American Elephants


The Surprising Machine Age: by The Elephant's Child

Look what the Industrial Age hath wrought! Hard jobs being made easier and faster, with fewer people. If you find this fascinating, click on the YouTube link, there are more compilations there. This doesn’t even begin to get into the story of how factory work is changing.



Outrage and Protests, Fuss and Furor Over Nothing Much. by The Elephant's Child

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Seattle is an interesting city, sinking slowly in the West¹. but still reliably, environmentally green. This is the city that insists that grocery store customers use cloth bags for their groceries, or pay for the other kind. That fines citizens $50 for putting any foodstuff in the garbage can instead in the yard waste can. Nearly 98 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources, thanks to Columbia River Dams, which the County Council wanted to tear down until they took a field trip and found out how big they were.  Now, a national furor has erupted over Foss Shipyards’ lease of their docks to Royal Dutch Shell for the regular maintenance and repair of their Arctic drilling rigs. (Shown above a 2012 photo of Shell’s Kulik leaving Seattle)

In the first place the green loonies assumed that they were going to start drilling for oil in their beloved Puget Sound. Seattle always has indignant protesters willing to come out and demonstrate. But when it turned out that it was just for the repair of their Arctic Ocean drilling rigs, they switched their environmental angst to the Arctic Ocean. The City Council was up in arms, a court challenge was filed by environmental groups, and protesters have vowed to block the rigs arrival with a flotilla of kayaks in Elliott Bay.

“You have signed a lease that will amount to a crime against the planet,” said Zarna Joshi, 32, a Seattle resident who was first to speak at a raucous three-hour public meeting this week before the port’s commissioners. The meeting was packed mostly with opponents and punctuated by the occasional dissenter, pointing out the hypocrisy of protesters who had arrived to denounce Shell in vehicles running on gasoline.

Officials at the publicly owned Port of Seattle have strongly defended the lease, saying that the two year contract will bring in millions of dollars in revenue and create hundreds of good jobs on 50 acres that Shell would use just west of downtown. In any case, the decision to allow oil exploration in Arctic waters is federal policy, and not anything that the port or the city or the state can alter.

It’s all about climate change, of course, and politics, and the politics of climate change — science is not involved, only emotion and Democratic talking points.

“Hosting the Arctic drilling fleet in the city of Seattle is an activity that, if successful in drilling and extracting oil from the Arctic, will almost certainly mean that all of the industrial land in Seattle will be under water, and is completely inconsistent with the region’s and even the port’s goals,” said Mike O’Brien, a Seattle City Council member.

¹Seattle has long had an elevated roadway along the water front to let drivers bypass much of downtown Seattle if they choose, but it is old. Almost as long has been the fight over a replacement. Freeway, tunnel, street-level replacement. Property owners of lots facing the waterfront have always fought for a tunnel to remove the unsightly Alaskan Way Viaduct, and they eventually won the argument. Digging began, giant tunneling machine “Big Bertha’ went to work, drilled a few feet and ran plumb into a huge old drainage pipe that they didn’t know was there. They apparently cannot proceed, they cannot remove the pipe, and the people in those waterfront properties are finding that their buildings are sinking, slightly, but regularly. No answers.



Petulant President Vetoes Pipeline, Promises Permits to Illegals by The Elephant's Child

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told CNS News that already in this calendar year, since January 1, we have had more than 20,000 people who have come across the border with Mexico, apprehended and  unauthorized.

In fiscal year 2014, U.S. immigration officials removed 213,719 individuals who were caught while attempting to enter the  United States unlawfully. Texas already has some 800,000 illegal aliens living in their state.

Abbott has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 26 states challenging Mr. Obama’s decision to go around Congress by unilaterally giving millions of illegal immigrants permission to stay in the US. and to give them Social Security numbers, and work permits.

A federal judge has put President Obama’s amnesty plan on hold, and Abbott said he expects the case to continue through the court process all the way to the Supreme Court. Abbott added that the president has violated the rule of law and is actually making up the law himself and imposing his own standards in immigration.

Government data , as of December 2014, show 9.3 million new jobs have been added since January 2000. In the same time period, data show 18 million new immigrants (legal and illegal). So for every new job, there have been two new immigrants. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) says:

Government data  reveal that more than 7.4 million work permits (formally known as Employment Authorization Documents) were issued to aliens from 2009 to 2014. Because neither lawful permanent residents (green card holders) nor temporary work visa holders need a work permit, this amounts to a huge parallel immigrant work authorization system outside the numerical limits and categories set by Congress. The huge number of work permits being issued above and beyond these limits inevitably reduces opportunities for U.S. workers, damages the integrity of the immigration system, and encourages illegal immigration.

Obama has been talking about the improving economy and all the new jobs, without including the downside of the long-term unemployed, nor the jobs lost or turned part-time. You get better numbers if you just talk jobs created, and forget to subtract the jobs lost—a regular Obama trick.

He also does not include all the work permits he has granted to illegals. Nor will he count the potential jobs that were included with the Keystone XL pipeline bill that he vetoed today. In every way, the Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon to the American economy. His veto has nothing to do with the merits of the project.

The application to build the pipeline was filed more than 2,300 days ago. It has been approved by the Clinton State Department, and the Kerry State Department, and Obama’s excuses are getting more and more embarrassing. He claims the bill would “cut short” the process for approving the project — over 6 years and climbing. It’s purely political. (Tom Steyer’s money) Keystone has passed every environmental test, and the recent derailment of an oil tanker train has demonstrated, once again, that pipelines are safer than the alternative.

According to TransCanada, the pipeline means at least 20,000 new high-paying jobs. They are only temporary, sneers Obama. All construction jobs are temporary until the construction is complete then the workers take their newly learned skills on to the next job. And by the way, the Keystone pipeline IS infrastructure. Besides the 20,000 construction jobs in pipeline construction and material production, the State Department projects 42,000 jobs and the addition of $3.5 billion to the economy.

This is just Obama being childish and petulant. Remember that when he starts telling you about all the new jobs, or the improving economy. Any improvement has not come from Obama initiatives, but by going around the president. The economy keeps trying to break out, but this president keeps standing directly in the way.



America Reinvents Automaking: Future Present by The Elephant's Child
February 24, 2015, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Economy, Engineering, Politics, Taxes | Tags: , ,

I guess if you making cars for millionaires, you can buy a lot of robots with which to make them — but this process is pretty cool. The times they are a changing.  Henry Ford would be astonished to see how his ideas have developed.

Elon Musk’s Tesla is currently the No. 1 electric car maker — with vehicles ranging from $70,000 to $100,000 — and Google is working on George Jetson-like driverless cars. But neither is close to cornering the market on mass-affordable electric cars.

Elon Musk is the biggest parasite in the world. Tesla does not exist without tax payer money. The driverless car is a solution in search of a problem and it is far from being practical.

An interesting post from The Z Blog, on Apple, Google,Tesla and trends.

And here’s Bjorn Lomberg explaining why there are NO benefits whatsoever to electric cars.

It is time to stop our green worship of the electric car. It costs us a fortune, cuts little CO2 and surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars.

Electric cars’ global-warming benefits are small. It is advertised as a zero-emissions car, but in reality it only shifts emissions to electricity production, with most coming from fossil fuels. As green venture capitalist Vinod Khosla likes to point out, “Electric cars are coal-powered cars.”



Increased Communication: Blessing or Burden? by The Elephant's Child

4986d76bc1365c018aa601e6a4ed1a52 It was just 100 years ago Sunday that the first commercial transcontinental phone line opened on January 25, 1915. Alexander Graham Bell made the call to his assistant Thomas Watson.

Only 39 years earlier, Bell had spoken to Watson in the first phone call ever, in Boston — just after Bell had  patented the telephone.

By 1915, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. network crossed the continent with a single copper circuit 6,800 miles long. It could only carry one call at a time — but hearing another person’s voice from the other side of the continent was truly astonishing. There were already 8.6 million phones served by AT&T, but the first intercontinental call was a major public event. The call went from New York to San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition., where they were celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal.

We are inclined to forget that, for example, our founding fathers if they wanted to communicate with someone at a distance, had to send a rider carrying a message. Their days were uninterrupted by such things as the telephone, a radio, TV, computer, cell phones that we take with us so we don’t spend a moment unconnected.

We are so accustomed to multi-tasking and a constant flow of voices and opinion, sales and entertainment, that we don’t recognize the loss of silence, uninterrupted contemplation, time to think deeply. That blessing greatly contributed to the care that went into the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, and that clear thought, perhaps impossible today, may well be why it has lasted so well.

The current presumption is that all our equipment will go away and we will have wearable technology or implants so that we are never, never disconnected.

That must be contrasted with what seems to me our increasing inability to deal with the information age. What has come along with the increased flow of information is too much choice, and way too much stuff for which the word “information” does not really apply. Our educational system is not yet directly addressing information management, how to select that which is important, how to tell truth from falsehood, sense from nonsense, and how to form, from that flow, a life-enriching body of knowledge.



Today’s $68 Billion Train to Nowhere to Be Finished in 80 Years? Splendid Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown, Democrat, took an oath of government frugality in his fourth inaugural address. The next day he led the groundbreaking ceremony for  California’s $68 billion bullet train in Fresno.

Seven years ago, in 2008, voters approved $9 billion in state bonds to build a 500-mile train connecting San Francisco and Anaheim (current estimates suggest more than $100 billion). The feds have donated a mere $3.3 billion, which by law must be spent by October 2017. California’s high-speed rail authority can’t access the bond proceeds until it gets the right of way from the state courts, which are presiding over numerous legal challenges that may not be settled for several years.

The  authority has so far obtained less than a fifth of the parcels needed to complete the first 29-mile stretch in the Central Valley.

This does not matter to Mr. Brown and the rail authority who are frantically trying to burn through the federal funds to meet the White House’s spending deadline. The LA Times says that  “over the next 1,000 days, the state will have to  spend $3 to $4 million every single day to accomplish their goal.”

Bullet train supporters believe that state judges will be reluctant to block access to bond funds once construction starts. The more schools,  homes and businesses torn down, the better. The goal is to make the bullet train an accomplished fact, in order to convince the judiciary that it is. California’s record of starting and then abandoning freeways, and infrastructure projects meant the Legislature added provisions to ensure the train did not become a “stranded investment.”

Planners picked the flattest, straightest and most desolate stretch for the first segment. It gets more complicated crossing the 7,680′ high Tehachapi range, and tearing up densely populated areas in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin.

I have over 40 articles about California High-Speed Rail Authority. They uniformly think it’s nuts. Some estimates are 80 years till completion. Thinking back 80 years, to the changes in technology, population, culture, one must conclude that today’s plans are unlikely to fit 2094 transportation needs at all. And the federal $3.3 billion is all they have to work with at present since a state judge last year barred it from tapping the voter-approved $9 billion in bonds until it satisfies a quantity of requirements in the ballot initiative.

The Governor said that those who don’t support the bullet train are pusillanimous — “lacking in spirit” he said, but the actual definition is not so bland.



200 Times Stronger Than Steel, Graphene Stops Supersonic Bullets! by The Elephant's Child

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics  in 2010 for isolating graphene in 2004— a wonder material: a substance 200 times stronger than steel, yet as thin as a single atom. By May of 2013, there had been more than 9,000 patent applications for graphene. From my 2013 post about graphene, some of those applying for patents were:

Companies like Apple, Saab, Lockheed Martin, Samsung, Nokia, BASF SE. The potential uses are as broad as filtering salt from seawater, flexible touch screens, anti-rust coatings, sports equipment like tennis racquets,  DNA sequencing devices, and distilling vodka. Everybody is trying to patent everything, so that you have the option of suing your competitors later and stopping them. Labs all over the world are hard at work, as is the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr. Geim, the Nobel laureate, has said that “Graphene opened up a material world we didn’t even know existed.” Scientists are looking at scores of other two-dimensional materials with unusual properties.

Graphene has remarkable properties that could revolutionize electronics, but new research has shown that the material is better than Kevlar at stopping bullets fired at supersonic speeds. Early research has shown that the material is able to absorb ten times as much energy as steel before failing.

“Graphene consists of single layers of carbon atoms, arranged in a sheet. Rice University researchers examined the behavior of graphene when subjected to simulated impacts from high-velocity bullets. A laser guidance system directed a silica bullet toward a small graphene target, containing several layers of the material. The laser evaporated a gold film, producing puffs of gas that accelerated the bullet toward its miniscule target at speeds up to 2,000 mph. Velocities of the projectile, taken before and after impact were used to calculate the amount  of energy absorbed by the target.”

Because of the scale of the experiment, they could not use a real gun barrel or gunpowder. The tiny graphene targets distributed the kinetic energy of the impacting projectile first into a cone and then into cracks that radiated from the point of impact.

“One popular analogy is that graphene is strong enough to withstand the weight of an elephant balancing on a pencil. However, this is the first major study to examine how the substance could be used in blocking bullets.”

So far, high quality graphene can only be produced in small quantities, so commercial production of bulletproof vests is a ways off. Until now, Kevlar is the most common material used to manufacture garments to protect from bullets. It was first developed in 1965 at DuPont. By the early 1970s it was being used as a  replacement for rubber in race car wheels. Today Kevlar is used in bicycle tires, sails for boats and drum heads — which is a pretty good demonstration of the widely varied uses that can come from a new material.

Graphene paint could mean the end of rust. Graphene oxide can be applied to metal, glass and brick, protecting the object from corrosion. Graphene  paint can even be applied to sand, creating a tough transparent coating holding grains together in any desired shape. A method for producing sheets of graphene economically may not be far off.

The rewards for turning the enormous  potential of graphene into real commercial products are so promising that the competition must be fierce. It sounds like there are some exciting stories waiting to be told. Stay tuned.




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