Saturday, February 28, 2009


Civilization runs on energy. The lower the cost of energy the more civilization. What exactly do people who want intermittent energy sources at 3X the cost of current steady sources have against civilization?

Friday, February 27, 2009

On The Mend

Economic Indicators

Purchasing Magazine is taking a look at leading economic indicators. And as you can see by the chart above it looks like the worst is behind us. The upswing has not yet started but the rate of fall appears to be declining. The actual turn around is likely to be about six to nine months ahead. Baring further government interference in the economy of course.
While much of the data about the U.S. economy shows little cause for optimism, at least three leading economic indicators have trended up in the past two months, providing early signs that the economy may have hit bottom.

Most notably,’s Business Conditions Index has trended up for the past two months. The index, which is based on a broad survey of purchasing managers and procurement executives, hit a low of 23.9 in December but has since increased to 26.2 in January and 27.9 in February. As a diffusion index, the reading of 27.9 still indicates that business conditions are far from growing (growth is indicated when the index passes 50), but the trend is providing some possible indications that buyers think business is improving slightly.

Also of note,'s Buying Plans Index has also risen steadily since December from 25.3 to 28.7 in the latest survey this month. This indicates that buyers are planning to increase orders after a long decline in buying plans dating back to January 2008.
Ah yes. Supply and demand are coming back into balance. Which is a very good thing.

And what does our leading government expert on the economy have to say? Glad you asked.
This outlook for economic activity is subject to considerable uncertainty, and I believe that, overall, the downside risks probably outweigh those on the upside. One risk arises from the global nature of the slowdown, which could adversely affect U.S. exports and financial conditions to an even greater degree than currently expected. Another risk derives from the destructive power of the so-called adverse feedback loop, in which weakening economic and financial conditions become mutually reinforcing. To break the adverse feedback loop, it is essential that we continue to complement fiscal stimulus with strong government action to stabilize financial institutions and financial markets. If actions taken by the Administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability--and only if that is the case, in my view--there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery. If financial conditions improve, the economy will be increasingly supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus, the salutary effects of the steep decline in energy prices since last summer, and the better alignment of business inventories and final sales, as well as the increased availability of credit.
And what does he mean exactly by fiscal and economic stimulus? He means the government is pumping in a lot of dollars into the economy in two ways. One by printing money and the other by taking money out of the real economy and giving it to companies favored by the government. The short version: government is strangling winners and backing losers. And the likely net result of all this stimulation? Inflation. And what is inflation really? A theft from our future. Lovely. Just lovely.

As per usual the losers in Congress have passed a stimulus bill about 6 months before the economy starts to seriously rebound. Trillions wasted for something that was bound to happen any way. Let your Government and especially your Congress Critter know how you feel about it.

House of Representatives

The Senate

The President

And if you would like to know more about economic indicators have a look at The Secrets of Economic Indicators.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Eric Run

Keeping Classical Values going while Eric was busy kind of wore me out. Perhaps I will have something useful or amusing to say shortly. Possibly a while longer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Really Good Welders

I was perusing some of my favorite technical haunts and found this comment about good welders.

I got welders available who can weld up the crack of dawn.

Well it amused me.

H/T Billy Catringer Talk Polywell

Dallas Morning News - Legalize!

I do't know what it is about the new administration. It seems to have changed some attitudes. Or else the troubles in Mexico are giving some people second thoughts about the advisability of prohibition as a solution to the drug "problem".

So how to achieve major reductions in American demand for illegal drugs, as well as the profitability and criminality it fuels?

Seventy-five years after its repeal, Prohibition remains instructive. Like the 13-year ban on alcohol, the illegality of drugs failed to curb demand. Like the bootleggers and gangsterism of that era, today's drug cartels are simply serving popular demand.

As with the repeal of Prohibition, the U.S. must again follow a common-sense approach by thinking the unthinkable: the gradual legalization of some drugs.

For such a change in strategy, the U.S. must recognize that all drugs are not created equal. It is now clear that marijuana and methamphetamines do not have the same harmful effects as cocaine, heroin, opium and other hard drugs. Discriminating among different drugs – as does the new Massachusetts law decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana – points the way toward a more rational approach.

At great cost, in blood and treasure, Mexico is fulfilling its responsibility with a war on supply. It's time the U.S. fulfills its responsibility with a real war on demand.
And just who is it giving America advice?
Ambassador Andrés Rozental, former deputy foreign minister of Mexico, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and may be reached at andres at mexconsult dot com. Stanley A. Weiss is founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan Washington-based organization, and may be reached at sweiss at bens dot org.
The Ambassador was being very diplomatic. The only way severely reduce the financing of criminal gangs is to legalize. Everything. Of course it doesn't hurt to start some where and since marijuana is rather well accepted in our society (it takes about 50 years from the wide spread introduction of a new drug into a culture until acceptance) that is probably a good place to start. And another point in his diplomacy? Mexico has a lot of meth labs and is only a transport route for cocaine. You don't suppose he wants cocaine to stay illegal because Mexico would get a commercial advantage? It is ridiculous to even think such thoughts. It is way too cynical to think the drug war is being run for any other but the highest of motives. After all the purpose of drug prohibition is to make it easier for kids to get an illegal drug than for them to get a beer. Right?

H/T Colleen McCool of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

TARP Funnies

Clayton Cramer has an absolutely hilarious view of the TARP fiasco. Click on the Click here thingy.

An interesting story on how that came to be where it is. My #2 son sent it in an e-mail with the subject line "This is amusing". And I had to tell him: yes it is. So I sent it around to the usual suspects and Clayton was kind enough to put it up.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tough Choice

With the free market you get periodic failures. With other systems you get continuous failure. Tough choice, huh?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Avoid Accidents - Smoke Pot

Yeah. Of course. That is ridiculous.Except it may be true.

There is sufficient and consistent evidence that alcohol use is a causal risk factor for injury. For cannabis use, however, there is conflicting evidence; a detrimental dose-response effect of cannabis use on psychomotor and other relevant skills has been found in experimental laboratory studies, while a protective effect of cannabis use has also been found in epidemiological studies.
Isn't that funny. And unexpected.
The most surprising result of our study was the inverse relationship between cannabis us and injury. Possible explanations and underlying mechanisms, such as use in safer environments or more compensatory behavior among cannabis users, were discussed.
In these trying economic times I think this sort of research ought to be discouraged. With fewer accidents there will be significant parts of the economy that will be impacted. Doctors, hospitals, personal injury lawyers. So do your part. Get drunk and have an accident. There are people counting on you.

And legalization? Don't even think about it. It would put millions out of work.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Saab Story

GM's Saab division has gone into bankruptcy.

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- General Motors Corp.'s Swedish-based subsidiary Saab went into court protection from creditors Friday so the unit can be spun off or sold by its struggling U.S. parent, officials said.

The move is a last-ditch effort to get Saab in order for sale, but the danger of a collapse still hovers over the ailing brand because neither GM nor the Swedish government appears ready to provide enough money to keep it going as a freestanding entity.

An application to reorganize the brand was filed at a district court in Vanersborg, in southwestern Sweden, Saab spokeswoman Margareta Hogstrom said. It was approved later Friday.

GM, which is seeking help from the U.S. government to avoid bankruptcy at home, hopes the three-month reorganization process will put the Swedish brand into shape for a sale, GM spokesman Chris Preuss said. "We fully intend to be out of Saab by the end of the year," he said.
I wonder why the Swedes don't recognize their patriotic duty to save the American/Swedish car industry? Oh, well. There is always the American Congress.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Boston Globe - End Heroin Prohibition

Yes. You read that right. The Boston Globe says end heroin prohibition.

THE OBAMA administration is committing 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Yet as the United States works to stabilize that country, the most important decisions don't just involve troop and funding levels. Also vital is ending the prohibition on growing opium poppies - for the policy is a key factor in Afghanistan's economic and security crisis.
Of course the paper is only suggesting ending opium and heroin prohibition in Afghanistan. But still. It is a start.
Since the US invasion in 2001, the American and Afghan governments have made the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan, which produce 90 percent of the world's opium, a major front in the war on drugs. Yet despite eight years of efforts to eliminate the crop, farmers keep growing poppies, and the crop still reaches the black market.

Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report anticipating lower poppy production in 2009 and touting the fact that some provinces have been declared poppy-free as a sign of success. This claim is deceptive. While some provinces that were comparatively new at growing poppy are now poppy-free, the crop is still entrenched in areas of southern Afghanistan, where it has historically been a significant part of the economy. In these areas, eradication will be much more difficult if not impossible.

Eradication is not just an ineffective strategy, but also hurts the security interests of Afghanistan and Western governments. While the United States invests $1 billion in eradication efforts each year, the Taliban profits by purchasing poppy from farmers who have no one else to sell to, and selling it to the black market. Also, the eradication policy fuels anti-Western hatred when farmers become sympathetic to insurgent groups after the US and Afghan governments burn or spray their only source of income.
You destroy people's livelihood and they get mad at you. Murderously mad. Who could have guessed it? Me for one. Here in March of 2005 and here in May of 2006 and here in October of 2006 and here in November of 2006 and here in November of 2008 and another one here in November of 2008 and here in January of 2009.

Good to see the national press in the US finally figuring out something any reasonable person should have seen 3 or 4 years ago. Better late than never.

And what was I saying not long after 9/11? "Do you support drug prohibition because it finances criminals at home, or because it finances terrorists abroad?" So if you were really awake you could have seen this coming over seven years ago. Our war on drugs was bound to clash with our war on terror. The war on drugs finances terrorists (among others) and is incommensurate with defeating them.

As is usual in life: choices must be made.

And do not forget that the opium poppy was very much intertwined with an earlier war the US was involved in. You can read all about it in: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. This is not the first war where people we were trying to ally with were involved in the opiate trade. Perhaps we are smarter now. I hope so.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The below video is a test firing of a surplus laser. Here is a picture of the laser:

Diode Laser

And the video of the laser firing:

Fire the Laser! from famulus fusion on Vimeo.

It is amazing what people are doing with industrial and government surplus these days. It is amazing what we can do with materials. Like high powered diode lasers. What is even more amazing is that famulus fusion is setting up his laser welding facilities not because he is interested in laser welding per se, but because he wants a laser welding tool to assist him in building a Polywell Fusion test reactor. There is a man with a dream and a will. And no small dream either. He is building a Polywell with Super Conducting magnets. If he gets a move on it will be the first such device in the world.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Justice American Style

The Drug Task Forces that ran wild under the Clinton Administration were curtailed under Bush II but are set to be revived under Obama. Why? Well it will stimulate the economy.
The stimulus bill includes plenty of green for those wearing blue.

The compromise bill doles out more than $3.7 billion for police programs, much of which is set aside for hiring new officers.

The law allocates $2 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces and such things as prisoner-rehabilitation and after-school programs.

An additional $1 billion is set aside to hire local police under the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

The program, known as COPS grants, paid the salaries of many local police officers and was a "modest contributor" to the decline in crime in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government oversight report.

Both programs had been eliminated during the Bush administration.
Of course this is going to stimulate the police economy. To the detriment of the economy of poor people who do not have the resources or the will to fight back.

I'm still trying to figure out why Obama, the Champion of The Poor, would back such a measure? And why Bush, Champion of The Elite, ended the Drug Task Forces during his administration? It doesn't fit the narrative.

You can watch a YouTube interview with Regina Kelly, the person portrayed in the movie as "Dee", at the YouTube link provided.

H/T Colleen McCool and Buford Terrell of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Music Is Going To Bits

Tired of fighting the digital revolution the music companies appear to have finally decided to join it.

After years of futile efforts to stop digital pirates from copying its music, the music business has started to copy the pirates.

Online and mobile Relevant Products/Services services offering listeners unlimited, "free" access to millions of songs are set to proliferate in the coming months, according to executives of the recording companies, Internet service providers and cell phone makers who gathered for a music conference [in the U.K.] over the weekend.

Unlike illegal file-sharing services, which the music industry says are responsible for billions of dollars in lost sales, these new offerings are perfectly legal. The services are not really free, but payment is included in the cost of, say, a new cell phone or a broadband Internet access contract, so the cost to the consumer is disguised. And, unlike pirate sites, these services provide revenue to the music companies.
It is about time. However, the music industry's efforts to treat its customers like criminals is going to leave a lingering bad taste.

So what prompted this sudden acquisition of good judgement?
“YouTube is a conduit between artists and fans,” Brian Message, the co-manager of Radiohead, Faithless and Kate Nash, said at the annual Midem gathering of music executives in Cannes, France, this week. “These days an artist can be a global brand and record labels are no longer the only option.”

Digital music sales via the Web and mobile phones climbed 25 percent to $3.7 billion last year, making up a fifth of the global market, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said Jan. 16. Handset makers are providing a new source of revenue for artists by signing deals with music companies to boost sales of smartphones that can download tracks legally online. Artists can also get payments from YouTube for hits on their videos.

“Because of broadband, wireless and the Internet in general, consumers are much more empowered to seek out the music and media they are interested in,” said Aram Sinnreich, co- founder of music industry consulting firm

Radar Research in New York. “The reality is there isn’t going to be a single business model.”
There is nothing like finding out that you are not the only game in town to focus a businessman's mind on business.
The music industry will be increasingly managed online, without the main backing coming from record labels, according to music managers at the conference. That includes online ticket sales, getting per-play licensing payments from YouTube or creating personalized music Web sites on MySpace Music.
I think a good term for this transition might be: Edison joins the 21st Century. And now a days it is not only Edison who is Looking for the band.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Constellation Program

J2X Engine

NASA is building a new man rated launch vehicle that is going back to the tried and tested methods of the Apollo Program. You can see more pictures and read the captions at Constellation Program Gallery.

If you want to learn more about the Apollo Program this DVD from 2005 might help: Apollo 11: The Eagle Has Landed.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

I'm Here To Spread Panic

And why not? Europe is headed for the rocks. And it appears that there is nothing that can save it. The rocks are Eastern European debt.

If mishandled by the world policy establishment, this debacle is big enough to shatter the fragile banking systems of Western Europe and set off round two of our financial Götterdämmerung.

Austria's finance minister Josef Pröll made frantic efforts last week to put together a €150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His banks have lent €230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria's GDP.

"A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian financial sector," reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is about to happen.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says bad debts will top 10pc and may reach 20pc. The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a "monetary Stalingrad" in the East.
So let me see are the banks the Russians or the Germans? Would it make a difference?
Stephen Jen, currency chief at Morgan Stanley, said Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay – or roll over – $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP. Good luck. The credit window has slammed shut.

Not even Russia can easily cover the $500bn dollar debts of its oligarchs while oil remains near $33 a barrel. The budget is based on Urals crude at $95. Russia has bled 36pc of its foreign reserves since August defending the rouble.

"This is the largest run on a currency in history," said Mr Jen.

In Poland, 60pc of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc. Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly – by lenders and borrowers – it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not.
And just a while ago the Russians were doing so well. They were making money faster than their elite could steal it. But all the oil producers are in the same fix. Not enough buyers in the market. Too many sellers.

And Europe on the hook for American and Eastern European debt? Priceless.

The real question though is this: why didn't any of the oil producing countries see a threat to their economies when oil went from $100 a bbl to $150 a bbl? And another question. Why is the US Congress restricting drilling in the US which would help stabilize oil markets?
Almost all East bloc debts are owed to West Europe, especially Austrian, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks. En plus, Europeans account for an astonishing 74pc of the entire $4.9 trillion portfolio of loans to emerging markets.

They are five times more exposed to this latest bust than American or Japanese banks, and they are 50pc more leveraged (IMF data).

Spain is up to its neck in Latin America, which has belatedly joined the slump (Mexico's car output fell 51pc in January, and Brazil lost 650,000 jobs in one month). Britain and Switzerland are up to their necks in Asia.

Whether it takes months, or just weeks, the world is going to discover that Europe's financial system is sunk, and that there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.
The Europeans have an excellent system for maintaining the value of their currency. They contract their money supply when their economies turn south (well at least some of them do that). However, that makes them vulnerable to countries that are inflating their money supply (the USA) because they then lose production to the lower cost suppliers. Further weakening their economies.
"There are accidents waiting to happen across the region, but the EU institutions don't have any framework for dealing with this. The day they decide not to save one of these one countries will be the trigger for a massive crisis with contagion spreading into the EU."
It all comes down to this: civilization runs on energy. The higher the cost of energy the less the civilization. So I'm hoping America will do something serious on the energy front. Drill for oil, build more nukes, add more refineries, build a HV DC backbone across the US for electricity, get serious about fusion research. Something.

Because - until we lower the cost of energy we are (at least for a while) going to have to do less with more. Never a cheery prospect.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The War On Gangs

Yes. The War On Gangs is over in the US.

The murder rate in the USA has been declining since 1991. We know that a real war on drug gangs (Mexico) causes an increase in dug violence. Even the FBI agrees with that point (a real drug war increases violence).

So in reality drugs have been de facto decriminalized. Now why do I say THAT? Good question. I have a train of logic which I hope hasn't jumped the tracks.

We no longer have a war on gangs. We have a war on some gang members. Destabilizing gangs is bad for public order.

And of course the arrests for drug crimes are up. How else are you going to cover for such a massive shift in policy?

I was a witness to one of the whole gang raids of the 80s (around 1988 IIRC). The big kahuna was a next door neighbor of mine. A really nice guy. We never had gang problems in the neighborhood until the DEA took him out. Any way. The FBI predicted a rise in the murder rate in our town due to taking the gang out.

Let us just say that the spike in murders was not well received.

My guess is that the DEA decided: a war on gangs or continuation of the gravy train.

Ending the war on gangs of course ends the war on drugs as a real enterprise. You need organized crime to organize transnational shipments of illegal commodities. Not to mention making a market between people who would rather not know each other: growers and buyers - for commodities that are locally grown.

So there you have it. The drug war is no longer about reducing the supplies of drugs or taking down the gangs that move them. It is now just a jobs program for government employees and preventing the worst violations of public order.

Inspired by a post at the Volokh Conspiracy

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Bo Diddley Beat

I especially liked the Bo Diddley Beat about 4 1/2 minutes in.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

What Engineers Do

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

I especially liked Part 5 where one engineer describes what it is like to commit other people's lives to one of your designs. I had that feeling a lot working in aerospace on jet aircraft. I still get that feeling when a plane goes down. Was it one I worked on? Was the failure because of something I did?

Physicists dream of Nobel prizes, engineers dream of mishaps.” - Hendrik Tennekes

So where is this generation's Apollo Program? How about fusion powered rockets? A trip to Mars in 3 or 4 weeks? There is a way that has a chance to do it: Polywell Fusion. Because no mater how much work is done on tokamaks (ITER etc.) they are never going to be light enough to get us into space.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T Billy Catringer at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Something To Look Forward To

Why do I feel like I have been strapped into a roller coaster against my will, with the management ripping up the tracks to sell as scrap and the lift has just reached the top of the drop off point?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

China And Russia Hooking Up

Yes. It is true. They are hooking up their electrical grids.

AREVA‘s Transmission and Distribution (T&D) division has signed a multi-million Euro contract to supply H400 High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) thyristor valves to interconnect the Chinese and Russian power grids.

The contract, the first of its kind awarded to AREVA T&D in China, is signed with the Xuji Group Corporation and China Electric Power Research Institute for the end customer, State Grid of China Corporation.

The valves will be installed in the Sino-Russian converter station located in China’s Heilongjiang province. To overcome the countries’ grid incompatibility, the station will convert alternate current into direct current and inversely.

AREVA T&D was awarded the contract thanks to its new high profile generation H400 Valve technology developed in collaboration with the China Electric Power Research Institute and the Xuji Group Corporation. The company’s ability to meet both China’s localization policy requirements and a tight installation schedule were also key factors in this success. The installation of the valves will begin in 2008.

HVDC technology is used to connect power networks and to transmit large amounts of electricity over long distances with minimal losses. With plans to transmit more than 130 GW of electricity over the next five to ten years, China’s needs in HVDC are booming. This success will strengthen AREVA T&D’s position on the domestic HVDC market and demonstrates the company’s ability to meet the country’s needs.
I know. It sounds like a press release for the H400 valve. In fact it is a press release for the H400 valve.

It does reinforce my point about new long distance transmission of power in the US. DC is the way to go.

Here is another bit from the company making that same point:
Ultra High Voltage Direct Current (UHVDC) transmission, with voltages of up to 800 kV, is the choice being made by many energy managers around the world for the future network developments.

With generation sites becoming farther and farther away from load centers, HVDC is particularly economical for transmission distances greater than 700 km.

HVDC can transmit three times as much power per tower compared with conventional AC. This means a substantial reduction in land costs and often no new right-of-way (ROW) access permits, particularly difficult in densely populated regions.

UHVDC transmission maintains all the technical advantages associated with HVDC transmission: back-to-back or point-to-point connections for synchronized or asynchronous networks, regardless of voltage or frequency. Fully controllable, all HVDC systems prevent faults from propagating and reduce overall associated transmission losses.
So why isn't DC being pushed in the USA? My guess is that there are no HVDC equipment companies in the US who own enough politicians.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Friday, February 13, 2009

There Is A Difference

Let me splain it to you. The Republicans steal plenty and from time to time are embarrassed by it. The Democrats steal more and think it is a right.

Beyond Expectations

I'm visiting here and there on the 'net and find many conservatives shocked and awed by our new President. They believed it would take Obama six months to show his level of incompetence. But two weeks? Outside the realm of calculation. Only three Years 11 months and 6 days to go. He has exceeded his opposition's expectations on economics by a large margin. I wonder how he will do when his foreign policy test shows up. But I don't wonder much. I expect a similar level of performance. Beyond expectations.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Obama has a plan for herding his cattle (or should that be sheeple) into cities where they will be more amenable to Democrat machine politics.

That’s why I’d like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. That’s why I would like to invest in mass transit because potentially that’s energy efficient and I think people are alot more open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over.
People live where they live because of a number of factors. Affordability, commute distance, schools, neighborhood quality, taxes, etc. So what would a new rule look like? Dwellings must be built within x miles of a train station. Of course those who decide what routes the trains will take can make a fortune by adjusting where the stations are located.

There is no doubt government can prevent people from living where they choose to live. All Hail Obama who totally gets the Leadership Principle. I think it sounds better in the original German.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hamas Took A Beating

Hamas has declared that an eighteen month truce with Israel is almost ready. Originally Hamas said the truce should last no longer than a year and Israel was adamant that eighteen months was the minimum it would consider.

Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that his organization supports an 18-month truce with Israel.

Abu Marzouk, in Cairo for truce talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, told Al-Jazeera that Hamas was waiting for Israel to approve the details of the emerging agreement.

Taher Nunu, another member of the Hamas delegation in Egypt, said the cease-fire would be officially announced within three days.

"Most of the obstacles preventing us from consolidating an agreement have already been solved," Nunu said, adding that the agreement would ensure an end to the fighting with Israel and the opening of the crossings into Gaza.

Earlier, a senior Egyptian official said "the discussions with Hamas representatives in Cairo were very successful" and an agreement would be signed as early as Thursday night.
Hamas has a very interesting way of putting its position.
Hamas would accept an 18-month truce if Israel stopped its "aggression," i.e. attacks, lifted its blockade and opened the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip, the official said earlier Thursday.
In other words, "If you will quit beating us we will quit fighting." It will be interesting to see how long and how well this truce holds. If history is any guide I'd say about a month.

Israel Gets A New Government

According to the Jerusalem Post the new Prime Minister will be Binyamin Netanyahu.

A day after Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu each declared victory in Tuesday's election, they both began a race against time to form a coalition on paper before President Shimon Peres started the process of appointing one of them to build a government next week.

Netanyahu and Livni both met with the leader of what has become the third largest party, Israel Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman, in an attempt to woo him. But Lieberman raised several demands that either prime ministerial candidate would have a hard time accepting.

Livni appointed a coalition negotiating team of five top Kadima ministers and MKs and the party will continue with its political horse-trading in an effort to persuade Peres to let Livni form a government.

But privately, senior Kadima officials said they were well aware that Peres would ask Netanyahu to form a government because of the Right bloc's 65-55 advantage over the Left, and that if Likud offered Kadima a sweet deal, they should take it.
In parliamentary politics coalitions are made after elections. In American politics coalitions are made before the elections. I like our system better. It may just be because it is what I know.

What are the geopolitical implications? Europe and Israel have moved to the Right, America to the left. In other words the frictions in international politics will continue.

The Wind Power Express

Since there is so much Green Money coming out of Washington it looks like a lot of people want in on the act. There is a lot of wind in the upper Mid-West but not many power lines. So a company is proposing that the government get behind building some new power lines.

ITC Holdings Corp., over the past year, has worked to develop the "Green Power Express," a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy. This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

"We are proud to announce the Green Power Express after almost a year of studies, stakeholder discussions and development," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers. The plan is consistent with efforts supported by organizations such as the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative and promotes a national energy vision. ITC looks forward to continuing to work with them and other stakeholders in the region to move forward with this long-term solution to our national energy challenges."

The Green Power Express is just one step in ITC's broader efforts to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid. This project will be an integral component to ITC's efforts to create a high-voltage backbone that can meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid.
Lots of wonderful goodness there. Until you get to the fine print.
The Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765 kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost approximately $10 to 12 billion. Portions of the Green Power Express fall within the service territory of ITC Midwest, an ITC subsidiary. ITC has been working with many of the Upper Midwest wind developers over the last year in assembling a realistic accounting of their wind development plans and sites, which resulted in the design of the Green Power Express.
That transmission is going to be done with AC which is not the most efficient over long distances for a number of technical reasons. DC also gives you something for wind generators - it can accept variable frequency AC easily (because it is converted to DC. In addition the power quality of the AC does not need to be very good. So what does that mean? Cheaper (and possibly lighter) generators for all those wind turbines. The savings in wind turbine costs might very well pay for a significant part of the line costs. Unfortunately we have separated generation from transmission (it does have its good points in diversifying sources of supply) so that the system costs are not properly accounted for.

I suppose that political pressure could be brought to bear to get the transmission companies to do the right thing.

Contact Government:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Better Than Theory Predicts

Dave Price at Dean Esmay has done a post that I should have done. He is discussing Physicist Rick Nebel's report on the latest Polywell Fusion experiments.

Dean goes into the technical nitty gritty of the report (and has a link to where the discussion took place) and if that interests you by all means give Dave a look (In fact do it anyway, Dave is worth your time. Or as I might have put it were I in a humorous mood: The Price is right.).

So let me give you the short version:

1. The machine is working way better than the usual theories predict
2. No one knows why (lots of suspicions floating around)
3. New instruments are being added
4. The current machine is called WB-7. WB 7.1 (no details) is in progress.

All this is very good news. It means what they have learned so far warrants further efforts.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Old People Will Not Be Stimulated

It looks like the Obama administration has found the perfect cure for our medical crisis and our Social Security crisis. Kill off old people.

Republican Senators are questioning whether President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis."According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
They have taken another big step (and a rather large one at that) towards further nationalization of health care.

Think about the Department of Motor Vehicles dealing with your next medical emergency. And who are the targets of all this wonderful goodness where your relationship to your doctor is replaced with your relationship to your government? The expendables. The old people. And if you consider bang for the medical buck in time old will come to mean any one over 40.
Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.
OK. But are we being given a choice here? Suppose some people want to sacrifice in their younger years for their later years? What if longer life actually has value to some people?

The Democrats have come down hard with the socialist disease. We are no longer people. We are now "the masses". A herd. To be tended and sheared. Old cows no longer producing milk in sufficient quantities will be put out to a very small pasture with a lot of other cows.

H/T gblaze42 Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Chemicals And DRAMs

Keeping an eye on the supply and demand of basic commodities can tell a lot about the direction the economy is headed in.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

We Are Here To Serve

Yes. We are here to serve. But it will cost you.

An article in a recent issue of ieee spectrum reported that today's data center commonly requires 20MW of power while those of the dot-com era consumed 1MW to 2MW. This is because today's largest data center houses many tens of thousands of servers, with some passing the 100,000-server mark.

The article goes on to say that with electricity prices going up, it's extremely expensive to power and cool so much equipment. Market research firm IDC estimates that within the next six years, the companies operating data centers will spend more money per year on energy than on equipment.
And now you know why your internet bill is so high.
Also, the article says that the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has reported that the world's 44 million servers consume one-half percent of all electricity and produce two-tenths percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, or 80 megatons per year, approaching the emissions of entire countries like Argentina or the Netherlands.
One thing the article mentions that could help: going to DC distribution of power inside server farms. And for the same reason DC would be good for long distance power transmission: it is more efficient per unit of materials used.

Monday, February 09, 2009

How About A Pop Up Blocker?

War news is commenting on the disarray in the current administration with reference to defense spending.

No one seems to know what is happening. There is no planning. No strategic thinking. No idea on what to do or where to go. There are competing interests at play. Congress wants one thing. Special interest groups want something else. And the defense contractors want the contracts.

The one thing that is lacking is leadership .... and that is the job of the President? He probably has a grace period of one or two more months .... and if he is not giving leadership and guidance by then .... I can guarantee you that problems are going to pop up everywhere.
Isn't that what pop-up blockers were invented for? I wonder if they are easier to treat than bimbo eruptions?

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

We Don't Need No Stinkin Taxes

And why don't we need no stinkin taxes? Because we can steal the money.

A two-decade-old state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in crimes is wielded by some agencies against people who never are charged with — much less convicted of — criminal activity.

Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a review of court documents by the San Antonio Express-News.

Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town.

Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.

Linda Dorman, an Akron, Ohio, great-grandmother had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through town after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van. She’s still hoping for the return of what she calls “her life savings.”

Dorman’s attorney, David Guillory, calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha “highway piracy,” undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what was seized.
To keep the revenue flows increasing police are given a bounty on the assets they seize.
Under civil asset forfeiture, your property – not you – is charged with a crime. Hence the bizarre title of civil forfeiture cases: "United States vs. one 1998 Mercedes Benz," "California vs. 1711 Main Street," and so forth.

Once your property is charged with a crime, it can be seized and kept by police, even if you are never convicted of anything. An appeals court in Florida even ruled that police can personally receive bounties of 25 percent of the value of anything they seize from you, such as your car, bank accounts or home.

There are now more than 400 federal offenses and thousands of state and local offenses for which your cash, car, bank accounts and home can be seized – including shoplifting, hiring an illegal alien such as a maid (California), playing a car stereo too loud (New York), transporting illegal fireworks, gambling, having illegal drugs on your property, and merely discussing violating any law ("conspiracy”), such as underpaying your taxes.

More than $1 billion in property is now seized without trial each year from innocent Americans, according to the national forfeiture defense organization FEAR (Forfeiture Endangers American Rights)
All this theft stems from an old superstition called (well I can't think of what it was called - can some one help me out here?) which states that the property is guilty of the crime. I'm not making that up.
Civil asset forfeiture is based on the legal fiction that an inanimate object can itself be `guilty' of wrongdoing, regardless of whether the object's owner is blameworthy in any way. This concept descends from a medieval English practice whereby an object responsible for an accidental death was forfeited to the king, who `would provide the [proceeds, the `deodand'] for masses to be said for the good of the dead man's soul . . . or [would] insure that the deodand was put to charitable uses.'
And you know what? Theft by government has a long and dishonorable history.

Kings. The problem was the government was an agent of the ruler. And rulers never have enough money. Ever.
However, it remained in the king's interest to extend the list of offenses considered treasonous, since his coffers benefited [Pollock and Maitland, 1968, Vol. 2:500]. The dispute over forfeiture versus escheat continued on into the fourteenth century. Lords were alarmed that the king was calling so many offenses treasons, thus causing them to lose their escheats [Simpson, 1986:20]. In some cases the king did not return the land to the lord after a year and a day, producing additional consternation. The distinction between high and petit treasons established in 1352 solved the problem satisfactorily to the lords' favor [Bellamy, 1970:80-87, Bellamy, 1979].
As per usual the brigands running the show have forgotten that polite fiction that we in America hold to - in theory - that the government is the servant of the people. From time to time the principle is reasserted. And we may be able to say that the Lords of America solved the problem satisfactorily to the lords' favor. Sooner rather than later.

H/T Colleen McCool

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pot Head

Lucky she didn't try "bong head". Although lighting it would probably have been more fun than torching the pot.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Bong Hits For Kellog's

For those of you who haven't been keeping up, Michael Phelps who won 14 Olympic Gold Medals in Swimming has also been caught smoking a bong. Graphic evidence has been provided.

Naturally his sponsors are not happy. But the sponsor's customers are unhappy that the sponsors are unhappy. As part of its damage control efforts for dropping Mr. Phelps from its list of endorsers Kellogg (the cereal people) has set up a hotline to cope with all the calls.

1-800-962-1413 Option #1

The fact that it is the first option says that they are getting a lot of heat. Think of it this way. If this was 1929 pot is legal and beer is not. Had he been caught smoking pot in 1929 he would have been considered eccentric, but not a criminal. We are fortunate to have a government that can make as many criminals as it needs.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Money And The Women Who Date It

Women who date for money are finding it more difficult to get a date with the money they crave. But this is what really caught my eye.

Countless times I've been asked to explain "dating" to friends from Europe or the West Coast: the scrutinizing rounds of drinks and dinners, the game-playing, the jockeying for some sort of advantage. There's something deeply unappealing about the way New York women adopt the language of contracts when it comes to romance, wanting "commitment" instead of love. One friend, a financial adviser with plenty of cash, told me it showed "respect" for her when a man paid for dinner. Which I've never quite understood: If charging for the pleasure of one's company begets respect, why don't prostitutes get more of it?
A lot of it has to do with price. Bloomingdale shoppers get more respect than those looking for bargains at Big Lots.

H/T Instapundit

Saturday, February 07, 2009

New Dissed President

Althouse is discussing it. She tells the naked truth in all its natural ugliness. She even takes on Obama's stimulus package.

Giving The Economy A Boost

It looks like the Obama administration has accidentally given the economy a boost.

Due to the overwhelming increase in orders, it has become increasingly difficult to predict deliveries for all Rock River Arms' products. Because of this, we are no longer quoting estimated delivery dates. We are continuing to increase production, build, and ship products as inventory becomes available based on the date your order was placed. In addition, we will no longer call for payment before orders are shipped. If you place an order using a credit card and your order becomes available for shipment, we will process the order with the credit card supplied. If the credit card supplied is declined for any reason, the next order in line will be shipped and the declined order will be placed at the back of the file for future shipment. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience and continued support.
Sounds like a seller's market to me. Perhaps if President Present secretly threatened to outlaw auto sales he could do something useful for Detroit too.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Sgt. Mom Found A Good One

Sgt. Mom, blogging under the pseudonym Celia Hayes, left this comment at Althouse about the Obama Administration.

"I knew it was gonna be a train wreck, but I thought it would have pulled out of the station, first!"
Sgt. Mom writes books. You should read some.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Obama Jokes

So I'm Googling around type "Obama" into Google and the #2 item on the list with over 8 million references is "Obama jokes". Well I got to get me some of those. My favorite so far is "Barack Obama is President of the United States". I'm sure he will get funnier as time goes on. There is a site called The Barack Obama Jokes Website which is supposed to have some real jokes. You know like the joke is on him.

Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here!”
Barack Obama says, “Leave the bucks here!”
Not bad.
Q. Why did Obama change his name from Barry to Barack?
A. He thought Barry sounded too American.
That is going to leave a mark.

Now here is a pair that seems to go together.
Q. Why will Jane Fonda vote for Barack Obama?
A. Because Ho Chi Minh is dead.

Q. Why will Ho Chi Minh vote for Barack Obama?
A. Because Ho Chi Minh is dead.
Chicago politicians. They are special. Luckily we have one for President.
Have you ever noticed how Obama thinks nothing is impossible as long as somebody else has to pay for it?
I thought that was the motto of Democrats everywhere.
Blessed are they who find Obama funny, for they shall never cease to be entertained.
I'm counting on it. Only Three Years 11 months 1 weeks and 5 days to go. Why is that so painful? I think this one explains it.
Even though Obama doesn't have any experience, we'll get plenty.
Here is a rather nasty one from the election.
“But all this doesn’t matter because Obama keeps pulling away in the polls. Every week, he gets a little more ahead. And with almost all groups. Liberals, of course, always supported him. … And conservatives like the idea of paying a black man to clean up their mess.” ~Bill Maher
Of course that was before the election. Things are looking different now. I think he will be running his 2012 campaign on this platform: "New and Better Messes". And it only took him a little over two weeks to get a good start.

Here is one for you:

Q. Why was George Bush happy that Obama got elected?

A. He thought it would improve his standing with history. What surprised Bush is that it only took two weeks.

OK. I'm going to finish this post with a turtle.
While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Obama and his bid to be our President. The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Obama is a "post turtle." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a "post turtle" was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a "post turtle". The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. "You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there."
Which reminds me: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average Obama voter."

And if you want more and are tired of surfing the 'net you can always read the book: Barack Obama Jokes.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mothers Drugging Newborns

Yes. When I first learned of this practice I was shocked. What kind of mother would do such a thing?

Cannabinoids, whether plant-derived, synthetic or endogenous, have been shown to stimulate appetite in the adult organism. We have reported previously that cannabinoid receptors play a critical role during the early suckling period:
Then comes a description of the science followed by what we have all been waiting for. The executive conclusion:
Our data support previous evidence for a critical role of cannabinoid CB1 receptors for the initiation of suckling. Further, the present observations support the existence of an unknown cannabinoid receptor, with partial control over milk ingestion in newboms. Our data also suggest that the CB-/-1 neonates possess a compensatory mechanism which helps them overcome the lack of cannabinoid CB1 receptors.
So it is the good mothers who start their children out on drugs from the best source available. Breast milk. Ever notice how stoned babies are after drinking breast milk? Now you know why. They have been drinking their cannabinoids.

And which cannabinoids exactly?
Mother's milk has been shown to supply a type of endocannabinoid (the natural neurotransmitters which marijuana simulates), 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol.

Though now it is almost universally prescribed, in the 1950s the practice of breastfeeding went through a period where it was out of vogue and the use of infant formula was considered superior to breast milk.

However, today it is now recognized that there is no commercial formula that can equal breast milk.
It is probably just as well that there are no cannibinoids in infant formula. Wouldn't want kids to get addicted to that stuff. But breasts? They are almost universally admired by men and women alike. And what is this? We love our mothers because they supply us with drugs early on and at no charge? Nature is truly stranger than you could ever believe if we didn't have evidence of what is actually going on. Add in a touch of human sociology and you get things like The History of the Breast. The research must have been fascinating. Now if the author only knew the whole story a snappier title would have been in order: "The History of Breasts and The Drugs They Deliver". Or maybe something for the mass market: "Breasts and Drugs". Well I can dream.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Error Of Good Feeling

Supposedly new Presidents are supposed to get a 90 or 100 day "honeymoon" where what ever the President asks for - he gets. Well if there ever was such a thing it is now over. President Present keeps asking for action and can't get any.

"The time for talk is over. The time for action is now," said Obama. He implored lawmakers in both parties to "rise to this moment" and send him legislation to begin fixing the worst economic crisis in decades.

Obama added he would "love to see additional improvements" in the bill, a gesture to the moderates from both parties at work on trying to trim the $920 billion price tag.

But with the Senate plodding through a fourth day of debate, earlier talk of a large, bipartisan vote for the legislation was fading.

"As I have explained to people in that group, they cannot hold the president of the United States hostage," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "If they think they're going to rewrite this bill and Barack Obama is going to walk away from what he is trying to do for the American people, they've got another thought coming."
Hostage crisis? Past time we called in Jimmy Carter. He is an expert when it comes to being held hostage.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tax Breaks For The Rich

It seems as if we have a new kind of economic privilege in America.

The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag approaching $900 billion.

The 71-26 vote came as President Barack Obama said he lies awake nights worrying about the economy, and signaled opposition to congressional attempts to insert "buy American" provisions into the legislation for fear it would spark a trade war.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski led the successful effort to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for sales taxes paid on new autos and interest payments on car loans.

She said the plan would aid the beleaguered automobile industry as well as create jobs at a time the economy is losing them at a rapid rate. "I believe we can help by getting the consumer into the showroom," she said.
So government is now the marketing arm of the auto companies offering discounts to entice buyers? Do these critters have any idea of how foolish they look?

And what is this "if you buy a new car you get a tax break". If you buy a used car - nada. Don't people selling used cars deserve to have their market propped up? What makes them unworthy? Probably not enough union labor in the used car business to make it worth a politician's time.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Teaching Without Teachers

India has a lot of people to educate. It is trying to work out ways of automating the process. One of those ways is the design of a $20 (US) laptop called the Sakshat.

The Sakshat is planned to boost distance learning so as to allow India to meet its vast educational requirements: It has a huge, largely-poor population, of which over 550 million are younger than 25.

The Sakshat will also fit into a grand plan to boost e-learning at over 18,000 colleges and 400 universities.
Giving every person under 25 a laptop costing $20 is going to cost $11 billion dollars. I discussed my vision of a low cost laptop at The $20 laptop.

But that is not where the real cost savings and bottlenecks are. The real cost saving is education without teachers because they cost too much and there are not enough of them.
During the next six years, by some estimates, India will need to create another 1,500 universities. Educational institutions in the UK and US are lining up to become partners to help with this huge projected tertiary-level expansion.

Pressure is building on the government to permit foreign investment into the sector and use public-private partnerships to meet some of the demand. Leading universities across the world, such as Kellogg School of Management in the US and Imperial College in the UK, are exploring different models, including faculty partnerships, distance learning and setting up campuses.

But the government appears to favour turning to technology ahead of international partnerships to bring people into higher education.
Very smart. In a lot of ways it reminds me of what Bucky Fuller saw as the future of education in his book Education Automation.Maybe we can finally do something about the stranglehold of the teacher's unions on education.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The $20 Laptop

India thinks it needs a $20 laptop to educate its population.

India is planning to produce a laptop computer for the knockdown price of about $20, having come up with the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car at about $2,000.

The project, backed by New Delhi, would considerably undercut the so-called “$100 laptop”, otherwise known as the Children’s Machine or XO, that was designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of the US.
Electronic Design News has some interesting views on the subject:
There were no details available in the story about just how the Indian designers intended to hit that price point. But apparently it's not vaporware. The story claims that a prototype will be available on display at an education conference tomorrow. There appears to be no commercial backer to build the design in quantity yet, however.

None the less, and even if the project ultimately proves too ambitious, there is an important message here. When we are addressing the developing-world market, we cannot afford to make the assumptions that we in the US don't even recognize as assumptions any more.

Such as? For instance, take the assumption that a computer necessarily implies an Intel/Microsoft computer, or even an x86-based CPU. Clearly, if you consider the tasks necessary for e-mail, facebook, google, or distance learning, nothing from the Intel or Microsoft camps can be even remotely justified. A sufficient CPU costs pennies, lodged in the corner of an SoC that costs a few dollars. A sufficient amount of memory costs a few dollars more. Take out the mediocre mechanical keyboard and the pointless mouse, replaced by a cheap membrane keyboard, and the bulk of the bill-of-materials cost of a really lean netbook design will go into the display and power supply.

But all these costly components are things we assume must be in a notebook PC, and therefore in a netbook as well. When we do so we are wrong. The message here is not that Intel and Microsoft are soaking the industrial economies for a fortune in unnecessary costs (although that might be an interesting discussion. Please feel free with your comments.) The point is that when we approach a developing-world market, we must reason from first principles. And those principles are based on the actual user's needs, not on how we would do it in Silicon Valley or Cambridge.
OK. Where would I start? With the processor. The SeaFORTH chip looks like a good start. About 25 billion operations a second. At 360 milliwatts of power. And that is peak. it goes down to 360 microwatts while the processor is waiting for something to do. And it only uses the power required for what ever process is running. Automatically. What would I do different? Add more RAM to each of the processors (there are 40 of them), go to a 32 bit address bus and a 32 bit data bus (at least for external access), and go to the next size smaller semiconductor lithography process node to shrink it all. Put it in a cheap package - 100 pins would be nice. Maybe 128 if it eliminates other hardware. Four external interfaces. USB, wireless, microphone jack, earphone jack. A keyboard and a touch screen display. FLASH to take the place of a hard drive. Maybe 1 G byte. Maybe 1/4 of that. RAM of about the same size.

In the classroom: Custom designed server with 40 USB connectors. Several 1 T byte hard drives in a RAID configuration. For student use and for local storage of info to reduce Internet bandwidth required to support classes.

The server could be multiprocessor if that was a convenient way of getting it up faster. Ultimately server power must be reduced. If each of 40 laptops consumed 1/2 watt on average it would be nice to have a server that averaged 40 watts or less. All powered by a solar/wind power plant capable of 2,000 watt hours a day. At 6 hours a day charging time a 500 watt array should be able to keep a 100 Amp-hour deep cycle 12 volt battery charged up without any trouble most of the year. That should suffice to keep the server up and to charge the laptops as well. A solar array on the cover of the laptop might be interesting as well. I wonder why no one is doing that? Which kind of reminds me of something I had worked on earlier with somewhat more grandiose ends in mind. The Neighborhood Development Package. Evidently they want to start smaller. Which is probably a very good idea.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Unacceptable Risk

President Present is running into resistance from the Pentagon over has troop withdrawal plans.

The Times reported that Odierno had "developed a plan that would move slower than Mr. Obama's campaign timetable" and had suggested in an interview "it might take the rest of the year to determine exactly when United States forces could be drawn down significantly."

The opening argument by the Petraeus-Odierno faction against Obama's withdrawal policy was revealed the evening of the January 21 meeting when retired army General Jack Keane, one of the authors of the Bush troop-surge policy and a close political ally and mentor of Petraeus, appeared on the "Lehrer News Hour" to comment on Obama's pledge on Iraq combat troop withdrawal.

Keane, who had certainly been briefed by Petraeus on the outcome of the Oval Office meeting, argued that implementing such a withdrawal of combat troops would "increase the risk rather dramatically over the 16 months."

He asserted that it would jeopardize the "stable political situation in Iraq" and called that risk "not acceptable."

The assertion that Obama's withdrawal policy threatens the gains allegedly won by the Bush troop surge and Petraeus' strategy in Iraq will apparently be the theme of the campaign that military opponents are now planning.
Getting General Petraeus to win the war and then having Mr. Obama give it back to the jihadis does not seem like a good idea.

I wonder what Mr. Obama really plans to do? If he gives up Iraq to the enemies of stability he is going to create a lot of other enemies. Not just here at home but also in the Middle East and Europe as well. OTOH there is always the possibility some one is paying him for results.

However, more and more I'm leaning towards the idea that President Present's map of reality and reality significantly diverge. This could lead to problems.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Interesting Power Supply Company

Commenter windmill at Talk Polywell has brought to my attention an interesting power supply company Diversified Technologies Inc. Here are a couple of short (under 10 pages) papers that explain the technology.

Solid State High Voltage DC Power Distribution & Control [pdf]

Here is the key point from the above [pdf].

The largest cost components in this design are the semiconductors (IGBTs). Because of their widespread use in locomotive engines, subway cars, elevators, and a wide range of electrical motor drive and power supply systems, these devices are evolving at a rapid pace, especially in comparison with vacuum switch tubes. In the last decade, we have seen the switching speed and power handling capability of IGBTs increase by an order of magnitude (200 kVA to 4 MVA), at essentially constant prices. This puts high power electronics, for the first time, on a favorable, long term cost reduction path. This is the equivalent of the computer industry’s Moore’s Law of continually higher performance per unit cost, but applied to power systems.

Today, a 100 kV, 2MW buck regulator, with a series switch, can be built for approximately $500k USD. This cost will decline due to increased semiconductor performance and decreased manufacturing costs. In contrast, estimates for the equivalent conventional approach are $2- 3M USD, and show no trend towards cost reduction.
Quite so. IGBTs with a voltage rating of 6,500 Volts and a 600 Amp current rating are now off the shelf.

A Solid-State Switch for 13.8kV Power Distribution [pdf]

The company claims to be able to make power conversion equipment that costs in the range of 10¢ a watt in production quantities. That is a very good number. Diversified claims specifications for their supply technology that are very not too bad. An adjustable 100 KV DC supply can deliver 1% regulation and .1% ripple. That is just the ticket for Polywell Fusion experiments using D-D. For pB11 at the resonance peak I'd like to see tighter regulation. Say .1% regulation and .01% ripple. I have some ideas.

OK. That gets us past fusion power supplies. What implications does it have for the electrical grid? It means that High Voltage DC distribution of electrical power is now within the realm of economic feasibility. DC distribution is more efficient (per unit of materials used) than AC distribution. It can also cover much larger distances without having to worry about AC phasing problems due to differences of route lengths from different sources. Wind in North Dakota feeding loads in New York city? No problem.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Direct Democracy

The CHANGElings are out in force and full of HOPE. Finally the politicians are going to listen. Our Politician In Chief says so.
"I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in our own democracy again.
Well Mr. President Present (or absent as the case may be) we live in a Republic and in a republic the politicians don't have to pay any attention to the voters until election time. This has its good points and its bad points.

Of course the words of the Smartest President Ever™ have gotten the HOPERS all excited.
Hey, Changemakers. Welcome to the second half of the Ideas for Change in America project, where we aim to turn each of the 10 winning ideas from our competition into real legislative change.

First, some context. We began this initiative in response to President Obama’s call for greater citizen participation in government, and the outpouring of support has been overwhelming – including more than 675,000 votes on 7750 idea submissions in less than two months.

The competition has also received nationwide attention and a welcome response from the Obama administration. At the event we held at the National Press Club just before the Inauguration to announce the 10 winners, Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House, formally accepted the ideas and said that “I can speak with authority that a lot of people in the transition were paying attention to the competition.”

This process demonstrated the intense interest the American people have in directly engaging with their own government, and potential power of distributed social action.
Yes. Wonderful distributed social action. I think distributed economic action undertaken by individual initiative works better.

And remember all that blather about working closer with our allies. Well it is not working the way it was supposed to.
A rift between the EU and US over how to deal with global trafficking in illicit drugs is undermining international efforts to agree a new UN strategy. The confrontation has been heightened because of suggestions that the US negotiating team is pushing a hardline, Bush administration "war on drugs", in contrast to the EU position which supports "Harm Reduction" measures such as needle exchanges.

Talks are said to be at breaking point in Vienna where representatives have gathered to hammer out a new UN declaration in time for a signing ceremony at a drugs summit in mid-March. Negotiations, which have been going on for three months, are due to resume tomorrow with no indication of a breakthrough.

At the heart of the dispute is whether a commitment to "harm reduction" should be included in the UN declaration of intent, which is published every 10 years. In 1998 the declaration was "a drug-free world - we can do it".

EU countries, backed by Brazil and other Latin American countries, Australia and New Zealand, say even with the best of intentions the world will not be drug-free in 10 years and some commitment to tackling HIV and addiction through needle exchange programmes and methadone and other drugs should be included.
I guess "Harm Reduction" is a better slogan than "a drug-free world - we can't do it". Evidently Mr. Obama still believes that after over 90 years of trying and failing that "Yes we can" must still be operative in the face of massive evidence to the contrary.

H/T Colleen McCool and Jerry Epstein of DPF Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sex More Weeks Of Winter

The groundhog has spoken.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hyperinflation Watch

Commenter ZenDraken at my post Stagflation And Inconvenient Debt alerted me to his site Hyperinflation Watch which has this post Hyperinflation Scenarios that you might find of interest. He covers the following scenarios with some estimates.

1. Short Duration: This is the soonest that hyperinflation could realistically hit.

2. Middle Duration: The "average" time scale scenario

3. Long Duration: Hyperinflation that is years away, but still based on current conditions.
What ever happens you can be sure that running up the national debt means that we will be screwed sooner or later, one way or another, when the debt becomes due. Quickly if we get into one of the inflation scenarios. More slowly if we have to pay off the debt or even just support the interest payments.

How Government Killed Solar

It looks like the solar bubble is about to burst.

Bringing an end to eight consecutive years of growth, global revenue for photovoltaic (PV) panels is expected to drop by nearly 20 per cent in 2009, as a massive oversupply causes prices to decline.

Worldwide revenue from shipments of panels will decline to $12.9 billion in 2009, down 19.1 per cent from $15.9 billion in 2008, according to iSuppli Corp. A drop of this magnitude has not occurred in the last 10 years and likely has not happened in the entire history of the solar industry.
Now here is where the story gets good.
"Supply and demand were already unbalanced in 2008 with 100 per cent more modules produced than installed," said Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst, photovoltaics for iSuppli. "The short-term boost in demand from Spain and Germany kept installation companies busy and solar orders and module prices high. But this boom is over. In 2009, average prices for panels for new installation contracts will collapse to the $2.50 to $2.75 per watt range by the end of 2009, down from the current level of $4.20 per watt. The average price for the year will be $3.10 per watt."

Ironically, the oversupply and resulting pricing and revenue declines are the consequence of the overwhelming success of the solar industry.

"Due to the political impetus to save fossil energy resources, both for carbon dioxide emissions and to prepare the future energy infrastructure, solar demand has been booming,"
Get that? Solar is not an energy market. It is a political market. And once the political capital is gone the money dries up. The only way to make solar a real market is to get the cost below that of alternatives or provide advantages that outweigh the extra cost. Take solar garden lights. Their advantage even if they cost more than the alternative is ease of installation. But to move massive quantities of solar they are going to have to come down to the $1 a watt range - installed. That means cells costing 50¢ a watt. We have a ways to go for that. The nice thing is that we are now in striking distance, in the home stretch. It is no longer several orders of magnitude of cost reductions required. Just a factor of four or five. We will probably cover that ground in 5 to 15 years. Depending on whether we have to grind out improvements or we get lucky.

Ah. But all is not lost. Maybe an American politician will come to the rescue.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Jan. 28) met with business leaders to discuss the economic stimulus bill.

One member of the group, Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials Inc., urged Obama to move full speed ahead on a push towards a ''green economy.'' This includes incentives for solar energy adoption as a way to create new jobs as the new administration seeks to jumpstart the slumping U.S. economy.

The $825 billion stimulus bill is expected to move ahead in the House, but Republican support is unclear. Applied is urging quick action on Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, especially in clean technology. Applied is the world's largest supplier of fab gear, but it is seeing huge growth in the solar segment.
I think he should have said "saw". With production better than 2 1/2 times demand I can't see the need for a lot of new production capacity at this time. And why does the government need to pour money into this technology? Because at current prices it is an unsustainable industry.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained