Science & Technology

Alex Epstein: Decriminalize Nuclear

Alex Epstein has a podcast on “Steps toward decriminalizing nuclear” with Robert Hargraves, cofounder of ThorCon and author of “Thorium: Energy Cheaper Than Coal.”

Topics covered include:

  • Why since the creation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over 45 years ago not one nuclear power plant has been designed and built to completion.
  • Why the Linear no Threshold guiding the NRC should be abolished.
  • What ALARA is, and how it increases nuclear costs.
  • Why South Korea builds nuclear plants at 1/3 US costs.
  • Should the NRC exist at all?

Fauci Picks Em

From July 2020:

How did they do it?

From Cuomo Advisers Altered Report on Covid-19 Nursing-Home Deaths (WSJ):

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of Covid-19 than the administration had acknowledged, according to people with knowledge of the report’s production.

The July report, which examined the factors that led to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term-care facilities, leaving out those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. As a result, the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said. The initial version of the report said nearly 10,000 nursing-home residents had died in New York by July last year, one of the people said.

The changes Mr. Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.

State officials now say more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from Covid-19 since March of last year—counting both those who died in long-term-care facilities and those who died later in hospitals. That figure is about 50% higher than earlier official death tolls.

Related: Governor Andrew Cuomo Deserves Emmy But Not Governorship

Alex Epstein: Texas Blackouts Caused By Focus on Green Energy at Expense of Maintaining Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

According to Alex Epstein “the root cause of the TX blackouts is a national and state policy that has prioritized the adoption of unreliable wind/solar energy over reliable energy.” Writes Epstein, Texas “is having an electricity crisis during bad winter weather because it did not focus enough on building reliable power plants and infrastructure–because it was obsessed with getting as much unreliable wind/solar electricity as possible” and “the expense and distraction of accommodating “unreliables” takes away money and focus from resiliency. In CA this meant not maintaining power lines. In TX it may have meant not focusing enough on making the reliable power plants resilient enough to winter weather.”

Read the rest.

Epstein also appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program:

Free Speech vs. “Censorship By Proxy”: Parler’s Amy Peikoff vs. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Parler’s chief policy officer, the thoughtful Amy Peikoff, has an enlightening interview on Spiked Online on the app’s cancellation by Big Tech. According to Ms. Peikoff, “Parler’s mission has always been to allow people to express themselves freely to the maximum extent possible consistent with the law and with our own business purposes….” and that the answer to so-called “hate speech” is ” more speech.”

In regards to Parler differentiating itself from Twitter and Facebook, Peikoff states that Parler “want[s] to respect the privacy of users. Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, there’s no data mining, profiling, and targeting of ads based on profiles.” She adds: “The people on Parler are not the commodity.”

Peikoff also finds it “scary” that,

“Politicians are hauling tech CEOs before Congress and urging them to remove more and more content, even when the particular category of speech in question would be protected by the First Amendment or similar laws around the world.

“It’s a scary prospect, because we get to a stage where we are not in a completely free country.

In regards, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s call for what some describe as “censorship by proxy”:

“Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg supports new regulations under which platforms would be required to issue so-called transparency reports. These are reports in which firms describe what they have done to deal with ‘objectionable content’, including speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

“He has gone further to suggest platforms should be required to prove their effectiveness at dealing with that content. If that ends up being put into law, it would represent the government trying to achieve, via regulation of social-media companies, what it could not achieve by directly censoring.”

Read the full Spiked Online interview here.

In an article on her personal website, Don’t Let It Go (named after a brilliant article by philosopher Ayn Rand), Peikoff writes on Zuckerberg’s proposals:

“Now recall that Mark Zuckerberg, in the most recent Big-Tech-CEO-Hearanguing before Congress, suggested amending Section 230 as follows:

  1. “Transparency” – each company enjoying Section 230 immunity would be required to issue periodic reports detailing how it dealt with certain types of “objectionable” content.
  2. “Accountability” –platforms enjoying immunity could also be held to some minimum level of “effectiveness” with respect to dealing with that “objectionable” content. (Recall he also bragged about how effective Facebook’s “hate speech” algorithms are.)

“Perhaps you think “transparency” at least, is good. But imagine what information ends up being collected and retained as ‘ordinary business records’ when complying with this sort of law, and read on.

Peikoff notes that though Parler was singled out by Amazon, Google, and others, the left-leaning Salonblame[s] Facebook for playing a much larger role in facilitating the planning that led up to the 6th.

Writes Peikoff:

“….What does Salon hope to gain by blaming Facebook and showing sympathy to Parler? I argue that placing responsibility for user-generated content on platforms plays right into the totalitarians’ hands.

“With all the platforms now being blamed for user-generated content containing threats or incitement, the new Congress needs only to accept Mark Zuckerberg’s engraved invitation to amend Section 230 along the above lines. But, as we’ve learned in the last week, no system of guidelines enforcement is perfect. If Facebook, with all its algorithms and other resources could not ‘adequately’ deal with this content, then what company could?

“If it’s not actually possible to be good at this, to the standard that everyone seems to expectand Zuckerberg is calling for all of us to be regulated according to that standard, then what exactly is he calling for (whether he realizes it or not)? For government to take over, to have arbitrary control. For all online platforms to operate only by permission of government, according to whatever standards politicians (or the Twitter mobs pulling their strings) deem fit—and this will be true with respect to both free speech and privacy.”

I would love to see a debate between Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Parler’s CPO Amy Peikoff on this vital issue.

For context, below is a video interview with Tucker Carlson on the targeting of Parler by Google, Apple, and Amazon:

Top Photo: FoxNews Tucker Carlson Show

 

Related:

What a Billion Dollars Can Buy: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Compared with NASA’s Orion

NASA has spent over 23 billion dollars on the Orion spacecraft – that has yet to be able to take a person into space. Writes Eric Berger in “The Orion spacecraft is now 15 years old and has flown into space just once“:

The Orion spacecraft dates back to 2005, when NASA issued a “request for proposals” to industry with the goal of “developing a new Crew Exploration Vehicle by 2014 that is capable of carrying astronauts beyond low Earth orbit.” NASA sought Orion as a building block to land humans on the Moon as part of what became known as the Constellation program. This program was later canceled, but Orion survived. Since that time, according to The Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier, NASA has spent $23.7 billion developing the Orion spacecraft. This does not include primary costs for the vehicle’s Service Module, which provides power and propulsion, as it is being provided by the European Space Agency.

For this money, NASA has gotten a bare-bones version of Orion that flew [without a crew] during the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in 2014. The agency has also gotten the construction of an Orion capsule—which also does not have a full life support system—that will be used during the uncrewed Artemis I mission due to be flown in 12 to 24 months. So over its lifetime, and for $23.7 billion, the Orion program has produced:

  • Development of Orion spacecraft
  • Exploration Flight Test-1 basic vehicle
  • The Orion capsule to be used for another test flight
  • Work on capsules for subsequent missions

How does that compare to Elon Musk’s privately run space initiative, SpaceX?

SpaceX is generally considered one of the most efficient space companies. Founded in 2002, the company has received funding from NASA, the Department of Defense, and private investors. Over its history, we can reliably estimate that SpaceX has expended a total of $16 billion to $20 billion on all of its spaceflight endeavors. Consider what that money has bought:

  • Development of Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy rockets
  • Development of Cargo Dragon, Crew Dragon, and Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft
  • Development of Merlin, Kestrel, and Raptor rocket engines
  • Build-out of launch sites at Vandenberg (twice), Kwajalein Atoll, Cape Canaveral, and Kennedy Space Center
  • 105 successful launches to orbit
  • 20 missions to supply International Space Station, two crewed flights
  • Development of vertical take off, vertical landing, rapid reuse for first stages
  • Starship and Super Heavy rocket development program
  • Starlink Internet program (with 955 satellites on orbit, SpaceX is largest satellite operator in the world)

The author calls this an “extreme” comparison. Far from it, when comparing the economics of capitalism and socialism it is the norm.

Federal Death Agency: COVID Vaccine Created in January 2020 was Blocked By The FDA Until December 2020

Writes David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine,We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time“:

You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial. This is — as the country and the world are rightly celebrating — the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it .

The author then goes on to regurgitate “the FDA has to approve it” excuse for not banning the sale of the vaccine until the end of 2020:

To be clear, I don’t want to suggest that Moderna should have been allowed to roll out its vaccine in February or even in May, when interim results from its Phase I trial demonstrated its basic safety.

Well, why the hell not?

Shouldn’t that judgment on the efficacy of the vaccine be up to each individual? If you have a high probability of dying from COVID-19 if you get it, the vaccine in February 2020 might be worth the risk.

And why not release it in May 2020 when it was proven “safe” by FDA standards (but not yet proven as “efficacious”).

Observe that for 41% of voters; the pandemic was the “most important issue facing the country”:

What was the FDA waiting for? For Trump to lose the 2020 Presidential election? I seriously hope not. More likely, it is something worse: bureaucratic inertia with a central planning anti-free-market mindset.

Continues the author on the “reasoning” of the experts:

An unsafe vaccine, like the one for polio that killed ten and paralyzed 200 in 1955, could cause medical disaster and public-health backlash — though, as Balloux points out, since none of the new coronavirus vaccines use real viral material, that kind of accident, which affected one in a thousand recipients, would be impossible. (These days, one adverse impact in a million is the rule-of-thumb threshold of acceptability.) An ineffective vaccine could also give false security to those receiving it, thereby helping spread the disease by providing population-scale license to irresponsible behavior (indoor parties, say, or masklessness). But on other matters of population-level guidance, our messaging about risk has been erratic all year, too. In February and March, we were warned against the use of masks, in part on the grounds that a false sense of security would lead to irresponsible behavior — on balance, perhaps the most consequential public-health mistake in the whole horrid pandemic. In April, with schools already shut, we closed playgrounds. In May, beaches — unable or unwilling to live with even the very-close-to-zero risk of socializing outside (often shaming those who gathered there anyway). But in September, we opened bars and restaurants and gyms, inviting pandemic spread even as we knew the seasonality of the disease would make everything much riskier in the fall. The whole time, we also knew that the Moderna vaccine was essentially safe. We were just waiting to know for sure that it worked, too.

None of the scientists I spoke to for this story were at all surprised by either outcome — all said they expected the vaccines were safe and effective all along. Which has made a number of them wonder whether, in the future, at least, we might find a way to do things differently — without even thinking in terms of trade-offs.

The problem is that “scientists” cannot determine the “trade-offs” for any given individual. Those decisions should be up to the individual, with “experts” providing the facts, allowing each person to decide based on their particular situation and personal priorities, with the government’s job to get-out-of-the-way.

Given that the FDA blocked the sale and distribution of a vaccine that could have prevented the death of over a quarter a million Americans, we think the name suggested by Harry Binswanger to be a far more accurate description: Federal Death Agency.

Recommended Reading:

40% of U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Occur in Long-Term Care (LTC) Facilities

Note: In NY if a person contracted COVID-19 in LTC facility and dies in the hospital, NY counts it as a hospital death and does not attribute it the LTC.

“...the Long-Term Care COVID Tracker is the most comprehensive dataset about COVID-19 in US long-term care facilities. It compiles crucial data about the effects of the pandemic on a population with extraordinary vulnerabilities to the virus due to age, underlying health conditions, or proximity to large outbreaks.

The dataset compiles all currently available information of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in long-term care facilities—nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and other care homes—and tracks both residents and staff.

One solution is to “bubble” the home and have staff live full-time on-site during the pandemic:

Currently, most senior homes rely on checkpoints to screen staff as they arrive to work, mainly by asking them questions and taking their temperatures. But these checkpoints can easily fail, because people without symptoms can carry and transmit the coronavirus. Moreover, many staff members work at multiple homes or have family members who work at other facilities. Many senior homes also have been preparing for the pandemic by hiring extra staffers. So it is hardly surprising that the contagion has spread like a chain reaction in senior care homes.

[…]

A better approach is to pay front line aides and nurses to live on-site through the period when the disease is surging — meaning right now. This is hardship work, requiring staff to work 60 to 80 hours a week without seeing family members. But it could be the best way to protect our elderly. Lowering the number of infections at our senior homes would also allow us to conserve protective equipment, reduce the need for hospital beds and prevent the spread of the disease into communities where staff members live.

[…]

At homes overwhelmed by Covid-19, having caregivers live on-site would prevent them from bringing the virus home to their families or spreading it through communities, particularly when they commute.

Looking ahead, Covid may recede for much of the country this summer, but I fear that senior homes will remain vulnerable to a new wave of infection. We can prepare for that by having our staff live in our homes.

The result?

The result has been promising; we have yet to have a confirmed case of Covid-19 among our residents or staff.

Unfortunately, it is more expensive:

But I cannot afford it for much longer, and many other senior care centers could not afford to even start such a program.

Hat Tip: Phil Magness

The Bear Fire

From “I cry for the mountains and the legacy lost: The Bear Fire” By Dave Daley, Butte County Rancher & CCA Immediate Past President:

I cry for the forest, the trees and streams, and the horrible deaths suffered by the wildlife and our cattle. The suffering was unimaginable. When you find groups of cows and their baby calves tumbled in a ravine trying to escape, burned almost beyond recognition, you try not to wretch. You only pray death was swift. A fawn and small calf side by side as if hoping to protect one another. Worse, in searing memory, cows with their hooves, udder and even legs burned off who had to be euthanized.

[…]

I grew up hearing the stories from my Dad and Grandad of the “last man out” lighting the forest floor to burn the low undergrowth. Their generations knew to reduce the ladder fuels that spread the fire to the canopy, to open it up for the wildlife. It was a pact between our friends the Native Americans who had managed it this way for 13,000 years, the loggers, miners and ranchers. They knew ecology and botany and wildlife. They worked together because they loved and knew the land.

It was the early 1960s and snow was already on the ground in December on our foothill ranch. I would have been about four and holding my Grandfather’s hand as he lit some piles of brush on fire to open the landscape. It was the practice he had learned from generations before. And the CDF (now Cal Fire) crew showed up, put out the fire, and lectured him for burning. My Grandad was the kindest, gentlest and funniest man I have ever known. And he was mad. It was the beginning of the end for our forest home. And it has proceeded at an unprecedented rate.

[…]

Look at the mega-fires California has experienced in recent years. If you study them closely, almost all of them start on State or Federally owned land. Fifty percent of California is owned by the feds or state, land that has unmanaged fuel loads because of the restrictions to do anything on the land. Right now, the only buffer to these disasters are private, well managed, grazed landscapes. They may still burn, but the fires are not as catastrophic and can be controlled.

[…]

Even with the dead cattle on Hartman Ridge that we found, why did we find over half alive here and nowhere else? If anything, I assumed this steep ridge gave them no chance at all. And I realized that there had been a much smaller fire here about five years ago. The country was more open and the fire moved quickly. Less fuel and more things lived. Trees, wildlife, and cows.

I observed the same phenomenon in the remnants of the town of Feather Falls—where only a school and cemetery remain. The school had over 80 students less than 50 years ago, until the lumber mill closed and the village died. The school was destroyed by fire. The cemetery, however, still stands with green stately pines respecting the graves of mostly Native American veterans with flags at each grave. The cemetery was maintained free of deadfall and litter by family members. All the trees lived.

[…]

This is devastating emotionally and financially. And I am not sure of the next steps. I do know this: We must change our land management practices if we expect the West to survive. It is best done locally, not from DC or Sacramento, but I have tilted at windmills before.

California Fires: How 120 Years of Active Fire Suppression Created a Tinderbox in California

From EPA.gov:

Average drought conditions across the nation have varied since records began in 1895. The 1930s and 1950s saw the most widespread droughts, while the last 50 years have generally been wetter than average (see Figure 1).

“This chart shows annual values of the Palmer Drought Severity Index, averaged over the entire area of the contiguous 48 states. Positive values represent wetter-than-average conditions, while negative values represent drier-than-average conditions. A value between -2 and -3 indicates moderate drought, -3 to -4 is severe drought, and -4 or below indicates extreme drought. The thicker line is a nine-year weighted average.”

From the U.S. Drought Monitor:

From: https://firerestorationgroup.org/

In the West, fires are burning today at higher intensities and larger spatial scales than in the recent past. With the attempted removal of Native Americans and their cultures of extensive burning, coupled with roughly 120 years of active fire suppression, we are experiencing an unraveling of ecosystem stability. This comes at a time when climate change is exacerbating drought and extending fire seasons. 

[…]

Scientists are clear that we are in a severe deficit of “good fire.” Prior to 1800 approximately 4.5 million acres were burning in California annually, half of which were from tribal burning. Today our forests are two to three times more dense than they were historically. While we are not returning to the 1800s, we need to extensively restore fire on the California landscape as a pathway to resilience.

From an MSN article:

“I don’t want to be alarmist. But I think the conditions are there,” said Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley professor of fire science and lead author of a 2018 paper that raised the specter of future mass forest fires as intense as the Dresden, Germany, and Tokyo firebombings.

“As those [trees] continue to fall, the physics of it are unchanged. If you have dead and downed logs … the fires described in warfare are possible.”

One of hundreds of major blazes to erupt in this record-breaking fire season in California, the Creek fire has underscored the urgency of reducing that monster fuel load.

The only way to do that on the broad, landscape level needed, many experts say, is with fire of a different sort.

“All of us on the paper were suggesting that if you are going to try to reduce that mass fire problem in the future, you really need to start putting prescribed fire into these stands to start whittling away at those bigger fuels,” said Forest Service research ecologist Malcolm North, one of Stephens’ eight co-authors.

[…]

Some areas have 500 to 800 trees per acre, compared with 60 to 100 pre-settlement. As North puts it, there were too many straws in the dry ground competing for water. The beetle toll was the greatest in the densest stands. There dead fuel will keep piling up for years to come.

Climate change, which accentuated drought severity and is promoting record-breaking heat waves this summer, “is like the frosting on the cake,” said conservationist Craig Thomas.

Here is a video with Scott Stephens at the UC Berkely Fire Science Lab which has some interesting photos of how California forests have changed over the century.

James Stock: Government Must End Ban of Cheap Rapid Response COVID-19 Antigen Tests

Writing in the FInanical Post, James H. Stock on why Lockdowns are too blunt a weapon against Covid makes three key points:

1. “[E]conomic lockdowns are neither necessary nor sufficient to suppress Covid-19”

[E]conomic lockdowns are neither necessary nor sufficient to suppress Covid-19. But the concerted use of largely non-economic interventions can suppress the virus and set the stage for the recovery of demand and employment in restaurants, travel and other high-contact sectors. …economic lockdowns alone are a blunt, costly and only partially effective instrument of public health.

2. Less expensive measures though individually not effective, when combined together become highly effective

There are many less expensive measures that, when deployed together, can be highly effective. These include working from home and setting rules to make the workplace safe. Taking special steps to protect the elderly, reopening the lowest-contact economic sectors first, banning the highest-risk activities such as bars and large social gatherings, wearing masks, social distancing and enhanced testing, quarantine, and contact tracing are already familiar. If they are seriously adopted, together they can suppress the virus without resorting to a new round of economic lockdowns.

2. The most important measure is wide use of frequent, cheap, rapid screening tests

Most important, testing for the virus remains grossly inadequate….Rapid screening tests need to be widely available…My colleague Michael Mina argues persuasively that the government should fast-track approval and production of cheap paper-strip antigen tests that would alert the newly infected of the need to isolate.

Screening tests need not detect every infection. Mathematically, rapid testing and isolation acts like herd immunity: by reducing the chance that a susceptible individual comes into contact with an infected one it can drive the basic reproduction or “R” number below one. Even if a testing regime pulls only a fraction of the infected out of circulation, that — along with other measures such as widespread mask usage and targeted bans of potential superspreader events — can suppress the virus, bring down deaths to very low levels and set the stage for a strong recovery.