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June 28, 2017

I Was Wrong

Do I regret not voting for President Trump? No, not really; better to be happily surprised. And he won without my vote. And without winning my State. Public Choice Theory argues against recrimination.

But -- boy howdy! -- did I err in darkening the box next to Evan McMullan and Mindy Finn. I guess that can be called harmless except for the fact that I am still on their mailing list. And they are not a taciturn bunch.

Ms. Finn writes:


Since President Trump canít be trusted to protect the nation from Russian attacks on our democracy, we must all call on Congress to pass sanctions that punish Moscow, deter it from future interference and hold Trump accountable.

And so on and so forth. Bla Bla Bla. Then Do you wish to give $20 | $50 | $100 or more?

It's a bad re-run of the no-labels movement. Really? Riling up Republicans about Russia is your plan? Ugh!

So, mea maxima culpa people, that was a foolish pick. I get a bit of tomfoolery like that every few days from McMullen or Finn. I would unsubscribe, but I am reading St. Augustine and feel self-flagellation is important for growth. Now where did I put my hair-shirt?

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 1:07 PM | What do you think? [0 comments]

Quote of the Day II

Senate Republicans on Tuesday delayed a vote on their health-care bill until after the July 4 recess, and the timidity and opportunism of too many Senators suggest they may never get 50 GOP votes. We hope they understand that if they fail, Republicans will be entrusting their political health-care future to the brutal generosity of Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. -- WSJ Ed Page
Kinda says it all.

UPDATE: Plus points for "This is the Senate reality, not some Kasich Kumbaya circle."

Quote of the Day

But the next time you are tempted to indulge in that sort of intellectual laziness, consider that a lot of poor people in Seattle are going to have trouble paying their rents or feeding their children because policymakers who did not want to face the economic facts allowed themselves to be led astray by Professor Krugman, a first-rate economist who devolved into a second-rate newspaper columnist, who lent the considerable prestige of his Nobel prize to a policy proposal many of his fellow progressive economists knew to be defective even as they refused to criticize it in public. The poor people in Seattle know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If only the economists did, too. -- Kevin Williamson
Honorable mention, from the same article:
When Economics 101 tells you something you don't want to hear, the thing to do is commission a study.
I woke to a "let's face the right is just evil" post on FB. If I can find it, I'll link. "If people have to be told that poor kids should eat and that health care is more important than tax cuts for the wealthy, yadda yadda." I rolled my eyes and scrolled, but I might try responding with a link to this piece if I can find it. Slow day today.

UPDATE: Found it. Tl;dr: "People who disagree with me are evil and want children to starve. I cannot possibly have a civil dialogue with those who don't care." I don't know, it's a slow day but not perhaps that slow.

UPDATE II: Fools rush in, I posted a link.

But johngalt thinks:

Williamson and his ilk [including, I should add, yours truly] would do well to withhold judgment until the final wage hike takes effect. The mandatory minimum wage [read: price below which free trade is illegal] is not yet high enough to have the desired effect of balancing every worker's budget. */sarcasm*.

As for the "people will die" from Obamacare repeal [as if that's what the current Senate bill even does] I would like to remind our friends on the collectivist side of the aisle that refusing to treat people who can't pay hasn't happened in this country since before most of them were born - 1986, when the EMTALA required every hospital that receives Medicare payments to provide emergency care until the patient is stabilized or consents to leave. And this law, which puts care ahead of the property rights of doctors, hospitals and taxpayers, was brought to us by, President Ronald Reagan. Another heartless Republican.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2017 11:05 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I couldn't comment on the article but if I could, I would say:

You are obviously blessed with the very best of good intentions, young Ms. Chadwick, but I wonder if you are either old or wise enough to know where the road inexorably leads, that is paved with good intentions?
Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2017 11:11 AM

Solar Trash

I am not the only one who looks out on the City of Lafayette's solar farm and sees a field of trash. Julie Kelly at National Review Online calls it "Clean Energy's Dirty Little Secret."

This is one of the dirty little secrets behind the push for renewable energy. While consumers might view solar panels as harmless little windows made from glass and plastic, the reality is that they are intricately constructed from a variety of materials, making it difficult to disassemble and recycle them. Japan is already scrambling for ways to reuse its mounting inventory of solar-panel waste, which is expected to exceed 10,000 tons by 2020 and grow by 700,000 to 800,000 tons per year by 2040. Solutions are hard to find, due both to the labor-intensive process of breaking down the panels and to the low price of scrap.

Oh well, at least the batteries are easy to dispose of.

But johngalt thinks:

I just thought of a use for the hundreds of thousands of tons of solar-panel waste - road base, under the good intentions paving the road to hell.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2017 11:18 AM
But johngalt thinks:
Solar panels are considered a form of toxic, hazardous electronic or "e-waste," and according to EP researchers Jemin Desai and Mark Nelson, scavengers in developing countries like India and China often "burn the e-waste in order to salvage the valuable copper wires for resale. Since this process requires burning off plastic, the resulting smoke contains toxic fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic (birth defect-causing) when inhaled."

I can't debate someone into caring about what happens to their fellow human beings and their unborn children when government-subsidized solar panels are burned by the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the world.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2017 11:27 AM
But jk thinks:

Heh. I see what you did there.

The reason I cannot abandon Arthur Brooks [Review Corner] in spite of his insipid adherence to the Pope and the Dalai Lama, is that the story of Heart needs be told.

Ethanol! Let's burn food for no discernable good to anybody but ADM.

Tyler Cowen asks policy makers to give future citizens a seat at the table. That which impedes wealth creation and innovation steals from future people.

Posted by: jk at June 28, 2017 11:56 AM

June 27, 2017

Happy Birthday ATM!

I know my Luddite blog brothers and sisters are not yet sold on the technology ("we're going to trust machines to handle our money?"), but I salute this innovative addoiion to productivity, convenience, and prosperity.

It's the golden anniversary of the ATM. On June 27, 1967, a Barclays Bank branch in London unveiled the world's first automated teller machine. It solved a common problem: In much of the world, cash could be obtained only when a bank was open, typically weekdays between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., known as "bankers' hours." The limited schedule often meant long lines. And it could be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain money from a bank other than your own.

The engineer often identified as having developed the first ATM, John Shepherd-Barron, said that his "aha" moment was a byproduct of arriving at his bank one minute after it closed. "That night I started thinking that there must be a better way to get cash when I wanted it,"

But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2017 11:15 AM

Quote of the Day

The FBI is currently investigating whether [Senator Sanders's wife, Jane] committed fraud when she told People's United Bank that she had confirmed pledges. One confirmed pledge of $1 million, it turned out, was to be paid after the donor's death, not in the next few years, as Sanders had stated. -- Austin Yack, National Review
Oh, that can be arranged...
But jk thinks:

...And am I the only one childish enough to laugh that the Sanderses have chosen People's United Bank for their banking needs? "Oh, honey, this one sounds good!"

Posted by: jk at June 28, 2017 12:00 PM

Feelin' the Bern -- Papal Edition

Pope endorses slavery:


Rant Posted by John Kranz at 9:48 AM | What do you think? [1 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

Perhaps, yes. Or at the very least, faith healing.

Posted by: johngalt at June 27, 2017 12:30 PM

June 25, 2017

Review Corner

King though thou be,
I claim an equal right To make reply,
Here I call no man lord:
For I am not thy slave , but Loxias ',
Nor shall I stand on Creon's patronage;
And this I say, since thou hast dared revile
My blindness, that thou seest, yet dost not see
Thy evil plight , nor where thou liv'st, nor yet
With whom thou dwellest,
Know'st thou even this, -- Sophocles. Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King)
Review Corner, to overextend a metaphor, will be going a different direction for several weeks. I have signed up for Hillsdale's Great Books 101, Ancient to Medieval course. Hillsdale offers several non-credit free online courses. I enjoyed the Athens and Sparta and look forward to this one.

They offer free PDFs with selections from the reading assignments, but I intend to read all the books in their entirety. A great side benefit is that most of these are available in Kindle for $0.99 or $1.99. In fact, that is not a side benefit; I am purposefully trying to tweak my book expenditures. Leader Pelosi would call it "budget slashing."

The first two weeks were the Iliad [Review Corner] and the Odyssey [Review Corner], both of which have been recently reviewed after I learned of Robert Fagles's sumptuous translations. I just finished his Aeneid, which I will review next week (fear not, Virgil scores some stars).

Book three was Sophocles' Oedipus Rex which I had never read. Everyone knows the tale form the osmosis of culture, but more think of the psychological disorder. Sophocles tale has no illicit desire -- though I propose it to be the first documented case of road rage. The King is maltreated by a charioteer at the intersection of three roads. I guess "the bird" has not yet been invented, so he murders the whole lot of them.

"Oh by the way honey, how'd you say that your first husband died? Three roads, huh?"

Reading Homer, and to a great extent the secular Thucydides, the lover of Reason and self-direction is put off by the intercession of the gods and fate. In poor Oedipus, we see a life ruined through very little fault of his own (well, there is that one youthful indiscretion, but who of us hasn't got a little cheesed off at a motorist. And murdered the whole carful.)

Why should we fear, when chance rules everything,
And foresight of the future there is none;
'Tis best to live at random, as one can .

To avoid the prophesy, Oedipus has taken extraordinary measures. He has abandoned his homeland and benefits of primogeniture to ascertain that the prophesy is unfulfilled. Without DNA testing, you really could not ask more. Or could you?
OEDIP . What hindered you, when thus your sovereignty Had fallen low, from searching out the truth?
CREON . The Sphinx, with her dark riddle, bade us look At nearer facts, and leave the dim obscure .

Without mens rea, the revealed truth reduces the King to a blind exile, his wife driven to suicide and his children forever shunned as abominations.
Ah, race of mortal men,
How as a thing of naught I count ye, though ye live;
For who is there of men
That more of blessing knows
Than just a little while In a vain show to stand,
And, having stood, to fall?
With thee before mine eyes,
Thy destiny, e'en thine, Ill-fated Oedipus, I can count no man blest.

I guess that's why they call then Tragedies. I'm humbled to apportion stars to Sophocles, but it is an accessible and short read. And if you want more academic input than that offered in Review COrner, you amy watch the Hillsdale lecture free of charge.

June 23, 2017

ThreeSources Movie Night!

Here's a nice example of that last point that comes from a silent film made all the way back in 1911! (Ironically, it was a tweet by Clive Thompson that brought this clip to my attention.) The short film is called The Automatic Motorist and here's how Michael Waters summarizes the plot in a post over at Atlas Obscura: "In it, a robot chauffeur is developed to drive a newly wedded couple to their honeymoon destination. But this robot malfunctions, and all of a sudden the couple is marooned in outer space (and then sinking underwater, and then flying through the sky--it's complicated)." In sum: don't trust robots or autonomous systems or you will probably die. -- Adam Thierer

Bug or Feature?


Quote of the Day

If the Democrats were smart, they'd give [Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi] a gold watch and some eye drops and get rid of her. -- Jonah Goldberg (All Hail!)

UPDATE: Honorable mention, from the same G-File, ending his "Wonder Woman" review:

Last, and crucially, what the Hell was an armadillo doing in Themyscira?

I Thought the Science Was Settled?

Danmned Reciprocity Deniers!

Resonant and wave-guiding systems are present in the vast majority of optical and electronic systems. Their role is to temporarily store energy in the form of electromagnetic waves and then release them. For more than 100 hundred years, these systems were held back by a limitation that was considered to be fundamental: the length of time a wave could be stored was inversely proportional to its bandwidth. This relationship was interpreted to mean that it was impossible to store large amounts of data in resonant or wave-guiding systems over a long period of time because increasing the bandwidth meant decreasing the storage time and quality of storage.

This law was first formulated by K. S. Johnson in 1914, at Western Electric Company (the forerunner of Bell Telephone Laboratories). He introduced the concept of the Q factor, according to which a resonator can either store energy for a long time or have a broad bandwidth, but not both at the same time. Increasing the storage time meant decreasing the bandwidth, and vice versa. A small bandwidth means a limited range of frequencies (or 'colors') and therefore a limited amount of data.

But johngalt thinks:

"...can either store energy for a long time or have a broad bandwidth, but not both at the same time."

Long-time readers may recall my objection to a similar "law" postulated by Werner Heisenberg. The "HUP" (Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) makes a similar declaration of impossibility about measuring the position and velocity of subatomic particles. I continue to maintain that science will progress beyond this self-imposed (and, in my opinion, self-important) limitation. The linked discovery tends to reinforce my position.

However, in defense of Mr. Johnson, his Q factor describes a property of passive resonators. Manipulating a material with magnetic fields requires the input of external energy. While the new discovery does have novel applications, disproving an established law is not necessarily one of its achievements.

Posted by: johngalt at June 23, 2017 4:23 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Hardware engineers circle the "softie" :-O
Either I'm being obtuse, or the writer is trying to say something a bit more than the research shows (hmmmm, why ???). Rest assured, the article does not say that more energy (or data) can come out than was put in.

What's most likely is that they've not yet discovered the bandwidth limitations of the

hybrid resonant / wave-guiding system made of a magneto-optic material
I've run out remembering the number of times that I've heard
But that limitation is now a thing of the past.
which certainly sells copy and tickets to research conferences.

This very well might be a sparkling new addition to methods of high-speed data rendition and communication, but I don't think it's going to affect the energy world in my lifetime.

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 25, 2017 12:49 AM
But jk thinks:

Redefining the term "tough room."

Most of this remains a bit North of my pay grade, but I see a heretofore limitation in the spectra and transmitting packaging utilized for wireless communication is found not to be a limitation after all.

If I overreached with "science is settled" then mea -- gorram -- culpa, but I found it interesting and Popperian that a hundred year restriction in design has been overturned.

Posted by: jk at June 25, 2017 3:45 PM




One more Father's Day tribute -- as I was blessed with two. My Father-in-law was a big fan of Jobim Antonio Carlos Jobim ©1967

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


June 21, 2017

How much safer?

I took my blog brother at face value when he reported here that the number of automotive-related deaths would "plummet" from self-driving cars, with "most analyses suggest[ing] that autonomous vehicles will eventually prevent over half of the 35,000 deaths that occur on American roads each year, and some reports are much more optimistic."

For its part, Tesla Motors has said "Brown's death is the first known fatality in over 130 million miles driven with autopilot, while there is a U.S. traffic fatality once every 94 million miles for cars not using autopilot."

So if the number of traffic fatalities was cut in half, or more, by autonomous vehicles, wouldn't autopilot have to log, on average, 188 million miles or more between individual fatalities? (Assuming just one person dies per Tesla crash, of course.) It's true that the one Tesla autopilot fatality is statistically insignificant, but if Brown had had a passenger who also died, autopilot would be demonstrably less safe than non-autopiloted vehicles.

And this simple analysis assumes that all of the vehicles on the road would be autonomous. And that all of the fatalities on the road are caused by vehicles that would be made autonomous, and not by the negligence of pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, medium and heavy truck or light truck and van drivers, to name a few.

No, it seems like the life-saving effects of self-driving cars are only a slight improvement over the old fashioned distracted human driver, with its natural self-awareness and instinct for self-preservation, at least while sober. Although this beneficial conclusion is reached before a statistically significant number of interactions between autonomous vehicles and roadway flag men. How exactly do you make eye contact with a self-driving car anyway? Maybe the safety comparison is closer to unity after all.

But jk thinks:

No. No. No. No. Nooooo! I mean, I disagree somewhat...

The 94 million figure is, sadly, based on sound statistical sampling thanks to those 35,000 data points. The denominator in 1/130,000,000 is borderline random. it could have been 4 or 200,000,000 -- n'est ce pas?

I refer you to "Getting Risk Right" [Review Corner] to see the pitfalls of comparing probabilities of unlikely events. One death of one woman almost spiked the promising technology of cell phones.

The Luddites were beaten back and millions of lives were saved -- and incredible prosperity and productivity unleashed. But how's this relate to our discussion? I forgot...

My larger argument is the improvement (dare I say "perfectibility?") of machine algorithms. People will drive just as badly in 50 years, but machines will be better.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 10:37 AM
But johngalt thinks:

We haven't had a dustup in a while, and I almost sprained my tongue with it pressed so hard into my cheek for a five paragraph post. But we have to acknowledge that self-driving deaths do occur, and it didn't really take very long for the first one.

You may rightly say that it resulted from human error, but at the same time I'll point out that the autonomous driver required human intervention.

I'll concede that machines are more perfectible than human drivers, but my assertion has always been that the operating environment is not and will never be perfected. That's where I object to the car "driving itself." What in the world is wrong with just assisting the human driver? The answer, of course, is "nothing." It's just not as sexy sounding and futuristic as "autonomous vehicles." Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying they don't have their place. I'm just saying they should not be intended to replace all human self-reliance. And driver assistance features will make human drivers far safer too. Some might even be bold enough to say, "half or fewer fatalities per mile driven."

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2017 11:30 AM
But jk thinks:

We have a proximate technical agreement in the idea of AI-assistance in, well everything. I highly recommend Kasperov's Conversations with Tyler. Yes, man-machine partnerships will bring much of the safety benefits of autonomous vehicles.

I hate to take a side-road, but I am truly burning with the question "when will the first deaths occur from vehicles which stop themselves?" That's a popular feature, if commercials during sports are any indication. And it does not take much imagination to see its providing a bad outcome.

The answer to your "why not a driver?" is the productivity gains, not the safety gains. Y'know, cowboy, they wanted to keep elevator operators for the same reason. "What in the world is wrong with just assisting the human operator? The answer, of course, is 'nothing.'" Like the cell phone, the Luddites were beaten and we do not have to pay a union wage to a guy who punches buttons and prevents you from plummeting to your death.

True autonomy changes the landscape -- I want to reclaim commuting hours, move to a shared capital model instead of trillions sitting dormant 95% of the time, empower the disabled and blind, and turn the parking lots into wild animal refuges, where the deer and the antelope can play.

What's wrong with keeping a human behind the wheel? It precludes all those benefits I mentioned.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 11:56 AM
But johngalt thinks:

How do you answer the closing question in my post: "How exactly do you make eye contact with a self-driving car anyway?"

Will flaggers ever feel safe again? Or pedestrians in general?

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2017 2:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I do not think that is insuperable. People did not feel safe in automated elevators for awhile, but they changed the technology to provide better indication.

Perhaps some lights on front, like the "Liddy Dole Lights" in the back window, could flashs to let you know you're "seen." I certainly think they'll be pretty effective at stopping at crosswalks and lights before they get too far.

Heck, we might automate the flaggers.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 3:54 PM
But jk thinks:

Funny that I do not fear this, but I saw a "Roomba for weeds" video on Facebook and thought "Skynet. That's how it starts..."

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2017 3:56 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

I can't wait to hear cockpit recordings of the human arguing with his AI driver. :-) IMO, assistive technology will wait, b/c the market will demand auto-taxis for the busy-busy and showoffs.

Honestly, the simplest way to be safe is to go slower, so there will be classic all2human resistance to the AI's control... but also human laziness can't be understated!

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 23, 2017 1:06 AM
But dagny thinks:


Posted by: dagny at June 27, 2017 2:10 PM

June 19, 2017

Energy Sec Expresses Opinion!

¡quel horreur!

The Denver Post in incensed (oh, is that that smell) because "Rick Perry just denied that humans are the main cause of climate change " Some denier:

Perry added that "the fact is this shouldn't be a debate about, 'Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?' Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?"

I know what you're thinking. "Effect with an e?" but never mind that now. The truly disturbing part is that no dissent will be tolerated. Let's measure the Secretary's stunning dissent:
"It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," the IPCC said in a 2013 report

So, something the UN said was "extremely likely: in 2013, Perry suggests may not be true. Stop the presses.

It's funny but it is not. It is a shot across the bow. The Dr. Manns of the world control the dialog and heterodoxy will not be tolerated

In completely unrelated news -- I don't know why I even bring it up -- this week's Econtalk about Churchill and George Orwell is quite worthwhile.

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