THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 653 December 13 - 19, 2010
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December 13, 2010
Friday the 13th falls on a Monday this month.
We have record high temperatures in Los Angeles for this time of year. Meanwhile the midwest and southeast are experiencing record cold, Florida is in a cold siege, and there are shovel-ready jobs all across the midwest and northern mid west. Of course that's weather, not climate, and more dependent on ocean surface temperatures than anything else. Climate forecasters insist this is an exceedingly warm year (Global Temperatures Continue to Rise).
Google Global Temperature today and you will see many references to hot, little about cold. It takes a bit to find Internet references to unusual frost and cold, but it's easy to see that we have global warming. I am sure that there are plenty of references to the unseasonable cold in Cancun, but it doesn't leap out at you from Google or the general news.
There are trillions at stake here, but not a lot of unbiased discussion; and I have yet to be told of where I can find a good undergraduate level discussion of how the oceans are warmed and what models are used for radiative heating of the oceans by solar radiation. What coefficient of absorption is used to get the average absorption and reradiation? How many regions are employed, or is there a general "global" coefficient? Do they change from day to night (at night the oceans are certainly warm compared to the near absolute zero of space, but how much of the heat radiated up by the water is absorbed in the atmosphere; and of that how much is absorbed by water vapor, how much by "natural CO2", and how much by CO2 added by human actions. (Note that there must be some level of CO2 in the atmosphere or all the plants will die; I know of no great research effort in determining what might be the "optimum" CO2 level. but I am sure there is some: I certainly experimented with elevated CO2 levels in growing green slime and other water recycling systems when we were studying lunar base conditions, and as one suspects, elevated CO2 is good for plants.
But it is surprising how little I can find about the basic assumptions used in climate models of global heating of the oceans, and what I can find doesn't reassure me that it is well understood. We already know that the models don't have much detail about the effects of cl0uds, which certainly cause major feedback loops -- clouds reflect back incoming sun light, but they also dramatically change the amount of heat radiated out to space it night. Radiation to space is a very efficient cooling system in deserts and other dry places: you can make icecream in the Mojave with a good cooler and sheets of aluminum foil (remove the cooler cover at night and expose the contents to the night sky; put the insulated cover back on and wrap the whole mess in shiny foil for the day. The Romans used this technique with large straw lined pits covered in the daytime with more straw and then highly polished shields. Cloud cover affects this enormously, of course. It won't work if you don't have exposure to night sky. I have no idea of how much of the ocean has cloudy nights, and whether there is a feedback loop -- warmer surface water should have more evaporation which should generate more clouds, but that's grade school science, not any real understanding. I presume the modelers have far more sophisticated techniques. I would appreciate a pointer to a good undergraduate level text on the whole subject of heating the oceans by radiation from the sun.
Anyway: it's cold across much of the nation, but it's record warm in Los Angeles. My sympathy for those of you who have to shovel snow. I got my hands very cold today: I had to clean the leaves out of the swimming pool filter. (Swimming pool: we built it when Hammer was a best seller, and of course it's still there and requires maintenance even though we seldom use it any longer. And the water is very cold when you have to reach into the filter and remove leaves.) Otherwise, it's polo shirt weather in LA, and I'm grateful.
I have decided to go to CES this year with Alex and his crew. I'll be around most of the week. I'll be doing this page and a column from there. I have no idea what the weather will be, but it sure won't be as nice as in Los Angeles.
A Virginia Federal judge has ruled that the key part of Obama Care is not constitutional. Of course that means nothing until the Supreme Court issues an edict.
Obamacare is not insurance to begin with. If you have to charge a dying old man no larger premium than you charge a healthy young man, it's a death benefit, not insurance. All the same on pre-existing conditions. One may be entitled to health care, and there may be a health care tax imposed on everyone that falls particularly hard on employers; that is the essence of Obamacare. Everyone can get it, and all those who can must pay, but employers may opt out by paying a fine.
I am not sure the judge has ruled that mandating that employers provide health care is unconstitutional. If not, then his ruling isn't all that important. I just don't know enough and neither do the news sources I have access to.
And the real debate hasn't happened: To what are citizens entitled, to what are residents including illegal residents entitled, and who is obligated to pay for them?
If you have not read my weekend discourse on taxes and objectives, please do.
And SNOW cancels a Minnesota Vikings game? Snow? Next we'll have the Green Bay Packers unable to play in cold weather. Ye gods.
The Virginia ruling brings up the issue of enumerated Powers of the Federal Government vs. the states. It will work its way up the chain of courts. If upheld it is a big step toward bringing back the Republic. How long that will take is not known. Meanwhile the Republicans will try to repeal the Obama health care act. No one wants the Obama Health Plan; but of course what Obama hopes for is that there will be enough benefits and entitlements spreading down among the public when the law goes into effect. At the moment it is very unpopular.
We live in interesting times.
The Long Beach Police snuck up on a man playing with a toy gun -- actually it was a hose nozzle he was holding in a two hand grip as if it were a gun -- on a balcony above the street. He was sitting there holding the object when the police, who had not made their presence known and did not issue any commands or otherwise identify themselves or announce their presence -- shot him eight times, twice with a shotgun. Now if a gangbanger group had done the same action it would be considered first degree murder. If a neighbor had seen a "man with a gun" and opened fire it would be considered murder. With the police it was self defense although there is no evidence whatever that the man was even aware of the police presence. But he was threatening the neighborhood. If the man across the street had fired on the victim it would be murder; but with the police it is self defense, or perhaps they were defending the neighborhood, or perhaps....
This is "a tragic accident," or perhaps it was the victim's fault.
Republican government asserts that political authorities and their enforcement employees are to be held responsible for their actions.
The right to keep and bear arms apparently does not extend to include the right to sit on your balcony and hold a hose nozzle as if were a pistol. What actions would be justified had it been an actual gun?
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|This week:||Tuesday, December
I am again way behind. Hurrying to catch up. Over in mail is a short exchange on sea level rise; is there an expert among my readers?
It looks as if the Compromise under which we will not raise taxes while extending unemployment benefits is going to pass, along with more ritualistic moves to disguise the fact that this is hardly a triumph for conservatism. Paying people for not working is a necessary temporary transition; long term unemployment payments are welfare.
The Compromise will happen, but it is not something to crow about.
And it's time for a walk.
Sent a flat rate post office priority mail box off to a Fleet PO; turns out that requires a form and has to be done by standing in the line at the Post Office. Dogs aren't permitted in the Post Office. They're allowed in the lobby where the mailing machine is located, but that machine can't send anything to the Fleet Post Office. If Sable is left in the lobby, she will howl; she does not appreciate being left alone, and Huskies howl for company. We managed to work it out, common sense prevailed, and the package got off all right, but it did take longer than I thought it would.
The facts have not changed. A citizen was sitting on a porch, holding a toy gun -- well it was a garden sprayer, and he was using it to play with as a toy -- while sitting on the porch. He was sitting there because he thought he was too drunk to drive. The Long Beach police snuck up on him, were not seen, were about 30 feet away and were pretty well concealed, and never announced themselves. He waved the pistol about, and at some point he was actually pointing it in their general direction, so the Long Beach police fired 11 shots including not one but two blasts from a shotgun, damaging the building and killing him. The police waited for 8 minutes, then shot him dead. They never did say a word to him. No one else was threatened or believed himself to be threatened.
If a rival gang had snuck up on someone and shot him down without warning we would know what to call this.
Now the radio commentators have begun to spin the story in the police direction. The poor cops are threatened all the time. Drunks with pistols are terribly dangerous at thirty or forty feet. But you know, I hadn't understood that there was a law against waving a toy gun about while giggling. Perhaps Long Beach is different. I can hear the spin going in the direction of sympathy for the police.
OUTIES: A novel by Dr. Jennifer Pournelle. For those
who don't know, she's my daughter, an anthropologist/archeologist,
university publications editor, former Army Intelligence officer, and a
generally good writer.
The direct link to Amazon sales is here. That's probably a more convenient way to buy the book. It can be read with Kindle application software on all machines that will run Kindle apps. Note that the Amazon subtitle is "Mote in God's Eye" and that isn't correct: this is set in the Mote universe, but it takes place off in the boonies.
OUTIES is "authorized" and boasts blurbs by Niven and me. It makes use of the Mote universe and some of the Mote characters with our permission. Good reading. I'll be repeating this in the upcoming column.
(There was a typo above that said 'with out' instead of 'with our' permission. Apologies. Obviously she has our approval.)
December 15, 2010
The Compromise, in which they do not raise our taxes in exchange for extending subsidies for not being employed, is in debate. This "contest" is Kabuki theater. The price for not raising taxes is very high. It has just passed the Senate, 81:19, and becomes an Obama "tax cut". There is of course no cut. They just didn't raise taxes. The Democrats could have done this at any time in the last two years, but for some reason they left it until the Lame Duck session. The Obama Compromise saves us from a horrid tax hike during a depression, and that's all to the good, but the price was very high.
Note that there is nothing in this Compromise that the Democrats could not have accomplished last summer. Indeed, they could have got all they wanted: not raising taxes for most of us; extending subsidies for being unemployed; a package of ear marks, some worthwhile some boondoggles; all of that could have been done last summer in a week had they wanted it. Note that the "Compromise" consists of not raising taxes on the rich for a couple of years. Last summer the Democrats could have got their tax hikes on the rich as part of their package; no compromise needed. It's interesting to speculate on why they didn't.
Incidentally, this Bill seems to be a money bill that did not originate in the House. The Constitution says "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." This appears to be a revenue Bill which originated in the Senate. I can recall when the House jealously guarded its rights, so much so that it insists that appropriations Bills also originate in the House although there is no Constitutional necessity for that.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.
December 16, 2010
Getting all the government you pay for: "Dannon Settles Ad Complaint" (link).
I wonder how many people in this nation were harmed by those advertisements? I can appreciate a certain amount of "truth in advertising" enforcement, and perhaps the claim that being "regular" will help prevent colds is a reach, but I do not see how anyone other than the bureaucrats who extracted this money is much better off now that this horrible crime has been dealt with and the company fined. Don't we all feel healthier already? The Federal Government cares...
The iPhone is "Not Really Made in China" (link)
The iPhone is made in China, and imported to the United States from China.
One point of the article is that it costs about $8 to assemble the iPhone, and that is done in China, but the intellectual property, Apple Computer, and many of the components are American, and many other components are made in countries other than China, so the accounting is wrong: that is, the total value of the phone is charged against the US trade deficit, when that number ought to be different.
What caught my eye is the assembly cost of $6.50. Why is that done in China? Obviously because it is cheaper to do it there, but why is it cheaper in China rather than in Stockton or Los Angeles? Electronic assembly requires careful work, but it doesn't take a great deal of intellectual ability, It is a teachable skill, not something that requires "education" as we understand education. One would think that American in high unemployment areas in the US could easily learn to do that work, and indeed we know they can. On the other hand, it does require care and good work habits.
Perhaps our schools are not teaching such virtues?
The Big Budget Buster Bill with all its earmarks appears headed for passage. I'd be happier with an interim two month continuation bill on both tax increases and spending; let the new Congress deal with all this.
The sticking point is simple: does the United States believe in property? Do we have a right to get rich, and if so, just how rich? You can make the case that enormous disparities in wealth are not good for a Republic, but that is certainly a separate issue that needs to be debated. The tax debate is over soaking "the rich".
Soaking people who make more than $250,000 a year is not the same as having very high taxes on those who make $250 million a year. And exempting the first $20 million from death taxes (and thus saving the family farm or the family business from having to be sold for taxes) is quite different from confiscating huge chunks of estates larger than a million. A millionaire isn't all that rich now. The family home approaches that now: you can't leave your house to one of the kids. In theory an author's copyrights are worth something, but it's pretty hard to figure out what: must they be sold at public auction in order to pay taxes to the state?
All this needs open debate. Are we trying to spread the wealth? Whose wealth and who is wealthy? Is a farmer with 200 acres of corn land that could be turned into ticky tacky houses to be forced to sell his property to the developers because it ain't going to be the family farm any more? Similar with the owner of a book store, or a hardware store. Death taxes ought not be used to wipe out the middle class, but that's what they do.
I hate the Compromise and the huge Aggregate Budget Bill. The Lame Ducks are trying to save what they can, and it looks as if the Republicans have been seduced into cooperating with them. Feh.
December 17, 2010
We went to a funeral mass. A very active retired priest who used to be at our church came also, so we went to lunch with him and some friends, so it's late, and I find I'm a bit more tired than I thought. I seem to have a certain amount of energy and when it's used up my brain slows down, so be warned if I tend to ramble.
I saw this article at breakfast, and thought it probably worth comment. It appears that the WSJ may have found someone to replace the liberal "Tilting Yard" column they recently ended. I was planning to comment. Here is the thrust of the column:
Before I wrote my comment this came:
One does wonder if the columnist, a professor of economics and public policy at Princeton University, has traveled abroad or even south of the border. Being poor sucks wherever you are, but if America is such an awful place to be poor, one wonders where it's a lot better? Certainly not in most of the places I have traveled. In the United States, or most of it, it's lawful for the poor to go mostly where they will. It's clean and orderly. Clean water is free, and getting enough to eat isn't that difficult if you don't mind begging, or "three hours of pushing a broom earns a night in a fifty cent room." The fifty cent room costs a bit more now, but three hours of pushing a broom earns more, too. And there's always "Brother can you spare a dime" only it's more likely to be a bit more than a dime now.
Indeed, I would have thought that given welfare, food stamps, and various other benefits, being poor in the United States -- at least in California -- is no fun, but it is certainly not Dickensian poverty. I would not care to be an unemployed single parent anywhere, but if that had to happen I would think that I'd rather be in Los Angeles than anywhere else I have been.
Note, though, that the professor author of the above spends a great deal of time appealing to "fairness" but says little about what economic fairness is. That begs the real question. If the goal is "fairness" then we need to discuss that. "Fairness" certainly requires looking into more than the needs of the impoverished. If we're going to talk about tax money -- money taken under threat of fines and imprisonment -- we need to talk about why taking one person's money and giving it to another is fair.
Among other discussions, it requires that we look at the difference between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor. There was once a dialog about that, but it is lost in the noise now, and anyone who tries to raise it will be accused of everything from idiocy to mopery and dopery to, eventually, racism as well as gross insensitivity.
If tax policies are to be fair, would it not make sense to discuss just what fairness is?
For fifteen minutes the Long Beach Police watched Douglas Zerby sitting on an interior courtyard stoop playing with a toy gun. They never announced their presence. There was no danger to anyone. They never announced their presence. There were at least five police officers there. Then, after fifteen minutes, two or three of them opened fire with shotguns and pistols. There was no warning, and no command to drop the weapon. Apparently his first notification that the police were present was to be shot dead.
This, according to the LBPD, was to protect the citizens and make certain no one got hurt.
In find this interesting:
It is the first actual measurement -- as opposed to inference from models.
What I find interesting is the range it might have been, from very much lower to a great deal higher, because the interior magnetic field strength tells us just how much heating there is going on in the interior of the Earth. If that interests you, read the article: my concern is that up to now there was considerable uncertainty in that number, and if the interior heat factor of the Earth is uncertain, how can climate models be as accurate as they claim to be? Surely the interior heat generation of the Earth has some relevance to the climate of the biosphere? I can't make heads or tails out of the IPCC report on this, but I will cheerfully admit that's probably just being dense on my part. Still, I have asked many sources for a good undergraduate level discussion of the contribution of Earth interior temperature generation to climate and I haven't found it. It does seem to me that the Earth can't over the long haul generate more heat inside than it transfers to the biosphere. It is surely sending up some. Since that number doesn't seem to be directly measured, it has to be inferred, and the inferences have to be made form models of the interior heating mechanisms; yet a crucial number, the magnetic field strength, was not known from direct measurements until just now.
Now this may all be trivial in its effect on the actual average temperature of the Earth, but it is not obvious that it is trivial. That's a pretty big heat engine down there. It gets energy inputs from a number of sources including tides as well as radioactive decay. I've never seen any real discussion of how this is handled in the climate models that are said to give us accuracies of the average temperature of the Earth to 0.1 degree. Those models are used as justification for spending trillions of dollars -- California just adopted another set of energy taxes -- and I think the climate modelers owe us at least a short exposition on how much they think the interior of the Earth -- which is certainly hot -- contributes to the average temperature of the Earth's biosphere, and how they come up with the numbers used in that.
I expect some of you are weary of this discussion, but there are trillions of dollars at stake here, and I think it's important to know just how much confidence we can have in the Believers who tell us it is necessary. Someone must be thinking about questions like this. Who?
You knew it was coming:
The Pelosi Congress has authorized the TSA to unionize. Apparently it was in one of those enormous bills that get passed without reading. There was no debate on this.
TSA, Iron Law, Unionized, political donations, lobbying --- You can imagine the results.
Merry Christmas from the Democrats and the Party of Hope and Change.
December 19, 2010
It's flood watch in Los Angeles. But in Britain they have climate change:
Now perhaps there is unseasonably warm weather elsewhere so that the average for the Earth is higher than last year at this time; but surely an average rise in temperature across the Earth as opposed to hotter'n blazes one place and colder'n a witch's mammaries in another is a different kind of phenomenon? I don't think anyone knows what's going on.
Spent much of the day watching Alex climb on the roof to clear the gutters. At one point Friday I contemplated getting on the roof, going so far as to get out the ladder and climb, but as I was about to actually leave the ladder for the roof a sudden burst of sanity hit me and I came back down. My balance isn't good enough to take chances like that any more.
The Army is giving up the "universal" camouflage uniform. Hurrah. It took them long enough.
North Korean defectors are releasing pamphlets attached to balloons. They include also US $1.00 dollar bills. Apparently that's a real attention getter in North Korea? Standard black market item? I have no idea.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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