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Monday, September 07, 2009

Mail 586 August 31 - September 6, 2009







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Monday  August 31, 2009

Subject: Since when is health care one system?

My own two cents...

How about washing our mouths out with soap? "System" is a dirty, misleading word.

One reason we've got this brouhaha about healthcare is the use of the word "system". One sixth of our GDP a single "system"? Come on, guys. This implies that it should be easily possible to work out a simple plan to "fix" the "broken" "system". Fast.

The fact that our legislators, faced with a "mandate" to "fix" the "system", come up with dueling 1000+ page plans is testimony to the fact that we're not talking about a simple "system" but, rather a complex network of institutions, activities, behaviors, transactions, laws, etc., aimed more or less at helping the ill, the injured, the dying. And, God help us, somehow paying for it.

Any attempt this grandiose is guaranteed to produce uncounted, unintended consequences. Wanna bet?

Repeat after me: healthcare is not "a system" but a huge intertwined human network. Tamper with care.


When I was young we were expected to pay our own doctor bills. I saved money to pay for the doctor and hospital for our children's birth. Somehow we now figure someone else should pay. Perhaps so, but he calls the tune who pays the piper.


“Death Panels”

Re Doug Lewis’ email on health care: ” I think that the Republican's painting this discussion as "death panels" is very prejudicial to these discussions, and is not very appropriate to the true purpose for these choices. “

Some comments to put “death panels” into perspective: We have Oregon refusing treatment to some elderly, but offering to pay for euthanasia. We have the President saying that the majority of health care expenditures is spent in the last year of life. We have Medicare paying only about 92% of its hospital charges. We have the President saying that Medicare is broke. We have the President saying that he will cut Medicare some $300 billion dollars. We have Dr. Emmanuel, the President’s advisor, saying that doctors should consider if the cost for a procedure is worth the benefit, or should the money be better spent of something else, like a vacation.

Is it paranoia to come to the conclusion that as in Oregon, one of the ways of achieving the planned savings in Medicare might be to deny treatment to the elderly? I don’t think so. The fears of the people listening closely to the President’s words will not be put to rest by pooh-poohing their concerns.



The demand for a free good is essentially infinite. He calls the tune who pays the piper: the government cannot pay for every conceivable health care demand. Someone must set limits. It is also true that the last year of life is the most expensive in terms of health care costs, and for some at least the actual value in terms of happiness is pretty small in that last year. Of course if you're paying for it, and want to be maintained in a vegetative existence, that's one thing; if you have left instructions that you not be so maintained, that's another; but if you have left no instructions, who gets to decide for you? He calls the tune who pays the piper.

Someone must decide whether a procedure is worth the cost; the question is who makes that decision? Who is the customer?

Let me again recommend  http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care which asks that question and looks at what happens when we have the wrong answer. I do not necessarily endorse his remedies, but I am very much impressed by his analysis.

We cannot pay for all the health care demanded. If we "ration" by cost, we will certainly have inequality (which we will have anyway: do any of you really think you will be treated the same as Senator Kennedy was?); if we "refuse to ration by cost" and demand equality, we will in essence forbid the rich from buying health care we can't afford. That will move the advanced health care facilities to places that will allow them; will the nation be better off if the Mayo Clinic goes to Bangkok? And do not think that this cannot happen.


Whole Foods Article & Canadian Wait Times

Hi Jerry.

I am a Canadian and a regular reader of Chaos Manor and have to say I am in general very pleased with the quality and value the information and letters posted provide. The article by the Whole Foods CEO is an interesting view on health care in the US, a debate many Canadians are following with interest. Americans will make whatever they feel is the correct decision for them on health care, and as a non-American, I would not be so rude as to tell you what to do.

Whatever our various opinions in Canada, I can say that all Canadians get ANNOYED when we read what I can only call an outright lie quoted in the Whole Foods article and originating from Investors Business Daily on July 17, 2009. In a comparison with other health care systems, IBD claims that "/...830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment./"

The population of the entire country is around 30 million. I have lived here my entire life and know exactly what treatment I have received or can expect to receive from the Canadian health care system and there is no way in hell that statement is true. One in 30 Canadians are not "waiting for treatment" unless someone is playing very fast and lose with what is included in "waiting". There are no references for this "fact" in IBD and a cursory search of the web shows no source either.

Anecdotes are not statistics, however, let me provide a personal anecdote to illustrate my recent experience with Canadian health-care and why I am annoyed. Several weeks ago I had a pain in my lower back that felt very much like what preceded a kidney stone problem 15 years ago. (Don't tell me you can't remember pain!). The next day, I went to a neighbourhood walk-in clinic at about 10 AM and asked to see a doctor. I showed my health card and provided some basic contact information (end of all administrative and billing work). I filled in a one page form with some basic health information and was told there would be a 2 hour wait. I saw the doctor in 90 minutes, had a check-up, gave a urine sample and had blood drawn within 15 minutes. I left with a prescription for a painkiller and instructions to visit a diagnostic clinic for an ultrasound. I called the clinic and asked for an appointment and booked one for 2 PM. At the clinic, I showed my health card again and had to wait about 15 minutes as a prior appointment was running late. 30 minutes later I was done. I then went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription, which I have to pay out of pocket (I can claim 80% from my supplemental health policy which is an employer provided benefit). Charge for 20 tablets of novo-ketorolac was $22.91. Total cost to me of the entire morning once I made the claim for the prescription: less than $5. Total wait time: less than 2 hours. I was called and told the test results 6 days later.

That anecdote slightly exceeds (by about 1 hour of wait time) what I would expect for the performance of the Canadian health system for basic care. I am fortunate not to have any major health problems and so cannot speak personally to any experience with specialist care, but have acquaintances that have reported no problems and at worst a 2-week wait to see a specialist. (I do live in Toronto, and I would expect specialist wait times in a less populated area to be worse. Of course, over 75% of Canadians live in urban and suburban areas so my experience with basic care is the norm). If the 2-hours I spent waiting to see a doctor or a technician are included in the count, then I suppose it is possible there are 830,000 Canadians waiting treatment... same day treatment. (Would that mean there are roughly 8 million Americans awaiting same day treatment? But I digress...).

I would ask your American readers to be very suspicious and skeptical of any statistics posted about foreign health-care systems, especially those that have no source as per IBD. I would be completely unbelieving of anything posted in IBD about Canada and health-care, and very skeptical concerning other countries. Finally, "facts" such as this about waiting lists infuriate me as they make Canadians look like fools and complacent cattle willing to accept whatever is given them. Believe me when I say that concerns over wait-times for certain procedures became front-page news a few years ago (mostly hip & knee replacements) and had all politicians in the country ducking for cover. The concerns were addressed. Promptly. There is no complacency nor toleration of bad performance. I would suggest the same holds in other countries. No country has a perfect health-care system. Not mine, not the Europeans, not the Americans. Each has strengths and weaknesses and I would remind your readers of an aphorism popular at this site that perfect is the enemy of good enough. If Americans decide they want to make changes to their system of health care, they should look to the good (and bad) of the other systems, and not try to find the perfect.

Best wishes to you Jerry, and all your subscribers and readers.


And yet I also have readers with horror stories.

Some bureaucracies work, some do not, and they may be the same bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are not evil, and some are conscientious. The problem is that you are not their customer.

If we accept the premise that people have the right to have someone else pay for their health care, then we must accept the best we can create; the question is, how did others acquire that obligation? Both Old and New Testaments are pretty explicit about one's obligations to suppliants, but the courts have been telling us for years that we can't use religious reas0ns for laws. But even if we assume that someone else has an obligation to pay for your or a third party's health care, is that infinite? Does the public have the obligation to pay for plastic surgery? Burn remedies? Nose jobs? Breast implants?  Tattoo removals? I expect I can get different answers to those questions depending on whom I ask; but we will not all answer yes to all those. Very well, there are limits to the public obligation -- and that's rationing.

One means of rationing is long waiting times. Another would be high co-payments. Another might be committees of ethicists who determine how much quality of life for how long is being bought for how much. That latter is the likely outcome in any event.

I have no definitive answers. I do think it important enough that we do not rush to change everything. And as of today, no one has actually seen the Bill that the House passed. By no one, I mean no one: to the best I can determine no single human being knows what the Bill contains for it changes hourly, and strange codicils are pasted in by unknown hands.


NS 2588: 'Supersize me' revisited--under lab conditions http://www.newscientist.com/
full=true&print=true  * 27 January 2007 by Kate Douglas

IF YOU had bumped into nursing student Adde Karimi last September, he probably wouldn't have had much time to stop and chat. He was too busy stuffing his face with burgers, cola and milkshakes. It takes a lot of planning to get 6600 calories of junk food down you in a day, he explains. If you are not a born glutton, serious overeating also requires a high level of commitment. Karimi's motivation was commendable. "I did it because I wanted to hate this type of food," he says. He also did it for science.

Even if you have never tried to cure your cravings for fast food by overdosing on it, you may be getting a sense of déjà vu. That's because Karimi was a volunteer in an experiment based on the 2004 documentary Super Size Me. In the movie, film-maker Morgan Spurlock spent 30 days eating exclusively at McDonald's, never turning down an offer to "supersize" to a bigger portion, and avoiding physical exertion. Karimi followed a similar regime, gorging himself on energy-dense food and keeping exercise to a minimum. <snip>

And what is our obligation to the morbidly obese? Is it the same as to those who have worked to stay fit, but have no money? What about the wealthy morbidly obese? And so forth. Who shall have the power of choice to determine who shall be able to lay the cost on the neighbors?


climate models versus data

Jerry, I heard a brief but worrisome article on NPR this morning implying that European union scientists are concluding that historic climate data can no longer be used as the basis for forecasting future weather conditions. Consequently they will be relying more on climate models....clearly there may have been much oversimplification in the news article and, as I was still only on cup one and driving in the dark and rain, I may not have completely caught the full scope of the article. The closest published news to which it seems to relate is this from the Times (UK) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/

 Cheers, Chris

Are you at all surprised?


Weather modeling

Dr. Pournelle-

It seems to me that the best way for a group to claim legitimacy for their weather models would be to take the model, plug in all of the data up until about 1990 or so, and then see if it could predict what happened over the next twenty years. If their model is a good one, it should come close to what actually happened. If it's flawed the results would be interesting to see.

If someone's climate model could predict what actually happened and it was reviewed by peers to make sure they didn't do any tweaking to get the desired results (standard scientific peer review), then they might have a useful tool for predicting climate change. But as of yet I haven't heard of anyone taking that step- have you?

Until I hear of them doing this, I refuse to put a lot of stock in any of it.

Paul Martin

You'd think so, wouldn't you? And see below


Surface area required to power the whole world by solar power [PIC]

Interesting map



Very interesting


Letter from England=

Why the Lockerbie Bomber was released <http://tinyurl.com/moj5ne> <http://tinyurl.com/kqqvhj  > <http://tinyurl.com/moj5ne>

 NHS flaws <http://tinyurl.com/mrktho> <http://tinyurl.com/nnufyf> and an article on Canadian medical care <http://tinyurl.com/kohgwu>

 Assisted suicide and the burdensome elderly <http://tinyurl.com/nu3y5d>

 Citizen journalism <http://tinyurl.com/kwgpkq>

 Education and the English class system <http://tinyurl.com/n5azro>

 Not enough places in the universities for qualified students <http://tinyurl.com/lk977b  >

 Not enough ammunition for training <http://tinyurl.com/n53ynk>

 Grammar guidelines <http://tinyurl.com/m9vbv3>


Beware Outside Context Problems--

Harry Erwin, PhD





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Tuesday,  September 1, 2009

weather models


And regarding your e-mail from Paul Martin, might I call your attention to


The first two papers shown have pdf's linked. Quoting from the abstracts:

* Douglass, D.H., J.R. Christy, 2009: Limits on CO2 climate forcing from recent temperature data of Earth. Energy & Environment, 20, 178-189 (Invited paper, reviewed by Editor.) (pdf) <http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/

"(Global atmospheric temperature anomalies) do not have the signature associated with CO2 climate forcing. However, the data show a small underlying positive trend that is consistent with CO2 climate forcing with no feedback."

{In other words, there may be a warming effect due to the CO2, but the maximum forcing assumed by most climate models is not observed in the data.}

* Douglass, D.H., J.R. Christy, B.D. Pearson and S.F. Singer, 2007: A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. International J. Climatology, DOI: 10.1002/joc.1651. (pdf)  <http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/atmos/

"(Comparing 67 runs from 22 models with observed data) Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement ... by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean."

In other words, the data does NOT show warming, and everyone knows that the data does not show warming.


The models can't predict reality so we stop using reality to validate the models; they are now used to validate each other. This is not the philosophy of science I learned from Gustav Bergmann at the University of Iowa, nor does it have anything to do with truth as defined by Popper. There is no conceivable way to falsify those models. Surprise.


United Kingdom


Is finally circling the drain about to flush for the last time. Political correctness taken to mega extremes.


Imagine my astonishment. Those whom the gods would destroy...


Just in from Europe about Cap and Trade (= Ration and Tax)

Consider that President Obama's top science adviser, climate Czar, John Holdren, is a long-time globalist who has endorsed and advocated for "surrender of sovereignty" to "a comprehensive Planetary Regime" that would control the entire world's resources, direct global redistribution of wealth, oversee the "de-development" of the West, control a World Army and taxation regime, and enforce world population limits. He has castigated the United States as "the meanest of wealthy countries," written a justification for compulsory abortion and sterilization of American women, advocated drastically lowering the U.S. standard of living, and left the door open to trying global warming "deniers" for crimes against humanity.

This is the business the UN's IPCC is about. This is the eventual end-game of cap-and-trade policy. If it passes the Senate this coming September, and is signed into law, we will have passed the event horizon: the America we inherited will implode.

For the first time since America's incarnation, it will then be the official, codified policy of the federal government that the present generation must have its liberty and prosperity diminished without limits; and for the next generation, the American Dream will become criminalized. All in the name of a non-existent climate crisis.


 John D. Trudel


Carbon-sense, the battle of our times....

Something "spot on" and just in from our allies across the pond. Eco-Fascism revealed in the proper political context. God Bless 'em.


 This one is a Keeper....


John D. Trudel

I agree that this is the crucial cultural battle: between health care and environmentalism, it's pretty well the end of economic liberty. Perhaps that is good, perhaps not, but surely it deserves debate.


Obama as Huey Long?

I'm amazed to be recommending a George Will article, particularly one from Newsweek, but one finds gold where one can.

"In August our ubiquitous president became the nation's elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper. And now, as Congress returns to resume wrestling with health care reform, we shall see if he continues his August project of proving that the idea of an Ivy League Huey Long is not oxymoronic."

He goes on to skewer cap-and-trade with reference to an analysis by Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute that demonstrates that the Waxman-Markey goal of 2.4 tons of CO2 per capita by 2050 is utterly unrealistic and closes:

"Obviously Hayward and Green are correct that meeting the 2.4-ton goal "is not going to be seriously attempted." So why do the same politicians who want to radically expand government's control of health care pretend otherwise? Because they are not serious people. Which is why so many Americans are seriously alarmed."


David Smith

We no longer study history. Mussolini died a believer in Socialism. Not Marxism, but classical Socialism. He said so often. Fascism was a form of socialism. Mussolini accepted class warfare. Instead of liquidating all classes but the proletariat, the Fascist solution was to force the classed to work together, with mechanisms like Roosevelt's NRA (derived from Fascist theory). Of course Huey Long understood all this very well indeed. The comparison of Obama to Huey Long is apt. Both were bright showmen with great oratory capability; and both had ideas much similar to non-Marxist Socialism.


The Good Enough Revolution - When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine:


The story basically shows how Pareto's 80/20 rule has begun to conquer markets, from the "MP3 effect" to Kaiser-Permanente's microclinics. Worth your time.


I really do not understand why Pareto is so neglected: he was the most scientific of the social scientists, his theories are useful for prediction, and yet few have heard of him now. He's not all that easy to read -- the translations are not good. The best explication on Pareto I know of is in Burnham's The Machiavellians.


More discussion of health care


Jerry -

Regarding the "nobody knows what's in the Health Care Reform bills" discussion: as is typical of these kinds of laws, the rubber hits the road in the regulations. Browse through the text and you'll see a lot of "The Secretary (of HHS) shall, within (time) of enactment of this legislation, promulgate regulations which will do (something)."

My experience with the HIPAA regulations suggests that the time between enactment and promulgation will be filled with meetings with supplicants/stakeholders/lobbyists/sharks fine-tuning those regulations to their best interests, be they financial or ideological. In the case of HIPAA things went well for us IT folks without doing a whole lot for medical record privacy (my opinion only, your mileage may vary). I am personally inclined to believe that most or all of the similar situations with whatever "Health Care Reform" is ultimately enacted will trend toward favoring corporate interests and "progressive" notions of technocratic management rather than the kind of individual control over important medical decisions that the 1947 Nuremberg Code envisioned.

I hope I'm wrong, and as you frequently say, despair is a sin.

David Smith



Kaiser Microclinics


There is an article in Wired discussing Kaiser's experiments with Microclinics. Two doctors in a strip mall clinic can handle 80% of patient's need and they have HD videoconferencing to help them when they need specialist assistance and, of course, the serious cases go to Kaiser's hospital.


Joel Upchurch

Of course free clinics with paramedics -- particularly military veterans -- have been useful for years. But clearly this sort of thing is more affordable than revamping the entire system. I doubt it is much discussed in The Bill.


Logical Fallacy

Dr. Pournelle,

Although I am not overly concerned with how the health care debate ends, I am interested in how the debate is conducted. Like scissors, each side sharpens their position to a razor's edge but it is where the blades meets that the work gets done. We will survive whatever the outcome, but we will advance our position, our knowledge and our philosophical position with a worthy debate. In that light, I read an email from Tom, a Canadian who seemed a bit incensed at the Whole Foods CEO Mackey's article that used a statistic that Tom could not confirm. The specific statistic was that "...830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment." While it was just an opinion piece, it would have been nice if Mr. Mackey cited references. First I would like to point out that because one does not know or understand a premise or argument does not make it wrong and does not make it's opposite true (or any other combination of rights and wrongs). That is a logical fallacy and can be read about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance  Secondly, for his benefit and the benefit of other incensed Canadians, these statistics are reported by The Fraser Institute of Vancouver. Their data is generated from "Statistics Canada" www.statcan.gc.ca 

The statistic does seem to be dated. The reported number of Canadians waiting for medical care (those who had an appointment with a specialist and are now waiting for procedures) was estimated at 840,358 in 1999, 878,008 in 2000-01 but down to 750,794 in 2008. Average wait times have improved too, from 16.2 weeks in 2000-01 to 8.7 weeks in 2008. That varies greatly from region to region and procedure to procedure. Checking www.health.gov.on.ca  you can see that some hospitals have a 212 day waiting list for non-emergency surgery.

Even though the precise number may not be agreed upon, that does little to influence the correctness of the statement that was being supported with the statistic. "All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments." I would like to see in depth numbers to support such an sweeping generalization. Tom's personal experiences are no more germaine than mine are. I spent the first 20 years of my adult life in an enviroment that I find balances entitlement and empowerment the best that I have seen. That would be the U.S. military. I did become disabled and recieved great care until it was determined that my condition could not be corrected to 100%. I had to retire and now can only be seen by the same doctors and hospitals on a 'space-A' system. Tom's personal experiences do not seem to reflect the total Canadian experience and likewise I know that my own experiences do not mirror what every other American appreciates.


Of course a long waiting list for non-urgent surgery to be paid for by someone else is perhaps to be expected. Why should it not be? The question is are you allowed to pay for it yourself and not wait?



As regards your response to Hugh:

As I recall, the Declaration of Independence declares the minimum set of rights as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It doesn't declaim happiness as a right -- but it does so declaim life.

Now, haven fallen under the not always proper influence of Spider Robinson at about the same time (and in the same venue -- <i>Galaxy</i>) that I fell under yours -- and incidentally at about that same time (1975), chanced to be the person who discovered the body of a great aunt after she jumped into the well, I'm not necessarily quick to judge someone who has determined <i>for themselves</i> that the pursuit of happiness is so likely to be unsuccessful that they are willing to undertake <i>by themselves</i> the search for a final friend, or at least the selection of nutrition and painkillers and no further treatment.

But for <i>anyone</i> else to make that decision is murder, pure and simple, and has been so viewed by Christianity in all of it's incarnations for its entire history. (I might concede that a heartfelt attempt to help someone in distress in this regard is no worse than manslaughter, and might in some circumstances and with appropriate controls be allowable under civil law, but the person in distress must make the unambiguous decision first.)

I otherwise agree that any bill which does not explicitly repudiate the recent case in Oregon is <i>a priori</i> not an acceptable model for healthcare reform. Note that this is a necessary condition, and may be single most important necessary condition, but it is still MANY steps from being sufficient, relative to the widely circulated drafts of H.3200. And I don't disagree with Palin's choice of the term "death panel" to describe any process which does not explicitly repudiate counseling the patient about suicide as an option, or which places choices for payment of treatment out of the hands of the primary care physician and the patient.


My concern is who will be on those panels: almost inevitably it will be "ethicists". I have yet to meet an "ethicist" who made a favorable impression on me, either intellectually or personally. The ones I have met are intellectual snobs who have less to be snobbish about than they think. Of course I have not met all that many of them, but I find little in print to contradict my impression.


Universal Health Care; Stephenson Screens


I wonder why no one has brought up the first and largest universal health care system ever. It was inflicted upon the Russians, the poor bastards, quite a while ago. G. B. Shaw and Walter Duranty spoke well of it.

For the climate war fans I recommend Kooistra's three page squib in the November ANALOG on Stephenson Screens. Word was out in the technical community in the mid-90s that Jim Hanson was cooking temperature data, but I am surprised that NOAA incompetence made such a significant contribution; and it looks like only 11% of the numbers are potentially recoverable. Coupled with the loss of all Russian data post, say 1985, there seems to be only theology left to the arguments.

I was a viable fetus (in the current vernacular) when Willie Yeats died. "Mere anarchy" turns out to be an understatement.

Val Augstkalns


 Harry Reid vs. the Review-Journal


Apparently Harry Reid was nasty to the wrong reporter.



'When Russian spies are caught and deported, it is not a sign of Russian strength but rather of desperation and ineptitude.'


--- Roland Dobbins


When is coffee food?

(As Ann Althouse puts it:)

Q: When is coffee food? A: When they need it to be in order to fine you for smoking.


[Owner Vince Nastri III] first got into hot water on June 10, when Health Department inspectors arrived at his shop, at 75 Broad St., to check out a complaint that cigar odor was wafting to the building's upper floors.

The inspectors decided the complaint was unfounded. But one inspector pointed out the coffee machine, which customers used gratis to make themselves espressos, lattes and cappuccinos.

"That's illegal," the inspector pronounced -- and issued Nastri a citation, which can lead to fines ranging from $200 to $2,000.

Nastri found himself in a classic Catch-22 situation.

To serve coffee -- even free coffee -- he needs a permit to operate a food-service establishment. But smoking is banned in food-service establishments.

Realizing that resistance would be futile, Nastri had the machine removed.

(emailer adds: Of course, I'm sure that the inspector in question doesn't see any problem at all. Someone was In Violation, and they were Cited, and they Chose To Comply With The Law. That's how it's supposed to work, right? I mean, after all, it's for the public's benefit that they not be permitted to do dangerous things, right?)

I'm from the government and I am here to help you.


World must plan for climate emergency: report - 

Dear Jerry,

I am just interested in what you, (and your readers,) think about this one. I just sat there and blinked my eyes.

World must plan for climate emergency: report



We are government scientists and we know better than you. And we're here to help you.


Regarding the Surface area required to power the whole world by solar power

I took a look at the Solar Energy map at http://imgur.com/j9wrB.jpg <http://imgur.com/j9wrB.jpg>  And I have to wonder if this takes into account losses in transmission. 50%+ of all power generated in the US is lost in transmission (I don't have backup on this, but I remember it from a chart I saw at Chaos Manor a year or so ago); though an increase to take this into account would still be impressive. Note that it would be even more impressive if you charted the surface area required for either nuclear or orbital microwave.

Glad to hear you are doing well!

Christopher Mazuk Picture (Metafile)

I assume it's back of the envelope calculations. Were I to do the same for, say, nuclear waste storage site requirements I'd get much smaller areas, of course. Assume we're stacking the stuff in deserts and surrounding it with a chain link fence and a death's-head warning sign...


Telegraph story on power rationing planned in the UK

These reports are often trial balloons to see what Whitehall can get away with <http://preview.tinyurl.com/nfjlxd> . It is good to remember that the UK civil service has very high self-regard.

Taxes up <http://preview.tinyurl.com/m2v3yw

-- Harry Erwin


"The pieces came together to make me think that gas drag was a good explanation for what was going on."


--- Roland Dobbins

We are just learning about interstellar wind. Which may affect climate...

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



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This week:


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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Global Warming a Plot to Promote Atomic Energy?

From an article at Watts Up today:

This Japanese scientist must have a great sense of irony, figuring to throw cold water on Global Warming by tarring it with the name of arch conservative Margaret Thatcher!

5. How is global warming related to atomic power? In order to understand this question, it is important to learn how the global warming issue was born. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister, came to the conclusion that the UK needed atomic power energy for their future, but she faced strong objections by her people. It was also about the time when the first crude computer simulation of the greenhouse effect of CO2 was made, and it predicted a great disaster and catastrophe due to the expected temperature rise, unless the release of CO2 could be greatly reduced. Margaret Thatcher must have taken this result into account in promoting atomic power, asking her people to choose either atomic power or global disaster/catastrophe, which would require a great sacrifice in their standard of living in order to avoid it. Without her strong endorsement, the IPCC would not have been established. She also established the Hadley Climate Research Center for further study of the effects of CO2. Until that time, climatology was a rather quiet science (not something dealt with in newspaper headlines), but Thatcher put a great spotlight on it for her political purposes. Therefore, although the CO2 hypothesis is appropriate as a hypothesis in science, the IPCC was related to atomic power from its birth and its destiny was to predict a great disaster/catastrophe.



I had no idea...


Cutting back on government services

Hello Jerry,

It is clear that you have noticed what everyone has noticed: When governments get 'strapped for cash', they inevitably cut back on legitimate, Constitutional, government services, in order of their criticality. More critical first. Police, fire departments, highway construction/maintenance, etc. (Here in VA, the latest were the rest stops along the interstates.) are always the first to go. On the other hand, socialist programs (income re-distribution and other programs in which citizens receive tax money in exchange for doing absolutely nothing, other than reliably voting for socialists) are NEVER cut, no matter how dire the financial emergency. Purely coincidence, I''m sure.

Bob Ludwick

Which is why collectivism is often a one-way street. There's seldom a way back, once institutions are set up. As an example the California program that pays $12 an hour to people to take care of relatives with disabilities. The care givers are unionized and the unions collect a lot of money to lobby for the program. This is a means of transferring tax money into campaign donations for those who vote for the program. There is no similar mechanism for opposing it.

The notion of civil service employees able to vote and lobby for their own programs was dismissed as impossible by the good government coalitions that created civil service to get rid of the spoils system (in which the winning faction appointed its own supporters on winning an election). As for me, I don't care if the pothole is filled by the Mayor's 2nd cousin's husband -- I just want it filled. And the opposite side of the Spoils System is responsibility: if the pot hole doesn't get filled you can elect a Mayor with more competent cousins. Civil service protections were originally never intended to be combined with unionization, but of course that was inevitable.


"We will never have free markets again if you have the government picking winners and losers."


-- Roland Dobbins


Canadian health care yet again

Dr Pournelle, if I may....

With all due respect to Tom from Toronto, the figures from the Whole Foods article appear to be understated.

According to the CMA report found here: http://tinyurl.com/4pthrz  , in 2007 there were just about 650,000 Canadians that had to wait beyond the "recommended wait time" for an MRI alone (Figure 6, Page 21). There were a total of (just shy) 1 million Canadians that were entered on the wait lists for an MRI in 2007. Now, to be fair, MRIs are one of the huge failings in our system....from what I can tell they have bigger wait lists than anything else. But, please keep in mind "The maximum recommended wait is 30 days, but the median patient still waits 56 days, while the patient who does not get a scan within that maximum recommended period waits an average of 85 days." But the operative term here, regardless, is wait. That describes the entire health-care system in this country.

Like many Canadians, Tom is satisfied with our system. Partly that's a product of easy access in urban areas, partly a product of never having had to deal with a catastrophic situation (many Canadians who have, if not most, are decidedly not satisfied), partly low perceived cost (never seeing the bill in front of you leads one to think of it as cheap....even though the taxes needed are a death of a thousand cuts. And, note, he carries additional coverage for that which our "universal" system doesn't cover), and partly 30 years of propaganda touting the "universal" system as being the be-all, end-all (combined with the specter of US medical bankruptcies pushed by our pols every election). The realities for anyone dealing with a serious medical emergency in this country are drastically different from his recent clinic experience.

Let's take emergency room numbers for his province as an example: http://tinyurl.com/mfuf63  . Minor conditions (his reason for his trip to the clinic would qualify) result in treatment and discharge in 4.8 hours. However, if you need a more serious diagnosis you're looking at 8.3 hours before they let you go and 32.6 hours before they admit you to a bed, if you need one. The average is 12.8 hours for "complex" diagnosis. This is the time spent sitting in the emergency room/waiting area only....in other words, triage. 12.8 hours between taking a number and actually being diagnosed.

He is correct that the wait times for hip/knee replacement have improved: http://tinyurl.com/39tb2r  , they used to be an appalling 351/440 days in 2005. I'm not sure, however, in what fantasy world we should consider 5-6 months acceptable. And let's be brutally frank here....Ontario Health considers a 6 month wait for surgery in general to be the "goal".

To be anecdotal here, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer about 3 years ago, time from GP "suspicion" to see a specialist for confirmation was appx 6 months, with a further 6 months on the surgical waiting list. A full year, from the time they suspected he had cancer to treatment. And surgical treatment at that. At the time, they claimed they had gotten it all...so no chemo, no drug, no radiation. My mother is an ex-nurse and asked about the lack of additional treatment. She was told they no longer do it automatically because it's not required in all cases, so it's not cost-effective. Now it looks as if they didn't actually get it all, so there may be a recurrence. My parents are talking about going across the border and paying out of pocket this time because they were so satisfied with Ontario's system.

A friend here in BC was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, time between going to the emergency room in severe pain and bleeding and seeing a GI specialist, 2 1/2 months. Wait time for surgery, a further 6 months of severe pain, during which time he became addicted to morphine and, later, heroin as self-medication. Again, they "got it all, you were lucky" so no additional therapy. Surprise, 6 months later a recurrence, which has spread, so chemo has been started (after a 6 week wait for a specialist appointment) while he's on the current surgical wait list, estimated at 3 months because he's been dropped into mid-list as a "rush"....only this time without painkillers because he's a recovering addict. I have another half-dozen friends in similar situations. Most of them get to wait, since they can't afford medical tourism and don't know the right people to get a rush, as our dear politicians do.

To use your recent experience as example, in Ontario you would have gone to your GP and gotten a referral to a neurologist (avg wait 1 month), CT or MRI (42/100 days....goal of 28), surgery (avg wait of 55 days, goal 84 for regular surgery, wait of 2-6 months for gamma....depending on priority assessment and location, of course). So total time from noting symptoms to start of treatment would be 4 1/2 - 6 months for regular surgery, 4 1/2 - 10 months for gamma.

Some other minor nits.....

1/ Toronto is Canada's largest city, so access is going to be quite a bit better then elsewhere in the country, and, quite honestly, assuming a correspondence between it and even other urban areas is less than honest. The comparison would be like saying "access in LA is wonderful, so all of California must be the same." or really, in this case, "the access in New York City is wonderful, so all of the US must be as well." The rural issue is even worse, with some areas being so underserviced they hold lotteries when GPs have a new patient opening. That's just GPs....in most areas, your only chance of seeing a specialist is making the trip to an urban area for a prolonged or indefinite stay.

2/ I run into Canadians fairly often that cite "universal access" as being worth any price, but the costs are higher than anyone wants to admit. The Ontario Ministry of Health has a total budget of $42 billion.....while the province has a population of 13 million. $3230 per person per year from taxes, and the results are still this poor....despite cutbacks in costs everywhere possible. That $42B, BTW, is almost 1/2 of Ontario's 2009/10 expenses. http://tinyurl.com/lyd77a  and http://tinyurl.com/mpbjew 

The last estimate I saw for country wide costs were $172B for 33 million people in 2008.....$5170/person/year. Again, to put that in perspective, to run a Canadian-style system in the US would cost appx $1.72 trillion per year, assuming no increased administrative costs.....which there would be, so figure $2T or a bit more (and I suspect I'm being quite conservative at that), and you would still need private insurance for dental, drug, etc at $75 - 150 per month depending on coverage.

3/ He neglected to notice that, even in his own anecdote, there were signs of rationing by wait-list. His test results were conveyed to him by phone, 6 days later. Using the phone and receptionist to convey the results are signs in themselves. However, they pale in the face of a 6 day waiting period for the results. Again anecdotal, but....the last time I took my cat to the vet it was for a situation very similar to his, with the same kind of tests done. I had the results, in person, the next morning. Visit to vet appx 6PM....results by 8AM the next day.

Long-winded as always, Mike Walsh

PS An additional anecdote from Toronto in the last couple of months http://tinyurl.com/kr6dbu  . It's a lovely read.


Positive Nuclear News 

Apologies if you've seen this, it is encouraging:


-- George R. Jenson


Map to power the world.


Interesting map about how to power the world. It never states what the conversion efficiencies are of the solar cells used or if the areas represent what would be required at peak power generation or if they've factored in the change in solar energy flux during the course of the day. Also, they haven't factored in the inefficiencies of any power storage system. All of this aside, it is interesting that this concept is presented as a system of centralized solar power generating stations sited in locations that are remote from populations in much the same manner as Nuke and Coal power plants are built.

This is a change in the paradigm of alternative energy that advocated personal independence. I've never been eager to agree with the alternative energy activists because most of them simply didn't have a clue as to how to do the math. However; I did and still do respect the true believers who've accepted responsibility for at least part of their power needs by installing alternative energy systems in and on their own homes. Your neighbor Ed Begeley is a classic example.

Given that I now live in the sticks and am worried about the stability of the grid, I'm wanting to invest in alternative energy because having my own power will give me security. While I often have to hold my nose to cope with the political rants, I've been reading some of their writings, particularly HOME POWER Magazine. One factor that interests me is that they alternative energy activists have been focusing on storing useful work rather than storing energy. This neatly side steps the issues about conversion efficiencies for energy storage systems that people such as yourself and I would challenge them on.

A classic example is direct solar hot water and space heating with a very large, insulated storage tank. Since the volume and mass of the water rises with the dimensions cubed while the amount of insulation and probable cost rise with surface area, making these things big solves a lot of problems.

Solar air conditioning is another example. The alternative energy people have came up with units that are very small but are designed to run nearly continuously on hot days. This makes them easier to power with realtively low peak power solar panels. While the capacity factor of solar remains low, you are getting the energy to power the AC when you need it most.

The same design approaches are taken to water pumping from wells. Classic design is a relatively high power demand pump that cycles on only when you need water. The alternative energy people put very small volume, low power pumps in their wells which run continuously when wind or solar are available then store the pumped water in very large tanks. They store useful work with nearly 100% efficiency rather than tray to store electric energy in batteries.

One final though is that to make this approach to alternative energy work, it requires deurbanization so that everyone has enough surface area on their roof and property to power their own homes. The social and political implications of a policy that would require people to assume responsibility for their own energy needs should appeal to conservatives.

JIm Crawford.

On-site solar with local storage can be economic at $130/bbl oil or thereabouts. Given the tax subsidies it can be economic for some individuals (those who pay a lot of taxes) sat much lower oil prices. Putting up some solar cells for daytime use is economic at much lower energy costs, but that doesn't reflect the costs to everyone of using the power grid as a storage system for surplus; power engineers tell me that it's actually costly to have the meter run backwards when home solar generates more power than is being used; the power company would rather the extra energy just vanished. I haven't the expertise to evaluate that, but I do know that actual power storage is both inefficient and costly. My friend Ed Begley Jr. has a garage full of batteries so that his house is self-sufficient day and night, but the batteries are a very expensive component of his system. My other neighbor Bill Nye the Science Guy has rooftop solar, but he doesn't attempt local storage.

As solar cell costs fall, there will be more and more local daytime only solar; and central power, once there are enough of the local sources, can plan on that. Night time power is still going to be central because the costs of local generation and storage will still be far too high. Incidentally, local water heating is almost always more economical than burning gas for hot water, particularly if you heat your pool or hot tub very often. (We almost never heat ours. My pool was built after Lucifer's Hammer and I'm glad to have it, but now that the boys are gone it doesn't get used too often. We did use it on hot nights until the air quality went to smash, but we don't heat it other than to cover it.)

The goal of everyone being self-sufficient is a noble one; and using roof top solar can have an impact on global warming -- assuming that controllable human activity has any real effect on global warming, and assuming that the globe is warming. I'd say the status of those two assumptions remains "not proven" at best.

I am all for individual responsibilities, but I also assume with Aristotle that man is a social animal, and that has some consequences. Some things are better done by government. Many are not.



Dr. Pournelle:

Although I couldn't find it on the website, Popular Mechanics' September 2009 issue, p. 77, shows a different type of car crusher--a hydraulically operated giant steel hand, controlled by a human wearing a sensor glove.

This is the first time I've seen any mention of a teleoperated device that works as Mr. Heinlein described them in Waldo.


I think I have seen others, but we do not yet have really good teleoperated hands, or didn't the last time I looked.



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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Intelligence: Do Whatever It Takes, We'll Punish You Later, 


Sic transit, gloria mundi:




brush fires 

Hi Jerry,

We have been watching tv reports on the California/LA forest fires here, and I noticed that there is a lot of pretty dense brush and trees close to many houses in the areas shown. Fire fighters were busy cutting down brush in the path of approaching fire, but I wonder: isn't that a bit late?

I know you are not generally in favour of government (local or national) telling people what to do, and I must admit that here in France the bureaucratic overhead has really grown too much, but where fire fighting is concerned the French usually know what they are doing. In areas prone to forest fires (basically the whole Côte d'Azur and much of the rest of the Mediterranean provinces) citizens are legally responsible for keeping their terrains clear of brush, and trees may not be planted within a certain minimum distance from houses.

If someone does not clear their terrain, the town council can decide to have it done for them, and invoice them for the costs. It's not perfect, but it helps a lot. Are there rules for that sort of thing in the LA area?

Regards, Frank Schweppe

We have mandatory brush clearing in the City of Los Angeles, and most of the fires in and around the city itself are controlled that way. The problem is jurisdictions. There is a State owned park of about 50 square miles a block from my house; that burned last about 25 years ago. It needs some control.

There are National Forests all around LA and those need control, but are subject to lawsuits.

The jurisdictions here: local cities (about 50 in LA County), the County, and the Federal governments all overlap. The short of it is that we do have (and I approve) mandatory brush clearing, and some places enforce that more than others; but if you are ten feet from another jurisdiction which won't let you clear anything but your own land, you have a problem. And the forests and fires are much larger than you get in Europe.

[And See Below]


support requested


H.R.3226 - Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009

To provide that appropriated funds may not be used to pay for any salaries or expenses of any task force, council, or similar office which is established by or at the direction of the President and headed by an individual who has been inappropriately appointed to such position (on other than an interim basis), without the advice and consent of the Senate. view all titles (2) <http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3226/show#



 Bill Whittle on American Exceptionalism


Another one worth your time.




10% cut in NHS staff needed to meet government savings target 

These ministers couldn't manage a whelk stall. <http://preview.tinyurl.com/nhoyec >  <http://preview.tinyurl.com/lofxyu>  <http://preview.tinyurl.com/m8quu7 >  

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)

Preview? [And See Below]


Swimming pools

Dr Pournelle

"My pool was built after Lucifer's Hammer and I'm glad to have it, but now that the boys are gone it doesn't get used too often."

When I lived in Santa Barbara County 25 years ago, the county moguls passed an ordinance that all residents who loved more than XX feet from a fire hydrant had to have a ready source of water -- something on the order of 5,000 gallons IIRC -- on the property for fire fighters to use if the need arose. This applied to rural residents and those in unincorporated areas. Because this required capital purchase, the moguls gave tax breaks.

Most people met the requirement by installing swimming pools.

Live long and prosper

 h lynn keith

While we didn't get any tax breaks on it, having a water storage site was a factor in my decision: this was in survivalist days, and I had my hydroponics frame and plastic greenhouse on the pool patio. Definitely a decision factor.


Re: NHS Funding Cut

"10% cut in NHS staff needed to meet government savings target. [A] Preview?"

Nah; one of the constants of any health-care debate is that people use England as an example right up until you point out how terrible it is, at which point it's suddenly Not What They Meant At All. As I've said elsewhere, it's really funny to see people use 'No True Scot' with actual Scotsmen!

-- Mike T. Powers


Re: Brush Clearing

And, in some cases, you can't even clear brush piles that are on YOUR OWN land. This is the source of a lot of the really bad fires in Santa Cruz up near my way; people have to get environmental reviews before they tear down dead wood and haul it away!

Indeed, you'd do better to declare every dead tree a "woodpile", because fire regulations don't let you keep wood piles on your property. It goes from being illegal to remove it, to illegal to keep it!

-- Mike T. Powers





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  September 4, 2009

Russian Premier Calls Nazi-Soviet Pact Immoral http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/world/europe/01russia.html

 The New York Times, 9.9.1


MOSCOW--Russia's prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, published a lengthy article Monday characterizing the Nazi-Soviet pact to divide Poland at the outset of World War II in 1939 as immoral, but he stressed that it was just one of a series of such deals that countries struck with the Nazis at that time.

Mr. Putin called the nonaggression pact, which included secret amendments defining spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, "analogous" to the agreement by Britain and France a year earlier at Munich to accede to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. <snip>


Interview: The man who would prove all studies wrong

* 16 February 2008 by Jim Giles

When the clinical epidemiologist John Ioannidis published a paper entitled "Why most published research findings are false" in 2005, he made a lot of scientists very uncomfortable. The study was the result of 15 years' work cataloguing the factors that plague the interpretation of scientific results, such as the misuse of statistics or poor experimental design. Ioannidis tells Jim Giles why his conclusion is not as depressing as it appeared, and what he is doing to improve matters. <snip>


Subject: Retirement ceremony - Col David W. Couvillon

Ladies, Gentlemen, Family, Friends, Shipmates, Marines - after 35+ years of service I am retiring, reluctantly, from my beloved Marine Corps. My retirement date is officially October 1st, but there will be a simple, relatively informal, retirement ceremony as follows;

Date: Sept 25, 2009 Time: 1800-1900 (1830 ceremony) Location: Capital One Pavilion, Woldenberg Park New Orleans (Google maps location: 29.954209,-90.062646) Uniform: Summer Service "C" - military; casual - civilian (dress appropriate to the weather and culture!)

My intention is to close out my career with family and friends (military and civilian), those who have meant and shared so much with me over the years. There will be no reception; after the ceremony I plan to retire to Pat O'Brien's for a libation and to spend time with ya'll in the French Quarter. Everyone is welcome to join us, or to enjoy the other temptations of New Orleans for the evening!

There will be no formal invitations other than this email as I can't possibly acquire the mailing address of all the people who where part of my career. Shipmates and Marines - I've undoubtedly left off many comrades because I don't have updated email addresses. Feel free to forward this email to our mutual friends so they may have the opportunity to join us for one more drill!

Sharon and I, as well as some others, have already made reservations at the Maison Dupuy http://www.maisondupuy.com/  for the evening. It's a fine, reasonably priced, hotel in the Quarter and they do have vacancies if you are so inclined.

Semper Fidelis,

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

Wish I could be there.  Keep 'em rolling...





We have many letters on baseball rules. Here are a few. Some are long. To skip all this, click here.


The only thing I would add to the comment about the base runner leaving the base is the base runner can leave the base after the ball is touched not caught. If you have a ricochet, say off the pitcher then caught by the second base fielder (without the ball touching the ground), the runner can leave the base after the ball touches the pitcher and not wait until the ball is caught by the fielder and has been considered to “tagged up”.


Curtis Owens, PE


Dr. Pournelle,

Though it’s not well known, the requirement for a runner to “tag up” on a fly ball is simply that the base be tagged after the ball is first touched by a fielder. Thus if a fielder juggles the ball (or even drops it but it is caught by another fielder), the runner can tag up before the ball is finally secured. This is minutiae of course, but baseball is full of such.

John Prideaux



N.B Caught some typos and awkward phrasing, corrected here, should you want to use this. I've followed baseball closely for over forty years.

Dottore Pournelle,

Your speculation on the definition of "trapping the ball" in baseball is spot on. It does indeed mean when the ball is caught as it touches the ground. Most often it is the case that the glove of the fielder comes down on the ball just as it touches or begins to rebound from the field, making it appear to a casual observer as if it may have been caught on the fly. Such baseball plays as you described often lead to an "Earl Weaver Moment" (a particularly mercurial manager of days gone by who would argue at the drop of his hat, usually flung at the umpires feet just before he was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike behavior involving an offer of unsolicited criticism of the skills, eyesight and parentage of the respective umpire).

As for the unassisted triple play question: when the defense controls the ball, any offensive players on base are allowed to attempt to advance at their risk of being thrown out. "stealing a base" in other words. However, once the ball is put into play by the batter, this changes . In that case, if the ball is caught "on the fly", never having touched the field, then any base runner not standing upon their respective base must return to their base to "tag up" before they may advance. In this situation, if,a fielder with the ball touches the base before the respective base runner can return to that base, then the base runner is called out. If the base runner is close enough to the fielder, alternatively he might be tagged out.

In your example, when the second baseman caught the ball on the fly, the batter was out on the fly ball safely caught, the runner that tried to steal third base was required to return to second base before the second baseman with the ball touched the bag, failing to do so that base runner was called out when the second baseman touched the base, and then the runner attempting to steadl second base from first, who is required to return to first in order to legally advance, can be either forced out by throwing the ball to first or tagged out as he approaches second base. The latter was what happened in the example cited by you.

The unassisted triple play is the rarest occurrence in baseball. From June 1927 to September 1992 there was only one made in the major leagues. There have been only fifteen in the modern era of major league baseball. Even perfectly pitched games are more common.

Also see:


and more specifically:


"Most unassisted triple plays have taken this form: the infielder catches a line drive (one out), steps on a base to double off a runner (two outs), and tags another runner on the runner's way to the next base (three outs) (almost universally, the "next base" is the same base on which the infielder stepped to record the second out.) Less frequently, the order of the last two putouts is switched."



Answer to nagging questions

Dr. Pournelle,

Your surmise about what constitutes a trapped ball is correct. Depending on the situation, the nearest umpire can be several hundred feet from an outfielder trying to catch a fly ball; determining if the ball is in the glove before it hits the ground is difficult in some cases.

You said:

“Apparently Second Baseman Eric Bruntlett was close to second base because the Phillies, with men on first and second and with no outs, decided to try a double steal…”

Bruntlett plays for Philadelphia, and the Mets (who have been awful this year) found yet another creative way to lose.

From a baseball strategy standpoint, the double steal was very risky with the batter swinging hard. The problem was that any fly ball caught was almost a sure 2 outs, and 3 (unassisted or not) was a significant possibility. Here’s why.

On a _caught_ fly ball, a baserunner must make contact with the base he started on (“tagging up”), or else the runner is out when a defensive fielder tags the base with the ball (he can just step on the base while holding the ball). It is not unusual for a runner who begins at third base to score on a deep fly ball that is caught, after tagging up.

I suppose the rationale for this rule is that otherwise a batter could just hit the ball as high in the air as he could, and the runners could keep going as long as the ball was in the air.

When the Mets tried a double steal, there was no chance for the runners to tag up. On any caught fly ball, they would have to try to scramble back to where they started from to avoid an easy putout. Bruntlett made the triple play unassisted, but he could have tossed the ball to first for the third out as well.

I specifically noted that the batter was swinging hard; Francoeur hit a hard line drive to Bruntlett. A sacrifice bunt, which likely would have gotten Francoeur out, but left runners on second and third with 1 out, was probably a better call in that situation (One good line drive would score both, any safe hit would score at least 1, and neither runner would have been subject to a force out). Scoring those 2 runners would have tied the game.

Steve Chu


Trapping the ball

Jerry, It is as you think; "trapping the ball" means trapping it between the ground and your glove or hand, instead of catching it so that it never touches the ground.

The triple play is as you guessed, also. If a fly ball is caught, the runners must touch the base they were on when the ball was pitched to the batter before advancing. If they are off that base when the ball is caught, they have to "tag up." They can be "forced out" if a fielder in possession of the ball touches that base before they do. In the case of the recent unassisted triple play, the runner from second was forced by the fielder touching the base, while the runner from first was tagged. If that runner had not been close enough to tag, the fielder would have thrown to the first basemen, and the play would not have been "unassisted."



Baseball rules


Don't feel bad. Even MLB (Major League Baseball) doesn't list "trap" in it's Official Rules: 2.00 Definition of Terms.

The difference between a rules committee and a group of lawyers or politicians seems to be getting narrower. I suspect the latter groups could make this page twice as long.


And as you describe, its very easy for writers to take for granted that readers will have some knowledge of the matter. And if a writer doesn't make that assumption, the work can grow beyond the bounds of available space if written for a paper publication. I wonder how much people of your generation or mine take for granted that will mystify those yet to be born. Conversely, the current younger set can run rings around most of us at video games or text-messaging or appreciating what often passes for music these days.


Thanks all.


Continuing the health care debate

Socializing health care

You said, "Of course there are public health issues when it comes to communicable diseases, but many of those were curtailed with the advent of AIDS when it was clear that the old mandatory tracking down of sources of sexually transmitted diseases was unacceptable to many AIDS victims. I don't intend to argue that; my point is that if you choose to pig out on Twinkies and take no exercise, you are not really a danger to me. Of course if you insist that I pay for your health care, I may acquire along with that financial obligation some rights of control over your behavior, and I will probably insist on exercising them."

In one way, we're already there, private sector health insurance already charges extra to everyone in a plan to pay for couch potatoes, nicotine junkies and juice freaks. From my un-exalted perspective, one apparatchik looks much like another and I think that fears of the government are not groundless, a little worry could directed towards corporate entities as well. Hope you get some fresh air soon,


But why disapprove? Much of my insurance comes from a company that has very selective group requirements. It keeps my rates quite low and the paperwork when I do have claims is minimal. I would hate it if they were required to take anyone who comes in and asks. My rates would skyrocket.

I have to right to disapprove of those who follow different health practices from mine, and I used to stand up for the rights of smokers long after I ceased to smoke; but I quit smoking because I became convinced that the costs of doing it were too high despite how much I enjoyed smoking my pipes. I can recall a very pleasant morning in Baja at Bajia Concepcion when, after morning coffee, Sarge said "I sure do like coffee and cigarettes." I quickly agreed. That was a few years before I quit because I concluded that smoking costs ten years or so and I can get a lot done in ten years. I am sure I am living on time I bought by not smoking ( aided by time bought by eating less and walking more -- Sable and I did 2.2 miles last night after LASFS and we both loved it).

I won't impose my practices on others, but then there is the matter of who should pay the costs. If we had the ability to take years from the life of a non-smoker who exercises and give those years to a smoking couch potato, would we have the right to do that? Would that be just? Then why is it just to make the healthy pay for the unhealthy?

But some conditions are not voluntary, and...

Which puts much of this debate back into the very old debate about the Deserving Poor and the Undeserving Poor. Shaw's original play Pygmalion partially addressed this question; the musical My Fair Lady glosses past it. But it's a real question.

Who deserves to have others pay their doctor bills? How did they acquire that right, how did the others acquire the obligation, and is the right inalienable? Is there any way for one to lose that right, and conversely is there any way of the payer to be free of the obligation?


We're from the government, and we're here to help you.



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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Health care pay issue


One think I have not seen addressed by anyone in the scuffle over who should pay for health care is the issue of what happens to an individual's salary & benefits. Just now health care is mostly provided by employers as employee benefits. If the government steps in and requires individuals to buy health care, what happens to the money my employer formerly paid the insurance company to provide my care?

Does the company now pay me more, and I use that to buy health care? Does the company pocket a huge decrease in labor overhead? Do their prices fall?

Thanks...jim dodd

San Diego

As I understand it, under the bill your employer will be required to furnish you with health care insurance; if he does not, he must pay a fine. The fine is smaller than some employers are already paying. There may or may not be a "public option" company that the employer can pay. If you don't have insurance from an employer, you will be required to buy it for yourself, or be fined for not doing so. Once again you can buy it from whomever you like; there may or may not be a "public option" competing against the private companies. (A public option company would not have to make a profit, of course, although like most non-profits it may pay very large salaries and benefits to its employees and management; that's not considered profit.)

One argument for publicly paid health care is that US companies have to compete with workers in countries that get publicly paid health care while paying for health care for employers.

The goal here is to see that everyone has health care insurance of some kind. The major objections are (1) it's not clear that anyone is obliged (other than religiously) to pay someone else's medical bills, (2) many young people in good health don't think health insurance is a good buy: they're betting they'll stay healthy and insurance payments are a cost they don't want to pay and merely subsidize those who aren't healthy, (3) the system continues to make insurance companies (or the government) the actual customer rather than the patient, and thus does nothing to control costs because the patient doesn't have hard choices to make. There are other objections to the proposed system, but those seem to be major ones. As noted yesterday there is also the question of Deserving and Undeserving: do those who choose an unhealthful or dangerous lifestyle deserve to be insured and have their problems paid for by those who choose a safer lifestyle? But that to a great extent is covered by (1) and (3) above.


An Answer to Your Question about Canada

Of course a long waiting list for non-urgent surgery to be paid for by someone else is perhaps to be expected. Why should it not be? The question is are you allowed to pay for it yourself and not wait?

--Of course any Canadian with the Funds is allowed to jump the Que. Its called travelling to the United States and paying for it there.

David March

An option that should remain open after the "reform". But as the waiting time for the insured patients increases, and more take the "jump the queue option" by paying, the cry about inequality will rise to a crescendo.

I am told that in the UK about 10% of the population has commercial insurance, and there are private hospitals; they are not sufficiently profitable to attract many US investors (who were smarter and gave their money to Madoff, or put it into credit default swaps). I am not certain what rights under public paid health care those with private insurance have, but one presumes they have all that anyone else does.


I have mail about the greed of doctors. I believe that most California state legislators and their top employees, and most of the Governor's staff, make as much as the average doctor. (State senators make $114,000 plus many expenses and allowances and perks.) At the Federal level, US Senators make $174,000 a year plus very generous benefits and perks; Representatives make the same salary but have slightly different but not really less generous benefits.

It is not clear to me that the average doctor makes anything like $174,000 in salary and benefits combined; few of my physician friends make that. Of course some specialists with rare talents who work their tails off make a lot more. I'm quite certain that the salaries at Kaiser are not as high as those of the legislators. Legislators probably are not paying off education loans nor are they paying for malpractice insurance.



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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday, September 6, 2009      

China: This Will Not End Well,


A snapshot on East Asia:


It's slugged, "This Will Not End Well."

That looks to be about right.


That seems a fair comment.


Subject: Legislative Malpractice

“… nor are [Legislators] paying for malpractice insurance.”

I suspect there’s any interesting, comic sf story there. Imagine a state where the legislators are subject to malpractice suits!

In reality, that’s got to be even more unworkable than what Piper imagined in A Planet for Texans, but it sure would be fun to watch – from a distance.

Carrington Dixon


Found on Wikipedia

However, it is worth noting that other designs of nuclear reactors using alternative, liquid thorium <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle>  fuel in molten salt reactors <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor>  produce virtually no long-lasting nuclear waste.

It depends on what you mean by long-lasting. With Uranium fission light water reactors, the dangerous nuclear wastes have short half-lives. Within 600 years the only remaining radioactives are the actinides, and they are collectively less active than the ores that produced the original fuel. Obviously the severely radioactive wastes have short half-lives, which means they stop being dangerous fairly quickly.

What most people fear or claim to fear are wastes that "are radioactive for ten thousand years." That's only the actinides, and they aren't that dangerous. In any event, none of them are a real problem: the simplest solution is to make all the wastes into glass and drop the glass bricks into the Mindanao Trench where it will be subducted. Another possibility would be to make glass bricks and stack them in the Mojave desert. Well under a square mile of desert would do for all the US wastes. We don't need Yucca Flats. There's also recycling.

Thorium reactors aren't as economical as Uranium, but there's a lot of thorium. We ought to be looking at all energy sources, but for some reason many of the "greens" are against nuclear in any form.


Subject: A government job remains "the top employment choice in today's economic environment."

The ISM numbers came out this week and, while manufacturing is up, the service industry (which is far larger) is still contracting, and the employment elements in the surveys show employers are still planning to cut jobs. Think about almost 11% unemployment next summer in the middle of the political season. Watch the competition among politicians to demonstrate they care and "get it." And watch as they spend your money to show how much they care.

And from the above mentioned Liscio Report: "As we outlined back in May, financial crises hammer employment, resulting in average losses of 6.3% followed by a long flat line. We hate to point it out, but we're currently down 4.8% from the December 2007 onset, and if US job losses in this recession stay in line with the major financial recessions in "advanced" countries studied by the IMF, we stand to lose another 1.8 million jobs. Some of those will likely be taken out in upcoming benchmarks, stimulus money has some clout, and no one has a reliable crystal ball, but we need to remember where we are in a painful cycle if we see some hopeful flickers."

That would take us to well over 11% unemployment.

Interesting statistic. Want to know where wages are rising? Think federal government workers. The gap between civilian and government workers was less than $13,000 nine years ago, but now is almost $30,000. Inflation has been 24%, but government wages are up 55%. According to a recent release from Rasmussen Reports, a government job remains "the top employment choice in today's economic environment."

From The Elements of Deflation by John Mauldin http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/


In this land of the free and free enterprise.









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