RE: Nomenclature (was) Chemicals R Us

2009-11-19 Thread Dan M



From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
Behalf Of Nick Arnett
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 10:26 AM
To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
Subject: Re: Nomenclature (was) Chemicals R Us



Organic gardening bugs me.  Sounds like the opposite would be inorganic
gardening.

Like organic food...as though non-organic tomatoes were carbon free.

I like to think of it as Amish gardening...getting back to the 19th century.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of that going around.

Dan M. 


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RE: Lifestyle changes better than drugs

2009-11-18 Thread Dan M
I'm sorry that this went first to just Debbi, but the mail went to me and
brin-l, and my reply to user just went to her, not brin-l.  



Debbi convinced me that this study found a long term weight loss.  From
studies I'm familiar with, weight loss is usually short term...the average
weight change 5+ years after various diets have been tried is positive; yet
this study has found that there was an overwhelming number of people who
kept at least a third of the weight off.

So, I looked around, and there were few free references to long term weight
loss that were not advertisements.  I didn't feel like buying papers; so I
just found a couple of free references.

http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/pa-04-092.html

http://tinyurl.com/yds2l83

The first is a grant announcement from the NIH for studies looking into why
people don't keep off weight.  The second states with a footnote that I'd
have to pay to refer to how weight loss is rarely maintained.


Then I got creative, and found other studies with long term follow ups,
which also showed about a third of the weight staying off.

Why the contradiction?  Then it hit mestudies usually _pay_
participants.  Someone who is paid to stay in a study, and gets support for
weight loss during that entire time is a unique individual.  Thus, they are
far more likely to maintain weight gain than folks who do not have this type
of backing.

Thus, we have a reason for the inconsistency, and why most folks don't keep
weight off after they diet.

I think there is little argument that losing weight is the first option for
pre-diabetics, people with high cholesterol etc.  But, in the real world,
physicians tell people they need to change their lifestyle and most don't.

That's why I see a strong correlation between abstinence before marriage and
fidelity in marriage (include gay marriages if you will) as the best form of
AIDS prevention and lifestyle changes as the best means of improving health.
Both, if practiced, have shown tremendous results.  Condoms, for example,
only decrease the chances of pregnancy and getting AIDS, they don't prevent
either.  Given the fact that most folks are promiscuous, and education
doesn't prevent it, talking about safer sex in schools makes sense.  Just
like it makes sense for a physician to tell a patient to try diet and
exercise at the first signs of weight related problems and then go to meds
at the next visit when the weight is either unchanged or increased.

Dan M.


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Richard: Dark Matter / Energy in Doubt

2009-10-24 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of KZK
 Sent: Friday, October 23, 2009 12:11 PM
 To: brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Subject: RE: Br!n: Dark Matter / Energy in Doubt
 
 I don't dispute anything you write, except for this.  Forgive me if I am
 mistaken, but my understanding was that they did not in fact have to
 modify the MOG theory in order to explain the data in the case of the
 bullet cluster.  The paper seemed quite clear on this point.  In fact
 the whole reason I pointed out the paper in the first place, and what
 makes it so interesting, is that they didn't have to change any of the
 parameters of the theory in order to explain the Bullet cluster, whereas
 Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) was apparently eviscerated by the
 bullet cluster data.

Maybe Richard can weigh in on this because he was a boffin in a former life;
not just a plumber.  But, if they set their parameters using earlier
observations, then I would think they would be very clear about what those
parameters were, and how they set them.  If you look at landmark papers,
such as the first observations of charm, while they can be understated, to a
physicist reading their paper the results stand out clearly as if they were
in 50 pt Bold.  

I don't get that with this paper, but maybe I'm missing something.  Where do
they state the earlier data that they used to set their parameters?

Second, it seems clear from the sites I quoted that they had to change their
parameters to match later observations.

Third, folks who tried to work the progress of the clusters from before
collision through the collision using their theory needed very specific
preconditions to obtain the results.  
 
 Seems to me that if neutrino's oscillate between having mass and not
 having mass, 

That's not what neutrino oscillation is.  It is oscillation between
different type of neutrinos, from electron neutrinos to muon or tau
neutrinos.  It is akin to kaon oscillations, where a K0 is produced, but a
K0-bar can be observed.  It's kinda neat physics, with production and
interactions are kaons (down,strange-bar) or kaon-bars (down-bar,strange),
but transport occurs with 

K-short: [(down,strange-bar)- (down-bar,strange)]/sqrt(2)

and 

K-long: [(down,strange-bar)+ (down-bar,strange)]/sqrt(2)




 that they would oscillate between being bound by gravity
 and moving in a straight line, 

ah, light is bent, and it has no massbut it has relativistic mass.
FWIW, although one can do it either way, the convention now is to call rest
mass mass and to just see relativistic mass as E/c^2.  

Dan M. 


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RE: Br!n: Dark Matter / Energy in Doubt

2009-10-22 Thread Dan M
 
 Dr. Brin, in one of your recent blog posts you mention the article about
 dark energy but not the paper about dark matter.  This is confusing,
 because the paper on dark matter is the much more interesting of the
 two, seeing as it doesn't rely on any might-be's or other supposition's,
 but rather takes existing data and matches it against the current MOG
 theory, and shows how the theory matches the data, as is.  MOND/TeVeS
 may be dead theories, but it appears MOG is still a viable alternative
 to Dark Matter.

I'm a mere plumber, but let me try to explain the difficulties with the
ideas presented in this paper.  FWIW, I know these guys are not crackpots;
they have come up with a theory that's a bit out there, but that's what
boffins do.  It's up to plumbers like me to show that they are wrong, and
every now and then to show that they are right.

There are two real problems with their theories.  First, they have to modify
the theory every time new data comes in.  There is still enough room in
parameter space for them to do that, but their room to maneuver in that
space is shrinking.  We cannot explain the rotation of galaxies with only
the matter that is seen and GR.  So, we either modify GR or postulate matter
that follows GR, but does not emit detectable radiation, like stars, or
illuminated galactic dust, or hides emitted radiation like galactic dust
that covers stars, or is otherwise directly observable. 

Dark matter seems to be a simple way to explain this.  There is no
fundamental reason for not having dark matter; but it is a free parameter
because it is not seen.

The other explanation we are considering is modifying GR.  But, it's not a
simple modification.  For example, we can modify gravity to explain the
bullet cluster.  But, there has to be a rather specific modification that
requires very unique preconditionsindeed as one of the sources I refer
to indicates, we have not been able to walk through the whole collision
process with this modified theory.

Second, as new colliding clusters are seen; different behavior is seen.  For
dark matter, we have to postulate that different clusters have different
ratios of dark/regular matter, different ratios of different types of dark
matter, and so on.  These are, in a sense, free parameters.  But, in the
same sense, to explain why some stars are blue and some are red; why some
supernova and others don't, we have to postulate different amounts of matter
in the stars.

The two references given below discuss these difficulties.

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/09/dark_matter_part_iii_dark_ma
tt.php

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=2404693


Having a theory that is changed with each new observation is problematic.
In a real sense, the modified gravity folks are being painted into a corner.
As this happens, physicists tend to lower the probability that this is the
correct theory.

But, time will tell.  If, all of a sudden, the shrinkage slows, and we have
a narrow range of possible modifications that work with everything, then
that is evidence for modified gravity.  Most people are betting, however,
that plumbers will find enough evidence for there to be no room left to
stand...there will no longer be any possible set of parameters for the
modified gravity theory that allows it to fit the data.

The second blow is that we have independent strong evident for dark matter:
neutrinos.  There is very strong evidence that neutrinos have mass:


http://www.hep.anl.gov/ndk/hypertext/solar_experiments.html
http://seesaw25.in2p3.fr/trans/heeger.pdf

Now neutrinos alone will probably not provide enough dark matter by
themselves to explain the behavior of galaxies, galactic collisions, etc.
However, they are dark matter as long as they have rest massand the
evidence keeps on piling up that neutrinos are massive.

I hope this helps.

Dan M. 






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Knowledge of Complex Systems and Ecconomics

2009-09-05 Thread Dan M
After reading John's arguments that strongly imply the best possible state
is the natural market, I thought a bit about what we do know about the
economy and complex systems.  For example, we know that the economy has had
boom/bust cycles.  We know that players in the market are not purely
rational creatures; they are emotional/rational beings.  We know that the
financial system is a network.  We also know that there are financial
products, such as credit default swaps, that match the size of the world's
GDP in size.

I wrote this two days ago, but it didn't get through.

We also know that complex systems can have subsets that have rules that are
too hard to deduce from first principals, but are nonetheless apply.  For
example, even though chemistry is extremely complicated electroweak theory,
and we haven't done first principals calculations on any but the simplest
chemistry; chemistry is still a science.  With biology, we have very complex
chemistry, yet biology is a science.  If we don't know anything once things
are complex, then biology and chemistry would be impossible.

We also know that there are interesting patterns that crop up in complex
systems.  For example, there can be tipping points, where they go from one
meta-stable position to another.  

We know that, while we cannot see trends as absolute rules when dealing with
complex systems, the most persimmons model consistent within the data has
the best chance of being a reasonable approximation of what we will
understand as we gain a better, more detailed understanding of the system.
In addition, it has the best change of future predictions.  Note, I didn't
say that it would always be right; there are many times that extrapolations
beyond data are wrong.  But, if one were to consider all possible theories
available at the time,, one's best chance of being close is choosing that
theory.

Relating this to a short thread on first do no harm deciding not to decide
is also an action.  One cannot wash ones hands of the repercussions of doing
nothing, while criticizing those who strive and fail.  One can argue that
doing nothing (e.g. surgery) is the best option, accepting that there will
be instances where that fails and doing the surgery would have been
successful.  The only argument one would need to make was, given the
information available at the time, the inaction was the best choice...given
the range of possibilities for intervening or not intervening.

Dan M.


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First, do no harm

2009-09-03 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Andrew Crystall
 Sent: Monday, August 31, 2009 4:25 PM
 To: Killer Bs DDavid Brin et al Discussion
 Subject: Re: Ben Bernanke, fearless leader
 
 On 30 Aug 2009 at 12:22, John Williams wrote:
 
  One of a doctor's fundamental guidelines is do no harm. A
  responsible doctor would never operate on a patient to remove the
  appendix simply because the patient complains of a stomach ache. More
  information about the state of the patient is needed before an
  operation is justified.
 
 An excellent example.
 
 Doctors are expected to remove a certain percentage of healthy
 appendixes. I can't remember the exact percentage, but it's
 significant. Why? Because the effects of an acute burst appendix are
 so nasty. If a doctor isn't removing enough healthy ones, then he is
 actually not serving his patents properly.
 
 You may wish to reflect on this as regards your stance.

There is one other point that clearly falsifies the first do no harm taken
as an absolute rule for medicine.  Take, for example, the fact that there
are always unknown factors and low probability events in medicine.  For
example, even with the most common surgeries, there is a chance the patient
will die in surgery.  Thus, if we first do no harm, we never do surgery.

Clearly, I'm not arguing with you here, its just that your point made me
reflect a bit.

Dan M. 


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RE: Why not discuss the topic?

2009-08-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:41 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Why not discuss the topic?
 
 
 No chutzpah required, since I am convinced that the recession is
 largely the result of unforeseen consequences of imperfectly
 understood regulations and interactions between them, of people and
 businesses finding ways to game regulations, and of wrong-headed
 government bailouts of people and businesses who would have lost money
 in a free market which would disincentivize such behavior in the
 future, but instead the bailouts incentivize such things.

OK, I'll bite.  We know that the financial crisis can be traced to things
like the use of the VAR model and credit default swaps to the tune of 45
trillion dollars.  A system was set up that was based on the assumption that
a model that cuts off the low probability tale would be perfectly adequate.

If financial risks/rewards followed the normal Gaussian distribution, that
would be true.  The VAR would allow one to skate very close to the edge,
running highly leveraged investments, with virtually no risk.

But, we know that, historically, black swans have been a key part of both
true financial growth and financial collapses.  One might reasonably argue
that credit default swaps were a clever way to have high leverage without
technically violating the laws that limit bank leverage.  But, the collapse
was due to the overwhelming leverage itself.  Your argument would be valid
if and only if leverage would stop causing problems if only the government
didn't try to stop it.  But, of course, there are countless examples of
leveraged bubbles bursting in areas that governments had not regulated, so
one would need to show how government regulations where they didn't regulate
caused it.

Your writings are consistent with the viewpoint of one who knows government
is the root cause of all that is wrong a priori, and needs not look at data
to look at the truth.  

Dan M. 



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The Role of Government in a Libertarian Free Market

2009-08-12 Thread Dan M


Ever since I was given Atlas Shrugged to read by a girlfriend in 1975,
I've been discussing the wonders of free markets with objectivists, radical
libertarians and the like.  When asked how disputes over contracts,
ownership, and the like were resolved, all agreed that a governmental court
system was necessary.

John, would you agree that some sort of community system, like the courts,
are necessary to resolve disputes over true ownership of property,
contracts, and the like?

Dan M.



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RE: The Role of Government in a Libertarian Free Market

2009-08-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 7:32 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: The Role of Government in a Libertarian Free Market
 
 On Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 3:04 PM,
 dsummersmi...@comcast.netdsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 
  No, it's the courts that decided, not the patent system itself.
 Enforcement
  of  patents and other IP are in the courts, not through patent clerks.
 
 So, if some politicians decided to make a law that all Texans must
 have a job and they cannot be paid more than the minimum wage, and the
 courts enforced it, then it is the courts fault?

No, that is the fault of the laws as written.  The problem with the court
system is that they do not understand enough to enforce the laws as written.

  No matter how the laws are written, those with the most money tend to
 win.
  Laws are typically analyzied right left and upside down.  They are
  typically gamed by lawyers, and the ones who can afford to spend the
 most
  on gaiming them almost always wins.
 
 That sounds like a good argument for severely limiting the number and
 complexity of the laws, so that anyone can be familiar with most or
 all of them, and easily understand them.

So, then, we need to have no field of engineering so complex that a layman
cannot understand it?  Simple laws can be gamed and have long been gamed. 

Let me give you an example from my field.  The laws of classical
electrodynamics are so simple they can fit on a tee shirt.  Yet, people who
have studied them and worked with them for years can still be surprised by
their application. Such it is with the law, and its application.  


Or, if you just want to consider the law, think about the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights is a _very_ simple document.  Its interpretation has been
varied, subtle and complex.

 
Dan M. 


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RE: Libertarian Morality--Up with good King John, down with Robin Hood.

2009-08-07 Thread Dan M
 
Of course, I knew there was another strain in libertarianism that was
based in morality.  This was an ideological commitment to maximize
individual freedom.  Basically Aleister Crowley's Harm no one and do
what thou wilt, with the harm no one clause being
optional--particularly when doing business.

That's not a moral principle.  That's principled amorality, an abandonment
of social responsibility.  At best it is mysticism; faith that we don't
have to do anything for our neighbors because the universe will take care
of them (if they deserve it, or whatever). Morality an antidote, not a
synonym, for self-centered pragmatism.

Well, how do you define what a moral principal is?  I'd argue it is an axiom
of a system of ethics.  Now, from your arguments, I suspect you and I both
strongly differ with some of the basic axioms of, say, Objectivistic ethics,
but that does not keep it from being an ethical system.

You can't prove or disprove ethical, moral principals.  You can either posit
them explicitly, or implicitly.  Personally, I prefer explicit, because the
principals are out there to be discussed, and the implications of those
principals can be arrived at logically and more clearly.

Dan M. 



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RE: Br!n: Libertarian Morality--Up with good King John, down withRobin Hood.

2009-08-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Trent Shipley
 Sent: Friday, August 07, 2009 3:23 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Br!n: Libertarian Morality--Up with good King John, down
 withRobin Hood.
 
 While writing this I tried to imagine how a certain kind of libertarian
 thought about the world.  It is a shallow exercise in participant
 observation.  To appreciate what I wrote you must at least partially
 empathize with our libertarian subject.

I have a question for you Trentdon't libertarians assume that, in a free
market, those that create wealth get to keep at least a tenth of a percent
of the wealth they create?  I've got a trillion dollar counterfactual that
I've discussed here before for that argument.

Dan M. 


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RE: WeChooseTheMoon

2009-07-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 12:32 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: WeChooseTheMoon
 
 On Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 8:58 PM, Doug Pensingerbrig...@zo.com wrote:
 
  Absolutely not, but isn't that how the free market works; the people
 with
  money/power decide what's in the best interest of the people they
 control?
 
 People they control? Huh? Politicians and regulators control people.
 Free market allows people to choose for themselves.
 
  Then we have the ringing success of the U.S. health care system to tell
 us
  how well the free market works for sick people.
 
 The US health care system is not a free market. Medicare and Medicaid
 make up more than 50% of US health care spending

Hmm, my sources (one is HHS) indicate that, as of the last measure, Medicaid
spending was to be ~400 billion in 2008, according to Keiser, Medicare was
$410 billion in 2007, and with several projected increases of 7% for 2007 to
2008 it would be about ~430 billion.  Total healthcare costs for the US in
2008 was about 2.4 trillion, according to several sources.  So, were talking
about Medicare and Medicaid making up roughly 35% of total costs. 

How did you get  1.2 trillion for Medicare and Medicaid?

Dan M. 


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RE: Why not discuss the topic?

2009-07-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Warren Ockrassa
 Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 10:55 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Why not discuss the topic?
 
 On Jul 17, 2009, at 8:07 PM, dsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 
  There are arguements for the free market. My Congressman wants a free
  market solution, and I respect him because he doesn't pretend facts
  don't
  exist.
 
 But we have free market solutions. We've had them for decades. And for
 many, those solutions don't work.

Agreed.  But, where he and I agree and where a John would disagree is that a
free market can be shaped by the laws within which it resides.  For example,
if you required insurance companies to accept pre-existing conditions, you
would get rid of one of the major problems with the present system.  If you
got rid of the strong incentives for hospitals to refuse admissions and for
insurance companies to deny claims, then aspects of the market can be
helpful.  For example, our local grocery store has a cheap clinic in it;
with minimal overhead and total cost for minor problems (including those
that would be major if left untreated).  My son had a staff infection that
could have killed him if left untreated, and the total cost of treatment
without insurance was $60.00 (we have insurance with a modest per person
deductable he didn't reach).  

 The idea of insurance is that a large number of people pool their
 resources together to lighten the burden of loss for a few. (This is,
 in essence, socialism.) 

I wouldn't call it socialism, because it is pooling resources voluntarily
because any one of those who pooled it could be the unlucky guy/gal.  I bet,
if you knew you'd never get in an accident and if it wasn't required, you'd
be far less likely to pay 2500/year for car insurance just to help those who
do get into accidents.

It's also a very
 Christian concept, for those who are of that mind. Inasmuch as ye do
 it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.)

That's a different concept...it's about helping folks who need it.  In fact,
Jesus directly compared this to helping those who you know will be in a
position to help you later.  I'll give you a personal example of this.  When
we took in a teenager who was thrown out of the house by her drug addict mom
and was living in a used car her grandfather had given her (I'd say a
quarter step above homelessness), we didn’t do it because we thought we or
our kids would be homeless.  We did it because, as Christians, we felt
called to do so. (And I am not saying that the non-Christians on the list
wouldn't do thisI'd just say that they'd have a parallel feel for the
moral requirement to do so). 


Dan M. 


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RE: Why not discuss the topic?

2009-07-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:41 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Why not discuss the topic?


 No chutzpah required, since I am convinced that the recession is
 largely the result of unforeseen consequences of imperfectly
 understood regulations and interactions between them, of people and
 businesses finding ways to game regulations, and of wrong-headed
 government bailouts of people and businesses who would have lost money
 in a free market which would disincentivize such behavior in the
 future, but instead the bailouts incentivize such things.

OK, are you arguing that the bubbles and busts in history when government
had all but no regulation were products of that small regulation because
government regulations is known a priori to be the cause of all problems in
the market?  That one cannot look at multiple cases with small and large
regulations, and compare them to get a decent rough estimate of the effect
government regulations?  

Dan M. 


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RE: WeChooseTheMoon

2009-07-17 Thread Dan M



From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 6:26 PM
To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
Subject: Re: WeChooseTheMoon


John wrote:
On Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 8:58 PM, Doug Pensingerbrig...@zo.com wrote:

 Absolutely not, but isn't that how the free market works; the people with
 money/power decide what's in the best interest of the people they control?
People they control? Huh? Politicians and regulators control people.
Free market allows people to choose for themselves.

So if there was some vital benefit to society and it couldn't be provided
without a financial loss, how would the free market provide it?


 Then we have the ringing success of the U.S. health care system to tell us
 how well the free market works for sick people.
The US health care system is not a free market. Medicare and Medicaid
make up more than 50% of US health care spending, so the majority of
the US health care system is government controlled.

And why isn't it a free market?  What is the free market mechanism that
provides _all_ of the citizens of one of the worlds wealthiest nations with
health care?  

Folks do get health care, just not in an efficient or timely fashion.  In
fact, my Republican congressman says that about 20% of the cost of health
care for those with insurance is covering the care and the overhead for
hiding the cost of the care of those who can't pay for the care they need
not to die.

I have A Modest Proposal on this.  The free market would be part of
evolutionthose who cannot afford healthcare would be considered unfit
until all humans could afford it. :-)

Dan M. 




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RE: WeChooseTheMoon

2009-07-16 Thread Dan M
Somehow this just went to the author instead of the list.  So, I'm
reposting, even though I got a nice reply from Lance. 

 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of dsummersmi...@comcast.net
 Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 11:33 AM
 To: brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Subject: RE: WeChooseTheMoon
 
 An interesting aside on this.  It took the Mercury program a bit over 9
 months to go from the first sub-orbital flight to the first orbital
 flight.
 
 The big private enterprise sub-orbital flight happened almost 5 years ago
 (5 years this coming November IIRC).  It cost 100 million to develop, and
 won a prize of 10 million.  I can find nothing in development for private
 orbital flight. (By private I mean without government money, not
 government
 contractors).  I have no idea when it will happen, but I will bet a case
 of
 beer against one beer that it will be more than 10 years from the first
 sub-orbital flight.
 
 Yes, we have announcement of Virgin planning sub-orbital flights in a
 big-time manner, which will probably be close enough to break even to be
 worth it in PR.  And, the owner is a multi-billionaire who could afford
 it.
 But, I think it very worth noting that we are not talking about a step
 that
 took the government less than a year not being on the privatae horizen
 after 5 years.  There is something fundamental going on here, IMHO.
 
 Dan M.
 
 
 
 
 mail2web.com – What can On Demand Business Solutions do for you?
 http://link.mail2web.com/Business/SharePoint
 
 
 
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RE: Drinking Water From Air Humidity

2009-07-13 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of hkhenson
 Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 12:29 PM
 To: brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Subject: Re: Drinking Water From Air Humidity
 
 At 07:05 AM 7/13/2009, Dan M wrote:
 
 snip
 
 Because it clearly won't work well at any time but the pre dawn hours in
 the desert.  The collectors have to be cooled below the dew point. Let me
 give a US example.  In Las Vegas yesterday, in the heat of the day, the
 temperature was 42C, while the dew point was -1C.  Even shaded, it takes
 tremendous power to keep collectors that cold while deliberately being
 exposed to a very hot wind.
 
 Obviously they would not build them this way.  Think about
 dehumidifiers.  In a damp basement this one will put out 33 l of
 water a day on 750 watts
 
 http://cgi.ebay.com/FRIGIDAIRE-70-PINT-POWER-
 DEHUMIDIFIER_W0QQitemZ330340172232QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?ha
 sh=item4ce9cf01c8_trksid=p3286.c0.m14_trkparms=65%3A7|66%3A2|39%3A1|293%
 3A1|294%3A50
 
 Dehumidification: 33.1 Litres/Day
 
 EEV (L/KW/H): 1.6

OK, would you agree that this is kinda a best case scenario?  I've used
dehumidifiers in damp basements, and the relative humidity was quite high
80+%.  You're right about different deserts, I happened to pick Las Vegas
because I've benchmarked the local NWS office, and Las Vegas temps for the
last few days is just a few clicks from that bookmark.  But, the UAE, for
example, would be better offbut not as good as the basement.  I also
have numbers for the Perth desalinization plant, which quotes 3.2 kwH per
1000 liters.  I have the website for them on another computer, but will
bring it over if folks have trouble finding it.  Now, this could be
propaganda, but I have a hard time believing that they could lie about
factors of 100 and get away with it.  

So, it looks like desalinization is much less energy intensive when salt
water is available.  That's probably why places like the UAE are looking at
desalinization instead of condensers.  

Dan M. 


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RE: Drinking Water From Air Humidity

2009-07-13 Thread Dan M

Why doesn't the wind turbine count as a source of energy?  

It absolutely does.  My question concerned how much energy per liter
compared to other unconventional methods. 


It's pretty obvious that when he said none he meant no _external_ source
of energy.

Well, since he was responding to my post, I stayed focused on the question
of how much energy it took per liter of water produced...and wanted the
reader to draw exactly the conclusion you did.the wind turbine was a
source of energy. 

But, as I said elsewhere, in a remote location, even otherwise inefficient
sources of necessities become relatively efficient compared to having stuff
hauled zillions of kilometers.  I neglected that point because I saw it,
thought it reasonable and clear, and had nothing to add.  But, I didn't know
off the top of my head the relative energy efficiency vs. other techniques
of getting fresh water from unconventional sources.  So, I asked.

Dan M. 


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RE: Drinking Water From Air Humidity

2009-07-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 
 There are several devices to do this, some of them actually on the
 market. One is a wind turbine arrangement that produces around 10
 litres an hour (plenty for drinking purposes for several people!).

I looked at reports on this, although I didn't even bothering checking the
website you mentioned because you said it was down.

One think struck me, although they talk about being great because
alternative energy sources can be used, there was no mention of the amount
of energy needed per liter of water.  It reminded me of your discussion of
how energy intensive desalination is.

It both makes sense and is interesting how dependent so many things are on
the availability of energy in low entropy states.  Because, if it was just
energy we needed, all we would need to do was tap the tremendous energy in
the heat of the atmosphere or the oceans.

Dan M. 


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RE: In despair for the state of SF

2009-07-12 Thread Dan M



From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
Behalf Of Danny O'Dare
Sent: Sunday, July 05, 2009 3:05 AM
To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
Subject: Re: In despair for the state of SF

There is so much good science fiction - not to mention 'slipstream', 'New
Weird', etc - out there (old and new) why waste your time reading the crap?

One thing I've noticed, however, is that the shelf space for what I, and
from what I read most folks on Brin-L consider good sci-fi continues to
shrink, being replaced by game based series, movie based series, etc.  

BTW, I don't think graphic novels inherently fit under the crap category.
I thought The Watchman was very good.  My son and I had one big argument
over it.  He argued that it was good literature.  I argued it was good, but
a different art form than literature because it used graphics to tell so
much of the story.

Dan M. 




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RE: In despair for the state of SF

2009-07-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Max Battcher


  One thing I've noticed, however, is that the shelf space for what I, and
  from what I read most folks on Brin-L consider good sci-fi continues to
  shrink, being replaced by game based series, movie based series, etc.
 
 I think that is probably more the bookstores that you shop than an
 objective reality shift... I mean, sci-fi has always had a strong
 relationship with its pulp and mass media sides. If anything, the
 prominence of the game based sci-fi and movie based sci-fi should be a
 sign that that the industry is successful and healthy.

What I am talking about is this: I've been going to a national chain: Barnes
and Nobel's for over a decade.  The amount of shelf space devoted to
Sci-Fi/Fantasy has been constant during that time.  As time went on, there
has been less shelf space available for standard sci-fi and fantasy, and
more for TV, movie and game based serialization.  You know, the books that
make you appreciate what a good writer Kevin Anderson really is. :-) 

We've recently had a Border's books open and it has similar ratios.  When
big bookstores like these change (they've driven Walden's Books out of
business) it's probably not just the local store.

 Also, there is more speculative fiction slipping across the aisles into
 other categories. There have been a number of books added to my sci-fi
 wishlist recently that are categorized in the Literature areas of most
 bookstores, due to both the high brow prominence of some authors
 toeing into the waters and what appears to be an increasing tolerance by
 the literary elites for sci-fi/speculative themes and hooks.

I guess.  I do know that the books that are off the radar are the
Evangelical Christian books that are the best selling books without
appearing at all on the NY Times bestsellers list, because they are sold in
stores that the NY Times doesn't look at. As much as I dislike the Left
Behind series, they, after the Potter Series, were the best selling book
series of the last decade...just off the radar.

 
 Certainly the graphic novel is a different medium for literature than
 the traditional novel, but graphic novels fit well within my
 definition of literature. Certainly semantics could be argued for days,
 but I think that graphic novels do trend closer to literature than, say,
 art or film. 

Film, definitely.  But, I'd argue that graphic novels combine literature and
art. Good art can be part of storytelling. For example, Guernica by
Picasso certainly tells a story.  I see graphic novels, at their best, as a
new art form on the border between literature and painting.  Which has real
potential, since, unlike pure art, hasn't been explored to death over the
last few centuries.  

Dan M. 



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RE: Drinking Water From Air Humidity

2009-07-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 
 None, once it's out there. IIRC, it's a small wind turbine that cools
 collectors in it, and desert air is often humid even if it doesn't
 rain much. 

If the collectors are cooled, there _has to be_ a source of energy that is
being used.  If not, then we've just found an exception to the 2nd law of
thermodynamics. 


A useful statement of the 2nd law for our purposes is that it is impossible
to transfer heat from a cooler reservoir to a warmer one without adding work
of some kind.

The sites I read said that a wind turbine, solar cells, or thermal solar
heaters could be used.  All are sources of low entropy energy.  

Now, one might thing that a solar heater is an exception to the rule, but it
isn't.  With it, one has three reservoirs. Hot, medium, and cool.  The hot
is the solar heater water, the medium is the environment and the cool is the
collectors.  One can simultaneously transmit heat from the hot and cool to
the medium, the ratio of which is determined by the laws of thermo.  If need
be, I can still work out the problem analytically, but it's been a while
since I did the actually number crunching. :-)

Speaking metaphorically, there has to be a waterwheel of some kind driving
the mechanism that pulls things uphill.  


Even a cold beer at 3C attracts a lot of condensation. This
 is definitely a small scale solution for remote locations.

And it took work, probably from an electric motor, to make that beer cold.
Now, if you have a cold reservoir available, then the thermo is simple, but
I don't think that's what's being talked about.  It definitely looks like
work is involved.  I suppose I could figure it out, but with a wife
recovering from a second knee operation, keeping house, and working full
time, I probably won't do the problem just for the fun of it.  But trust me,
some external, low entropy source of energy is needed.  A wind turbine would
qualify.  In essence, all we would need to know is what the output of the
wind turbine is, what the water production is, and we'd have our answer.

 
   It reminded me of your discussion of
  how energy intensive desalination is.
 
 Yeah, but that's a different process. 

Fair enough, but I'm guessing you'll find that it takes a lot more energy
per liter of water than you might think to pull the water out of the air.

 But look at how much water comes
 out as a by-product of airconditioning systems...

And look at how big my electricity bill is to run it. :-)  

Dan M. 


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Population growth rate differentials and consequences

2009-07-11 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Friday, July 10, 2009 5:28 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Mention of David Brin
 
 
 And anyway - reducing populations by lowering breeding rates is just
 as effective, and as has been shown the world over, as populations
 become more affluent and better educated they breed later and less
 (often choosing to have none or one child).
 
 So the answer to the population crisis is development and education,
 not culling.
 

Isn't the population crisis sorta old hat?  According to Wikipedia, the
latest numbers (provided from the CIA) has the world fertility rate dropping
from 2.8 in 2000 to 2.61 in 2008.  For developed countries, the ZPG rate is
2.1, for countries with high mortality rates (e.g. much of sub-Sahara
Africa), the ZPG fertility rate can approach 2.5.  

In fact the UN, IIRC, is forecasting world population to peak around
2050-2060, and then start dropping.

This process will not be even. Europe is already near the tipping point,
with the EU fertility rate at 1.5.  Japan has passed the tipping point, with
the death rate exceeding the birth rate by 21%.  Russia is in free fall,
with the death rate exceeding the birth rate by 50%, and the population
falling 0.5%/year.

The US is almost perfectly on the ZPG point.  It accepts far more immigrants
than anyone else, so it will continue to grow.  China has a big demographic
bulge that has to work its way through the population; but the under 20 set
is relatively smaller than older age cohorts because of the 1 child policy
(as well as having a strong male bias).  India is approaching ZPG and, with
present trends, should get there in 5-10 years.

But, Mid-Eastern countries, such as Iraq and Iran, still have high fertility
rates, and don't have corresponding low lifespans (like Africa) to balance
them out).  So, we will see a vastly different looking world in 2050, unless
there are massive changes in social attitudes.

For example, Russia will be mostly old women.  Japan will be very old and
shrinking fast.  Europe will be smaller and fairly old.  The US will be
browner, but otherwise it's forecast to have similar demographics to today,
with the main cause of the aging of the population will be advances in
medicine.  

If one adds to that the fact that the 40+ crowd is not the usual source of
trend setting and radical innovation (yes, I know that includes me), one
will see a tendency for Europe and Japan to become backwaters, full of
pensioners who will be overwhelming the working age population with their
need of support.  

So, in essence, the countries that lead the drop in population will become
unimportant on the world stage.

As far as solving the environment vs. human poverty conflict problem, it's
clear that the best chance we have is for wealthy countries to develop a
breakthrough that allows an environmentally friendly, cheap source of
energy.  Right now, we are in a period where, compared to say 1920-1990,
there is a dearth of fundamental breakthroughs.  The hottest potential
fields are nano-tech and synthetic biology.  The latter is virtually
red-taped out of existence in Europe, so the main hope for that is in the
US.  Billions are going into venture capital and IPO projects in this area,
and there is potential for a real breakthrough (e.g. algae that produce fuel
from CO2 and ocean water without being hothouse plants).  But, without
that, the EU and US can cut CO2 emissions 50% in the next 30 years, and it
will only have a modest effect on the rate of increase of CO2 emissions.

In short, those countries/regions that continue to be way below ZPG will
find that their children and grandchildren will have little say in the
future of the world, because they will have little impact.  The few of them
that will be around will be busy taking care of the old folks (e.g. folks
like me :-) ).  

Dan M. 


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RE: Population growth rate differentials and consequences

2009-07-11 Thread Dan M

 Behalf Of Andrew Crystall
 Also, the European trends are based mostly on the analysis of the
 old EU countries, and not the countries the EU has more recently
 expanded to cover, which have younger and more fertile populations.
 

OK, let's look at the fertility rate for countries added since 2000 from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_European_Union_enlargements#History_
of_European_Union_enlargements


Bulgaria   1.48
Czech Republic  1.23
Estonia  1.42
Hungary  1.34
Latvia   1.29
Lithuania  1.22
Poland   1.27
Romania  1.38
Slovakia 1.34
Slovenia 1.27

I hope you notice that _all ten_ have fertility rates under 1.5.  GB and
France are the two main countries that are above the 1.5, with GB at 1.66,
and France at 1.89.


Dan M. 


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French tour etiquette

2009-07-06 Thread Dan M

I have a general question for those interested in the Tour.  It seems that
Armstrong has stolen a march on his official team leader, Contador, and is
now ahead of him.  After team time trials tomorrow, Armstrong could/should
be in yellow...since Astana is thought to be the strongest team and he's
only 40 seconds off the lead and in 3rd right now.  Contador would remain 19
seconds behind Armstrong. 

If I understand tour etiquette properly, the narrow margin puts the team in
a gray zone.  Armstrong said after the race it doesn't take a genius to
know that you have got to be there at the front when it is windy because
anything can happen.  If he wearing yellow, will he be expected to fetch
bottles for Contador?  My understanding is no.  The team would/should let
both stay up front, have neither fetch bottles, and let the mountains decide
who the real leader is.  

Dan M.  


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RE: Iran

2009-06-27 Thread Dan M

 Reports from inside Iran say the Guard is split and mostly inactive. The
 Army is similarly. The police have been ineffective because they won't
 shoot their own countrymen. That is why most of the violence has been
 committed by Basiji and Arab imports (such as Hezbollah and some Afghan
 Taliban with possibly some Russians thrown in according to rumor) Many of
 the people committing violence are non-Farsi speakers and that is a solid
 indictment of the gravity of the situation.


I'm curious to see where you stand now.  I read your source, and realize
that info coming from the country has been really cut backso there is a
lot more speculation than fact in the outside world.

I know the Rand Corporation thinks the Revolutionary Guard is the big winner
in this

http://www.rand.org/commentary/2009/06/22/RC.html

Even with reporters locked up in their hotel rooms, I would guess than
marches of tens of thousands would be heard in the hotels.  The types of
reports that are getting out indicate that, if anything, the younger more
militant aspects of the guard are increasing their power.  (I'm thinking of
the folks who captured a UK ship as an example).

 Amedinajad is pretty much irrelevant ATM. 

He may be a figurehead for the younger more militant guard members and their
brownshirt auxillary.

 
 A national strike is being called (starting today). How that goes will
 determine the course and success of this revolt.
 

From what I read, folks will have a hard time not working and not getting
paid at all.  With unemployment at 25%, and virtually all money coming from
oil sales, and with everything government subsidized, the government has a
lot of power.  Again, I'll agree that we are working on minimal information,
but I haven't been able to see a good source since Monday that indicates
that the reform is gaining a foothold.  If anything, its falling back.  

It reminds me of the USSR in the '70s, when my friend from Moscow said folks
became disillusioned.  I don't doubt that in two decades, we could see
reform.  But, in between, the odds are that the younger more militant
members of the Republican guard are the most likely to have increasing
influence.  And, with predictions of Iran having the capacity for an A-bomb
within a year, we will probably have tough sledding there for the next
decade.



Dan M.


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RE: Iran

2009-06-22 Thread Dan M
 
 Things do not look overly promising for the protesters, but if they manage
 to make it through tomorrow without their heads being cracked Iranian
 public sentiment may swing decisively in their direction. It really
 depends on how hard the Supreme Ayatollah swings back at them.
 
 We should see by morning.

Well, it's the next day, and I don't see any resolution.  I think that the
splits in the leadership are promising, though small.  But.the best
organized force is the Revolutionary Guard, and they appear to be fanatical.
I'd guess, if push came to shove, they wouldn't mind killing thousands to
keep orderand I don't see anyone standing up to them in a fight. 

Dan M. 


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RE: Iran

2009-06-22 Thread Dan M
Whatever the final outcome Ahmadinejad's position has to have been severely
weakened.  
As he's a nut case, this is a very good thing.

OK, I'll agree that his position with some factions within the ruling elite
has been lowered.  The real question, of course, it what is the position of
the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  He backed Ahmadinejad strongly,
and issued a clear threat of violence against any protesters.  The
Revolutionary Guard and the associated paramilitary (brown shirts) appear
eager for violence.  So, the risk of Ahmadinejad doing something against
Iran's interests is probably lower, but I think he was always on a leash.  

My prediction is that, after a few more demonstrations of a few hundred
people get knocked down with scores dead, the struggle will go underground.
Thirty years from now, there will significant changes, but before then I
think that Iran will have a score or so of nuclear weapons, without even the
command and control that Pakistan has over its nukes.  Pakistan is looking a
bit better now than 2 months ago, but it is still very dangerous.  

One thing that I read that is very disturbing to me is that it is near
impossible to predict the future of Iran, even for those who devoted their
life to studying Iran, even for those who are ruling Iran.  Once they have
the capacity to eliminate Israel in half and hour (probably 5 years from
now), I fear that after that, an Ayatollah who wishes to hasten the return
of the Mahdi will be come Supreme Ayatollahor that a faction of the
National Guard that does will gain command and control of, say, 3 nuclear
missilescause that's all it would take to virtually eliminate Israel.

Dan M. 


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New Uplift Universe question....

2009-05-08 Thread Dan M
I've got a question that I think about when I think of Brin.  He hasn't
written a regular novel since Kiln People, which was about 6 years ago...and
his last graphic novel was a year after that.

Is it fair to say that, while he will continue to write short fiction, the
probability of a new novel is exponentially decaying, or will there be new
novels?

Dan M.  


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RE: Texan Education

2009-05-07 Thread Dan M



From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
Behalf Of Nick Arnett
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 12:42 PM
To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
Subject: Re: Texan Education


On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 9:51 AM, Bruce Bostwick lihan161...@sbcglobal.net
wrote:
On May 6, 2009, at 5:57 PM, William Goodall wrote:
Anti-evolutionist Don McLeroy, a dentist and chair of the Texas State Board
of Education, testified at Friday's hearing: I disagree with these experts.
Someone has got to stand up to experts.

Especially people who .. you know .. lack any kind of scientific expertise
at all?

I guess it helps if you go in already knowing what you believe and
determined not to let objective reality get in the way ..

I think this sort of thing has been unfortunately encouraged by rules and
policies like the Fairness Doctrine, which was based on the
well-intentioned, but seriously flawed, idea that every argument
automatically has a legitimate counter-argument.  

Well, this is an area where you actually agree with Rush. :-)  There are
problems with the Fairness Doctrine, I agree.  If liberal radio talk can't
find listeners, then there is a problem, since listeners generate ad
revenue.


Thus we get all sorts of experts to offer the 
other viewpoint on all sorts of things.  On issues where there are many
legitimate opinions, 
this kind of thinking dilutes them to just two.  Big media has encouraged
this sort of non-thinking.\

But, big media is dying.  Well, at least parts of it are.  Think of the main
sources of news 40 years ago: network TV and newspapers.  We see that the
Grey Lady is in terrible shape, and other newspapers are not far behind.
The free news and fast blogging of the internet has cut into subscribership.
I have no reason to buy a newspaper.

And, there are now a lot of different TV channels, with several all news
channels.  It's not as it was when I was I kid where Huntley  Brinkley or
Cronkite were the only news sources we got on TV (ABC hadn't made it to
Duluth until the late '60s, and then Sam Donanldson was an alternative (or
maybe someone before him, I don't remember).

I think what you are seeing is the breakdown of news that has to go by a
fact checker.  Bloggers put out what news they want, and those that believe
them follow them.  That's the real impact of the internet so far, we are
grouping into ideological camps who each have separate sources of facts.

Dan M. 


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RE: Texan Education

2009-05-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 5:13 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Texan Education
 
 
 Bloody po-mo all opinions are equally valid crap. Really gets up my
 nose, along with the everyone has to pass rubbish some school
 systems push. Gr.

I hope you aren't too insulted by this Charlie, but you've summed up two of
my pet peeves rather well; I'm 100% with you on this. :-)

Some of my fondest memories was losing in tennis to my dad, who use to be
the local club champ in his youth...and kept on remembering his game as I
got older and better.  My mother suggested that my dad let me win
occasionally, and we were both horrified by the though.  It's OK to lose,
its OK to admit a mistake.  

Dan M. 


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RE: Impossible account security questions.

2009-03-09 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Matt Grimaldi
 Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 12:57 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Impossible account security questions.
 
 
 ]From: John Williams jwilliams4...@gmail.com
 ] Gary Nunn garyn...@newpacifica.net wrote:
 ]
 ] This morning, I was trying to access a credit card webpage to check my
 ] account, it didn't like my password. I was given two security challenge
 ] questions:
 ]
 ] 1. What is the last name of your fifth grade teacher?
 ] 2. What was the license plate of your first car?
 ]
 ] Ha! They should flag it as suspicious if people DO know the answers to
 ] those questions, since it is obviously not you but someone who has
 ] stolen your identity database file and has all the information in
 ] front of them!
 
 Wow!  If the bank had those kinds of things on record, what else might
 they ask?

I have a credit card account with Capital One.  They are quite vexed with me
because I used that account's offer of low interest as a cheap loan while I
was spending money to fix up/upgrade my house (about 40k) so I could fit the
market and sell it.  

Now that I've paid it off, they keep on asking me to go back into debt.  I
take that as a general positive sign, since I have a good sized credit limit
that I'm not using.

But, I've not had your problem.  I wonder if a weird form of practical
joking/hacking is involved.  Someone puts in security questions and expects
you to answer them.  Those are not the questions the average bloke knows the
answer to (I don't for either), so it makes no sense.

I'm lucky in that I have a personal banker I can talk to face to face who
fixes minor problems before they become a real pain (with Chase, who seems
to have escaped the worse of the banking crisis so far).

Dan M. 


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RE: On the Housing Market

2009-02-24 Thread Dan M
 Thanks John!
 Those were pretty much the kinds of arguments I was seeing in 2006-2007
 that
 made me anticipate the bubble bursting.
 Do you see the correction lasting 12 - 18 months or perhaps longer?


I won't argue with the basic premise, because I saw it too...especially for
the coasts, NV, etc, but I have found that it is more expensive to live in a
1350 sq. foot apartment that's not as nice as my house than it would be if I
bought my old 2950 sq. foot house at the price I sold it, paid 20% down, and
lost the interest on the down payment money.  This figures in all the costs
of maintenance, the but not the 400 sq. foot of storage for furniture and
books and stuff that we are storing until we move to wherever Teri gets a
call.

On the whole, up on the north side of Houston, it's cheaper per sq. ft. per
year to own than to rent.  I think that's very unusual for the US, so I
think Houston is just below the live because of expensive downtown
rentalsif we weren't hoping to leave soon, it wouldn't make sense to
rent.

Dan M. 
 


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RE: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity

2009-01-25 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
 Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 10:36 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity
 
  Dan wrote:
 
 Even really revolutionary data, like the data that suggests dark energy,
 are
  written up in such a way that it implies that the big bang is now in
  question.  That drives me crazy in the same way.
 
 
 Yea, god forbid scientists that are skeptical about the big bang!
 

I was flip and trying to be humorous in my reply, but was then thinking that
you might be referring to questions that exist about the initial big bang
theory that are being looked at.

For the general outline of the big bang and the evidence for it, UCLA has a
nice site:


http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html#bestfit


But, the very start of the big bang, without modification from the original
idea, is known to be problematic.  I found a good site for discussing those
difficulties: which are mainly the non-existence of relic exotic particles,
(e.g. magnetic monopoles) that would have been expected to have been
produced at ultra-high densities.  

http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/kenny/papers/inflat
ion.html

Well, I should say those are the problems that place a limit on how far back
we can extrapolate.  Things are clearly problematic at the Planck density,
about 10^93 g/cc.  

On the other end, the big bang theory describes conditions very well back to
nuclearsynthesis.   For the time in between the theory of inflation has been
developed. 

quote from the last article
As I said before, it is almost certain that the big bang model gives an
accurate description of the universe back at least as far as the time of
nucleosynthesis. The earliest it could possibly be applied would be the
Planck era. If we were to consider it valid all the way back to the Planck
era we would have to suppose that all the very fine-tuned initial conditions
we observe such as homogeneity and flatness were present from the beginning,
presumably as a result of some unknown quantum gravity effects. Even given
this assumption, however, it is unclear how the theory could avoid the
production of relic particles that would destroy the successful description
it has made of the later universe. 
It would be wonderful if a theory existed that with a minimum of assumptions
could explain the initial conditions such as flatness and homogeneity,
eliminate all high energy relic particles, and then segue into the big bang
model itself by the time of nucleosynthesis. In 1980 Alan Guth proposed such
a theory, known as inflation,

end quote

The actual process of nucleosynthesis is though to have stopped 20 minutes
after the big bang.  We know that the inflationary period had to end after
densities were below those sufficient to produce magnetic monopoles.

So, if you are arguing that the big bang did not survive without
modifications, and that some tweaking may still be needed, then that's not
problematic.  The common nomenclature for this is that the big bang needed
to be modified to handle these problems, not that it is false.  False would
be, for example, finding the steady state universe to be correct.

So, I think you had been arguing more towards something of the latter, but
if it is the former, than our differences are mainly semantic.

Dan M. 


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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-23 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 12:20 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 On Jan 23, 2009, at 12:00 PM, dsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 
  Since then, I've been seeing promises of competative electric cars.
  When
  gas prices were at $4.50/gallon, the premium for hybrids was within
  $1000
  of being a wash.  But, now that prices are back close to $1.50
  (around here
  at leastbut when we were up near $4.50, I'd guess you were
  higher too)
  hybrid sales are falling like a rock.
 
 And that, in turn, is a symptom of how susceptible the mainstream is
 to short-term thinking and its application to decisions with long-term
 effects.


 People buying cars really seem to think that fuel prices will always
 be what they are right now, and we won't have another $4+/gal peak or
 even higher soon.  They also really seem to think there won't be an
 overall upward trend on top of seasonal and market-driven
 fluctuations.  

Discounting 2008's ups and downs (which were spectacular), we saw a steady
price trend in most commodities (e.g. iron ore, tin, gold, aluminum) from
the mid 70s to 2007: downward. Last year was a roller coaster, but few of
the folks who are responsible for making long term decisions that are highly
dependant on prices assumed that 4+ dollar gas would last long.  The bet in
the oil patch was that oil prices would settle back under 80.

If you really believe that oil will go back north of 100 within the next 5
years, you should sell oil short on the futures market.  The long term trend
is off this bottom, but you could still sell for 62 dollars in 2 years and
70 dollars in 5.

That's consistent with the general range that long term projects were
assuming last summer, when prices spiked near $150.  So, on average,
$2.50-$3.00 (inflation adjusted) gas is a good bet for the lifetime of a
car.


No other interpretation makes sense to me, when people
 turn around and buy 10-15 mpg SUV's and pickups the moment fuel goes
 down below $2/gal.  (The only exception would be if they plan to trade
 the thing in next summer when the fuel prices go back up, which is a
 different kind of insanity.)

But, they were buying them in decent numbers when gas was
$2.50-$3.00/gallon.  There is nothing that indicates that the long term
average price of oil (say over a 5 year period) will go above $80.00/barrel
within the next decade.  The oil patch would love steady oil in the 60-80
dollar range, and steady natural gas at about $6.00/thousand cubic feet.

Remember, peak oil was first predicted to be within 5 years in 1920.


Dan M. 

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RE: Which oil patch?

2009-01-23 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Chris Frandsen
 Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 7:56 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Which oil patch?
 
 Which oil patch are you talking about? 

You know, the one that Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, Halliburton, Weatherford,
Pathfinder, Phoenix, Ryan, Tucker, Great Guns Logging, and a number of other
smaller wireline and MWD companies log in. 

Offshore drilling is not feasible at the 60-80 dollar range 
as was proven by the fact that over 66 million acres under lease have not
been drilled. 

When oil was $9.80/barrel back in '98, I developed tools that were running
offshore on oil rigs.  I know folks who had to bid projects, and who were
told what range the field had to make money at.  For example, back in '00,
when prices went back over $20 barrel, any new field had to be justified at
$15/barrel.  And, a number of them were offshore. 

I believe the last
 dry hole offshore in Alaska cost $150 million. 

If it was a rank wildcat, that's possible.  But, the US has been developing
offshore fields for longer than I've been in the business (25+ years).  

My wife's small share
 of oil rights in west Texas were not opened up until we hit the 80+
 range and at least one of those wells was depleted in six months.


That's a real old field.  In traditional Texas fields, yields are low.
Reopening old wells is a iffy business.  Once a well is shut in, it tends to
restart at a much lower production rate and be much easier to go dry
quickly.

 
 Can we agree that the price of oil is being manipulated? 

There is no data that suggest that.  The biggest player in the marker (OPEC
at 40% market share) has watched helplessly as oil prices hit the floor
several times during supply gluts.  The oil field has had downturns that no
other industry I'm familiar with has.  I've been through 50%, 80% and 50%
layoffs during three downturns.  

It's true that there are fields that are profitable at $150/barrel that are
not profitable at $80/barrel.  But, anyone who has lived through the ups and
downs of oil prices over the last 25 years knows that spikes are followed by
troughs.  Remember, it takes a long time to develop a field.  From seismic
to a developed field can take 10 years.  No one in their right mind would
authorize a field that is only profitable if the latest spike holds.  That's
stupid beyond belief.

Dan M. 

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RE: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity

2009-01-23 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 5:16 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity
 
 
 It's closer to the first example you suggest than the second, but it's
 part of a general trope of less-good science writing that pitches
 every new minor spin on science as rewriting the whole body of theory
 that is really starting to wind me up.
 
 We need more better science writers - there aren't enough Ben
 Goldacres and Carl Zimmers out there...

I think the problem is that an honest report of scientists are excited
that, after five years of hard work by an very talented team of 300 Phd
physicists, another small incremental improvement in our understanding has
been achieved would sound too dull to read.  

I emphasize with you on this.  I've been through the idea that everything we
know about physics is now challenged by X, where X is a fairly minor tweak
to a well established theory.

Personally, the tying together of astrophysics and evolutionary biology, if
it holds up, seems like a neat thing to me.  But, it involves neither the
rewriting of astrophysics or evolutionary biology.

Even really revolutionary data, like the data that suggests dark energy, are
written up in such a way that it implies that the big bang is now in
question.  That drives me crazy in the same way.  But, at least that may
lead to something truly new.  This is just a minor neat thing.

I think people will read/watch about science if and only if there is a good
story told.  Telling a good story without resorting to overstating your case
is very hard.  I can state things clearly and precisely, but, alas, I
usually make folks eyes glaze over.

Even good shows like Nova have had to dramatize what actually happens to
make a story.  The best do it without subtracting too much from an accurate
description.  Unfortunately, I fear the best are becoming less popular as
drama becomes the driving force.

Anyways, I honestly think I can empathize, not just sympathize with you
here. :-)


Dan M. 

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RE: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity

2009-01-23 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
 Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 10:36 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Galactic Effect On Biodiversity
 
  Dan wrote:
 
 Even really revolutionary data, like the data that suggests dark energy,
 are
  written up in such a way that it implies that the big bang is now in
  question.  That drives me crazy in the same way.
 
 
 Yea, god forbid scientists that are skeptical about the bing bang!
 

Which scientists?  Are they the same ones who are skeptical about evolution?
:-) 

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 7:47 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 - Original Message -
 From: Dan M dsummersmi...@comcast.net
 To: 'Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion' brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 2:05 PM
 Subject: RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 
  So, I'd say fund nanotech, not the present technology, which won't give
 us
  the home run that is needed.
 
 
 Well.short to midterm. we don't need a homerun, we just need a
 single. We don't need an electric car that matches a gasoline powered auto
 in every specification. Hybrids will do that job well enough. We need
 electrics for city driving and commuting. This involves some changes in
 habits, but nothing drastic. Most families own 2 vehicles and what most
 people are proposing is that 1 of them be more efficient and clean.

OK, let's say we do that.  We decrease the US greenhouse gas emissions 15%
within the next 20 as a result of this happening.  From normal development,
the availability of hybrids at a 4k premium now and the limited availability
of electric cars in several years (I'm inclined to take the Chevy, Honda,
and Toyota numbers with say 20% more cost as a good guess) at a 25k or so
premium for compact cars.  

But, that won't have much of an impact on the total greenhouse gas emissions
because it doesn't address China, which will, barring a tremendous setback
in the Chinese growth, will overwhelm the emissions from the US and Europe
combined.

To see why this is critical, let's look at the 4 top GDP countries in terms
of tons of carbon per $1000 GDP.  The figures for 2000-2006 are shown below.
(2007 isn't available yet).

   China   US   Germany  Japan
2000   0.980.60   0.40   0.37
2001   0.940.58   0.40   0.37
2002   0.960.58   0.39   0.37
2003   1.030.57   0.40   0.38
2004   1.120.56   0.40   0.37
2005   1.130.55   0.39   0.36
2006   1.120.52   0.38   0.36
 
You see that China has actually risen in their energy intensity per dollar
of GDP.  The US has fallen, and will probably continue to fall, with the
singles that you are talking about.  Germany and Japan have been fairly
steady, but will probably fall enough to drop their per capita emissions.

But, the singles you are talking about won't affect China because they are
in a totally different point in economic development than the US.  People
there are demanding economic growth, and the 5%-7% expected next year in
China may be low enough to spark civil unrest.  Unless electric cars are as
cheap as gas cars, then they won't switch.  


 If you put together a series of singles, you can get a score. It doesn't
 have to be a perfect vehicle right off the bat. Virtually every car is
 more vehicle than people need on a day to day basis anyway, so it isn't 
 as if folks are going to be suffering if they own an electric or a hybrid.

Sure, it's been argued for a long time that Americans can do with a lot
less.  Let's say we do.  The problem is that this argument doesn't hold for
the Chinese, who are now the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses.  My view
was that the West had the money to buy a home run, and a home run will be
the only thing to get emerging economies, like China, to switch.



 Wellthe government establishes MPG ratings, and they do it with only
 one passenger, the driver.
 I don't see that your criticism amounts to much in this case. (Ever notice
 the YMMV disclaimer? I think that is especially applicable in this
 discussionG)

Sure, but when they test a big SUV, they test it with one driver, but the
full load.  They don't change the configuration of the car.  That's where
the Will 240 rating is suspect.  They replaced passenger space with battery
space, changing the nature of the car itself.  It's like having a small
Hummer that can only squeeze three people in it with a shoehorn and then
using its mpg in ads for the full blown Hummer.

In contrast, the Tesla rating system seem fairly rigorous, and the numbers
they get are probably about as optimistic as nominal mpg ratings.  


 Most auto manufacturers have BEVs in the works and almost all have hybrids
 either for sale of coming soon.
 I don't think that many manufacturers would be doing something obviously
 stupid or that they are all *that* corrupt. There has to be some advantage
 beyond simple demand or expediency. (ReallyI'm thinking that Toyota,
 Honda, Tesla, Fisker, Lightning and several others have shown what can be
 accomplished, and dozens of 300 million dollar manufacturing plants are
 more
 than just PR. Literally billions are being spent to bring these vehicles
 to market, with private money, and I struggle to envision that thousands 
 of engineers, accountants, CEOs and investors are tilting at a battery

RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
 Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2009 10:33 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
  Dan M  wrote:
 
 
 
  Sure, it's been argued for a long time that Americans can do with a lot
  less.  Let's say we do.  The problem is that this argument doesn't hold
 for
  the Chinese, who are now the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses.  My
 view
  was that the West had the money to buy a home run, and a home run will
 be
  the only thing to get emerging economies, like China, to switch.
 
 
 Didn't I read (on list I think) that the Chinese are requiring that all
 new
 cars sold after 2011 are required to be 100% electric?
 
 Doug
 Just Asking, maru

I googled for that and found nothing that hinted at that.  Given China's
only two priorities:

1) The government keeps total control
2) The economy keeps expanding


Even if that were pronounced, it would have to be taken with kilotons of
salt.

For example, several years ago, there were pollution regulations passed.
They have all been ignored, with no real consequences.  The only exception
to this was during the Olympics, when some industries had to shut down and
most people had to stop driving so Beijing looked as good as possible. 

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-17 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 7:47 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 
 Did you see 60 Minutes last night? Seems like there might be a little
 fallout.
 

I saw it on their website, and it fit my expectations for a 60 minutes
story.  They had a story line and they included interviews and facts that
fit the story line into the show.  Anything that detracted from telling a
good story was eliminated from the show.  They don't stay a highly rated
show by including too many long boring chalkboard sessions.

So, the primary thrust of their argument is that it is futures traders that
determine the price of oil, not supply and demand.  They pointed out that
demand was falling as the price was reaching its height, and that supply and
demand should indicate that it falls as demand falls.

In a sense, that is true.  It isn't just supply and demand, it's that and
anticipated supply and demand in the future.  That's why it's a futures
market.  And, like any other market, it can be prone to bubbles and panic.
But, it's there for a reason.  Using it, an airline company can buy futures
for aviation fuel and oil companies can sell futures in crude oil. It's true
that everyone wants to get in the act, so most of the transactions are not
by folks who actually need to buy or sell the product, but folks who see a
profit opportunity.

And, for the most part, markets like this market or the stock market are
efficient.  That is to say that it's hard to find someone with a long term
pattern of beating that outside the statistical norm.  (e.g. there are
enough brokers so that if they used coin flipping as their strategy, a good
number would have beaten the market average performance in 10 out of the
last 12 years).  Warren Buffet looked to be the one exception to the rule,
but that's even debatable.

But, these folks don't operate in a vacuum.  There is a fundamental reality
that underlies the pricing: supply and demand.  Back in '98, there was a
significant excess of supply of crude oil.  Everyone knew that.  In that
environment, futures prices were not going to go through the roof.  Instead,
they exaggerated the effect of supply and demand and fell below $10/barrel.

So, lets get to July, 2008.  We have, from EIA, the following information
for supply and demand.

Date Supply  Demand
2004  83.10  82.41
2005  84.56  84.00
2006  84.54  84.98
07Q1  83.96  85.97
07Q2  84.21  84.97
07Q3  84.25  85.64
07Q4  85.30  87.00
08Q1  85.34  86.41
08Q2  85.66  85.24
08Q3  85.69  84.73

As 60 minutes pointed out, demand was falling in 2008 and supply had
increased.

But, what they didn't point out was the fact that this data was not
available at that time.  Only the data until Q1 of 2008 was available.  We
knew that the US demand was dropping, but between 2004 and 2007, it had
dropped 2.8%, while the total demand (including the US) increased by 1.7%.
With all the talk of peak oil, and China's and India's economies booming,
one can understand why such a bubble was in place.

Most folks in the oil patch didn't count on such a bubble lasting.  Big oil
companies wouldn't approve projects that were profitable at $150/barrel, but
required them to be profitable at, roughly, half of this.  But, that was
also true back in 2002, when prices were  $30/barrelcompanies would
require profitability at under $20 barrel.

And then, the bubble burst with the financial crisis.  As the world went
into recession, demand slacked, and prices fell through the floor.  There
was a market panic.  But, it was based in the reality that the OPEC cuts
didn't happen as fast as the demand drop and the fact that tankers are
sitting out there floating with tens of millions of barrels waiting until
prices go back up to dock.

So, speculation does effect prices.  But, in the long run, the fundamentals
of supply and demand either end panics or burst bubbles.  In a sense,
markets exaggerate the normal market forces.

Finally, to get to the villains of 60 minutes: the speculators, we see that
a lot of them lost their shirts.  If you look at the sales and prices for
Feb 09 crude oil you see that a lot of speculators bought these futures at
$140/barrel.  They are about to expire at under $40. Speculating on
commodities futures can make you millions.  But, for every speculator who
made a fortune in oil in the last year, there is one who lost a fortune.

But, that's a boring story, and wouldn't get CBS the ratings they needed.
I'd argue that futures markets are the worst way to sell commodities, except
for all the other ways that have been tried, of course. :-)

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-17 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 6:16 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 - Original Message -
 From: Dan M dsummersmi...@comcast.net
 To: 'Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion' brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 12:56 PM
 Subject: RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 
  First, I got a not there when looking for the paper.  Second,
 batteries
  will have to become many orders of magnitude better for storage of power
  generation at off peak times for use at peak timesparticularly if we
  are
  thinking of things like wind power which would be close to economically
  feasible right now if there was such a storage mechanism.
 
 There are a few companies currently promoting business plans wherein
 downtown office buildings would  purchase *used* current technology Li-ion
 auto batteries to store off-peak power for re-use during peak hours.
 Storing power on-site would have some advantages.

OK, that's a much smaller usage than I was thinking of that is based on the
fact that industrial users have a big portion of their bill based on their
highest usage rate for the month.  I can see why that would make economic
sense for those companies.  But, it does little to cut CO2 emissions, it may
actually raise them slightly (battery storage is good but not perfect).  If
this use were extended, then it might slightly decrease the number of power
plants needed to be built, but would slightly increase the amount of
electricity used.  Indeed, it might be an incentive to add to the fraction
of electricity generated by coal. 


 
 
 That doesn't resemble any plan I've seen. What I've seen has storage only
 mitigating peak usage for 24 hour cycles. If the wind doesn't blow, you
 just lose out on savings.

But, it also means that wind can't be counted on.  In another forum I was
debating this, and was led to a website maintained by the company that has
the largest fraction of wind in its mix.  They stated that they can only
count on about 5% of nameplate capacity, and that this was becoming a
limiting factor on their use of wind.

  and compressed air storage downhole.
 
 I think we discussed this about a year or so ago. One of our wind power
 discussions.

Yup

 
 
 Already occuring. Industry is also funding considerable reseach on it's
 own.
 A lot of good reseach results have already come in as a result of battery
 nano-research. There is already a Li-ion battery that will recharge to 90%
 of capacity in 10 minutes and full charge (from dead) in less than an
 hour. They are working on manufacturing techniques to reduce cost and
increase reliability, but that news is around a year old.

And, I haven't seen battery prices fall.  If the market and the technology
is there, someone will take advantage of it.  Look at computers, were a
zillion companies sprang up out of virtually nowhere after the IBM PC was
developed 25 or so years ago.


 
 
   If we can get Li-I batteries to increase their capacity
  by say 10x, while holding their cost constant, then electric cars become
  economically feasible.  But, if we don't, then we can subsidize electric
  cars with hundreds of billions and we still won't have anything more
 than
  an
  expensive subsidy program, like ethanol.
 
 When manufacturing capacity comes online here in the US costs should come
 down fairly dramatically. The problem currently is that there are only a
 few
 manufacturers, almost all overseas, and none can supply enough to cause a
 price drop. But there is a LOT of money to be made even with lower prices,
 so there are a good number of companies vying for a piece of the pie.


Why is manufacturing overseas?  What massive Li-ifactory building programs
exist in the US?

The problem with US manufacturing is that, even at minimum wage without
benefits, labor costs are relatively high here.  In Zambia, for example,
getting two dollars a day at a factory is a big step up for most people.
Here, with tax and government overheads, a minimum wage worker costs a
company $8.00 per hour.

I spent a few minutes googling and found no indication that there are now
factories with large capacities for building these batteries now being built
in the US.  I also got no announcements, except from the governor of
Michigan who said she wanted Michigan to give tax incentives to do so.  

If you have sites that show that the US is getting into the Li-I battery
manufacturing business, that would be great to see.  Otherwise, I think you
can understand why I think that this manufacturing, like so many other
factories, will be overseas.

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-12 Thread Dan M
 techniques can shave off costs and improve reliability.  But,
you are old enough to remember, with me, when Japan was suppose to blow past
the US in GDP because of their superior manufacturing techniques.  Their
approach to manufacturing is superior.  But, having a colleague who worked
with Japanese on a RD project, I know that their risk aversion approach to
innovation means that they are not as good at disruptive innovation as
cowboy engineers.  Thus, their 5th generation computer program was a
failure, and the US economy did far better than the Japanese economy over
the last 20 years.

 But none of that is as important or as relevant as the fact that there is
 _no_ future for petroleum based energy for this country.  

That's an easy statement to make, but natural gas is doing very well at the
moment.  In particular, one needs to consider how there are now shale plays,
something that would have been not thought possible years ago.  As long as
oil and gas are a lot cheaper than alternatives, people will choose to use
them.  You might argue that folks aren't smart, but short of a dictatorship,
you cannot force good choices against the will of the overwhelming majority
of people.  And, what most people want is to pretend that they are going
green by recycling their milk jugs without making any real sacrifices.  
0

The only way to stop this is to find a cost competitive method. If it were
just a question of manufacturing and industry working closely with
government, then the Japanese would have had efficient battery cars years
ago, they are much better than the US, on the whole, at manufacturing, and
their government has poured multiple billions of dollars into various
industry projects.  They are far more dependant on foreign energy sources,
and their dependence on the good will of the US for their national defense
makes them even more vulnerable.  If it were just a question of
manufacturing, why does Toyota offer no more than a 100 mile range battery
car that looks to be a subcompact (maybe) for 40k or so?  Toyota is very
good at manufacturing, they build quality stuff.

We spend billions upon billions of dollars on maintaining a presence in the
Middle East to protect our sources while we finance our enemies with the
money we spend on oil.  Factoring the political costs of our dependence on
oil makes it quite a bit more expensive than you imply.  

The geopolitical risks inherent in dependence on Mid-East oil have been
apparent, not just to the US, but to Japan and Europe since 1973.  In the 35
years, there's been lots of talk, but the dependence on foreign oil has
grown in the US, has decreased then increased again in Europe, and has
stayed unbelievably high in Japan. Yet, none of these countries have changed
this.  I'd argue it's because for every country, while the price of
dependence is high, the price of switching has been higher.  Otherwise, why
would _no one_ do it?  Germany and Japan are manufacturing juggernauts, and
have both had a history of oil being/contributing to their undoing in war.
Why don't they provide a reasonably priced solution?

The answer is obvious to me.  If they could, they would.  Fossil fuels are
so cheap, that switching to alternatives would be prohibitively expensive.
(with nuclear power as the exception that the French have taken and US has
decided not to take). 




By providing ourselves with
 alternatives, even if they are initially more expensive, we provide
 ourselves with a future and make the terrorists irrelevant (not to mention
 broke.)

Sure, but magnitude matters.  If the alternatives were 20% more expensive,
it would be a piece of cake.  But, we are talking about massive percentages
of GDP more expensive.  

I know you've been involved with engineering, so I am flabbergasted that you
write as though new technology is simply a matter of willpower.  If there is
a hidden conspiracy here, it would have to involve oil companies controlling
the EU, Japan, China and India, as well as the US.  Do you really think the
Japanese government cares about the profits of Chevron?  

I fear what will happen is that fundamental research will not be supported,
and we will repeat the ethanol subsidy disaster with electric cars based on
present technology and hundreds of billions of government money, and we'll
make as much progress in the next 10 years as we have in the last 10.

Dan M. 


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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2009 9:11 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 - Original Message -
 From: Dan M dsummersmi...@comcast.net
 To: 'Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion' brin-l@mccmedia.com
 Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2009 1:24 PM
 Subject: RE: Scouted: U.S. 
 Heh! I'm aware of the math involved.
 Frex: http://www.gunaxin.com/chevy-volt-bmw-mini-tesla-roadster/4055
 Worth reading.

Especially the part where he stated he has no idea why gas prices dropped so
much. :-)


 The problem with breaking down the math is that it pretty well preaches to
 the already-decided. People are going to buy what they want to buy unless
 they just can't afford to, and that is likely the only math that counts.
 That pretty much means that some people will take a premium hit if they
 believe that there will be other indirect benefits.
 Then too, it must be repeated that these are initial estimates, and that
 the
 prices will inevitably lower. It is just a question of how much, and that
 kind of market forcasting is near impossible at the moment for anyone.

But, to first order, curve fitting of past prices aren't bad for things that
are technology based (this clearly doesn't work for commodities that show
both highly inelastic supply and highly inelastic demand).  That is why
bioengineering is an area that has potential; its costs are dropping a
factor of 2 per year.  Battery costs aren't.  Now, we only need a factor of
10 for batteries, so it is possible that nanotech will provide a solution.
So, I'd say fund nanotech, not the present technology, which won't give us
the home run that is needed.

 
 
 
 
 
  Vaporware?
 
  The Tesla can be bought.  The others are still being configured and are
  not
  available for sale.  I've always been skeptical about what the price and
  performance will be.  The engineering rule is that projects take twice
 as
  long and cost twice as much.  Cutting this factor down, because they are
  in
  prototype stage, a conservative estimate is that costs are 30% higher
 than
  discussed. They talked about 5 people, they talked about 240 miles, but
  never said that 5 people could be taken 240 miles.  My guess is that the
 5
  person seating is tight, and only for the 80 mile version of the
  carotherwise they'd explicitly say otherwise (If I were the project
  manager I'd be all over the tech. writer's back to make sure that the
  capacity was stated explicitly if it existed...if it wasn't there, I'd
 be
  happy with what they wrote).
 
  Second, the 240 miles would probably be under ideal conditions.
 
 Exactly the same as with gasoline vehicles, only no one ever questions
 this. For some reason I find that humorous.

Because we have real personal benchmark against which we can measure the
difference and because someone other than the companies themselves test MPG
ratings?  
 
 You also have to factor in the lower costs of using electricity as an
 energy source. 

I was assuming 0 electricity costs.



Depending on where one lives, gas is 3 - 5 times as costly as the
 equivilent in watts. What is the value of a vehicle you may have zero
 maintainance with in the first 5 years? 

Like my computer power supplies?  The car that isn't built yet is like the
backup quarterback when the team is struggling.no problems are reported.
 
 Eventually, I think the answer is Yes.

I'd say the answer is it depends.  If the money is thrown at electric cars
now, before the battery breakthrough happens, it will be as useful as
ethanol. 


 I don't think there is any question that there is a need to get away from
 carbon based fuels and from millions of mobile units burning them at
 various rates of inefficiency. IMO ethanol is not really a helpful 
 long term solution.

I agree, but bioengineered fuels are not ethanol.  There are algae that
exist right now that produce aviation fuel with 1000x the efficiency of
ethanol.  The basic process is taking CO2 and H2O + solar energy to make
complex hydrocarbons and O.  These can be burned, producing CO2 and H2O.
The net effect of the cycle is constant CO2, no net emissions.

Now, there are problems with these algae being suspect to infections by
fungi.  But, with bioengineering exploding even faster than computers did,
its quite possible that we can bioengineer solutions to this problem.  The
fact that venture capitalists are dropping good sized investments in
startups in this field (Sapphire Energy has received 100 million in capital)
indicates that there is at least some potential here.

It may not work, there may be problems scaling up that are unanticipated.
But, there exist in that field the same sort of fast learning curve that we
had seen with computers between say 1955 and 1980.

 I expect such taxes are coming, but phased in over a number

RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-10 Thread Dan M
 of future
breakthroughs because I've seen a zillion of them.  I don't see today's
electric cars having much to do with long term solutions.  Long term
solutions might very well include electric cars, but I think the government
should not be in the business of subsidizing electric cars.  Rather, it
should be in the business of funding research in the litany of areas that
might work and then let companies use that research to fund concerns that
make economic sense.  

Personally, I'd bet a beer that bioengineered fuels, that have 10x the
efficiency of ethanol production will have a significant market share in 10
years (say 10% of jet fuel), but electric cars will not be a significant
player (5% of cars sold worldwide in 2019) in that time.  But, I have no
problem in placing chips on battery development, because the payoff from a
given winner should be substantialwe just don't know which bet will pay
off.

Dan M. 



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RE: Metric Conversions

2009-01-09 Thread Dan M


 
 Seems like a reasonable question to me, Max.
 How many litres are there in a liter?
 

African or European?

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 7:21 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 If one wants to make direct comparisons of a type of batteries
 capabilities,
 one has to go no farther than a hardware store or Lowes or Home Depot.
 I've been using cordless drills for a couple of decades. They were once
 using Ni-Cad batteries, until the Nimh batteries swallowed the market. The
 Ni-Cad and Nimh battery packs were pretty much the same size and performed
 about the same, only Nimh had a slight edge in most categories. In the
 last 2 years Li-ion batteries have begun to take over the market. 
 The battery packs are smaller and lighter, but deliver more power 
 and torque and do it for longer with a shorter recharge time.
 In short, Li-ion are starting to dominate the market and it is a market
 that has requirements that has similarities to the requirements in Auto
 applications.

I agree with your methodology, but wish to add one thing: cost.  The added
cost for modest energy densities is not a big factor, but at $4.27 per Wh,
it means a lot if one needs a lot of watt hours.  In the case of power
tools, the use isn't as much as one thinks, 

My memory is that the Tesla uses these batteries, and its price tag has a
lot to do with how expensive they are.  I think we'd need a factor of 10
reduction in price/Wh before they are commercially feasible for Joe and Joan
commuter.  But, I would not necessarily rule that out; because the evidence
for research on the techniques indicates that there may be some room for
improvements both in storage density and price per battery.  

The other factor is that we will either need to switch to nuclear power for
virtually all of our electricity or find a very efficient high volume energy
storage system to match with wind.  Right now, power grids can count on only
5% or so of the rated capacity of wind farms.  Pairing them with natural gas
plants makes this reasonable, but then we are burning fossil fuels to get
the electricity.  That's slightly better for the environment than gasoline,
but far worse than high tech biofuels that might come on line in 5-10 years.

So, in the short term, I'd argue for building nuclear plants, finding ways
to make batteries denser and cheaper, and biofuels from non-food sources
which produce aviation fuel far more efficiently than ethanol is produced,
developing high efficiency massive energy storage, and a raise in the gas
tax.

But, you've heard that before. :-)


Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-08 Thread Dan M

 The Tesla is not the best example one could use. I think the Heuliez Will
 is a better example of an electric vehicle that is just about there. The
 price  should be around 27-34K (when it hits market) and the car can do 0
 - 60 in  around 10 seconds with a top speed of 87MPH and has a range of248
 miles.

Yes, but if you read what they write carefully, they never say that they can
go with long range and carry a full passenger load.  If you compare it with
domestic sub-compact cars, it looks as though its maximum range version will
carry about the same as a 11k sub-compact car.  

 It
 is not as sexy as the Tesla, but it is much  more of a reply to peoples
 needs than the Tesla and costs should go down as more are manufactured.

And, it's still being designed, according to the manufacturers.  Costs go up
and performance goes down on vaporware cars, in my experience.  Yes, it hit
the auto show, but its not going to be produced for a year or more, and we
all know how that can change things.  Basically, who but a rich
environmentalist would buy a car like this at 3x the price of a comparable
gas engine car that gets 40-50 mpg highway?  

Dan M. 

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RE: Physicists offer foundation for uprooting a hallowedprinciple of physics

2009-01-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Ronn! Blankenship
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 11:27 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Physicists offer foundation for uprooting a hallowedprinciple
 of physics
 
 At 10:45 PM Monday 1/5/2009, Julia Thompson wrote:
 
 
 On Mon, 5 Jan 2009, Rceeberger wrote:
 
   http://www.physorg.com/news150388964.html
  
   An apple and an anti-apple might not fall at the same rate.
  
  
  
   xponent
   But A Mac And An Anti-Apple 2E Do Maru
   rob
 
 Wow, it's almost 11PM, and I was almost despairing of encountering a good
 reason not to have liquids at the computer today!  Congratulations, Rob!
 
  Julia
 
 
 Humor aside, wasn't the idea that a particle and its corresponding
 anti-particle might fall at different rates under the influence of
 gravity put forward and supposedly tested and rejected back in the
 80s?  I read the article and didn't see how this was different from
 what was suggested then (though the details are lacking) . . .


Well, my memory was different, given the fact that most anti-matter that I
knew of had a charge and the electromagnetic forces involved swamped any
gravitational effect.

I did a Google search and got the following from Duke

http://www.phy.duke.edu/~phillips/gravity/frameIndex.html

which is a proposal to measure the force of gravity on antimatter.

So, it appears that the theory mentioned earlier is testable, but not yet
tested.   I'd bet on boring results, but that's physics.

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 11:42 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 On Jan 5, 2009, at 2:58 PM, Dan M wrote:
 
  The few
  productive industries we have in the USA now (the auto industry
  springing immediately to mind) are in such sad shape -- in the auto
  industry's case, from putting more energy into fighting a phase c
  hange into a PHEV/BEV based market than they are into any real RD or
  new product development -- that they cost more than they generate in
  value.  To me, that seems unsustainable.  Am I missing something
  here?
 
  They don't have to put any energy into fighting it; the consumers are
  happily doing it for them.  The sale of the hybrid Prias (sp) has
  fallen
  about 50%.  Electric cars are toys for the rich.  Battery technology
  has not
  improved much in the last 20 years, even though there is a multi-
  billion
  battery market where one can make a handy profit right now, outside
  of the
  car market, by marketing a better battery.
 
 Battery technology has matured to the point where it's definitely
 possible to build a NiMH powered car with at least 140 mile range.  If
 it weren't, it probably would be only academic that Cobasys/Ovonics
 holds patents to large format NiMH batteries that it refuses to
 license for automotive use, primarily because it's a wholly owned
 subsidiary of Chevron.

Hmmm, that sounds like the common conspiracy theory, like the 200 mpg
carburetor design that was held as a trade secret by an oil company (the
company varied with the theory) back in the '60s and '70s.

We know that these batteries are buyable on the market in standard over the
counter battery usage, and have found a good niche as a camera battery.  If
they were that good, why didn't they overtake this market?

Second, if you look at at 

http://www.cobasys.com/news/20070313.shtml

you will find the proud announcement of their use in automobiles.  You will
find a confirmation of this at


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel_metal_hydride_battery


where their use in Saturns is mentioned.

 
 The demand is there, make no mistake about it.  

That's a fairly strong statement.  At a low enough price, I'd believe it.
But, there are real problems with batteries.

Look at

http://www.allaboutbatteries.com/Battery-Energy.html

and you'll see what I mean.  We know that the energy density of gasoline is
about 46 MJ/Kg.  Compare this to the best, most expensive battery (Li ion),
and we get a factor of 100.  Electric cars are more efficient (90% vs 20%),
so this gets down to a factor of 22 or so in power/weight.  And, using the
highly efficient batteries has a cost, that's why the Tesla Roadster costs
100k.

We know that the modest amount of batteries in a hybrid raises the prices
4-5k.  We know that the Prius hybrid sales are now falling like a rock
(factor of 2 Dec-Dec, and probably significantly more June-Dec), due to the
added cost and the cheap price of gas.  So, why would there be extensive
demand for an expensive commuter car that can only be used for relatively
short trips?


As soon as a 100-mile-
 range battery powered car is available, there are plenty of people who
 would much rather charge their cars overnight (on off-peak electrical
 power, at home) and get the energy equivalent of 150 mpg (even
 counting the overall 70% charge efficiency of the battery system) for
 the daily commute.  Enough that even one production generation will
 bring the concept close enough to maturity for them to displace
 gasoline-powered vehicles.

They are available, they are much more expensive than ICE based cars, and
they are selling only in small numbers to those with _a lot_ of
discretionary income.

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Lance A. Brown
 Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:44 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 Dan M wrote:
 
  Look at
 
  http://www.allaboutbatteries.com/Battery-Energy.html
 
 And if you RTFA, you'll see a not implausible argument made by Sherry
 Boschertthat Cabasys is squelching the market for large-format NiMH
 batteries:
 

It seems very implausible to me.  And, I think I have some expertise with
companies playing hard-ball with intellectual property.  You can look at the
reference I gave earlier to a recent Boston Globe article that discusses the
export of one of my inventions to Iran and see how easy it is for big
foreign companies to do workarounds on patents.  In particular, what is
patented is not NiMH batteries, but one particular technique for using them.
Any patent attorney worth his salt can have modest rework written to look
like a new variation, not really covered by the original patent...especially
if he has good sized companies at his side.

If you look at this patent, there is no reason that folks like Sony, Toyota,
etc. would not be willing to have their own Japanese patents on similar
techniques, and have the case settled in Japanese courts.  By the time the
case is settled, 2012 would have rolled around.  I served on a patent
committee for the second largest oilfield service company in the world for 8
years, and am very familiar with how this works.

It's not that Chevron wouldn't play hardball, it's that Chevron would play
hardball to win money.  Sitting on a patent that's about to expire is just
stupid, unless you own the lion share of the oil business.  There total
revenue is about 8% of the crude oil sales from last yearand their last
quarterly filing has them buying 49 billion of crude for the quarter vs. 79
billion in revenue. So, they are less than 5% of the crude oil production
business.  

Further, they have licensed their battery technology to big car companies
for their production hybrids.  That's not sitting on it.  You may argue that
their strategy is flawed because they don't sell to small startups, but they
do sell batteries for large scale automotive usewhich is not sitting on
the patent.

Finally, if this battery were that good, why isn't it dominating the small
rechargeable battery market, where it is being sold without restrictions
(e.g. you can buy them over the 'net)?  Why don't all cell phones use this
battery?   Might it be the result of the energy density not being all that
high?

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 12:09 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 
  If there's biofuel technology that doesn't significantly impact the
  food stream as a source of motor vehicle fuel, then I'm all for it.
  I'm not anywhere near PC myself, and if there's a GMO solution that
  actually does provide a decent rate of return without investing more
  energy in getting energy out of the fuel produced or cut too deeply
  into the food supply, great.  Hadn't heard of this.
 
 
 These days I'm looking cynically at biofuels. they do nothing to 
 reduce CO2 levels in most cases (most applications are for ICE), 

I'm not sure I follow you here.  Present biofuels are bad, they divert food
into products that have low net energy out per energy unit in.   I have no
problem with that argument.  But, under lab conditions they've gotten over
1000x the yield of corn.  

Now, there are problems with the algae; it's especially susceptible to fungi
attacks.  But, with bioengineering costs dropping a factor of two per year,
this appears to be an area that can be tweaked, one way or another.  It
would be akin to knowing you needed a megaflop machine to get your work done
back in '76Moore's law would make you optimistic.  Battery performance
has progressed at a much slower rate.



 but there is some hope for a good fuel for Fuel Cells 

That is another possibility for energy storage for cars


and there *will* be a long term need for diesels.

More critically for biofuel: aviation.  It will be a long time before a
battery can power a 777 for 8000 miles.

Dan M. 



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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Wayne Eddy
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 1:23 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 Surely Canada  Australia are both far less densely populated than the
 United States?

They are.  In my haste in writing I was less precise than I wanted to be.  I
was thinking about the major developed countries (e.g. Western Europe, the
UK and Japan).  I know Canada is almost a suburb of the US, with most of the
population living within 100 miles of the US (and most living south of
Duluth MN, where I grew up).

I thought that much of Australia is not suitable for high density
populations, but I'll stand to be corrected.  And of course, Nordic
countries have low population densities in the far north and in the
mountains.

The point I was trying to make is that the US is far less populated than
where most of the rest of the developed world lives.  For example, the 4th
largest metropolitan area in the US (the Houston Metro Area) has the same
population density as the whole of the UK (including the rugged NW of
Scotland).  Vast swaths of the US have both good farm land and relatively
low population densities (e.g. Iowa at ~50/sq. mi.)  So, there is a lot of
room for the US to increase its population before it approaches Europe.

Finally, I have a question for those from Oz.  My understanding is that most
of the population of Oz lives on the southern coast because the vast center
of Australia is not a great place to put a lot of people.  Is that accurate?

Dan M. 

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RE: Irregulars question about Culture

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M
 No, you didn't follow the directions at all, or you followed
 fossilised ones you found on the interwebs instead of going to
 www.culturelist.org
 : try making the subject subscribe culture, and sending it to
 m...@culturelist.org
 
 We haven't been on busstop for about 4 years-ish - certainly since a
 while before my Big Lap began.

I did the latter, the old website is what came up via two Google searches.
Now, I searched again, and both websites now come up...go figure.

Anyways, I was trying to subscribe without bothering anyone.  It's too bad
that Google likes the 4 year old website. 

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 8:30 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 On Jan 4, 2009, at 9:13 PM, Dan M wrote:
 

 
 With a few minor exceptions, the USA is running largely on momentum,
 which is finite.  

How does an economy grow on momentum?  

We've been migrating from a production-based economy
 to a service-based economy by degrees since the Bush I era, and we now
 manufacture very little if any of what we consume as most of our
 finished goods are manufactured in China, 

Well, then we don't consume much in the way of finished goods.  Our imports
from China in 2008 (we don't have Nov. and Dec. in yet) will be about 275
billion dollars.  Our GDP is about 14 trillion.  So, imports from China are
only about 2% of GDP.  Medical is far higher, at 16%.

and the vast majority of the
 remainder are imported from other countries whose labor is far cheaper
 than ours.  

There is no doubt that the era of high pay, low skill unionized work in the
USA is drawing to a close.  But, from the start of Bush I to 2007, the US
GDP grew by 67%.  Comparing with other countries, I was able to only get
long term growth until 2003...so from 1998 to 2003, the US GDP grew 53% and
Western Europe GDP grew 33%, and Japan by 28%.  Since then, I know that the
US has continued to do better from '03 to '08, but I don't have it in an
easy to get at table.  (It's the non-US countries that are hard to
quantify...the US data is always easy to get to).  

That's not coasting.  

Unless I'm reading the signs wrong, it definitely seems to
 me that the fire has gone out and the machinery just takes a long time
 to spool down, and this recent collapse is more symptom than root cause.

I suggest that you are reading the signs wrong.  I think that your argument
depends on the economy still being founded on the same footing as they were
in the '60s.

But, if you look at the additions to the economy since the '70s, you see
that the US has done well.  In the mid-80s it was supposed to fall behind
Japan in the '90s, but it's Japan that stagnated in the '90s.  China is a
poor country that is positioned to take advantage of its cheap labor, but it
is strongly feeling the hit of the US decrease in purchasing. Factory
production _fell in Dec, after years of 10% yearly rises.

 
 I just don't see the fundamentals currently supporting anything more
 than a downhill slide into progressive collapse if the systems
 currently in place continue to operate the way they're operating now.

I think that you and virtually every economist differ on what are the
fundamentals.  One fundamental is innovation.  Another is productivity.  US
productivity has risen faster than other developed countries.  The US is
either the home or the main market for virtually all medical innovations.
Europe has made it virtually impossible for bioengineering firms to operate,
and the US is doing very well there.  Since that's the only real hope for
biofuels (e.g. algae farms producing aviation fuel), the US is well poised
to be the leader in that field.

 As a country, in aggregate, we don't really seem to *do* anything
 these days other than buy, consume, and move money around.  

Well, we don't do as much smokestack manufacturing as we had, but remember,
we consume (with the exception of energy and food) far less stuff than we
did before.  With respect to computers and associated electronics, while
Japan and the US are strongly competitive, the US is still the clear chip
leader.  Detroit is in terrible shape due to legacy costs, but its Toyota
and Honda sales that lead the drop in auto sales this December. Ford's
market share is rising, mostly at the expense of these two companies.

Finally, much of 2008's balance of trade problem is due to oil imports.
While oil costs have been volatile, they averaged about $100/barrel last
year.  That means that almost 2/3rds of the US trade deficit went to oil
imports.  If oil stays in the $50-$60 dollar range, with the slowdown, we
should see a dramatic (possibly 50%) drop in the balance of trade deficit.

Finally, if the US is in such bad shape, why has the dollar risen, and why
(with the US government about to issue another trillion in debt) are T-bill
interest rates so low?  Even the longest term bonds (30 years) offer less
than 3% interest per year.  That's the exact opposite of what one would
expect of a country that's going down the tubes.

The few
 productive industries we have in the USA now (the auto industry
 springing immediately to mind) are in such sad shape -- in the auto
 industry's case, from putting more energy into fighting a phase c
 hange into a PHEV/BEV based market than they are into any real RD or
 new product development -- that they cost more than they generate in
 value.  To me, that seems unsustainable.  Am I

RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 8:37 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 On Jan 4, 2009, at 9:13 PM, Dan M wrote:
 
  And yet, you sing we're on the eve of destruction?
 
  Dan M.
 
 I guess part of my cynicism is frustration at having had to live in
 the wake of the Boomers most of my life, and survive on the scraps
 they missed, when it seems the only response to my getting closer to
 actually joining the middle class and becoming financially stable is
 the goalposts moving farther away just when I think I'm about to get
 there.  

I'm sorry if you have financial hard times, but you write as though there is
finite pile of money and when it's gone, it's gone.

As I mentioned before, I personally know and worked alongside a team that
created tens of billions of wealth.  In my own small way
(http://tinyurl.com/8zp89c) I have created wealthby developing
techniques that allow for the accurate measurement of porosity while
drillingsaving time and thus money (it takes millions/day to operate big
oil rigs) by allowing companies to get the needed measurements while
drilling.  So, the growth in per capita GDP is not simply a funny number; it
reflects the growth of real per capita wealth.  

Indeed, even if you don't accept that the CPI slightly overstates inflation,
deny Brad DeLongs persuasive arguments that inflation has been about 9% less
for lower income people than higher income people, and dismiss the value of
the rise in the benefits obtained by the average family, the average
household income is now higher than it was when I was in my 20s.  So, while
you might be on hard times, hard times existed in the '60s-'80s too.  

Dan M.

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M
 On an SF list you forget Aerospace?

I thought of it and meant to include it; does that count for partial credit?
:-)  Good catch.

Dan M. 
 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-05 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 9:15 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 My attitude is not America sucks, it's hey hang on, the whole world
 has done some great stuff and let's give credit where it's due). It
 irritates me just as much when the Brits say we totally cracked the
 Enigma code, dude, 'cause the three-wheel Enigma was cracked by a
 Pole, who came up with the first calculating machines (the bombes),
 and this work was smuggled out of Poland in the diplomatic bag. This
 doesn't diminish in any way from Turing et al, who went on to crack
 the 4 and 5 wheel machines, and the Post Office engineer who built
 Colossus, and so on.
 
 We're ALL standing on the shoulders of giants. Just cause the States
 is the biggest guy in the room right now doesn't make him the *only*
 guy in the room.

You know you've now changed the subject from the original topic.  I was
arguing, rather convincingly IMHO, that the US was not horrid and not about
to fall.  Now, you change the argument to the US is not the only country of
worth; many other folks in many other countries have done good things.
Furthermore, we're all dependant on the good work of those who came before
us  

You have now forced me into the following response by this action sir:

I agree with you.

Dan M. 

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RE: Israel to collapse in 25 years?

2009-01-04 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
 Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 6:56 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Israel to collapse in 25 years?
 
  Dan M wrote:
 
 
  So, can anyone argue me out of this pessimistic viewpoint?  I honestly
 hope
  so, even though I'll argue hard for this pointit's one argument I'd
  love
  to lose.
 
 
 Well, note that there has never been the kind of tacit support for Israel
 from moderate Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as there
 is
 in this particular conflict.  The Sunnis are probably more fearful of
 Shia/Iranian ascendancy than they are of a stable Jewish state.

The last statement you made is certainly true.  The first statement was true
when you made it, but it is no longer true.  The Arab countries have
condemned Israel's incursion into Gaza.

Israel needs to, at the very least, minimize the rocket attacks for their
actions to be considered successful.  There are still 40 rockets/day
launched towards Israel since Hamas ended the cease fire.  I do not see a
quick and easy conclusions to the ground incursion.  

 I don't know if it will happen, but if the current incursion takes control
 of the Gaza/Egypt border and allows wounded Palestinians (that Hamas is
 not
 allowing to cross) to get to the emergency facilities that have been set
 up
 there, they might gain a little popular support.  Of course the idea is to
 weaken Hamas enough so that more moderate factions can take charge.  I'm
 sure that there are more than a few members of Fatah that aren't too
 unhappy
 with the idea.

I agree with this, but the politics on the ground indicate that Fatah had to
use the threat of violence to stop popular demonstrations on the West bank
in support of Hamas.  On the whole, it appears that the groups that are seen
to successfully oppose Israel gain among the Palestinians while those that
try to find peace lose, and are considered collaborators.  Given the
education system, this makes sensebecause this is a reasonable position
for those who accept the lies taught in the Palestinian schools about the
Jews as truths.

The real trick is whether Israel can either weaken Hamas so it can be
defeated by Al Fatah, or if it can establish effective control of the
smuggling of rockets into Gaza in order to stop the attacks.  Recent news is
not sanguine with respect to the former.  Several Al Fatah members have been
executed in Gaza for collaborating with Israel.  Others are under house
arrest.  There is no indication that Al Fatah is gaining in the Gaza, and
some evidence that it might be falling back in the West Bank.

The second point requires the Israeli army to inflict devastating damage on
Hamas's leadership and fighters while minimizing civilian casualties.
Unlike normal warfare, Hamas gains when the people it governs are hurt and
killed.  Thus, they are highly motivated to make sure that civilians
(especially children) are killed by Israel.  Given the rabbit warren nature
of Gaza cities, it will be very hard for Israel to kill Hamas and not have a
significant incident of civilian deaths.

We are now seeing massive demonstrations in Europe, mostly ethnic based.
This puts tremendous pressure on the European governments to support a cease
fire that will leave Hamas intact, and able to resume rocket attacks on
Israel at will (e.g. wait a couple of weeks or months and then restart the
attacks).  If these demonstrations increase, my feel is that there is
minimal European public support for Israel, and that the general tendency is
to support quick solutions that, in succession, will gradually weaken Israel
over the next years.  For, if rocket attacks become the new norm, I feel
that they will increase in sophistication and damage as better Iranian arms
are smuggled into Gaza.


 In any case, what the nut case running Iran would like to see is world war
 3, and I'm not even sure that he would mind if Iran itself was cauterized
 as a result.

That's a major fear of mine too.  I recall how, in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran
sent human wave attacks against Iraq, with hundreds of thousands of
minimally armed civilians sent to overwhelm the much better armed Iraqis by
sheer numbers.  IIRC, children were included in these attacks.  If the Grand
Ayatollah who really runs the country sees the final battle at the end of
time at hand, he might feel called to start it by attacking the Zionistic
entity which is controlling the world through its evil actions.

Dan M.

Dan M. 

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RE: Experts

2009-01-04 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of William T Goodall
 Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2009 6:35 AM
 To: Brin-L
 Subject: Experts
 
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/jan/04/financial-crisis-anxiety
 
 [...]
 
 In times like these, everyone should have a book by their bedside to
 reach for at three in the morning. If the Bible doesn't work for you,
 Philip Tetlock's nicely oxymoronic volume Expert Political Judgment
 might be an alternative. Tetlock's book is based on two decades of
 research into 284 people who made their living commenting or offering
 advice on political and economic trends. He asked them simply to do
 what they apparently did best: predict what would happen in the world
 next in answer to specific questions. Would oil prices rise or fall,
 would there be a boom or a bust, would we go to war? And so on. When
 the study concluded, in 2003, Tetlock's experts had made 82,361
 forecasts and the results were correlated with the facts as they had
 turned out.

I don't differ with Tetlock's essential findings: the pronouncements of most
professional pundits in the areas of economics or geopolitics are less than
worthless.  I've seen separate documentation that, if you use a broker, you
will, on average, do slightly worse than simply investing in a broad based
index fund.

However, having said that, I think that the implications of his work might
lead one to overstate the case; to state that there is no worth in studying
or trying to understand finance or geopolitics.  The former has been argued
extensively here, so let me go to the latter.

We know, for example, that the Bush White house had total disdain for the
experts in nation building.  After the successful defeat of the Iraq army,
the provisional authority dismissed the experts in the field, and went there
own way, relying on totally unproven techniques.  The results were a
disaster.

In 2006, the US put its COIN expert in charge of the Iraq war.  Since then,
the US has done much better.  Thus, we have a case were the experts were
clearly in the right.

Thus, we seem to have a good example of taking expertise with a grain of
salt, instead of totally disdaining them.

Dan M. 


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Irregulars question about Culture

2009-01-04 Thread Dan M
I decided to resubscribe to the Culture mailing list (after Comcast took
over my Roadrunner account I was automatically unsubscribed) partially
because things are now slowing down from my busiest year ever and I will
probably have free time.

I followed the FAQ directions to send a message with subscribe culture in
the body to listmana...@busstop.org.  It seemed to go through, but I have
received no culture email in a day, and my test message failed.  Does anyone
have any suggestions as to what I did wrong?

Dan M. 

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RE: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?

2009-01-04 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2009 7:49 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
 On Jan 2, 2009, at 8:35 PM, dsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 
  From the Wall Street Journal:
  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051100709638419.html
 
  As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of
  U.S.
  In Moscow, Igor Panarin's Forecasts Are All the Rage; America
  'Disintegrates' in 2010
 
  I read this a few weeks ago and got a good chuckle out of it.  It
  shows
  than Americans aren't the only ones who can be clueless about how
  things
  work in other countries. :-)
 
  Dan M.
 
 Well, one element of it is almost certainly true -- the USA that we'll
 be living in in 2010 will not be the USA as we know it. If we continue
 with business as usual, the mostly-completed process of running the
 country into the ground will very likely reach a point of no return
 before then

Ah, I'd really like some hard data to support that hyperbola.  As messed up
as Bush was, by most measure, the US is far better off than most countries.
Take, for example, one I worry about the most: foreign debt as a percentage
of GDP.  It is now, by my rough calculations for 2008, at about 45% of GDP.
While I think this is bad, it's much better than Great Britain, where it
stands at 380%.  

If you are over 40, you should remember how Japan was going to blow the US
out of the water in the '80s.  China is the new champonly they are
finding their growth is sliding from 10% per year down to a far lower level
that folks are guessing at.  We know industrial output is down from last
year, so they have as much trouble with the trade imbalance as we do.

The US is far less densely populated than any other developed country, its
air and water suppliers are far less polluted than 40 years ago, and racism
has fallen to the point where we've been able to elect a black president.

And yet, you sing we're on the eve of destruction? 

Dan M. 

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Israel to collapse in 25 years?

2009-01-03 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Doug Pensinger
 Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 5:17 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Scouted: U.S. to collapse in next two years?
 
  Alberto
 
  
   Clearly, the only solution is for the US to mount a massive attack on
   all the countries listed in the article at once.
  
  It's surprising that not a single piece of the future-former-USA went
  to Israel. Those conspiracy theorists are getting unimaginative.
 
 
 Sheesh, don't you know?   Israel _controls_ all those countries.
 

Switching the conversation to something not as much fun, I've been wondering
if Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran have found a heads I win, tails you lose
proposition.  

The first two attack Israel with rockets located in the middle of civilians.
If Israel doesn't respond, they up the attacks.  If it does, it kills lots
of civilians and Hamas and Hezbollah gain in popularity.  Iran is setting
Israel up so it (or the US which is doubtful) will have to bomb its nuclear
facility or face an enemy with the ability to wipe out Israel and virtually
all of its population in 15 minutes.  If Israel does bomb, it won't know if
it got all of the facilities, or if there is a buried one.

Plus, demographics favor the Palestinians in the long run.  Further, since
Arabs control oil, there is a great desire to please Arabs by many world
powers (the UN tacit approval of the genocide in the Sudan is a good example
of this), other countries will have to act against their own self interests
to worry about Israel.

So, can anyone argue me out of this pessimistic viewpoint?  I honestly hope
so, even though I'll argue hard for this pointit's one argument I'd love
to lose.

Dan M. 


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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-20 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of David Hobby
 Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 7:11 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: What is wealth?
 
 Dan M wrote:
 ...
  O.K., let me try.  There is such a thing as concrete wealth.
  Wealth lets an individual do things that they want to do.  So
  a person's individual wealth would be roughly defined relative
  to some standard as the ratio of the utility of what they can
  do to what they could do in the standard state.
 
  I think this is closest to what I think.  But, I think that this is a
  fundamental and difficult enough concept to start slowly with some
 obvious
  examples.
 
  First, I was think of and will focus on the wealth of nations,
 communities,
  the world, more than individual wealth.
 ...
  So, historically, a richer nation would have vast areas of fertile
 farmland
  that could be harvested year after year to provide food for people.
 That
  wealth could be stolen by force, but absent of that, the wealth existed
  there.  So, Italy was far wealthier than a corresponding area in
 Siberia,
  because far more food could be grown.
 ...
  involved) is somewhat arbitrary.  But, the availability of human effort
  expended in something other than subsistence farming is not subjective;
 it
  can be objectively measured.
 ...
 
 Dan--
 
 O.K., you agreed mostly agreed with me, and I
 mostly agree with you.  Some of it is a matter
 of interpretation:  We're both taking the usual
 meaning of wealth, and trying to clarify it.
 
 I had planned to get the total wealth of a
 country but adding up the individual wealth
 of its inhabitants (and of its institutions,
 too?).  So starting with individual wealth
 made sense to me.  Do you think that the wealth
 of a (inhabited) country would be different
 than the sum of the wealths of its inhabitants?


Well, there is always the wealth in the publicly owned infrastructure, oil
and mineral wealth on public lands that need to be added.  But, my argument
for looking at the state instead of the individual was mostly the same as
Plato's reasons for writing the Republic as he did.


 I think that a country that has more than enough
 food for its people may be wealthier than a country
 where everybody has just enough.  Even if they
 can produce the same total amount of food.  Sure,
 people can be a source of a country's wealth.  But
 starving peasants may not be worth that much, wealth-wise.
 So there's more to it then just food production?

Yes, definitely.  But, I think the first step is the ability for the average
workers to produce more food than is needed to feed their family unit.  If,
for example, it takes 100 families working to feed 105 families, then there
is only 5 families that can be engaged in any trade except subsistence
farming.  If, as it is true in the US, less than 1% of the labor force is
required to produce food, then the rest of the labor force is able to
produce other things.  Clearly, the US is far wealthier when it has a 5%
surplus harvest than a country that produced a 5% surplus harvest because
there was war the previous year, and a lot of townspeople died.  

(An interesting site on this is
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/WellBeing/farmhouseincome.htm  

Particularly the table farm household income by source.  Here you see most
farm households farm part-time, and have most of their income come from
other sources...like friends of mine who have 50 head of cattle on their
ranch, but live in town 5 days a week and hold two jobs).



 Unless you want to define free wealth and
 bound wealth.  The free wealth of a land of
 starving peasants may be almost zero.  Most of
 it being bound up in maintaining the large number
 of inhabitants.  A suitable plague could release
 the bound wealth of the country by reducing the
 population.

There are several terms that are typically used.  They are national income,
national per capita income, and disposable/discretionary income.  Clearly,
Monaco, although its citizens are wealthy, has far less economic clout than
the US.  But, clearly, the average Chinese citizen is far poorer than the
average Australian, even though China has 4x the GDP of Australia.  

Then, we have to consider disposable income.  Since China has so many
people, a significant fraction of the country is still barely above
subsistence, even with the increased GDP.  Indeed China is particularly
susceptible to global recessions because its income is so tied to exports
(only 35% of Chinese GDP is domestic consumption vs. 70% for the US).
Before the Great Depression, the US was by far the biggest exporter, as well
as the biggest holder of world debt.  It was the hardest hit country in the
Great Depression.  I've been reading articles that hint that there is
causality here, and that China (and to a lesser extent Germany and Japan)
are particularly susceptible to downturns.  The US hoped to export

RE: Russia (Was What is wealth?)

2008-12-19 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 3:54 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Russia (Was What is wealth?)
 
 
 No, by well-educated I mean professionals - accountants, lawyers,
 medics etc.

I thought that was the case, but thanks for the clarification.
 
 Cyprus was full of them working bar, waiting, or worse being exploited
 in strip clubs. (It wasn't like London where an attractive woman could
 make good money doing exotic dancing a couple of times a week -
 these girls were often being forced to have sex with customers).

Well, as you know, that's particularly repugnant to me, both as the husband
of an abuse victim (who later specialized in social work in working with
victims) and as the father of daughters.  I have heard about this sort of
thing with uneducated poor Eastern European women, but not about it
happening to the well educated.  It's not that the evilness of this forcing
is less if a woman is undereducated, but this strikes me as countering the
proposal that education is the ticket out of poverty and exploitation. 

One question comes up, and you may or may not be able to answer it.  Were
the professionals allowed to work menial jobs but not professional jobs just
because of local laws, customs, prejudices, etc., or do you think that the
education system in Russia has fallen to the point where, for example, you'd
never want to have a Russian surgeon operating on you?

Dan M. 

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RE: Russia (Was What is wealth?)

2008-12-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Charlie Bell
 Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 4:51 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Russia (Was What is wealth?)
 
 
 On 18/12/2008, at 11:46 AM, dsummersmi...@comcast.net wrote:
 
  The recovery was caused by two things: Putin controlling the mob so
  businessmen knew who to bribe, and the rise in fuel costs.  But, the
  last 4
  years, as he consolidated his power, he also concentrated the
  wealthI
  don't think anyone would argue that Russia is not a more autocratic
  country
  than it was even 4 years ago.  These types of countries rarely have
  well
  off citizens.
 
 More than that, why are there so many Russian ex-pats, well-educated,
 doing menial jobs in tourist resorts? 'cause it's better than no job
 in Russia.

And I bet it's not just the usual theater majors doing menial jobs while
waiting for their break (father of a theater major sighs).  I've read that
the Greek riots are tied to this type of problem; there are no/very few good
jobs available for college graduates there.



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RE: Russia (Was What is wealth?)

2008-12-18 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Alberto Vieira Ferreira Monteiro
 Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 6:00 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Russia (Was What is wealth?)
 
 Dan M. wrote:
 
  I would have thought that a low birth rate is very very good
  evidence of being part of the first world.
 
  It does have that in common with the first world.  But, the life
 expectancy
  of both men and women in every age catagory is less than it was 40 years
  ago.
 
 And how can we trust communist statistics?

By secondary measure, of course. :-)  If you want to argue that things were
worse than the official statistics under the USSR, you won't find a debate
opponent in me.  But, after the USSR fell, a lot of data became available.
The person who wrote the paper in question is an old lion of polisci, and
has a great reputation.  And, he is publishing in a very anti-Communist
journal.  So, I'd be shocked if he just took stock communist statistics
without using secondary data.  It could be that the fall wasn't as great as
he portrayed, but men use to live longer, on average, than 60 years.  Over
70 or so years of Communist rule, demographic errors of that magnitude
become to big to miss. 

Dan M. 

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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-17 Thread Dan M
 Demographers have Russias population reducing to under 70 million by 2050.

Wow, that's about 4 per sq. km.  And with China around 140 per sq. km.,
maybe dropping a bit to 125 per sq. km by then, just to it's south, that's a
problem waiting to happenespecially with the male/female disparity in
China (1.13 males/females under 15).  It might be cowboys and Indians time
again, with a strong China pushing to take over land (or at least push for
very favorable trade terms) from Russia.


Dan M. 

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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-17 Thread Dan M

 
 Hi Dan, I am interested to hear what your basis is for saying that 
 Russia is falling out of the developed world.

It's based on a number of things, but I think the single item that stood out
for me was the male life expectancy: 59.2 years.  25 years ago, it was over
70 years (at least officially).  This drop is absolutely amazing.  Women
fare much better, average life expectancy is 73.1 years or so, but this high
death rate among men indicates a tremendous, debilitating underlying
problem.  Alcoholism gets most of the blame here, but that level of
alcoholism is truly staggering. 

Second, Russia's economy had been in a free-fall from about 1980 to 2000.
Living standards had dropped tremendously.  Recently, due to oil and gas
production, the per GDP has risen noticeably, but the increasing control of
Putin over everything reminds me of Venezuela and Iran.  It's as Thomas
Friedman stated, central controlled one trick pony economies do not develop
well (e.g. Iran, Iraq, Nigeria), while diversified ones (e.g. Taiwan, South
Korea) do.   With the drop in oil prices, Russia's hurting now. While the
US, European, and Asian stock markets have dropped tremendously, it's
nothing compared to the 75% drop in Russia seen this year.

Third, Russia isn't/can't take care of the relatively few children it does
have.  According to the Wikipedia article on street children, Russia has 2-4
million (the Russian official number is 700k, but they also state that they
do not have an AIDs problem...and 700k isn't peanuts).  For a country of 140
million, with about 20 million children, this translates into 10-20% of all
children.

Fourth, Russia built its status on military might and international
control/influence.  The countries behind the Iron Curtain were set up to
trade in a way highly favorable to Russia, for example.  It was the enemy of
the US, and was able to contest the US from Viet Nam to Cuba.  

Now, its military might is minimal.  Its soldiers are experienced, which is
worth something, but its equipment is decaying.  On paper, it has a
tremendous nuclear arsenal, but in reality the launch success rate would be
very low.  Indeed, in Security Studies, a detailed analysis has concluded
that there is a high probability that the US now has a first strike capacity
against the Russia (note, the article went on to discuss possible
destabilizing results from this, so it wasn't considered a plus for the US
in the article).  

The Russians easily handled the small country of Georgia.  But, based on how
it handled that, the Ukraine may give it a decent battle.  Star Wars and the
Afghanistan war were the beginning of the long slide in military power.

Finally, its death rate is about 50% higher than its birth rate.  While that
is not inherently indicative of dropping out of the first world, the fact
remains that it's a dying country, and a  dying country that does not take
care of its children to boot.  If we do find alternatives to expensive
($90/barrel) oil, Russia will have no basis for its economy.  At that
point, one real geopolitical risk is a strong China will see an empty Russia
to its north, with great potential for farming as global warming opens up
farming areas.

Dan M. 

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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-13 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of David Hobby
 Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 6:52 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: What is wealth?
 
 Dan M wrote:
 
 ...
  Look at the wealthiest countries in the world.  With the exception of
 the
  US, they have fertility rates below replacement, some (like Japan,
 Germany
  and Italy) far below replacement.
 
  The countries with high fertility rates tend to be poorer.  Thus, wealth
 is
  anti-correlated with the probability a person's gene marker will be seen
 in
  a given member of the Nth generation after one's own (which is a
 standard
  measure of sociobiological fitness).
 ...
 
 Dan--  Sad to say, that remains to be seen.  Once
 wealth has been equalized across the world, then
 it's reasonable to count numbers of descendants.

Its true that its impossible to predict the future, but we've had 50 years
of trends, and that's worth something.  IIRC, baring some technological
breakthrough that will allow folks to live far longer fairly soon, the die
is cast for the decline of Europe and Japan.  Take Japan as an extreme
example.

It's somewhat unusual in that it has a double population peak in 2008.  The
first on is 55-59, the second 35-39.  30-35 is close to 35-39, but then it
drops off fast, ending up with 0-4 only half of 35-39.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but the bottom line is that the
overwhelming majority of females are either out of or leaving the age range
of fertility. (65% are 35 or older).  As a result, baring a drastic
immediate cultural change, the aging and then decline of Japan's population
is all but written in stone.  

The EU as a whole is not as dramatic, but it should expect to see a 20% or
so decline in population every year.  So, it would take a massive change in
attitude to reverse this.  The single shining counterexample to all of this
is the US, which I'd argue is a unique multicultural country.

Second, mass disease/starvation still exists, but it's mostly in Africa. The
largest two countries (China and India) have done a great job of 
pulling themselves out of abject poverty over the last 20 years.  China has
gone from a per capita income (inflation adjusted dollars) of $1700 to $7600
over that time.  That's not rich, but factors of almost 5 are nothing to be
sneezed at.  India has not done as well: $1100 to $3700, but that's still
better than a factor of 3.  

I remember (maybe you are too young to) the massive starvation in India in
the '60s.  Now, there is still extreme poverty there, but there is not the
same risk to human life.

So, we are within a decade of this type of drastic drop in poor country
populations being confined to Sub-Sahara Africa.  Fertility rates are
falling around the world, but nowhere so drastic (besides Russia which is
falling out of the developed world) as in the highly developed world outside
of the US.

A couple of caveats, to be sure.  Still, summary info can be made from data.
The world will be far less Japanese and European in 100 years than it is
today.  And it is far less Japanese and European today than it was 100 years
ago.

Finally, are you thinking about a possible/probable collapse of
civilization?  That's one possibility that I had not addressed here.

Dan M.


 If the poorer countries wind up with huge population
 crashes on the way to global equality, then having
 fewer children who were better off financially
 may turn out to have been a good reproductive
 strategy.  : (

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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-13 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Kevin B. O'Brien
 Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2008 9:00 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: What is wealth?
 
  The countries with high fertility rates tend to be poorer.  Thus, wealth
 is
  anti-correlated with the probability a person's gene marker will be seen
 in
  a given member of the Nth generation after one's own (which is a
 standard
  measure of sociobiological fitness).
 
 I tend to think that is a pretty simple manifestation of the Demographic
 Transition. Children are a net asset in poorer countries (they can be
 put to work, can support you in old age, etc.). In richer economies,
 children are a luxury good that cost you a lot and deliver no economic
 return, hence you will tend to have fewer of them.

You know, if you took this and the first statement of yours I responded to
as axioms, you could probably put together a system in which both A and ~A
are both provable statements.  (This was considered a big negative when I
took math and logic). :-)

So, I think you have to pick one of the two statements you made and reject
the other.  Or, say that both have some impact, but are not nearly as
universal as you've portrayed.

Indeed, while I think the latter statement has some truth, the data don't
really fit it as a sole explanation.  Russia's birth rate fell as its
economic conditions fell.  There were far fewer births in the Great
Depression as there were in the post WWII prosperity.  The US has a far
higher birth rate among college educated women than Japan does.  

My suggestion is that sociobiology is a viewpoint to be used, among others,
and that it is not a simple explanation.  But, unlike others on the list, I
do think partial understandings can be helpful. 

Dan M. 






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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of David Hobby
 Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:22 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: What is wealth?
 
 Dan M wrote:
  After the discussion about money as a social construct, it occurred to
 me
  that that there is something more fundamental underlying this.  It is
  whether wealth is concrete or just an abstract concept.
 
 Dan--
 
 O.K., let me try.  There is such a thing as concrete wealth.
 Wealth lets an individual do things that they want to do.  So
 a person's individual wealth would be roughly defined relative
 to some standard as the ratio of the utility of what they can
 do to what they could do in the standard state.

I think this is closest to what I think.  But, I think that this is a
fundamental and difficult enough concept to start slowly with some obvious
examples.

First, I was think of and will focus on the wealth of nations, communities,
the world, more than individual wealth.  

Second, I see two layers of wealth, the first being more obvious than the
second.  I'd define wealth in terms of resources, first the resources that
people absolutely need, and second, the resources that people want, but can
do without.

For the first, I'd argue for food, clothing, and shelter.  I was thinking of
medical care, but (for all practical purposes) doctors contributed minimally
to the prolonging of life before the advent of modern, science based
medicine.  They could, for example, do virtually nothing in the face of the
Black Plague.

So, historically, a richer nation would have vast areas of fertile farmland
that could be harvested year after year to provide food for people.  That
wealth could be stolen by force, but absent of that, the wealth existed
there.  So, Italy was far wealthier than a corresponding area in Siberia,
because far more food could be grown.

Second, and this is near to my heart...but I don't see it as inherently a
bias, wealth is a function of knowledge and ability.  The combination of the
horse collar and three crop rotation tremendously increased the fundamental
wealth of Europe.

Why?  The horse collar did because one horse could replace two oxen to plow
land.  Thus, the amount of food needed to be spent on feeding the plow
animal decreased by more than a factor of two.  This wealth, in food, was a
true increase.  With the same conditions, the same weather, there was far
more food for people to eat.

As a result, a given plot of land could support more human life.  Since it
didn't take more effort to use the horse than the pair of oxen (probably
less), human labor was available for other endeavors.  Craftsmen could
exist, trading their wares for the surplus food.  The nature and
distribution of these wares is a subject unto itself, and the desirability
of the output of this craft vs. that craft (particularly when aesthetics are
involved) is somewhat arbitrary.  But, the availability of human effort
expended in something other than subsistence farming is not subjective; it
can be objectively measured.

Three crop rotation also increased wealth.  In a sense, it is one of the
purest forms of intellectual property, because that idea was a multiplier
for the worth of the land.  Far more food could be grown over decades using
this technique than the older technique.  This, the idea itself is seen as a
significant contribution to wealth.

I'll stop here for, hopefully, comments.  

Dan M. 

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RE: What is wealth?

2008-12-12 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com [mailto:brin-l-boun...@mccmedia.com] On
 Behalf Of Olin Elliott
 Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 7:05 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: What is wealth?
 
 Wealth can be defined in evolutionary terms.  Whatever enhances your
 health, your security, your status or your power in the group is wealth.
 In other words -- in a state of nature -- anything the possession of which
 improves your reproductive fitness.  That is the ultimate basis of the
 concept of wealth, and all our elaborations and abstractions don't change
 that much.

What about the facts, would they change things much? :-)

I think there is some viability in the sociobiological argument that wealth
increases the attractiveness of men as mates.  But, if you look at the
selfish gene as an embodiment of sociobiology, you see that wealth has had
a paradoxical effect.

Look at the wealthiest countries in the world.  With the exception of the
US, they have fertility rates below replacement, some (like Japan, Germany
and Italy) far below replacement.

The countries with high fertility rates tend to be poorer.  Thus, wealth is
anti-correlated with the probability a person's gene marker will be seen in
a given member of the Nth generation after one's own (which is a standard
measure of sociobiological fitness).

Dan M.

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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-10 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 11:55 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Financial institution fallout
 
 On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 7:26 AM, Dan M [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
   Well, I was hoping to set the ground rules for discussion.
 
  You do like trying to impose your rules on others, don't you.
 
  Actually, they aren't my rules.
 
 Don't like to take responsibility for your actions, huh?

Nah, just don't like to take credit for the work of others.  I am
responsible for the posts I wrote.  For example, someone rightly pointed out
that I over-generalized concerning the breath of people that were dismayed
by the recent market performance.  The writer of the Black Swan and his
camp are probably not dismayed, but are feeling vindicated.  I take
responsibility for writing a statement that didn't take them into account.  

So, I take responsibility for writing my posts, as well as embracing
scholarship and scientific technique.  But, I do not take responsibility for
inventing either. :-)

Dan M. 

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What is wealth?

2008-12-10 Thread Dan M
After the discussion about money as a social construct, it occurred to me
that that there is something more fundamental underlying this.  It is
whether wealth is concrete or just an abstract concept.  

One way to ask it is whether the world is actually wealthier than it was 100
years ago; whether the US is?  A second is to ask who creates wealth and how
do they create it?  I have some strong opinions on this, but I hoped that I
could stimulate a discussion by first throwing out the questions before I
weigh in with my long winded thoughts. :-)

Dan M. 

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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-09 Thread Dan M
  Well, I was hoping to set the ground rules for discussion.
 
 You do like trying to impose your rules on others, don't you.

Actually, they aren't my rules.  The rules I was proposing were the general
rules of experimental inquiry that I have learned.

I have also observed that folks who follow them are far more successful, in
fields where success itself is empirically measured, than folks who don't.
For example, my buddies who have created hundreds of billions of wealth
followed these rules.  

But, since the dialog was to be between you and me, I put out a couple of
proposals, expecting that any set of rules would be _our_ rules for debate.
See, I've learned that to accomplish anything with other people there has to
be at least some commonality.

Indeed, you have, in your commentary and insults, repeatedly responded as
though clear allusions to communal, and even collegial acts were personal
claims. The words we and I are two separate words, with clearly distinct
meaning in the English language.  An inability or refusal to see the
difference guarantees poor communication. 


  First, his statement about the relatively poor rebound from the
 depression
  under FDR is falsified by historical data.  33-37 was the best rebound
 since
  yearly records were kept. (1880).
 
 Would you care to quote the statement you are refuting?

The subnormal recovery to 1935, the subnormal prosperity to
1937 and the slump after that are easily accounted for by the
difficulties incident to the adaptation to a new fiscal policy, new
labor legislation and a general change in the attitude of government
to private enterprise all of which can.

Looking again, I see he is quoting another's false statement to make his
point, my apologies for missing the nuances.


  Professionals almost always publish in professional
  journals edited by other professionals.  Crackpots usually self publish.
 
 Keeping in mind that we are talking about economics, it seems you
 consider yourself a crackpot for publishing your analyses yourself on
 an email list.

This isn't where I publish. :-)  Witten's lunch table discussions with his
friend Ken on the Middle East does not qualify as publishing either (just in
case you want to call string theory crackpot). :-)

You can mock academic standards.  But, it is a fact that folks who use
techniques similar to those used in your arguments here in any endeavor in
which there is empirically measurable success or failure (e.g. engineering
or science) have failed overwhelmingly, while folks who use the techniques I
suppose have had their share of successes.

Even I have had a modest success or two. :-)


Dan M. 


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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-09 Thread Dan M

 
 Hah!  Money is no longer on the gold standard and is completely and
 totally a social contract dependent on the whims of societies and 
 markets and the fiat of governments.  

Yup.  And, if you looked at gold, it has bounced up and down, like all the
other commodities.  In 2008 dollars here are some sample values, which
indicate the volatility

1977   368
1981  1600
2001   342
early July, 2008 970
now 780


Can you imagine the deflationary/inflationary rollercoaster we'd be on if we
were on the gold standard.

And, if you look at all the gold in the world, in 2001 the amount of money
in the US alone (M2) was about 5 trillion.   With a total world supply of
142,000 metric tons, that translated into slightly less than 900 billion
worth of money in 2001..in the whole world.  Assuming that the US has 25% of
the money as well as 25% of the GDP, we'd be talking about reducing the
amount of money more than 20-fold from what it was.  And, I know you recall
that 2001 was near the middle of a low inflation span of almost 20 years.

So, clearly the gold standard would have required tremendous deflation,
which historically has been tied to depressions (e.g. Freeman's arguments).
Even the most stringent Kensyian would cringe at the effects of that type of
deflation.  Libertarians pretend that all would be well when money under the
mattress is the best investment.

Dan M. 

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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Sunday, December 07, 2008 12:40 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Financial institution fallout
 
 On Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 9:51 PM, Dan M [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
  I saw an interesting article from the bastion of free enterprise
  publication, the WSJ, at
 
  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122852289752684407.html
 
   Thus, the funds managers who
  were prudent ether were converted or lost their jobs.
 
 Not all of them. Some people and fund managers made money betting
 against the insanity. And it only takes a few. That is how markets
 evolve. Survival of the fittest. It just may take longer than we like
 for the fittest to win out. 

This is very nice theory if and only if you don't do statistical analysis
and don't believe in positive feedback cycles, don't care what happens to
billions of people over decades, etc.   

Here is where you differ with 96% of people.  Most people don't worry about
the purity of the economic system.  They worry about their lives and the
lives of the other people in the nation and the world. 

Whenever I tried to engage you in empirically based discussions (which have
to include discussions of techniques because techniques are the key to good
experimentation and modeling and are thus essential to developing any
theory), you fell back on libertarian polemics.  For example, when you put
forth a libertarian understanding of the Great Depression, I wanted to
discuss historical numbers, techniques, etcthe sort of thing any
experimentalist would want to discuss in evaluating the theory.  You
considered this changing the subject.

You also have stated that the burden of proof does not fall equally on every
viewpoint, but falls solely on those that differ with you.  This technique
has a long bad history, recently used by the creationist but also used by
astrologers, reflexologists, etc.  Everything that you write is written as
if it comes from a position that Objectivism is a priori correct.

You may not have read much Rand, but your arguments parallel hers.  Perhaps
you read her followers, peers, or those who came before her.  This post
sounds like it could have been written by one of the Social Darwinists of
the roaring 20s.

So, in yet another futile attempt to engage in a discussion of economics on
an empirical instead of philosophical basis, let me make one general, well
accepted statement about economics and see if you accept it.

During downturns where what looked like safe investments turned out to be
very risky, people and institutions become loath to loan money to any but
those that pose the least investment risk.  (e.g. after 1 AAA rated firm
went bankrupt and a number more were saved only by government bailout,
people turn a jaundiced eye to any loan that is AAA rated or worse and tend
to seek safer havens than AAA bonds).  

Dan M. 


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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 12:15 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Financial institution fallout
 
 On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 7:32 AM, Nick Arnett [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
 
  The purpose of a system is not the same as what it produces.
  If it were, buying a word processor would make you a novelist.
 
 More egotism. Everyone in the markets must do what Nick wants them to do!

Well, I'll bite again, just to point out that you live in a society with a
social compact.  Some of it is expressed by the laws of the land, some by
custom, some by taboos, etc.  

Nick is discussing, as I think everyone but you here is how the society can
best address economics in that social compact.  The unstated assumption is
that a good economic system is the one that's best for the economic well
being participants in the system.  Even supply side economists agree with
that, they just have different ideas on what benefits the people of the US
and the people of the word than I do.  To use another example, Jon Mann and
I differ very strongly on socialism, but we have general agreement with each
other and with the supply siders on what we want for the society our
children's children's children live in.  We differ on what's the road there.

So, as members of that society, we on Brin-L choose to debate what is best.
That's not egotism.  The more you write the more I think that your problem
with all of us is that we do not believe in your metaphysics.  Perhaps, on
the odd chance you wish to persuade people, you might agree that this is a
metaphysical disagreement, and put forth your metaphysical arguments
clearly, instead of through rude comments.

Dan M. 

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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 12:24 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Financial institution fallout
 
 On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 8:13 AM, Dan M [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
 
  Here is where you differ with 96% of people.  Most people don't worry
 about
  the purity of the economic system.  They worry about their lives and the
  lives of the other people in the nation and the world.
 
 I am not worried about the purity of the economic system.
 
   For example, when you put
  forth a libertarian understanding of the Great Depression, I wanted to
  discuss historical numbers, techniques, etcthe sort of thing any
  experimentalist would want to discuss in evaluating the theory.  You
  considered this changing the subject.
 
 If you are referring to Higg's paper that I referenced, then you were
 the one who changed the subject and started your usual ramblings. And
 you never addressed a single one of Higg's points.

No, I was asking simple questions about techniques.  Discussions between
people on a paper, results, etc. depend on agreement on techniques for
evaluation.  I asked whether you agreed on a few essential techniques of
empirical investigation.


  You also have stated that the burden of proof does not fall equally on
 every
  viewpoint, but falls solely on those that differ with you.
 
 Again with making up views and attributing them to me. Is making up
 things about people the only way you  can justify pretending you know
 better how to spend other people's money?

That's not the point being argued.  You see, all but a few people understand
that money is a placeholder; it is a social construct.  Numbers in a
computer or pieces of paper with dead presidents on them have meaning only
within a society.

Thus, if you are a member of this society, you play by its rules. As Rob
said, we haven't drunk the Kool-Aid of radical individualism.  We can argue
what rules are good or bad for society and the inhabitants of that society.
But, your arguments for radical individualism are about as sensible as
someone arguing that people are just a construct, all that exist are quarks,
leptons, and all the particles that transmit the forces. 

BTW, when you quote phrases almost word for word, do you think it is mere
coincidence that you do so?  I'd argue it means that you've heard an idea
you like and repeated it.  If you're ignorant of where your ideas came from,
that's OK, but it's not changing the subject for me to recognize where your
ideas originated.  

Dan M. 



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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-08 Thread Dan M
John Williams wrote:
 
 No, you were rambling on with nonsense, failing to address a single
 argument in the Higg's paper.


Well, I was hoping to set the ground rules for discussion.  But, I have two
obvious comments on the Higgs paper.

First, his statement about the relatively poor rebound from the depression
under FDR is falsified by historical data.  33-37 was the best rebound since
yearly records were kept. (1880).  

Second, let me refer to his technique. The paper you referenced was self
published.  He was the editor of the journal that it was published in.
That's a big red flag.  Professionals almost always publish in professional
journals edited by other professionals.  Crackpots usually self publish.  

But, I'm not sure either matters to you.  That's why I wanted to ask if it
did.  I'm guessing you consider good technique and actually agreeing with
known data nonsense, but I'd be delighted to be surprised.

Dan M. 

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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-08 Thread Dan M
 First, his statement about the relatively poor rebound from the depression
 under FDR is falsified by historical data.  33-37 was the best rebound
 since yearly records were kept. (1880).

Whoops, that should be `1870.  And, with the Civil War and all, one really
needs to go back to before 1860 to see normal economics.
 
Dan M. 




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RE: Financial institution fallout

2008-12-07 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of Pat Mathews
 Sent: Sunday, December 07, 2008 7:28 AM
 To: Brin List
 Subject: RE: Financial institution fallout
 
 
 Yeah. I've been watching this unroll. Though to my shock and horror, I've
 actually been seeing some of Rand's villains showing up in Washington
 whining for their bailouts ... I had dismissed her as over-the-top and
 preachy and impractical for decades!


Actually, Rand's hero's are in line there too. :-)  They are heroes in her
book because they are successful.  In reality, the private market failed,
and needs the government...even according to its bible. 


Dan M. 

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RE: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated

2008-12-06 Thread Dan M
 
 I'm no statistician, but aren't you comparing apples/oranges here.
 First of all the median income includes all residents while the median
 home prices include only homeowners.  

But, affordability indexes usually compare this.  It's true that,
nationwide, about a third of households are renters.  But, the person buying
the property to rent has to make money on the rent, so rents are also
higher.  I realize that there were some goofy disparities between rental
property prices and homes in the last 10 years.  Here, it's the other way
around.  I think we are spending more on housing for a 1350 sq. foot
apartment than our buyers are spending on their mortgage and real estate
taxes (after the tax deduction...without counting that, they are paying
about 5% more for 3000 sq. feet than we are paying for 1350 sq. feet). 

Second  it looks to me that
 median home prices doesn't include condo prices. 


 I'm not sure about the last, but I know that in my parent's home town
 (Santa Cruz) UCSC students vote in the local elections and I would
 imagine that that makes them residents.

I found another resource, and it said that students living on campus, even
if they can vote in the next election, are not counted, but grad students
(the only ones who can live off campus) living off campus do count.

The median family income is much higher than the median household income:
350k.  So, it is a community where the average household is in the top 2% of
the nation. That means that as long as those very very high paying jobs are
there, the housing prices might stay up.

But, I think this recession will hit everyone, and a sinking tide lowers all
boats.  I know that investment bankers are nervous now. Engineers certainly
can't afford to buy those houses, unless they are paid far above
averageand then the company that hires them are at a great
disadvantagewhich is why HP will keep shifting work to Houston's Compaq
campus.


Dan M.

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Financial institution fallout

2008-12-06 Thread Dan M
I saw an interesting article from the bastion of free enterprise
publication, the WSJ, at

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122852289752684407.html


It has some interesting analysisand it doesn't seem good. 

What I find interesting is that it seems to be a balanced analysis, not a
polemic for letting the markets decide everything.  My feeling is that
everyone but those who believe than Atlas Shrugged is the greatest work of
philosophy, literature, and economics ever, have been badly shaken by how
the market failed.  It's not that government was blameless, but they didn't
force the 5 investment banking institutions and the biggest insurance
company in the world to make the decisions they did.  The implications of
this article are quite sobering.

I don't have time, alas, for an analysis for the list, based on what I read
and discussed, but I'll mention one factor here.  Fund managers who played
things properly, who bet that real estate would not go up forever, quickly
found themselves having to explain to their clients year after year after
year why they didn't invest in AAA assets.  It's like refusing a betting
scheme based on there never ever being a straight flush in poker.  It
usually works, and the person who refuses to get in looks like their losing
moneyin this case it would be for decades.  Thus, the funds managers who
were prudent ether were converted or lost their jobs. 

I don't think Adam Smith envisioned the GDP of the world being issued as
credit default swaps.

Dan M. 

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RE: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated

2008-12-04 Thread Dan M
I think that I learned about it with hog
  prices...the fact that there is a time constant between the price of hog
  bellies and the ability to add new hog bellies to the market.  This
 leads to
  market volatility, since when prices are high, a lot of new little
 piglets
  are raised, causing an excess in supply, lowering prices, causing few
  piglets to be raised, causing a shortfall in supply, etc.
 This is called the Cobweb Theorem, first articulated by Kaldor.

OK, I forgot the name, but I'm glad that someone who's got a Phd in econ
reinforces that this is a well known phenomenon. 

 
 When you are in a doctoral program in economics, one of the things you
 are drilled in is that the assumptions you make in developing your
 models are often the most significant factors in the results you make.

FWIW, this is the most critical part of solving complex problems with
partial information, much of which is not primary information, but
information plus the hidden assumptions of those reporting the problems.  In
working with worldwide downhole fleets of nuclear measurement tools, I've
had to deal with this.  Problems that are forehead smakers when you finally
see them can linger unsolved for months or even years because of hidden
assumptions.

So, one of the greatest skill sets a team (often comprised of engineers,
scientists, techs., field operators, manufacturing people, etc.)  can have
is going through the data and finding their hidden assumptions that make
them miss the elephant in the room.  Indeed, if the team is beyond the bare
minimum number to get the job done, hiring a well trained person from an
adjacent field who has creative ignorance is very useful because they ask
good basic questions.  95% of which have easy answers, 5% of which take some
though, and 1%-2% of which lead to finding flaws that were missed due to
assumptions.


 That is why grad students and their profs all have large repertoire of
 jokes in which the punch-line involves an economist making an assumption
 (e.g. Assume a can opener.) In the case of perfect competition, the
 assumptions include:
 
 1. Numerous buyers and sellers
 2. Homogeneous product
 3. Perfect information in the market
 4. No barriers to entry or exit

Yup, I've heard of that.


 For all of these reasons I am not one to subscribe to the
 quasi-religious faith that markets are always the optimum solution. 

OK, we're on the same page so far.


But in the case of the gasoline market, there is in fact some fairly
 persuasive evidence that there is a pretty high degree of competition.
 It is the fact that prices do move around a lot, and in both directions.
 When firms have a large amount of market power, you definitely do not
 observe this kind of price movement. Firms with power set prices, and
 control those prices, so as to maximize their profits. You just don't
 see a lot of price movements. But with gasoline you see prices move on a
 frequent, even daily basis.


What is interesting about this market is that there is a cartel that
provides 40% of the output.  Yet, this cartel couldn't prevent oil prices
from falling to under $10/barrel in '98 because they could not penalize
cheaters.  The big oil companies (BP, Shell, Exxon) are very small players
in comparison with OPEC's national oil companies.  Yet, folks are convinced
that these bit players control everything.

Anyways, it seems, in this case anyways, that we agree fairly completely.

Dan M. 

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RE: It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations

2008-12-02 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of xponentrob
 Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 11:06 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations
 
 
Umyeah. Though I have to admit I'm left wondering if you are
talking about questions in the soft sciences (which can seem a bit
arbitrary to my mind and subject to change for a variety of reasons), or 
if you are referring to ultimate questions that lay people tend to 
think physics aims for. (Just for clarity, I think we both agree when it
comes to the subject of Truth)

I was thinking more of the latter, but the former also helps bring the
problem into perspective.  Take psychology.  We don't really know what
people are thinking.  Experts in the field of psychology have been fooled by
people who outgamed them.  Still, empirical observations are made, and
models of those observations (say fivethirtyeight's vote prediction) can
prove quite accurate.

 
 OK thanks!
 I'm not sure I understand your statement in that case. Fleishman and Pons
 observations were certainly called into question, as were their
 methodologies.Same with, say, creationists. So offhand I would expect that
 the reliability of observations is important, but recognise that you could
 be defining observation in a way I am not.

I think I am defining reliable differently, partially because I'm rather
familiar with the debates of the time when physics emerged.  Pons and
Fleishman made unrepeatable observations.  Creationists use bad technique in
evaluating phenomenon.  But, Pons and Fleishman's problems were not the
uncertainty of the empirical and only a small subset of creationists use
idealism to question observations (as Berkley (sp) did).  

We can make detailed models of the empirical and have rigorous standards for
good, repeatable experiments.  But, we don't worry about what is really
there, we shut up and calculate.  In a real sense, this Feynman statement
is a culmination of what makes physics what it is.



 
 
 I recall that years ago there was a very lengthy thread here that dealt
 with metaphysical questions of the ultimate reality and why such 
 philosophical discussion is pretty much meaningless. 

Actually, I'd argue that meaning is one of those metaphysical questions that
cannot be determined empirically.  I love the statement in the first preface
to the Critique of Pure Reason on this. 

HUMAN reason has this peculiar fate that in one species
of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed
by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to
ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also
not able to answer.





 
 
  Thus, I take exception with a science magazine which states that the
  authors
  pet interpretation has been proven by a new discovery, when it hasn't.
 
 Something has been demonstrated. I agree it is open to interpretation. I
 can think of other explainations that might satisfy the observations,
leakage from tiny higher dimensions frex.

None of that is needed.  Just standard E=m works (I'm using good physicist
units here where c=1. :-)  )  That's what's frustrating for me; the New
Scientist makes standard QM theory out to be a startling new discovery.  The
theory dates back to at least the early 30s.  Nothing has been demonstrated
except that QCD works numerically.  If they failed with computers 100x as
powerful, and everyone did, then that would be something new, because QCD
would have been falsified.  
 
 
 
  One real problem, from my perspective, is that the average layman is
  trying
  to fit modern physics back into a classical box.  To paraphrase one
  prominent physicist from the 20s when asked to comment on the
 correctness
  of
  someone's hypothesison a theory he thought was horrid, Right? Right, he
  isn't even Wrong.  This is what the first two paragraphs of the New
  Scientist article remind me of.
 
 Last year everything was all about strings (again), but the article seems
 to ignore all that and doesn't reference.

That's at a layer below what was covered in the article...where theorists
try to reconcile GR with QCD and the Electroweak...there strings (and now
fuzzy space if 2 year old last reading of John Baez's online This Week In
Mathematical Physics is current enough).  

Dan M.

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RE: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated

2008-12-01 Thread Dan M


 I'll add one thought that keeps coming to me.  If free markets reliably
 regulate prices, how the heck did we have such a crazy spike in oil prices
 recently? 

It's rarely as simple as portrayed in economics 101, but this type of
problem has been long known.  I think that I learned about it with hog
prices...the fact that there is a time constant between the price of hog
bellies and the ability to add new hog bellies to the market.  This leads to
market volatility, since when prices are high, a lot of new little piglets
are raised, causing an excess in supply, lowering prices, causing few
piglets to be raised, causing a shortfall in supply, etc. 

Now, you might think that folks could see this and enough farmers would
counter-trend in order always make money, and thus smooth things out.
Indeed, the futures market was created to help with this, my father-in-law
regularly sold future harvests on the futures market to lock in prices and
to decrease fluctuation.

It's really critical with oil, because bringing a new field on line can take
10 years.  That means that folks have to guess what the prices will be in
5-10 years.  I can't talk out of school, but it's fair to say that no-one
would start oil fields expecting 100 dollar/barrel oil to work.  The
Saudi's prince's comment that the price needs to be in the 70-80
dollar/barrel range seems close to target.  


 Surely neither supply nor demand changed much in such a short
 time.  

No, but when both are quite inelastic when it comes to prices, one can see
wild swings.  For example, back in '98, oil dipped below $10/barrel, while
natural gas was flirting with $2.00.  As a result, gas wells were considered
worthless, and new oil production plans had to be profitable at $15/barrel
over the long term.

Since then, demand has taken off.  Just look at the last few years, while
prices have been rising rapidly. World demand was still growing, rising 4%
between 2004 and 2007, during which time the average price rose .  Even
comparing the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2007, we see
that the demand was still rising (only 0.4%, but that's when prices were
spiking above to $140+/barrel.  This shows how demand is insensitive to
prices.

It took a global recession to slow this down.  And while the demand forecast
for next year is fairly flat, if the world economy recovers in 2010, then
oil demand will continue to go up.  If oil stays below $60/barrel for a
while, then some planned production will be postponed, and there will be
another squeeze.

Now, those aren't the only factors involved.  The drop in the dollar was
part of the rise in dollar oil prices (the rise in Euros was smaller), and
herd mentality among traders contributed to the volatility.

But, those who speculated on future rising prices got killed in the market,
so they hurt themselves more than anyone.

Oil is a funny thing; some fields in the Middle East can still produce at a
cost of under $10/barrel, while the new US oil plays (like the subsalt Gulf
of Mexico) require much higher oil prices to be at all profitable.
Alternative energy is still more expensive, so with low oil prices, you can
either kiss that goodbye or expect every country in the world to voluntarily



And I haven't seen anybody argue that any sort of government
 intervention was responsible.  I suspect that what we've seen in oil,
 housing and other bubbles is that we have created a system that amplifies
 fear and greed.

The housing bubble was partially due to cash with no place to go.  But, much
of the excess in housing prices was deliberately caused by homeowners' votes
against affordable housing in places like California.  Why do you think that
prices for comparable housing in LA are so much more than Houston or Dallas?


Dan M.

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RE: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated

2008-12-01 Thread Dan M
Sorry, I hit send before getting a number

 
 Since then, demand has taken off.  Just look at the last few years, while
 prices have been rising rapidly. World demand was still growing, rising 4%
 between 2004 and 2007, during which time the average price rose 

about 75%.

Dan M. 
  

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RE: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated

2008-12-01 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of Nick Arnett
 Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 10:34 AM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: Wal-Mart is evil, why it must be eradicated
 
 On Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 7:52 AM, Dan M [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
 
 
  It's rarely as simple as portrayed in economics 10
 
 
 Of course not.
 
 For the reason you pointed out later, this doesn't apply.  In fact, that's
 exactly what I was pointing out -- supply and demand for oil change so
 slowly that huge short-term price swings can't be explained by supply and
 demand, so some other forces must be regulating it, to the detriment of
 nearly everybody.

The reasons I pointed out later are dependant on supply and demand.  If
immediate demand exceeds available supply, the law of demand means that
prices will rise until demand falls to meet the prices.

 
 Your reminders to me of inelasticity were on point, I think.  Prices
 obviously can more easily go non-linear when supply and demand are
 inelastic.  I guess that leaves the question of how to figure out if the
 price response was rational with regard to supply and demand, or was
 influenced significantly by non-market forces.  But that begs the question
 of whether or not derivatives and such are market forces, whether or not
 information was equally available to all, etc.

Well, I've been around the oil patch for over 25 years, and have, from time
to time, been able to discuss the question of future prices with folks who
have been privy to the best understanding of some of the biggest
non-governmental players in the field.  It is clear to me that these players
have a very hard time predicting future prices.

For example, the rise in prices over the last 10 years can be traced,
mostly, to the rise of emerging market demand and the self destruction of
oil production potential in countries such as Iran and Venezuela, and the
effects of the long term civil unrest in Iraq (as well as the far more
decayed pre-war oil infrastructure in Iraq than expected).  Of these causes,
the decline of Venezuelan production on the supply side and the rise of
Chinese demand stand out, with the rise in Chinese demand seen as the
largest unpredicted factor.

If one looks at the total failure of the five big investment banking houses,
as well as the rating and insurance companies to anticipate the bursting of
the housing bubble, I think one would see that these folks failed miserably
to predict the future.  I'm not saying that insider trading doesn't exist,
but the big players in both oil and finance have been too wrong for one to
reasonably suppose that they had inside information.  Rather, knowing what
happened, I'd argue that the investment bankers had inside misinformation.
:-)


 Having said all that, it seems that such price fluctuations are so
 disruptive that no matter what causes them, it would be in our society's
 interest to figure out a market-friendly means of moderating them.  Maybe
 that's not true if they are driven entirely by inelasticity, but I sure
 would like to see a thorough analysis of that question.
 
OPEC is trying now, and they are probably the only people with a shot at it.
I agree that wild fluctuations are in no one's best interest, it leads to
wasted money...but there is no means of regulating demand by the wide
variety of countries in the world.  


 
  The housing bubble was partially due to cash with no place to go.  But,
  much
  of the excess in housing prices was deliberately caused by homeowners'
  votes
  against affordable housing in places like California.  Why do you think
  that
  prices for comparable housing in LA are so much more than Houston or
  Dallas?
 
 
 You have more space.  ;-)

Well, there is a bit of truth to that, but not enough to explain anything
but the prices in the exurbs.  I was sent a link (which I can't find now,
sorry) of a comparison of the change in price of two downtown condos in
Dallas and LA.  Given the locations, and equal prices at the start, and
given the faster rise in the DFW population, one would think a downtown
condo would appreciate more in the city that was growing faster.  But, it
was the LA condo that rose more in price, far more.

 
 When did we vote against affordable housing?  

No, it was actually done in a lot of little ways.  In this particular
example, someone saw the rise in LA prices and wanted to build a high rise
condo in the neighborhood of the LA condo in question.  The had a location
where some 50 some year old 2 story apartments were located.

After years of effort, they gave up when the 2 story apartments were
declared historical landmarks.  There was nothing remarkable about them.
Rather, the board that was voted in by local land owners was strongly
influenced by those landowners desire to keep housing prices rising.  So,
they found ways to stop new housing from being built.

This works for the short and medium term

RE: It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations

2008-12-01 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of Rceeberger
 Sent: Sunday, November 30, 2008 9:47 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: RE: It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations
 
 
 On 11/30/2008 5:30:23 PM, Dan M ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) wrote:
  Rob wrote:
 
   If physics were anything more than approximate, we would have final
   answers to all our questions.
 
  How?  All physics does is model observations.
 
 Models make predictions. And over time models have made predictions with
 greater accuracy and that cover more situations that previous models
 failed. Mercury anyone?
 
 Models also allow us to re-create phenomena for our own purposes.

I'm not arguing against modeling observation.  Besides paying the bills,
it's at the foundation of modern civilization. Without it, we'd be little
better off than they were 500 years ago.

I was just pointing out that there are plenty of worthwhile questions that
will not be answered by science.

 
  Physics was created out of
  Natural Philosophy by tabling the question of the reliability of
  observations.
 
 Which definition of tabling are you using here?

Roberts Rules of Order :-)

US

 
  Now, you can use the results of physics as a reliable model of what we
  observe when you do metaphysics.  But, it is a really really good idea
 to
  not confuse when you are doing physics and when you are doing something
  else.  Otherwise you can wander off into the aether. :-)
 
 
 G I think the implication of what I wrote before is that for most of us
 there really isn't much of a difference.
 I would think it quite different when having a formal discussion.

Sure, and I appreciate your position.  But, I've hoped you remember one of
the zillion times I remarked that there are a number of different
interpretations of physics: many different realities that are all equally
consistent with observations, and for which there is no empirical test short
of finding the aether, or something equally startling, to differentiate
between the interpretations.

Thus, I take exception with a science magazine which states that the authors
pet interpretation has been proven by a new discovery, when it hasn't.

One real problem, from my perspective, is that the average layman is trying
to fit modern physics back into a classical box.  To paraphrase one
prominent physicist from the 20s when asked to comment on the correctness of
someone's hypothesison a theory he thought was horrid, Right? Right, he
isn't even Wrong.  This is what the first two paragraphs of the New
Scientist article remind me of.

Dan M. 

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RE: It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations

2008-11-30 Thread Dan M
Rob wrote:

 If physics were anything more than approximate, we would have final
 answers to all our questions.

How?  All physics does is model observations.  Physics was created out of
Natural Philosophy by tabling the question of the reliability of
observations.

Now, you can use the results of physics as a reliable model of what we
observe when you do metaphysics.  But, it is a really really good idea to
not confuse when you are doing physics and when you are doing something
else.  Otherwise you can wander off into the aether. :-)

Dan M. 




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RE: European bank failures

2008-11-24 Thread Dan M
 with your mortgage payment).

But, this wasn't the critical part of real estate that was foreclosed
staying on the market.  It was the imbalance between supply and demand.

Out of curiosity, do you think that we know so little about economics that
we are just playing pretend when we think that, in the face of inelastic
supply and falling demand that has minimal price sensitivity that there can
be great market volatility.  That's Econ 101, but maybe you don't believe in
that. 

Me, I think the run up and then the precipitous fall of the price of oil is
a classic example of this.  The drop in real estate prices available for
foreclosed commercial real estate is another.  I also think that when it is
difficult to impossible to assess the intrinsic value of something for sale,
the tendency is, when there is an oversupply, to see market prices drop a
great deal.

So, let me state the point of contention.  I am arguing that, if there was a
run on one of the major banks in Europe, and there was no cash to honor
checks, then several things will happen.

1) A large amount of cash would have to be generated (hundreds of billions
of dollars).

2) This need to quickly sell assets would decrease the value of the assets,
since there are not a lot of buyers with a half a trillion in cash in their
back pockets.  Indeed, we can see from the credit freeze, the unprecedented
drop in the T-bill rates as the US government is stating that it will
increase its debt very significantly over the next two years, and the rise
in the dollar vs. the Euro, that those with cash are fleeing to quality.
(again, this is Econ 101, but I know that many libertarians think Econ 101
is socialistic propaganda...even though most businessmen are saying this
too). 

3) After payrolls are missed, and mortgages are missed, then companies
tighten their belts, cutting workers, and previously good sound mortgages
are in default.  This is called a positive feedback cycle.

All of this is market economics.  But, since there is no economy with zero
governmental involvement, I know you can (and probably will) blame the
government for every woe, because, after all, markets are magic.

I also noted that you ignored most of my points.  I have been trying my
hardest to engage in a fact and analysis based discussion with someone with
a different vantage point.  Your pattern of postings are consistent with
patterns I've seen before (e.g. folks who don't believe in global warming or
evolution).  While that doesn't prove anything, engagement might be nice.

I actually learned a great deal look up and talking with sources on this.
I'll make a general post later on some of the things I learned (which I'm
sure you will consider socialistic fantasies).  I just consider it sad when
people hold views concerning the empirical that they are not willing to
engaged shared analysis with someone who has a different perspective.

What's especially ironic, is that, before you were here, I was the main
defender of markets and businesses vs. government control.  I'm not an
absolutist like your posts make you out to be.  I think there are
times/areas where we need to let the market work, and there are times/areas
where the government should be involved.  I would love a discussion of
when/where between a number of folks with different vantage points on this.
Alas, I rarely see this; with polemics tending to be the preferred means of
communication today.

Dan M. 

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RE: European bank failures

2008-11-21 Thread Dan M
I've waited until I was able to get hard numbers on the ratio between total
liabilities and deposits.  If we make the assumption (as is true with all
balance sheets) that total assets = total liabilities  (equity is counted as
a liability to get this balance...I guess that's why it's called a balance
sheet), we can use the ratio of deposits to total assets to get the ratio of
deposits to total assets.

I found this for Chase before and after buying Washington Mutual at:

http://investor.shareholder.com/jpmorganchase/press/releasedetail.cfm?Releas
eID=337648

Before the purchase, deposits were 41% of total assets, and afterwards, they
were 44%.

But, at 

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=jpmannual

You have stated, from your experience that deposits are a much smaller
fraction of total liabilities.  With all due respect, either JPMorgan is
deliberately falsifying information, or you make invalid assumptions
concerning how one assumes long term debt must be commercial bonds.  It is a
fact that almost half of JP Morgan's assets are now deposits (unless they
are lying of course).


 
 The balance sheet you referenced has total assets of nearly 2 trillion
 euros, and 422 billion euros of deposits under liabilities. As long as
 the losses on the assets do not exceed about 79% (loss of 1.6
 trillion), then the depositors could get their money back.

In this case, since Deutsche Bank is a mixed house,that could very well be
true.

 
  You just brushed off the essential problem at the heart of bank runs
 with a
  it would just.
 
 I'm not talking about preventing bank runs. The issue I am addressing
 is whether the depositors would be able to get their money back in
 bankruptcy. If the depositors won't be able to get their money back
 eventually, then that is a more severe crisis than just an insolvent
 bank.

Yes, but if checking accounts are worthless until the sweet bye and bye,
then there is a giant problem.  Further, as I've experienced in cases that
only involve the hundreds of millions and you should know, the attempt to
sell of trillions in assets all at once would decrease the value of the
assets even further.

I've lived through the crash of '86 in Houston, where banks got no more than
30 cents on the dollar for many foreclosed properties.  The process took
years.  In your scenario, you have people with checking accounts patiently
waiting 2 years before they can write checks again.

The results of what would happen are so clear to me, and are born out by
recent data, I'm not clear what statements that meet approval but all but
the small minority of uberlibertian economists that you think are stuff and
nonsense.  Some of these assumptions are:

1) Companies who find that they can't make payroll lay people off.
2) People who's checks are no longer good can't make their mortgage
payments.
3) Failures within the financial system set off a cascade effect.
4) The failure of AIG immediately after the failure of Leeman Brothers
indicates both the interconnectiveness and the inability of private
insurance to handle this type of catastrophic failure of a AAA rated
company.
5) Without some intervention _all_ of the US investment banking houses would
go bankrupt.

6) In such a market, where giant AAA and AA rated companies default en mass,
people are fearful and don't know who's a safe bet for a loan.

7) In such a case, credit starts to freeze.

Let's, though, go back to Deutsche Bank.  They are under water and there is
a run on the bank (with their bad loans and the lower transparency in the EU
than the US they may be hiding the fact that they are presently under water
and hiding it).  As a result, checks written on Deutsche Bank accounts are
not honored.

You ignored this question before, but what do you think would be the action
of the people who can no longer pay their bills?  What happens when major
industries cannot pay their bills?  I'd argue that they'd cut every cost
possible, but still risk going into default.  I'd argue there would be
massive layoffs, and mortgages not met.  I'd argue there would be a positive
feedback loop.

Dan M. 

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RE: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why ProsperityResumedafter the War

2008-11-15 Thread Dan M


 I do not consider it nonsense, as I don't consider most economics
 arguments to be nonsense. Or, to put it positively, I think it makes
 as much sense as many other economics arguments that I am familiar
 with. Which is to say, plausible, but not entirely convincing, since
 contradictory views can also be argued plausibly.

OK, I think I understand your view of this paper.  Calling it plausible, but
not the only possible explanation does put good boundaries on your
evaluation and I very much appreciate your willingness to move a discussion
forward by setting those boundaries.

So, I contemplated how to move this discussion forward.  There are two
linked ways that I tend to evaluate this type of paper.  First, I try to
look at the numbers the author gives and look for other numbers to check his
assertions.  Second, I look at technique.

For the first, I've obtained a source with yearly GDP for the US going back
to 1870, and then decade by decade estimates back to 1820.  I think this
type of number will allow us to look for evidence of at least correlations
between government actions and the GDP in the past.  Since the hypothesis is
given in the paper for correlations between government actions and GDP, one
comes to the obvious conclusion that the author can see such correlations.
Thus, looking for others that would be predicted by his hypothesis is a most
reasonable way to evaluate his hypothesis.

Second, you may not know it, but my formal studies have ranged over a wide
range of subjects.  About a decade ago, I took a graduate seminar course on
Persian and Hellenistic Judaism. During the first week, we were assigned two
books to read.  After that, the professor apologized for assigning one of
the books, because it wasn't a good book.as we should have known.  When I
asked why, he said technique..and went through the evidence for the use of
poor technique.

I have found this a good general rule for all disciplines that involve
exploring the empirical world in any extent whatsoever.that authors that use
good techniques are better than authors that use poor techniques.

I'll give two examples of techniques by different people in the area of
scripture study: one good and one bad.  The good one is Raymond Brown's
Death of the Messiah and the bad one is Spong's Liberating the Gospels:
Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes.  Brown's book usually includes
discussions of the various camps on each critical issue, lists the arguments
for each camp and then gives his argument.  He makes no claim without
extensive support for that claim.  He has 200 pages of footnotes, about a
third of which references works that come to different conclusions than he
does.

Spong, on the other hand, makes strong statements like the basic purpose of
the gospels is the liturgical following of the Jewish calendar with minimal
evidence.  Further, he doesn't even consider the basis for previous
arguments, (e.g. arguments that reference the detailed work which examines
the structure of Mark's gospel).  In other words, he makes claims, cites a
couple of random facts that support them, and then declares that previous
ideas are just mired in the past.

So, I've looked at the work you've cited with these types of criteria.
Before going on, it would be worth noting whether you think these are
acceptable criteria or if you have other criteria for the verisimilitude of
an analysis.

Dan M. 

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RE: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumedafter the War

2008-11-13 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Monday, November 10, 2008 1:04 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity
 Resumedafter the War
I've gone through the attachment with modest care, (I've read the whole
thing and read parts twice, but want to ask a question of John before taking
the time (stretched out over a few days because...fortunatelymy business
is taking almost all of my time) whether he used this paper as just another
example of the nonsense economists write.  I'm less sure with this paper
because it seems to echo his ideas, but if you take his basic principal of
economic analysis (the economy is far too complex for the economists to
understand),as bedrock, then it seems that this paper is yet another example
of failure.

So, John, do you quote this paper as yet another example of what you
consider nonsense?

Dan M. 

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SL failures

2008-11-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of John Williams
 Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2008 10:56 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: My contribution to the bail-out
 
 Dan M [EMAIL PROTECTED]
 
 
  First, it isn't that simple,
 
 Yes, you do tend to oversimplify.
 
 the SL mess (which also came
  after a spell of regulators looking the other way because government
  regulation was bad.another of many coincidences, I suppose).
 
 Actually, a large contributor to the SL failures was poor government
 regulations. When inflation shot up, the SL's were prohibited 
 by regulation Q from paying high enough interest on deposits to attract 
 enough money. 

Hmm, I have a hunch you know, but choose to ignore the main problem with
that argument.  It is true that the regulatory environment that was
reasonable for SLs to work in from the '30s through the mid-70s became
problematic in the late 70s to 1980 for the reason you mentioned.  As a
result, in 1980, the limitation on the interest offered by SLs was lifted.
In 1980, the prime rate was around 20%, so I could see that being
problematic.

It was recognized as such, and the law was changed.  There were a few SL
failures in the early 80s, and I won't argue against the proposition that
this law was a very significant cause of those early 80s failures.
 
But, the fertilizer hit the fan in the late 80s, where regulators (who were
following the boss's viewpoint that government regulations were evil and the
free market would solve everything) loosened the regulations on SLs as much
as possible, and looked the other way when they violated basic rules (like
lower limits for equity on hand).  In particular, their moving from the
mortgage business to the high risk/high gain business loans, and then their
failure to accurately account for the value of the business property heading
south in the mid to late '80s was the reason that the government had to
spend so much money.  If you are allowed to cook the books, (like companies
did when Reagan told them it was OK to raid the pension funds of their
employees using funny math to justify the theft), then it is possible to
hide all sorts of bad things until they get so bad that people can't help
but notice.

I was at ground zero when it happened and watched very closely.  In
particular, I remember the same arguments you've been giving as the reason
why this would not result in either the employees or the government losing
money by the acceptance of shady accounting practice as the new norm.  Guess
what, both did.  

So, at face value, your argument is that we should ignore this and focus on
what happened ten years before.  It appears to me that this is only logical
if one assumes a priori that government regulation is bad (as happened in
the 80s) and then immunize one's arguments from virtually any empirical
falsification by appeal to complications. 


Furthermore, SL's were required to make mortgage loans mostly to customers
within a small radius
 of the SL. With little ability to attract new deposits, and almost no
 geographical diversification, it is no surprise that they made a 
 lot of desperate, bad investments that ultimately led to many SL
failures.

The overwhelming number of failures came years after restrictions were
_removed_, and the regulators looked the other way while the safeguards that
were technically in place were ignored or worked around with imaginary
numbers. 


But, I'm sure you know all that, so let me ask you a question.  Why were
restrictions that were removed in '80 cause very few failures before '85,
but many failures from '86 to '92?  Why dismiss a gigantic change in the
value of Houston real estate'85-'86 time frame that was papered over, when
simple arithmetic shows how it would affect the books?

You dismiss the fact that the values of the properties that were used as
collateral for the loans went way under water in that time frame, right?
You do know that the SL's hid this, and that the regulators looked the
other way, right?

Thinking carefully through the market solution at the website you
referenced, I have distilled it to the following:

Allowing banks and other regulations to skate closer to the edge of
insolvency, and when they skate too close, and the ice breaks under them
(e.g. when the assets they count on to be solvent lose 40%-70% of their
book value), allow them to hide this fact and tell people they are still
solvent.

I cannot imagine how this is a solution.  I pointed out that I was around
when and where it was tried, and have pointed out it was a disaster.  


So, to conclude this part of my response, let me ask you a question: do you
think that lowering margin requirements, and then allowing banks to hide the
fact that a significant fraction of the loans they have outstanding are
under water (the value of the property is less than the value of the loan)
is a market solution to the problems we have been

European bank failures

2008-11-08 Thread Dan M

John Williams wrote

Dan wrote:
 I assume you were referring to subordinate debt.


 No, I was referring to all debt, subordinate to senior.


OK.  Let me pull up a couple of different types of balance sheets for
Deutsche Bank to illustrate what I mean. The first one is given at 


http://annualreport.deutsche-bank.com/2008/q2/consolidatedfinancialstatement
s/balancesheet.html

http://tinyurl.com/5effsm


Now, I realize that the Germans don't use the same categories I'm use to but
their accounts payable are at 200 billion euros, and their total current
liabilities exceeds one trillion euros.  Their assents, as you see are
mostly long term investments.  Thus, a run on the bank would result in folks
not getting the money they thought safe.

Even though, at first, Europeans were laughing at the US's sub-prime
mortgage lending as irresponsible,


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/3260052/Eu
rope-on-the-brink-of-currency-crisis-meltdown.html

http://preview.tinyurl.com/5btrw5


shows, there is a lot of exposure to bad loans by European bank.




There is a complicated set of rules that
 determines who gets paid and who doesn't, but generally customers
 (depositors) get paid first and equity holders last. Usually it goes
something like
 customers,
 creditors, senior debt, subordinated debt, preferred shareholders, common
shareholders.
 As you say, it is likely that the short term assets are not enough to
 cover a run
 on the bank. But in every balance sheet I am familiar with, the senior
debt on down is more than enough to cover the depositors and creditors. 

Well, I looked on this balance sheet, and didn't see that.  Further, isn't
senior debt a debt, not an asset?  What I think you mean is that it's big
enough to absorb all the loss involved in liquidating assets.

So, to look at that, I looked up deutsche bank senior debt and got 

http://annualreport.deutsche-bank.com/2008/q2/notes/informationonthebalances
heetunaudited/long-termdebt.html

http://tinyurl.com/62cgfg


We see that subordinate + senior debt is less than 200 billion Euros.


It would just take some time to get them their money (or to 
arrange a takeover of the viable portions of the bank).

It would just?  ROTFLMAO.

You just brushed off the essential problem at the heart of bank runs with a
it would just.  

Let's say a company kept payroll money at the bank.  I don't know about you,
but my dad, from the time I was little, was paid by check, not cash.  The
check would be no good.  He wouldn't get any pay until the problem was
fixed.  Multiply that by tens of millions and you will see one aspect of the
problem.

Second, when bank failures have happened in the US, it's been a big bank
taking over a smaller bank with the US government eating the bad assets as
part of the deal.  But, as the Iceland problem shows, it can grow to such a
large size that even the government itself isn't big enough to make this
type of arrangement.  


 
  Checks from in-state banks which always cleared overnight took
  eight days to clear.  When we closed on our house, the buyers had to
  reconfirm that they had the loan the day of the closing
 
 Oh, the horrors!

No, as before, the measurement.  

It appears from the pattern of your writing that you don't like measurements
inconsistent with your theories.  I guess, as an experimental physicist, I
have a different bias: towards data when discussing empirical phenomena. 

I'll go back to another example of this: the fact that the spread between
interest on A and AA paper jumped up to almost 5% as the bailout was being
passed, and is now dropping as it is being implemented.  If it were the
actions of someone playing the odds rationally, that would mean that all the
companies with A paper have about a 5% higher chance of default than those
with AA paper.  But, since the default rate over the last 25 years have been
a small fraction of a percent, and no one had presented data that indicates
a hundred fold increase in short term defaults, one takes this as a measure
of general fear: the mirror image of the irrational exuberance of the folks
who made loans that would only be rational if housing prices would continue
to spiral up with no ceiling.  To me, that is a measure of the credit market
freezing.

So, to go back to my point: if the main European banks have runs on them
like the Iceland bank did, the world financial system is in a lot of
trouble, with no clear solution on the horizon.  
Dan M.

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RE: choice...

2008-11-08 Thread Dan M


 it was not my preference to accept the banks terms.  my options were
 limited to signing the loan. or not buying a home.  i did what the realtor
 said because that is the way the system works.

Let me jump in here.  You know I've been arguing against John a good deal on
this subject, but let me now look at things from another perspective, since
I think that the sub-prime mess is not just about deregulationthat other
fundamental problems are involved.

I'm not sure when you bought your house, but I originally bought mine late
in '92, and was able to obtain a beautiful 3000 sq. ft. house in a desirable
neighborhood with a mortgage payment of about $850/month.  I followed the
market, including refinancing, and was always able to borrow 80% of
appraised value for 7% interest. The terms were always 30 year, with no
balloon payment.  I did take a variable rate on my last loan, but that was
because I knew I would be selling the house by now.  This was all in the
Houston area.

To my surprise, a couple of years ago my daughter was able, in mid-Virginia,
able to obtain a 5% down loan for an interest rate that was, IIRC, in the
6%-7% range, fixed with no balloon payments (I asked before she took the
loan).

So, I'd be interested in exploring why our experience has been different
from yours.  I have some possible candidates, but I think this exploration
would reveal some of the contributing problems to the present housing
situation.

Finally, now that we are renting, we are paying for 1300 sq. ft. less than
the mortgage our buyers are paying for 3000 sq. ft.  It doesn't make
financial sense to rent here if you plan on staying put.

Dan M. 

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RE: choice...

2008-11-08 Thread Dan M


 -Original Message-
 From: [EMAIL PROTECTED] [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On
 Behalf Of Bruce Bostwick
 Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2008 12:39 PM
 To: Killer Bs (David Brin et al) Discussion
 Subject: Re: choice...
 
 On Nov 8, 2008, at 12:24 PM, Dan M wrote:
 
  it was not my preference to accept the banks terms.  my options were
  limited to signing the loan. or not buying a home.  i did what the
  realtor
  said because that is the way the system works.
 
  Let me jump in here.  You know I've been arguing against John a good
  deal on
  this subject, but let me now look at things from another
  perspective, since
  I think that the sub-prime mess is not just about
  deregulationthat other
  fundamental problems are involved.
 
  I'm not sure when you bought your house, but I originally bought
  mine late
  in '92, and was able to obtain a beautiful 3000 sq. ft. house in a
  desirable
  neighborhood with a mortgage payment of about $850/month.  I
  followed the
  market, including refinancing, and was always able to borrow 80% of
  appraised value for 7% interest. The terms were always 30 year,
  with no
  balloon payment.  I did take a variable rate on my last loan, but
  that was
  because I knew I would be selling the house by now.  This was all in
  the
  Houston area.
 
  To my surprise, a couple of years ago my daughter was able, in mid-
  Virginia,
  able to obtain a 5% down loan for an interest rate that was, IIRC,
  in the
  6%-7% range, fixed with no balloon payments (I asked before she took
  the
  loan).
 
  So, I'd be interested in exploring why our experience has been
  different
  from yours.  I have some possible candidates, but I think this
  exploration
  would reveal some of the contributing problems to the present housing
  situation.
 
  Finally, now that we are renting, we are paying for 1300 sq. ft.
  less than
  the mortgage our buyers are paying for 3000 sq. ft.  It doesn't make
  financial sense to rent here if you plan on staying put.
 
  Dan M.
 
 The difference can often be one between a realtor who is genuinely
 motivated to act as his/her buyer's agent and negotiate aggressively
 for a good deal for the buyer, and one who is motivated more by a
 desire to get the commission from the sale and inclined to push the
 buyer into a fairly adverse deal just to close the sale.  

First of all, the buyer rarely pays the realtor.  Thus, the realtor I have
used the most in my life (once to help me find a rental property, twice to
buy a house, and once to sell a house) told me explicitly that legally she
represented the seller when I was the buyer/renter, so I should not count on
her to look after my interest.

Further, I didn't go to my realtor to get a loan. The second time, I had a
loan guarantee set up before I did my serious house shopping.  I followed
the interest rates carefully, and knew what was available. 

Isn't it the job of buyers to shop?  I know, when I go to my regular bank
location, they have advertisements for their mortgage rates in the lobby.
They are the second biggest bank in the nation (Chase), so they certainly
fund a lot of mortgages. So, while I think this is part of the problem,
something else has to be going on.  

For a purchase as big as a house, it has to be worth a few hours on the
phone or in the car asking banks about their loan terms.

Dan M.



The
 population of actively working realtors in this country does include a
 fairly significant number who are best described as unethical slime
 (not my words, those of a realtor friend who sees the worst of the
 business every day), and a fair number of others who are basically
 honest but largely incompetent, and even a few who are fairly
 unethical *and* not all that good at navigating the business for
 themselves, let alone buyers/sellers.
 
 I always wonder what's going on when I hear about a buyer or seller
 who did what the realtor said, because it seems to me that that
 power balance is exactly backwards if that's how it's really working
 for them.  (And there are realtors who won't talk to you until they
 have a signed buyer agreement from you, and after that point, feel
 free to do a least-common-denominator level of work for you because
 they know they have you contractually bound to them and they literally
 *can't* be fired at that point.)
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