RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lyin' for Gaia

I accidentally came across a @boldnebraska tweet citing this article.

Windfarms do not cause long-term damage to bird populations, study finds

That's odd, I thought. Almost every birder knows that wind farms are blenders for large birds, particularly raptors and waterfowl. And guess what?. The text of the article indeed confirmed the largest waterfowl in the study area were seriously affected by the wind farm.

The most alarming findings were for the curlew, Britain's largest wader, whose numbers fell 40% in a radius of up to 800m from the site during construction at the 18 windfarms in northern England and Scotland involved in the study. Curlew numbers remained "significantly lower" after the windfarms began operating, after they abandoned nesting sites. Snipe numbers also failed to recover, falling by 53% within 400m of the study sites. Red grouse numbers also fell but rose again after construction finished.
The Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata is classed as a 'near-threatened' species.

Small common songbirds, such as the meadow pipit and stonechat, thrived. But then you can't throw a rock in an open, windy area of Britain without hitting a meadow pipit. Golden plovers, the other larger waterfowl species studied also declined, albeit the results were not definitive.

So the idiot ideologue editor at the Guardian completely inverted the sense of the article. Small surprise there. But what's interesting is the number of greens who have referenced and retweeted the article without (apparently) reading beyond the completely false headline. I doubt anyone at BoldNebraska knows a curlew from a chickadee, but also Greenpeace, the Daily Kos, and climate change groupie Heidi Cullen.

This bears out a frequent observation of mine; that most 'greens' love the environment from the safety of a small urban apartment and their copy of National Geographic, and mainly for the potential it offers to stick their noses in other people's lives. They like wind farms because they make other people's power supplies less certain and more expensive. They actually have no conception of what a large wind farm does to the environment around it, and mostly, they don't care, because they rarely get out anywhere one might build a wind farm.

BTW, full disclosure: the pic is a long-billed curlew, an American close relative of the Eurasian curlew. I've never gotten close enough to the latter with a good enough camera to get a decent picture. They're shy. As in "stay well away from big whooshing tower" shy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why does the US Post Office still exist?

They may have been a time when a nation needed a government run postal service. That time is not today. 90%+ of our communication runs via the internet. Most of us pay nearly all our bills online. Most of us don't trust the Post Office to deliver important documents or merchandise, preferring to entrust them to private vendors. I still have a mailbox, which every day collects an ever dwindling stock of coupons and junk mail, delivered inefficiently by a rural postal carrier from a post office ten miles distant. Nonetheless, the USPS has a monopoly on that receptacle, and can theoretically prosecute any private party that deposits anything in it. It's ludicrous.

Germany, hardly a bastion of wide-eyed libertarianism, privatized its postal service ten years ago. Deutsche Post is doing quite well as a private company. It bought DHL, and its stock price has doubled in the past three years. Why don't we do the same? Brief answer -- labor unions. The USPS has no fewer than four labor unions, which fight any attempt to shut down their overpaid, high-benefit gummint jobs.

The USPS is, of course, going broke, and recently announced a plan to close a large number of rural post offices (including mine), and many mail processing centers. A combination of unions and rural Luddites lobbied for a bailout costing $11 bn, which will be nominally taken from payments to the Federal Retirement system -- but of course, it's all one big pool of Federal money, and this ultimately becomes part of the national debt. To its everlasting disgrace, the Senate voted 62-37 for the comically named 'Postal Reform Bill' (if only). 13 Republicans -- may they be primaried -- voted for it. 4 Democrats voted against it. Even the Postmaster General thinks it's a piece of crap.

Needless to say, the contemptible Don Walton of the LJS exulted over Ben Nelson's vote for the 'bipartisan' piece of legislation, and noted Mike Johanns voted against it.

Take my mail service -- please! I'll happily buy a mailbox in town if you'll simply deduct from my taxes the humungous cost of delivery.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bob Kerrey and racial segregation at UNL

Bob Kerrey, when he served on the University of Nebraska's Student Council, spoke and voted against a resolution urging student organizations at UNL to delete racial restrictions from their constitutions. The vote was 27:8 in favor, so Bob voted with a small minority.
Speaking against the resolution, Bob Kerrey cited Negro apathy as a justification for the Council's not taking action. Kerrey quoted one Negro in the report as saying "It doesn't bother me if they don't like me because of the color of my skin, as long as they don't say so to my face." Two Negro students spoke to the Council in behalf of the resolution.
There was at least one fraternity at UNL in 1965 that explicitly barred African Americans.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why it's called the Empire State

If you're my age, you probably learned in school about the Connecticut Compromise. It was a deal between the small and big states, that gave each state equal representation in the Senate, but proportional representation in the House. The big states never much liked it, but had to agree to it to get a constitution.

(If you're half my age, you probably learned that the founders were rich white men out to oppress wimmin, gays, and people of color)

It just occurred to me that the Democrat Party in New York has finally figured out how to undo the Connecticut Compromise. Select a New Yorker with some sort of tenuous ties to a small state, say Nebraska. Create a Nebraska Senate Victory Fund, with donations from rich, liberal New Yorkers and other non-Nebraskans. And use the money on an advertising campaign to con the rubes into voting for the New Yorker.

Pretty slick. And after all, how can you be an Empire State without imperialism? All your Senate seat belong to us!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No personalized medicine, please, we're British!

Victims Patients of the British National Health Service are denied access to innovative personalized treatment for cancer because the bureaucratic panel that has to approve all treatments offered by the NHS hasn't gotten around to OKing the relatively cheap tests needed to direct patients towards the best personalized treatment.
Personalised medicines, which theoretically are already available across the NHS, allow doctors to match patients with treatments, based on the genetic nature of their disease.
Unfortunately, however...
Many doctors say that there are unacceptable delays to obtaining the test results, delaying treatment and putting patients’ live at risk. Doctors also said that some health authorities withheld funding for personalised medicines, which are generally more expensive initially but eventually save money because the treatment is more effective.
Or as the British parliament put it...
New diagnostic tests are being used to predict which patients will respond to certain cancer treatments. Provision of these tests in the NHS is currently variable and there is a need to assess better their clinical accuracy and the benefits of testing...Emerging cancer treatments are designed for specific groups of cancer patients. Such therapies incur high R&D costs for small markets and are often not recommended for use in the NHS.
Five year death rates with breast cancer in the UK are almost twice those in the US. That will change, now we're putting a similar panel in charge of our own health spending.

The National Health Service is so bad that the Times runs a new horror story about it once a week. Most recently it emerged that NHS hospitals were throwing elderly patients out onto the street in the middle of the night in order to free up beds. Previously, their head of nursing suggested that families come in to the hospital to tend to the basic sanitary needs of their elderly relatives, because the nurses are just too busy. Despite that, American liberals, most notably Bob Kerrey, think it's wonderful.

Bob Kerrey and Cold Fusion

(A repost, with links)

Bob Kerrey was paid $0.8 m last year to help a company founded by a disbarred quack physician 'sustain research' into a discredited technology long rejected by mainstream physics.

The Omaha World Herald listed Bob Kerrey's assets and income on April 19. The largest chunk of money he earned last year caught my eye:

$800,000 in consulting fees from Sidney Kimmel Revocable Trust. Kerrey called that his primary gig after he stepped down as New School president, helping a company in Israel sustain its research into low-energy nuclear reactions. The project ultimately was handed over to the University of Missouri.
'Low-energy nuclear reactions' is the current euphemism for cold fusion, because cold fusion has been branded a crackpot idea. If you're not old enough to remember, cold fusion was a three week sensation in 1989, after Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann reported they got unusual heat emissions when passing electrical current through a palladium electrode in heavy water. Most physicists rejected immediately as impossible, and most of the rest wrote off when the early results were not reproducible and did not give off the sort of neutron signatures that actual nuclear reactions give off. The wikipedia page on cold fusion is quite good. A small group of crackpots continue to pursue the idea, notwithstanding that major research efforts in cold fusion have failed, and the Department of Energy has dismissed it, in two separate reviews. It has all the features of Irving Langmuir's 'pathological science'.

So how did Bob Kerrey get involved? It all comes down to disbarred quack physician Irving Dardik, and clothing billionaire and major Kerrey and Democrat donor Sidney Kimmel. Dardik was a more-or-less orthodox vascular surgeon and specialist in exercise physiology, until he came up with the goofball idea of 'quantum superwavesTM', which pervade the universe and sync with its natural rhythms, such as the rhythm of the heart. Eventually, for practicing this nonsense on patients, State of New York Department of Health Administrative Review Board for Professional Medical Conduct revoked Dardik's medical license, for

practicing medicine fraudulently; exercising undue influence and exploiting patients for his own financial gain.
It transpired Dardik bilked four MS patients between $30,000 and $100,000 for their 'treatment', a particularly nasty thing to do to patients suffering from a chronic debilitating disease.

Not discouraged by his rejection by conventional medicine, Dardik continued to practice his quackery. One of the people he 'treated' was Sidney Kimmel, a clothing billionaire who founded the Jones group. Supposedly some of Dardik's 'treatments' made Kimmel feel better. He began to invest money in Dardik's quack clinic.

Dardik, though, was now branching out. He came up with the idea that 'super waves' could make cold fusion happen, and founded a company called Energetics Technology LLC to pursue the idea, with a subsidiary in Israel where they did the research. Dardik is now their CVO or 'chief visionary officer'. Yeah, it's that kind of company. Kimmel has sponsored Energetics Technology for a long time, and just this year he also gave $5.5 m to U Missouri, which will set up a Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance no less; Energetics Technology has shipped their stuff to the U Missouri technology incubator. The Vice Provost for Research at U Missouri Columbia is a cold-fusion crank. Another reason to be glad UNL joined the Big Ten.

How exactly was Bob Kerrey helping 'sustain research' for a company based on loony new-age ideas about quantum gravity waves and the universe, which has gone a decade without showing a single reproducible result? Why was what he did worth $0.8 m? Before we send him back to the Senate to vote on energy policy, he needs to answer what he was doing for this company, and why he didn't consult mainstream scientists before getting involved. I know several first rate physicists at UNL who would be delighted to set him straight. Or is this just the same old Cosmic Bob?

Added 4/27/2012: Deena Winter now has a story in the Washington Examiner that mentions Kerrey's work for Energetics Technologies

Bob Kerrey: eliminate all private insurance companies

I found a delightful little interview with Bob Kerrey, which appeared shortly after the Cornhusker Kickback enabled Senate passage of PPACA. Health care reform as it was passed was not nearly extreme enough for Bob. He wanted
a universal public option... a national system, the feds are responsible for it.
Kerrey announced his love for Britain's awful state-controlled National Health Service
Kerrey says he admires the British, the Canadian, the French, and the German health care systems... I was in England and had a little problem with my jaw and went right in and got taken care of, so even for visitors there's a provision.
It's the residents who have the problem; my sister in London pays thousands a year for private health insurance, because the NHS is so bad. More about that later today. For those of you keeping a Kerrey bingo card of all the statements he will back away from later in the year, here are some goodies.
I'd federalize Medicaid
He said he is
100 percent pro-choice.
And Kerrey supported the Cornhusker Kickback:
Politically, it was in Ben's best interests to vote no, not yes. So I don't see a payoff here at all, unless you think that trying to get the best deal possible for your state is a payoff. He didn't benefit from this personally; the state did.
Kerrey added that if he were responsible for writing the bill, all private insurance companies would be eliminated. The private sector would still get a piece of the action because Kerrey would set up "a national system of payment" run by private, highly regulated companies.
On that final point, the insurance industry is worth $10,300,000,000 a year to the Nebraska economy, generate $413 m in state and local taxes in 2010, and supported 56,405 jobs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The incuriosity of the monster's wife

Eva Braun, according to historical accounts, was totally uninterested in politics. Her only intervention in the political sphere was to express indignation in 1943 when Hitler proposed to stop production of women's cosmetics. Asma al-Assad is similarly noted for her love of expensive clothes and her detachment from her husband's brutal suppression of his dissident subjects.

Don Walton, of the Lincoln Journal Star, has in the past 'fessed up to his infatuation with Bob Kerrey.

I'm a little embarrassed by the rather rhapsodic view of a Medal of Honor winner written by a young reporter.
Don is now an old reporter, but apparently the bromance continues. Reporting today on Bob Kerrey's financial statement, Don merely notes:
Leading sources of income: New School University, president emeritus, $916,000; The Jones Group, a clothing apparel business, board member, $965,000; and Sidney Kimmel Revocable Trust, consulting, $800,000.
A normal person, let alone a political reporter, would surely be curious about a $800,000 payment for 'consulting'. But Don even trims the Omaha World Herald's already rather cursory description.
$800,000 in consulting fees from Sidney Kimmel Revocable Trust. Kerrey called that his primary gig after he stepped down as New School president, helping a company in Israel sustain its research into low-energy nuclear reactions. The project ultimately was handed over to the University of Missouri.
As I've discussed below, this is a very curious gig indeed. The company, Energetics Technologies, does research in the scientifically discredited field of cold fusion (euphemism: low-energy nuclear reactions). The 'research' is based on a crackpot theory of quantum gravity superwaves™ promoted by disbarred quack Irving Dardik, who co-founded this company with Kimmel. Dardik was banned from practicing medicine for bilking multiple sclerosis patients $30 K - $100K apiece for his phony superwave™ treatments. Wouldn't a political reporter want to know what Kerrey did for this mysterious and distinctly kooky company that was worth nearly $1m?

Monsters' wives stay sane by never inquiring into what the monster is doing. Don needs to decide if his bromance trumps his job.