Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Barbecue Day

Since I started writing about my barbecue adventures with sous vide cooking, Barbecue 401, in December,  I've been doing most of my experiments with the smoker rather than finishing in a hot pan.  In addition to brisket, I've made beef short ribs a couple of times and today was the second chuck roast I've done.

For my first chuck roast I followed a recipe that called for 133 for 24 hours, this time I cooked it at 155 for 48 hours.  How temperature and time work in sous vide cooking is that temperature sets the appearance "doneness", while time affects the tenderness.  In other words, the rules of thumb we've grown up with about rare vs. well done kind of go out the window.  Cooked at 133 for 24 hours, it was supposed to have the texture of a medium rare steak, but the long cooking should make it more tender.  It looked like a medium rare pink (bordering on just medium), but it was more tender than any medium sirloin I've had.  You can see the texture looks very steak-like.

Today's roast, cooked at 155 for 48 hours, is another thing entirely.  By temperature, 155 is well done which we think of as tough, but by time, the long hours at the temperature act to break down the tissues that make a well done cut of beef tough.  It figures to come out much more like a pulled beef consistency and it did.  For scale the thickness of the roast is around an inch and a half.  That's a salad fork (in both pictures).  What you can't see is that it's juicy, (the surface literally dried out in the 30 seconds it took for me to go get my camera), as well as tender and delicious.

I should take videos of this to show just how easy it is to separate the groups of muscle fibers (the technical term is fascicles). The lightest twist of the fork pulls them apart, like good pulled pork only made of beef.

The other meal I've done a couple of times with different settings is beef short ribs.  Again, the first time was using an online recipe and that called for 172 F for 14 hours.  These were successful and good, but one of the gurus on a forum suggested 133 for 72 hours, based on an article at Chef Steps. To clarify a little, my cooker is made by Anova and the website they publish recipes on is Serious Eats (plus their own), while the other major brand, Joule, publishes on Chef Steps.  When I asked him to describe what cooking at 133 for 72 hours got me; what they're like, he said, "Like nothing else. Medium rare, steaks, but braise tender. There’s no way but Sous Vide to get them there."  I was off to do the test.

The scale here isn't easy to figure out.  That's a full sized dinner plate and the chunk that's on the left is bigger than my hand.  Rough guess about 2" thick by 6" long.  This guy was right.  The texture is like nothing else. 

I've been doing the smoking at higher chamber temperatures after reading that should help the bark formation.  It seems to have done that. 

I know there are people who say, "it's not real barbecue", but I'm not doing competitions and I don't care.  It has pushed me to considering making some improvements to my smoking and barbecuing setup.  I've needed a grill since my last one rusted out, and I'd like to hit higher temperatures in the smoker.  Doing some reading and research, thinking about the options available: something like a pellet grill or Weber Kettle?   Get an Adrenaline kit for a Weber?  Or just an Amazen for my electric smoker, to get more smoke? 

Like all good hobbies, you can learn this quickly and spend the rest of your life studying how to get better at it.  I do have to eat all the rejects, but so far that hasn't been a bad thing.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"Receiver Hunting" And Similar Stories

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across a post on Western Rifle Shooters Association called Receiver Hunting.  Sounded right up my alley so I took the link to Outland Tek Musings

In case you didn't read this or don't know what it's talking about it concerns locating receivers by searching for their spurious radio emissions, in particular, the local oscillator.  I'll define that in a minute.  Saying you'll tune for an LO assumes a standard architecture for the radios you're interested in finding.  That's not as good an assumption as it was as recently as 10 years ago, but we're talking going from being almost absolute certainty to 95% of receivers out there.   It's still a good assumption just not a dead giveaway. 

In the earliest days of radio, about a hundred years ago, it was common to try to tune all the circuits in a radio to the radio frequency you wanted to tune in, and amplify the signal from the several millionths of a volt (microvolts) at the antenna to closer to 1 volt to drive headphones or a speaker.  This architecture was called Tuned Radio Frequency or TRF because that's what it was doing!  Every stage that could be tuned was tuned to the same frequency, and changing stations was laborious.  In my career, I saw exactly one modern use for a TRF design, but I've heard they're in some remote controls. 

The architecture allowed listening to radio stations (this was before broadcasting) but was hard to make work over wide frequency ranges.  First, there were a couple of adjustments to tune any frequency, not just one.  Second, almost every amplifier (vacuum tube) available had less amplification as the user tried to tune higher in frequency.  Edwin Armstrong, the closest to a real "father of modern radios" that I can think of, developed what he called the superheterodyne approach to receiver design. 

The approach embodied a couple of very important ideas.  First, it moved some of the amplification (engineers call that gain) to a fixed frequency, and split the gain up into two or more frequencies.  This makes it less likely for weak signals from elsewhere in the radio to leak into an earlier stage and cause problems (you've probably been around a PA or other amplifier that squeals with feedback?  Same principle, different frequencies).  Second, it introduced the concept of having one section, often one component, that tuned to change frequency.  To do so, Armstrong introduced an oscillator into the radio and a component that multiplied the two signals by each other.  Because it was inside the radio, he called it a local oscillator, or LO, as in local to the radio.  Due to the weirdness of trigonometry, when two sine waves are multiplied, you create the sum and difference of the two.  Either the sum or difference is filtered out to become the Intermediate Frequency (IF), the other is effectively discarded. 

Over the years, the technologies for the parts have changed, but the architecture has stayed almost exactly the same.  While I don't have one of those ubiquitous Baofeng Chinesium radios, a standard architecture would work like this, for the amateur 2 meter band.
  • RF amplifier - tunes 144 to 148 MHz with filtering that drops the undesired signals as you get farther from the desired band (that is, they offer more protection as the frequency goes farther above or below where the radio is tuned)
  • IF Filter would be at 21.4 MHz, where very good crystal filters are now readily available
  • Local Oscillator would tune RF+IF or 144.000 + 21.400 MHz or 165.400 MHz to 169.400 MHz 
Getting back to the original story, what Outland Tek Musings was saying was that even if you're not transmitting intentionally, your receiver's local oscillator is running.  By tuning for your LO, an adversary could know (1) someone is there and then, by making a reasonable assumption like this architecture (or by more intelligence gathering) an adversary could find your local oscillator and know what frequency you're listening to.  Which means what frequency they should listen to in order to intercept your communications.

How strong is it going to be?  Not very.  It's going to vary with the quality of the radio because the things that make the LO weaker are (1) the mixer, (2) the amount that leaks (backwards) through the RF amplifier and (3) how well the filter knocks down the LO.  Given an LO putting out 5 to 7 milliwatts,  the LO is likely to be under 250 microwatts.  In a good radio, it can be rather low.  I wouldn't doubt it could be heard from more than a few houses away, perhaps a few hundred feet.

To be honest, my reaction to the post on Outland Tek Musings was mild surprise that it wasn't widely known, and that's really "my bad".  I've been hanging around with too many other Radio Graybeards.  Experienced radio monitoring hobbyists know this.  The idea has even been commercialized as a way of determining what channels TV viewers were tuned to because all TVs used the same IFs and LOs.  That's right, a competitor to the Nielsen ratings did this (1970s IIRC).

Today there are architectures that don't have local oscillators and are immune to this sort of monitoring.  These are called direct sampling radios, and are Software Defined Radios (radios in which some or most of the functions usually done in tuned circuits are done in software).  For VHF and UHF, this is still rather pricey in the ham radio world, but they are available in high dollar commercial radios.  For HF, there are low cost, hobbyist radios

Are you wondering "what's up with this?  What are you really getting at?"  This topic is something that I consider in my home field.  I've designed radios like this for lots of years.  It makes me wonder what folks would like to know about in the wide world of radio.  Perhaps I can post something regularly.  Let me know in comments, or email to SiGraybeard at Gmail. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Kiwis Implement Mosque Shooter's Agenda

Early yesterday, our time, the New Zealand government implemented a ban on semiautomatic weapons and "high capacity magazines", thereby implementing an important part of the (shall remain nameless here) shooter's agenda.
Christchurch, New Zealand -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an immediate ban Thursday on sales of "military-style" semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines in the wake of a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 worshippers. Ardern said the sales ban was effective immediately to prevent stockpiling and would be followed by a complete ban on the weapons after new laws were rushed through.
The ban includes any semi-automatic guns or shotguns that are capable of being used with a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds. It also extends to accessories used to convert guns into what the government called "military-style" weapons.

It does not include semi-automatic .22 caliber or smaller guns that hold up to 10 rounds or semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns with non-detachable magazines that hold up to five rounds. The guns not banned are commonly used by farmers and hunters.
Gee, they're not taking the 10/22s - as long as you don't use those evil 15 or 25 round magazines.  In his manifesto, the Mosque shooter said he wanted to get gun bans instituted to divide the country.  The tricky detail is that he thought the key was to break the US down into civil war, and although their ban only affects New Zealand, they clearly got his message and enacted his goals.  Miguel at Gun Free Zone talked about this the other day (March 19).
Remember what the New Zealand shooter said in his manifesto (I apologize for not finding the whole text, the media is doing a good job censoring the internet).
He says he also wanted “to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms in order to further the social, cultural, political and racial divide within the United states.

“This conflict over the 2nd amendment and the attempted removal of firearms rights will ultimately result in a civil war that will eventually balkanize the US along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.”
Consider this: New Zealand has a population of under 5 Million people - close to 4,800,000. Florida alone has a population over four times that 21,640,000.  Which do you think is easier to influence?  No, it's not a trick question. 

While New Zealand has stricter gun laws than the US, making it easier to mount such an attack there than in the US, any church or mosque attacker in the US has to consider they'll come across someone like Stephen Willeford who used his AR-15 to break up the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.  Willeford was home and couldn't react fast enough to keep anyone from being killed; imagine the New Zealand shooter walking into a US church with armed security and a quarter of the parishioners carrying. 

Because it's a tiny country, apparently governed by people incapable of coherent thought, it was vastly easier for the shooter to get his gun grabbing agenda accomplished there than here.  At least for now.  I find it wonderfully ironic that as moronic prime minister Arden is going through Olympic-level gyrations to prove she's better than the killer, and that New Zealand is better than the killer, she's implementing exactly what his goal was.  At least the start of it.

(New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern  - from Business Insider. I chose this picture because she reminds me of AOC more than in other views.  What do you think?  Same IQ, apparently.) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Problem With Using Kids as Props in the Global Warming Hustle

March 15th worldwide saw school students skipping class to protest "climate change" (and - honestly - how much extra prompting do high school students need to skip class?).  Yet again, the theme was the nonsense that we have "12 years to prevent the end of the world", which is simply not being said by anyone in the IPCC - the "authoritative voice" in the field.

The problem is that we have adults deliberately terrifying children to make them take up these causes and lead protests.  Take the sudden star of the protests in the European Union, 16-year old Greta Thurnberg of Sweden.  Thunberg first came to the public's attention last year when she started a school strike on climate change in front of the Swedish parliament.  She rose to worldwide fame in January when she addressed the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Author Daniil Gorbatenko, a Ph.D. Economist from France, writes in Medium that we shouldn't be focusing on her age.  We should be focusing on how wrong she is.
I believe that people in the age of 16 have as much intellectual capacity as those who are legally adults to understand the issues related to climate change and potential measures that could be taken to mitigate it. However, if 16-year-olds desire to seriously contribute to important political debates, they should, as anyone else, do it without engaging in demagoguery and scaremongering. It is here that Greta Thunberg — in spite of all her genuine sincerity and passion — has failed spectacularly and made the legions of her fans, as well as people who may face the consequences of the panicky measures she advocates, a great disservice.
While I don't disagree that we coddle children to historically unknown ages, and that a 16 year old should have the intellectual capacity to understand these issues, it's obvious from reading anything attributed to Miss Thurnberg that she hasn't done any real research into the things she's saying.  She's parroting a viewpoint she has been marinated in all her life.  You could counter my argument that she's being every bit as mature as Alopecia Occasional Cortex but I think that just reinforces what I'm saying.

Like Dr. Gorbatenko, I'd be willing to bet that it would be pointless to ask her any questions about:
the actual science underlying the climate change issue. To ask her how much the Earth has warmed so far since 1979 compared to computer model predictions. That the bulk of the recent warming occurred during the El Nino stages of the ENSO climate oscillation. Or whether she is aware that the doubling of CO2 can only in itself cause only about 1°C of warming and that to postulate alarmist scenarios one needs to postulate uncertain positive feedbacks, whereas, in reality the net feedback may be zero or negative. That a lot more people die from cold temperatures than from hot ones, and that it is not the extreme cold temperatures that are the most deadly. That increased CO2 concentrations are good for plant life, and so on.
In articles on AOC's 12-year claim it's shown that we could shut down everything in the US and the industrialized world, set carbon emissions to zero, and using the UN's climate sensitivity numbers,  this would merely avert warming by 0.278 degree Celsius by the turn of the century.

Again, nobody in the IPCC is saying that not shutting down all of industrialized society creates some sort of climate apocalypse.
Let us focus on an easier issue and ask whether the latest IPCC report even in the (as usual) distorted summary for policymakers says anything remotely similar to Thunberg’s 11-years-left-till-Apocalypse-unless-we-act claim. Unsurprisingly, the summary — biased as it is in favor of alarm — says no such thing. Thunberg seems to be wildly misinterpreting the statement on page 6 of the summary that “global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 (till which date 11 years remain) and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.” There is no implication in the summary that this extent of warming may cause catastrophic planetary consequences.
We must also reflect on the fact that Thunberg is considered by lots of people to be a global hero. She has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But is it really brave or enlightened to advocate a cause that has long enjoyed the status of a conventional wisdom.
Here I'm going to diverge a bit from Dr. Gorbatenko.  His conclusion is good, but stops short in my mind.
To wrap up, the real problem with the climate change activist sensation Greta Thunberg is not that she is 16 years old. Rather, it is that she is a clueless fanatic who is considered brave and enlightened for promoting a cause that almost everyone agrees with without any study or reflection. And it is the duty of anyone who does not want clueless fanaticism to determine policies affecting billions to call it out as such.
Her ignorance of the truth about what the IPCC is actually saying is her fault.  She doesn't have to be a clueless fanatic.  I was able to find that in minutes with an Internet connection, but I had ideas of where to look; she should have found out those facts with a couple of hours of research.  Let's give her a week to find it - certainly not the months she has been getting media attention.  The celebrity she's getting for that ignorance is the problem of the adults that put her up to it and the adults that shower her with praise while seriously talking about her deserving a Nobel Peace Prize.  Adults manipulating children for political aims aren't that different from adults trafficking children, the way I see it.  They're exploiting children for their own purposes, but damaging only their minds not their bodies and minds.

If you've wondered if there has ever been a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize less-deserving than Barack Obama, just wait and see if Greta Thunberg gets it.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nancy Pelosi Introduces Equality Act to Mandate Compliance to Transexual Demands

Hat tip to Sense of Events where Donald Sensing links to a Heritage Foundation post on the so-called equality act, which has nothing to do with "equality".  Equality strongly implies that many views are considered and weighed together.  What the equality act does is declare that certain views are right and all others wrong.

H.R. 5, titled "To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes." goes far beyond that.  Heritage says it's “a bill that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under federal civil rights law.” They then go on to say, “the Equality Act would further inequality by penalizing everyday Americans for their beliefs about marriage and biological sex,” and discuss some of the wide ranging implications for various groups.

The most obvious implications are for:
Employers and Workers

The Equality Act would force employers and workers to conform to new sexual norms or else lose their businesses and jobs.

This is already happening on the state and local level.

The most high profile example involves Colorado baker Jack Phillips, whose case went all the way to the Supreme Court after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission accused him of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when he declined to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.

He is not the only victim. Other cases involving disagreement over the meaning of marriage feature florists, bakers, photographers, wedding venue owners, videographers, web designers, calligraphers, and public servants.
What was originally a state civil rights trial now becomes a Federal offense and Federal trial.

The law is no easier on
Medical Professionals 

The Equality Act would force hospitals and insurers to provide and pay for these therapies against any moral or medical objections. It would politicize medicine by forcing professionals to act against their best medical judgment and provide transition-affirming therapies.

The fight is already here. Catholic hospitals in California and New Jersey have been sued for declining to perform hysterectomies on otherwise healthy women who want to become male. A third Catholic hospital in Washington settled out of court when the ACLU sued them for declining to perform a double mastectomy on a gender dysphoric sixteen-year-old girl.
Nor is it easier on
Parents and Children

This politicization of medicine would ultimately harm families by normalizing hormonal and surgical interventions for gender dysphoric children as well as ideological “education” in schools and other public venues.

80 to 95 percent of children with gender dysphoria no longer feel distressed by their bodies after puberty. Yet activists continue to push their own radical protocol: social transition as young as 4, puberty blocking drugs as young as 9, cross-sex hormones as young as 14, and surgery by 18 (or, in some cases, even younger).

This protocol could become mandatory in the future. The latest issue of the American Journal of Bioethics includes an article arguing that the state should overrule the parents of gender dysphoric children who do not consent to giving them puberty-blocking drugs.
Need I remind you Bioethicists have already said post-birth abortion (infanticide) is ethical and should be legal.  In another journal article they declared that it's morally and ethically OK to take the life of someone because, “killing by itself is not morally wrong, although it is still morally wrong to cause total disability”.  That says it's not wrong to murder someone who is disabled - yet they never define "disabled", saying
“[I]f killing were wrong just because it is causing death or the loss of life, then the same principle would apply with the same strength to pulling weeds out of a garden. If it is not immoral to weed a garden, then life as such cannot really be sacred, and killing as such cannot be morally wrong.”
What a twisted world medical ethicists live in if weeds and humans are equivalents!  Let's just say I don't see any particular reason to respect the opinion of bioethicists.  In my view, bioethicists have no marketable abilities, which could be one definition of "disabled", and are only employed because they're in a society so rich it pays for people to come up with crap like this.  Does that mean it's ethical to kill bioethicists? 
Non-Profits and Volunteers

The Equality Act would also hurt charities, volunteers, and the populations they serve.

State and local sexual orientation and gender identity laws have shut down numerous  faith-based adoption and foster care agencies across the country, in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

These states wrongly treated the belief that children do best with both a mother and a father as discriminatory, and kids are the ones who are paying the price. With 438,000 children languishing in foster care nationwide, we need more agencies working to help kids find homes, not fewer.

Now charities that admit to the reality of biological sex are under attack too.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a biological male twice tried to gain access to the city’s Downtown Hope Center, a shelter for homeless, abused, and trafficked women. In response, the individual sued the center for alleged “gender identity discrimination.”
Finally, in what we talked about in the second part of my post two weeks ago, the equality bill would end women's sports as they exist now.

The Equality Act would ultimately lead to the erasure of women by dismantling sex-specific facilities, sports, and other female-only spaces.

Sexual orientation and gender identity laws that  open up sex-specific facilities like bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. to members of the opposite sex enable sexual assault.

For example, Pascha Thomas was forced to remove her child from school after a male classmate assaulted her five-year-old daughter in the girls’ restroom. The boy had access to the girls’ restroom because the school’s policy that grants students access to private facilities on the basis of self-identified gender identity. Administrators refused to change the policy despite Thomas’ complaints. Federal authorities are now investigating the incident.

The concern with these policies is that predators will take advantage of the law to gain access to victims. Policies like these make women less likely to report incidents and law enforcement less likely to get involved, for fear of being accused of discrimination.

These policies also leave women at a disadvantage in sex-specific sports and other activities.

Two biological males who identify and compete as women easily took first and second place at the Connecticut State Track Championships.

Selina Soule, a female runner, lost the race—and the chance to be scouted by college coaches and selected for athletic scholarships. “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts,” she said. “It’s demoralizing.”

Females of all ages can expect to lose more and more opportunities like these to biological males who have a natural advantage in sports and physical activities. The Equality Act would defeat the entire purpose of Title IX, which was meant to ensure that women would have the same opportunities as men including in sports, and would leave women vulnerable to sexual assault.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Readers Here Got This Story Eight Years Ago

At least they got an indication it was coming. 

Various news sources are all linking to a story in the New York Times on a growing trend of cities cutting back on recycling as the costs to recycle grow.  Warning: this is the NY Times, so expect a left wing bias. 
Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents’ recycling material in an incinerator that converts waste to energy. In Memphis, the international airport still has recycling bins around the terminals, but every collected can, bottle and newspaper is sent to a landfill. And last month, officials in the central Florida city of Deltona faced the reality that, despite their best efforts to recycle, their curbside program was not working and suspended it.
It's easy to spot signs of the problems in those three cities that I talked about here in February of 2011.  The problem is that there isn't a market big enough for the materials being recycled so that the supply vastly exceeds demand and the prices for recycled materials have collapsed.  How bad is it?
Reports are that Germany has millions of tons of recyclable plastics piled up in fields because nobody wants the stuff. And it is literally more expensive to collect some recyclables than to just pitch them. San Francisco’s Dept. of Waste figures it pays $4,000/ton to recycle plastic bags for which it receives $32/ton.  (emphasis added)
Obviously, nobody in their right mind is going to pay $4,000/ton to collect and process something to recycle and get $32/ton for it.  Nobody would think of doing that except government.  The only question is why has it taken eight years to get to this point?  One word: China.  To get back to the original link at the NYT:
Prompting this nationwide reckoning is China, which until January 2018 had been a big buyer of recyclable material collected in the United States. That stopped when Chinese officials determined that too much trash was mixed in with recyclable materials like cardboard and certain plastics. After that, Thailand and India started to accept more imported scrap, but even they are imposing new restrictions.

The turmoil in the global scrap markets began affecting American communities last year, and the problems have only deepened.
For seven of those eight years, China imported our recycled waste streams to process.  Until last January when China announced that it would no longer import “foreign garbage.”  That put American communities in a bind and they turned to the companies that were already contracted to handle waste disposal, like Waste Management and Republic Services.  Prices to recycle things started going up.  Suddenly some of the items dutifully separated into recycling bins started getting pushed into the regular trash stream to landfills or incineration. 

Eight years ago, I summed it up this way:
The fact that there's a market for some products to recycle doesn't negate the fact that you can't create a market for something by wishing it into existence.  If there's a use for X tons of waste newspaper on the market that's provided by a handful of companies (and 10 year old boys), when the supply suddenly goes to 10 X or 100 X, the price is going to fall proportionally, and you're still going to end up with tons of newspaper you have no market for.  How much would you pay for something you had absolutely no use for? 
The answer to that final rhetorical question is not only that you wouldn't pay for it, you'd charge the owner to take it off their hands.  That's exactly what's happening here.  
While there remains a viable market in the United States for scrap like soda bottles and cardboard, it is not large enough to soak up all of the plastics and paper that Americans try to recycle. The recycling companies say they cannot depend on selling used plastic and paper at prices that cover their processing costs, so they are asking municipalities to pay significantly more for their recycling services. Some companies are also charging customers additional “contamination” fees for recycled material that is mixed in with trash.
Contamination is a major problem for recycling facilities.  Contamination can be leftover food in a plastic or glass bottle, olive oil residue in its bottle, or it could be things that can't be recycled mixed in with things that can, like styrofoam peanuts or plastic grocery bags mixed in with other plastics.   Don't even think of motor oil residue in a plastic bottle. 

Florida is having the same sorts of problems and has launched a statewide campaign to help stem the red ink flowing in recycling budgets.  They've changed the buzz phrase from its initial, “reduce, reuse, recycle” to “Reset. Rethink. Recycle.” 
“Reset. Rethink. Recycle” is a statewide public education campaign dedicated to increasing Florida’s recycling rate to 75 percent by 2020 and decreasing curbside contamination by helping Floridians rethink what they recycle and reset their behavior to focus on the basics. 
What are the basics?
Q: What CAN I recycle?
A: Focus on 1) aluminum and steel cans, 2) plastic bottles and jugs, and 3) paper and cardboard. Make sure cans, bottles and jugs, and cardboard boxes are clean and dry before going into your curbside recycling bin.
Clearly, this is a major step back from the 20 year old “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra in which everything was recycled and moving more toward trying to sell the things in the trash stream that have long been sellable.  By getting the people who pay for the recycling through their taxes to do some of the labor that recycling companies do, perhaps they can get the cost of recycling down and not lose as much money as they currently do. 

I'd like to think that saner heads might have concluded that they really can't create a market for these used materials by declaring one.  Instead, what I see is that the iron hammer of regulation is going to get flying again.  We have a problem with plastic bags in the recycling stream?  Let's just outlaw them so they can't show up anywhere.  Same thing with those demon plastic straws.  We're getting food containers with oil residue?  We'll track the locations and fine the house that put the dirty container in their reycling. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Proposed NASA Budget for 2020 Cuts SLS 17%

Earlier this week, the White House released preliminary budget goals for 2020 (150 page .pdf - NASA starts on page 102).  While some reports claimed that the Space Launch System (SLS) - NASA's heavy lift vehicle - would have its funding cut out, Ars Technica is reporting a 17% reduction in budget.  Cutting 17% is clearly not zeroing out the program, but it is putting intense pressure on NASA and the contractors working on the program.

The White House plan specifically talks about using a commercial launch vehicle for a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a mission previously slated for the SLS.  The budget chips away at the SLS in three important ways.
First of all, with the budget cut, the president's proposal "defers" funding for the Exploration Upper Stage. That's the more powerful second stage that would allow a future version of the SLS rocket to lift both the Orion capsule and large chunks of payload to lunar orbit.
The budget also opens the door to commercial launches of cargo to lunar orbit, including comments of its proposed Gateway station there. "Lunar Gateway elements would be launched on competitively procured vehicles, complementing crew transport flights on the SLS and Orion," the document states.
Finally, the budget says that a robotic probe to Europa, due to launch in the 2020s, will not launch on the SLS booster. Instead, it will launch on a private rocket. (As Ars previously reported, this almost certainly would be SpaceX's Falcon Heavy). "By launching that mission on a commercial launch vehicle, NASA would save over $700 million, allowing multiple new activities to be funded across the Agency," the budget document states.
The second one might be the biggest change.  Until now, plans have called for "co-manifesting" the Orion spacecraft alongside modules of the Gateway onto a single SLS rocket, with its Exploration Upper Stage.  Without the enhanced upper stage, the Block 1 version of the SLS isn't powerful enough for such co-manifested missions (see illustration below).

Essentially these downgrades leave just one real task for SLS, which no commercial rocket can presently perform: the direct delivery of a crewed Orion capsule to a high lunar orbit.

An address by NASA administrator Jim Bradenstine at the Kennedy Space Center last Monday unveiled the budget.  He used a word we haven't heard from the space agency in a while:
[He] spoke about "reusability" as an essential cornerstone to the space agency's return to the Moon. By going with reusable systems, Bridenstine said NASA's plans for human missions to the Moon and eventually Mars would be affordable and sustainable.

The agency's large rocket—which has cost NASA $12 billion so far to develop, and has an annual budget of around $2 billion—is an exception to this. "SLS is not reusable, but it is a critical piece of the architecture that enables us to deliver reusability to the Moon," Bridenstine said.
I suppose it's important to point out that this is staking out a starting point, the place where negotiation starts.  In any program as big as SLS, there are jobs distributed around the country, allowing lots of senators and representatives to "bring home the bacon" for their districts or states if they get funding.   Add in the complication that the House is under Democratic control, which could mean none of this gets passed and the SLS program grinds to a halt.  I distinctly recall looking for mention of space flight in the Green Amish New Deal and finding nothing mentioned. 

In years past, the Senate Appropriations Committee, under the direction of its chairman Richard Shelby (R - Alabama), has increased the administration budget proposals for the SLS.  Senator Shelby's state is home to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.  Marshall is the NASA center managing the SLS program. 

There's no guarantee that any of this stands, but it is interesting.  In my mind, the critical thing (besides the politics) is really how well the SLS contractors continue to perform.  So far, the SLS has been consistently over budget with its schedule slipping to later dates.  Not to single the SLS out as particularly bad, many (I'd say most) programs are over budget and late.  I just think that if the program keeps slipping, the SLS may never fly. 

(source pdf)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thought For the Day

Since I don't have any thoughts for the day, I grabbed one from the great Sargasso Sea of the internet, Pinterest.

I took four years of French in high school, and it's all true.  Oiseaux is birds and it is pronounced waz-oh.  Not wazoo, the last guys joke. 

With no offense intended to the 90 to 100 readers from France I get every day.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Civil Asset Forfeiture - And the Beat Goes On

In the last few years, the opposition to the practice of civil asset forfeiture across the country has been rising.  The Institute for Justice has cataloged how the states have responded.  Note that some states appear in more than one grouping.  Much more detail at the IJ link. 
  • Three states—North Carolina, New Mexico and Nebraska—have abolished civil forfeiture entirely.
  • 29 states and the District of Columbia have reformed their civil forfeiture laws
  • Fifteen states now require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases and a sixteenth, Utah, forbids forfeiture for cases where the claimants are found not guilty and are acquitted.
  • Sixteen states and the District of Columbia require the government to bear the burden of proof for innocent-owner claims
  • Nineteen states and the District of Columbia instituted new reporting requirements for seizure and forfeiture activity
  • Finally, seven states and the District of Columbia have passed anti-circumvention legislation to close the equitable-sharing loophole.
This despite the president and his former attorney general Sessions vocally endorsing asset forfeiture.

Despite these reforms, the beat goes on.  Asset forfeiture is still happening, and local TV WALB in Lowndes County, Georgia tells the story of a what seems to be a routine traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of over $500,000 in Georgia last week.  H/T to the Foundation for Economic Education - FEE
Two Colombian men were headed south on I-75 when deputies noticed them driving erratically and pulled them over.

“In and out of lanes, just moving over the line, actually slowed down, got a very slow limit of speed on interstate, actually thought the driver might be impaired," said Paulk.

Sheriff Paulk said deputies reported that the men appeared to be very nervous, so they called in K-9s to check the car.

“The dogs, they’ll also alert on a large quantity of money like that, not just cause it’s money but because it has drugs attached to it," said Paulk.
How did they decide it was drug money and could be confiscated?
“All of it is wrapped the same way they wrap cocaine, the same rubber bands, the same style of wrapping. So, when you see that you know where that money’s derived from," said Paulk.
Sounds like a rock solid case to me!  I mean it used the same rubber bands!  I say, "rock solid case" deliberately tongue in cheek because "case" implies actual due process.  With asset forfeiture in several states, actual charges of criminal violation and resulting conviction are required. Georgia is not one of these states.

There isn't much to this story besides this allegation.  Personally, if I had to be carrying half a million dollars in cash, I'd be nervous about the prospect of being pulled over for nothing and the money seized.

Of course, the lack of criminal charges and proper due process is what most of us who are opposed to asset forfeiture are complaining about, just as many of us complain about "red flag laws" depriving gun owners of property with no due process, not even a hearing with defendant present, and often charging them for the return of their property.  In so many of these asset grabs they never even file charges.  They just see money so they take it. 
According to a Department of Justice Inspector General report, between 2007 and 2017, the DEA alone seized $3.2 billion from individuals who were not charged with a crime. Cash seizures without charges made up 81 percent of the funds analyzed in that report.

Beyond the DEA, law enforcement agencies around the country generate millions of dollars per year through civil asset forfeiture and are often allowed to keep or sell the property they confiscate. Utah police seized $2.1 million in 2017, and an overwhelming majority of the cases—96 percent—were drug-related, reflecting the widespread ramifications of the decades-long War on Drugs (proponents of civil asset forfeiture have claimed the practice is a key tool in the costly, ineffective policy).
I've been writing about civil asset forfeiture over the life of this blog (example).  Nothing would make me happier than see it disappear.  

(source - judging by the maps on the wall, probably not Lowndes county, Georgia)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pi Day

Seems like a date that can be both pi day and Einstein's birthday makes a good day for an engineering or general geek joke. 

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 

Being an engineer, which one never really retires from, I'm required to be pedantic enough to point out there can only be a pi day in countries that use month/day format rather than day/month.  According to the Wikipedia, it's not strictly an American thing.  It's the US, Philippines, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.  The last two were US territories until the 1980s while the Philippines became independent from the US in 1946 after WWII. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Hope for People With Skin Ulcers

It's probably safe to assume that you know we're in the midst of a diabetes epidemic.  While there are some very promising treatments that will reduce or eliminate the overt presentation of the most common forms of the disease, there are millions suffering right now.  Among the common diabetic complications are skin ulcers; miserable, painful open sores that require many treatments.  It has been reported that a single diabetic foot ulcer can cost approximately $50,000 to treat.

This week brings news via Machine Design that the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) has developed a new 3D bioprinting technique to help enhance treatment response time and create overall better skin graft results.  WFIRM published their results in Nature, which is currently allowing us to read and download the paper (pdf).  Due to the need for a sterile environment, the treatment is done in an operating theater.  The patient then lies in the printer while it sprays layers of cells onto their wound. The end result is that it builds up, layer by layer, what will function as a skin graft.
The new bioprinter from WFIRM combines the delivery systems of inkjet printers with mobility and the scanning capability of different topographies. The research team outlined its design and printing approach in the paper “Bioprinting of Autologous skin Cells Accelerates Wound Healing of extensive excisional Full-thickness Wounds.” The main components of the system are a handheld 3D scanner and a print head that can move in any XYZ direction. The print head contains eight 260 μm diameter nozzles, each driven by an independent dispensing motor. The printer components are mounted on a small frame which can be used in an operating room. The system is 79 cm wide (patient head-to-toe direction) by 77 cm deep (cross-patient direction). The system includes a robotic arm and, when fully extended, adds an additional 50 cm—combining for a full reach of 127 cm.

The scanner attached to the printer system is the ZScanner Z700 scanner from 3DSystems. As noted, the scanner is handheld and easy to use. It can capture the entire wound in one continuous scan which results in a computer model of the wound. The model is processed via Geomagic Studio and imported into Artcam 3D software to obtain the full volume and the nozzle path needed to print the fill volume. The wound is split into Z axis layers for its depth, corresponding to dermis and epidermis layers, and each Z-axis layers is overlaid with XY lines that cover the entire wound.
The printer uses the same sorts of techniques as inkjet printers: the delivery system is based on cartridges, and each cartridge contains a different type of sterile compound rather than a different colored ink.  Each nozzle is connected to a separate cartridge, and each cartridge contains a matrix of fibrinogen and collagen. Separate atomizing nozzles deposit thrombin on the fibrinogen matrix to produce fibrin simultaneously (clotting, to hold everything in place).  The system is just barely pressurized - a mere 1 pound per square inch difference drives the material.

Skin bioprinter prototype. (A) Schematic demonstrating scale, design, and components of the skin bioprinter. (B) The main components of the system consist of 260 µm diameter nozzles, driven by up to eight independently dispensing systems connected to a print-head with an XYZ movement system, in addition to the 3D wound scanner. All components are mounted on a frame small enough to be mobile in the operating room. (C) Skin bioprinting concept. Wounds are first scanned to obtain precise information on wound topography, which then guides the print heads to deposit specified materials and cell types in appropriate locations (Images courtesy of LabTV - National Defense Education Program, Washington, D.C.). (D) Example of skin bioprinting process, where markers that are placed around the wound area used as reference points: (a) prior to scanning with a hand-held ZScanner Z700 scanner (b). Geometric information obtained via scanning is then inputted in the form of an STL file to orient the scanned images to a standard coordinate system (c). The scanned data with its coordinate system is used to generate the fill volume and the path points for nozzle head to travel to print the fill volume (d). Output code is then provided to the custom bioprinter control interface for the generation of nozzle path needed to print fill volume (e, f). (E) This system facilitates the depositing of multiple cell types with high precision and control. The layering of fibroblasts (green) and keratinocytes (red) is shown.
Based off this delivery system, the keratinocytes [skin cells] and fibroblasts [cells which form the collagen matrix that supports the skin cells] are mixed into a hydrogel and delivered directly on top of the wound layer by layer, replicating the skin structure and accelerating the healing of normal skin and function. The research team has had successful results on mice in clinical trials. The new skin begins to form outward from the center of the wound and, by using the subject’s own unaffected cells for new cell delivery, it allowed the subject’s body to accept the new skin and prevent tissue rejection.

“The technology has the potential to eliminate the need for painful skin grafts that cause further disfigurement for patients suffering from large wounds or burns,” said WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, M.D., a co-author of the paper.

“If you deliver the patient’s own cells, they do actively contribute to wound healing by organizing up front to start the healing process much faster,” added James Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., who led the research team and co-authored the paper with Atala. “While there are other types of wound healing products available to treat wounds and help them close, those products do not actually contribute directly to the creation of skin.”  Note: anything in square brackets added by me - SiG
All work done so far has been done on experimental animals, as medical regulators demand.  The next step is to conduct a clinical trial on humans, and hopefully replace the traditional donor or artificial skin graft treatment with the patient’s own 3D-printed skin.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Today's Scare: Are Wireless Ear Buds Dangerous?

I noticed a headline on Drudge today that seemed like it needed to be read with breathless enthusiasm, like phony newscasters would for a political story:
250 scientists sign petition warning against cancer from wireless tech...
250 scientists!  Surely this means something right?

It means "something" in the sense that it's a complete sentence.  It could simply mean that 250 scientists are essentially saying, "give me grant money to study this".

The article leads with a quote by Jerry Phillips, a Colorado Springs biochemistry professor.  Professor Phillips goes on to single out the Apple wireless ear phones called Air Pods,
“My concern for AirPods is that their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation,” ... He mentions tumors and other conditions associated with abnormal cell functioning as some of the potential risks. These risks are not restricted to AirPods. Existing evidence “indicates potential concerns for human health and development from all technologies that operate at radio frequencies,” he says.  
What stands out to me is that while the AirPods are indeed in your ear, and they communicate with your iDevice by radio, they're using a protocol called Bluetooth Low Energy, also known by BLE.  As the name implies, it's designed to be a lower transmitter power than regular Bluetooth (already a low power, Pico Area Network protocol) which limits range but enhances battery life.  The physical protocol is for a transmitter running from 10 to 500 milliwatts, or 10 to +27 dBm (decibels with respect to a milliwatt) in the same frequency spectrum as WiFi.  The "full power" Bluetooth will double the power of the output, raising it to 1Watt or +30 dBm, at the cost of reducing battery life.  Frankly, by the discussion on that Wiki page, it doesn't seem BLE will buy you much compared to conventional Bluetooth. 

The real question here isn't what the power level is, it's whether or not 10 or 500mW near your ear is dangerous.  RF safety is a pretty big and contentious subject.  Way back in 2011, I put down a lot of thoughts on the subject, but the short summary is that while there are many, many accusations that RF causes all sorts of injuries, cancers or other problems, the only effect that everyone agrees upon is that it causes heating - which is the mechanism that causes damage.  We all know that - didn't Robin Williams joke about putting "Mr. Hamster in the microwave oven" in the '70s?  That translates to saying you can directly substitute the 10 or 500 mW radio field for a 10 or 500 mW heater.

Over the last half year or so of my career, I became the default guy to go to with questions about RF safety.  I reviewed what the US, the European Union, Canada, and Australia had for their RF safety limits.  In general, the US limits are about typical of everyone.  There are a couple of countries in the European Union who reject the EU limits and impose limits about 1/10 of those but don't really justify it.  I will stick with the US limits here.  Excellent Canadian summary of many studies here (pdf).

The US has a safe exposure limit (for the general public) in the 2.4 GHz frequency range of .001 W per square centimeter; 1mW/  There are those who say that pulsed RF systems, which most are, are more dangerous than constant transmit power systems.  First, this can be accounted for in experimental design, with as simple an approach as basing power exposure calculations on peak powers, not average.  Second, the results of testing should tell you regardless of whether your meter is measuring peak or average power.  If they're testing with signal generators and aren't using pulses, then they're testing incorrectly.

I'm not going to say there's no confusion and no contradictory evidence, but trying to look at a big picture, I'll use a quote from the Medium article.
“There are many thousands of papers of varying quality and relevance to health that point in all sorts of directions,” says Kenneth Foster, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the effects of wireless radiation on human health. While you could cherry pick data that paint Bluetooth and other wireless technologies in a scary light, “these arguments have no credibility,” he says.

Foster points out that the WHO and other public health organizations have analyzed the literature on Bluetooth and wireless tech and haven’t found “any clear evidence for health hazards at exposure levels below international limits.”
Looking at summaries of studies, the results are often conflicting and confusing.  It's commonplace for a study to show a health effect that disappears in subsequent studies, or appears and disappears in other studies seemingly at random.  An effect that always exists on the threshold of detection is likely to be statistical noise (or it could be a link to something that's in the environment and not controlled from one study to the other). 

Do I think BLE AirPods are a problem?  No.  I've got to tell you that I'm not betting my life on that because I don't use AirPods.  In fact, I chose my current phone specifically because it's the last model that used a wired headset.  Not because of the RF, but because of $150 for AirPods vs. $15 for the wired version.  If I came across a set of AirPods, would I be concerned?  Not at all.  

I'm going to conclude with conclusions from that Canadian research summary I linked to earlier.  If this is an eye chart, go to the source where you can download the pdf and read at any magnification you'd like.  The observant will notice their second to last point directly contradicts Professor  Phillips statement at the top of this piece that, existing evidence “indicates potential concerns for human health and development from all technologies that operate at radio frequencies.” 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Just A Coincidence, I'm Sure

As more and more cities and other jurisdictions are implementing a $15 minimum wages, more and more jobs are getting wiped out.  Hours are being cut back.  More and more people are getting hurt.

Reporting on Liberty Unyielding, Hans Bader updates with some numbers out of Illinois.
The Daily Gazette and Sauk Valley Media provide the example of Hopper’s Poppers:
After a little more than 2 years downtown, Hopper’s Poppers – the business, and the building it’s in – are being put up for sale, the owner said. Ryan Hopper also closed his Sycamore shop this week, citing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s approval of a statewide $15 minimum wage increase. Three months ago, he and his wife Stephanie were considering adding a third location in Roscoe, which would have brought him closer to his five-location goal. But he said the the minimum wage hike and Illinois’s notoriously high property taxes solidified the decision for his family to continue their business ventures outside Illinois.
I'm sure there's no cause and effect relationship between raising the minimum wage and minimum wage jobs going away, just as I'm sure it has nothing to do with the same things happening in New York City, as we reported on Feb. 22 or Boston as we reported on January 11 or Seattle before them.  That's just Hatey McHaterson talking.  Like Jon Miltimore of the Foundation for Economic Education who noted about New York:
Restaurants tend to operate on famously low profit margins, typically 2 to 6 percent. So a 40 percent mandatory wage increase over a two-year period is not trivial.

In response to the minimum wage hikes, New York City restaurants did what businesses tend to do when labor costs rise: they increased prices and reduced labor staff and hours.
New York had the worst decline in restaurant jobs since 9/11 as their increased minimum wage laws hit.  Several other states have passed or are in the process of enacting a $15 pay floor. New Jersey recently enacted a $15 minimum wage — the increase will be phased in over several years — joining California, Massachusetts, and New York. The Maryland House of Delegates passed a $15 minimum wage on February 27. The District of Columbia and some cities, such as Minneapolis and, as mentioned, Seattle also have $15 minimum wage laws.

As I've said at least a dozen times, I really hate this argument, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest reason is that we keep telling the people demanding the raise that jobs will go away or hours will go down so that they might well end up making less than they are now if they're the ones still working, and they'll face higher prices for everything they buy: and then we're right and they ask for the bad thing to happen again.

It's like warning a kid not to stick that butter knife into the wall outlet because they'll get hurt, watch them do it, get knocked backwards and hurt, then go wobbling back to the wall outlet to shove that butter knife in it again. 
Politicians have admitted that these radical increases in the minimum wage make no economic sense, even if they make for a moralistic political soundbite. In signing California’s $15 minimum wage into law, California’s Jerry Brown said that, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense.”
Key word: politically.  It will keep his people in power.  Back in 2016, a poll of Californians said that they knew the $15 min wage law would hurt them personally and hurt the state's economy, but they wanted it anyway.  FN.  How does something that hurts everyone it purports to help get to be "wanted anyway"?  Virtue signalling. 
The Los Angeles Times reported that “Californians strongly back the state’s minimum wage increase to $15,” even “though they believe the wage hike will hurt their pocketbooks and the state’s economy,” and “high percentages of those surveyed expected negative consequences, including layoffs and business relocations to states with lower minimum wages. Almost 90% of respondents believed that prices for consumers would rise because of the wage hike.”
Over 70% of economists said the $15 wage was a bad idea.  More than that said it would increase unemployment.  Moody's estimated that 160,000 jobs would be lost - in California's manufacturing sector alone. 

I see a lot of human suffering here.  In the name of supposedly getting people closer to a living wage, we're going to cost some of them their jobs and ruin their lives.  For everyone who struggled, went to night school or special training to get a job well above the min wage, like $12 or $13/hr,  we're going to drag them into a compressed band just above min wage, negating what they've done to better themselves in life.  We're going to cost the entrepreneurs their livelihood and their future plans.  We're going to disrupt everyone's lives.  All for political virtue signaling. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The New Threat to Your Retirement Savings

In what's probably another attempt to tax the rich, a proposal has been introduced into the Senate and will be followed in the House to tax every financial transaction.  It's targeted primarily at stock trades, but bond and derivative trades will be taxed, too.  On the Senate side, it's Sen. Brian Schatz (D - HI)  while in the House it's to be introduced Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).  Sen. Schatz believes he needs to correct the market because High Frequency Trading is bad.
“Roughly half of the 8 billion daily trades now are high-frequency trades, and that is increasing volatility in the market; it is allowing a certain category of traders to essentially skim profit off the top,” Schatz told me. “And on a more basic level, it is turning the stock market into a true casino, in which you are making a bet that has very little to do with the fundamentals of a company.”
Saying “a certain category of traders” implies he thinks the market is not fair enough because everyone besides that “certain category” doesn't have access to the high speed hardware to keep up.  That assumes no one benefits except the high frequency traders, yet price theory says they help establish prices more accurately which benefits everyone.  Exactly how punishing the HF traders helps the others is unexplained.

The obvious big problem is that the Stock Market isn't the exclusive province of the very rich they always seem to want to take more from.
Some of the largest shareholders and beneficiaries of our modern financial system are pension funds for public-sector employees and private retirement account holders. Firefighters, teachers, university endowments, and private retirement savings all benefit from sophisticated equity markets. Many employers issue short-term debt to cover payroll and young start-ups sell securities to fund their growth.
This proposal would handicap markets for U.S. saving and investment. It would levy a tax of 0.1 percent on the value of every stock, bond, and derivative transaction in the U.S. or made by a U.S. resident.
The more subtle big problem is that it's based on ideas that have failed in other countries when these taxes have been tried.  Instead of decreasing volatility, as Schatz says in that first quote, it has increased volatility and hurt the markets.  Additionally, the digital traders Schatz demonizes really help the market set prices more accurately.  The tax would ultimately be paid by American savers through lower investment returns and fewer economic opportunities. 

The plan is supposed to raise approximately $800 Billion over 10 years, and (as always) no explanation of how that number is derived is given.  This is probably assuming very little revenue in the first year and more year over year until the 10th.  It could also be total fantasy.  Most of these cost or revenue estimates over 10 years never prove true.  Part of that is the inherent difficulty of predicting the future, and part is that once the tax takes effect, traders will adapt, change their behaviors and then all of their assumptions are out the window. 

The Daily Signal reports:
A financial transaction tax is not a new idea. The Congressional Budget Office regularly includes it in its yearly list of budget options. Its report notes, however, that the tax could “have a number of negative effects on the economy stemming from its effects on asset prices, the cost of capital for firms, and the frequency of trading.”

These concerns bear out in the real world, too. Evidence from France’s experiment with a transactions tax in 2012 shows that it lowers trading volumes and reduces market liquidity, which hurts market quality.

Fewer trades mean it is harder to buy and sell stock, and markets operate less efficiently. Inefficient markets hurt everyone. They translate into fewer new jobs and less productive investment. 

Italy also tried a transactions tax. There, it [also] increased market volatility. 
A a 2015 study from the European Union shows how the tax would increase the likelihood of boom-bust cycles and exacerbate overall return volatility, exactly what Schatz and other proponents say won't happen.

I've linked to two articles in this piece: Vox, the liberal rag that wants such a tax, perpetuates the lie that Trump's tax cut was "for the rich", but still admits it likely won't do the good and raise the revenue it's being sold with, and Daily Signal, a more free-market site that is completely opposed to it.  Vox's argument is "it won't be that bad, and we need more taxes".  I'm not convinced. 

It seems hard to go a week without seeing another story about the financial troubles coming for retirees, whether the stories are about pension plans, social security or medicare collapsing.  We read such stories from throughout the Western world.  One of the ways that people can save for retirement in effort to minimize their personal risk is through investing with these sorts of transactions (stocks and bonds).  If you have a corporate 401k, you're probably in the markets; they're doing the buying for you and passing fees, which will include this tax, on through to you.  It seems like the wrong thing to be taxing. 


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Investigative Reporter Looks for the Brains Behind AOC

Longtime reader, and one of only a couple of bloggers I've met in meatspace, RegT emailed me a video that, while a bit long, digs into the phenomenon of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  It's a bit long, at 23 minutes, but I found it quite plausible primarily because there are several sections where we see the principles talking openly about what they did and how they did it.

The most important revelation is that, yes, there are "brains behind AOC", but she herself is essentially an actress playing a part. She was recommended for an audition being held for someone to run against the establishment candidate in the primary, but did little other than read parts.  A group called The Justice Democrats is the controlling party.  As "Mr. Reagan" (video host) describes, it wasn't necessary to do deep digging.  They brag about it.  Start at the 1:00 minute mark.  At 1:19, Alexandria herself describes how it happened.

Essentially, it's arguable that she is actually the person elected.  That would be the Justice Democrats who wrote her speeches and planned everything for her.  She doesn't even write her tweets that everyone reacts to.  That's all someone on staff.

During the video he talks about many things I've seen and heard elsewhere, which lends credibility to his presentation.   Mr. Reagan describes AOC's Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, currently under investigation for campaign finance violations due to his many organizations involved here.  By coincidence, on the BlazeTV this week, there was discussion of Chakrabarti's ever present Tee shirt (which Mr. Reagan says he thought was a self-portrait). 
Based on a recent clothing choice, Chakrabarti might justifiably be considered a Nazi sympathizer. But really? Well, yes. In his latest love-fest video for AOC, Chakrabarti is sporting a tee-shirt that features a portrait of Subhas Chandra Bose. Not familiar with this former Indian head of state? Here a few facts:
  • Bose was an ally of Adolf Hitler and met with him personally in 1942.
  • Bose founded the Free India Legion (FIL) made up of troops captured by Nazi Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
  • The FIL swore an oath to Hitler and was under SS command.
  • Bose teamed up with the Japanese in 1943.
  • Bose was an admirer of the USSR and sought to implement its authoritarian practices in India.
Bose fought Britain in India at the same time Gandhi was leading the non-violence movement.  Bose's approach was more like, "kill them all".  As Mr. Reagan describes it, Bose was trying to unify Nazism and Soviet Communism.  He has the same anti-colonialist/anti-American positions as Obama; this leads to the conclusion America is the problem in the world and needs to be taken down.  You can imagine what his plans are for deplorables. 

I have to reiterate that since what the video says seems to coincide with other things I'm seeing and hearing elsewhere, I think he's mostly right in this video. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Weekly Roundup

A couple of short observations, none of which is enough to gather a longer post

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule successfully undocked from the International Space Station in the early morning (2:32 AM East Coast time), fired its reentry burn and splashed down off NE Florida at 8:45AM, bringing the Demo-1 test flight to a successful conclusion.

There are undoubtedly reams of data being gone over, but this was a test flight testing many systems.  We don't get to look at the books and see how they get graded, but it appears to be a successful test flight.  Were 90% of the major goals achieved?  100%?  80%?  We don't get to know for now.  The Crew Dragon docked autonomously at the ISS Sunday morning (March 3) and then stayed docked for five days while tests and measurements were made - videos from last Sunday show astronauts from the ISS checking the atmosphere of the Crew Dragon for contamination while wearing protective hoods and respirators.  The capsule undocked at 2:32 a.m. this morning, survived the fiery descent through Earth's atmosphere, deployed its parachutes and splashed down gently into the Atlantic's rolling waves, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the Florida coast.

From here, it seems this puts us one step closer to Americans lifting off from American soil to the ISS.  I think they also set a performance bar for Boeing's tests flights; their equivalent of this mission could come in April. 

Speaking of the docking, the best video I've seen is in this one from SciNews.  They put the video onto a soundtrack of Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz, and the overall reminiscence of Kubrick's 2001 struck me so deeply, I found myself tearing up, something I've never done before.

Over the years of this blog, I've had two nicknames for Michael Bloomberg.  Either "the most dependable asshole in American politics" or "that nasty, fascist prick".   Bloomy has been in sole possession of those titles since I opened shop in 2010.

Today, we find there is intense competition.  Maybe not for both, but there is a spirited competition to wrest the title of "Most Dependable Asshole".  It's a three way between representatives Ilhan Omar, (D - Minnesotastan) for her virulent antisemitism, Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroitistan) for her, "I'm gonna impeach that motherf***er", and everybody's favorite nitwit, AOC (D - NYFC - Do you have a problem?) for, well, basically every sentence that leaves her mouth.  They all wear that "I'm a victim of everything!" intersectionality cloak, they're all under investigation for campaign finance violations, they're all insufferably full of themselves.  Which is a long-winded way of saying, they're all assholes.

Trying to out-asshole Bloomberg is tough challenge.  If nothing else, he gets extra points by funding all the gun grabbing, outlawing 32 oz drinks, warning about salt consumption while personally putting salt on everything, and creating laws to ensure people never get enough pain medication and suffer as much as he can make them.

Think of the old "Real American Hero" jingle commercials Budweiser used to do, just substitute "Real American Asshole". 

Florida had an extremely rare event, a minor earthquake the night before last (Wednesday night/Thursday morning).  The quake registered 2.6 on the Richter scale, which I understand is barely enough to feel.  The epicenter was near the city of Century in extreme northwest Florida.  Century is virtually on the Florida/Alabama state line, due north of Pensacola.  Bing Maps tells me it's 515 miles from here, and at least an 8 hour drive (+ some).  That's just a few miles closer than as far as one can drive and still be in Florida.  You'll change time zone to central time during the drive across the panhandle.

The biggest quake in Florida over the last few years was a 3.7 in Daytona Beach; which is much closer (about 90 minutes from me).  That one was " triggered by U.S. Navy testing that involved a man-made explosion" so hardly qualifies.  There was one in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2006 that was pretty strong, 5.9, but well offshore.