fan of the concept that the 50 states are laboratories of democracy. Push issues like this to the states and minimize the federal government's involvement. Note that to an extent this is already true of Medicaid.

I am not a fan of Mitt Romney, and I think that RomneyCare looks like a disaster, but his critics are wrong when they say that if he likes RomneyCare he should love ObamaCare. As I read it, states have the power to impose mandatory health insurance on citizens. The US Constitution grants no such power to the federal government.

-- David

I am in general in favor of leaving things to the States, where there is residual sovereign power not granted to the federal government. I believe that RomneyCare was legal, and can serve as an example and object lesson for all of us; and I do not believe that Romney ought to be disqualified for the position that it was and is a state matter. As to whether or not it is a disaster, I have mixed reports on that: it depends on what you assume would have happened without it, and I haven't the data. But whether or not it's good for Mass. I do not think it constitutional for the nation.

I would eliminate most of the federal mandates to the states on the subject of health care, and dump the problem in the lap of the statehouses. Let them argue freedom vs. equality.

Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. Or have I said that before?


Compelled to buy car insurance

Dr. Pournelle --

There is commonly no blanket requirement for an individual to have car liability insurance to drive a car. There is typically no such blanket requirement to have a driver's license, either. There are only these requirements if the person wishes to drive on the public roads. Many a farm kid drives quite legally on the farm without either set of documents. Certainly, failing to obtain these documents places severe restrictions upon the individual but the option exists and is successfully chosen by many.

Furthermore, there is also typically the option of posting a bond in lieu of standard liability insurance, to in effect "self-insure".

States are also the ones who impose the obligation for car insurance. Their constitutions may or may not allow it. I see nothing in the US Constitution which allows federal involvement in health insurance. Not the commerce clause, not the power to tax an object, which does not beget the authority to spend for a thing.

People without health insurance do not impose a financial cost on others. "WE" have imposed this cost on us. Whether it is appropriate for others to pay for the care of people who cannot afford that care and, if this should be done, whether it should be done through the government or through charitable foundations is a debate worth having in earnest.

I agree to some extent with the former speaker's comments but those I have heard have been rather general. It's in the details where we find God and the Devil.


The debate is certainly not over, and must not be.


"When health care is a free good the demand rises without limit."

Dr. Pournelle:

When nobody pays their own costs, the price also rises without limit. One can only imagine what groceries would cost if some third party was paying 80 percent of our freight.

The key to medical costs is to keep trying to introduce market forces back into the system via medical savings accounts and vouchers. At the same time, deregulate insurance rules and mandates to give people wider choices, and encourage moving away from employer-provided policies toward individual and non-employer group solutions.

It would also help to reconstruct the medical regulatory and gatekeeping systems to make it easier for people to become legitimate medical providers. Allow more personnel flexibility at the less-critical end of medical care.

Rework things like FDA regulations which require hundreds of millions to get a drug or device approved. A first step would be to focus on safety more than effectiveness. Make sure labeling is accurate, consistent, and transparent, and let people make their own decisions on effectiveness.

Computers used to cost millions and fill a room. Now everyone has their own. I see no technological reason medical systems could not have a similar renaissance, with diagnostic devices available to the average person. Right now, with prices artificially high, there’s no incentive to reduce medical device costs, and I suspect regulatory barriers also keep costs high.

I don’t have any magic solutions, but as with a lot of other issues, the key is the direction you travel: toward more individual choice and free markets and away from socialized one-size-fits-all mandatory concepts. When competition and variety become widespread, the solutions will develop on their own.

Tom Brosz


The Health Insurance Like Auto Paradigm

Based on my experiences driving in Iowa - a well insured state - I have some reservations about this. We have the be insured, be financially responsible or don't drive law that you mention. We also have a lot of scofflaws who drive uninsured. My last two accidents were the fault of uninsured motorists. In both cases, the police ( as they always do ), let the uninsured motorist go. They have better things to do with their time than to take some scofflaw to jail and no room in the jails to hold them. The insurance company told me in both cases, "You can pay for your own repairs or your can subrogate to us, pay the comprehensive deductible and hope that we can recover it for you from the uninsured motorist. In one case, they were never able to find the motorist. In the other, there were no assets to take, no income to garnish, ... So, not only was I out the deductible but everybody's insurance premiums went up to pay for the insurance companies losses due to the scofflaws. The bottom line is that with car insurance, it's well intended but it doesn't work. And, the estimate is that anywhere from 10% to 25% of the state population drives without insurance.

I can see exactly the same thing happening with health insurance. John Scofflaw goes to the hospital and says, "Take me in, it's your obligation under Federal Law." There are little or no assets to take or John moves and can't be found. And, the end result is the same as today. Medical costs and insurance costs go up to over those who can't or won't pay.


How do you opt out? Of course if you can't pay, your parts are worth money. Will it come to that?

Perhaps it should:

it is fine to say that you have to have car insurance or you can't drive. But in many states, many of the people who are driving don't have it. They may sign up before they renew their tags, paying for a month, then let it lapse for the year. I've seen numbers that it can be over 25% in some states.

The person who is hit by one of these drivers have to either file a claim on their own insurance, or go without recompense. Legally, you can go through the judicial system to get reimbursed, but try to make a claim against someone illegally in the US without assets.

At what point in the year would you have to prove you have health insurance? When you file your taxes? The people who can't or won't pay for health insurance will find a way to pass the buck.


We can sell what remains of the offender's car. Perhaps...


fair healthcare


On fair health care. As Newt is found of saying, "there are always simple solutions, but simple doesn't mean easy". Here is my simple solution to make health insurance (sorta) fair: require insurance providers to consider the entire population of the country as 1 risk group. Allow deductions for healthy lifestyles. Make legitimate use of commerce clause to allow sales across state lines. Set a (low) national minimum and make states accept same. Require states to insure their citizens. Simple, and only requires 1 amendment to constitution. As a bonus, we get rid of medicare/medicaid. I can see a couple ways for states to implement. Buy a single policy to cover all citizens. Expend workers comp. to a full blown insurance. Require citizens to insure themselves. As a libertarian of the personal responsibility stripe, I have no problem with an individual mandate. As a federalist I do have a constitutional problem with a federal mandate. When states have to pay the bills perhaps they will get serious about tort reform.

Martin Lee Rose
"vote Satan; why settle for a lesser evil?"
{ Chutulu is too obscure a reference for most folks }

And if they are not serious about tort reform, let them pay rather than all of us. Leave Matters to the States is my default principle: if you don't, show my why you don't.


Subj: Groklaw Is Reborn


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Philly Police Harass, Threaten to Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun - Stossel's Take Blog - FOXBusiness.com


Future ATF agents?

FBI supplementary homicide reports show that Philly police are as useless as tits on a boar. They should let every citizens carry guns and fire the cops


Jim Crawford


From another discussion:

"a single UAV could now, potentially, stop an armoured battle group  dead in its tracks in a matter of seconds"


More lethal fun with cheap, smart drone aircraft and their weaponry

Well, yeah, if it works as advertised.

You know those letters in magazines for men where every guy describes himself as being amazingly well-endowed? For their day jobs, those guys write descriptions of new weapons under development, all of which are going to be real game-changers. Like the Mark 86 fire control system, which was specifically designed to engage small, fast, highly maneuverable boats (but in practice has never scored a single hit on a small boat). And Tacit Rainbow, a real game changer from the late 1980s. Tacit Rainbow was an amazing weapons system which could loiter over threat areas undetected and wipe out enemy forces. At least it did that in simulations, generating a lot of excitement until it was discovered that Tacit Rainbow was technologically impossible to actually build.

In on-going developments, there's the F-22, all of which are currently grounded because of problems getting oxygen to the pilot. (For $160mil an aircraft you wanted a reliable oxygen supply?) There's also the Navy's latest jewel, the Littoral Combat Ship, planned as an affordable, next generation surface combatant with dramatic improvements in capabilities, and which are advertised as "maximum combat capability for the dollar" but which an analyst (Raymond Pritchett) has accurately described as "...3000 ton speedboat chasers with the endurance of a Swedish corvette, the weapon payload of a German logistics ship, and the cargo hold of a small North Korean arms smuggler." All that for about $600 million a hull! And we have Gorgon Stare, subject of recent press releases in which the Air Force touted the ability of the system to surveil an entire town and spot important activity. The only problem was that when the Air Force sent Gorgon Stare to field testers the answer came back that it simply didn't work at all. It could look at a whole town all right, but it couldn't spot anything, let alone focus on it. (In the best tradition of weapons bureaucracies, the Air Force has decided to deploy Gorgon Stare anyway in the hopes that people in the field could somehow figure out how to make it work.)

In the best of times, descriptions of new weapon systems have to be taken with a grain of salt. Right now, with big budget cuts starting to roll and more expected, everybody is pumping out press releases about how their stuff in development is the greatest thing since gunpowder. But most of the time the only real difference between SF and those press releases is that the people writing the press releases get paid more than we do.

John Hemry CDR USN (Ret)

I thought this worth general circulation.

Reliance on secret weapons is often disappointing. As we pointed out in Strategy of Technology, you have to have doctrines and policies and trained troops when using new weapons. And practice. This is not to say that the technology war is not decisive; it does say that it is still a war, and in war everything is very simple but the simple things are ver complicated....


Pakistan Troops, NATO Helicopters Clash at Border - Bloomberg


And so the blowback begins.


Things will get ugly if Pakistan closes the supply route. It could become a reenactment of Dunkirk but without the sealift. Bush at least could be relied upon to establish air superiority and air support to our troops while they march to the sea.

Jim Crawford

=Beware the fury of the Legions.


An attempt at rational climate debate

Dr. Pournelle -

Maybe one of your fans has been listening to you and did something. Apparently the meeting was generally cordial. As the author states at the end, at least somebody tried. "Would putting all the climate scientists in a room solve global warming... Skeptics meet Warmists at Cambridge" By Andrew Orlowski <mailto:andrew.orlowski@theregister.co.uk

Some highlights of the article:

"But the private invitation-only event I attended at Downing College Cambridge this week was no ordinary conference. It was an attempt to bring together leading climate scientists and IPCC figures with their critics."

"[Phil] Jones [of CRU] explained the temperature record. He said that biases are a real problem, and have a greater effect on the record than adjustments. He addressed the issue of UHI, the urban heat island effect, which critics say has skewed land temperature upwards, and hasn't been taken into account as much as it should have been. Jones pointed out that the UHI was evident in London 100 years ago – but it hadn't become greater over that time. "The trend is no different to outer London." Critics also point to the disappearance of 4,500 largely rural stations from the 6,000 formerly used by NASA, via the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Jones couldn't address this, but pointed out many stations aren't really independent; around 200 stations are needed to obtain a global average."

"The net cooling effect of clouds is 30W/m2, which is much greater than any of the figures mentioned above. So small changes in clouds will have significant impacts on temperatures."

"Svensmark saw four primary factors to climate change: solar activity; volcanoes; a curious "regime shift" that took place in 1977, and which has led to subsequent warming; and residual anthropogenic (manmade) components."

"The afternoon saw some fiery exchanges. Australian geologist Ian Plimer spent a lot of time on CO2 emissions from submarine volcanoes, which he said are not measured. Andrew Watson said his team could measure oceanic CO2 emission to 1ppm, and the output was negligible about 1km away. Plimer said he wasn't looking before and after eruption. Plimer was convincing on the long-term geological record. "I would like to see why 3 per cent anthropogenic CO2 drives climate, and the other 97 per cent doesn't". The official answer is that the 97 per cent of natural CO2 is perfect equilibrium, but the wicked (fossil fuel) 3 per cent tips everything out of balance."

"Mitchell's contribution was a mixture of the sophisticated and the simple. He rebutted the idea that you could not model a chaotic system and come out with anything useful. Obviously there's plenty of maths that begs to differ, and Mitchell mentioned some of it, such as Lorenz. Other arguments were odd: Mitchell used the examples of Mars and Venus – two planets which don't have biospheres. This example may prove that there's a greenhouse gas effect – but not much else. And it wasn't seriously in doubt. "People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful," he said. "Our approach is not entirely emprical." From the audience, Professor Michael Kelly, who served on the Oxborough Report, wasn't impressed with the thoroughness of this. Referring to using parameters as variables, Kelly said: "It strikes me as what you're doing is what we did in solid state physics in the 1970s, which wasted a lot of time. We didn't go back to our modeling as we should have, because it produced the right results. We quit while we were ahead." "


Fascinating. Thanks. All extremely interesting and perhaps something will come of it.





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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I had medical appointments all day.










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Thursday, May 9, 2011

Health care mandates

Dr. Pournelle,

If individual mandates are the best solution (or at least an acceptable one) for health care, but cannot be levied by the federal government, what role would the federal government play? Does the President have any role? No one asks about the President's position on auto insurance. Also, how would illegal aliens be addressed? It appears that they would make out best of all.

How have things really worked out in Massachusetts? It is it a good or bad model for state-mandated health insurance? I'm not sure I can cut through the partisan rhetoric.

Steve Chu

Key questions.


health care debate

From a letter published Tuesday:

<snip> When nobody pays their own costs, the price also rises without limit. One can only imagine what groceries would cost if some third party was paying 80 percent of our freight. <snip>

Exactly the problem. So why not, as a first step, abolish employer payments for health care insurance? It would certainly make a huge swath of the American public start to realize just what their health insurance *actually* costs. Then, as another author suggests, consider the entire country to be a single risk group, and maybe we're on the road to rationality, rather than rationing.

Andy Preston

I do not think that is the solution to the problem. People have now been taught that they are entitled to good health, and they do not have to pay for it. After all, don't people in France and England have all that? They don't have to pay. We tried freedom in the United States, and it didn't work. The American system is broken. We need to socialize medicine, and give everyone free and equal health care, and the only real problem is whether we let rich people buy better health care than the rest of us get by birthright.

Such are the arguments. They are not really being addressed.

Of every dollar spent on health care, only 12 cents is spent by the patient; meaning that there is little incentive by patients to save money. And do note that the costs of the bureaucracy that enforces this are not included in that twelve cents.


Report on UK Copyright Law 

Three articles on the newly released paper on reforming UK copyright law. <http://tinyurl.com/6fpxnt4>  <http://tinyurl.com/6j56ze2>  <http://tinyurl.com/3cxpkhp> . (This describes the reason I can't buy most e-books available in America for my Kindle.)

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)


More news as political satire: Stephen Colbert unintentionally targets self

Mr. Colbert makes an entirely different point than he intended attempting to satirize the Citizens United vs. FEC case:


Steve Chu


Zombie Invasion -- yeah, I know --

I guess terrorists don't cut it anymore:


-------- Most Respectfully, Joshua Jordan, KSC


federal zombie warning 


Official from Centers of Disease Control: Preparation for the Zombie Apacalypse




CDC Warns Public to Prepare for 'Zombie Apocalypse'


""There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for," the posting reads. "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.""

The value of a plan isn't that everything will work according to what is foreseen, it is that it puts everyone on the same sheet of music and the process of working through the possibilities helps you deal with what will actually happen. This is as true of disasters as anything else. I highly recommend a Zombie Apocolypse kit, because it is also a hurricane kit, a flood kit or whatever else might be needed.

Remember, Graves' Law of Zombies: When being pursued by something you can't kill, aim for the knees and run like hell. (People have complained to me that I should shoot at the heads instead. My reply is that if the dead start to walk, I don't know if they need their brains or not, but I have confidence that the mechanics of a hinge joint are still going to be the mechanics of a hinge joint.)


Why does it not astonish me that bureaucrats are out there demanding brains?


74.5 quintillion transistors shipped in 2010, 


Check out the Bootnote in this:


74.5 quintillion transistors shipped in 2010.


That's a lot of transistors!


Android Update 

It looks like Sauron is not the only eye that watches:


Owners of Android smartphones are being warned to avoid public WiFi networks after researchers found a security flaw that could affect the vast majority of devices based on Google’s software.

A trio of researchers at Ulm University in Germany found that it was “quite easy” for hackers to intercept data from Google’s photo-sharing, calendar and contacts applications, as well as potentially other Google services such as Gmail, using a flaw that affects 99 per cent of all Android devices.

-------- Most Respectfully,
Joshua Jordan, KSC

I see you...


Subject: California prison costs

Per George Will, in California it now costs $49,000 to keep an convict in a state prison for one year. That is $7,000 more than it costs to attended Dartmouth for a year. You can substitute any other top-tier college for Dartmouth as you wish. Much of the cost of California prisons is salaries and pensions of employees.


-- Dwayne Phillips

The California legislature just approved a new agreement what will raise the pay of prison personnel.


Subj: Launch Vehicle Development costs - SpaceX vs NASA

The very last page of


[quote] Appendix B – Discussion of Cost Effectiveness of Commercial Cargo Effort

NASA recently conducted a predicted cost estimate of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using the NASA-Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM). NAFCOM is the primary cost estimating tool NASA uses to predict the costs for launch vehicles, crewed vehicles, planetary landers, rovers, and other flight hardware elements prior to the development of these systems.

NAFCOM is a parametric cost estimating tool with a historical database of over 130 NASA and Air Force space flight hardware projects. It has been developed and refined over the past 13 years with 10 releases providing increased accuracy, data content, and functionality. NAFCOM uses a number of technical inputs in the estimating process. These include mass of components, manufacturing methods, engineering management, test approach, integration complexity, and pre-development studies.

Another variable is the relationship between the Government and the contractor during development. At one end, NAFCOM can model an approach that incorporates a heavy involvement on the part of the Government, which is a more traditional approach for unique development efforts with advanced technology. At the other end, more commercial-like practices can be assumed for the cost estimate where the contractor has more responsibility during the development effort.

For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:

1) Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and

2) Cost using a more commercial development approach.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

It is difficult to determine exactly why the actual cost was so dramatically lower than the NAFCOM predictions. It could be any number of factors associated with the non-traditional public-private partnership under which the Falcon 9 was developed (e.g., fewer NASA processes, reduced oversight, and less overhead), or other factors not directly tied to the development approach. NASA is continuing to refine this analysis to better understand the differences.

Regardless of the specific factors, this analysis does indicate the potential for reducing space hardware development costs, given the appropriate conditions. It is these conditions that NASA hopes to replicate, to the extent appropriate and feasible, in the development of commercial crew transportation systems. [/quote]

One observer offers the following translation from NASA-speak:


[quote] Shorter version: our cost models are busted, and we don’t know how to do cost estimation for this new generation of space development companies. But the costs are a lot lower than most people think, and very promising for the future. [/quote]

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Advertisement, sort ot:

No Agenda Show Says IMF Chief Was Set Up

Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak, hosts of the No Agenda Podcast Show, www.noagendashow.com  <http://www.noagendashow.com>  , don’t hold back this week when they outline the possible conspiracy theories behind the “taking out” of IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. They talk about things that no other journalists have questioned, like the timing of the reported attempted rape vs. the immediate response of the NY Police force. How did the chain of events happen so fast? Most other similar cases take days to get recorded and probed. Who moved this case to the front of the line and who knew where to go and what to look for?

The No Agenda hosts totally support the hotel housekeeper’s story but still claim “something doesn’t smell right” to how this whole thing unfolded.

To hear what Adam and John have to say, listen to the podcast here: http://curry.com/?p=9878 <http://curry.com/?p=9878>

No Agenda is a podcast which takes place two times a week on Thursday and Sunday in the morning, hosted by Adam Curry <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Curry> and John C. Dvorak <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Dvorak> on the mevio <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mevio> network. The show is a free-flowing conversation that deconstructs recent news and media memes <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memes> . Much of the appeal of the show comes from the odd couple relationship between the hosts. Adam Curry usually suggests theories about the news or world events, whereas John C. Dvorak has a more reasoned demeanor, and as acting as the "Straight man" to Curry.





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Friday,  May 20, 2011

I was a bit under the weather.



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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Massachusetts Health Care

Steve Chu asked on Thursday, "How have things really worked out in Massachusetts? It is it a good or bad model for state-mandated health insurance?"

I quite agree that those are important questions. CNNMoney published an article last year that might shed some light:

"5 painful health-care lessons from Massachusetts"


The writer notes five key areas that he asserts are similar between the Massachusetts plan and the Obama/Democratic Congress plan and notes the problems that have arisen in Massachusetts resulting from these aspects of the plan:

The Massachusetts plan does not control costs. Community rating, guaranteed issue and mandated benefits swell costs. Huge subsidies for low-to-medium earners could prove extremely expensive. (Well, in Massachusetts, they already are.) The exchanges reward people for working less and earning less. The generous plans and added mandates give employers an incentive to drop health insurance.

Overall, these are issues that my carpenter grandfather would have foreseen (if memory of his comments about other federal government "charity" are any guide) with simple common sense, something sadly lacking in most politicians, it seems...

David Needham


You commented: "After all, don't people in France and England have all that? They don't have to pay...." Actually, in Britain, we don't perceive good health care as free. Rather, it's something we pay our fair share for over the years so that it will be there when we need it. Our NHS contribution is an insurance payment. What we particularly don't like is free-loading and feather-bedding, and so many people tend to avoid using the NHS until it does turn into an emergency. Concerns about the viability of the current proposals: <http://tinyurl.com/3fax8ke>  <http://tinyurl.com/3sy7ut4>  <http://tinyurl.com/5wrljo6

Superinjunctions found to be overused: <http://tinyurl.com/44f6nyh

University postgraduate recruitment story: <http://tinyurl.com/5uth8sh> . The UKBA seems to have a political agenda of its own.

Why train travel is so expensive in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/6cevyhl>.

Harry Erwin PhD

-- If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? (Albert Einstein)


Where is the Republican voice?


Browsing the CNN site today, I came across -


...where David Frum says in part:

"There's accumulating evidence that upward mobility has broken down in this society. Poorer Americans find it harder to escape poverty than they did a generation ago. More bitter still, there is evidence that people born poor in America find it harder to escape poverty than do people born poor in many European societies, including those supposed backwaters of socialist stagnation, Germany and France.

The Democratic Party responds to those social challenges by offering more government, more regulation and more taxes. These are not Republican answers, obviously.

But what are the Republican answers? And who will offer them?"

Indeed, as the Democrats beat their drums for more centralized power, money, and control all placed in the hands of the bureaucrats who after all only have our *best* interests at heart, where are the Republicans? They decry the Democrat's excesses but offer little in the way of a united front when it comes to remediating them.

I'm not one of David Frum's fans but he indirectly asks a well pointed question: Has the top of the soap box become such a dangerous place that, regardless of convictions or how dearly they are held, there are no Republicans who are willing to stand on it any more?

John L.

Making politics a blood sport has the consequence of limiting those willing to participate...


News as political satire: CNN edition

Eliot Who?


Steve Chu


When the President does it, he does not need permission.


-------- Most Respectfully,
Joshua Jordan, KSC


A modest proposal by a world power to help solve the US-Mexico border problem


A modest and reasonable proposal by a world leader embroiled in a long-term conflict, to help kick-start the process to solve US-Mexico border problems.


Pot, meet kettle. Stings a little bit, eh? Oh wait, I forgot. Nobel Peace Prize. I guess that settles it.

Can we negotiate?









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