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Mail 564 March 30 - April 5, 2009
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March 30, 2009
An interesting article on the financial situation from a former IMF economist. The publication is traditionally liberal, but curiously I found it as a link from a WSJ Market Watch editorial... guess it is a bipartisan issue after all.
"The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets"
He makes a case for similar conclusions as were in the article from Rolling Stone (albeit with much less crude language) about the undue influence of the financial industry on attempts at regulation and recovery. Well worth the read, and this particular line sounds awfully familiar:
"Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist."
Regards, J.S. Cardinal
The problem is that "too big to exist" means different things to different people: there are many who think that if the government takes it over that fixes the problem. Of course it doesn't. Limiting the size of an enterprise is not the same as nationalizing it and making it a government agency. Alas.
It's a bit analogous to distributism vs. unrelenting death taxes. The distributists were in part addressing a problem that didn't exist in the US, entailment and primogeniture. (In the US those were removed early in the history of the states. One of Jefferson's achievements was abolishing primogeniture in Virginia.) Distribution of property creates new power centers and fragments power; taxing property out of existence concentrates more power in the government. We do not need more power concentrated in government.
I woke up Sunday morning to a BBC radio news story about the Chinese cyberwar activities--one of my students (Greg Walton) has been doing an interesting MSc project: <http://tinyurl.com/cvt3t6> <http://tinyurl.com/cfqd93 > <http://tinyurl.com/cbu23k>
UK police identify 200 children as potential terrorists: <http://tinyurl.com/cdluw2 >
Torture cases unwinding--they've called in the police (plumbers) to
investigate: <http://tinyurl.com/dczw7s> <http://tinyurl.com/c6moex> <http://tinyurl.com/czs848 > <http://tinyurl.com/djojjg> <http://tinyurl.com/c9p4za> Spanish court action: <http://tinyurl.com/d47xvn>
Independent story on UK education: "The notion that under-qualified kids can impose structure and discipline on their peers beggars belief" <http://tinyurl.com/da6eel>
Science GCSEs dumbed down: <http://tinyurl.com/col9wc>
Telegraph story on the management culture in the NHS: <http://tinyurl.com/c4t6m5 >
Observing juvenile justice in Pennsylvania--and the money keeps rolling in: <http://tinyurl.com/czu8y9>
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
cosmic rays and ozone hole
I was thinking about the location of the south magnetic pole and its relationship to the ozone hole. As the magnetic field of the earth shifts slightly on a yearly basis, the impact of cosmic rays will shift a bit as well. But I also found the following which is equally fascinating.
Another reason more research is needed before we can claim AGW is fact and not fiction.
Hurricanes are heat engines. Albedo is important. We took the particulates out of the air to reduce pollution. Of course that will have an effect on albedo. One would suppose that this is being studied somewhere.
Freeman Dyson: "The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.”
Despite the patronizing tone with regards to Mr. Dyson, much less run- of-the-mill 'deniers' like me, it's remarkable that this article even made it into the NY Times:
-- Roland Dobbins
Agreed. We mentioned this article last week, but it does no harm to show the link again.
X Minus One is available free from the iTunes Store in mp3 format (it is categorized as a Podcast). There are a variety of other good and interesting Podcasts available for free there as well. Recently, I wanted to reread Asimov's Foundation Trilogy but I was reluctant to strain my eyes with my old copy of the book. Fortunately, I found that iTunes, under the SciFi Friday Podcasts, has the BBC dramatization of the trilogy which is very enjoyable.
Subject: Too big...
I absolutely agree with you on this one... wholesale nationalization of industry or finance (or much anything, really) would be disastrous. All that would do, far from restructuring entities that are "too big", would be to consolidate all such entities into one massive single point of failure - our government and the collateral damage of the principles on which it's founded. Talk about something being too big (in the sense of its importance) to be allowed to fail!
It's pretty clear, however, that such restructuring needs to happen in a number of our industries as you've been pointing out for some time. Painful as it may have been, one wonders if bankruptcy restructuring with proper oversight might not have been a less painful route than we're following now.
Even so, I think that article was worth the read for me from the standpoint of identifying some of the underlying problems. I tend to agree with much of the assessment that a situation was created not by too much or too little regulation, but rather complete mis-regulation (right words, wrong sentiment & conclusions in the inaugural speech). The government turned a blind eye to places that needed more scrutiny, meddled in places that should have been left alone, and in every case did so not under the auspices of being the taxpayers' representatives but instead at the urging of those that would profit. Combine that with a private industry that stopped looking at long-term viability in the interest maximizing quarterly reports...
I usually go for the assumption of incompetence over malice, but it's difficult not to believe in this case that there was more than ample measures of both. If not malice, than at the very least some seriously willful and self-serving ignorance. What's more, I see that it seems to be speeding up rather than begin "changed" by the folks in power... a fair indicator that there are a few more intentional motives than simple bumbling.
It always amazed me in my anthropology classes that the marxist crowd could never see that major logical paradox at the heart of the "revolution"... in order to prevent predatory capitalists, the state should subsume all means of production - thereby creating a single super-predator? I think we all know how that story ends...
We all feared, or hoped, depending on political convictions, that Obama would be just another politician.
Not only has Government Motors changed CEOs, but they have also contracted with the Federal Unionized Bureau of Auto Repair to provide extended auto warranties. Glad I just bought a Honda.
Perhaps we could have AIG insure the warranties.
March 31, 2009
A Useful Narrative of the Crisis
"For quite a while, but especially over the last nine months, the best way to predict developments in politics and finance has been to ask: what will do the most to increase the concentration of power? Every headline, from the Geithner regulatory plan to the proposed cap on the charitable deduction, to the resignation of the General Motors CEO, should be viewed in that light."
Not really much to add, sad to say.
Injection molding of plastics
As it happens, this is something I know a little bit about.
From 2000 to 2003 I worked for Honeywell in Richmond VA. They had three facilities- an R&D facility, a chemical plant that produced the caprolactam used to produce resin, and the plant where they produced resin. It was at this third plant I worked.
Environmental regulations are strict, of course, especially when you're dealing with the sort of nasty stuff they handle at the chemical plant. Even our plant had to be monitored, and we had test wells here and there to check for things leaching into the groundwater. But that's not what the problem was.
The plastics industry is fiercely competitive. We had a local rival firm that was undercutting us just enough to hurt, but I knew a guy who worked over there, and their facility was smaller, dirtier and more primitive than ours was. It was costing them to undercut us. Ultimately Honeywell lost- they sold off the part of the plant that blended the resin for Petra and nylon 6,6 to BASF, who eventually closed it down. The last I knew they were making carpet fiber, and struggling mightily. I think they still sell polymer pellets to sell to others who wish to mold it or extrude it, but mostly they now make enormous rolls of yarn.
The Chinese in particular are undercutting prices on us. We can do molding easily enough--- believe it or not, the molding process itself doesn't give off that much nasty stuff--- but it's not the pollution that's the problem, it's economics. I believe they're still making caprolactam at the A Plant, but at this point they're selling most of it to someone else. The B Plant is mostly vacant now.
I do know that there's a plant somewhere around Richmond that makes shopping carts of the sort that you push through grocery stores and Target and whatnot. I've been in the facility- the injection molder they use is a mighty beast with a mold that unfolds like a flower after each shot.
The advantage the Chinese have over us is a much cheaper labor force. Honeywell unfortunately had a union that basically ran the plant, with far too much power. I still believe that this was the real downfall of that plant- but even without that, the Chinese were still hurting them a lot.
Just another bit of input from the trenches. I have to admit, I'm glad I got out of that industry. I now work in water treatment and wastewater treatment, in a company that manufactures the equipment. I'd rather actually be making my living from shit than have to deal with that...
Plastics and the US
Plastics molding is one of the few industries where US production is actually quite common. I noticed this a while ago, and it stood out in a "we still make stuff?" sort of way.
Most likely this is because it is capital intensive (the molds and equipment are frighteningly expensive), but requires relatively low labor costs, so transport costs are not offset by regulatory or labor costs. I'm sitting here eating lunch, and note that my plastic lunchbox is made in Texas, and the Rubbermaid "blue ice things" used to keep my lunch cool are made in Kansas.
Actually, I get the impress that most plastic items meant for storing food are made here. Probably a good thing. Given their record recently, I'm not certain I'd want my leftovers stored in Chinese plastic. Actually, I'm pretty certain I don't.
Now, it would not surprise me one bit if the injection molding equipment this stuff was manufactured with came from China.
Mark E. Horning, Physicist,
Thanks. Apparently my information on injection molding was incorrect.
We still the the problem for the US: what can we mine, make, or grow that people need and want, and how can we increase our productivity; and second, who shall make the decisions on what we shall mine, make, or grow? Is there a way for government to facilitate this? At one time the Land Grant Colleges were important in making the US the world's workshop as well as the world's farm system; but helping today's overpriced universities turn out more psychology and sociology majors will probably add little to productivity, which is to say more government taxes put into "higher education" probably won't help a lot.
Indeed, on the education front, I'd say reducing the college system's gatekeeper and credentialing monopolies in favor of other ways to grant credentials would make more sense on that front. But that's another subject.
Please make this one anonymous - for obvious reasons.
-- snip --
IBM patents offshoring
Ironic considering the 5,000 people who were laid off last week when their jobs were sent to India. Hopefully Obama is serious about eliminating tax breaks for offshoring companies - it would invalidate the patent.
Oh that we might hear such speeches on this side of the ocean...
Hi Jerry, maybe you have heard these two, but on the off-chance you have not, they are worth a listen! There are those who can still speak, I wish some of them were from our side of the ocean...
UK council uses spy plane with thermal imaging camera to snoop on homes 'wasting' energy.
-- Roland Dobbins
It won't be long now. A new green job.
Wandering Aimlessly into Stasiland
The growth of UK government databases. "The three causing greatest concern over legality, privacy, and consent were set up to protect children." See <http://tinyurl.com/ca3p6e>
-- 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>
The lives of others...
What may come nest Nationalised banks Royal Bank of Scotland
Two descriptions "politically exposed person"
Why companies get Too Big To Fail
We’ve got a tax structure that encourages corporations to grow “too big to fail” – and encourages them to invest wastefully along the way.
Corporate double taxation encourages the big investors who control a corporation to keep profits inside a corporation where they can direct investments without paying personal income taxes. That leads to lots of bad investment decisions in the name of “growth”.
If all corporate net profits were treated, for tax purposes, as if they were distributed to the shareholders, investors and corporations would quickly adapt and stop focusing mindlessly on internal growth – distributing profits they don’t truly need for sensible expansion.
The shareholders would be less likely to approve of buying up other companies in the name of growth, for example – such purchases rarely seem to provide the synergistic benefits that are claimed for them.
I suspect shareholders would also be much more suspicious of ultra-high CEO compensation, once they are no longer expected to be wizards who can magically create growth in an “old” corporation.
(Note that I’m not making a plea for tax reduction here, as tax and spend types will immediately assume. Eliminating double taxation should be beneficial even if done in a revenue neutral fashion.)
Submitted for your consideration:
“I’m having a very good crisis,” declared Hungarian-American-leftist-billionaire George Soros to The Australian newspaper. “The financial crisis has been ‘stimulating,’ the ‘culminating point of my life’s work,’” Soros reported to the Daily Mail Online.
We can’t know for certain who is orchestrating our downfall in this moment, but you can be sure this cagey financial giant of MoveOn.org and Daily Kos fame is giving us a major clue.
I don't know what influence Soros had on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac using bad loans as capital to fund more bad loans; the intention was good, of course.
Hmmmm, facts getting in the way of a theory, again:
I have not done the math but I do wonder about the amount of heat it would take to melt that much ice so quickly. But surely we KNOW what the sea level trends have been for at least the last 100 years? It can't be that hard to measure.
How is sea level measured, anyway? I can understand that there might be a problem comparing sea level now to the year 800, but how is there controversy over what the sea level was in 1950?
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
April 1, 2009
Enter "measuring sea level" without the quotes at Google. You will get nearly 10 million hits.
A few things I noted--
Measurements from space craft seems to be the most accurate but we don't have that data for very far back.
Besides ice melt, there is simple expansion/contraction of sea water based on water temperature. Plus atmospheric pressure, El Nino, rise or sink of land holding physical gauges, river flows and tides.
The short answer is they take all this data from various sources and feed it into a computer. If there are adjustment factors programmed in, you can get any data out you want. This can be much like determining the average world temperature.
That was sort of my point. Until we have an agreement on what operations one performs when one wants to determine sea level, the concept is meaningless for science. Oh, sure, we can in general know that the oceans were once lower or higher, but determining where they are going and at what rate takes a bit more work: and we don't seem to have any agreement on what work that is.
That's like the global warming concept: we have to decide just what we do to determine the temperature of the Earth. ==
Melting ice - here is some math on it
Jerry, when I saw that article disputing Al Gore's 20 ft wall of water, and the eco-nuts in the grreen forums claiming the author had lied, I decided to do my own fact checking.
I was ASTOUNDED how easy it was to disprove that 20ft rise in 100 years, based on the current rate of melt. I had already been thinking of sending it to you, and when I saw the last post on your site, and your request for the math. What follows is a variation of a post I made in the City-Data.com forums. Feel free to verify the math and logic on your own.:
Actually, a single graph of sea levels is more or less meaningless and can easily be deceptive. Check this NOAA site out for the REAL ups and downs: Sea Level Trends <http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends.shtml>
You'll note that some stations have rising sea levels and some have levels that are going lower. Gore's IDIOTIC claim - and I really mean IDIOTIC - shows either a fundamental failure of third-grade comprehension or an intent to cook figures to deceive.
We can start with the common knowledge that free floating ice cubes in a full glass of water will melt and yet not change the water level in the glass one whit. Try it sometime. We can quickly eliminate ALL the floating ice shelves and icebergs from any change in sea levels.
Now consider that the crust of the earth sits on a highly compressed liquid layer. We might consider that when an overburden of ice melts that the ground above that liquid is effectively lighter. That means that the pressures below will act to lift that ground higher than what it was under the weight of the ice overburden. Follow it so far? This is pretty straightforward hydraulics.
The next step is to understand where that pressure comes from. It comes from all the surrounding mass pressing downward. Since the liquid is effectively non-compressible, the additional liquid that has moved under the now lighter mass has to come from somewhere. Where does it come from? The surrounding areas. Now if the liquid has been moved from those surrounding areas, what exactly happens to the level of the land or sea above it? That is correct, it has to subside.
Now we can start to get into some basic math, using the figures supplied by the Eco-gurus. We can ON OUR OWN determine just how factual a claim of a 20' rise in sea levels is, and whether Floridians need to run for the hills. You can follow along with a spreadsheet or good calculator if you want. This isn't rocket science, and I'm rounding figures to make following along even easier.
Here is our Global Warming source of some of the basic
info: Global Warming 101 - How much ice is on Antarctica? <http://www.globalwarming101.com/index2.php?
Antarctic ice, which amounts to about 85% of the world's total amount of ice, comprises 27 million billion (27,000,000,000,000,000) tons. If you add an additional 15%, you get roughly: 64,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds of ice on the planet. There are roughly 62 lbs of water in a cubic foot, so lets round that to 64 lbs. That means there are a total of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of ice melt if EVERY BIT OF ICE ON THE PLANET melted, including the ice in Al Gore's iced tea.
There are 27,878,400 square feet in a square mile. Round it to 28,000,000 square feet. If the ice melt was a foot thick it would cover an area of 36,000,000,000 square miles. That is an impressive figure, one must admit. But let's not get discouraged.
To continue: The weight of the Antarctic ice cap pushes the underlying continent about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) into the earth’s crust, according to our link. Sooooo, when the ice melts, that volume of it will be removed from any equation of sea rising. (Remember the hydraulics idea from the first part of this post?) The area of Antarctica is roughly 5,500,000 square miles. Multiplying the square miles of the continent times the 3,300 foot vertical amount of rebound gives roughly 18,000,000,000 square miles of water a foot deep. We can subtract that from the 36,000,000,000 square miles of water one foot deep. That means we only have 18,000,000,000 square miles of water one foot deep to contend with.
The area of the earth covered by oceans is 139,397,000 square miles. Call it 140,000,000 sq miles. That converts to a layer of water in the oceans 128' deep, right? In a word, no. The additional weight of the water will increase the pressure on the ocean floor and since the weight of the land masses has not increased, the tendency will be to squeeze the liquid under the crust more towards under the land masses, raising them. It will likely not be linear, but the overall effect will be there. The seas get a little deeper, the land gets a little higher, and the coastlines rise or subside based on local conditions. We cannot think of the worlds coastlines as a totally fixed bathtub ring. The planet moves up and down, round and round, sideways in doing an incredibly slow Hokey-Pokey. Al seems to think we will overfill an old fashioned bathtub rahter than have changing coastlines.
Additionally, remember that we have included in our ice figure all of the floating ice shelves and icebergs, which will not change the sea levels when melted, so the 128' figure is likely too high anyway.
Now just what percentage of ice is actually currently melting? The claim is two trillion tons of ice last year. That is 2,000,000,000,000 tons. Sounds disastrous, right? Maybe not.
The total ice on the planet is 32,000,000,000,000,000 tons. That means the melt is 2 out of 32,000. 1 out of 16,000. .00000625. .00625%. What is .00625% of our worst case 128' rise in sea levels if EVERYTHING melted? About 1/100th of an inch. In other words, at the current rate of melt, we could expect to see the seas rise (in comparison to the land) about an inch in one hundred years.
Now, let's return to the article and the claim made there:
Mörner says up to 4 inches. I say expect 1 inch, no more than 2 inches if I am wrong, and you saw the math I used. Al Gore says up to 20'. 'nuff said.
Now do you begin to understand why some of us are crying Bull****! to the doomer Global Warming crowd? Gore's Nobel prize should have been given for creative fiction.
I will happily agree that Greenland could revert to being Greenland with much of the ice missing. However, the unanimous agreement is that the BULK of the ice is locked up in Antarctica. What Gore appears to have done is taken the entire amount of ice outside of Antarctica and figured that it would all melt. That gives an easy figure of about 19 ft based on my previous math.
He conveniently misses that floating ice doesn't count, that the earth rebounds, that the deposition of snow in the Antarctic seems to be on the rise. He misses that coastlines are not fixed, but have been moving ever since the oceans were formed.
The inconvenient truth is that he is easily exposed by anyone with grade-school math skills and about a couple of hours of free time.
As the ice melted from the last Ice Age, continents rose; I have the impression that this caused a rise in sea levels as water was displaced.
I'm still trying to figure out just how we decide what sea level is relative to. And who decides. If you can change the numbers at will, you can make any trend you like. One of Pournelle's Laws is that you can prove anything if you can make up your data. A corollary is that you are always making up your data if you arbitrarily change the operations you use to get the data.
Part of the "fun" of measuring sea levels is that the land to which you are comparing it can also change elevation:
A small effect, but large enough for GPS networks to measure.
Cheers, Mike Casey
"Engineers in Tennessee, however, are touting the idea of tieing a unit of footsoldiers' acoustic shot-spot sensors together in a wireless net. They think this would offer several benefits: the system wouldn't be confused by echoes or multiple enemies firing at once, and it would be able to locate gunmen who weren't in line-of-sight from an individual soldier. Perhaps even more impressively, the networked sonic system is able to distinguish the calibre of weapons fired, and even in some cases identify different weapons firing the same kind of ammunition. ...A helmet fitted with [the system] already knows exactly where it is and how it is oriented with respect to the gun muzzles, so it should be able to mark the positions of enemy shooters on a see-through visor or monocle without difficulty."
Saw an early version of this in the late 90s during the Urban Warrior experimentations. During the culminating experiment, I was the operations officer for the OpFor. The sonic detector was attached to a mechanized .50cal mounted on a cherry-picker, for height advantage, and supposed to immediately answer enemy sniper activity. We easily defeated this with multiple firings, then using firecrackers. Some modulation adjustments were made, so we adjusted as well quartering sounds and putting the firecrackers in tin cans (using cigarettes as slow fuses - can be accurate to within 60 seconds if sheltered from wind). Let's jus the engineers were forced back to the drawing boards. In the case of the newly reported system, individually mounted, I suspeect that there will be information overload to individual soldiers. You'll still need sufficient training to prioritize and address your attackers.
-- David Couvillon Colonel of Marines; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work
April 2, 2009
April 1, 2009: The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.
2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots
observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank
suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days:
Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87%).
It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
"This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Above: The sunspot cycle from 1995 to the present. The jagged curve traces actual sunspot counts. Smooth curves are fits to the data and one forecaster's predictions of future activity. Credit: David Hathaway, NASA/MSFC. [more <http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml> ]
Quiet suns come along every 11 years or so.
It's a natural part of the sunspot cycle, discovered by German astronomer
Heinrich Schwabe in the mid-1800s. Sunspots are planet-sized islands of
magnetism on the surface of the sun; they are sources of solar flares,
coronal mass ejections and intense UV radiation. Plotting sunspot counts,
Schwabe saw that peaks of solar activity were always followed by valleys of
relative calm—a clockwork pattern that has held true for more than 200
years: plot <http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/
The current solar minimum is part of that pattern. In fact, it's right on time. "We're due for a bit of quiet—and here it is," says Pesnell.
Sign up for EXPRESS SCIENCE NEWS delivery <http://science.nasa.gov/news/subscribe.htm> But is it supposed to be this quiet? In 2008, the sun set the following records:
A 50-year low in solar wind pressure: Measurements by the Ulysses spacecraft reveal a 20% drop in solar wind pressure since the mid-1990s—the lowest point since such measurements began in the 1960s. The solar wind helps keep galactic cosmic rays out of the inner solar system. With the solar wind flagging, more cosmic rays are permitted to enter, resulting in increased health hazards for astronauts. Weaker solar wind also means fewer geomagnetic storms and auroras on Earth.
A 12-year low in solar "irradiance": Careful measurements by several NASA spacecraft show that the sun's brightness has dropped by 0.02% at visible wavelengths and a whopping 6% at extreme UV wavelengths since the solar minimum of 1996. These changes are not enough to reverse the course of global warming, but there are some other, noticeable side-effects: Earth's upper atmosphere is heated less by the sun and it is therefore less "puffed up." Satellites in low Earth orbit experience less atmospheric drag, extending their operational lifetimes. That's the good news. Unfortunately, space junk also remains longer in Earth orbit, increasing hazards to spacecraft and satellites.
Above: Space-age measurements of the total solar irradiance (brightness summed across all wavelengths). This plot, which comes from researcher C. Fröhlich, was shown by Dean Pesnell at the Fall 2008 AGU meeting during a lecture entitled "What is Solar Minimum and Why Should We Care?"
A 55-year low in solar radio emissions: After
World War II, astronomers began keeping records of the sun's brightness at
radio wavelengths. Records of 10.7 cm flux extend back all the way to the
early 1950s. Radio telescopes are now recording the dimmest "radio sun"
since 1955: plot <http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/
All these lows have sparked a debate about whether the ongoing minimum is "weird", "extreme" or just an overdue "market correction" following a string of unusually intense solar maxima.
"Since the Space Age began in the 1950s, solar activity has been generally high," notes Hathaway. "Five of the ten most intense solar cycles on record have occurred in the last 50 years. We're just not used to this kind of deep calm."
Deep calm was fairly common a hundred years ago. The solar minima of 1901 and 1913, for instance, were even longer than the one we're experiencing now. To match those minima in terms of depth and longevity, the current minimum will have to last at least another year.
see caption <http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=
In a way, the calm is exciting, says Pesnell. "For the first time in history, we're getting to see what a deep solar minimum is really like." A fleet of spacecraft including the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, the five THEMIS probes, ACE, Wind, TRACE, AIM, TIMED, Geotail and others are studying the sun and its effects on Earth 24/7 using technology that didn't exist 100 years ago. Their measurements of solar wind, cosmic rays, irradiance and magnetic fields show that solar minimum is much more interesting and profound than anyone expected.
Above: An artist's concept of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Bristling with advanced sensors, "SDO" is slated to launch later this year--perfect timing to study the ongoing solar minimum. [more <http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/> ]
Modern technology cannot, however, predict what
comes next. Competing models by dozens of top solar physicists disagree,
sometimes sharply, on when this solar minimum will end and how big the next
solar maximum will be. Pesnell has surveyed the scientific literature and
prepared a "piano plot
Pesnell believes sunspot counts will pick up again soon, "possibly by the end of the year," to be followed by a solar maximum of below-average intensity in 2012 or 2013.
But like other forecasters, he knows he could be wrong. Bull or bear? Stay tuned for updates.
There is a lot of solid data referenced in the above; interpretations vary. Note that competing models by dozens of top solar physicists disagree. Apply that analogy to climate models.
There was a time when everyone thought that the Maunder Minimum (1645 - 1715) was in some way causative of the global cooling of that time (of course the Little Ice Age started much before that and didn't end until the 19th Century). What our current deficit of sun spots means is in doubt. I would wager, though, that it has a larger causative effect on Earth climate than CO2 levels, and the sooner we do understand those effects the more likely we will be to understand what we ought to be doing about climate change.
We do know that after WW II we were first concerned about a coming global cooling, then everyone began worrying about global warming, and now that things aren't warming so much we worry about climate change.
You can't predict the future. You may be able to invent it; but the better you understand where things are going, the more likely you are to prepare for the future you will get.
The Terminators are on their way,
The Terminator movies are looking less far-fetched all the time:
A proposal to solve the hacker problem and save some money
You can decide if this is April Fools or not, but in light of the conficker threat today...
Everyone knows that the average hacker who creates one of these viruses/worms/Trojans is a young adult unmarried male with too much time on his hands. The real property and financial damage caused by the acts of these individuals is grossly disproportionate to the effort required to create the virus. One skilled hacker working for one year can create a virus that consumes the time/effort/money of every single IT department in the world and/or destroy/steal data that took decades to create. That is a clear asymmetric threat if I ever heard of one, and it demands a non-traditional response.
My proposal – The Hacker relocation and lifestyle adjustment program.
1. The hacker must self-identify to qualify.
2. The hacker must be willing to relocate to Nevada (for reasons apparent in item 4).
3. The hacker must submit to a digital tracking scheme created by the government, including monitoring software on computers and limited access to other programmable digital devices with access to the internet or other data services such as phone networks.
4. The hacker will be provided with a home, free unlimited cable TV, and an unlimited-use pass at a nearby legal brothel.
5. The hacker will be provided a free account with a reputable dating or matchmaking service.
6. The hacker will be provided an unlimited supply of a mild narcotic drug such as pot.
The combined cost for these measures (even without bulk discount rates at the brothels) should be far cheaper than the cost to counter even a single successful malware effort per hacker, and it would save an enormous amount of effort by many many agencies around the world.
Don’t use my name please…
real costs of cap and trade
Carbon trap and trade: saving the environment -- or punishing the Red states with ruinous energy taxes (note that they would only be 'refunded" to people who "can't pay"). Don't forget - the two firms who are funding Al Gore are the ones who are ready to enter the carbon trading business and will rake a substantial percentage off of the top. Say 10%, and Al Gore gets perhaps 1% of that, personally (maybe more). That would be $2 billion. No wonder he's all about global warming.
Or should we wait until people are freezing to death in the dark in Minnesota and Iowa and Montana and the Dakotas.
I am no longer familiar with the Washington Times, but I think there is no controversy about the enormous costs of cap and trade.
I wrote some weeks back about how the EU government has destroyed so much that was good about the food and wine of local european regions, well - it is happening here now. ---
Change We Can Believe In: How About the End of Farmers Markets? Say Hello to H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
What this will do is force anyone who produces food of
any kind, and then transports it to a different location for sale, to
register with a new federal agency called the “Food Safety Administration.”
Even growers who sell just fruit and/or vegetables at farmers markets would
not only have to register, but they would be subject inspections by federal
agents of their property and all records related to food production. The
frequency of these inspections will be determined by the whim of the Food
Safety Administration. Mandatory “safety” records would have to be kept.
Anyone who fails to register and comply with all of this nonsense could be
facing a fine of up to $1,000,000 per violation. Interesting. A co-sponsor's
I gather that this has been reconsidered for now? But the pressure to create agricultural industries that are too big to fail continues... After all, people should not have the freedom to buy vegetables they don't have to wash before they eat them. What about those who came from the public schools and inadequately learned about the germ theory of disease? Mustn't they have bureaucratic protection?
Too Big to Fail...
Re. your idea that companies “too big to fail” are too big to be allowed to exist, the Washington Post report http://preview.tinyurl.com/cocqpj :
> Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner today told Congress the > administration will seek unprecedented power to seize non-bank > financial companies whose collapse could jeopardize the economy. > I somehow don’t think that’s what you had in mind…
Pourable batteries could store green power
via msnbc.com: Technology & Science <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032118/> on 3/26/09
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29900981/> Scientists at MIT are developing large, eco-friendly stationary batteries made entirely from liquid metal that would store large amounts of power from wind farms or solar cells or serve as backup power sources for hospit
Better power storage is good for everything. Cheap power storage makes distributed power collection a great deal more efficient because you don't have transmission losses. How long it takes to get this into economic production is another matter.
April 3, 2009
I appear to have been your original source.
My source on this comes from a family friend who used to own a plastics plant in the mid-'90s, who got regulated out of business due to changes in the emissions standards roughly every two years. After the third change in six years, he sold the business in '97. Everything but the building got crated up and sent to China. He was, for the most part, spinning PET pellets, had a moderately automated system, and had been in the business for 20 years or so before starting his own plant.
When I had to get injection molding done, I ended up having to go to China - the cost per shot is about the same, but the cost to make the molds is roughly 1/5 what it is in the US - and their minimum order quantities were lower because they could bundle the expensive part of the freight with other customers. Pricing the same services in the US, the delta has narrowed a bit - US prices have fallen. But it's still about 3:1 the last time I checked. (We do want to move our plastics forming to the US.)
As you've said multiple times, it's not environmental regulations that are costly. It's environmental regulations plus free trade that are costly.
You were one of them. I also had talked to some financial people. My point was that we can afford regulations or we can afford free trade, but the two need to be thought about together, and they seldom are.
One of our most effective weapons in the last years of Viet Nam wsa a 105 in a KC-135 or other long endurance aircraft. You took the ship up, went to a free fire uninhabited area, and stroked off a round. Now use a joystick to lay the cursor on the nav device on the spot where the round fell. For the next half hour or so, the next round you fire will strike with a 20 foot CEP at the point where you put the cursor. This at a slant range of 12,000 yards. I am sure we have improved on those numbers since that day. Unfortunately the Army isn't permitted to own the aircraft, and the Air Force isn't all that interested in big slow ground support aircraft, so I don't know how much it any development has been done.
The purpose of armed forces is to win battles and occupy territory. The Air Force doesn't seem to know this, and has mostly contempt for the missions that merely support the field army. The Marines are in a better position to appreciate combined arms forces.
Reinventing the Army Air Force,
Aviation Week has an article on how the Israel Air Force drew lessons from the Gaza campaign:
I think you will enjoy this point:
“For the first time aircraft were controlled by the brigade commanders in their area of operation. The final permission for every aerial attack was given by the brigade commander or his representative,” the IDF states.
However, IAF officials aren’t ready to subordinate the air force to ground commanders in the long term. The IAF insist that during a large-scale war “it will be impossible to assign a personal [forward air control] soldier to each [battalion-size or smaller] force, and IAF squadrons will not be able to operate exclusively with one force or another, but will have to move between the forces.”
Translation: they had to reinvent the Army Air Force, and they don't like it.
Another interesting point: " It was the first time during an operation of this scale that no friendly fire incidents occurred, according to the IDF, even though a lot of the active engagement took place in close proximity to ground forces and in a challenging urban setting. This was aided by the innovation of calling up retired, senior-ranking pilots, 60 years old or younger, to man battalion-level, forward air control centers in an effort to improve the accuracy of bombing and limit the potential for fratricide."
Nice bit, that.
The Quiet Coup - The Atlantic (May 2009)
More on Washington's commitment to the finance sector. I fear hard lessons are coming, Tim.
Insights into military life in Iraq
Thought you might find this interesting...
Its the latest edition of the "Expeditionary Times".
To urban hunter, next meal is scampering by
A 69-year-old guy is making out OK in Detroit, killing raccoons, skinning them, cooking them, selling them. They make good eating:
"Beasley peers out his living room window. . . . The neighborhood outside is a wreck of ruined houses and weedy lots.
"Today people got no skill and things is getting worse," he laments. "What people gonna do? They gonna eat each other up is what they gonna do."
Later, he says, "Coon or rabbit. God put them there to eat."
Has civilization really come to this?
April 4, 2009
Urban wild game.
I don't know about raccon; I've been told it's very greasy, but makes good barbeque, and I actually want to try it sometime. But, rabbit is delicious. I think it tastes almost the same as chicken.
My mother, who certainly didn't grow up poor, recalls raising rabbits in a hutch for food, that is, until she figured out what happened to the bunnies and shamed my grandfather into halting the practice, they did keep the chicken coop well into my lifetime, however.
I'll go you one further, there is an epidemic of deer within the city limits where I live. Within 19 city blocks of the Downtown area of Kansas City, and I've seen deer in the park down the street. Were it legal, I would certainly 'harvest' them. As to the rabbits, if my dogs manage to bring one down between the first and last freeze of the winter, and I can get to it before they mangle it too much, I'd eat it.
My dogs get about 3 oppossums a year on average and since they aren't desperate for food they just carry the carcass around like a trophy untill I see it and toss it out on the street. If things were truly desperate I suppose they've got to be as edible as a rat... Yech! I'd much rather give raccoon a try, I hear it's not too bad, but all reports about possum is that it is inedible. Raccoon is a pretty close relative to the bear isn't it?
Other urban food possiblilties: Frog legs? I love 'em! Squirrel is another thing that I've heard good things about. I've tried hunting the wild ones with a .22 pistol in the slow afternoon lull of many a deer hunt, but the truly wild ones aren't as easy as their city cousins. I recall as a child, although we didn't eat them, my mother put a .25 cent bounty on squirrels, payable upon presentation of a tail. She didn't like them getting at her tomatos, and I made a few dollars fairly easily with my pellet gun untill the immediately local population disappeared, along with the bounty. My brothers and I were beginning to expand to the local patches of woods and neighboorhood squirrel hotspots; I think there might have been a 'parental network' complaint that put a stop to that.
The article says, "...he hunts coons and rabbit and squirrel for a clientele who hail mainly from the South, where the wild critters are considered something of a delicacy..." I must note that my family is from the deep south, I was the first of my sibling born a 'Yankee.' Also, I used to chef at a very nice French restaurant, and I'll note that Venison, Pheasant, and Frog Legs were all on the menu, and had I pressed hard enough Bear would have been as well. The owner couldn't find a source for it though. I would love to try Bear as well.
You've often said you grew up in Appalachia, I'm mildly surprised that you say "Have we come to this?" Did you never eat wild game? Maybe you've had your fill.
There is an older gentleman that I work with who used to hunt raccoons for the fur untill, as he said, "the free trade agreement opened up Russian fur to the American market and collapsed the price." He said he wouldn't care if he never ate it again, but I suppose when you are hunting for pelts, the meat is an extra that'd be a 'shame' to throw away. I can imagine if you eat the same thing often enough you'd get tired of it.
All this aside, I don't think there is enough of any sort of animal in urban areas in sufficient number to support the number of people that would potentially use it as a food source. Of course you also have to factor in those animals that are obviously diseased and unfit for consumption. Rabies was mentioned as a possible pathogen that you could get from eating the animal. Rabbits also carry a parasite, as I recall but it weakens the rabbit enough that the ones who have it die when the stress of low temperatures comes along. Good news for the coming ice age I suppose, but then I guess I won't have frog legs to eat... Sigh.
My main point is that I'm surprised that you say "Have we come to this?" Would you care to elaborate?
You asked: Has civilization really come to this?
And I ask: What's wrong with it?
Rabbits, raccoons, possums and other animals- including deer in some places- inhabit more or less urban areas. They're part of the environment. We can't really keep them out even if we wish.
What this guy's doing is making use of an untapped resource. He's eating free range meat that is otherwise going to waste. It may be animals that most of us would turn our noses up at, but that's only because we have such a cheap and plentiful supply of other forms of meat so we're not used to them. One man's cheese is another man's rotted milk, as Mr. Niven once observed. In all likelihood he's right, that the meat he's harvesting is much healthier for us than what is produced on the farms.
Me, I think he's onto something. I've long thought that we should be farming on rooftops- probably inspired by the Moties- as all that valuable space was going to waste. After storms I see all kinds of firewood being put out by the trash cans. We let incredible amounts of resources pass us by every day. Beasley is merely taking advantage of it. He's thinking outside the box.
Good for him. We need more like him in our world. We seem to have forgotten that that is how we once lived, and that meat can come from things other than cows, chickens and pigs. We convinced ourselves that over here was The City where Man was in charge of everything, while over there was Nature, a place only rarely visited and then only for a very short time. We deluded ourselves into not seeing that in truth we have only carved out a few little bits of space inside walls where we're mostly in control and that nature is all around us, and get upset when a mouse or a spider invades our space.
Thank god for people like this guy who can see past the illusions.
I expect you're right on all counts. I still find it astonishing. I'm not sure why.
When I first moved into Studio City we had deer in our yards most nights; there's a huge park in the hills above us. The deer have moved further away, probably because someone fixed a leaking water pipe about half a mile from here. No one ever thought of hunting them, of course.
As to what we eat, I lived in Capleville during World War II, and most kids including me carried .22 rifles in hopes of adding some meat to the stew pot: rabbits or squirrels would do nicely.
I wasn't disparaging Mr. Beasley. In his place I'd do the same thing. And I have written stories about deciviliizing societies. I still find it a bit shocking that we've come to this. I've known Detroit was no longer the center of industry that it was during and after World War II, and intellectually I have known it's pretty far gone; but it's still a shock.
Conrad Black on the Next New Deal (published 17Jan09)
"Economic conditions today are barely comparable to the bombed-out desperation that greeted Franklin D. Roosevelt on his inauguration in 1933. . . . On inauguration day, 1933, unemployment stood at about 33 per cent with almost no direct government assistance to the jobless; the GDP had shrunk 40 per cent in a little more than three years, and the Dow had nosedived by 90 per cent. Nearly 45 per cent of residential homes in the country were under threat of foreclosure; farm incomes were insufficient to ensure survival for any of the authentic farmers in the country, regardless of the crop or animal they raised.
All stock and commodity exchanges had been closed for some time, as had been the banks in 38 states. In the others, withdrawals were restricted to five per cent of the balance, or $10. Bank deposits had not been guaranteed and thousands of banks had folded, taking with them the life savings of their depositors."
David Warren on the G20 Summit
There are two very big, very foolish ideas on the table at the G20 Summit. One of them is "Anglo-Saxon," or at least Anglo-American. The other is European, or more precisely, French. .....
The first foolish idea is that, given the black holes opened by the financial crisis, we should throw money into them. .....
The second foolish idea is that, given the abject failure of national regulation to prevent financial institutions from giving bad loans, and leveraging themselves to perdition, we need vastly increased, international regulation. .....
Fortunately the Germans, who will join with [Sarkozy] to cancel Anglo-Saxon spending plans, will join with the Anglos to cancel Sarkozy's regulatory plans, and the entire G20 will null out.
"This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century."
-- Roland Dobbins
"Stand By Me"
Below is a link to a composite audio/video of a song where additional tracks were laid in by different singers and musicians from different places around the world. The song itself is "Stand By Me" originally released in 1955 by The Staple ingers and released again in 1961 by the Drifters. The editing is seamless on a casual listen.
In the first World War the Royal Welch Fusiliers suffered from night sniping from fixed rifles which were fired at likely sentry positions. The answer they found was to mark the line of the muzzle flash by sticking a couple of spare rounds into the parapet and then during the day building a spare rifle into the parapet aimed on the same bearing. The next time they were sniped the fixed rifle would be used to fire five rounds rapid. This was an extremely effective deterrent especially if several sentries had seen the same muzzle flash. The high tech solution now proposed might work in urban warfare but in a conventional soldier vs. soldier war I think that the ordinary private is much too tired and muddy to have the time or energy to use this new and amazing invention, even if the cherrypicker had really thick armour.
BTW "Welch" is not a typo. The Royal Welch are waiting to see if the new fangled spelling of the name of their country catches on before adopting it themselves.
-- Roland Dobbins
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