A Grumpy Economist on ‘Pay toilets and NYT: a free market microcosm’

So John Cochran of the Grumpy Economist seems a good Blog to follow, this was an amusing reminder of something I had not thought about for awhile.

Nicholas Kristof in Sunday’s New York Times asks a pressing — often quite pressing — question. Why are there no public toilets in America? He is right. He calls for a federal infrastructure plan to fix the problem: “Sure, we need investments to rebuild bridges, highways and, yes, electrical grids, but perhaps America’s most disgraceful infrastructure failing is its lack of public toilets.”

The absence of pay toilets is in fact a delightful encapsulation of so much that is wrong with American economic policy these days. Activists decide free toilets are a human right, and successfully campaign to ban pay toilets. For a while, existing toilets are free. Within months, upkeep is ignored, attendants disappear, and the toilets become disgusting, dysfunctional and dangerous. Within a few years there are no toilets at all. Fast forward, and we have a resurgence of medieval diseases that come from people relieving themselves al fresco. Now let’s talk about rent control.

As with so many things ‘basic human rights’ as espoused by progressives are no such thing. Anything that requires other peoples money is not a ‘basic’ human right, and as above toilets cost money and public toilets are paid for by the public, or no one at all.

In England I know (having lived there in my early years and visited later) that pay toilets were/are a thing. And I have seen articles out of the UK and Europe discussing all sorts of robo toilets to make maintenance less of an issue (Though I seem to remember a story about someone getting stuck in one [maybe after cheating the pay system?] and getting thoroughly doused in sanitizer etc which I think killed that attempt.}

I seem to remember as above that the toilets were 1Penney (spend a penny anyone?) when I was a kid. It was enough. Why is this so onerous on the ‘poor’ you can usually find a penny on the ground if you look hard enough. So what gives? What gives is that the people who can’t pay, won’t pay for this, they would never spend any kind of ‘coin’ that might go for a drink or drugs or….who wants to know? Anyway this is another one of those stupid, stupid, stupid misreadings of human nature and human needs that is tearing our culture, and civilization, apart.

So in flyover country this is not that much of an issue. Any normal fast food facility has reasonably clean bathrooms that are maintained for the use of their staff and customers. While they discourage the use by none customers it’s not that big a deal. I usually stop at a McDonald’s for the ‘duty’ and then get a coffee or a small snack to pay for the privilege and am happy to do it.

I don’t like Cities Sam I am, I do not like them man oh man…


Interesting Fuel Cell + Ship Tech

Why the Shipping Industry Is Betting Big on Ammonia
Ammonia engines and fuel cells could slash carbon emissions
Article in IEEE Spectrum MCKIBILLO

There’s a lot to like about ammonia. This colorless fuel emits no carbon dioxide when burned. It’s abundant and common, and it can be made using renewable electricity, water, and air. Both fuel cells and internal combustion engines can use it. Unlike hydrogen, it doesn’t have to be stored in high-pressure tanks or cryogenic dewars. And it has 10 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery.

So there is always a fly in the ointment of this sort of story…

Manufacturers and engineers must overcome key technical hurdles and safety issues in the design of ammonia engines and fuel cells. Port operators and fuel suppliers must build vast “bunkering” infrastructure so ships can fill ammonia tanks wherever they dock. And energy companies and governments will need to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other renewable-energy capacity to produce enough green ammonia for thousands of ships. Globally, ships consume an estimated 300 million tons of marine fuels every year. Given that ammonia’s energy density is half that of diesel, ammonia producers would need to provide twice as much liquid ammonia, and ships will need to accommodate larger storage tanks, potentially eating into cargo space.

So to fully replace oil you need 600 million tons, all produced artificially in new chemical plants. And then there is the ‘pungent’ odor and its solubility in water where it produces a strong alkaline Ph, the fact that it can cause breathing problems etc etc etc.

Not saying it is not an interesting approach but I really have to wonder how acceptable this would be. This seems like a question of ‘what kind of hell are you willing to accept to reduce CO2’ when the reality is that there are a lot of other things to do first and a lot better future directions to take. I like the idea of the age of windjammers returning…as in the last post.


A Cold day in H__L

This is reputedly a photograph of a test from years ago regarding windmills and icing. Almost the reverse of what it has sometimes been used to represent.

Did Frozen Wind Turbines Impact the Texas Freeze? Here’s the Data


As the graph plainly shows, wind generation choked down but natural gas compensated. Coal and even nuclear power generation dipped. Solar generation has been negligible due to cloud cover and several inches of snow and ice.

From StreetWiseProfessor: Who Is To Blame for SWP’s (and Texas’s) Forced Outage? “The facts are fairly straightforward. In the face of record demand (reflected in a crazy spike in heating degree days)…

…supply crashed. Supply from all sources. Wind, but also thermal (gas, nuclear, and coal). About 25GW of thermal capacity was offline, due to a variety of weather-related factors. These included most notably steep declines in natural gas production due to well freeze-offs and temperature-related outages of gas processing plants which combined to turn gas powered units into energy limited, rather than capacity limited, resources. They also included frozen instrumentation, water issues, and so on.”

So then Krugman rolls in from the NYT saying ‘Texas’ problem was Windmills is a Lie. ‘ Which itself, while not a lie in Detail, is a lie in Essence. As per some top line thinking in ManhattanContrarian in This Piece Points out:

Total winter generation capacity for the state is about 83 GW, while peak winter usage is about 57 GW. That’s a margin of over 45% of capacity over peak usage. In a fossil-fuel-only or fossil-fuel-plus-nuclear system, where all sources of power are dispatchable, a margin of 20% would be considered normal, and 30% would be luxurious. This margin is well more than that. How could that not be sufficient?

The answer is that Texas has gone crazy for wind. About 30 GW of the 83 GW of capacity are wind.

….sometimes the wind turbines only generate at a rate of 600 MW — which is about 2% of their capacity. And you never know when that’s going to be.


But/And it IS complicated. 1) You can install deicing systems on windmills but they are expensive to install and maintain and require INPUT of electric power to operate (Texas average weather makes this uneconomic to install.) 2) Texas did this to itself, it has an independent Grid because it IS a country sized state, the grid operator is actually a Bit Wind Crazy…why…because Texas has a lot of wind power. 3) This weather is a Combination of once in a hundred year cold AND snow/cloud cover, which systems are not designed to deal with other than in some degraded manner.

So one can only hope that because it is complicated and is fairly easily shown to be so that the cool heads will be left to work out some solution that prevents this sort of thing happening again. Because yes weather is unpredictable and while this was a 1/100 double header, it did occur and that says that the odds may not be what we think they are and so some mitigation is required. That mitigation is Not more wind, Not stored power, it IS more nuclear +better of all the above, AND better links to the broader national grid, etc, etc.

Myself, I’m planning a new house in the country. Big propane tank, backup generator, solar power, grid tied battery backup, ultra insulated house (for the region.) My prediction is that the grid is going to get worse not better and if you you can, you need to be able to survive without electric power from the mains for a week or more. I can make that possible, though I am in the few percent just because of location, situation, grace of the Infinite.

Expect more of ‘this.’

Xu Xianqin, Vice-Minister of Rites, overseeing the imperial civil service exam circa 1587, during the Ming Dynasty. Credit: Public domain.

Like it or not, history shows that taxes and bureaucracy are cornerstones of democracy

Article In Phys.Org by Field Museum of Natural History.

It is actually a reasonable article about a study that on its face makes sense though I believe it to be one that could be easily spun. It is a quantitative analysis of essentially qualitative factors, this is done by assigning numerical scores to identifiable attributes for multiple, ancient civilizations. You can then run analysis from simple to complex and use the scoring to make a point. Having done this sort of thing the problem is that it is very easy to bias the output especially when the results (as they all too often do) come out showing no clear message.

But as I said the basic discussion is not bad and appears balanced but the top level spin put on it by the articles title is spin. And then using images of Imperial Chinese Bureacracy and Festivals seems extremely Propagandistic. While the ancient Chinese Imperial Dynasties varied in many ways and had some good in them more by accident than intent, they were autocratic and ruthless to a one and to a fault.

This is the sort of soft propaganda one gets with things like the Confucius institute A CCP run propaganda arm, the Biden administration is giving free reign in academia to put their thumb on the scales with this sort of authorship, along with the woke fellow travelers who seem to feel that this sort of spin is necessary.

I would not protest this article, even its title so much if I felt that there was a reasonable, rational, balanced, look at the path from the past to now in modern academia especially in the west. The problem is that there are only so many minutes in a day so many moments of attention that can be paid to anything. If this sort of soft propaganda and equivalent takes up mind space, and is not counter balanced by a strong base of what current civilization owes to the West and to Industrial Anglo Sphere then the intent is to create a totally false impression of reality.

The rest of the world was not an empty bowl waiting to be filled from the west, representatives of the west did bad things. But the Christian West was always on an upward path. None of the eastern empires had advanced in any consistent and appreciable way for centuries or millennia and that had nothing to do with resources, everything to do with culture, religion, conquest and autocratic rule, none of that the peoples fault, all geography and circumstance. But pulling down the smallish bit of humanity that managed to break free and start the ball rolling uphill is chillingly evil.

Thought for the age

Governments have no resources. They only have spending power insofar as they can arrogate to themselves a percentage of private production; meaning government spending is a consequence of economic growth rather than an instigator. The same applies to “money.” It’s not wealth; rather it’s an agreement about value that enables the movement of actual wealth. In short, abundantly circulated money is a consequence of production as opposed to an instigator.

Forbes article via RealClearMarkets

OK, if Hornady says it’s so,I guess….

GunsAmerica’s Digest is a good general guns and ammo site picking up articles and topics from all over. Suggested.

The Truth About Ammo – GunsAmerica Exclusive Interview With Hornady


The emails and social media messages to Hornady’s customer service team haven’t let up in months;

“Where’s all the ammo?”

”Are you still making hunting cartridges?”

“Have you shut down due to COVID?”

“Why are you making T-shirts and not ammunition?”

“Are you hoarding ammunition?

“Are you selling all the ammunition to the government?”

A quick survey of Hornady’s Facebook page reveals of few of these missives.

So I even muttered under my breath, ‘only the Feds have the resources to buy up all the ammo, real people can’t be buying it all.’ Even if I know that’s bat shit crazy.

It was easy to sense the frustration and fatigue in Jason Hornady’s voice when he sat down with GunsAmerica last week. As the vice president of one of the nation’s largest ammunition manufacturers, Hornady has captained the company through the greatest surge in demand in the industry’s history, …

….they increased production by 30 percent last year, when they usually only grow five or ten percent each year. They ran through their entire inventory 18 times in 2020, when a normal year only sees six inventory turnarounds…. “Anything we make yesterday is shipping today,”

“Normally, a guy would buy one or two boxes. Instead, they’re buying cases,” Hornady said.

“Anyone who thinks that ammo companies aren’t trying to make and sell as much as they can, doesn’t understand capitalism,” he said. “We all like money. Nobody wants to ever make less.”

“It’s shipping all the time. We’re all shipping more all the time,” Hornady said. “The biggest thing is, be patient.”

Bottom line? Hornady and other manufacturers are working as hard as they can to meet today’s unprecedented demand.

So there you have it.

There are some supply restrictions on the input side, primer I hear is a big issue. It’s dangerous stuff and a lot is imported because it’s hard to build plant in the US. But even stuff like cardboard boxes are getting hard to get…So…. be patient, soldier on. Don’t burn through your practice stock too fast.

A little air, a bit of heat, some light

What Global Warming? 148 New (2020) Scientific Papers Affirm Recent Non-Warming, A Degrees-Warmer Past at WattsUpWithThat

Climate Change Horror Porn is another tool of the apparat to frighten us. In realty there is an objective truth out there…none of us know it. Two sides largely aligned Left and Right though not precisely have taken sides and because the liberal left is ascendant and deeply intwined in academia and the media they are trying to ‘scare us straight.’ It might be well intentioned in many cases, but ideologues, abusers, users and grifters have gathered around a powerful ideological tool that can be used to manipulate the population.

  • The science such as it is….which is a lot…but not what you are told it is by the media and the ideologues who want to use it.
    • Climate science
      • What climate was/is/will be:
        • Is based on models of how the whole atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere work.
          • Early simple models were very illuminating.
          • Complex models are horribly sensitive to incorrect knowledge and unknowns.
        • A lot of it is based on prior history comparing things like plant and sea life growth vs temperature, CO2 etc.
          • But most of this knowledge is based on proxies up until a decade or at most two ago.
          • Plus sparse and non technical accounts up until the modern era
          • Has a sparse and erratic technical record from about a century and a half.
          • Decent deep record for a couple of decades.
          • Can see what it is today in fair but not omniscient detail.
        • We model the future based on models that we ‘test’ against the past. Like the stock market sometimes these models can do an ok job. But that is only because of parameter fiddling to ‘match the curves.’ The models are by necessity highly simplified and often just plain wrong. For example:
          • recent discovery that cloud impact on surface temperature can increase not decrease surface temperature. And that it may depend on where you are in the world.
          • Recent discovery that CO2 concentration’s affect on green house is not linear and tapers quickly at higher concentrations.
          • That the planetary heat balance is highly affected by cooling at the poles, and that the magnetosphere/sun link into the climate also is highly linked at the poles.
          • Etc.
        • While the first climate models that brilliant men and women came up with less than a century ago have been proven to be largely correct, the details are practically, hardly better modeled today than they were in the 1950’s.
        • Today there are literally hundreds of complex computer models and that are run many times with many different start parameters. They generate families of predictions, effectively at random. Those predictions are never even close to right at a rate greater than chance.
Continue reading

Our space science Economy has assets

An artist’s depiction of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at work at the asteroid Bennu. (Image: © NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe could make a 2nd stop at infamous asteroid Apophis, at Space.com, and noted in several space related blogs, eMags. This sounds like a fantastic use of a remarkable space asset.

The Japanese asteroid prospector Hayabusa2 dropped off its samples from Ryugu at Earth and is on its way for more exploration last year: Farewell, Ryugu! Japan’s Hayabusa2 Probe Leaves Asteroid for Journey Home

These craft and others such as craft like the voyagers continue to return immensely valuable data long after their primary mission is complete. One of the things NASA and other space science organizations struggle with is supporting these ships long after the original funding timeline is past. This is a great problem to have and by and large the money is found since these are very cheap deep space projects in the big picture.

So my title, the economy of ‘outer space’ is all about data, science, prospecting right now. These are valuable assets that we need to support to provide returns orders of magnitude greater than the cost in the sense of other ways of getting that data, data that is both live affirming in its fascination and valuable as part of the bedrock of our understanding of the universe.


Book reviews…Cities, roads, history, society…

I have as always been reading a lot on a broad range of topics. Here are three very worthwhile reads that have some things in common and might give you some interesting insight into society history, cities, transportation.

Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind’s Greatest Invention Kindle Edition
by Ben Wilson

Saw this at Barnes and Nobles but bought the kindle edition. The physical book is nice but was not sure it was a real keeper. This is a good book, probably written before 2020 and Covid-19 raised questions about ‘the urban’ but I think either well thought out and thus an argument against the Anti-Urban angst right now, or edited well to address it without being too pointed.

This is an interesting read going back to pre history and even pre town/village to show that mankind was building monuments long before cities and that the typical early city surrounding religious/social centers was not an after thought but the genesis of the city. Also pointed out that when Mesopotamia was originally ‘urbanized’ it was more like Tenochtitlan, a wetland/jungle, not a desert as it is today. This actually points to a minor theme about natural climate change in this book and how it enabled then destroyed many early societies and their cities.

Dr. White works up from Uruk (probably oldest major city) through the more well known Mesopotamian city states to the coastal city states of the Mediterranean and Asia and how these cities lived and died by trade as much as by being centers of power. That usually the power came after economic power. Each city is put in its own context but that context extended to today. A city on the monsoon trade routs of the Middle Ages compared to modern Singapore. The trashing of Medieval Paris by Napoleon the II’s city planer (in the 1850’s) to build todays ‘city of lights’ is compared to the trashing of many other city centers in the name of modernity and the car.

But throughout the dynamism of the city, its inventiveness and its beating heart at the center of economic power is stressed. And above all that cities are human creations and habitats that are rebuilt and rehabilitated by the human spirits that enliven them. And despite wandering into and even making a strong case for the maleness and misogynistic tendencies of cities and the anti other tendencies Dr. White pulls back and strongly supports the case that cities are centers of diversity and new ways of living and new ways of empowering the downtrodden. While at the same time pointing out again and again that the elite urge to ‘clean up’ slums and old sections invariably destroys as much or more that is strong and beautiful as ‘helps.’ That the humans that give the city heart and power are the lower and middle classes not the elites and that elite re-planning is generally destructive of the human in the city. Again and again slums and ghettos are shown as a horror to the elites that is utterly at odds with the dynamic creativity that they hide in back alleys. Even in Mumbai and Lagos today the power of the slum is at odds with its image as presented by the largely ignorant elite.

The chapter on Warsaw in WWII is hard to read, but again and again points to the humanity of the urban core and its draw on the human soul for those it has become home to.

This book is an eye opening read and an excellent piece of work with a different view of the urban and the city. Not the least because it even deals with the suburbs and the suburban city (LA) and shows that it is in many ways just part of the continuum of development over something like ten thousand years.

I grew up in what I would call metro-suburbs of England and the Suburbs of the US and find that this book provides a much more solid base for thinking about the city than any article or techno dissection of the city vs suburbs vs rural…. Read the book, don’t miss some fascinating images and the use the author puts them to to explain times and places in some depth.

The effect of Covid-19 and the internet (one cannot be dealt with without the other) the coming impact of electric and autonomous cars and then personal air transport should be thought of AFTER you have read this book. It gives one pause and a new way to address what a city is and its draw to and repulse from the human spirit.

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe Kindle Edition
by Judith Herrin

Ravenna on the Adriatic (the sea between Italy and the start of Eastern Europe is not a city one has heard of. Rome, Venice, Pisa, these cities of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are famous but a city that was for some hundreds of years the Capital of the Western Empire is simply not mentioned in most history books. Largely because its history started when Rome fell for the first time to the invaders and the Roman capital moved to what we call Constantinople. This was the start of the dark ages as first the barbarians and then Islam destroyed the Roman Empire. But that empire took a great deal of killing and our simple view of Rome the City = Rome the Empire, reinforced by Gibbons and others is simply false.

The city was important in Roman times, a city on an estuary that was much like we might imagine Venice a few hundred years later. The romans built/dredged a large harbor next to the city and it became the main sea link from Rome to the East, Anatolia, Greece, etc.

As Rome as Rome fell Ravenna became a center of gov’t and it also became a center of Christian faith, usually linked to the Abbot of Rome but also linking to the Eastern Faith, it was often at odds with the Abbot of Rome and or the Abbot (Patriarch) of Constantinople, where the later emperors tried to control the universal (Catholic) faith and failed.

Because of its link to the Eastern Church and Greece its Churches were richly decorated with mosaics, some of the most startling survivals of a period of history little remembered in the west.

Over the period of the barabarian invasions and later Empire the Emperors in Constantinople used Ravenna as their Western center of Government from where famous generals led army after army out to defend or recapture Roman lands. But in the end the powerful warrior tribes out of Germany, etc beat down the empire and took it as their own and Italy splintered into the city states that enliven the story of the Renaissance.

This history is rich and interesting, politics, religion, sociology, art, woven together. Dr Herrin uses a lot of first sources and actual peoples words to weave the story. Photographs of the wonderful mosaics makes one want to visit this historic city. The details of this ‘missing’ period are deeply interesting and helps explain the rise of Catholicism and the split with Orthodoxy. Another great read if you are interested in the history of Rome, Europe, the Middle Ages.

The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways Kindle Edition
by Earl Swift

Earl Swift’s The Big Roads starts at the beginning, in the nineteenth century with dirt tracks and cobbled lanes of the towns, cities and rural expanses and leads through their evolution over time. It is interesting that so much of the early work was more about associations building assets for commerce and the socialization of the automobile, prior to its becoming a power in its own right. And that the bicycle had a part to play before the automobile was big.

The story of the US routes, Route 66, Route 31, Route 71 etc etc and then the genesis of the interstate system are fascinating tales of time, place and actors.

A very human story interwoven with fascinating people and lacing in stories of places and times that you had heard elsewhere but never linked into the creation of the highways and now byways across the US.

As with the books above, particularly Metropolis this book talks about the hubris of the elites and of the blinders that technical leaders can have and the damage they can do while believing they are in the right and having the best interest of the people they are displacing at heart.

A fun book with fun side stories that especially resonate with me as I grew up as the Interstate system really came into its own and the knock on effects it had became visible, mostly for good but too often at a cost to various neighborhoods and towns.