Chaos Manor Mail, Sunday, September 20, 2015
We have overflowing mail boxes, and it’s time to clean some of them out. This will be a mixed bag, generally with short shrift, for which I apologize. Many of these were put aside because I thought they deserved a longer answer or comment than I had time to give; then they were left to fester as I had various other assaults on my time. They didn’t deserve that treatment, but I fear my time is limited what with the fiction projects, and There Will Be War. But I had such good intentions…
Once upon a time, the World economy followed the same pattern, called the Malthusian World. The primary characteristic was that the vast majority of people lived at a starvation level. There was also a very small group of people who did quite well for themselves. Any small increase in food was quickly followed by a population increase, and living standards stayed the same. (This pattern still exists in some parts of the world.)
Then in Scotland about 250 years ago, the industrial revolution kicked off. The economic result of the industrial revolution was a much faster growth in the GDP. Population could not grow fast enough to absorb the new productivity, and a new phenomena developed, the growing middle class. And as GDP continued to grow, so did the middle class.
Recently, for a variety of reasons, GDP is not growing at the same rate as prior periods. (Before you blame Obama, this is a decades long tend.) This has been followed by a shrinking middle class.
It seems to me that there is a connection between GDP growth and income inequality. Unfortunately, the people who are complaining about income inequality are proposing solutions which dampen GDP growth. As we slide back to the Malthusian World, remember what road is paved with good intentions.
I can briefly summarize what happened to prosperity: we had a reasonably normal business cycle, government panicked on the last downturn, and then came Hope and Change, designed to eliminate the business cycle and income disparities. Regulations flowed forth, and we have yet to recover from that despite vast increases in productivity (think Moore’s Law) because the regulations are good at keeping regulators employed, but their map is not the economic territory. We will have more employment when the regulations stop making it so hard to employ someone without risking prosecution.
Hope for the Future – Just Maybe…
As you’ve mentioned many times, cheap,readily available energy has been the key most of our progress the last 200-300 years. That paradigm has been under attack the last 30 years and I suspect there are many special interest groups that would like to see us take a ‘giant leap backwards’ to say the early 1800s. They of course have no interest in seeing humanity harness fusion power.
Cheap, clean, readily available fusion based power dooms large swaths of the left. Well, there may still be reason to hope. Here is the link to an interview with
Jaeyoung Park, president and chief scientist at EMC2.
Fusion: Are We There Yet?
SEPTEMBER 9, 2015 â€¢ MICHAEL S. FISCHER
…. â€œFusion has been talked about for many years, and it disappointed a lot of people,â€ says Jaeyoung Park, president and chief scientist at EMC2, a California company that is hoping to tap private investment capital to support its fusion research. â€œNow weâ€™re on the other side of it. With all the technologies available now, it has become a great time to do fusion research.â€ ….
EMC2 has been conducting U.S. Navy-supported research for two decades on a reactor called the polywell, which combines two fusion technologies: electron beams to heat plasma to 100 million degrees and a magnetic bottle to confine the hot plasma. According to a Navy review, the companyâ€™s scientists have validated these ideas, and next they must demonstrate that the technologies can support a fusion reactionâ€”the last step before possible commercialization in the form of an electricity-producing reactor….
EMC2 is seeking private investment for a three-year, $30 million commercial research program to prove the polywell can work as a nuclear fusion power generator. â€œWe have had a 20-year involvement by the Navy, and it has been a very productive relationship,â€ says Park. â€œWe were able to address a lot of basic scientific questions.â€ He understands that at this point, the company has to give up its government subsidy and seek private funding. â€œThe Navyâ€™s view is that they will provide transitional funds, but itâ€™s time for us to go out on our own,â€ he says. â€œIn their view, weâ€™re becoming an adult.â€
Park hopes to appeal to deep-pocket individual investors, as well as family offices and foundations that are committed to solving the energy problemâ€”â€œpeople who look at this as their responsibility and their destiny,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s our generationâ€™s job to solve the energy problem. Whenever we created energy in the past, we created pollution and created problems about sustainability, and weâ€™ve done that for more than 200 years.â€
An investment in the program is not for the fainthearted, Park freely admits. â€œPeople ask whether there are any applications in the middle [before building a reactor], and there arenâ€™t many,â€ he says. â€œSo itâ€™s a very high-risk and high-return proposition.â€
Investors will have full access to the energy production potential of fusion technology, where the biggest impact of the fusion is expected to be. EMC2 owns 100% of the intellectual property from its research. The Navy has licensing rights for specific applications it orders. EMC2 will keep confidential a small segment of the technology that is unique and critical to the Navy.
The $30 million phase will complete the last remaining technical milestone before EMC2 embarks on the development of a reactor. Parkâ€™s ambition is to see the companyâ€™s first reactor on the grid in about 10 years, and almost immediately start to replace coal-based power plants. â€œThat will be the first target because among power sources, thatâ€™s the worst one,â€ he says. â€œWeâ€™ll probably replace nuclear fission, because although its contribution has been great, itâ€™s time to replace it with a better technology.â€ He also expects the reactor to complement other energy sources, such as solar and wind, and begin to phase out natural gas and the fossil fuels.
Many power plants exist around the world. â€œHow fast weâ€™re going to replace them is going to be market driven, how much each country will invest to replace those old technology power plants and put in this one,â€ Park says. He estimates that an achievable goal is to replace 20% to 40% of the global electricity market in 20 to 30 years.
Park acknowledges this will be a huge undertaking. â€œA reactor doesnâ€™t get built very quickly,â€ he says. That will require a significant infusion of capital, on the order of $200 million to $300 million, he says. He envisions teaming up with an existing energy player. In that event, EMC2 might issue the company 20% to 30% of its shares, and an investor could make an early exit.
As a government-funded entity, a company such as EMC2 carries extra credibility when approaching private funders, according to Michael Delage, vice president of technology and corporate strategy at General Fusion, which is 80% privately funded by venture capital funds and family offices. It also receives government funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada and from several research and development programs.
â€œBeing able to leverage government is helpful; itâ€™s good for helping investors to see that youâ€™re able to leverage their dollars,â€ says Delage. â€œSDTC actually requires that, so for every dollar they are willing to put in, you must match that with at least two dollars of private capital. The two catalyze each other.â€
Park is optimistic about the success of EMC2â€™s long endeavor. â€œWith investments in fusion power now that will pay off in dividends later, we could potentially see in our own future the implementation of one of the cheapest, most sustainable and powerful energies,â€ he says. That would not only provide electricity and broaden access to clean water through seawater desalination, but also help emerging and established countries overcome energy consumption issues and build on other energy-based endeavors.
“This is something we can do,” Park says. â€œWe can make a real differenceâ€”and [investors] may be able to make a large sum of money. But more than anything else, they can tell their children that this was something they did and are proud of it.â€
Link to complete interview:
We may yet see fusion power on the grid, despite our governments best efforts to the contrary.
For most of my life, fusion power on the grid has been thirty years away. Sometimes “only” thirty year away, sometimes “a long 30” years away, but thirty year. Perhaps this time for sure? But I have chased this dream before.
war equals refugees
One of your readers wrote: “While Western Europe are involved with the influx of refugees created by their collective failure to intervene in the Middle East, Russia may get the opportunity to come to the rescue. It will depend entirely on how Russia can spin its relationship with conservative (as opposed to radical) Muslims.”
The refugees flooding Germany are coming from (among other places) Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo, Serbia, and Ukraine.
It is very disturbing to me to see people push more wars as a way to reduce the number of refugees. It is not a “collective failure to intervene in the Middle East” (or anywhere else) that is causing the problems. It is the US and European desire to destabilize all these countries by funding Islamic radicals (also known as “moderates”) that has caused this entire mess.
It is America’s now 15-year-old policy (as Steve Sailer puts it) of “invade the world, invite the world” that is causing the problems. And intentionally so.
A handful of Saudis attacked us so we invaded Iraq & Afghanistan.
The end result was a whole lot of borrowed money changed hands & a state issued photo ID is necessary to travel.
Another ‘Well Duh!’ moment
I doubt that I am the first to forward this to you, but just in case:
Two quotes from the article:
“This is not by accident from the Obama administration, nor an untended consequence: this is intended. President Obama has little or no interest in containing ISIS or Iran. And to those of you who are saying he is correct and we should just stay out of it – there’s just one thing to remember: Obama created the mess. And his creation has now spread, by way of migration, into Europe and potentially to the United States. “
“And have y’all noticed, the predominant demographic of “folks” escaping Syria and Iraq are not elderly, women, and children…they are young men?”
To quote another of your correspondents, James Crawford, and apropos of our sporadic discussion of how to explain the policies of the Obamunists since the ‘Coup of 2008’: “There is a point where incompetence becomes so egregious that it is indistinguishable from malice.”
Malice and incompetence
I recently used the “Never ascribe” quote and attributed it, as you do, to Napoleon. In reply, someone pointed me to the Wikipedia article on Hanlon’s Razor.
Interestingly, it doesn’t mention Napoleon at all, but may trace it back to Goethe in 1774.
Having read the others, I still like the Napoleon version better. Incompetence and stupidity are not the same thing.
I do not rely on Wikipedia; I know when Napoleon said it, to whom he said, and of whom he said it. He may have been quoting Goethe but I never heard that. Where and to whom did Goethe say that? The phrase in question is “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”
You may find the linked essay of interest. There is a comment that reminds me of your own thoughts:
Indeed, it has struck me that all these hordes of strong, healthy young men could be received in Europe on the one condition they be impressed into military service for the relief of their homelands. For surely under European discipline and direction they could be forged into a formidable fighting force, allied with us instead of with our deadliest enemies.
If we want Legions, and the ability to govern without the consent of the governed. We know much about competent empire; America was an experiment in rule by the consent of the governed. Has it had it’s day?
‘He said the scale of the egg lobby’s retaliation against his company’s rise was “hard to wrap your head around”.’
It’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of an ‘egg lobby’, much less a Federally-funded covert psyops operations centered on eggs and egg substitutes.
TSA is worse than it was during the last battery of tests!
The Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed an internal investigation into its ability to stop undercover Department of Homeland Security agents’ attempts to breach security with potential weapons or bombs, according to an explosive new reportrevealed by ABC News. The report notes that the test exposed the fact that TSA officers at “dozens” of US airports failed to catch DHS “red team” members armed with potential weapons or bombs in 95% of 70 attempts.
Next, I suspect we’ll hear cries of budget cuts and calls for further funding to create more of this incompetence. Why does this entity exist?
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
I phrased my question and my offer badly. I’m intimidated by attempting to write fiction, and am not sure that I could write a structured essay. I was offering free help to do any “scut work” you’d care to delegate to an amateur in order to compile a new anthology in the series.
But I took your response at face value. I began to wonder how I present some of the things I’d recently written to you in such a way as to be published as an essay.
I couldn’t. I’d been playing with, speculating about several of ideas that I’ve had for a while: What if Putin isn’t going to go down in history as a villain? Never mind that I think he’s a thug, from the right perspective, Charlemagne was a thug, as were many other kings, a few queens, and it seems like most of those who aspired to empire. What if Russia could become a benevolent and stabilizing influence? Does the empire necessarily only do evil?
Your column (okay, “blog”) has caused me to wonder what a deterrent is. How does one distinguish between “Weapon of Mass Destruction” and a deterrent? Is the difference only in the eye of the beholder? If gas and bio weapons are wrong, can’t one or the other be used as a deterrent? Why could I accept SAC and USAFE nuclear weapons as a deterring force, back in my relative youth, but can’t understand it now?
What is a deterrent strategy? I still don’t know — I’m beginning to thing the two terms cancel each other. If one has a strategy, it should be to accomplish something specific and not to prevent an opponent from doing something that is vaguely or loosely defined. A strategy statement should not depend only on what an opponent might do – otherwise, all strategies could be completely defined as “the other guy loses.” It ought to be able to at least start a description of a strategy by “This is how we’re going to win.”
What if the one to be deterred is your boss?
The objective has to be stated in the strategy. Otherwise, it’s just cheer leading. Cheerleaders have their place, but I don’t confuse a heartfelt motto with an achievable goal.
I’m also beginning to try to apply an engineering standard for requirements to strategy: it should be clear, atomic, and testable (requirement definition gurus have seven or more standards for a good requirement, but I think those three are enough). I can’t think of a way to state a future strategy of deterrence so that is clear, atomic (in that it has a single effect and purpose), and/or achievable in a way that can be tested for effectiveness. I certainly can’t think how to state STRATCOM’s strategy in simple terms — who’s the bad guy, again?
Letters and e-mails don’t scare me as much as attempting fiction, and I do sometimes do composition for technical writing.
I couldn’t think how to capture my thoughts or our series of e-mails, so because of your response, I started an attempt to write fiction. It is harder than I thought it would be. I’ve sent a more-or-less 9000 word draft story (working title “They Also Serve”) to the twbw X e-mail address. I’ve not done my best editing on it, but I remembered late that you and Mr. Heinlein advise against editing without promise of payment. If you think it may be worth publishing, I think it could be improved. In the remote circumstance that it becomes publishable, I’m comfortable with associating my name with the work.
Renewing my original offer (this time for sure) with hope for a little more clarity, I’m still volunteering to do pre-publication “scut work” that might be needed. I do not wish to receive credit for this work, I think that I’d be gratified just to take some small part in the project.
I think that I’m a good copy editor (for other people’s work) and I can do some research. I don’t know what else I could do that might be needed, but I’ll give it a shot.
A caveat — I am returning to the regular work force after my two-year vacation. I’ve accepted a (real) job near by, and will be doing systems engineering again. This will affect the time that I have available, but I’d still like to help.
I thank you again for deciding to continue the series. I think it is important.
Writing requires diligence and self-motivation; writers must write. If 90% of success in life is showing up, getting it written is the equivalent of showing up,, Good luck. I left systems engineering when they wanted me to go into management; I loved OR work, but not management, and decided to try professoring. That led to writing…
A View on Islam
I read this comment in response to a story about Al Qaeda calling for lone wolf attacks in the United States:
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a certain level of fatalism amongst the Muslim community. Comments and explanations regarding the crane accident in Saudi Arabia sum it up. It seems everything that happens comes down to the will of Allah. So, if you’re a Muslim, what’s to protest? The Twin Towers? Hey, it was the will of Allah. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have happened. A bit perverse way of brushing off events, but it explains why the Muslim community doesn’t get in a tizzy over some of these events. I guess if we were to obliterate some of their communities in response to terror attacks on us they would just have to accept our response as the will of Allah. Write that on the warhead: Will of Allah! I mean, if that warhead aimed at Tehran hits its target, it was the will of Allah. If for some uncanny reason the warhead veers off course and hits Tel Aviv, it was the will of Allah. Some day we’ll see what the will of Allah is.
His conclusion on fatalism is not unfounded. Everything happens “God willing” in the Muslim world. Everything is in the hands of God.
Whatever happens, it is the will of God and you must submit or surrender — Islam means submission or surrender. Closely related to Islam is the word “salam” for peace. This is where “religion of peace” comes from. I suspect the ideals of our respective societies entertain different notions of peace.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
The only peace permitted in the Koran is the submission of the infidels; otherwise it is truce. This is the word of the Prophet.
Dear Jerry –
While your Salon article on the consequences of the 9/11 attack was certainly worth reading, its basic premise (“Since the World Trade Center bombings, our democracy has come undone. The terrorists accomplished their mission.”) is so wildly inaccurate that a little readily available history seems in order.
So, what did bin Laden want when he took down the Towers? Many folk seem to have forgotten that he is on record on the subject, and the answer has nothing to do with the establishment of a security state in the US. In November of 2002, a letter from bin Laden appeared on a Saudi web site, and was reported (and quoted) in various places, including The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver Somewhat condensed (only the major points are quoted here), bin Laden sets forth his demands:
“As for the second question that we want to answer: What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?
(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.
(2) The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you.
(3) What we call you to thirdly is to take an honest stance with yourselves – and I doubt you will do so – to discover that you are a nation without principles or manners, and that the values and principles to you are something which you merely demand from others, not that which you yourself must adhere to.
(4) We also advise you to stop supporting Israel, and to end your support of the Indians in Kashmir, the Russians against the Chechens and to also cease supporting the Manila Government against the Muslims in Southern Philippines.
(5) We also advise you to pack your luggage and get out of our lands. We desire for your goodness, guidance, and righteousness, so do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins.
(6) Sixthly, we call upon you to end your support of the corrupt leaders in our countries. Do not interfere in our politics and method of education. Leave us alone, or else expect us in New York and Washington.
(7) We also call you to deal with us and interact with us on the basis of mutual interests and benefits, rather than the policies of sub dual, theft and occupation, and not to continue your policy of supporting the Jews because this will result in more disasters for you.”
In other words, convert to Islam (bin Laden’s variety), get out of the mid-East (but keep buying oil – at higher prices), and stop supporting Israel. The adoption of security measures which diminish individual freedoms and make terrorist activities against the US more difficult is notably absent from the list. And, except for getting troops out of Saudi Arabia, “the terrorists” have not accomplished their mission.
While I agree with the issues raised in the Salon article, interpreting them as “what the terrorists want” seems, at best, wildly revisionist (and somewhat hysterical), and at worst grossly dishonest.
What he wanted was the Caliphate, and the fulfillment of the commands in the Koran.