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Mail 441 November 20 - 26, 2006
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November 20, 2006
(Posted Tuesday, November 21. Monday was devoured by locusts, failing power supplies, a blue funk, and other horrors.)
Education in the UK. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6157720.stm>
UK Health and Politics. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6156152.stm>
MP3 player used to hack ATMs. <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/18/mp3_player_atm_hack/>
NATO difficulties in Afghanistan. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,,1951222,00.html> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6161500.stm>
Why the construction chief for the London Olympics resigned. <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2458536,00.html> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/story/0,,1951960,00.html> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/story/0,,1951845,00.html>
The value of the checks and balances in the American system is very obvious to anyone who has lived with the UK government. In the UK, there's nothing to keep someone's adolescent daydreams from becoming law or policy except the possibility of losing the next election, and that's a long time in the future...
It shows up in other ways, too--there's nobody around to force the Government to think outside the box. Recently, the US Deputy Secretary of Health, Alex Azar, commented while in the UK: "I try to remember to advise people first off that we will never balance our budget going after drug prices. They are a relatively small proportion of the entire healthcare budget in our system" (quoted in <http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1947279,00.html> ). If you've been funded by the UK Treasury, you've encountered just that nickle-and-dimeing philosophy from time to time--it's the way Gordon Brown (from Scotland 8) manages the economy and is currently making for serious problems in the NHS and the university system. During the last twenty years, both areas have become heavily dependent on skilled foreigners willing to work long hours at low salaries in return for a right to live in the EU. It has been a cheap way of providing health and educational services, but it also means UK citizens who might otherwise consider careers in those fields look elsewhere, and so are unavailable if the UK is forced to rely on its own resources. Beware outside context problems!
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
One wonders, is the higher education establishment the beneficiary of huge increases in available funds as is the US? The US education establishment, faced with what amounts to unlimited funds in the form of student loans, has priced itself to an absurd level, with the result that whereas my wife, the eleventh child of a coal miner, could put herself through university and become a teacher without any public assistance, my new daughter in law, from a solidly middle class family, has debts that won't be paid for years. The entire middle class in the US is now in debt to the government, or will be; and that cannot be a good thing.
Credentialism, particularly education degrees and such like, dominate employment in the US because it is the only way personnel departments can operate; anti-discrimination laws make it impossible to reject an inept minority candidate for a job unless there is some "objective" evidence that the person hired is "better qualified". That usually means education degrees and the like. Thus everyone has t0 pay tribute to the higher education establishment, which keeps raising the costs of education to new levels; costs always rise to what the traffic will bear, and with the flood of loans and grants available there is very little limit to what the traffic will bear. The result is that the upper classes don't care; there are grants for the lower classes; and middle class kids expect to come out of university owing the government money they won't pay for much of their lifetime.
The result on family structure and the next generation could be imagined if it were not already clear.
We are in the realm of "The Little Black Bag", a story so politically incorrect that I doubt it could be published now. (Kornbluth's The Marching Morons is probably better known, but The Little Black Bag is perhaps more illustrative).
|This week:||Tuesday, November
Subject: NHS Savings
I called my NHS clinic today to schedule a flu shot. (I'm an asthmatic.) I learned that since I'm currently not using an inhaler, I don't qualify this year. See <http://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/ output/2006/11/13/story8961885t0.shtm> .
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
We got ours at Kaiser this year as always. They have found it costs less simply to give them to everyone, free, so long as the vaccine is available. The year of the big shortage we got ours but a bit later, after the children and infirm.
Preventive medicine is cheaper than reactive medicine.
And solving global warming, if it actually ever turns out to be a problem, by building tinfoil parasols on bank holidays.
Subject: Global warming already killing species, analysis says
"Now we've got the evidence. It's here. It's real. This is not just biologists' intuition. It's what's happening."
But what did they do during the Medieval Warm period?
And will Kyoto do anything about warming on Mars?
Global warming may be real, although the data are not entirely determinate. The cause is less certain, and the remedy is thoroughly unclear -- the recent California Green Initiative isn't going to do diddeley whack. If we want to save the polar bears, will the cost be keeping tundra unavailable for cultivation? No one seems to address these problems. Everyone has an agenda.
But how warm was it up there during the Medieval Warm period?
On your problem with sharing info between to server you probably already tried this but....
I had a network drive that went missing after installing Microsoft Live OneCare. It turned out the Firewall setup stopped me from mapping to it (but I could see it through the NAS software supplied by the drive). It drove me crazy till I found that going to OneCare "Setup - Firewall - Advance - Advance" and set the network printer sharing tab. (Sorry if the labels are a little off I'm writing from work and this was a home issue.) There was an tab for sharing on the subnet. You then HAD to reboot even though there was no instruction to do so. After rebooting the drive was accessible.
Man I sure hope that's what the problem is! I'll try that. Although in fact I have a more drastic solution in the works.
Subject: AP says Kissinger says military victory in Iraq impossible
I don't know what to make of this report. Is the article's headline misleading? http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061120/ap_on_re_mi_ea/britain_iraq_kissinger_8 <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061120/ap_on_re_mi_ea/britain_iraq_kissinger_8> Note the reporter's name. I think it reasonable to suspect bias.
What definition of victory shall we use?
I suppose the goal of the invasion was to topple the Saddam regime. That was definitely accomplished.
I suppose the goal of the occupation is to establish order so that the new government can rule Iraq. I doubt the geographic expression known as Iraq is susceptible to rule by a unified government.
Respectfully h lynn keith
You break it, you own it...
Where Have You Gone, Uncle Remus?
-- Roland Dobbins
November 22, 2006
Rumor of their demise has been greatly exaggerated.
Every worried story on this subject cites the Western Hudson Bay population, which has been declining, but other population areas (about 19 of them) are stable, and some are even increasing. The primary influence on population continues to be hunting quotas.
A letter on this subject:
Subject: Paleo Carbon Credits?
The Global Warming foolishness continues, but I wanted to relate something I remember from high school.
It was the late 80’s and I was at a poster session in Ottawa put on by the Geologic Survey of Canada. In typical field trip style, we were to do a report on one of the presentations we had seen, and I chose one entitled “Proxy Holocene climate data from the Canadian Arctic”. This was well before the current panic about warming, so it wasn’t at all politically charged, just a low-tech (not a computer in sight) poster presentation.
The upshot of what they showed was that relic plant life dug up from c. 5-6000yrs BP indicated that temperature in the Arctic were then at least 4-5 C warmer than today. Again, no computer models, no theories, just dirty fieldwork that found dead pants that couldn’t live at those latitudes today. This from NOAA <http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/holocene.html> made me think of it; like the “problems” in the outer solar system, if we can affect places we haven’t been, why not travel back in time to warm things up too?
TEEN GOES NUCLEAR: He creates fusion in his home:
It reminds me of a 1930's-1940's SF story.
I remember Bob Forward published an article on this kind of fusion machine in Analog, years ago.
Earlier this year Jay Leno bet Paul Newman $10 to eat some of Newman's Own dog food on the Tonight show. Mr. Newman ate several forks-full and pronounced it delicious. You can find numerous references to the incident on the web, including video clips at the link below. I guess "humiliating" a celebrity only merits $10 (plus the union minimum the show pays all actor members who appear), while humiliating an unknown goes for $2.7M. Given your fame in several areas, but lack screen credits and food marketing, I'd peg your humiliation value at about $1.2. I've never eaten wet pet food, but I did try some dog biscuits once to see what they tasted like. They tasted mostly like they needed salt.
Many years ago a senior VP at Microsoft popularized "we eat our own dog food," to describe us using our pre-released software such as Windows and Office for day-to-day activities, to prove its value. I've never liked the phrase. With all respect to Mr. Newman, I like to think we create software with more value than "dog food." But I guess "we eat our own linguini" doesn't have the same marketing ring to it.
The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously. -- Hubert H. Humphrey
Victor Davis Hanson this week
Subject: Cheap shale oil production
Jerry, if it turns out to be legit, it looks like an Israeli company has figured out how to produce shale oil at $17/barrel! Quite a damper that would put on peak oil doom and gloom scenarios, no? :-) http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=31531
Seems a bit low, but I've heard that shale can make profits at $40 / bbl, and there's lots of shale.
Remember the "Hunter-Seeker" in Frank Herbet's "Dune"?
" Israel <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=Israel> is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.
The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet," would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said.
It is one of several weapons being developed by scientists to combat militants, it said. Others include super gloves that would give the user the strength of a "bionic man" and miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers."
Ideology Has Consequences.
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Rush Limbaugh Mac
Listening to Rush on Friday, it sounds like he has a mac with quad core, 16 gig ram, the works. Rush dittocam shows he has a huge apple display. What a PR nightmare if it gets out that Rush is a machead. Apple stock would plummet... Somehow I just can't see an apple ad campaign showing Rush as a contemporary "switcher".
Subject: Global Orgasm,
I simply must leave off visiting The Reg. I ran across this story:
which led me to this:
Global Orgasm - December 22nd, 2006 - Peace through Global Ecstasy
The site has very peaceful music.
Subject: Microsoft(R) Firefox | We've Made it Better (heh heh)
The next front in the browser wars - MS buys out its competition:
"Microsoft(R) Firefox | We've Made it Better" -
It reminds me of the time when . . .
Subject: IQ, Freewill, etc.
Recently, I attended a talk given at the Baylor honors college given by a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. The Professor told us that genetics appeared to have a greater effect on a person than how he or she was raised, and told us that IQ was determined largely by heredity. He proceeded to say, "now, this doesn't apply to race." He referred to The Bell Curve, but couldn't remember the name, just that it had been written by two Ivy League Scientists and had been "blown out of the water." He told us that many inequalities remained in America and that when these had been removed, then "you can come talk to me about racial IQ differences."
I haven't yet read The Bell Curve. However, it seemed odd how he could tell us genetics usually was a stronger influence than environment (such as in the case of a person being adopted into a family of alcoholics vs. a genetic child of an alcoholic adopted into a family of non-alcoholics) and then so confidently attack someone else's work on genetic influence, especially when they have done similar adoption studies...
I intended to ask him a question on the subject, but during his talk an apparent tendency to reduce "you who are" to heredity and environment surfaced. When the time came I asked him how when doing his scientific research he took into account the fact that there were factors outside these two such as human freewill (yes, I chose the more controversial term). His response was "you don't." While he "felt" something was there in addition to the two, as a scientist "you must suppose that everything has causes." While at home he operated as if the reductionism wasn't true and that there was human choice as something other than bouncing atoms. "I have my scientist hat and my everyday hat." I wonder if a good economist must subscribe to economic determinism while at work. Sigh.
An astute question. More disturbing to me is that he is denouncing a book he has not read and whose name he cannot recall. The Bell Curve was closely written, closely reasoned, and contains data; its critics have not really addressed its hypotheses nor do they attempt to give better explanations for the data presented. Of course that's hard to do if you haven't read the book and don't recall its name.
The Bell Curve states that IQ is about 60% determined by heredity. That's a mild hypothesis; some believe the data support a higher correlation. Although The Bell Curve isn't much concerned with race, one statistic that just about every study ever done shows correlations of IQ with race, with Ashkenazi Jews having the highest mean IQ (oddly enough there aren't too many who denounce that conclusion) and black Africans in Africa having the lowest. This isn't important to the Bell Curve's thesis; it's just data. The politically correct view is that race correlates with height (it's hard to argue against that one) but not much else, and besides, we can't define race anyway although you need a college education before you believe that. And if means differ then somehow you have said something about individuals in the populations that generate those means.
Race clearly has SOME correlates. We do not see many Chinese or Japanese in NBA basketball teams. So does sex. We do not see many women in NFL football. The races of dogs are commonly assumed to have different sizes and shapes -- Great Dane and St. Bernard and Husky and Yorkshire Terrier -- and also different temperaments (same list). Bitches are assumed to have a different temperament than dogs.
We do not know the correlates of race in humans. Perhaps we should not try to learn them: indeed, if the world were legally colorblind we probably shouldn't. IQ has correlates of which race is only one; if we were allowed to hire by IQ without regard to race, we'd have one result if IQ and race are correlated and another if they are not, but race need play no part in hiring policy. As it is, if we hire by IQ we do not meet our quotas for hiring minorities (for whatever reason) and thus we have to throw IQ out as a criterion for hiring. Since IQ is still the single best predictor of success (not the only one, but the single best) leaving it out of your selection regression equation makes your prediction much worse. That means you have to go to great lengths to find other ways to select people who can do the jobs you need done. And if the above paragraph is simply untrue, how will we ever find it out?
Science has succumbed to political correctness. There is precious little science in "social science" (which is mostly Voodoo Science anyway); add political correctness and it is not only voodoo, but bad voodoo at that.
As to free will, science has no real way to handle that. Minsky in his Society of Mind tried to address the mechanisms of free will, but I do not believe he was successful. And of course if one argues successfully that there is no free will, our whole system of justice and responsibility falls; as does our whole theory of ethics and ethical behavior. If you can say "The devil made me do it, and I'm not responsible, and punishing me won't be fair," then what's left of justice. We may find out if the DSM continues to dominate the Voodoo sciences. Last time I looked you can find a good diagnosis (and thus claim insurance money for paying a shrink) because kids won't clean up their rooms. Everything is a disorder and nothing is anyone's fault.
So it goes. There's less science in the world all the time. See today's essay in View...
Subject: Mr. Zias's Rant
Mr. Zias is being disingenuous at best. Anytime someone tries to make a point by substituting the amortized total acquisition cost of a system for the incremental cost I pretty much tune them out. Either they are lying, or they have issues with simple mathematics and economics. For example, the incremental cost of each new F-22A is well under $120 million, not the $360 million quoted. You can only get that number by including the development costs, which are sunk costs. Those costs were paid in the 1990's and have been spent whether we buy a thousand aircraft or zero.
Mark E. Horning, Physicist, L-3 Communications Night Operations Center of Excellence Air Force Research Lab; AFRL/HEA
Indeed. I once had to teach economics, and explaining the difference between marginal and average cost was difficult.
My favorite is the $500 toilet seat in the B-52. I was involved in that one. The B-52 is a space efficient airplane, and there's not a lot of space left over. It was convenient when built to design a head just for the ship, rather than using "standard" stuff from commercial aircraft. Boeing tried to get the government to buy spare parts -- toilet seats are a high wear item -- but there weren't funds for them. The B-52 life kept being extended -- the ships are all older than their pilots now -- and the toilet seat wore out as predicted. The production lines had long since been shut down. Setting up the line and producing a hundred toilet seats cost a lot of money, so the average cost of the seat was $500 or maybe more. Of course it wouldn't have cost that to make another hundred once the line was set up, and indeed the average cost would drop if they bought more. Someone flippantly suggested that if they didn't want to pay $500 a seat they should order a couple of thousand of them...
I have more comments on Zias
Subject: Mitchell Zais' Remarks & Army Force Structure
BG Zais' are a good summary. Like Kerry's 2004 campaign, they don't tell us much about where to go from here.
Unless the White House decided not to do what would be necessary to raise the additional troops. That would have been White House and Congressional business, and would probably have led to far closer scrutiny of the need for the proposed war.
Based on the traditional and persisting federal government/Department of Defense/US Army approach to force design and operation, this would have required 1.2 million troops to fully sustain. As BG Zais said, in 1969 we had 1.5 million soldiers, of whom 400,000 were in Vietnam with another 200,000 in Germany and Korea. A 2003 Army of 400,000 in Iraq would have needed 1.2 million to sustain it, and a new Selective Service draft to man it.
All of this is Beltway hot air unless prefaced with the statement 'implementing this policy using our present methods requires a new military draft'. Let's get real. The 500,000 regular Army is just now emerging from a recruiting crisis.
The existing 500,000 regular US Army - not including the substantial nonstop National Guard & Reserve unit activations and deployments and USMC support - has far fewer than 160,000 soldiers deployed to both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres at any moment. For example, in November 2005 the US Army had 79,000 regulars deployed inside Iraq. But let's assume 160k for both wars. According to BG Zais, the remaining 340,000 regulars cannot generate 3% deployable ("fewer than 10,000") for anything else no matter how great the need. Let us deduct 50% from this 340k. This leaves 170,000 soldiers who have not seen a recent war zone deployment, assuming a 12 month Army tour policy. How does it happen this 170k cannot field 6% ("10,000 soldiers") of its strength for an emergency?
The Army's ongoing restructuring - "Modular Brigades" - is perpetuating this abysmal conversion of resource inputs into on the ground fighting power. The 2011 goal is 42 brigades and 84 maneuver battalions on a 475,000 end strength. This plan works out to 5,600 regulars mobilized per maneuver battalion. Neither the end of the Cold War or the vast expansion of in-theatre civilian contractor support appears to make the slightest improvement to the regular Army's ability to sustain more than 33% of its strength deployed. Actually far less than 33% if we deduct the many ARNG brigades and smaller USAR units sent to Iraq during this war.
John McCain calls for sending "20,000 more troops" to Iraq make dramatic soundbites. Until one realizes that at the most optimistic this might equal three more maneuver brigades added to the existing fifteen. It's hard to see how this meagre reinforcement alone could influence the situation in Iraq.
The new regime in Congress would perform the nation a great service by investigating this state of affairs in depth from the bottom up.
p.s. Fixing this outrageous state of affairs can only be done by Congress. There are many practices and sub-bureaucracies accumulated over the last 65 years that have led to this Kafkaesque outcome. The overwhelming majority of them are popular Congressional district pork.
Others are things that once made sense during WWII when sea transit took many months, are common sense today for UPS and FEDEX in a business environment and are absolute insanity for the military of a 21st Century semi-industrial power now. An example is treating wheeled vehicles as capital equipment to be repaired and overhauled rather than consumable items to be used up, cannibalized and destroyed. The cost of brand new Hummers and trucks is not high enough to justify the costs of a militarized infrastructure to repair and overhaul them, 75% of which has to be mobile and the other static 25% operated by US Civil Service methods. And the unit costs of new Hummers and trucks should be a lot lower if we were buying them in larger quantities more often.
The concept of the stateside military base as a self-contained federal city complete with large family neighborhoods, schools and utility systems is another anachronism. This made more sense in 1940 when these bases were laid out in deep rural and wildnerness areas a day's travel from civilization. Although even then they didn't allow the huge accumulation of camp followers now esconced in and around the remaining active bases.
Basically the US Army never abandoned its 1946/1954/1971 bureaucratic posture of waiting for the next mass mobilization. When the draft ended in 1972 the US Army Recruiting Command was plugged in as a direct replacement for the Selective Service System. Nothing else in personnel management or training changed. TRADOC continues to operate its 8-12 week meat grinder training centers as if it's 1944, 1952 or 1969.
At the same time we 'mothballed' most of the huge WWII land acquisitions and have kept just a few of the bases 'active' for regular troop unit stations. This led to overcrowding on and off post. Combined with the greater range and lethality of modern weapons the effectively available training areas shrank dramatically at a time they needed to be expanded. The personnel concentration and the changing demographic of the volunteer Army (married with children) also led to local real estate booms pushing the cost of good local houses beyond sergeant's pay reach.
The Army desperately needs to return to brigade and two battalion size posts for stationing by repossessing all the old WWII posts now in National Guard and Reserve custody. These are places like Camp Blanding, Florida, Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Camp Atterbury, Indiana. These are only used on weekends and during the summer as is. And ban dependent accompaniment during the first enlistment by requiring first term enlistees to live in barracks, and without cars for at least 2 years. This won't be such a hardship since there'll be many more posts closer to 'home'.
And set up a true regimental system complete with basic training in regimental training companies. Basic training occurs at the platoon level and is done by drill sergeants. The presence of additional training platoons does not leverage this and often detracts from it. Needless to add, these small size posts should have -0- family housing units. Career soldiers' families should live off post in homes they own and have their children attend the local schools. They should also not have post hospitals. A well-equipped post dispensary supplemented with a leased floor at the local hospital will do fine.
Before we decide on the structure of the Army and its relationship with civilians -- should it be in the Presidio or at Fort Breckenridge or Fort Campbell or --
we need to know what we want the Army to do. And that requires that we know what we as a republic want.
None of this is being meaningfully debated as far as I can tell.
I expect it will be decided by proscriptions one of these days. Such matters usually are when the populace ceases to pay attention. Empires want the army in barracks, not assembling in the Campus Martius.
Subject: Arriving on visas, not landing craft
You've mentioned [and I'm paraphrasing] that no enemy of the US could drink from the Mississippi. That's unless we let them.
The imams on the recent US Airways flight from Minneapolis are not the innocent victims of circumstance they would have us believe:
BTW, the Mississippi runs through Minneapolis.
But that is my point. Visa control costs less than shock and awe. As to the story, why did they act as they did? I would guess they wanted to look suspicious so they could get in the headlines.
November 23, 2006
Why the Future May Not Belong to Islam.
-- Roland Dobbins
On the other hand, maybe it will...
You said, "Conclusion: we ain't out of oil, we won't run out soon, and if we do there are technologies that can take over."
I've suggested these references before, but the two books on this subject by Kenneth S. Deffeyes on this subject are well worth reading, "Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage" and "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak". This guy is a petroleum geologist who has oil under his fingernails, and his books are level- headed and pragmatic.
We are not out of oil, but in terms of recoverable resources it is about half gone, and at current rates of use, we have 30-50 years left, and that will be at increasing prices, probably with drastically increasing prices, depending mostly on what foreign competition (read: China) is like for the dwindling resource. Predictions, using the same methodology that predicted the peak in USA oil production 20 years in advance with an accuracy of 1 year, suggest that the the peak in global oil production is right now (plus or minus a year or two), and production will never rise again. If you have trouble believing that global oil production has peaked, never to rise again, note well that Hubbert made his prediction of a ~1972 peak in USA oil production in 1958 and at that time he was thought to be a lunatic by most in the industry.
Jim Watson's point, "We just need to free up oil for transport fuel and synthetics. I favor nuclear and coal for electrical power, no use of oil or gas for baseload utility power" is right on the money. Increasingly, oil should be reserved for where it is most urgently needed, ie, fueling cars and trucks. Deffeyes advocates strategies a lot like that, but also points out that our inaction for the last 20 years is going to lead to bad times in the short run although long term solutions exist. The trick will be getting to that "long term" solution while avoiding disaster in the short run.
As Tom Friedman points out weekly, alternative energy research and methods for reducing pollution from conventional energy sources, especially coal, are going to be sources of vast wealth as the oil runs out. The question is who will supply this technology to the world. It could be the USA, but it could also be China. Time to make large and sensible investments and, for once, get ahead of the curve on this issue.
I still think oil is too valuable to be set on fire. Certainly not for base load electrical power.
You can't conserve your way to prosperity, but you don't waste your way there either. Not until power is too cheap to meter. There's a lot of power out there in space.
I don't dispute that modern fertilizers are important to modern farming, but most fertilizers are made from inorganic compounds. Energy is important to the production, and that usually comes from petroleum or natural gas, but petroleum is not a seed chemical.
For what it's worth, the Wikipedia article on fertilizers does not mention a single organic fertilizer that is chemically based on petroleum. http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/fossil-fuels.cfm appears to have an agenda, and thus may be suspect, but cites the following statistics for petroleum consumption in agriculture:
In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994).7 Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:
· 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer
· 19% for the operation of field machinery
· 16% for transportation
· 13% for irrigation
· 08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)
· 05% for crop drying
· 05% for pesticide production
· 08% miscellaneous8
Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets, and household cooking are not considered in these figures.
To give the reader an idea of the energy intensiveness of modern agriculture, production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. This is not considering the natural gas feedstock.9 According to The Fertilizer Institute (http://www.tfi.org <http://www.tfi.org/> ), in the year from June 30 2001 until June 30 2002 the United States used 12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer.10 Using the low figure of 1.4 liters diesel equivalent per kilogram of nitrogen, this equates to the energy content of 15.3 billion liters of diesel fuel, or 96.2 million barrels.
I know this doesn't contradict (in fact, it reinforces) anything that you, Dr. Cochran, and others have pointed out -- specifically, that given energy from any source there need be suspension of fertilizer production and hence impact on agriculture.
The ultimate issue remains timing. Starting today, replacement of our petroleum via nuclear, with synthetic hydrogen as a fuel (or even synthetic NG, if you'll excuse the oxymoron but allow that we could field synthetic NG by maximum use of existing infrastructure and engine conversion technology as a base) even with emergency federal cost supports and suspension of both EPA and OSHA regulations, would require at least 3 - 5 years of construction at emergency pace and considerably more capital than the $300 B you quote for reactor construction alone. (From the price studies I did in '95, NG conversion costs becomes more or less equivalent to nuclear infrastructure development. This doesn't include the plant costs for fertilizer plant conversion and numerous other infrastructure costs.)
(Incidentally, did you know that E. E. Smith gave homage to Ted Wentworth, one of the co-creators of the modern urea process, in Galactic Patrol?)
Subject: Military Funding and Manpower
Mr Zais is perhaps a little behind the times.
"4. continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that they have been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the Army and Marines who are doing all of the fighting."
The USAF is looking at a $20,000,000,000 per year budget shortfall versus needs and is in the process of reducing manpower by 40,000. In the meanwhile, they are still expected to not only fly in supplies to the Army and Marines - including flying local routes considered too dangerous for road convoys - they are also putting airmen in ground assignments to augment the Army.
Since the muj are not flying many fighters these days, the USAF is getting less than half the F-22s originally planned and the F-35 program is now drawing beancounter attention. Of course Korea will not be militarily adventurous this century so they are not needed. But the C-17 production line is down to its last dozen planes too, so where will the airlifters that are utterly necessary to take the boots to the right ground to come from?
Once again, the critical decision is, what do we want the Armed Forces to do? And that requires that we decide what we want to be and do as a nation.
This might be a good day to think about that.
November 24, 2006
Hello Dr. Pournelle:
I hope that you get a lot of mail about this, because it is something about which everybody should be aware, making the TSA foolishness pale by comparison. This is almost unbelievably horrifying. A 92 year old woman was shot to death in her home, by housebreakers; but these were not drug addicts or burglars. Plainclothes officers broke into the house of 92 year old Kathryn Johnson. Thinking that they were burglars, she shot them, and was subsequently killed. Of course, this is not their fault. Apparently it is hers. They can break into any house that they like, with impunity; but we are wrong to defend ourselves against violations of our homes. I am extremely anti drug, and think that these substances ruin lives, and are one of many things which are taking our society down the path to destruction. Even so, it seems that the biggest danger that drugs introduce is that of having to deal with police. So if someone breaks into my house at night, and they happen to be police officers, any confusion, or attempt at self-defense on my part makes me a resister, subject to death.
I recall when I was younger, having wanted to be a police officer, and even taking the tests, and starting the process. Because of the affirmative action policies in place at the time, I was not hired, though I was well qualified. Now I am glad. Over the years, the police have been transformed into an organization of which I want no part. I don't know exactly when it happened, perhaps in the sixties or seventies; but somewhere along the line, the police stopped being the servants, and protectors of the citizenry, and became the agents of a government which yearly becomes more of an occupying power, and less a body of representatives. This started with the feds, but is clearly being emulated by many local police agencies.
We are becoming a police state.
But we are winning the war on drugs, aren't we? I mean there aren't any easily available, and kids can't get rich dealing in them, and --
The purpose of government is to hire and pay government workers. Arming them and giving them great power generally results in anarcho tyranny, in which the armed government workers try to enforce laws mostly in situations in which they don't face a lot of danger to themselves. Why is anyone astonished?
I have long said that no Federal officer ought to have arrest powers except in very specific national situations; otherwise they must go to the local sheriff. But that will not happen, nor will turning over the "war on drugs" (which is far more lost than ever was the war in Iraq) to the states, as it should be. There is no Constitutional authority for the War on Drugs at a federal level any more than the Volstead Act was Constitutional absent the 18th Article of Amendment.
I believe in the bull whip theory of government: you ought to be able to get at those who have great power over your lives. But then I believe in self government and personal responsibility, which is out dated. Not impossible. I grew up in a time when "don't make a Federal case out of it" meant something: a Federal Case was a Big Deal. There were no feds in our lives other than "revenoors", Alcohol Tax Treasury Agents, who would once in a while try to raid stills and stop moonshiners, to the general amusement of everyone around. The only government agents we knew much about were the County Agents of the Agriculture Department who taught people contour ploughing and crop rotation. Washington was a small town in Maryland, and the important people in our lives lived among us. But that was long ago in a country that has passed away during my lifetime.
Subject: Forbes Fictional 15
The Forbes Fictional 15 of the fifteen richest fictional characters features the following computer entrepreneurs:
...Also making his Fictional 15 debut: spam entrepreneur Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria. Abakaliki is notable for being the only fictional character on our list who regularly e-mails real people, usually begging for assistance in recovering large sums of money. We estimate Abakaliki to be worth more than $2.8 billion <snip>
...Other newcomers include Mario, the videogame plumber who built a $1 billion fortune after decades of collecting gold coins, and billionaire narcocapitalist Tony Montana, aka Scarface.
Subject: Fundamental breakthrough in genetics
The following story discusses a fundamental change in how we understand our own genome:
Multiple copies of various genes, which differ between people from three parts of the world - Africa, Europe and Asia - show big differences. Interestingly, there seem to be relationships with diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
These differences in copy number expand the genetic differences between humans to something like 1%, up from 0.1%. Also, we seem to differ from chimps by four percent, rather than less than one percent.
This is a big deal. Now, fold it in with our non-gene inheritance and you will have big discoveries coming down the pike (non-gene DNA used to be considered "nonsense" until researchers discovered that much of it - all of it? - is involved in regulating the expression of genes and/or the guidance of growing cells in embryos).
Big Deal indeed. But isn't it racist?
November 25, 2006
But what you may be sure of is that if there's a lucrative (to the medical profession) drug to be used it will be prescribed. The Big Book (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) will give you a diagnosis for almost any symptom or even normal behiavior, and that can be used to justify billable hours. If I seem unduly hard on the shrinks, I can only say that many of them work hard at deserving opprobrium, and most of the rest refuse to do anything about it.
I do not believe that 20% of the young males of the US need to be drugged, nor that anyone would be doing that if there weren't so much money involved. But that is I suppose one of my pet peeves I have had since I was an undergraduate psychology major. (It was one of my majors; fortunately not my only on, or I'd probably have gone over to the dark side.)
I made use of my psychology degrees in two ways: in human factors as an aviation design psychologist at Boeing bef0re moving into Operations Research (and then the more fanciful named Systems Analysis, but it was just OR with lots of BS); and in later life, for a year, in private practice in association with a pediatrician; I took on cases of bright kids who were not doing well in school. I was able to help, and we were all agreed that drugs weren't needed, but it was both hard work and didn't earn enough money. But in that time I did learn a good bit about what goes on in "school counseling" and what I saw was beneath contempt.
Of course there are psychologists and psychiatrists I respect. Alas, not many.
Subject: 92 year old woman shot
I can't help but notice that the fact that the 92 year old woman shot three police officers was omitted from the original post on the subject. I don't know how the poster was able to determine what the woman was thinking when she opened fire but since there were drugs found in the house and there had been undercover buys there earlier in the day I don't see why we cannot even consider the possibility that she knew exactly who she was shooting. I don't know much more about the story but I don't need to see a reason to always assume the police were at fault. Every day brings enough evil on its own.
-- --- Al Lipscomb MCSE AA4YU CISSP
What I assume is that local authorities will know better than feds, and if the feds have to get the cooperation of the local sheriff before the make raids, the chances of an accident will go down considerably.
Subject: Is the Singularity doomed to sink in a river of heat ? : Article : Nature Photonics
Entropy is as entropy does :
Subject: Meaningful Strategic Debate
This sort of strategic guidance has been lacking for 15 years now. I also see no reason to suppose that will change. This is a mirror image of the clear guidance given following Vietnam, i.e. "Warsaw Pact", supplemented later with the "Carter Doctrine". Which doctrine in practice meant painting some of the equipment in desert camo. The Warsaw Pact focal point concentrated thought and led to a series of the most successful Army and Air Force projects ever fielded.
In contrast the RDTE and force design effort since 1991 has drifted rudderless. And it shows in the many mediocre results like the failed Land Warrior program, failed OICW, over-priced and under-performing STRYKERS, the M-16 entering its fourth decade of service, 'Modular Brigades' being designed around buzz words on briefing slides instead of tested prototypes entering production...
Nope. And it's not going to be unless Mr President Pro Tem and Madame Speaker choose to start and lead this debate. And if they choose not to then they can settle down to being the Recruiting Sergeant and Quartermaster for whatever a small cabal quietly decides will be done. So far as I can tell this is what they've decided to do, complete with ritual supply sergeant carping that the requisition forms haven't been properly filled out.
None of the current crowd of 2008 wannabes has showed the slightest inclination to initiating this debate, either.
Allocation of resources...
Recently I saw a comparison between Asian math textbooks and American ones. The Asian texts are actually about math. The American ones are about pretty colors, cutesy stories, PC examples, etc. Guess which group of kids is learning more.
Now here is the REALLY FUNNY PART. This week I sat next to an organic chemistry professor from New Mexico State on an airplane. He informed me that the organic texts I studied years ago are hopelessly obsolete. They actually taught organic. Now we have pretty colors, cutesy stories, PC examples, etc. in organic chemistry or all things. No doubt the physics textbooks have been corrupted as well.
According to the prof, today's college kids don't have the discipline or patience for serious work. It has to be light and funny or they won't even try.
We are using early childhood methods to "teach" (OK, pretend to teach) prospective graduate students.
I have no direct knowledge of this, but I wish I could automatically dismiss it.
Been checking out YouTube. The first link has a rebroadcast of a black guy who wants to wipe out all the white people.
Then on that second link a woman responds. Then if you look down the right hand side you'll see various people respond to her.
What's cool about this? Regular people talk back and forth to each. No need to watch popular commentators on TV. You can just watch regular people all over whose views you'd never hear otherwise. They make just as much sense or more than the TV commentators.
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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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