Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Christian" Cry-babies

This article leads with the idea that Stutzman could lose her home and life savings. It doesn't mention that the Washington AG made a quite reasonable settlement offer. Stutzman is risking all that loss because she refuses to acknowledge that she broke the law. It's all your fault that I'm hitting myself in the head with this hammer and I'll keep doing it until you let me do what I want. These people are the saddest examples of Christianity on the planet. They can't see that the law isn't anti-Christian, it's anti-discrimination. Their problem is they interpret their faith in such a way that not only is discrimination allowed but actually commanded.

Inflation Is Dead

Now that inflation is below 1 percent in the U.S., U.K., Europe, China, and Japan don't you think it might be time to enact some progressive policies that increase economic activity by putting more money into the hands of the less fortunate.

Lies in the Media

This piece in the Washington Times about the ACA does not get a single fact correct. The truth is pretty much the reverse of everything that is said here.

It's a Zap Plug

They have finally built an engine that uses lasers as the ignition source. They are not only more precise but it is possible to have multiple ones per cylinder such that fuel is exploded more completely with each stroke.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Problem with Free-market Health Care

A genuine free market depends on the consumer having the choice to buy or not to buy should the price be unaffordable. This isn't true with health care. But the libertarian, free-market purist can't see thate. “People could die and that’s OK”, is how they look at it.

Cold-hearted, bastards!

Nuclear Power as Renewable

I've often referred to nuclear power as a renewable. Here's why. You can recycle 80% of the uranium in spent fuel, much less mining is needed. Furthermore, a breeder program can produce more fuel than it consumes. With appropriate safeguards and new reactor designs it is possible to fuel a plant once and have it operate for the rest of its lifetime with no additional refueling.

Richland’s Areva and Bill Gates

Terrapower is collaborating Areva in Richland to test fuel designs for its new type of reactor. Other SMR outfits have also been in contact with the company. Eastern Washington may be getting into the SMR game with or without the encouragement of our state government.

Advances in Carbon Sequestration

If we simply must burn natural gas, at least we are getting better methods of capturing the CO2 it produces. This one uses a cheap compound found in every kitchen.

Minimum Wage Increases and McDonald's

Don't let the "job-creators" get away with it. This analysis explains that there are many components to product costs and often labor isn't the major one. Everyone understands when costs go up for such things as transportation and high rent and we adapt to that. The small bump caused by a minimum wage increase can easily be accepted when we consider the benefit it gives to a great many hard-working people. Furthermore, more money to the less-affluent class generates an instant economic boost because that money goes back into the economy immediately.

10 States With the Worst Taxes for Average Americans

In the 10 States With the Worst Taxes for Average Americans, guess which state is the worst of the worst?
Washington’s score of -12.6% was the worst in the nation. The poorest 20% of families paid nearly 17% of their income in state and local taxes, the highest such rate nationwide. With the wealthiest 1% of state households paying just 2.4% — nearly the lowest such rate — Washington’s tax system helped widen the income gap more than any other state. Washington’s poorest residents paid nearly seven times what the wealthiest 1% paid as a share of income, one of the highest such ratios nationwide. While Washington’s tax code is considered by many to be among the nation’s most unfair, residents are better-off financially than in many other states. A typical household earned $58,405 in 2013, one of the higher household median incomes. And while 15.8% of Americans lived in poverty that year, 14.1% did in Washington.
Perhaps our legislature should do something about this. An income tax to replace sales tax perhaps?

No Big Bang?

By looking at quantum theory, some physicists have arrived at a  quantum equation that predicts universe has no beginning.

In cosmological terms, the scientists explain that the quantum corrections can be thought of as a cosmological constant term (without the need for dark energy) and a radiation term. These terms keep the universe at a finite size, and therefore give it an infinite age. The terms also make predictions that agree closely with current observations of the cosmological constant and density of the universe.

Closing in on the Stradivarian Secret

Researchers use X-ray and CAT scans to reveal the secrets of golden age violins. It seems the key is the shape of the sound hole and the stiffness of the wood in the backplate.

Nuclear Energy Aids Biodiversity

When combined with other renewables, nuclear energy protects biodiversity by reducing the carbon footprint of energy production.

"When compared objectively with renewables, nuclear power performs as well or better in terms of safety, cost, scaleability, land transformation and emissions," says Professor Barry Brook, Chair of Climate Change at the Environment Institute for this study, and now Professor of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania

Monday, February 02, 2015

Who Has Late Abortions -- And Why? | David A. Grimes

In the conservative hyperventalation about late-term abortions it's nice to  have some facts about the object of the discussion.

Late-term abortions are very rare. Only 1% of abortions happen after 20 weeks, Sixty-three percent happen before 8 weeks when the embryo can't even be seen with the naked eye.

Frequently, restricted access to health care is a major contributing factor as well as poverty and a young age of the mother.

Severe fetal abnormalities can not be diagnosed until later in the pregnancy. Most women elect to abort children whose lives after birth would be subject to extreme suffering.

In fact, the increased legal restrictions on abortion have resulted in an increase in more late-term abortions.

Labyrinths as crucibles of life

The science on the origins of life continues to advance. Eventually, many religious traditions will have to evolve as well.

Secede! Yeah, sure.

It would be nice if our district were represented by genuine publec servants. Instead, we have these clowns. With the state in fiscal crisis, they want to waste time and money on stuff like this.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flowers and Cakes

In an attempt to show that the pro-gay folks are just discriminatory as the anti-gay "Christians" a guy in Denver has filed a lawsuit because a baker wouldn't decorate a cake with "God Hates Gays" written on the top.  This might make sense if Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers fame had refused to provide flowers to a wedding spelled out "Christians Suck". But she didn't. Actually it makes the point against Stutzman by showing how out-of-line her objection to do business with a gay couple actually is by comparison.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Voter ID Laws Make Fraud Worse

Current voter ID laws laws only suppress one form of fraud but do nothing about other forms of fraud. In a close election, such a fraud suppression bias could produce a fraudulent election result. But then, I suspect that is what the supporters want. They want to be able to win elections they might otherwise lose by suppressing valid voters that tend to vote against them.

We have better elections when all types fraud is suppressed to the same degree.

Radiation Doses

It seems that our ideas about what is safe and not safe about radiation needs to be rethought.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ten Secret Truths About Government Incompetence

Donald F. Kettl in the Washington Monthly talks about what we don't know about government.

  1. Government works better than most people think most of the time.
  2. Good management can't win elections but bad management can ruin presidencies.
  3. We don't distinguish between failures that have consequential impacts and those that don't.
  4. We say we want government run like the private sector but we expect government to meet standards to which the private sector couldn't come close.
  5. Much of the government work isn't done by the government.
  6. The problem isn't too many bureaucrats but too few.
  7. Half the time when it looks like the President's fault, the problems actually originate in Congress.
  8. Critics of government will create self-fulfilling prophecies by under-funding and sabotaging programs they don't like.
  9. Government can be improved very quickly but can be wrecked even faster.
  10. Presidents can make big gains if they pay attention.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

We Need a Stronger IRS

De-funding the IRS and complicating the tax code benefits tax cheaters and raises rates on the rest of us.
If Congress really wanted to lower tax rates, it would broaden the tax base by simplifying the tax code, and it would adequately staff the agency tasked with collecting taxes. In both cases, it has done the opposite. All of this means that our political leaders have not only improved the odds for getting away with (illegal) tax evasion; they have also created more opportunities for (perfectly legal, methodically planned) tax avoidance. Put these factors together, and higher statutory tax rates look inevitable.

Sensors for Extraterrestrial Life

Could a super-sensitive motion sensor be used to find extraterrestrial life?

"Wait a minute, Captain! I'm getting life-form readings from the surface of the planet!"

Sex and Poverty

Conservative policies lead to the conclusion that sex is only for rich people.:

the solution for low-income people is to never, ever have sex. So seems the logic behind many of these policies: If only we make it harder for people to have access to family planning services, and financially painful to raise children who predictably result from sex in the absence of those services, people who cannot afford to raise children will choose celibacy.

This, of course, is magical thinking. The belief that we can get entire classes of Americans to practice abstinence until they’re financially ready for marriage and children is a right-wing delusion on par with the left-wing delusions that go into socialism: Both rely on a fundamental miscalculation about human nature. If the socialists wished to legislate away self-interest, the moralists wish to legislate away libido.

Why We Should Tax The Rich At 90 Percent

A working paper by Kindermann and Krueger demonstrates how much better off everyone would be if we raised the highest income tax marginal rate to 90%. It would greatly reduce the tax burden on most of the people while placing it onto people for whom it would not be a burden at all.

Clearly, this makes too much sense to actually be implemented.

Films About Money

We the Economy has a nice set of short films about how modern economies actually work. Things like this should be part of our basic educational curriculum.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Roman Monuments Have Lasted So Long

Roman concrete is better than modern version and more friendly to the environment. They used volcanic ash and lime where we use Portland cement. The cement requires high temperatures to produce and has a large carbon foot print. The Roman concrete has a structure that quenches microfractures so it is actually more resilient than modern forms.

Wave-particle duality and quantum uncertainty are same thing

In the small world of theoretical physics, I think this is kind of big. The wave-particle duality in which an elementary particle behaves both like a wave and a particle is nothing more than an expression of the uncertainty principle. So the two spooky things about quantum behavior is actually one spooky thing.

Taking Jesus Seriously

If these 4 Teachings of Jesus aren't part of one's religious makeup, one should be cautious about calling using the term Christian.

1. Jesus is the Word, not the Bible.
2. Entrance to the Kingdom is by doing the will of God.
3. Condemnation is not Jesus's style
4. You must sacrifice yourself for the ones with whom you disagree the most.

Friday, December 12, 2014

US Navy successfully deploys laser weapon

This is just way cool! Watch the video of how the LAWS system on the USS Ponce can take out small threats like drones and small craft. What they don't say is how automated they can make it in terms of target acquisition. They show it being operated by guys with joysticks, but methinks they actually have a much better way of doing it than we are being told.

Russia's Nuclear Navy Legacy

Russia's legacy is a problem. It's been described as a floating Chernobyl. Russia is a story of what can happen with nuclear issues when safety is not the first and foremost concern.

It's interesting to compare this record to the USN record noted previously. This tells me that those who have concerns about the dangers of nuclear energy, have every right to be concerned. It also tells me that, with a proper safety culture, those concerns can be put to rest.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

It Takes Money to Save Money

Linda Tirado documents the plight of the poor. Not having money generates a vicious cycle. You can't get ahead because you don't have the resources to recover from any little thing that gets in your way. Every setback that would be minor for most folks, is a another major struggle for the poor.

Surely, our country can do better than this.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

How red wine prevents cancer

It seems that the resveratrol in red wine helps prevent cancer by killing damaged cells. If the damaged cells manage to live too long, they can become the seeds of the disease.

Renewables Won't Work

A couple of Stamford-educated Google engineers worked on the Google RErenewable energy simply won't work
. For the high energy demands of modern developed society, it just isn't enough. The estimates that it can work are typically back-of-the-envelope calculations that are much more simplified than the true big picture.
However, I doubt that nuclear energy was included in the RE column like it should be.

The Smart Mouse

They replaced the glial cells in a mouse with human cells. The human cells multiplied and overran the mouse glial cells. And it turned out that the mouse was smarter than the average, mouse. There's more to advanced brain function than just the neurons. Improved connection make for better brain function, even across species.

Sane Drug Policy

The Netherlands has a drug policy that encourages users to get help rather than fear arrest. There drugs are seen as a public health issue. And, guess what, the percentage of their population that have used marijuana and cocaine is far smaller than here in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Basic income

Dylan Matthews takes another run at the universal basic income approach. It's a worthy effort but I don't think just giving people money is a real answer to the problem. All men (and women) may be created equal but by the time they get to life's economic starting line such is clearly not the case. Warren Buffet talks about the roots of his success being in that he won the birth lottery. He had good parents, good health, and was able to get a good education. If we really want to honor the "created equal" ideal, we need to find ways to level out the birth lottery playing field. The first goal of our welfare programs should be to improve the lot of children who have to run a race just to get to the starting line. This means food assistance, housing assistance, health care assistance, educational assistance, and guidance and counseling, and other sorts of things that help surmount obstacles. Another goal should be whatever aid is appropriate to individuals who are the least worthy to receive it. Even if a person has no ambition or is completely devoid of a work ethic, would it be moral to expect them to starve on the street?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Being Wrong

Paul Krugman notes that politics determines who has power, not who as the truth. One would hope that those in power would be operating on concepts based in reality. But history is replete with examples in which such was not the case. It will be interesting to see what history says about the 114th Congress.

Republicans predicted that deficit spending would lead to rising interest rates. It hasn't.
Boehner urged a slashing of spending. Government that have done that have depressed their economies.
At the state level, Republican governors have slashed taxes on the wealthy to stimulate growth. It hasn't worked.
They predicted that too few would enroll in the ACA for it to work, more people would lose insurance than gain it, and costs would soar. Instead enrollment was strong, many more people have insurance, and costs have moderated.
They are so very wrong about climate change and generations could suffer for that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Europe's Depression Worry

Like American workers, German workers have not had much of an increase in wages recently. Therefore, they aren't spending much money and their economy is stagnant. Government bonds have been selling at a negative yield. That means the German government actually makes money when it borrows. But still  the German government refuses to invest in badly needed infrastructure. Such an investment would stimulate an economy that badly needs it.

Fortunately, things are not quite that bad in the States. But the Republicans could make it so if they get the austerity they want.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Laser Weapons

A rap against laser/directed energy weapons has always been that they needed clear weather to be effective.  The latest laser from Boeing seems to have solved that problem. The solution has been demonstrated at low power. The next step is to take it to full power and see how it works against potential targets.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Motorcycle lane splitting

One of those counter-intuitive findings, motorcycle lane splitting is better for riders, better for drivers, and safer than sitting in traffic. We aren't talking about screaming speed here. A motorcyclist is in more danger of being creamed from behind while standing in a line a cars than he is of being hurt while tooling along at a reasonable speed between two lines of cars. Getting motorcycles out of the car lanes reduces congestion for everybody.

America's Navy The Unsung Heroes Of Nuclear Energy - Forbes

The US Navy has logged over 5,400 reactor years of accident-free nuclear power. This a testament to the skill of the crews that man our ships and the reactor designs we use in them.

Financial 'Experts' No Better At Finance Than Normal Humans

Mutual fund managers, those wonderful experts that know so much more than the rest of us about valuing and trading securities, really don't do much better than the rest of us. This contributes to the case for solid consumer protections in financial instruments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We Need A Surgeon General

Little did the NRA and its senators know that rejecting the Surgeon-General appointee would leave us leaderless in the fight against ebola. Sometimes there is a bigger picture than one's own hand-gun paranoia.

The Scablands

Ars Technica takes a look at what is a local landscape for me. It is truly unique on this planet.

Nuclear Power As Renewable Energy

This article makes a case for adding nuclear to the renewable energy list. The supply of fuel is limitless when one considers that scarcity will raise prices to the point that procurement technologies that are too expensive today become feasible at higher prices. That includes recycling and fast reactors for breeding fuel. The thorium cycle has yet to be exploited as well. Fully recycled fuel has no long-lived radioactive wastes. And nuclear power doesn't add to the CO2 problem.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Austerity Has Been a Big Disaster

Even more than we thought. And Krugman has big serious worries whether Europe can recover from its experiment with austerity.
It's all about the fiscal multiplier. Stimulus, you see, is measured by how much one dollar of government spending increases GDP. But in a normal economy, it doesn't. That's because the Federal Reserve has its inflation target that it's determined to hit (or at least not overshoot). Government spending, though, can flood the economy with money, raising prices in the process. So the Fed, in turn, would either raise rates to offset this spending it doesn't want, or wouldn't cut rates like it otherwise would have.

Either way, the Fed's actions would keep the economy from being any bigger with more government spending than it would be without it.

But this calculus changes when there's a recession, especially if interest rates are at zero. In that case, the Fed wouldn't want to neutralize stimulus spending. So GDP would grow at least as much as spending does - what economists call a multiplier of one - and maybe more since there could be spillover effects.

Think about it like this: spending money on roads and bridges might boost the economy more than just the money the government directly spends. That's because the newly-paid construction workers will go out and spend their money too - and so on, and so forth. Indeed, even the oh-so-orthodox International Monetary Fund estimates that the fiscal multiplier might be as high as 1.7 right now.

Production-Ready Aeromobil Flying Car To Debut

This video shows the aeromobil on the road and taking off into the air. Has the flying car finally arrived?

Fusion On the Cheap

The dynomak from University of Washington students could be a challenger to the big money designs. It's spherical in design and the magnetic containment field is produced by the current in the plasma.

An Advance in Carbon Capture

Liquid capture is energy-efficient but not that efficient at capturing CO2. Solids can capture CO2 efficiently but it takes lots of energy to move the CO2 out of the capture material. A slurry combination may be both cost-effective and energy-efficient.

More on Cold Fusion

This merits watching. Even if it isn't what it looks like, it could open the door on some very interesting physics. If it is what it looks like, it could revolutionize the world of power production and thereby just about everything else in the economy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

History Is Important

I've been really enjoying Ken Burns' series on Roosevelt.  Being a baby boomer, I don't have as much appreciation as I should of how much he changed this country and our philosophy of government for the better. If you can catch it, watch it.

Hospitals Benefit Under Obamacare

Despite all the hand-wringing, hospitals are seeing a boost to their bottom lines because more people are insured now. Many of the costs that just had to be written off now get remunerated. Duh.

Main Source of Fracking Gas Leaks Discovered

It isn't the materials that are injected into deep geologic strutures. It's leakage from faulty well casings. This makes perfect sense.  For all the touted technology excellence you would think the industry would pay more attention to the concrete.

Obscure Power of Small Donations

This piece by Usha Rodrigues in Slate shows how, with our convoluted tax code, even small donation can be corrupting for Congress.  In the JOBS act, there was a special provision inserted that only benefited a single corporate interest. And, strangely enough, the principals of the corporation made modest donations to the congress critters that engineered the changes.  These principals had never donated to congressional campaigns before. Quid meet Quo.  The overall impact was so small that it went by completely under the corruption-detection radar. But it was corruption nonetheless.