Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Author: James Wimberley
James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu MendonÃ§a. The cat overlords are now three.
I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naÃ¯f questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia.
James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web
The literature seems stronger on indoor air pollution than outdoor. Second-hand tobacco smoke is a culprit, as are wood fires and incense. I found a serious controlled Taiwanese study on indoor pollution making the link. The effect of outdoor pollution has been less studied for animals. One Mexican study creepily found similar lesions in the brains of big-city dogs to those found in humans with Alzheimer’s.
It seems safer just to rely on the parallelism in the symptoms and mechanisms of cat and human asthma, and the massive literature connecting the human form to air pollution, to conclude that all air pollution is bad for cats too. The effect is reinforced by the height difference: cats and dogs breathe in air at car exhaust level.
This hypothesis suggests a political strategy. In the USA, there are said to be 49.2 million households with a cat. There are 50.4 million with children under 18. That’s 39% each. I couldn’t find a combined breakdown, but let’s assume that the two are independent. That would give 30 million childless households with a cat. The real total will be different, but it’s still a very large number.
skews old, white and therefore Republican. It cares for its cats. It
strikes me as a good argument to make to this group in favour of the
energy transition and the GND that the policy will protect the health
of their pets.
Some will say: this
is ridiculous. Are there really a non-trivial number of voters who
will be swayed by the health of cats but not the health of children?
If there are, surely they are either “low-information voters” –
idiots – or moral imbeciles, and lost causes in either case?
My answers are (a)
quite likely and (b) no.
Let me make the case
for the defence. The questions are linked by the broader issue of
Electric motors are taking over from ICEs, for everything.
To make a change from the ongoing TV fantasy drama The Fall of the American Empire, aka The Game of the Throneless, let me introduce you to the Siemens SP260D.
This is an electrical aircraft engine. More details here.
This is only the second of Siemens’ efforts in the line, though they have been making electric motors since the 1890s. (AEG beat them to it, in 1889.) The striking datum is the power-to-weight ratio: 260 kW (footnote) from 50 kg, making 5.2 kW/kg. What should we compare this to?
A table of power-to-weight ratios for a sample of engines on the market today.
“Make thee an ark of gopher wood”, Yahweh told Noah (Genesis 6:14). Gopheris just a transliteration of the otherwise unknown nonce word גפר . Nobody knows what this means; suggestions range from cypress to bulrushes. It isn’t even necessarily a kind of tree: could be “timber” or “any old wood”. The story claims that whatever he used, Noah got the job done. This makes the Ark a good analogy to the Green New Deal. Like the over-specified dimensions of the Ark, parts of the GND are specific, others studiously vague.
The GND in the United States (it’s not likely to work as a meme elsewhere) is a manifesto not a plan. Its promoters have not yet provided one; rational politics by AOC, as she wants to prod establishment Democrats on the committees into action, not engage in a suicidal death ride against them. The lack has created an inviting target for adversaries. However, the conservatives are missing the point about the GND by raising a scare about big numbers. The big numbers are a selling point. Think big! Go for it! Rosie the Riveter can do it! In this, AOC is authentically Rooseveltian.
A conservative think tank (American Action Forum, Holtz-Eakin et al) has charged in anyway and come up with a ridiculous “estimate” of the cost of the GND: $93 trillion. $36 trn of this is the “cost” of Medicare for All, conveniently forgetting the avoided health insurance. (The net cost if any depends on how much it is politically feasible to squeeze medical providers. Net zero cost is technically feasible, based on the universal experience of other OECD countries.) For the jobs guarantee, they put a useless range of “$6.8 trillion to $44.6 trillion”. The only function of this is to create the scary $93 trn total. I have nothing to offer on these areas. What I do know a little about is the energy side, where the GND is groundbreaking.
Eight days to B-day on March 29! For amoral political junkies, it’s sheer heaven. The last fortnight at Westminster has been the most exciting since May 1940, if not quite as important. You could only keep up by 24/7 liveblogging. I can’t manage it, so consider this a Brexit open thread.
Last time I looked (ten minutes ago) the state of play is this:
Let’s stand a little back from the Brexit trainwreck – the kind you get when Dr. Evil hacks the signalling at Clapham Junction in rush hour. I have no choice, since as an expatriate I, and a million like me, get no vote.
The options are: A – Exit with no deal B – the May deal C – A softer Brexit (“BINO”) on Norway or Jersey lines; undefined, but probably with staying in most of the EU single market, few restrictions on movement from EU countries, and no say in the rulemaking D – Remain.
The estimable Simon Wren-Lewis estimates the current factional breakdown of the House of Commons (n=630) over Brexit:
Brexiters – No Deal 100 May loyalists – No freedom of movement 200 People’s Vote [second referendum] 150 Corbyn loyalists 30 Soft Brexit 150
This leads to the following first-choice vote predictions: A: 100 for, 530 against B: 200 for, 430 against (actual vote was 202 to 432) C: <180 for, >450 against D: <150 for, >480 against
Trump will oversee a much steeper fall in coal than Obama did.
“They want to be miners, but their jobs have been taken away. And we’re going to bring them back, folks.” – candidate Donald Trump on August 10, 2016, with similar statements on many other occasions.
In contrast, the Trump Administration action on this promise has been negligible. One regulation on water pollution from mines was reversed (idem). A proposal to subsidise coal on grounds of “grid resilience” was shot down in flames by a unanimous FERC, the majority of whose members are Trump appointees.
There’s been talk of a new plan using emergency powers and an entirely different and equally specious claim of national security, but the Deep State (i.e. Trump officials who still have two working neurones) have sidelined it. Trump has appointed a key author of Plan A, Bernard McNamee, to FERC – but there is already a serious legal challenge to force him to recuse himself from taking part in decisions on his own proposals.
Meanwhile, the industry has continued to operate under Obama’s rules. Production actually increased a little in 2017, but this was entirely due to a temporary spike in Chinese imports. It fell slightly in 2018, tracking the slow decline in domestic demand. Jobs are holding up pretty well. At first sight, Trump can plausibly claim at least to have stopped the rot.
He has not. The first bad sign is an acceleration in closures of coal generating plants, an equal record 15 GW in 2018. Chart from IEEFA:
doesn’t look too bad for the years ahead, does it? But in fact the
firmly announced closures are the tip of a Titanic iceberg. There is
much, much worse to come.
Today is Twelfth Night, Epiphany, the Christian feast commemorating an uncorroborated legend in one of the Gospels (Matthew 2, vv 1-9) of a visit by a group of Magi to the infant Jesus. By AD 500 the unnumbered Persian astrologers had become three kings. These mosaics from imperial Ravenna still depict them in Persian dress, but that knowledge was lost in the Dark Ages. Nobody in Western Europe in say 1100 AD had any idea what a Zoroastrian astrologer might have been like, so the shift is understandable.
I should not be telling you this, but I think readers have a right to know before the weekend.
The Steele dossier on Trump’s numerous shady ties to Russia includes the notorious alleged visit by Cohen to Prague in August 2016.
1. Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP’S lawyer Michael COHEN and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.
2. Continuing on this theme, the Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of the Russian parastatal organisation, Rossotrudnichestvo, in this contact between TRUMP campaign representative/s and Kremlin officials. Rossotrudnichestvo was being used as cover for this relationship and its office in Prague may well have been used to host the COHEN / Russian Presidential Administration (PA) meeting/s. It was considered a “plausibly deniable” vehicle for this, whilst remaining entirely under Kremlin control.
3. The Kremlin insider went on to identify leading pro-PUTIN Duma figure, Konstantin KOSACHEV (Head of the Foreign Relations Committee) as an important figure in the TRUMP campaign-Kremlin liaison operation. KOSACHEV, also “plausibly deniable” being part of the Russian legislature rather than executive, had facilitated the contact in Prague and by implication, may have attended the meeting/s with COHEN there in August.
Cohen – even after his plea deal – continues to maintain he has never been to Prague and was in Rome or maybe Capri at the time. However, McClatchy reporters have found circumstantial evidence (cellphone location records) that he was there after all. What will the Mueller report reveal? If the Steele dossier’s allegation is confirmed, it could be the smoking gun that ends the Trump presidency.
My own high-level source (whose identity I am sworn not to reveal) makes the following observation, couched as a speculation. Suppose you are the head of the Czech security service BIS, Michal Koudelka. He will see Putin’s machinations to weaken or destroy the NATO alliance and reestablish Russian hegemony over the former Soviet empire as a critical threat to the security of his country. Such threats justify extreme measures. The BIS will have put a major effort into checking the Steele claims of collusion with Donald Trump, the Trump organization, or the Trump campaign. They know what really happened in Prague.
Let’s suppose that these efforts have turned up a blank on the visit: Cohen did not meet Kremlin representatives in Prague, though the conspiracy was real. A professional counterespionage officer would inevitably think about an operation to “frame the guilty”. Continue reading “Dayspring Mishandled?”
Synthetic ammonia from catalysed hydrogen: yes ,iy’s important
WTF? Has Wimberley finally taken leave of his diminishing senses? Why laud a commonplace and unpleasantly acrid standard chemical, used to make fertilizer and explosives, and still popular as a cleaning agent with traditionalist housewives in Spain and Brazil? (The nasty smell tells germs you mean business.)
Hear me out, kind readers. Ammonia is about to take its place as a worthy piece of the complex jigsaw puzzle of the energy transition.
This will be down to its additional potential use as a carbon-free fuel. Burn ammonia, in an engine or fuel cell, and you ideally get:
In an engine, in practice you also get some nasty nitrous oxides, NOX: controllable by clever engine management, scrubbing the exhaust with more ammonia, or reforming to hydrogen just before burning.
Ammonia is not a greenhouse gas, and nor are its main combustion products. So it’s a candidate for a storable renewable fuel to replace oil-based liquid fuels and natural gas. The rivals are plant-based liquid biofuels (diesel, ethanol, kerosene), biogas from digesters fed with biomass, and catalytic hydrogen.
As every Brit knows, on March 29 2019, 109 days from now, the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. (Unless the remaining 27 member countries stop the clock, a well-used Brussels device). What happens if there is No Deal and the UK crashes out with no agreement in place with Brussels on anything? Inconvenience? A reduction in trade until new and better deals are made with say the USA?
Kent Council Council is responsible for the area leading to Dover docks and the Channel Tunnel. They are Tories but have studied the consequences.
A no-deal Brexit could cause major disruption across Kent, with gridlock on the roads around Dover, rubbish not being collected, children unable to take exams and rubbish piling up on streets [….] The registration service for weddings could also be affected and bodies could pile up in morgues because of traffic gridlock, Kent county council warned in an update on no-deal contingency planning.
So it’s more or less the zombie apocalypse, without weddings too. Their nightmare is that as the trucks (queuing for new customs checks at the ports) pile up on the two access highways, the M2 via Canterbury and the M20 via Maidstone, enterprising truck drivers will take to the side roads until these are jammed solid too. I suppose the council could buy electric bikes, so the plucky morgue staff can infiltrate past the stranded German trucks, in the 1940 spirit of Dad’s Army. That doesn’t help the garbage trucks, the hearses, or the wedding limousines though. Apocalypse it is.
What the council is trying to do with these horror stories is to get Whitehall to do some serious contingency planning for a truck rationing scheme that would cut in well before the vehicles reach Kent. What has Whitehall been doing these last two years? The excuse for general drift has been “we are too busy with Brexit”.