Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Shut up, he explained

As Mark Steyn puts it, there's a clamour for "new blasphemy laws for progressive pieties...  Once you get a taste for shutting people up, its hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it's easier to close it down?"           Despite his mistreatment at the hands of Human Rights bozos in Canada, he holds up the Quebec election last week for praise.  
"A fortnight ago I was in Quebec for a provincial election in which the ruling separatist party went down to its worst defeat in almost half a century. This was a democratic contest fought between parties that don’t even agree on what country they’re in. In Ottawa for most of the 1990s the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was a chap who barely acknowledged either the head of state or the state she’s head of. Which is as it should be".
"Free speech is essential to a free society because, when you deny people ‘an opportunity to act like normal political parties’, there’s nothing left for them to do but punch your lights out".
Steyn reviews recent depradations against free speech.  (The BBC was advised it should get special clearance before interviewing climate sceptics, liberal artists asked 
for the first state restraints on the British press in 325 years, the apalling treatment of Ayaan Hirsi by Brandeis University and more.).  This puts me in mind of Kate of smalldeadanimals' capsule quiz:  "What is the opposite of diversity?  University."

Homework question: When was controversial public speech ever free or safe?  If people whose opinions annoy you have the right to bear arms, are you more willing to let them speak as long as they keep the peace?  Discuss.

Government: Trespassers will be shot

What is the Bureau of Land Management doing with guns?   Bundy's offence is "cattle trespass" in Harry Reid's home state.  It's clear from the picture that BLM officers contemplated killing citizens for trespass.   Swat teams and armoured vehicles, many surplus from warfare abroad, are swallowing up decency in the States.  It seems every branch of government is loading up on bullet, weapons and attack teams.
Link

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Tortoises 0, Hubris 1, Public exposure 1.

The Bureau of Land Management withdrew 200 armed men and dogs and wrote off milions of enforcement dollars at the Bundy ranch because they weren't popular?   Who called them off? The Bundy land is in a swath designated for future solar plants, a use that is incompatible with the tortoises this foofaraw is supposedly about.  Senator Reid and his sons are involved with Chinese investors to invest in desert solar power.  The story came out during the week and the optics are awful for Reid.   Somehow, the information about the solar reserves and their incompatibility with tortoise habitat disappeared from the BLM website.    (Sources:  Powerline: Standoff at the Bundy Ranch ends with photo of the year, and DC Clothesline:  Nevada Standoff: Harry Reid, Russian Soldiers, Chinese Businessmen and Euthanized Turtles.  The second link includes BLM documentation but wanders into the farfetched with the "Russian soldiers" footnote.)

There actually are tortoises in this story but they don't explain a thing.  There's a facility funded to the tune of $1,000,000 per year to raise and release the rare tortoises.  While more money than that is being spent making a fool of the federal government at the ranch, the facility has run out of support and plans to kill about half their animals and let the rest go wild.

Why is the federal government even present in this story?  The mandate comes from those endangered tortoises.  Is Mr Bundy in the right?  Perhaps in part.  But the over-reaching federal government is clearly wrong.

From Gateway Pundit:Deleted from BLM.gov but reposted for posterity by the Free Republic, the BLM document entitled “Cattle Trespass Impacts” directly states that Bundy’s cattle “impacts” solar development, more specifically the construction of “utility-scale solar power generation facilities” on “public lands.”


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Teachers getting younger and leaving the NEA union in droves. Hair-line crack in the public sector.

Are  Canadian teachers getting younger too?   American K-12 teachers under 30 have doubled in the last couple years although still only making up 1/6th of their work force.  They're quitting unions, too.  It's appalling there are so few young teachers but an increase is good.  Instead of bargaining for seniority, younger pedagogues are interested in high tech and merit pay.  The NEA has lost 11% of its membership in the last four years.  The full story is at the Wall Street Journal behind a pay wall, but quoted at The American Interest.

I think of teachers as public sector because most are paid by taxes that are taken from people and their unions fund parties like the NDP that will scratch their backs.  The public sector is the sector of the economy least responsive to price signals (choice) and even the tiniest hint of a hairline crack in that sector is a sign of hope to me.

"Most notable, however, is the impact these younger teachers are having on teachers unions. The unions usually negotiate rules that favor seniority, so younger teachers are generally the first to be let got when cutbacks are made. Unsurprisingly, those teachers are pushing for unions to adopt measures they have traditionally opposed, like merit pay, or are breaking with unions entirely, as the WSJ reports."

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Gamechanger: US Navy turns ocean water into fuel on the cheap.

The US Naval Research Lab thinks they could turn out aviation fuel for under $6 per gallon anywhere you find ocean water. The economics of energy shapes world power. The story is at NRL and popularized a bit at the Daily Mail.

To make fuel, you need a carbon chain with hydrogen clustered along its length.  Hydrogen in the water molecules can be teased loose with electric charge, a technology that's been around for ages.  It turns out there's also a lot of carbon in the ocean water, about 100 times as much as in the air.  2/3 of it is dissolved C02 gas and 1/3  is tiny specks of carbonate.  92% of this carbon is teased out with an "innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic exchange module" (NRL thingy). The next two steps coax it into carbon chains and clothe the chains in a hydrogen skin.  That's what all fuels, oils and waxes are made from, depending on length.  This tech has been around for quite a while too. The process is nearly pollution free.

Green has to love it.  Power-to-the-people has to love it because a scarce resource becomes everywhere commonplace.   I'd like to make and sell fuel by the sea with a hose running down the beach to the well.  If the economies of $3 to $6/gallon can only be achieved in a large plant, this will still free up some countries.   The picture of the E-CEM Carbon Capture Skid at the link looks like it would fit in a small building, even when scaled up.

Nations get along better when they are not too beholden to one another.
Fuel From Sea Concept - First Demonstrated Flight
Model airplane being fueled from the sea
with a few clever intervening steps.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Old fart almost destroyed the world. Archaean bacteria outgassed.

Although a dozen great meteors set back life on earth, detective work blames the biggest hit of all on a giant methane fart from Archaean bacteria.


Evidence left at the crime scene is abundant and global: Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out -- by far the largest of this planet's five known mass extinctions a form of microbes -- specifically, methane-producing archaea called Methanosarcina -- that suddenly bloomed explosively in the oceans, spewing prodigious amounts of methane into the atmosphere and dramatically changing the climate and the chemistry of the oceans.
Volcanoes are not entirely off the hook, according to this new scenario; they have simply been demoted to accessories.
MIT reports on three clues from the scene:
Methanosarcina
Carbon dioxide increased over ten fold and Methanosarcina processed it, after picking up a gene from some other bacteria.  The limiting nutrient for the processing was nickel which had just been spewed out by the world's greatest ever volcanic upheaval in the Siberian Traps area.  With extra C02, a new gene and a shitload of nickel, Methanosarcina ramped up the production of methane, one of your basic fart gases.

The resulting outburst of methane produced effects similar to those predicted by current models of global climate change: a sudden, extreme rise in temperatures, combined with acidification of the oceans. In the case of the end-Permian extinction, virtually all shell-forming marine organisms were wiped out -- consistent with the observation that such shells cannot form in acidic waters.
Extinction article
Fartology: There's a half dozen ingredients,  Two of them burn.  Hydrogen sulphide is the stinky one.  Methane is made in our gut by bacterial beasties that live down there.

Stinkburger: Obamacare fakes enrolment boost, then brags.

Obamacare enrolments jumped two million in the last two weeks for Obama's Mission Accomplished moment.  It was easy.  As Gateway Pundit puts it:
"How do you get from 5 million Obamacare enrollees to 7.1 million Obamacare enrollees in two weeks? You start the applications yourself."
HHS apparently started enrolment files for hundreds of thousands of Americans without telling them using data swiped from the states.   (The Gateway site has a bug but the Shark Tank story they linked to is here.)   Obviously some of the new enrolment was to beat the deadline but this has been open for half a year and the last two weeks won't account for a 40% jump in sign ups.



"Mocking his critics, President Barack Obama boasted Tuesday that 7.1 million people have signed up for his health care law, an unexpected comeback after a disastrous rollout sent his poll numbers plummeting and stirred fears among Democrats facing re-election this fall".

Unexpected?

Remember the vitriol George Bush earned for his arrogance, claiming "Mission Accomplished"? That was the banner on the boat, that their mission was done and they could set sail for home.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Harcourt: None of the above

Mike Harcourt surprised BC by leaving one party (the NDP) and joining the fastest growing party, the party of ME.  He says he is now free and as the Globe & Mail reports, is "going to be an independent sustainability democrat". The same is happening in the US where the Donkey-Elephant party is being nipped at by a growing swarm of independents who want to make choices without wearing the team colours.  The same is happening in the faith department where most people say they're spiritual and much in favour of peace & love, but if you ask for specifics, they are all over the map, with customized beliefs selected from aromatherapy, bibles, telepathy, being nice to people, slaughtering plants but not animals, reincarnation, and what have you with no hard-copy doxology.  Large enclaves in the nation states, as they prosper, become confident they can make it on their own in smaller independent chunks. (Did I really read a proposal to cut California into six new states like a slice of cherry pie?).  Couples that once could only survive on teamwork to scratch out a living and raise the kids, now find divorce is a sound economic option.   In this list come also political parties which will tend to fracture as the need for intermediaries to tell you what to think declines.  Any Dick or Jane that reads and thinks a little can have greater knowledge to hand daily than the first members of parliament who slowly congregated by train and buggy from the corners of our dominion for once a year sittings of the legislature.
Mike Harcourt, free man (G&M)


Mike Harcourt, whose politics I scorned but for whom I have always had a warm spot personally, is part of this centripetal trend.  Choice, knowledge, and access to power are increasing at the individual level and the worth of parties and other intermediaries is declining somewhat.

Two asides:
1.  That word "Sustainability".  Harcourt could have turned Green or Liberal but chose "an independent sustainability democrat".   This word can appeal to a conservative bunch as well as a distributionist bunch.  Think of the Five S program for getting a handle on any undertaking and bringing it to a sustained peak:
S(1) Sort through stuff to see what's worth keeping.
S(2) Set in order what you keep.
S(3) Shine it up, get it into top condition.
S(4) Standardize so there are plainly stated successful working policies to get things done.
S(5) Sustain it.  This means keep developing people and resources so the undertaking or group renews itself .  A little bit of reduce/re-use/recycle fits in here but developing new leadership and new opportunity and and long term perspective is more important.  So if Mike Harcourt's definition of sustainability overlaps mine, I could join forces with him.
2.  The Time Colonist reports a pleasantly realistic side of this ex-NDP man:"He said the party needs leadership that balances an understanding of the Lower Mainland with the resource realities of the province. “Vancouver is an important part of the province, but most communities, about 150 of them, survive on natural resources, and if you say, ‘You can’t log, you can’t mine, you can’t drill wells for gas or ranch,’ you’re ignoring 95 per cent of British Columbia and most of the communities that depend on natural resources.”

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Two surprises in Afghanistan

Why have four million refugees returned from Pakistan to Afghanistan?  More than job prospects, it's living longer, a whole lot longer.  Life expectancy has risen from 42 to 62 years since 2001.  Strategy Page reports this is mostly because America brought better sanitation and health care, especially for pregnant women and their babies.  (The information is in paragraph 8).

The second surprise is the extent of the Taliban's publicity addiction.  They feed on Western publicity despite shrunken influence at home and the proof is in this story.  When the Kabul hotel was bombed March 20th and a local reporter was killed along with all his family, the Afghan press hit back:  No Taliban stories for fifteen days!    (This information is in paragraph 10)

Just starve the buggers for publicity.  Why can`t we be that smart? 
 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Hell is still an option

Pope Francis tells mafia mobsters to repent or go to hell.   This will have more impact than a school program to combat bullying.  Address core beliefs to redirect a life.  Kind of old-fashioned.  "Convert" rather than adjust-your-behaviour lays claim to truth.
«Convertitevi. C’è tempo per non finire nell’inferno, che è quello che vi aspetta se non cambiate strada. Avete avuto un papà e una mamma pensate a loro e convertitevi».
He suggested gays not be condemned and was lionized as a gay rights supporter.  He suggested marriages solemnized outside the Catholic church may be recognized and was feted as favouring living together for sex and convenience.  Now what?  Mobsters are almost Christian and he wishes them the best?
From Repubblica

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Alinksy Rule 13 goes global: "Obama gets personal, sanctions Putin's inner circle"

Obama's training as a community organizer/shit disturber may help America's foreign policy. Twenty more big shots in Russia and the Ukraine have been added to the first eleven.  They can't travel to the US and funds lodged in American institutions will be frozen.  For now, several of the biggest names including Putin himself have been left off the list.  This escalation is getting interesting and I approve of it.  This, however, is not the rule of law.  It's realpolitik, amorally doing whatever gains the most and loses the least.  I'd rather see a small number of Russian stakeholders mistreated than see thousands bloodied and maimed in a war they never asked for. The same principle is applied in Congress where small personal favours sway the vote for costly public bills. Congress illustrates the carrot approach, personal sanctions on Russian potentates illustrates the stick approach.  While Obama may really have little grasp of world forces, I commend him for applying the nasty side of American politics to international bargaining.   As a side benefit, the Russian people who are pretty excited about getting a bit of Mother Russia back, will also be wondering if their country was robbed of the money that made the targeted guys so rich.

Alinksy's rules for radicals directed at community organizers:
Rule 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Picking is the public naming of big shot Russian players.
Freezing includes freezing their US wealth.
Polarizing creates distance between them and the Russian people who have less.

Link.
If you hadn't read this before, Obama is regularly linked to community organizer, Saul Alinksy, by critics on the right.

Probiotics for little kids cuts sniffles. Should your medical plan cover Yoghurt?

In a controlled study with hundreds of preschoolers, half were given gut bacteria supplements (probiotics) for three months while half got placebos.  Colds were cut in half and incidences of diarrhea fell by a third.  A follow-up three months later showed the advantage persisted.  This isn't crop circles any more. It is science. Poo RX sounds gross but is the real deal.  

Reported at the NYT  "Probiotic Eases Ills in Children"
Lactobacillus reuteri was given daily to half the kids aged 6 months to 3 years while at day care.
A yoghurt bacterium
lactobacillus bulgaricus
Link to the source study at Pediatrics:  Diarrhea in Preschool Children andLactobacillus reuteri: A Randomized Controlled Trial

A teaser about gut bacteria's role.
Probiotics have always been around, just tucked into the corners of  normal diet and in our yoghurts and yeasty things.  Look around the internet for studies about gut bacteria affecting cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, mood, and much more.
False colour electron microscope photo of gut bacteria.

Those power signs mean there are a lot.
10¹² means one trillion.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

News from Outer Space. March2014

GRAVITY WAVES
The biggest story is a convincing re-analysis of background cosmic radiation that points to gravitational waves, the ghostly debris of the first trillionth of a second post Big Bang.  Gravity is the one force that hasn't had a particle or wave associated with it.
Gravitational waves from inflation generate a faint but distinctive twisting pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background,  Read more at Science Daily News.






CME ALMOST FRIED ELECTRONICS WORLWIDE JULY 2012
The sun spit out a perfect storm of flares that would have rivaled the Carrington event of  September 1st 1859 if it had pointed our way in July 2012.  Two trillion dollars of damage and a few years to recover sounds about right.   Nine days earlier we`d have got it.
``The paper in Nature Communications describes what gave the July 2012 storm Carrington-like potency. For one thing, the CME was actually two CMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes. Plus the CMEs traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by another CME four days earlier``. (posted at spaceweather.com but can`t give a permalink.) (Video below from The Register story.)



MULTI-GIGAPIXEL ZOOM MAP OF THE MOON
A 680 gigapixel image of the moon from 60deg. to the north pole  has been posted by NASA.  It zooms smoothly, resolving rocks to 2m. Almost unfrickenbelievable.  This links to the interactive website and below is a snapshot of what it looks like when you go  there.         There's an app for a map, not so finely resolved but stunning on your smart phone.










HUBBARD TRACKS LARGE ASTEROID COMING APART.
A large asteroid has been tracked as it starts to come apart with more than three lumps travelling jointly. It seems to have been cobbled together from smaller lumps which are being stressed unequally by the small but nonetheless real heating by the sun.
Time lapse Hubble photos of P/2013 R3 as it breaks up.


TWIN CRATERS IN SWEDEN
Side by side craters in Sweden (Lockne and Malingen) are proved to be from two such meteor chunks that had a like trajectory and arrived almost at the same moment.  The speculation is that multiple bundles are common and in some cases, the lesser is in orbit like a moon around the larger.  (Couplets may be 2 to 15%).  Link to a second story with pictures.

LINK
Link to last issue, January2014.

Redford optimistic for future of Alberta as she resigns. Me too.

"With profound optimism for Alberta’s future – I am resigning as premier of Alberta effective this Sunday evening.”
Thank you.
Alison in 2009 and today.

Polonius: ``I will most humbly take my leave of you``.
Hamlet: ``You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal``
(Hamlet Act 2 scene 2).``








The Wildrose Party in Cory Morgan`s recent blog post is sounding mushy and middling.I hope a whiff of opportunity doesn`t turn them into Redford conservatives.

As the Wildrose Party has grown and matured as a party, our policies have evolved and moderated every year. We have learned from experience what is realistic and what is acceptable to Albertans and have adjusted our actions accordingly. As the policy set moves towards what some may view as a more mushy middle, some critics have questioned what differences remain between the Wildrose Party and the reigning Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. While the policies may appear to be getting similar (can’t really find a good copy of the PC ones), the difference between the parties is still immense.
The biggest difference between the Wildrose Party and the PCs is subtle yet profound.``

Auditing your enemies. Nixon wanted a "ruthless son of a bitch".

Obama is getting the same IRS audit results as Nixon.  Are the president and his colleagues lily-white or is this "quacks like a duck, is a duck"?  The Chicago Way.

Nixon fired the IRS commissioner, R.W. Thrower in 1971 for insisting "Sure, we’ll audit them — just like everyone else when their names come up through the regular audit selection process.”  Looking for a replacement Commissioner in May of that year, Nixon "made clear what kind of commissioner he wanted".
“I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch,” he was recorded as saying, “that he will do what he is told, that every income tax return I want to see I see” and “that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends.”
Information from Tax Prof. 
R W Thrower fired in 1971
for doing his job at the IRS.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The genius of Rostropovich: Complete Cello Concerto #1 C Dur by Haydn

A wonderful performance of Haydn’s 1st cello concerto with Rostropovich both playing and directing a crisp ensemble.  I watched three other versions with excellent cellists who mug and agonize while Mstislaw holds an inner peace. I think Haydn would love to have been in the audience.   R walks onto stage gesturing with a pulse of energy and sits while the players lead spiritedly into the work.  Are the 1st cello and string bass playing from memory too?  I had to clap my hands for joy.

A Thousand Year Tug of War: Borders of Europe in restless animation.

A bit of a lull from WW2 to the breakup of the USSR but change and struggle is the constant. It passes your eyes at five years per second.   Intriguing are the finely pixellated states where Germany now sits, unlike any other region. Their parochial granulation persisted for hundreds of years while surrounded by the pulsations of regional giants.  Russia, so much in the news this week, isn't clearly an empire or even a country until recent times.       Thanks to smalldeadanimals for the link.


Watch as 1000 years of European borders change (timelapse video) from TransferWise on Vimeo.


Russian humour in the Crimea: Obama promoted to KGB Colonel

'The newly elected PM of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, tweeted yesterday: “I wonder, after the successful campaign of handing over the Crimea, will Barack be promoted to a colonel?” '  The Russian-language Tweet was accompanied by a Photoshopped picture of Barack Obama wearing a Russian uniform.  (Quoted from the original at PJ Tatler).


Believe it or not, the Crimean PM-elect used yet another photo-shop for his tweet.  The use of mockery is a potent tool.

Sex-blind health premiums are a tax on young men.

Women consume more health dollars than men, a lot more. A third more.  Living longer explains only 40% of that. A Michigan study (2000) shows lifetime expense of $361,200 per woman and $268,700 per man. This isn't news to the insurance industry but it's big news for young men in America who are picking up the tab for Obamacare and being punished with a tax if they don't.  In Canada, health is over 40% of provincial budgets.  No wonder health is a woman's issue. The gentler sex has the upper hand and will keep it as long as health premiums are blind to sex. When most people live in families with children, who cares? When instead there are many single working adults taxed to pay health care for strangers, is that fair?

Sharing the load sounds kind of noble until you remember that the young generally have fewer assets and lower wages than those same people when they are approaching retirement.  Why pick on the young.  Just think of the last time you went out for a dinner in an upscale restaurant.  Almost every table has grey haired diners.

Because ObamaCare prohibits insurance companies from charging different premiums according to sex, and because women tend to use more medical services than men--a disparity that is greatest among younger policyholders--the "gender averaged" premium increase is greater for young men than for young women.
That means young men are the most disadvantaged by ObamaCare's price controls--and, as a corollary, that they are the group on which ObamaCare's solvency is most dependent.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Obama, mocked as a "Prankster", has the germ of a good idea

The press and the Russians have mocked Obama for coming up with sanctions that might injure a dozen rich Russians and Ukrainians.   It does however echo the personalized strategy Israel developed to manage terrorism by taking down the command structure one kill at a time.  I think it likely that if a few hundred corruptocrats feared for their fortune, they would steer Russia's policy into calmer waters.  On the other hand, personalized sanctions is also the petty strategy of Obama and the left in America who try to attack and isolate people like the Koch family, rather than win a fair policy fight.