Monday, August 31, 2009

Putting A Dent In Religion

Alan W. Bock writing in the Orange County Register has some interesting things to say about how decriminalization in Portugal is going.

Since decriminalization lifetime prevalence rates (any consumption over a lifetime) have decreased, especially for the critical adolescent-young-adult population cohort. For 13-15-year-olds the rate decreased from 14.1 percent in 2001 to 10.6 percent in 2006. For 16-18-year-olds, the lifetime prevalence rate, which had increased from 14.1 percent in 1995 to 27.6 percent in 2001, fell to 21.6 percent in 2006. Perhaps most significantly, heroin use, which officials felt was the most socially destructive drug, fell from 2.5 percent to 1.8 percent from 1999-2005.

The number of drug-related HIV and AIDS cases has declined substantially every year, as have Hepatitis B and C infections and drug-related mortality rates.

When compared with the rest of the EU, usage rates in Portugal, which had been among the highest in Europe, are now among the lowest. Portugal now has the lowest lifetime prevalence for cannabis (marijuana) usage in Europe, 8.2 percent, while in Europe generally it is 25 percent. Portugal has a lifetime rate of 1.6 percent for cocaine, compared to 4 percent for Europe generally.

For whatever bundle of reasons, we should start getting accustomed to the idea that harsh anti-drugs laws are often correlated with a worsening of drug problems and decriminalization with bringing them into manageable bounds. Mr. Greenwald cites a 2008 survey of 17 countries showing that the U.S. had by far the highest level of cocaine use over a lifetime (16.2 percent to second-place New Zealand's 4.3 percent) and the highest level of cannabis use. As Greenwald writes, "stringent criminalization laws do not produce lower drug usage, and some data suggest the opposite may be true."
There appear to be second order effects of prohibition (profit to dealers - forbidden fruit) that overwhelm the first order effects such as punishment. It happens.

Mexico recently decriminalized small amounts of most drugs. Alan has some comments on that.
I would add that Mexico makes no provision for acquisition of drugs, which is likely to leave the black market largely undisturbed and still powerful. Decriminalization combined with a determination to end trafficking can leave users still dependent on the black market – as is still the case for all too many medical patients in California. The way to undermine a black market is to allow a white market to emerge.

Nonetheless, Mexico's move, combined with a court decision in Argentina last week that will have a similar impact on small-time users, has the potential to put a significant dent in the religion of prohibitionism. Now if we can just get politicians in the U.S. to pay attention.
Prohibitionism is a faith based on the idea that prohibiting substance abuse and the substances associated with it will lower the incidence of abuse at relatively low cost. It happens with all faiths, if the disconnect from reality is severe the faith loses ground. As with most sincerely held beliefs - it is the youth who see the Emperor Without Clothes first. After that it is just a matter of the faithful dying off.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What Is Wrong With Journalists?

Barbra Oakley has a very interesting article in Psychology Today explaining what is wrong with journalists. The whole article is a must read, but I especially liked the closing.

As far as investigating the dark side of the Major Issues, there’s a critically important concept that students of journalism are rarely taught. It’s easy to find any number of targets to write about in capitalist societies with an open press. But totalitarian governments are journalistic black holes. Journalists can tickle their self-righteous neurocircuitry every day (and many do), by exposing easy-to-find faults in democratic societies. But beyond their event horizon is the bigger story that often remains untold as it occurs—the horrific deaths of millions in totalitarian regimes like the former Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea and, yes, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. That’s why, when Robert Conquest was asked whether he wanted to retitle his updated The Great Terror,about the Soviet purges, his answer was: Yes, how about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?

If you’re a journalist, want to help people and want to tell the truth, what truth are you going to tell? Why, the truth you think helps people, of course!

Technically, that’s the truth.

But it’s very different than the truth.
It would be real nice if journalists recognized the one true fact about politicians taught to me by my grandfather (on my mother's side). "They are all crooks." Which means none should get special treatment from the press. In fact if I was a political strategic thinker I'd make sure the crooks in my party got the harshest treatment possible. Pour l'encourager les autres. Then my party gets known as more honest and that might help swing a few elections when the voters decide "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more." What are the odds? Slim and none.

H/T R. Dave at Talk polywell

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Developing Convergence

A fascinating video by Hans Rosling on development, income, and health outcomes. The software he uses in the video can be found at Gap Minder. The exact page is Gap Minder World. It is fun to play with. Possibly even educational.

H/T Betruger at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Is That Boycott Coming?

It seems that some folks are unhappy with Glenn Beck and want advertisers to boycott his show.

An advertising boycott against Fox News host Glenn Beck has succeeded in keeping most major sponsors from running commercials on his show even as the controversial commentator's viewership has grown.

Beck attracted 2.81 million viewers Monday, his third-largest audience since his show launched on Fox News in January, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by the network. On Tuesday, nearly 2.7 million viewers tuned in, his fifth-largest viewership to date. And the conservative host got a plug from former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who urged people to watch his program in a post on her Facebook page.
Isn't that interesting?

And Sarah Palin's Facebook Page on Beck? Short and sweet.
FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House.

Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch.

-Sarah Palin
At last count Sarah had 800,000 Facebook fans.

Which kind of leads me into a topic I have been meaning to discuss. Leaderless political warfare. I'd like to start with a comment I found at Oath Keepers.
#87 bruce Says:
August 27th, 2009 at 9:50 am

There are many of us who believe in supporting the constitution the way it was intended: to HELP us as a country. Our unamerican president sees it only as a nuisance and roadblock to his goals. Unfortunatley, their machine (smoke & mirrors, bag of tricks, etc.) is well oiled and has considerable momentum.

Those who support this site/cause, and others like it, have a common obstacle: We have no central unification. There are numerous organizations & militias, some of them just nut jobs who actually hurt our credibility, but I think to be an effective force, we need to come together somehow under a central figure or organization.
I think he is wrong. The last thing the opposition needs is a leader. The left will go after a leader with all their power. Best for now to keep it diffuse. Small unit actions suited to local conditions.

Which brings up a couple of novels by Gordon R. Dickson. The first is a book that includes the story of Amanda Morgan:

The Spirit of Dorsai

I'm not going to go into a long dissertation. The essence is that old men and children defeated a large well armed and well paid army by having a general order and then adapting tactics to local circumstances with minimal central direction.

If you are into reading novels for entertainment as well as education (the following novel was once on the US Military reading list) you might want to read this one first as it also covers the events in Amanda Morgan.

Tactics of Mistake

I reviewed the novel at The Tactics Of Mistake.

So what is our general order? Simple really.

Not On Our Watch

General enough for you? Now how about another analogy? I have one:

In many ways the Republicans are like the Spanish in their dust up with Napoleon. The Spanish Army (The Republican Party Machine) is totally ineffective against Napoleon’s Regulars (The Democrat Party Machine). However, the partisans redeem the war.

Which brings up a a post by Wretchard called 5G.
Somebody believes the left is losing the public policy debate because they’ve got all the flagship institutions. And that’s a liability. Umair Haque, writing in a Harvard Business Publishing article, argues that the right, like al-Qaeda has mastered the art of “5th generation warfare” and is swarming all over the left. He notices that liberals have been losing the debate lately and tries to analyze why. The problem with the left, he seems to think, is that they are responding from a center, sending talking points out to a periphery, whereas the right has discovered how to attack swiftly, from a plethora of directions and in depth. The right is inside their OODA loop and Haque realizes that if this goes on long enough, the left will lose.
And how has the right got inside the left's OODA loop? Not by being faster. It is hard to get much speed advantage in an internet age. The right is doing it by giving the left more events than it can handle. Tea Parties are breaking out all over with no Central Command. There will be a march on Washington on 12 September starting at 11:30 AM at Pennsylvania Ave. [map] opposite the White House going to the Capitol.

And what do you know? Glenn Beck has mentioned the march on Washington on his show.

Now back to Wretchard. Wretchard discusses some of Haque's advice on how to counter a distributed movement. And then has this to say.
I think Haque’s advice will ultimately fail because it fails to recognize the fundamental difference between ‘fake’ 5th generation warfare and the real thing. The real thing is bottom up; the fake thing is astroturfed. The genuine article aggregates the wisdom of crowds; the counterfeit hires crowds. The real thing genuinely takes into account the experience of the many and values it. It accepts that “norms” are actually driven by the normal and not pronounced on from above. This distinction in source of initiative is crucial. His “10 rules for fighting a 5G war” will come to nothing without recognizing rule number 1: the people can act directly in public policy. The result of applying this principle is 5th generation warfare. The opposite principle is that an enlightned elite, led by a One are leading the world to change. Applying this principle may result in a slick advertising campaign, but it will never be 5th generation warfare.

This is the crucial realization. The Republican leadership was in fact the first victim of the revolt from below. Only after the “5th generation” war had ripped through the comfortable assumptions of business as usual did it break out to face the left. To think that the current unrest is the creation of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would be to make a fundamental mistake. Those figures are simply its beneficiaries — and its beneficiaries by accident.
Which fits in rather well with my diagnosis of the current Republican vs. Democrat struggle. Republicans (the politicians) are losing. And Wretchard is absolutely right. The masses are absolutely disdainful of their leaders. The leaders on the right are as inept as the Spanish Army was it its struggle with Napoleon. It probably doesn't matter for now. When the time is right some one will step to the front of the parade.

And may I suggest the comments at Wretchard's 5G? They are absolutely first rate.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Red Ted

It seems that Ted Kennedy had very good relations with the USSR before their much lamented demise.

This letter which details Senator Edward Kennedy’s offer to help the Soviet Union defeat Reagan’s efforts to build up the nuclear deterrent in Europe was unearthed by a Times of London reporter in the 1990s after the KGB files were opened.

It got little or no attention, however, until the publication of Paul Kengor’s book "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism"
So how about an excerpt from the letter?
Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Comrade Y.V. Andropov

Comrade Y.V. Andropov

On 9-10 May of this year, Senator Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant J. Tunney was in Moscow. The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Center Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.

Senator Kennedy, like other rational people, is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations. Events are developing such that this relationship coupled with the general state of global affairs will make the situation even more dangerous. The main reason for this is Reagan’s belligerence, and his firm commitment to deploy new American middle range nuclear weapons within Western Europe.

According to Kennedy, the current threat is due to the President’s refusal to engage any modification on his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvement of the economy: inflation has been greatly reduced, production levels are increasing as is overall business activity. For these reasons, interest rates will continue to decline. The White House has portrayed this in the media as the “success of Reaganomics.”
Good old Red Ted. Friend of the USSR. Champion of Health Care Socialism.

He will be missed.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

What's In A Name

It seems like the health care bill needs a new name.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), one of the few to have served in the Senate longer than the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, said in a statement today that health care legislation should be named in his honor.

Kennedy famously called health care reform "the cause of my life." He set the tone for the current health care debate in Congress and worked to pass a number of monumental health care-related bills while in the Senate.

"In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," Byrd said in his statement.
In line with my previous post Win One For Mary Jo I think a new name is in order.

The Mary Jo Kopechne
Health Care For All Plan

That should throw a spanner into the works.

Another irony? The proposed name change comes from a former KKK guy. Truly, the Democrats are geniuses at public relations. First for making these bottom feeders icons, and more ironically thinking they could still make it stick in the age of the internet with 10,000 writers working feverish overtime looking for effective counters to the Democrat "truth" machine. Pravda comrades. Pravda.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Win One For Mary Jo

Eric at Classical Values put up a post on the death of Ted Kennedy. He is disgusted that some Democrats are taking advantage of his death to push their health care plan.

'Win One for Teddy,' Say Dems Pushing for Health Reform

Well if they want to get down and dirty:

'Win One for Mary Jo' say those trying to prevent government take over of health care.

And for those of you needing a history lesson:

Mary Jo Kopechne

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Private Sector Is The Strength Of The Economy

An interesting discussion of current and future economic prospects. The panel asks where the growth is going to come from? I think it is going to come from the place it has come from for the last 30 years. Advances in electronic technology.

Some economic prognosticators see a return to normalcy.
This year will experience a negative global GDP (-0.8%), which Bill McClean, president of IC Insights (Scottsdale, Ariz.), said is the worst performance since 1946 in the aftermath of a world war that devastated most of the planet's production centers. "To put things in perspective," he said, "since a global recession is defined as 2.5% growth or less, the situation is pretty bad."

The good news is that things are looking up. "In our forecasts we warned people to think quarterly, not to look at 2009 in total," McClean said. "The world GDP may be negative, but Germany has announced that it is out of the recession. They had growth in the second quarter, as did France and Japan. These countries were not expected to show a positive GDP until 2010. The U.S. will show growth in the 3Q09 GDP."

As a result, semiconductors are experiencing up to a 4% growth this quarter, and McClean said next year we can expect a 3.4% GDP. Meanwhile, the economists' forecasts for 2010 keep creeping upward. "The long-term average is 3.6%, so 3.4% is not that great, but it is a heck of a lot better than -0.8%."

Global recessions are nothing new; they have happened before. However, the current one has been steeper than most. "If we go by the past history of these cycles, after every global recession we have had two great years of semiconductor growth," McClean said. "We are looking at at least a 15% growth next year, probably over 20%. Global recessions are times of pent up demand; they do not crush or eliminate demand for electronic systems. As soon as things look better, companies and people start buying — new PCs, cell phones, new servers, TVs, and other appliances."
There are other signs that electronics is a growth leader.
Call it a power surge. The worldwide digital power IC market -- including controller ICs, converter ICs, and system management ICs -- is expected to grow from more than 5 billion units in 2009 to 12.3 billion units in 2014, a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 19.8%, according a report released recently by the Darnell Group.

The research house said the surge of growth will be spread out over a diverse market of power supplies, including external ac-dc and embedded ac-dc power supplies, dc-dc modules, embedded dc-dc converters, telecom rectifiers and external dc-dc, lighting ballasts, and inverters.

“Although digital solutions are still primarily being used in high-performance applications, the pervasive emphasis on energy efficiency is pushing digital from high-end-only into the mainstream,” Linnea Brush, senior analyst at Darnell Group, said in a statement. “Digital control is now implemented in just about all application segments, from catalog power supplies to power supplies used in medical, solid-state lighting, and consumer devices."
Translation into layman's terms: microprocessors are going into power supplies to reduce power loss and increase reliability. If the price is right, that sounds like a win all around.

And don't forget one of the biggest power management problem around. Managing the batteries and motor controllers for electric and hybrid vehicles. That is only just starting to ramp up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Was Saddam Really Working On A Bomb?

I just ran across an article on the proliferation risks of fusion and a few paragraphs caught my eye.

Some proponents of nuclear fusion power falsely claim that it would pose no risk of contributing to weapons proliferation. In fact, there are several risks including the use of tritium as a fusion power fuel which raises the risk of its diversion for use in boosted nuclear weapons, or, more importantly, the use of fusion reactors to irradiate uranium to produce plutonium or to irradiate thorium-232 to produce uranium-233.

Fusion power has yet to generate a single Watt of useful electricity but it has already contributed to proliferation problems. According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program in the 1980s: "Iraq took full advantage of the IAEA's recommendation in the mid 1980s to start a plasma physics program for "peaceful" fusion research. We thought that buying a plasma focus device ... would provide an excellent cover for buying and learning about fast electronics technology, which could be used to trigger atomic bombs."
The device he mentions is a Dense Plasma Focus fusion generator.
A dense plasma focus (DPF) is a plasma machine that produces, by electromagnetic acceleration and compression, short-lived plasma that is so hot and dense that it becomes a copious multi-radiation source. It was invented in the early 1960s by J.W. Mather and also independently by N.V. Filippov. The electromagnetic compression of a plasma is called a "pinch".
So where is the fusion?
Intense bursts of X-rays and charged particles are emitted, as are nuclear fusion neutrons, when operated in deuterium. There is ongoing research that demonstrates potential applications as a soft X-ray source for next-generation microelectronics lithography, surface micromachining, pulsed X-ray and neutron source for medical and security inspection applications and materials modification, among others.

For nuclear weapons applications, dense plasma focus devices can be used as an external neutron source. Other applications include simulation of nuclear explosions (for testing of the electronic equipment) and a short and intense neutron source useful for non-contact discovery or inspection of nuclear materials (uranium, plutonium).
OK. So just as the article on Saddam's program stated. It is a good device for checking out electronics for a bomb program.

You can read more about it in:

Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon

Which may not be an entirely reliable source.

So what are the odds of a Dense Plasma Focus device generating power any time soon? The device has a couple of problems. In 20 years of research no one has figured out how to reduce the losses sufficiently and because the experiments pulse Mega Amps of current into relatively small devices, electrode erosion is going to be a severe problem. The 20 year deal is significant because small Dense Plasma Focus devices have plasma characteristics very similar (+/- 10%) to large devices.

I still like Polywell.

You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nanotubes In Semiconductors

Carbon Nanotubes may be coming soon to a semiconductor near you.

Surrey NanoSystems, a University of Surrey spin-out working on a low-temperature growth process for carbon nanotubes, has secured second round funding of £2.5m

Surrey NanoSystems was established in 2006 as a spin-out from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) to develop intellectual property which supports the fabrication of carbon nanotubes at low temperature.

The company developed a platform called NanoGrowth which creates conditions for the growth of precision carbon nanotubes at both the temperatures and densities needed for CMOS process technology.

The company is now optimising its technology for the mass-volume manufacturing environment, by scaling the hardware and refining and scaling the materials processing technology.

The new funding will allow Surrey NanoSystems to scale the materials growth technology from its current 100mm wafer size capability to the 300mm sizes used in commercial wafer fabrication plants.

"The semiconductor industry urgently needs a new interconnection technology. If you can solve the problem of growing precision carbon nanotubes at silicon-friendly temperatures - and we have - it opens up a massive potential market," said Ben Jensen, CTO of Surrey NanoSystems.
Yes it does. Right now with large integrated circuits more energy is lost in the connections than in the transistors. Carbon nanotubes are more conductive than the commonly used copper. This should make integrated circuits both faster and cooler. Lower resistance works like that.

It is also possible that things will get even better when carbon nanotube transistor fabrication becomes a manufacturable technique. Faster transistors with lower losses that can operate at higher temperatures. Just what is needed to advance power control technology.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Few Words On Market Manias

David Warsh is giving economic advice to the Queen of England on how to avoid bubbles and financial panics in the future.

The disarming question you asked when you visited the London School of Economics last autumn – why did nobody notice that the credit crunch was on its way? – produced a thoughtful letter from the various authorities who gathered recently at the British Academy to ponder and draft a measured answer.

A panel of economists, regulators, market participants and journalists examined the usual suspects among the leading causes – global imbalances, technological optimism, deregulatory zeal, euphoria and hubris – and concluded that overspecialization among experts was the real culprit. The unanticipated virulence of the crisis derived from “the failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole.”
So what is my take? The short answer is that high profits are to blame. Let me explain.

It all starts with "expected future value" or "expected future profits".

And it doesn't require a central bank pumping the money supply. A high rate of profit that releases sufficient capital will suffice. We have had a 30 year run of that with microprocessor/electronics technology.

So where did we go wrong? Not enough investment in research. i.e. not enough good new ideas to absorb the generated capital. Compared to the losses we are currently sustaining research is very cheap. The difficulty is that it requires a LOT of brainpower. And there is never enough to go around. And way too much is going into banking and marketing (it is where the money is) and not enough into sciences and engineering.

In other words - we don't apply the right valuation to our overall situation. Hence - financial bubbles vs technological bubbles. Financial bubbles are looting. Technological bubbles are foundations for the future (the dot com bust left us with infrastructure - which when marked to market led to the current communications boom).

Here are a few books on the subject that might be of some use:

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery by David Warsh

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

Here is a 150 year old classic on the subject:

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

And here is one due out on September 30th:

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Marijuana Option

Instapundit links to a piece on Hillary Clinton that proclaims that Hillary wants to stop sexual violence.

Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

I visited a hospital run by the organization Heal Africa and met a woman who told me that she was eight months' pregnant when she was attacked. She was at home when a group of men broke in. They took her husband and two of their children and shot them in the front yard, before returning into the house to shoot her other two children. Then they beat and gang-raped her and left her for dead. But she wasn't dead. She fought for life and her neighbors managed to get her to the hospital – 85 kilometers away.

I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity.
Well ALRIGHT!! Hillary. But how about we tackle such a problem a little closer to home. Not quite so severe. But some easier to reach. And instead of convincing another government to do something we just get our government to act.

Here is an excerpt from the book

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?
The social consequences of all this student drinking are even more alarming. At the most tragic level, alcohol abuse is a leading cause of fatalities on college campuses. In 2001, there were an estimated 1,700 alcohol-related unintentional-injury deaths among college students and others aged 18 to 24. But these deaths are just the tip of the alcohol-related-injury iceberg. Researchers estimate that every year approximately 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol. Of course, those who drink are not the only ones adversely affected. Even more disturbing is the number of injuries to others that are caused by students under the influence of alcohol. Each year approximately 700,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by students who have been drinking, and close to 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. Yet these raw numbers only tell part of the story. The much broader impact of alcohol abuse on campus is evident when one looks at the percentage of violent acts that are booze-related. According to a 1994 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), 95 percent of all campus assaults are alcohol-related, and 90 percent of all reported campus rapes involve a victim or an assailant who has been drinking alcohol.

"Virtually every sexual assault is associated with alcohol abuse. Almost every assault of any kind is related to drinking." - University of Maryland President C.D. "Dan" Mote, August 2008
So what do the book authors suggest? No doubt it will come as a surprise.
University officials are well aware of these startling statistics. As is evident by the quote above, campus leaders not only recognize that alcohol is a frequent cause of injuries and assaults, but many also believe that it is a factor in almost all campus assaults. Think about this point for a moment. These same officials are aware that students use marijuana on their campuses?most likely to a greater extent than they would like. Yet despite pot's popularity among the student body, you rarely if ever hear university officials or campus police publicly blaming assaults or rapes on marijuana abuse. In other words, the people responsible for maintaining safety on college campuses recognize that alcohol use frequently leads to widespread injuries and violent student behavior while marijuana use does not. You would think that leaders of institutions of higher learning would rationally and impartially examine this data and act accordingly. Think again.
I guess one thing you can say for sure is that alcohol prohibition for people under 21 isn't working. And marijuana prohibition for everyone isn't working either.

Normally people drop policies that aren't working. If not sooner then eventually. But we have government involved here. There are people making a very good living doing things that are counter productive. And what about the alcohol industry? They would lose some of their best customers. And don't forget people in the illegal drug trade who depend on prohibition for their profits.

And so we have to ask. Is Hillary looking into how substituting marijuana for alcohol could reduce sexual violence in America? And if it works here could we give it a go in Goma?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

A Word For The Sceptics

I was looking at the comments to my American Thinker article Fusion Energy and came across an interesting sequence of comments I had missed earlier. The first comment is by a sceptic. There are earlier comments by him in the comment section.

Posted by: WR Jonas Jun 19, 01:18 PM

I have spoken out here about my skepticism based on a provable dynamic and truth. There will always be ample reasons to spend other peoples money. To give this research or any other some noble purpose or cause does not necessarily make the aims correct or worthwhile.

If we were still shooting rockets at the moon and coming up empty or failed we would have stopped it a long time ago. This canard of ,try until we run of money, is the basis for continuing a proven failure. Because it is Navy project doesn't give it any greater chance of success.

So , how about we put the fusion research industry on a time, results or dollar limit to see if it is ever going to produce anything. Any takers?
I added the emphasis. And then there is a reply to the question by Rick Nebel:
Posted by: rnebel
Jun 23, 04:11 PM

Mr. Jonas:

I'll take you up on that.
It seems Rick is confident of getting a yes/no answer on time and within budget for the question "Is it worthwhile to scale up the Polywell Fusion Concept to the size of a modest (~100 Megawatts) net power reactor?

And what is Rick's time frame? The answer Rick gives is "We Will Know In Two Years."

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics. (same article referenced above)

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

A US Marine Speaks Up

Semper Fi Mac.

You might want to follow up this video with a visit to my bit on Oath Keepers. Whose motto is:

Not On Our Watch

H/T R. Dave via e-mail

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Police Officer: Prohibition Is A Ruination

Some useful links:

which redirects you to:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

And the Peter Moskos book:

Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mexico Legalizes Users

Mexico has legalized personal use of all kinds of currently illegal drugs.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico enacted a controversial law on Thursday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs while encouraging government-financed treatment for drug dependency free of charge.

The law sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities will no longer face criminal prosecution; the law goes into effect on Friday.
I wonder if research on the medical use of marijuana such as treating/preventing cancer will be moving to Mexico since the DEA has strangled such research in America?

Let me point out that such a law will do nothing to limit the reach of the drug cartels. In America under Alcohol Prohibition, alcohol consumption was legal. Its manufacture and distribution were not. All Mexico has done is legalize demand while doing nothing to legalize supply. The supply chain murders will continue.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity

Commenter demian asked me a question about marijuana and productivity in high tech industry at my post Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol.

Which got me to look up a study done on the subject.

In a study of high tech industries, researchers found that "drug testing programs do not succeed in improving productivity. Surprisingly, companies adopting drug testing programs are found to exhibit lower levels of productivity than their counterparts that do not... Both pre-employment and random testing of workers are found to be associated with lower levels of productivity."

Source: Shepard, Edward M., and Thomas J. Clifton, Drug Testing and Labor Productivity: Estimates Applying a Production Function Model, Institute of Industrial Relations, Research Paper No. 18, Le Moyne University, Syracuse, NY (1998), p. 1.
Isn't that interesting. It might be useful to find out the why of the correlation. Is it because drug users are thankful for a job in a non-testing company and work harder? Or because drug use enhances high tech productivity? I incline to the latter explanation. With a little bit of the former mixed in. I have no proof except anecdotal.

Here is an anecdote.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer.

Using the pseudonym "Mr. X'', Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Reconsidering Marijuana.'' The book's editor, Lester Grinspoon, recently disclosed the secret to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson.
I'd like to see more studies done. The question is who would fund them? Not the US Government which tends to avoid studies that might throw a positive light on drug use. And the drug testing industry is certainly not going to go for such a study. Why fund something that might knock your product? That doesn't leave many interested parties who have the cash to pay for the work.

Here is a page full of studies on the impact of drug testing. (same as the first link above)

Carbon Market Frauds

It looks like the European Carbon Trading Scheme is being hit by massive fraud.

Carousel fraud has found its way to the carbon market. The particularly European type of fraud entails setting up complicated import and export schemes between EU member countries, charging buyers for value-added tax in the country of destination, and then absconding with the tax rather than handing it over to the governments.

In 2006 the UK and German governments embarked on a series of raids in 2006, and the UK introduced ‘reverse charging’ for VAT on certain items prone to carousel fraud. At the time carousel fraud was mainly seen as confined to small electronic goods such as mobile phones and computer chips.

A year later it was it was observed that fraudsters were simply moving away from those goods towards others that hadn’t yet been targeted by authorities. But it wasn’t until high volumes of trade were observed on France’s BlueNext carbon exchange this year that carousel fraud became an issue in the carbon markets.
So you have this imaginary quantity - one carbon credit - and people are surprised such a "commodity" is open to fraud? It shouldn't be a surprise. It should be a given.

Here are a few words from some one who saw it coming.
The [carbon offset] market requires validators and verifiers all over the world. The system is already short personnel with these skills. Then there is the question of who pays these people? Regulators need to keep in mind the failure of the credit rating agencies (Moody’s, S&P, etc.) in the recent credit crisis. Markets require trust. Respondents said the only reason certain investors purchased some MBS assets was the Triple-A rating. These same respondents say that a significant flaw in the system exists because the credit rating agencies are paid by the bond issuers. A disincentive exists for doing a thorough job. Currently, validators and verifiers are paid by project developers. If we are to learn from the failings of the financial markets, this is an aspect of the carbon offset markets ripe for misconduct.
Well, well, well. Another government program that encourages massive amounts of waste fraud and abuse.

It was never about carbon emission reduction. It was always about government/elite Power and Control. In the sixties when I was on the left the slogan was "Power to the People" a traditional American value - perverted to be sure - but the slogan resonated with the American ideal of self governance. And what has the left got now? "Take Power From The People", both economic power and literally electrical power. Eventually people catch on to this sort of thing and in America they vote the rascals out. Faster please.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Best Climate Protection - Rapid Economic Growth

The forty minute movie is well worth your time. It explains how the worst expected results of global warming can be ameliorated by the economic growth made possible by low cost electricity.

Bjorn Lomborg, mentioned in the video, has a book out that gives some of the trade offs of CO2 reduction vs a direct attack on the problems global warming from CO2 might or might not cause.

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World

And what if what we are seeing in the temperature record is normal climate variation and yet we go ahead with drastic cuts in carbon before economical alternatives are available? A few folks will get rich. A lot of folks will stay poor and nothing useful will be accomplished to improve the state of the world. Sounds like a government program.

H/T Watts Up With That

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol

There is a new book out called Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? which suggests that switching people from alcohol to pot could save lives.

I haven't read the book. But a former Police Chief has and has written a forward to the the book. Here is some of what he has to say.

When you pick up a book touting marijuana as a safer recreational alternative to alcohol, I imagine the last thing you are expecting is a foreword from the former chief of police of a major U.S. city. Well, if you're surprised, I guess we are off to a good start. You see, the goal of this book--and the purpose of this foreword--is to encourage you (fan and foe alike) to reassess the way you think about marijuana.

In pages that follow, you will find objective comparisons of marijuana and alcohol. You will learn about the ways in which the government and other influential institutions have maintained marijuana prohibition while simultaneously turning public opinion against its use. And you will be exposed to a plethora of statistics quantifying the damage caused by alcohol use in our society. Steve, Paul, and Mason have done a terrific job of presenting all of this information in an objective, compelling, and thoughtful manner. I am certain, whatever you may think about marijuana laws at this moment, that you will look at the issue differently by the time you reach the final chapter.

But before you dive into this book--which I truly couldn't put down the first time I read it--I'd like to give you an insider's perspective on the question of marijuana versus alcohol. By "insider," I refer to my decades of law enforcement experience, during which time I witnessed firsthand how these two substances affect consumers, their families, and public safety overall. As you can imagine, those of us who have served our communities as officers of the law have encountered alcohol and marijuana users on a frequent if not daily basis, and we know all too well how often one of these two substances is associated with violent and aggressive behavior.

In all my years on the streets, it was an extremely rare occasion to have a night go by without an alcohol-related incident. More often than not, there were multiple alcohol-related calls during a shift. I became accustomed to the pattern (and the odor). If I was called to a part of town with a concentration of bars or to the local university, I could expect to be greeted by one or more drunks, flexing their "beer muscles," either in the throes of a fight or looking to start one. Sadly, the same was often true when I received a domestic abuse call. More often than not, these conflicts--many having erupted into physical violence--were fueled by one or both participants having overindulged in alcohol.
He has more to say on the subject. Follow the link and read the whole thing.

Just think of it. Not only could we save the vast quantities spent on policing marijuana, but we may also save even more because people stoned on pot vs those stoned on alcohol are easier to police and less likely to need policing.

So. Are the winds changing when it comes to marijuana prohibition in particular and drug prohibition in general? There is a book that discusses the history of the drug wars in America that may have an answer. This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. The author Ryan Grim was recently interviewed by Joe Hicks in a 15 minute video called Marijuana on the March: Is the War on Drugs Over? Here is a paraphrase of what he had to say. - "With the libertarian faction (smaller government) of the Republican Party ascendant and the Democrats basically anti-prohibitionist, the support for drug prohibition is crumbling [not even Police Chiefs can be counted on - ed.]. Even so it will take about ten years for the changes in policy to go national and policy changes are starting with State Governments either authorizing or running Medical Marijuana dispensaries." Not to mention even more states that have legalized medical marijuana without attending to distribution.

So far no state has fully legalized marijuana. California is in the running to be first - there are two ballot measures being planned for 2010 in that state.

So where will all this lead? Back to 1936 if we are lucky. A year when marijuana was still legal nationally. And we may finally get the research we deserve about the cancer prevention and treatment properties of marijuana.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Socialism Is Going Broke

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus says Social Security may go broke in two years.

TUSCALOOSA - Social Security could face a deficit within two years, according to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus who met with The Tuscaloosa News editorial board Tuesday.

“The situation is much worse than people realize, especially because of the problems brought on by the recession, near depression,” said Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, in an interview with the Tuscaloosa News editorial board.

Bachus, the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, said most people seem unaware of the impending crisis. He initially said Social Security could face "default" within two years, but his staff responded later saying the Congresssman intended to say "deficit."

“What this recession has done to Social Security is pretty alarming,” he said. “We’ve known for 15 years that we were going to have to make adjustments to Social Security, but we still thought that was seven or eight years down the road. But if things don’t improve very quickly, we’re going to be dealing with that problem before we know it.”
Yep. All that money in the lock box was ransacked at night while no one was looking. Actually it was hijacked in broad daylight by Congress. Think of it this way. If the money was invested in Wall Street you could lose 1/2 or 3/4s in a serious market downturn. If the market is going up there are profits. Give the same money to Congress to "invest" and you lose it all. Which is the better deal?

Just how bad is it?
“The way Social Security works, taxes from current workers go straight to paying for the benefits of current retirees. Your money is not being “saved” anywhere to be withdrawn later. In 1950, there were 7.3 working-age people for each person over 65; now, the ratio is 4.7 to 1, and it is scheduled to drop to 2.7 to 1 by 2035. That’s a lot less people paying in.” (My

“The trustees predict that in 2018, the amount being paid out for benefits will begin to exceed the amount being paid in. There is enough money to keep paying full benefits until 2041. The CBO predicts the system will fall apart about 10 years later.”( Social Security Trustees and Congressional Budget Office)

If you are 40 or under do you really expect to draw a dime of Social Security?
Of course that is the general outline of the problem. The actual date when outgo exceeds income will vary according to economic conditions at the time. Our current economic troubles are speeding up the timetable.

So how about Medicare? Not so hot either.
“The current and future financial status of the separate trust funds is the focus of the annual reports of the Medicare and Social Security Boards of Trustees, a focus necessitated by law that may appropriately be referred to as the “trust fund perspective.” The latest reports show that while in the near term the trust funds are in surplus, in the long run the funds will have substantial deficits due to impending demographic shifts and projected growth in per capita health care costs.” (This paper is an expanded version of Appendix E of the 2004 Medicare Trustees’ Report that treats the same topic in a more abbreviated form. Contact James E. Duggan ( for questions or comments.)

Another Governmental Program scheduled to go BROKE..
The trust funds are a joke. Have they been invested in productive resources to generate an income stream? Not unless you count Government Motors and Goldman Sachs as wealth generators.

The way out? I'd like to see more investment in researching potential wealth generators. Things like Polywell Fusion.

You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

WB-8 Contract Details

We Will Know In Two Years

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Going Wobbly On Global Warming

There are ten Democrat Senators who are not happy about the "Climate Change" bill. Here is a bit of what they have to say:

As Congress considers energy and climate legislation, it is important that such a bill include provisions to maintain a level playing field for American manufacturing. Manufacturing accounts for more than 10 percent of our economy and nearly three-fourths of the nations industrial research and development. Manufacturing jobs also pay 20 percent more on average than service jobs and have a strong multiplier effect. Therefore it is essential that any clean energy legislation not only address the crisis of climate change, but include strong provisions to ensure the strength and viability of domestic manufacturing. Further, any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States.
Translation - if India and China do not sign on to a similar CO2 taxing scheme then we are against it too. The question is: how will they get a provision like that into the bill? Or will they be forced to vote against it? I have my fingers crossed. The Democrats can engineer a vote so that they only need 50 votes plus the Vice President in order to get a bill passed. Can they get the votes? We will have to wait until September to find out.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

War On Cancer Patients

It seems our government has been holding out on us when it comes to drugs that may be helpful in fighting cancer.

“Cannabinoids possess … anticancer activity [and may] possibly represent a new class of anti-cancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells." So concludes a comprehensive review published in the October 2005 issue of the scientific journal Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.

Not familiar with the emerging body of research touting cannabis' ability to stave the spread of certain types of cancers? You're not alone.

For over 30 years, US politicians and bureaucrats have systematically turned a blind eye to scientific research indicating that marijuana may play a role in cancer prevention -- a finding that was first documented in 1974. That year, a research team at the Medical College of Virginia (acting at the behest of the federal government) discovered that cannabis inhibited malignant tumor cell growth in culture and in mice. According to the study's results, reported nationally in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, administration of marijuana's primary cannabinoid THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."

Despite these favorable preclinical findings, US government officials dismissed the study (which was eventually published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1975), and refused to fund any follow-up research until conducting a similar –- though secret –- clinical trial in the mid-1990s. That study, conducted by the US National Toxicology Program to the tune of $2 million concluded that mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods experienced greater protection against malignant tumors than untreated controls.

Rather than publicize their findings, government researchers once again shelved the results, which only came to light after a draft copy of its findings were leaked in 1997 to a medical journal, which in turn forwarded the story to the national media.

Nevertheless, in the decade since the completion of the National Toxicology trial, the U.S. government has yet to encourage or fund additional, follow up studies examining the cannabinoids' potential to protect against the spread cancerous tumors.
The Drug War is a war on cancer patients. Instead of working to extend people's lives with a medicinal plant, prohibition trumps medicine.

It wouldn't be the first time.
There were two pieces of medical evidence introduced with regard to the marijuana prohibition.

The first came from a pharmacologist at Temple University who claimed that he had injected the active ingredient in marihuana into the brains of 300 dogs, and two of those dogs had died. When asked by the Congressmen, and I quote, "Doctor, did you choose dogs for the similarity of their reactions to that of humans?" The answer of the pharmacologist was, "I wouldn't know, I am not a dog psychologist."

Well, the active ingredient in marijuana was first synthesized in a laboratory in Holland after World War II. So what it was this pharmacologist injected into these dogs we will never know, but it almost certainly was not the active ingredient in marijuana.

The other piece of medical testimony came from a man named Dr. William C. Woodward. Dr. Woodward was both a lawyer and a doctor and he was Chief Counsel to the American Medical Association. Dr. Woodward came to testify at the behest of the American Medical Association saying, and I quote, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug."

What's amazing is not whether that's true or not. What's amazing is what the Congressmen then said to him. Immediately upon his saying, and I quote again, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.", one of the Congressmen said, "Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?"
It has been about 72 years since that hearing and Congress has improved some. In the past they used to ignore testimony when voting on a bill, now they just ignore the bill. An advance? I'm not so sure.

Here is page of books on Cannabis Therapeutics.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf

Yo can find more Jimmy Smith at Amazon.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Palin Power

Sarah Palin had a few unkind words to say about Obama's Health Care Package.

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
So what has been the response of our Dear Leader? He is bending to Palin Power.
For now, Obama seems on the defensive. He spent valuable time this month knocking down claims that Democratic plans could lead to euthanasia of the elderly.
So I'm wondering. How could a has been washed up politician from a politically insignificant state put President ∅ on the defensive?

And it is not just El Presidente. She has the Congress spooked as well.
Palin can also put another notch on her belt when it comes to influencing health care "reform" -- the Senate will drop language "encouraging" doctors to initiate conversations with patients about hospice and palliative end-of-life care from its bill, The Boston Globe reports...
How about that! No wonder Palin has been so viciously attacked before she even did anything. The Democrats (and some Republicans) recognized a power beyond their control. I think it will only get worse - for them.

Here is Palin's Facebook page if you want to keep up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Warm Sodium Battery

There is some amazing news in the world of high energy batteries. Coors Ceramics thinks they have a way to make Sodium-Sulfur batteries that can operate at 90° C ( 194° F which is below the boiling point of water)and charge-discharge once a day for ten years.

The battery breakthrough comes from a Salt Lake company called Ceramatec, the R&D arm of CoorsTek, a world leader in advanced materials and electrochemical devices. It promises to reduce dependence on the dinosaur by hooking up with the latest generation of personalized power plants that draw from the sun.

Solar energy has been around, of course, but it's been prohibitively expensive. Now the cost is tumbling, driven by new thin-film chemistry and manufacturing techniques. Leaders in the field include companies like Arizona-based First Solar, which can paint solar cells onto glass; and Konarka, an upstart that purchased a defunct Polaroid film factory in New Bedford, Mass., and now plans to print cells onto rolls of flexible plastic.

The convergence of these two key technologies -- solar power and deep-storage batteries -- has profound implications for oil-strapped America.

"These batteries switch the whole dialogue to renewables," said Daniel Nocera, a noted chemist and professor of energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who sits on Ceramatec's science advisory board. "They will turn us away from dumb technology, circa 1900 -- a 110-year-old approach -- and turn us forward."
One small quibble. Unless this technology can be used to make liquid fuels at a lower cost than oil, its uses in transportation will be limited. One drawback is that it needs to be kept around 90C for the battery to deliver juice. It will be hard to maintain that temperature with low losses in a Chicago winter.

Enough of the caveats. How about some more techno porn.
Inside Ceramatec's wonder battery is a chunk of solid sodium metal mated to a sulphur compound by an extraordinary, paper-thin ceramic membrane. The membrane conducts ions -- electrically charged particles -- back and forth to generate a current. The company calculates that the battery will cram 20 to 40 kilowatt hours of energy into a package about the size of a refrigerator, and operate below 90 degrees C.

This may not startle you, but it should. It's amazing. The most energy-dense batteries available today are huge bottles of super-hot molten sodium, swirling around at 600 degrees or so. At that temperature the material is highly conductive of electricity but it's both toxic and corrosive. You wouldn't want your kids around one of these.

The essence of Ceramatec's breakthrough is that high energy density (a lot of juice) can be achieved safely at normal temperatures and with solid components, not hot liquid.

Ceramatec says its new generation of battery would deliver a continuous flow of 5 kilowatts of electricity over four hours, with 3,650 daily discharge/recharge cycles over 10 years. With the batteries expected to sell in the neighborhood of $2,000, that translates to less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour over the battery's life. Conventional power from the grid typically costs in the neighborhood of 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Re-read that last paragraph and let the information really sink in. Five kilowatts over four hours -- how much is that? Imagine your trash compactor, food processor, vacuum cleaner, stereo, sewing machine, one surface unit of an electric range and thirty-three 60-watt light bulbs all running nonstop for four hours each day before the house battery runs out. That's a pretty exciting place to live.

And then you recharge. With a projected 3,650 discharge/recharge cycles -- one per day for a decade -- you leave the next-best battery in the dust. Deep-cycling lead/acid batteries like the ones used in RVs are only good for a few hundred cycles, so they're kaput in a year or so.
My favorite caveat in projects like these is logistics. Or in layman's terms "how soon can they ramp up production once they have a working battery.
Grover's brother, John K. Coors, is CEO of CoorsTek, the manufacturing company that applies what the scientists at Ceramatec dream up. Their nephew, Doug Coors, oversees R&D.

With some 21 plants producing advanced ceramic products worldwide, the expectation is that full-scale production of ceramic sheets for the new batteries could be tooled up in short order. In fact, only a handful of CoorsTek facilities would likely be employed.

The order of magnitude pencils out along these lines: a target of 20 gigawatt hours of storage in 20 kilowatt-hour battery increments equals 1 million batteries. Or using a different metric, 1 million square meters of thin ceramic electrolyte would yield 20 gigawatt hours of batteries, equal to California's entire spinning reserve.

Nobody at CoorsTek even blinks at such figures. The company already produces 3 million pounds of ceramic material per month. "Once we have a working prototype battery with all the standards and cost requirements met, it will come up quickly," said Grover Coors. "It would scare people to know how quickly we can bring this up."

They're about about six months away from initial scale-up toward a commercial product, he said.

Lots of sodium will be needed to make the new batteries, and Ceramatec proposes a symbiotic relationship with the federal government to get it. Enormous quantities of sodium metals, the byproducts of nuclear weapons manufacturing, just happen be available for cleanup at Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland, Wash. It's a ready-made source of material that CoorsTek can recycle.
Of course once that source is gone they will have to pay full price for their sodium. Fortunately neither Sodium nor Sulfur are too hard to come by.

And what does all that talk about time to scale up mean? Here are my guesses. About a year and a half to pilot plant production. A year for battery testing and scale up. Another year to get a full production plant operating. So optimistically about 3 and 1/2 years. Realistically 5 years. Pessimistically 7 years. And very pessimistically never.

What would this technology mean? For one thing, besides its uses for wind and solar, it would be very handy for shaving peak loads. It costs the utilities a lot less to deliver steady power than to deliver power that varies a lot over the course of a day. Think of it as having a peaking plant and some backup power (for the refrigerator and furnace) in every home.

Of course superflywheels [pdf] might be a competitive technology capable of even more charge discharge cycles at roughly equivalent energy density.

H/T R. Dave Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Classical Values

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

The singer is my cousin and childhood friend Janice Meyerson. I spent a lot of time with her and her husband this past weekend at the Simon Family Reunion. Janice and her husband drove my mate, my mother, and I to my mothers apartment Saturday night after the reunion dinner at the Offutt Air Force Base Air and Space Museum. Janice sang a bit from the opera "Carmen" at the dinner.

The SR-71 was hanging over the area we had dinner at. I was able to impress all the people at my table by telling them I had a couple of lines of code flying on that aircraft. Not to mention some hardware I designed that flew on the B-52.

It was a lot of fun getting re-acquainted with friends and relatives I haven't seen for over 40 years.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

4 Out Of 5 Doctors

I don't know that 4 out of 5 doctors agree with the sentiments expressed in the video. There are some who do.
CHICAGO—The American College of Surgeons is deeply disturbed over the uninformed public comments President Obama continues to make about the high-quality care provided by surgeons in the United States. When the President makes statements that are incorrect or not based in fact, we think he does a disservice to the American people at a time when they want clear, understandable facts about health care reform. We want to set the record straight.

Yesterday during a town hall meeting, President Obama got his facts completely wrong. He stated that a surgeon gets paid $50,000 for a leg amputation when, in fact, Medicare pays a surgeon between $740 and $1,140 for a leg amputation. This payment also includes the evaluation of the patient on the day of the operation plus patient follow-up care that is provided for 90 days after the operation. Private insurers pay some variation of the Medicare reimbursement for this service.

Three weeks ago, the President suggested that a surgeon’s decision to remove a child’s tonsils is based on the desire to make a lot of money. That remark was ill-informed and dangerous, and we were dismayed by this characterization of the work surgeons do. Surgeons make decisions about recommending operations based on what’s right for the patient.

We agree with the President that the best thing for patients with diabetes is to manage the disease proactively to avoid the bad consequences that can occur, including blindness, stroke, and amputation. But as is the case for a person who has been treated for cancer and still needs to have a tumor removed, or a person who is in a terrible car crash and needs access to a trauma surgeon, there are times when even a perfectly managed diabetic patient needs a surgeon. The President’s remarks are truly alarming and run the risk of damaging the all-important trust between surgeons and their patients.
For the most part Americans like their doctors. To cast aspersions on them as merely mercenaries has got to rub the people those doctors help the wrong way.

And how about those Canadian doctors? They warn of a melt down in the Canadian health care system.
SASKATOON — The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says this country's health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.

Dr. Anne Doig says patients are getting less than optimal care and she adds that physicians from across the country - who will gather in Saskatoon on Sunday for their annual meeting - recognize that changes must be made.

"We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"We know that there must be change," she said. "We're all running flat out, we're all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands."

The pitch for change at the conference is to start with a presentation from Dr. Robert Ouellet, the current president of the CMA, who has said there's a critical need to make Canada's health-care system patient-centred.
Now isn't that special. A health care system that is not very interested in the care the patients of the system receive. But the costs are contained. More or less.

And what does the doctor say about the cure for ills of the Canadian System?
Ouellet has been saying since his return that "a health-care revolution has passed us by," that it's possible to make wait lists disappear while maintaining universal coverage and "that competition should be welcomed, not feared."

In other words, Ouellet believes there could be a role for private health-care delivery within the public system.

He has also said the Canadian system could be restructured to focus on patients if hospitals and other health-care institutions received funding based on the patients they treat, instead of an annual, lump-sum budget. This "activity-based funding" would be an incentive to provide more efficient care, he has said.
If the problem in America is inadequate resources there are only two ways to fix the problem. Provide more resources - thus raising the total expenditures or cut services to those already in the system. I think it is the prospective cut in services that has those already insured coming out to the town halls.

And those end of life decisions? Families want to make those kinds of decisions. They do not want to hand them over to an accountant in Washington. They certainly don't want President Obama deciding if you get the heart pacemaker or just the red pill.

Only 60%

My #2 son, who is an avid student of the Russian scene, was discussing the situation in Russia these days with one of my relatives. The relative said to him that Russia was run by a Mafia. He replied that it used to be 100% that way but that now it is only 60% mafia run.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mass. Wait Times

Can you believe that the Massachusetts health care "miracle" was cooked up by a Republican?
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006.
And yet. Despite experience the Democrats in Congress and our esteemed President think that this time it will be different. There is one small chance that they are correct. With luck and enough votes the bill will not pass in any form.

To help make sure that the bill doesn't have enough votes here are some people you should contact:

House of Representatives
The Senate

H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The US Navy Worries About Global Warming

The US Navy worries that reduced ice in the arctic will increase its responsibilities for maritime patrols in that area.

Climate change and reduced sea ice cover may result in opening up the Arctic to vastly increased resource development and commercial traffic. These trends will inevitably spark international conflicts and create a need for more military forces to provide security and protect interests in the Arctic region. This is bad news for the U.S. Navy, already hard-pressed by shrinking fleets and rising challenges elsewhere.

Rear Adm. David Titley, the U.S. Navy's top oceanographer, was recently in Barrow, Alaska supervising a global warming research expedition. According to Titley, changes in Arctic sea ice cover will require a new assessment of the Navy's maritime strategy. Such an assessment will likely recommend changes to military infrastructure in the Arctic, military force structure deployed to the Arctic, and new capabilities to respond to a changing Arctic climate.
Resource development in the Arctic will certainly be a problem. Especially if there are conflicts between Russia and the USA or Russia and Canada. However the worries about the Russians may be overblown because the Russian Fleet is in serious decline. And fears of loss of Arctic Sea ice may also be overblown. Because the extent of Arctic Sea Ice appears to be rebounding unusually early compared to 2007 and 2008. Of course that is weather and not climate. But the Climate experts at the IPCC expect a cooling trend until at least 2020. So the Navy may have a bit of time to get its act together.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who Pays Him?

Obama is in the pay of Big Government. And you can take that to the bank. If he hasn't nationalized your.


A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.
Marcus Aurelius

Modern Technology

Foreign Policy Magazine looks at modern technology in Africa. They have an interesting take.

"Conditions in Africa Are Medieval."

Not in the slightest. It's true that some countries in the region are as poor as England under William the Conqueror, but that doesn't mean Africa's on the verge of doomsday. How many serfs had a cellphone? More than 63 million Nigerians do. Millions travel on buses and trucks across the continent each year, even if the average African road is still fairly bumpy. The list of modern technologies now ubiquitous in the region also includes cement, corrugated iron, steel wire, piping, plastic sheeting and containers, synthetic and cheap cotton clothing, rubber-soled shoes, bicycles, butane, paraffin candles, pens, paper, books, radios, televisions, vaccines, antibiotics, and bed nets.

The spread of these technologies has helped expand economies, improve quality of life, and extend health. About 10 percent of infants die in their first year of life in Africa -- still shockingly high, but considerably lower than the European average less than 100 years ago, let alone 800 years past. And about two thirds of Africans are literate -- a level achieved in Spain only in the 1920s.
Now who in America thinks of cement as modern technology? Cement was known in Roman times. And yet it is modern technology.
Modern hydraulic cements began to be developed from the start of the Industrial Revolution (around 1800), driven by three main needs:

* Hydraulic renders for finishing brick buildings in wet climates
* Hydraulic mortars for masonry construction of harbor works etc, in contact with sea water.
* Development of strong concretes.

In Britain particularly, good quality building stone became ever more expensive during a period of rapid growth, and it became a common practice to construct prestige buildings from the new industrial bricks, and to finish them with a stucco to imitate stone. Hydraulic limes were favored for this, but the need for a fast set time encouraged the development of new cements. Most famous among these was Parker's "Roman cement." This was developed by James Parker in the 1780s, and finally patented in 1796. It was, in fact, nothing like any material used by the Romans, but was a "Natural cement" made by burning septaria - nodules that are found in certain clay deposits, and that contain both clay minerals and calcium carbonate. The burnt nodules were ground to a fine powder. This product, made into a mortar with sand, set in 5-15 minutes. The success of "Roman Cement" led other manufacturers to develop rival products by burning artificial mixtures of clay and chalk.
An now when we need a building or a road we can set up forms and just pour it. At one time I was very interested in cement construction and studied it extensively. How to calculate the forces a finished structure could handle. Where to put the rebar. Pretensioning and a whole lot of other stuff. My friends laughed at me when I told them i was studying cement. Why would a guy who could do advanced electronics be studying an "old" technology like cement? And yet, without cement the world as we know it would not exist. Currently in my area, high quality cement is available for under $100 a cubic yard delivered if you buy a moderate amount (a few truck loads).

Speaking of high tech, there is something the inventors of cement never thought of but is very handy these days: it makes good shielding material for land based nuclear reactors. And the price is right.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spots? I Don't See No Dang Spots

A lot of spotless days have come and gone since the video was made.
At the risk of triggering a new sunspot by talking about it, I’ll cautiously mention that by GMT time midnight tomorrow, August 10th, we will possibly have a 30 day stretch of no sunspots at a time when cycle 24 has been forecast by many to be well underway.
Sun spots are kind of like the weather. Every one talks about them. No one does anything about them.

In any case the sun, like the climate, is not following earlier predictions.

You can read more about the number of spotless days at the link provided. What does it mean in terms of climate? No one knows for sure.