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Mail 470 June 11 - 17, 2007
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|This week:||Monday June
There was considerable mail over the weekend, some worth your attention.
Begin with discussion of China Takes The Ruhr
German steel production
Germanys steel production has never declined and is currently on the rise. Predominantly high quality electro steel and other specialities.
Sold to China were older installations producing via Siemens-Martin furnaces in a continuing process of of modernisation.
This has not happened in the US and in consequence lead to the need of subsidising and tarif protection for local producers.
I suppose I should not be surprised, and I am pleased to hear it. After all I have long been a fan of Schumpeter and creative destruction.
Regarding the German steel plant and China -
Things are not so bad as the article suggests.
ThyssenKrupp is *building* a brand new $4 BILLION plant just north of here (Mobile, AL). http://www.manufacturing.net/article.aspx?id=140826
Perhaps it is a case of selling the old plant *and* escaping horrific German labor regulations. IOW, shrewd business - though not so good for the old timers.
FWIW, our state, county and city has been on a roll attracting jobs these last couple years -- I just hope the deals being cut aren't *too* sweet for the companies. Another big ticket project landed was the assembly plant for the new KC-30 tanker.
Strangely enough, Mobile is growing as an aerospace
town, as Northrup Grumman joins other tenants at the old Brookley air force
base beside Mobile Bay.
Brookely has a B-52 length runway and was supposedly closed by LBJ in the late 60s out of spite at losing here. Additionally, it (the old base) is supposedly almost unique in the country geographically, a diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered, as it is right next to I-10 (2 miles from the junction with I-65 going north) AND rail AND the deepwater port, with an intermodal hub next door.
FedEx and UPS already figured it out too.
A few times there has even been talk about sea-based rocket launch operating out of here.
One other unrelated tidbit -- we just got back from Walt Disney World Saturday. Friday evening I was pleasantly surprised by how good the view of the shuttle launch was from near the hotel pool :) Very cool even from 50 miles away.
I am again pleased to hear it.
One of the good things about being me is that I can post provocative material in the sure and certain knowledge that those who know something more (as opposed to just disagreeing) will tell me, so I don't have to be wrong for very long.
I remain concerned about America's manufacturing capability, particularly in light of "No child left behind" which trades good education for the capable for equalitarian mediocrity, but I suppose I should also factor in the ingenuity of smart people to escape terrible systems while pretending to conform to them.
On the other hand
Subject: Only two steel mills in the US can make armor-grade steel
The story about a steel mill being moved from Germany to China reminded me of this article:
' To get MRAP on a fast track, the Defense Department not only is having to contend with an accelerated testing and manufacturing schedule, but it also must take steps to ensure there is enough armor steel to build such a large number of vehicles. Only two U.S. steel mills are qualified to produce armor steel for the Defense Department.
“We have to understand how to flex the steel market, especially when we only have two armor-quality steel mills in the United States,” said the official. Both of these mills have been acquired by foreign companies in the past year and a half. Oregon Steel is now owned by Evraz Group S.A. of Russia. International Steel Group was acquired by the Dutch conglomerate Arcelor Mittal.
The Defense Department has requested that the armor steel made by both firms be categorized with a “DX” rating for the MRAP program. Under the 1950 Defense Production Act, any item with a DX rating gets top priority and must be furnished to the U.S. government in advance of any other customers. Several other items that are critical to the MRAP vehicles — ballistic glass, transmissions and Mack truck chassis — will receive a DX rating in coming weeks.
Armor steel supplies are tight because the Army already is buying large quantities for its up-armored humvees. In recent months, the Army ordered additional armor kits — known as Frag 5 — to protect humvees in Iraq. Defense officials are in negotiations with both steel mills to make sure there will be enough steel available for the Frag 5 kits and for the MRAP vehicles. David Allen, spokesman for Mittal USA, said “DX ratings are nothing new. We’ve seen them on and off since 1980. We would respond to any DX rating as we have in the past.” '
We have deindustrialized our nation. We can't build armored vehicles without relying on the goodwill of foreign corporations - and one of them is Russian.
Who needs foreign saboteurs when we have "rocket scientists" on Wall Street running our industries into the ground?
It's the end of the semester, and we're marking exams. This year I introduced problem-based learning (PBL) <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem-based_learning>
into the final year class I teach in object-oriented design both on campus and to distance-learning students. Assessment was by a practical examination (a written viva) exploring what the students learned in their project. I did this to control the plagiarism and collusion I've been plagued with in previous years--I frequently found my coursework posted to rentacoder and similar sites--and to give the students a realistic but low-pressure taste of what would be expected of them next year in work.
It was a disaster.
To be successful in PBL, the student has to take control of their learning experience, and if a student is not a self-starter, they will have serious problems learning that way. That's why I limited this type of coursework to more mature students who will be encountering similar assignments next year in employment or post- graduate education.
UK employers expect our graduates to be like officers, not enlisted men--to keep their jobs, university graduates need to show initiative and a sense of responsibility, a willingness to address ill-defined problems and to think outside the box. Unfortunately, the UK educational system in the publicly-funded sector--which my university draws from--is good at training people to be NCOs but not officers.
By the time they're in university, these students been spoon-fed all their life and are not ready to take control of their learning experience. The public schools (the privately-funded sector) are good at training people to do that, but the publicly-funded sector is not.
My experience this year was that throwing these students into a PBL assignment raised their level of anxiety to the point that they couldn't even cope with the lecture material. The theoretical exam scores were down a full mark from last year, and those should have been unaffected.
So, lesson learnt. Perhaps Americans can gain something from my English experience here.
Education news--perhaps England should scrap its testing regime:
Reintroduction of National Service:
Meat smuggling story:
Thatcher on Hong Kong:
Just who is Gordon Brown?:
Church upset about violent PS3 game:
Higher education news on the boycott of Israel:
The missing generation of software engineers:
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.
Constabulary in Iraq
Finally, the Army has gotten around to establishing a local constabulary. Should have been done long ago.
Matt Kirchner Houston, TX
I know you know about this
... since you originally mentioned it, in your talk at the small convention in Austin in the 1970s.
But, during a few spare moments, on a whim, I did a Google on "jet propulsion lab wireless power transmission" (or something similar). One of the hits was a JPL paper, from 1978. That led me to their website. A similar search revealed some receiving and transmitting antenna studies, dating back to at least 1975 (maybe earlier). A 1975 paper mentioned >80% efficiency on a real test at 2.35 GHz.
And I should mention that the JPL search returned quite a few hits. They've been looking at this problem for a WHILE.
--John R. Strohm
Yep. Much of the problem of beaming power from space is old technology.
June 12, 2007
This will have to stand for about a dozen letters on this:
This is just too cool
Ancient Rome brought back to life
Ancient Rome has been brought back to life through a unique digital reconstruction project, said to be the world's biggest computer simulation. An international team of architects, archaeologists and experts spent 10 years working on a real-time 3D model of the city called Rome Reborn.
Talks are said to have begun with Linden Labs to make the entire simulation available on the internet through the company's virtual world Second Life.
The 3D animations based on the simulation will eventually be made available to tourists to prepare them for their visit to the Colosseum, the Forum, or the imperial palaces on the Palatine.
There are so many ancient cities I would like to visit - Rome, Babylon, Memphis, Thebes, Beijing, Xi'an, Harappa,... The list goes on and on. We certainly live in an amazing age.
Braxton S. Cook
will also merit a look. This is really cool, and I hope that they make a deal with Linden Labs to put the city into Second Life. Wow!
I hope this annoys you as much as it did me:
10 Terrible Puns
These are simply terrible. Terrible.
Subj: Development aid: "For God's sake, please stop!"
>> SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...
Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor. <<
In the Name of God.
Sooner rather than later
Speaking at a press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, (President) Bush said, "Sooner rather than later, you've got to say enough is enough, Kosovo is independent."
One wonders whether he will say the same thing when the exploding illegal immigrant populations of Southern California and Texas demand the same thing.
Regards, Peter Czora
Precisely why it was in the American interest to bomb Belgrade in the interest of illegal Albanian immigrants to Kosovo has not been made clear to me; it is as if Russia bombed Washington to force the United States to cede California to Mexico.
"Revenue from the District's red-light camera program fell steadily during the same period that many of the automated enforcement devices were broken, according to statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department."
Subject: "That person is totally useless . . . . That $80,000 is something I could have used for my students."
"That person is totally useless . . . . That $80,000 is something I could have used for my students."
There is no evidence that the $80,000 would do any good no matter how it was spent. DC spends upward of $12,000 per pupil as it is, for about the worst results in the US.
Congress constitutionally governs the District of Columbia. Let Congress take over the DC schools and do whatever it takes to make them work properly. Whatever it takes. It is constitutional, and a good example of a well run public school system would do far more good than the worse far worse than useless Department of Education. Let Congress show us how to have good schools; we are then more likely to listen when they tell us how to run schools in California and Kansas. But of course they will not do that.
Will it take bloody revolution to get decent public schools?
Rich quoted and mentioned in dispatches:
This one's kind of strange...
Carry permit holder shoots undercover cop; permit holder released from jail the next day, without charges being filed. Details on my livejournal <http://joelrosenberg.livejournal.com/> , if you're interested.
Hurricane satellite could fail anytime
Basic Math Section:
How many $400 million weather satellites can you buy for a trillion dollars?
Basic History Section:
How much money did George W. Bush pour into the sands of Mesopotamia?
Are there any adults in Washington supervising things? Seems not. Jacobins are too busy saving the world to take care of things at home. Kind of like the neighborhood busybody who sticks her nose into everyone else's business while her own children are wandering the streets with runny noses and dirty clothes.
I'm -considering- voting for competent empire. If I can figure out which party is for that? (Not holding my breath!)
Regarding the discontinuance of the money measure called M3 by the Fed and your observation about it last week, there are more than a few folk in the private sector who have put it back together and publish it on a regular basis.
My own is on my own free site at
http://www.NowAndFutures.com/key_stats.html and the supporting
article, complete with a link to an Excel file with full details, is at
John Williams has done something similar at http://www.shadowstats.com and has also done some very good econometrician work with showing precisely where and how the CPI has been "fiddled" and made way less than fully truthful during the Clinton & Bush administrations, and also showing that it started in the Reagan administration with something called "homeowner's equivalent rent".
By the way, M3 is expanding at about 12% now.
Warm regards, bart
"Speaking the Truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell
June 13, 2007
New form of supersonic air travel to test - Travel - smh.com.au
I am not real sure I know what materials the leading edges of the air scoops will be made of to get flight times of Sydney to London of two hours, but wow! Go for it.
We're seeing serious food price inflation in Europe. The story is that with the shift to ethanol production in America, demand for food imports now exceeds the supply.
-- 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>
Subject: Lone Star Planet
I was searching for some information on "Lone Star Planet", and came across this website that has the entire text of "A Planet For Texans" by H. Beam piper scanned in, from the 1979 ACE reprint edition.
I thought you ought to know, just in case this is infringing on any copyrights, and since I seem to recall you either have some of Pipers' copyrights, or know the people that do own them.
Good luck on Mamelukes!
Kim Owen Smith
Piper's literary works belong to ACE books. His widow sold them outright for a ridiculously low sum. I have the right, given by Piper and acknowledged by Ace, to write stories in Beam's universe if I choose to do so. I don't have any rights to any of his existing properties.
The scan isn't very pretty.
Subject: Seitz Green Hell
First it was corn tortilla inflation in Mexico, now the fight for biofuel feedstocks has diverted molasses from overproof distilleries in the Windward Islands, causing a strong rum shortage in the nations that gave us Pirates of the Caribbean
Can schools change?
"Unfortunately, public schools in America are in quadrant A. In most schools, there is minimal consensus, at best, about what the overall goals of schooling should be: academic learning, socialization, life skills, character education, civic engagement, nutrition, physical fitness, exposure to the fine arts, job training, and so on. Moreover, there is no consensus about how the world works and what actions should be employed to reach desired results. In this situation, creating a crisis, clearly defining roles, and using financial incentives and/or threats are the only tools that leaders can use to implement change."
The conclusion reached was that schools are unable to change themselves, and the deck is stacked against those who would want to make changes or even start over again and create a new system. It is thus interesting to me to examine statistics on home schooling, including official attempts to define home schooling as child abuse.
It is not likely that the present constitutional processes are capable of changing the school system; but since the school system is incapable of instilling any loyalty toward the constitutional system, it may be doomed as part of the move to imperial government. At some point someone will become emperor who has had enough; if all he wants is to instill respect for the Empire in the schools and to get better soldiers that in itself will be incentive to junk what we have and start over.
We have sown the wind. It will be interesting to see what whirlwinds we will reap.
Free-trade vs. Labor arbitrage
Dear Dr. Pournelle --
I'm sending this for reference. Roberts and the economists he cites provide a less-speculative, more sober analysis of what really is going on under the name of "free trade:"
Regards -- KE
If academic economists will finally do a real analysis of the true costs, I'll be happy enough.
June 14, 2007
Packaging Peril: Chemicals in food wrapping turn toxic,
Two years ago I read a study that said the grease-proofing in popcorn bags was carcinogenic. So I told my wife and we switched to popping popcorn in a kettle on our stovetop - shades of our childhood. When we want dry popcorn we pop it in paper bags in the microwave.
I also, for similar reasons, switched from bottled water in plastic bottles to glass bottles I refill at home from our refrigerator's filtered water dispenser.
OK. Now comes a follow-up study on the popcorn bags:
I'll take a nibble now and then, but I won't eat much from those bags.
PFOA "additional sources"
Perhaps where Kurunthachalam Kannan was raised, there was no non-stick cookware? That seems the obvious place to look first to me. Plastic containers (except in the cases where the contents have solvent properties or the container is used to microwave the contents, as the popcorn) generally sit passively on a shelf until emptied. Non-stick cookware is heated in the course of normal use (frequently beyond its published design temperature) and typically scraped with instruments that may or may not be less hard than the coating itself. I'd SWAG that on the order of 2/3 of the frying pans in use in the US are coated. I'd also hazard a small bet that the measured increase in serum PFOA has a pretty strong historical correlation with the adoption of PTFE (etc) coated cookware.
The only true conservative presidential candidate
This is an excellent article on Congressman Paul and his candidacy. He is the only Republican candidate who voted against authorizing the president to invade Iraq. In addition, he opposed the Patriot Act.
His position throughout his career in Congress has been one of consistent support for the Constitution. I urge you to take a close look at him. From what I have read on your site and in your books over the years, he is the Candidate whose positions seem to be most on line with your own (please correct me if I am wrong on this).
Thanks for your time.
Matt Kirchner Houston, TX
P.S. I am in no way affiliated with his campaign, just a local supporter of his candidacy for the Republican nomination.
Foreign Steel Mills
Just as a quick reply to Eric Krug: "We have deindustrialized our nation. We can't build armored vehicles without relying on the goodwill of foreign corporations - and one of them is Russian."
As an employee of one of those companies, I keep on telling the people I work with that we may be owned by a Russian company, but our plant and office sits here… If someone tries anything stupid, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to see the National Guard outside our corporate office. As far as production is concerned, we are running our armor production at record levels, selling to both the US and Israel - no chance of that stopping anytime soon.
June 15, 2007
US Industrial downsizing
some followup to Amor Steelproduction and other Hightech stuff:
MRAP mine resistant vehicle --> from BAE Systems ( UK ) KC30 next gen Tanker --> Airbus A330 derived ( EU ) Stryker armored vehicle --> Piranha 8x8 from MOWAG ( CH ) Abrams Gun --> From Rheinmetall ( DE )
i.e. a lot of essential mil stuff has less native capability backing than the public thinks.
Rumsfeld had good reason to not go for "buy US" when this came up during the "Freedom Fries" hysterics.
I am quite sure that a measure of free trade is a good idea. The question is, how much? Are there not essentials, not merely industries, but work for the population to consider in a democracy? The problem is that no economist actually models anything like the real world with the real costs. They put most social welfare measures forced by free trade as "externalities" and don't both with them.
Greg Bear vindicated.
-- Roland Dobbins
Indeed. And more than vindicated.
Respect and Enforcement of the Law
The immigration situation brings to mind a more general problem with our Laws.
If we are to live by the rule of Law rather that the rule of men, we must enforce and respect the Law. If a Law does not earn or deserve respect it should be abolished.
We have more than enough Laws. It should be the priority of our Legislative bodies to identify and repeal those Laws that do not deserve respect rather than enact new Laws.
There is a simple test to determine if Laws proscribing certain behaviors deserve respect. If a substantial portion of the enforcement activity, say more than 75%, is directed to those enabling the proscribed behavior rather than those engaged in it then the Law does not deserve respect. Some examples:
Most of the effort in enforcing the ban on solicitation of murder is directed at those soliciting murder rather than those offering murder for hire. A Law that deserves respect.
Most of the effort in enforcing the ban on the use of certain herbs and pharmaceuticals is directed at those supplying the banned items rather than those using them. A Law that does not deserve respect.
Perhaps this is a simplistic way of looking at the problems facing our Republic. However, I believe that it is better than anything that is currently being done or has been proposed by any candidate for national office.
Ed Begley Jr. -- yes, that gangly blond guy from "St. Elsewhere" and a million other things -- unloading individual hangers of clothing outside his Dupont hotel and regaling a fan with the excellent mileage he got driving his hybrid here from California instead of polluting the jet stream. He was here to emcee last night's National Trust for Historic Preservation/HGTV gala, featuring Laura Bush. Anyway: tall guy, small carbon footprint.
The latest down at Ed's house is a skylight, (Hope his works better than most; most leak.) He also has a small vertical windmill but I haven't spoken with him about what it does; generates power when it can, I suppose. It can't harm birds...
If you think NASA will help... this is from another conference.
Back when the airline industry was developing we Americans were a hardier breed. We recognized that life was full of hazards, and expected losses in the name of progress. In this time of the nanny state, with a fear-mongering press and power-hungry bureaucrats, don't expect the same acceptance of casualty.
I sat in those meetings with the NASA "civil servants" (none of whom was an astronaut, or for that matter, a pilot) who were literally vibrating with rage over the fact that the FAA refused to give them control over access to space. Power is a narcotic, and the NASA old guard are thoroughly addicted. Add fear of losing ownership of the door to space, and panic over a shrinking budget, and the hunger of the press for blowing accident up into catastrophe, and the threat is very real.
Think about this: losing seven people in a freeway crash happens every week. Is it played up as a national tragedy? Columbia goes down and the symbology attached to those seven deaths becomes a bizarre ritual that has a huge financial and operational impact. We lose a planeload of skydivers about once a month, and it warrants about ten minutes total, mostly on local newscasts. If we lose a load of space tourism passengers early in the game, expect every scary angle to be played in the press, in an effort to blow it out of all proportion, to include accusations of corporate callousness and greed on the part of the space companies. Don't expect sympathy from NASA, by the way.
NASA wants control. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies in spades with big casino.
I may have read three pieces at once intelligent and thoughtful on this subject [Intelligent Design] , but I cannot remember what the other two were.
June 16, 2007
Subject: Well, since you're posting about Rome and puns,
The famous Trevi fountain in Rome is currently dry. A workman accidentally ruptured a supply pipe (which, n.b., might date from 19BC).
That's right, Dr. Pournelle, the Trevi Fountain's baroque!
Hope you feel better. Yours Aye!
Arrgh. When they proclaim me Emperor you will pay for that one.
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
Upon reading that shifting corn stocks to production of ethanol was causing prices to rise a wicked thought occured to me. Perhaps we should trade food for oil. Most countries in the Middle East are deserts. They can't possibly grow their own food. Maybe we should reduce our food production (OFEC) and drive the cost of food to the Middle East through the roof. Tit for tat.
No, it may not be practical. And it may not work. But it would give the OPEC countries a taste of their own medicine.
Cheers, Bruce Lewis
If we had to establish a democracy in the Middle East, we should have started with Kuwait after the Royal Family fled to the London Casinos to leave liberation of their country to us. We could even have invited them back as constitutional monarch --with American political science professors writing the constitution. It wouldn't have worked of course, but it would have been a hell of a lot less expensive experiment to perform.
Or we could have encouraged the southern Marsh Arabs to revolt, rise up against Saddam, then sent General Franks in to help them. We then write them a new constitution. They would have been grateful, they would have had oil revenue, and they would still be alive, and the marshes would not have become an ecological wasteland.
Having done neither, we now seek to make a democratic nation of a place that was never a democracy or a nation, without a king -- bringing a Hashemite would have at least insured a loyal core, but the neocons had to have Chalabi -- and wonder at the difficulty of the task. I will say this for Clinton -- had he been in charge but with a Republican Congress the result of 911 would have been pretty bad but nothing like the disaster it has been, and the budget would have stayed more or less balanced. But we had to have Bush vs. Gore in that election. A cosmic joke.
Orrin Hatch wants to destroy my computer
And this is said to be a conservative senator. God help us.
Is it THAT bad
I was just checking Amazon for MS Visio 2003 (since I went backward to XP for my new machine, I wanted the same generation software if possible).
Copies of Visio Standard 2003 were being offered for $700 and Visio Professional 2003 for $1800.
Is Visio 2007 THAT bad????????
|This week:||Sunday, June
Noonan on ending *all* immigration until further notice.
- Roland Dobbins
Peggy Noonan is always worth listening to.
Hello Dr. Pournelle:
I thought you might find this interesting. An illegal immigrant assumed a dead man's identity, and was hired as a Milwaukee police officer. Oscar Cornejo, who was living as Jose Morales, finally pleaded guilty to fraud and various other charges, related to his employment.
What I find interesting is that he had originally been given a paid suspension, when his deception was discovered. It might also be noted that he was given the usual background check, and that representatives of the Latino Peace Officer's Association joined in a prayer vigil for Morales, or Cornejo, or whatever he wants to call himself these days. Apparently the Latino Peace Officer's Association does not actually believe in enforcing the law. But then, why should they? Do you suppose that he is the only one.
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