Saturday, April 30, 2011

War! Generational War!

ht BB.

It is a bit ironic that our most narcissistic generation is likely to be our most screwed-over generations. 

Or will they?

Will they fight back?  Will they show that they will not be slaves to the aged boomers, that they will work to better their own lives, not to be the servile class of their elders?

Some of our brightest punditrey thinks that much like in the middle east, we are soon to have a war on our hands!  The Young against the Old!

Connecting the Dots: The Coming War Between Generations

What we are witnessing in the Middle East where the young, who have little or no political voice and a not so bright future are throwing off their autocratic gerontocracies at an incredible pace.   Something similar will manifest here and the rest of the aging west, though probably in different way, when younger generations realize the consequences of being saddled with a massive debt and declining public services as the tax revenues are diverted to debt service and retirement benefits.   Not to mention the world full of carbon they have inherited.

They to, like their Facebook brethren in the Middle East, will revolt and throw off the gerontocracy that will control the political system as baby boomers age, which over taxes them to pay the debt used to finance the excessive consumption and current retirement benefits of their parents and/or grandparents generation.
It doesn’t take a C.I.A. analyst with a Ph.D. to realize the potential for political blowback when one generation is rendered into servitude due to the excesses of another.   Or does it?  from Connecting the Dots: The Coming War Between Generations at Macromon.
Oh the horrors! Whatever are we to do! 

The youth of America are already mobilizing.  They are stocking up on food and fodder for a long campaign.  These guys look like they are planning to march to Moscow and back!

They have begun organizing and bringing in new recruits.

Of course they will be pitted against this dangerous, militant crowd.

Well it is looking a bit dicey.  If our overseas readers don't hear from us, you know that we went down with the ship having not yet begun to fight and regreting that we only have only one life to give to our country.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Computers as saviors?

Our put otherwise:  will information technology pull our fat rears out of the fire?

In a post at Less Wrong, Vladimr_M is asking about how we know if an area of academia is a good place to look for current and relevant information on a particular subject.  He notes one way to do this is to see if there is a lot of “low hanging fruit” available that allows a lot of viable and reasonably cost effective research.  If the only things left to be discovered are obtuse and expensive to research, then much of the research will be pointless and obtuse themselves.  He notes that modern physics has this problem.

But then he brings up the current technology that was the latest (possibly excepting lasers) to reach mainstream:  computers.
Somewhat surprisingly, another example is presented by some subfields of computer science. With all the new computer gadgets everywhere, one would think that no other field could be further from a stale dead end. In some of its subfields this is definitely true, but in others, much of what is studied is based on decades old major breakthroughs, and the known viable directions from there have long since been explored all until they hit against some fundamentally intractable problem. (Or alternatively, further progress is a matter of hands-on engineering practice that doesn't lend itself to the way academia operates.) This has led to a situation where a lot of the published CS research is increasingly distant from reality, because to keep the illusion of progress, it must pretend to solve problems that are basically known to be impossible. [2] 
His footnote
[2] Moldbug’s "What’s wrong with CS research" is a witty and essentially accurate overview of this situation. He mostly limits himself to the discussion of programming language research, but a similar scenario can be seen in some other related fields too.
So I went over to the linked article and came up with this amusing anecdote.
So here's the first thing that's wrong with CS research: there's no such thing as CS research. First, there is no such thing as "computer science." Except for a few performance tests and the occasional usability study, nothing any CS researcher does has anything to do with the Scientific Method. Second, there is no such thing as "research." Any activity which is not obviously productive can be described as "research." The word is entirely meaningless. All just semantics, of course, but it's hardly a good sign that even the name is fraudulent.
If you go through both postings, what you get a sense of is that academia in most areas is too convoluted, to entrenched within their existing belief structures to likely be of much use.  Accidents, like Google, do happen.  But even Google is not exactly an earth-shaking revelation.  So your best hopes from major advances are likely to be in very young fields of endeavor.  However, if your scenario postulates a relatively narrow time frame for success the 50 year introductory period for new technology to go from experimental introduction to mainstream wide application is a problem.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 & 12 and Pink Floyd

Ecclesiastes 9:11 & 12
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
 or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
 or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,

so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.
and you have the Pink Floyd approach, from Time (video link) on the Dark Side of the Moon album:

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

The song concluding with:

Thought I'd something more to say.
So in one, the race is either rigged or random as to its results, and in the other, someone forgot to tell you there was a race on.

Both are noting despair in the face of what passes for normal human existence.  Although Ecclesiastes tends to loop back on itself a few times, one of its main points is that the net results of human endeavours all end in death.  It also clearly has a Malthusian world view that all progress is transitory in the long run.   Both point toward the thoughtlessness the general herd-like behaviour of humanity.  Pink Floyd in particular is noting that day-to-day life can be a distraction from pursuing anything meaningful. 

Ecclesiastes is at the point in the bible where there is really no interest in a personal afterlife and its rewards,  so its concentration on leading the devout life comes fairly close to Pink Floyd's trying to find something meaningful to say.

You can find more of Ecclesiastes here, and the rest of time follows...
(Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The key to success

The key to success.

Is it Intelligence?

Kids who score higher on IQ tests will, on average, go on to do better in conventional measures of success in life: academic achievement, economic success, even greater health, and longevity. Is that because they are more intelligent? Not necessarily. New research concludes that IQ scores are partly a measure of how motivated a child is to do well on the test. And harnessing that motivation might be as important to later success as so-called native intelligence.

Is it some degree of inherent talent, the ability to perform at peak maximum performance?

We live in a society obsessed with maximum performance. Think of exams like the SAT and the GRE. Though these tests take only a few hours, they're supposed to give schools and companies a snapshot of an individual's abiding talents.

Consider the NFL Scouting Combine, in which players entering the draft perform short physical and mental tasks, such as the 40-yard dash. The Combine is meant to measure physical ability; that's why teams take the results so seriously.

But as Mr. Sackett demonstrated with ... supermarket cashiers, such high-stakes tests are often spectacularly bad at predicting performance in the real world. Though the SAT does a decent job of predicting the grades of college freshmen—the test accounts for about 12% of the individual variation in grade point average—it is much less effective at predicting levels of achievement after graduation. Professional academic tests suffer from the same flaw. A study by the University of Michigan Law School, for instance, found that LSAT scores bore virtually no relationship to career success as measured by levels of income, life satisfaction or public service.
Even the NFL Combine is a big waste of time. According to a recent study by economists at the University of Louisville, there's no "consistent statistical relationship" between the results of players at the Combine and subsequent NFL performance.
Obviously at some level you have to perform, but apparently the high scorers in tests of peak performance are not necessarily the great successes.

So what does appear to be the primary factor?

Angelea Duckworth would call it Grit.  The ability to keep practicing, keep putting in the long drudge hours when others decide to do something that is more fun.  It is not determination on game day, but determination in the many hours that lead up to game day.

The expert performance framework distinguishes between deliberate practice and less effective practice activities. The current longitudinal study is the first to use this framework to understand how children improve in an academic skill.
Specifically, the authors examined the effectiveness and subjective experience of three preparation activities widely recommended to improve spelling skill. Deliberate practice, operationally defined as studying and memorizing words while alone, better predicted performance in the National Spelling Bee than being quizzed by others or reading for pleasure.
Rated as the most effortful and least enjoyable type of preparation activity, deliberate practice was increasingly favored over being quizzed as spellers accumulated competition experience. Deliberate practice mediated the prediction of final performance by the personality trait of grit, suggesting that perseverance and passion for long-term goals enable spellers to persist with practice activities that are less intrinsically rewarding—but more effective—than other types of preparation.

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth speaking of what makes you successful:  video link (recomended)Website.  Note, if you think spelling bees are too esoteric, she is mirroring the research of K. Anders Ericsson and his studies of expert performance.  The primary difference is that he discusses the needed elements of the practise, and she tends to focus on the motivation needed to undertake this practise.
So Maybe Not.

Our Revered Scientists

Scientific and engineering progress are often sited as ways we will get ourselves out of our problems with oil, fuel, etc.  So of course we greatly admire and revere our scientists and engineers:  right?

What would the world look like if this were the case?

Fortunately there is the parallel alter-Earth known as Planet-Onion to help us out with this one:

Stephen Jay Gould Speaks Out Against Science Paparazzi

August 22, 2001 | ISSUE 37•29

"The time has come to place limits on these photographers," said Gould, speaking from Harvard University, where he is a professor of geology and zoology. "They are disrupting my life, as well as those of my colleagues, my family, and my friends." ...

Members of the paparazzi say they are merely responding to public demand, providing a service to the millions of Americans who closely follow the careers of the world's top physicists, mathematicians, and botanists.
"In this country, people want to know about scientific discoveries the minute they happen," said New Haven-based freelance photographer Lance Evans. "It's only natural that the public would be interested in the personal lives of the men and women behind these discoveries." ...

"If it weren't for all this publicity, it's possible that far fewer people would support our work," Heeger said. "We scientists could actually be in the position of needing to scrape pennies together to complete our vitally important research."
Diehard science fan Jill Krause agreed.
"These scientists are the most important people in America," Krause said. "Our very future depends on them. They are enabling us to live longer and better, discovering the history of the planet we live on, and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. There's no way we'd ever let them work in obscurity. It's laughable."   ht MR

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dwindling Heartland

I have noted before that rural America is not always what the imagine or remember it to be.  The often sited decline of the city, is the gain of the suburbs.  It is not the gain of the countryside.

As the 2010 census data comes out a variety of trends are shown to continue.

Population Leaves Heartland Behind
Conor Dougherty, Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2001

The U.S. population grew by 27 million over the decade, to 308 million. But growth was unevenly distributed. Metropolitan areas, defined as the collection of small cities and suburbs that surround an urban core with at least 50,000 people, accounted for most of the gain, growing 10.8% over the decade to 257.7 million people.

Rural areas, meanwhile, grew just 4.5% to 51 million. Many regions—from the Great Plains to the Mississippi Delta to rural New England—saw population declines. About 46% of rural counties lost population in the decade, including almost 60% of rural counties that aren't adjacent to a metro area, according to an analysis of Census data by Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
The population is shifting to the South, and we are becoming much more racially diverse.

Fuzzy sour Oil

Econbrowser (ht Economist Blog) has parsed together an interesting post that relates to my Fuzzy Oil posting. Very worth looking at.

It notes that the Saudi's are upping their oil rig count from 92 to 118.  But that the the area they are placing them is in areas where the oil is heavy and sour, not light and sweet like Libya's oil.

In addition it is formulating plans to spend $100 billion on renewable energy sources.

This does not sound like a country that can just punch a couple of extra holes in the ground and tap those produce more oil from the reserves that they claim to have.

As the post concludes:
You may call it unable, or you may call it unwilling. But whatever you want to call it, don't pretend that the Saudis' claimed excess capacity is oil that the world is actually going to use in 2011.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Climate denial running out of room

I was going to do a little more with this, but it is getting stale, and I am not the one to be arguing the various merits of the case.

As I have noted in the past, climate change is one of the favorite scenarios for left leaning preppers (though they don't call themselves that) and almost unnoticed by the libertarian-right prepper groups.  IMO this is primarily a cultural-political divide, not one based on the merits of the case.

Scientist Beloved by Climate Deniers Pulls Rug Out from Their Argument 
ht nk

Today, there was a climate science hearing in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Of the six "expert" witnesses, only three were scientists. The others were an economist, a lawyer, and a professor of marketing.

One of the scientists was Richard Muller from University of California, Berkeley. Muller has been working on an independent project to better estimate the planet's surface temperatures over time. Because he is willing to say publicly that he has some doubts about the accuracy of the temperature stations that most climate models are based on, he has been embraced by the science denying crowd. A Koch brothers charity, for example, has donated nearly 25 percent of the financial support provided to Muller's project.
Skeptics of climate science have been licking their lips waiting for his latest research, which they hoped would undermine the data behind basic theories of anthropogenic climate change. At the hearing today, however, Muller threw them for a loop with this graph:
richard muller, berkley earth project, global warming, climate change, climate, climate science, house of representatives
You don't have to be a Berkeley PhD to see that Muller's data (black line) tracks pretty well with the three established data sets. This is just an initial sampling of Muller's data—just 2 percent of the 1.6 billion records he's working with—but these early findings are incredibly consistent with the previous findings. In his testimony, Muller made these points (emphasis mine):
The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was created to make the best possible estimate of global temperature change using as complete a record of measurements as possible and by applying novel methods for the estimation and elimination of systematic biases.
We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups
The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends
Despite potential biases in the data, methods of analysis can be used to reduce bias effects well enough to enable us to measure long-term Earth temperature changes. Data integrity is adequate. Based on our initial work at Berkeley Earth, I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.
For the many climate deniers who hang their arguments on Muller's "doubts," this is a severe blow. Of course, when the hard scientific truths are inconvenient, climate denying House leaders can always call a lawyer, a marketing professor, and an economist into the scientific hearing.

Chinese tumble

One item you constantly see even with some of the more bearish of main stream financial pundits is that China is the expanding future.  Well, almost all of them anyway.

China has devalued their currency to the point where they had to keep lending money to prop up the strength of the dollar so that the price of their goods would not go up and they could keep their people employed.  This of course hurts our exporters, but it also leaves China with a lot of dollars they really cannot do much with.  They have so much cash that right now they have more cash on hand then the entire dollar value of all (yes all) U.S. Farmland combined.  They have reserves of $3 trillion, and U.S. Farmland in total would only cost them $1.87 trillion:  a bargain! (source).

So what is the problem?  Funny you should ask:

China’s Bad Growth Bet
Nouriel Roubini, Project Syndicate, ht MR whose excerpt I used.
When net exports collapsed in 2008-2009 from 11% of GDP to 5%, China’s leader reacted by further increasing the fixed-investment share of GDP from 42% to 47%.
Thus, China did not suffer a severe recession – as occurred in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere in emerging Asia in 2009 – only because fixed investment exploded. And the fixed-investment share of GDP has increased further in 2010-2011, to almost 50%.
The problem, of course, is that no country can be productive enough to reinvest 50% of GDP in new capital stock without eventually facing immense overcapacity and a staggering non-performing loan problem. China is rife with overinvestment in physical capital, infrastructure, and property. To a visitor, this is evident in sleek but empty airports and bullet trains (which will reduce the need for the 45 planned airports), highways to nowhere, thousands of colossal new central and provincial government buildings, ghost towns, and brand-new aluminum smelters kept closed to prevent global prices from plunging.
Commercial and high-end residential investment has been excessive, automobile capacity has outstripped even the recent surge in sales, and overcapacity in steel, cement, and other manufacturing sectors is increasing further. In the short run, the investment boom will fuel inflation, owing to the highly resource-intensive character of growth. But overcapacity will lead inevitably to serious deflationary pressures, starting with the manufacturing and real-estate sectors.
Eventually, most likely after 2013, China will suffer a hard landing. All historical episodes of excessive investment – including East Asia in the 1990’s – have ended with a financial crisis and/or a long period of slow growth.
This of course is back dropped by this type of news:
The rising fuel prices is both because of their keeping their money cheap relative to the dollar denominated oil prices, and a general over heating of the economy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Economics of Where We are at; and Where we are Going

I found a report (Ht MR) that tells us a lot about where we have been.  By telling us where we have been, it also tells us a lot about where we are going.  It notes that so far we have been able to trade off loss in some areas, by moving up the value chain.  It also notes that a lot of our employment growth has been linked to internal consumption (construction, government, health care, and retail).  It notes that retail has been driven by debt purchase, but does not further expand that to the fact that higher leverage (borrowing) also leverages up government tax collections as well.  So that not only is government not going to be able to keep increasing its employment numbers, it very likely will fall further: if not in numbers than in value. Items in brackets [] are mine, as well as emphasis via italics.

Note that when they are referring to tradeable versus nontradeable, they are referring to products or services that you can trade with countries overseas.  So for instance grain is potentially 100% tradeable, and construction is essentially 0% tradeable.

The trends in value added per employee are consistent with the adverse movements in the distribution of U.S. income over the past twenty years, particularly the subdued income growth in the middle of the income range. The tradable side of the economy is shifting up the value added chain with lower and middle components of these chains moving abroad, especially to the rapidly growing emerging markets. The emerging markets, themselves, are moving rapidly up the value-added chains, and higher paying jobs may therefore leave the United States, following the migration pattern of lower-paying ones.

The evolution of the U.S. economy supports the notion of there being a long-term structural challenge with respect to the quantity and quality of employment opportunities in the United States.  A related set of challenges concerns the income distribution; almost all incremental employment has occurred in the nontradable sector, which has experienced much slower growth in value added per employee. Because that number is highly correlated with income, it goes a long way to explain the stagnation of wages across large segments of the workforce.

Executive Summary

1.      Employment growth in the U.S. economy between 1990 and 2008 was substantial, on the order of 27.3 million jobs, off a base in 1990 of 121.9 million.

2.      Virtually all (97.7 percent) of the incremental employment stems from the nontradable sector. This occurred despite dramatic labor-saving technology in information processing that ran across all sectors of the economy.

3.      The leading employment sectors are government and health care, in that order, both on the nontradable side. Together these two sectors generated more than 10 million additional jobs over the period, accounting for almost 40 percent of the increment. Health care added 6.3 million jobs on a base of 10 million. Government added 4.1 million on a base of 18.4 million.

4.      Given the pressure on the government budgets, continued gains in government employment seem unlikely. Equally, health care absorbs a large enough fraction of GDP (on the order of 16 percent) that expansion in that sector is at least questionable. An aging population may require more health services, but the government’s ability to finance the expansion is in doubt.

5.      Growth in other nontradable services that generated employment gains—for example, retailing—has been driven in part by debt-financed consumption. After the financial crisis, the prospects for job growth in these sectors are duller.

6.      The tradable sector experienced job growth in high-end services including management and consulting services, computer systems design, finance, and insurance. These increases were roughly matched by declines in employment in most areas of manufacturing.

7.      The loss of employment in the manufacturing sector was caused by the out-migration of functions in global supply chains associated with lower valued added per job [We lost our more manpower intensive manufacturing jobs]. But as the emerging markets grow, they will compete for more sophisticated functions. This does not mean that the United States will lose all the sectors in which it has developed a comparative advantage—just that more potential competition is on the horizon.

8.      Manufacturing sectors that suffered a loss of employment nevertheless experienced rising value added. [What is not understood is that even the Chinese have been losing jobs to increased manufacturing efficiency] Therefore value added per job rose, in some cases dramatically. High-income jobs remained in the tradable sector.

9.      For the tradable sector as a whole, value added per job rose substantially, an increase of 44 percent from 1990 to 2008, far above the increase of 21 percent in the economy as a whole. The tradable sector is gravitating toward higher value-added components of global supply chains. These consist, in broad terms, of high-end services, some in manufacturing industries and some, like finance and insurance, in pure service industries.

10.  Given the prospect of slowing employment growth in nontradables and rising competitive pressure on tradables, major employment problems in the near future are a certainty. Even if the nontradable sector is able to continue to absorb the growth in the labor force, pressure on wages and salaries will be downward, and consequences for income distribution unavoidable.

11.  The post crisis shortfall in domestic demand is causing stubbornly high unemployment even as the economy begins to recover some of its growth momentum…. Although the U.S. trade deficit fell to $375 billion in 2009, from $702 billion in 2007, the adjustment came entirely from a sharp decline in imports, from $2.35 trillion to $1.95 trillion, whereas exports actually fell slightly, from $1.65 trillion to $1.57 trillion. In other words, the adjustment came from a fall in imports not a rise in exports.

12.  To create jobs, contain inequality, and reduce the U.S. current-account deficit, the scope of the export sector will need to expand. That will mean restoring and creating U.S. competitiveness in an expanded set of activities via heightened investment in human capital, technology, and hard and soft infrastructure. The challenge is how to do it most effectively.

I have no issues with item 12.  However, understand that the prescription to solve the ills of almost every country under the sun is for them to increase their exports and current-account deficit.  Without imploding your currency, it is about the only way for a debtor country, like Greece or the United States, to work its way out of debt.  It works so well that countries like Germany, Japan, and China make a habit of lending to countries so that they can import even more goods from them.

Since this may sound a lot like a Ponzi scheme, you may be suspicious that item 12 is not a likely outcome.  So where would that mean we are going?   We, or at least most of us, are going to be poorer.

The Mathematics of War

I am still under the weather, so I am bringing this one out from the reserves.  It looks like it needs some work; but then so do I! LOL

The Economist has a review of a paper that Niel Johnson of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida submitted to Science.  What the paper shows is that not only the overall scale (size) of wars follows a mathematical pattern (a power law), but that timing and severity of attacks does as well.  In this case it follows a curve known as a progress curve.  Progress curves occur when people adapt to circumstances and learn how to do things better.

Cry Havoc! And let slip the maths of war
Warfare seems to obey mathematical rules.  Whether soldiers can make use of that fact remains to be seen.

Dr Johnson’s proposal rests on a pattern he and his team found in data on insurgent attacks against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. After the initial attacks in any given province, subsequent fatal incidents become more and more frequent. The intriguing point is that it is possible, using a formula Dr Johnson has derived, to predict the details of this pattern from the interval between the first two attacks.
The formula in question (Tn = T1n-b) is one of a familiar type, known as a progress curve, that describes how productivity improves in a range of human activities from manufacturing to cancer surgery. Tn is the number of days between the nth attack and its successor. (T1 is therefore the number of days between the first and second attacks.) The other element of the equation, b, turns out to be directly related to T1. It is calculated from the relationship between the logarithms of the attack number, n, and the attack interval, Tn. The upshot is that knowing T1 should be enough to predict the future course of a local insurgency. Conversely, changing b would change both T1 and Tn, and thus change that future course.
In the case Dr Johnson is examining the co-evolution is between the insurgents and the occupiers, each constantly adjusting to each other’s tactics. The data come from 23 different provinces, each of which is, in effect, a separate theatre of war. In each case, the gap between fatal attacks shrinks, more or less according to Dr Johnson’s model. Eventually, equilibrium is reached, and the intervals become fairly regular.

The obvious conclusion to draw-if you have an advantage- use it.  This would be somewhat similar to what the Germans did through much of the early parts of World War 2, and occasionally in World War 1 as well.  In World War 2, the Germans had a couple of non-shooting practice invasions (Austria and Czechoslovakia) that were a mess:  units going  wrong way, running out of gas, etc.  This helped them to prepare for the first shooting war with Poland.  They outnumbered the Poles greatly, and certainly used some of their new radio-controlled combined arms techniques well.  But again, they struggled.  They took a lot of causalities given the size and armament disparities.  However, by the time the French campaign came around they were ready.  Although actually fairly evenly matched in size and equipment, the German’s at an operational level were able to take the initiative any time they choose.  The French tanks may have been better than the Germans, and they may have had more of them, but at the point of contact they were often isolated and disorganized.
This advantage was repeated in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Soviet Union.  However, because the allies did not collapse, they eventually closed the disparity gap.  When factoring in allied fighter bomber support, the western allies were actually slightly superior to the Germans in heads up fighting - at least according to that great number cruncher Dupey.  By the time of the (air)Battle of Germany, the Germans would lose as many fighter planes in a day as they did in the entire Battle of Britain.
If we go back to World War 1 you see the same effect at the Battle of Caporetto and the invasion of Romania.  Romania was so bad it was an example of the addition of an ally weakening ones side.
However, also in World War 1, the allies through fire power and mechanization were barely able to hold off the Germans, and by the end of the conflict probably had a very slight edge in offensive capabilities.
So where does this lead us:
  1. If you are outgunned and outfought, but can hold on, your team will eventually get to be in a better position.  You personally may not survive, but I will not presume that there are no causes worth dying for.
  2. If on the other hand, you have the upper hand, you better go for the knockout blow.  Letting a war that you have won drag on at a lower level (aka. When the U.S. turned to Iraq before completing the rebuilding of Afghanistan), will cost you dearly in the long run.  Even the most overwhelmed and foolish enemy will eventually learn from their mistakes and come back to cost you dearly: the will kill more often and in greater numbers.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Island Sunday

I am under the weather today, so no church for me.  I am not real big on the once a year crowds that show up at Easter in any case.  They won't mind me not coughing on them.  But in a not very Easter related theme, we have:

Has the mystery of Easter Island finally been solved?

The revisionists, led by archaeologists Carl Lipo of California State University and Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii, argue that this superior society never existed.

The Rapa Nui culture, Dr Lipo says, was wiped out after Europeans arrived, bringing epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, TB, dysentery and leprosy. Illness, enslavement and land theft reduced the population from an estimated 3,000 to just 111 by 1877.

In their new book, The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island, to be published in June, Dr Lipo and Professor Hunt present their evidence that Polynesian colonists arrived in 1200, up to 800 years later than the conventional theory claims, and immediately modified the environment with slash-and-burn agriculture.  ht NC.
It seems more a matter of degrees than a solid argument from two polar opposites.  That Easter Island was a marginally habitable environment is not much in question.  The current population is around 4,000 but I am sure a lot of that is tourist supported, and requires inputs from outside the island.  In any case blaming the West for all possible problems is always going to be popular in some circles.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Link Post: Volcano watch

I had not heard the term Decade Volcano.  I know I have mentioned them off and on, but volcanoes have caused huge problems on a world wide scale in the past.  I have a post I have been working on that slammed the Byzantine empire.
The Decade Volcanoes refer to the 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptionsand proximity to populated areas. The Decade Volcanoes project encourages studies and public-awareness activities at these volcanoes, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the volcanoes and the dangers they present, and thus being able to reduce the severity of natural disasters.Theyare named Decade Volcanoes because the project was initiated as part of the United Nations-sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
I mention it because:

Alert status at the Philippines' Taal raised
The article has some interesting information.  It does not comment on how distruptive the big blasts are to climate.  But the link to the immediate hazard map is interesting (although I cannot read the scale) and it has an image update link.  hat tip NK.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Running out of Stuff: The Mining Companies

Wall Street Journal had a piece taking about mining companies ramping up production to meet world demand.  They mention how host governments want them to invest in value added production rather than just ship out the raw materials.  This is a genuine concern of governments.  Although they are often looking at it from a simple local employment perspective, there are a lot of problems with countries that become dominated by low-input (aka: commodities) exports.  We have discussed this here in the past as the Dutch Disease.  The also mention such issues slow government permits, cost of labor and cost of machinery.

Then buried in the middle of the article:

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese says that miners have cash available but that progress in developing or expanding new mines is slowed by delays in government permits, escalating costs for labor and machinery, and limited ports and railways. Companies have already developed the most accessible reserves and now have to dig deeper, which adds costs. They also have to extract more tons and refine them more because the reserves may not be as pure.

"Even when we do find the new resources and our engineers are ready to go, we find that it's actually taking longer than it would have 10 to 20 years ago to deliver them to the market," Mr. Albanese told investors in Hong Kong last week. "Five years ago it was hard to look at a project without spending at least $500 million. Today I would have to say it's hard to look at a project without spending at least $2-$3 billion."  By ROBERT GUY MATTHEWS Money Pours Into Mines: Demand for Commodities Likely to Outrun Mining Giants' Expansion Projects, Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2011.

I realize that they don’t want every story in the paper to be about resource depletion – shoot even here in final thoughts land we talk about the flue occasionally – but some of the major minerals have a lower R/P number (reserves/production) than oil: as discussed here.

You would think that some sort of follow up questions might be in order - Are you running out of metals to mine? - would be in order.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fuzzy Oil

The return back to my tornado ravaged base of operations had the net effect of requiring that we reset our clocks.  That is somewhat along the lines of all-or-nothing nature of Tornadoes. I don't want to make light of others suffering, but 22 casualties is only slightly higher then North Carolina's weekly average for automotive fatalities (19).  There is no doubt that tornadoes make for better pictures.

I did see an interesting bit of infro this morning.

As noted by Matthew R. Simmons in his Twilight in the Desert: The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy in 2005 the numbers that come out of the oil producing countries – Saudi Arabia in particular- cannot always be taken at face value.
So on the back page of the Wall Street Journal we have a story that indicates that unreliable data out of Saudi Arabia is adding price volatility to the futures markets.
Remember that the some were looking to the Saudis to increase production to make up for the shortfalls from the smaller producers who are in turmoil at the moment.  Libya has had a shortfall of 1.3 million barrels a day, and the Saudis said they would make up 500,000 of that.
Benoit Faucon and James Herron, The Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2011
Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that its production had been at least 700,000 barrels a day lower in March than existing estimates, including those published by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
But in a conflicting report
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said Sunday that oil production from the kingdom was 8.292 million barrels per day in March, down about 800,000 barrels a day from 9.125 million barrels per day in February. Most estimates, including the monthly report of OPEC—which relies on external databases—had seen a rising or stable production at about nine million barrels a day in March.
These are not the first discrepancies to be seen.  In February there was a 105, 000 barrel/day difference between differing reports.
The story ends with the conclusion that there is a lack of hard data to judge the correct numbers.

We may Never Recover

Will we recover?  Did we ever really recover from the 2002 downturn?

Even ignoring the issues of "peak oil" or "global warming" there is reason to be concerned that the train has seriously gone of its track.

This according to Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England:
The Governor of the Bank of England warned ...that living standards may never recover from the financial crisis and that households were only just starting to feel the full impact of bankers' mistakes.
Mervyn King told MPs that ordinary people were not to blame for the pain ahead and that he was surprised there had not been more public fury.

"It is not like an ordinary recession where you lose output and get it back quickly," the Governor said when asked if the country would ever recover from a squeeze on living standards on a scale not seen since the 1920s.

"You may not get it back for many years, if ever, and that is a big long-run loss of living standards for all people in this country."

Mr King said that unlike previous recessions, the economy had not needed a shake-up to get industries out of state control or weaken union power and that the people bearing the most pain are blameless.

"They can't look at this and say, 'Okay, something was wrong that has to be put right' and they don't get bonuses on the scale of people in the financial services sector," he told the House of Commons Treasury Committee.

"The cost of this crisis is only now being felt. I'm surprised that the degree of anger hasn't been greater." from Sean Farrell, King Says Living Standards May Never Recover, The Independent (of U.K), 3-02-2011.   ht nc.

Riva Froymovich, Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2011
The risk that unemployment remains at current levels after the financial crisis—including in the U.S.—is a major concern, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report Wednesday.
The OECD listed a number of countries where jobless rates had jumped by more than two percentage points since the crisis began. They included the U.K., Italy, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, the U.S.—where the jobless rate has risen five percentage points— and Spain, where the jobless rate has risen more than 12 percentage points.
"A main concern in countries most severely hit is that persistently high levels of unemployment—and a rising share of unemployed workers facing long spells without a job—will eventually result in widespread deterioration of human capital, discouragement and labor-market withdrawal," the OECD said. "The risk is strongest for youth and less-skilled workers who have been disproportionately affected by the rise in unemployment." 
The first piece noted a surprise that there is not more anger.  I thing the anger is somewhat directionless at the moment.  But as the Middle East has shown, that can change.  Of course, it may not change, in which case many (most?) will be slinking into a slow dissolute impecunious oblivion.