Saturday, October 31, 2015


Thought of the Day

How strange it must be for people who comfort themselves with the slander that the GOP is a cult of organized racial hatred that the most popular politician among conservatives is a black man. Better to ignore the elephant in the room than account for such an inconvenient fact. The race card is just too valuable politically and psychologically for liberals who need to believe that their political opponents are evil.

Carson’s popularity isn’t solely derived from his race, but it is a factor. The vast majority of conservatives resent the fact that Democrats glibly and shamelessly accuse Republicans of bigotry — against blacks, Hispanics, and women — simply because they disagree with liberal policies (which most conservatives believe hurt minorities).

Jonah Goldberg


Thursday, October 29, 2015


Photos by Robots

I don't know about you, but I think the robot photographers on our space probes are truly gifted. Of course, the aesthetic excellence may be a result of superior human intervention after the photo is taken, like cropping. Behold.

(h/t This Isn't Happiness)


Wednesday, October 28, 2015


What I Learned at Stanford This Weekend

At my 40th reunion this past weekend (man, do I feel old), I went to some short lectures by Stanford professors. One was by Prof. Jacobson, who thinks we can go full alternative energy in the US by 2050. Here is his The Solutions Project website.

I thought he was insane or at least insanely optimistic. Here is my single example of his insanity, although I could write a lot about what he said that was wrong. His plan is for about 35% plus of our electricity to be generated by wind and about 55% by solar mostly from photovoltaic panels. He is aware that the sun only shines part of the time and even when it's shining the weather sometimes makes its light virtually unusable by the panels. So there has to be a way to store the electricity for use when it's dark. He wisely avoids battery storage. But these were his solutions for storage of the electricity from these panels: 1) pumped hydroelectric; and, 2) ordinary hydroelectric. The first problem that jumped out at me was that ordinary hydroelectric is an alternative to photovoltaic not a form of storage of electricity, so that was a disappointing dodge. So let's talk about pumped storage.

You build two dams, one at an altitude higher than the other. Behind these dams will be enough water to fill one of the two lakes created by the dams. You build a hydroelectric power plant in the dam at the upper lake and you build a big pumping station between the two lakes. When the sun shines, you use the electricity from the panels to power the pumping station to lift the water out of the lower lake and put it in the higher lake. When the sun goes down, you let the water in the higher lake flow down through the turbine generators into the lower lake.

So there will be one lake's worth of water moving between two lake beds. There won't be any fish or much other life in the water alternately flowing through pumps or the blades of a turbine generator. Alternately the lakes will be muddy remnants of lakes awaiting, or in the process of, refilling. They'll take a lot of room in the environment and they won't be cheap. Oh, and you'll have to have adjacent significant areas of suitable lake sites at significantly different altitudes. That's not going to be easy to find on the Great Plains.

But it's the scale that makes it a fantasy. We'll probably use well more than two terawatt-hours (two trillion watt-hours) of electricity by 2050 (although the plan is to reduce through conservation and efficiency that power demand down to 1.8 terawatt-hours). Some of the solar power the professor envisions will be from the fields of mirrors used to reflect sunlight on a single tower and those don't need storage of electricity as the solar energy is stored in molten salts as heat. So I'm not 100% sure what percentage of the 55% of our entire energy needs will be theoretically supplied by photovoltaic panels but I'll use 40% for our calculations here. 40% of 1.8 terawatt-hours is .72 terawatt-hours. That's a lot. All of the normal hydroelectric dams in the United States only produces now .33 terawatt-hours. There are no pumped water storage systems supplying any real power at this time. So he envisions as possible and desirable going from 0 to .72 terawatt-hours of power generation in 35 years. All to avoid a theoretical few tenths of degrees of warming, to avoid it being a little bit nicer out, especially at night.

As I said, insane.

But, boy, were the people in the audience applauding the heck out of his lecture.

UPDATE: There is a pumped storage facility in California. Thanks for the tip, kind reader. And you don't have to build pumps and turbine generators, you can just build one set that is reversible. It takes four units of power, however, to create three from the pumped storage water flowing back downhill. Here is what you need to know about this plant. It's not storing solar power for use at night but is storing unused nuclear power at night for peak use later in the day. And they don't drain the two lakes dry using the water for power. Very wise. How the heck are we going to be able to scale up this 1.1 megawatt source into .72 terawatts?


Thursday, October 22, 2015


Thought of the Day

No… what really killed McDonald’s market position was selling out to liberal pressure groups.
I think the beginning of the end can be traced back to 2002 when they buckled to pressure from health nuts and changed the oil they used to make their french fries, cutting the dreaded trans-fats. They tinkered with the formula again in 2007 but it was never the same. Are any of you old enough to remember the original McDonald’s fries? Those things were like crack in a cardboard cup. I could eat two large orders by myself because They… Were… Awesome. Were they good for you? Obviously not. But that’s not why we bought them. It’s not Ronald McDonald’s responsibility to keep you healthy, it’s yours. When they changed the fries they were just awful and I didn’t order them nearly as often.

Jazz Shaw, on why Micky Ds is floundering (Truth to Power)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Uncompressing the Vertical Axis

This is a chart with a vertical axis that covers the normal extremes of hot and cold here on Earth, that is, it goes from -10 to 110. It's in Fahrenheit degrees which is the form of temperature measurement used by the only nation to have had its citizens walking on the moon. The average temp ranges between 56.7 and 58.1. Not very scary, but relatively accurate. Yet you never see the temperature over 135 years charted with a reasonable vertical axis. It's almost always an anomaly chart from some supposed average and the increments are in tenths of degrees over a range of 4 to 8 degrees. With that compressed axis, it looks like we're heading for a roasting. We're not.

I continue to be a luke warmer. It is getting a little bit warmer (Thank God) after the Little Ice Age; and the rise of CO2, partially from fossil fuel burning by humans, has been a part of the cause of that rise. But it is a tiny rise in average temperature and it is not going to do anything but be nicer out more often, especially at night. And the added CO2 will green up the place as those levels begin to creep back up to the much higher levels that existed when most modern plant species evolved. It's like a win-win.

There is no reason in the world to freak out and destroy already precarious economies. No reason at all.

(h/t Steven Hayward at Power Line)


Saturday, October 10, 2015


The Undertext of Sicario

Went to two movies recently, Sicario and The Martian. Liked 'em both but only Sicario is worthy of some comments here.

About a fifth of the US population takes illegal drugs at least from time to time. There's Cocaine, Heroin and Methamphetamine and then the lesser ones like Ecstasy. There may be something else too of which I am unaware. I am non-tragically unhip.

So the criminal element south of our border controls an immensely profitable trade in these banned substances. They have so much money and power as a result, that the corruption has taken a permanent place in many Spanish speaking governments. And there is the criminal organizations we lump together as the Mexican mafia or cartel. There appears to be a war between subsets of the cartels but I don't know that for sure. Anyway, whatever the reality is, there is its depiction in our movies and TV.

In the very depressing The Counselor (which I did not like at all), the cartel is depicted as an all powerful, violent but shadowy group that will reach out and destroy you and it is implacable, unable to be reasoned with or appealed to and it will not quit (isn't this the description of the Terminator in the first movie?).

Sicario is just as depressing because its overriding theme is that to effectively combat it we have to become as ruthless, evil and corrupt as what we're fighting. The purpose of the fight seemed a little silly (reconstruct a united drug cartel) but the movie was quite good, compelling even. I particularly liked the attack by Shane from The Walking Dead on Emily Blunt and then its echo by Brolin after the tunnel raid.

I have a solution to the drug problem which I think would work but that's for another post.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015


Relying on Worthless Studies

E.J. Dionne, not the brightest bulb in the political pundit Marquee sign, is deep into the liberal group think: 'do something, do anything', about school shootings. Arm well trained teachers is not on his horizon. Here is his piece today. Let's take a closer look.

But it is a straight-out lie to assert that stronger gun laws make no difference. Here is the conclusion of a study released in August by National Journal: "The states that impose the most restrictions on gun users also have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, while states with fewer regulations typically have a much higher death rate from guns."

The National Journal study is pretty much worthless. Why? Because it includes suicides in the number of "gun-related deaths" when the problem gun control addresses is gun homicides. Liberals are not bothered by suicides. They pass laws to make suicide easier to get done, for God's sake. And there are differentials in gun suicides per state just as there are differentials in gun homicides per state. Gun control alone probably has very little to do with the differential rates for suicides. What matters to the issue of what law to pass to stop gun homicides is whether gun control causes low gun homicide rates. The NJ study rated states with a letter grade (A through F) for their gun control laws and then charted the gun deaths (suicide, accidental and homicide) and, mirable dictu, got low rates for the few As they awarded.

Let's just look at gun homicide numbers per 100,000 per state. There are 9 states with a gun homicide less than 1. They are:

New Hampshire   .4
South Dakota       .4
Hawaii                 .4
Iowa                     .6
North Dakota       .6
Vermont              .8
Montana              .9
Maine                  .9
Idaho                   .9

How did these low gun homicide rate states do on the grade for gun control law excellence. Well, 6 of the 9 got Fs. New Hampshire got a D-. Iowa got a C-. Hawaii got the only good grade, a B+. So no, an emphatic no, the most restrictions on guns did not cause low gun homicide rates.

Let's look at the high end. These 6 states had the highest rates of gun homicides, all above 4 per 100,000:

Lousiana                 7.7
South Carolina       4.7
Missouri                 4.5
Maryland                4.5
Michigan                4.4
Georgia                  4.1

And let me add that the District of Columbia, which has the most obnoxious gun control laws in America, and probably would have gotten an A+ in the study, has the highest rate by a mile at 12.5. That's refutation of the NJ study's conclusion right there.

Of these strata of shame states 4 have Fs. Maryland has an A-. Michigan has a C.

How about the next tier, the states with homicide rates above 3 but below 4. They are:

Arkansas             3.7
Delaware             3.6
Indiana                3.6
Tennessee            3.4
New Jersey          3.3
North Carolina    3.2
California            3.2
Nevada               3.1

Of these nothing to write home about strata of states, 4 have Fs. California and New Jersey both have an A-. Delaware has a B-. Indiana has a D-.

There is no correlation whatsoever between the most gun control and the least gun homicide rate so no, E.J., it is not a lie of any type to say stronger gun laws make no difference regarding gun homicides. They don't. DC has the strongest gun laws and the highest rate, by far, of gun homicides. Three of the four A- states have very high rates of gun homicides.

There's more wrong about this study than including suicide numbers. There's the not including some states for low number of gun homicides. Really. Here's Hans Bader on the subject.

[I]n its discussions of “Concealed Carry” and “Background Checks,” the National Journal deletes these states from its charts comparing pro-gun and anti-gun states by “Gun-related homicides per 100,000 people, by state (2013).” It deletes Vermont, South Dakota, Maine, and 8 other states (6 of which have few gun regulations) from each chart, claiming that these states had “too few homicides to calculate a reliable rate.” 9 of the 11 states excluded broadly allow concealed carry and do not impose additional background-check requirements beyond those contained in federal law. But the National Journal deliberately excluded those states, writing, “In 2013, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming had too few homicides to calculate a reliable rate.”

It is truly bizarre to exclude the states with the fewest gun deaths from an article about what states have “the fewest gun deaths.” This is an egregious act of cherry-picking.

Here is another not exactly true statement from E.J.:

After a psychologically disturbed man killed 35 people in Tasmania, Howard championed state bans on the ownership, possession and sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons by Australia's states along with a federal ban on their importation. He also sponsored a gun buy-back scheme that got 700,000 guns -- the statistical equivalent of 40 million in the U.S. -- off the streets and destroyed. "Few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control," Howard wrote in The New York Times shortly after the Newtown killings.

About the 'being safer' through gun control, things are not as rosey as former PM John Howard asserts. Gun suicide numbers dropped but total number of suicides briefly dipped and then rose past the numbers before the gun control as people chose different ways to off themselves (hanging became more popular). Gun homicides jumped up but then declined, as they had been steadily doing before the gun ban; but what about rapes, assaults and robberies? Up, down, the same? And how about the average Bruce and Sheila down under? Do they feel safer now?

Following the gun control in 1996, which the left so lauds, robbery rates in Australia nearly doubled for the next five years but then declined slowly. Rape stayed the same for a few years but then bumped up about 15% for 12 years but now is about the same again. That's a horrible price to pay for negligible changes in the gun homicide rate. The current rape rate in Australia is now 88 per 100,000. Here in America the rate is 26.6. By all means let's follow Australia's path of disarming women. (sarcasm).


Monday, October 05, 2015


The Kristof Template Yet Again

Although he calls his piece A New Way to Tackle Gun Deaths, there is nothing new about it. It is the same stupid 'guns are just like cars' piece he always writes and on which I comment from time to time.

Unlike most gun haters, Kristof at least tells us what he would do to stop gun violence. His ideas are useless but at least he puts them out there. He has the same tired ideas each time.

A poll this year found that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.

We should also be investing in “smart gun” technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.

Before I start on the solutions he proposes for mass shootings let me just slip in this quote which immediately follows his suggested solutions.

It’s not clear that these steps would have prevented the Oregon shooting.

No, Mr. Kristof, it is clear that none of these would have prevented the Oregon shooting, nor any of the infamous gun free zone massacres. But let's look at each one individually.

The Oregon shooter passed a background check. Most of the mass murderers did too. Real evil criminals don't get their guns from gun stores or gun shows. They get them from other criminals or from non criminal family members. It's stupid to keep flogging this non-solution of expanded background checks.

I'm not sure there is any room to regulate Federal Firearm Licensed dealers more. I'd tell you what was stupid about new regulation proposed by Kristof but he goes all general on this one. See above for source of guns for criminals.

Safe storage? That might have an effect on fatal gun accidents, which is the most miniscule of the gun death categories, but not on planned mass murder.

This last of the paragraph is kind of a whopper. Does Kristof not know about the Lautenberg Amendment? Domestic violence perpetrators lose their second amendment rights forever now under current law. A ten year limitation would be loosening the current restriction.

In the second paragraph, he again champions guns that will only shoot for their owners. How is that going to stop a gun owner from shooting other people? Stupid. It might prevent a cop being shot by his own weapon after losing a fight with a criminal but most cops want nothing to do with technology designed primarily to make weapons not work and who can blame them? They want their weapons to be reliable all the time.

Micro stamping would help, perhaps, with prosecuting a crime after the fact but I thought this was about preventing mass murder? Did I misunderstand the purpose of the article, titled a new way to tackle gun deaths? Also microstamping could be defeated with just a few swipes of a flat file to the end of a firing pin. And if the shooter used a revolver, there generally won't be any casings to inspect.

I'm OK with mandatory liability insurance for gun ownership, as long as each of the insurance commissioners in each state is vigilant about making the premium for such insurance reasonable. I am aware, however, because I am an attorney, that liability insurance is generally not available for intentional bad acts, like using a gun to murder someone. I can't tell if Mr. Kristof is aware of that fact.

So since the mandatory liability insurance would only cover negligently caused damages, the reasonable premium for say a $100,000 coverage would be about a dollar, or so. I can afford that.

So, not a good solution in the lot.

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Couldn't Be More Wrong

There was a movie critic for Time magazine in the late 70s who was so awful, so bereft of judgment, that his reviews became a negative recommendation. If he liked a movie, it invariably sucked; if he hated a movie, it was even money it was good. Now some editorialists at the NYT are approaching Jay Cocks* levels of wrongness. Like today's great work from restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who is still struggling with bulimia.

Let's start with the basics. Almost all of the horrific mass murders by guns here in America and elsewhere have taken place in Gun Free Zones. None of the horrific mass murders by guns have taken place at gun shows. The left can't seem to get their collective head around that simple fact. Most of the anti-gun ilk seem to think that guns, in and of themselves, cause bad behavior and more guns cause more bad behavior and less guns cause less bad behavior. This of course doesn't explain why there have been no mass murders at gun shows, where there are thousands of guns lying around, but plenty of mass murders at gun free schools, where there are no guns but the ones the murderers bring with them, but perhaps I'm asking for too sophisticated an evaluation when I question why gun control law advocates never take this into account.

Bruni thinks it's madness to allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns on a college campus. That thought is so foreign to history, common sense and proper analysis as to boggle my ability to comprehend it. But let's try to see if it makes any sense whatsoever.

But in Texas, there’s so little concern for college students’ physical safety that concealed firearms will be permitted in classrooms at public universities like the state flagship here.

Why is allowing the well vetted and somewhat trained ordinary citizen to have his gun wherever he or she desires putting the student's physical safety at risk? Do concealed carry permit holders go on to commit horrendous gun crimes often? At all? In 2013 in Texas, concealed handgun licencees' conviction rate for any crime was .3016% or 3 per 1,000. Not a huge crime rate to start with and not all the crimes they were convicted of involved a gun. There was a disturbing number of sex crimes on children. There was a single conviction under the murder rubric for "Capitol Murder by Terror Threat/Other Felon" but I have no idea what that crime is about. Still, very little gun crime from the people who can obtain a concealed carry permit. Bruni doesn't seem aware of this easily obtainable statistic. He's big on the hypothetical threat though.

“If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of a classroom and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?”
Yeah, it is a very common thing for a person carrying concealed to shoot the person besting him in a "heated debate." (sarcasm).

Maybe just a few more guns find their way onto campus. Isn’t that a few guns too many, especially in an environment where excessive drinking occurs, among people at an age when anxiety and depression can be acute?
The argument that more guns will cause more crime is made by liberals every time the law expands where citizens can legally go armed (concealed) and it's never true. There is no bloodbath that follows when the law allows more people to obtain concealed carry permits and indeed, the rate of violent crime goes down.

Do we really want to do anything at all to unsettle young men and women in the phase of life when they’re trying to polish the confidence and optimism that will help them tackle the world? 

If disarming young men and women in that developmental phase makes it even slightly more likely that they can be murdered by the next loser/nutcase looking for quick infamy, that might be a bit unsettling. Certainly their being murdered might be a bit unsettling too.

Earlier in the article, Bruni remarked on the irony of UT Austin getting concealed carry when it was the site of a mass murder in 1966 (Charles Whitman). He seems to know some of the story:

It happened right here, at the University of Texas at Austin, where an engineering student climbed to the top of the iconic tower in the center of campus and, for an agonizing hour and a half, sprayed the surrounding area with bullets, killing 14 people and injuring more than 30.
What he apparently doesn't know is that ordinary citizens began to fire at Whitman with their hunting rifles which caused him to keep his head down and not shoot anyone else and kept him otherwise occupied until his position could be stormed by police and he shot dead. For Bruni and his ilk guns are bad and can never help. He's as wrong about that as he is to continue, at this late date, to support the supreme madness of gun free zones.

So, no, Bruni makes no sense whatsoever. He couldn't be more wrong.

*Cocks apparently left film criticism to become a screen writer and for some of his work he was nominated for Oscars. But I think that his work is horrible. The worst thing about Strange Days was the script, ditto The Gangs of New York. Need I say more?


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