Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 30th, 2007

Good story on the Tesla Roadster

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Fully electric car, 0-60 in 4 seconds. Read and envy.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Still need a few callers

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The search for the Senator placing the secret hold is making progress, but a few Senators still are not covered. More detail here.

The only states we still need people in are Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and South Dakota. If you know someone in one of these states who may be willing to make the calls, please send them here.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

Another Quixotic choice: HK G11 Assault Rifle

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I have mentioned how much I like rational solutions, even if they prove not to be widely adopted: Esperanto, the Shaw Alphabet, the Dvorak keyboard, and others.

I forgot to include the Heckler und Koch G11 Assault Rifle (detailed description). It’s a fascinating and, in my opinion, well-designed weapon. It uses caseless ammo (no brass, just bullet and propellant) so nothing is ejected from the weapon—thus it is suitable for both left- and right-handed soldiers. Also, no brass left lying on the ground to provide information to the enemy.

It is designed to be easily learned by novice soldiers, and tests showed that it was successful in that regard. The rifle barrel is quite long, concealed within the housing. Because the caseless ammo is lighter, round for round, than traditional ammo, a soldier can carry many more rounds. Three-round bursts fire at the spectacular rate of 2000 rps, with the recoil occurring after the burst has been fired. (Three-round bursts greatly increase the hit probability.)

At any rate, I think it’s a great weapon, but (so far as I know) it has yet to be adopted.

Some other observations. From here:

The handguard and center part of the receiver were redesigned to allow a total of three 45-round magazines to be carried side by side on the rifle. This would mean for a total weight of less than ten pounds (about the same weight of an empty MI Garand rifle!), a soldier can carry 135 rounds already loaded in magazines right on the rifle. The center magazine presents rounds to the mechanism during firing and is easily and quickly exchanged with the two outside magazines during reloading.

… During German Army testing of the G11 K2 in the Fall of 1989, new draftees achieved an average of 50% more hits using the G11 over the results with the G3 rifle. The unorthodox shape and operating procedures of the G11 K2 were learned more quickly and easily by the new recruits.

… U.S. Army testing of the HK-ACR and three other industry concepts was concluded in late August 1990 at Fort Benning, Georgia. While the official results are not yet available, the performance of the HK candidate system was outstanding. There were no major parts failures experienced on any of the fifteen test weapons during the entire test period. A total of forty-six Army and Air Force shooters, both men and women, spent three weeks firing each of the four candidate weapons. The Heckler & Koch ACR was regularly praised for its semi-automatic accuracy, both for zeroing and long range (300-600m) target engagements and its ease of use.

Field stripping and maintenance times for the unique HK system was markedly less than the other candidates in the hands of the test personnel. This is due both to the fact that the unique caseless propellent leaves almost no fouling behind after firing, and that only five parts are removed by the operator during field stripping (compared to ten with the M16 rifle). The HK rifle also received high marks for reliability, ease of handling, minimal recoil in semi-automatic mode, and its high capacity (45 round) magazine. As one might expect, the troops enjoyed not having to “police” any brass after the conclusion of range firing.

And from here:

The main advantages of this system are:

  • simple design with few components
  • very short overall length of the weapon with a long barrel
  • elimination of the rearward travel of the bolt
  • shortest possible and absolutely straight cartridge feeding
  • high rates of fire due to extremely short bolt movements.

The entire mechanical part of the weapon, excluding the trigger, safety and fire selector mechanism is mounted in a floating manner within the sealed receiver. After mechanical ignition of the first cartridge and after the bullet has left the muzzle, the entire mounted part of the weapon moves to the rear and compresses the mount spring.

When firing a 3-round burst, the hammer ignites the second and third cartridge as soon as they are in firing position upon completion of the cylinder rotation. During all three rotation or firing cycles, the mounted part of the weapon moves to the rear at an increased velocity, though it transfers only minimal recoil to the shooter’s shoulder. The weapon remains steady in the aimed position; no conventional weapon can achieve these same firing results.

During sustained fire, the hammer remains cocked after the first rotation or firing cycle until the rearward motion of the mounted part of the weapon is completed and the mount spring has driven the mounted part into its forward initial position. Thus, the rate of fire is not determined by the rotation cycle of the bolt, but by the cycle of the mounted part of the weapon. Again, there is no notable recoil on the shooter’s shoulder. As mentioned above, the weapon can be easily controlled in the aiming position to track moving targets, i.e. for the first time ever aimed sustained fire is possible.

And here are videos and much more detailed photos and diagrams.

And there’s also a Wikipedia article, which includes some information on why the G11 failed to be adopted:

HK participated in the U.S. Advanced Combat Rifle Program during the 1980s and 1990s. None of the final four test entrants scored high enough to replace the M16. Some sources report that the low scores resulted from the Army’s requirement that the new rifles improve on the M16’s score by 100%, and question whether that was a realistic goal.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Military, Technology

More on Bush’s fight against testing for mad-cow disease

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From the International Herald Tribune:

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn’t have the authority to restrict it. – A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was scheduled to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal, effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge has played out.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain.

Three cases of mad cow disease have been found in the United States. The first, in December 2003 in Washington state, was in a cow that had been imported from Canada. The second, in 2005, was in a cow born in Texas. The third was confirmed last year in an Alabama cow.

The position of the Bush Administration is so wrong-headed that one doesn’t know where to begin. I suppose one starting point would be the GOP’s (obviously hollow) praise for private enterprise, competition, and freedom from government regulation…

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 11:35 am

Tony Snow lies a lot

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From Glenn Greenwald today, as an update to his column tracking how the right-wing noise machine continually stated that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, and how it’s now definitely established that she was.

In February of this year, Tony Snow chatted with Bill O’Reilly and said this (h/t Zack):

Very quickly — very quickly, you got this Valerie Plame case. Now, it turns out that [special counsel] Peter (sic: Patrick) Fitzgerald doesn’t — can’t even identify any harm. She wasn’t a covert agent. She wasn’t compromised. . . She wasn’t covert anymore.

Are there any consequences at all for the White House Press Secretary to tell outright lies like that? Does that prompt any media scandals? Why can Tony Snow say with impunity that Plame “wasn’t a covert agent” when their own CIA confirms that she was? Really, how can that be allowed?

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 11:29 am

A cri de coeur

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Again via Froomkin:

Over the weekend, Andrew J. Bacevich, a prominent anti-war historian, wrote in the wake of the death of his son in Iraq: “The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as ‘the will of the people.'”

Politicians, he wrote, listen only to money.

“Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 10:47 am

More on torture

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Via Dan Froomkin:

Andrew Sullivan blogs for the Atlantic that “the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture — ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ — is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 10:42 am

DDT and malaria

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Kevin Drum:

Is DDT a banned substance? Answer: for widespread agricultural use, which produces increased resistance in many insect populations, yes. For vector control (primarily to contain mosquito-borne malaria), no.

For the last decade or so, however, a group of right-wing “sound science” advocates has been implying that the agricultural ban on DDT is really a blanket ban and that millions of poor Africans have died as a result. Why? DDT isn’t patented and is only minimally profitable, so it’s not as if the DDT industry is bothering to push this. So who is?

Short answer: the tobacco industry. Surprise! Turns out that the DDT disinformation campaign was really an effort to discredit the World Health Organization, which was planning a major anti-smoking initiative back in 1998. Discredit WHO on malaria, and you discredit WHO on its anti-smoking activism. And all the while you get to look like you’re standing up for millions of impoversished black Africans. Neat, eh?

John Quiggin has the story. Follow the links for more.

Here’s the complete pitch on using the DDT/malaria canard to discredit the WHO.

Also, see the Wikipedia article for a good discussion of the history.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 9:05 am

Wow! A complete set of answers for climate skeptics.

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Here is a complete taxonomy of the arguments you’ll meet from climate skeptics, along with the refutation:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 8:26 am

Posted in Environment, Science

“Testing” for mad-cow disease in the US

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Kate Hopkins has a sobering post:

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad cow disease) in the United States beef industry is one of those issues that either seem to either promote outrage or indifference, depending upon the individual. I certainly fall into the former category, but not because I believe that we are at immediate risk from the disease. Rather, my outrage comes from the fact that recent testing was so badly managed, that we still don’t know whether Mad Cow is an issue here in the States, and the cattle industry (with an able assist from the Government) seems determined to keep us that way.

After the first discovery of Mad Cow in Washington State, way back in 2003, we were promised that the cattle industry would up it’s testing to determine how prevalent BSE was. The USDA started a program to test half of the nation’s 450,000 “downer” cows, or cows that could not walk.

However, there were many questions surrounding the testing procedures. Only a little over one half of one percent of the cattle population was tested, of which, none of them were of “healthy” cows. They only tested cows that showed possible symptoms. Downer cows and cows that were aggressive or agitated were tested. But BSE doesn’t make every cow show outward signs of the disease. Cattle can have the disease for months or years before showing any outward symptoms.

Oh, and testing was voluntary and not done randomly. The Agriculture Department’s inspector general found serious flaws in the testing process, and there were many questions surrounding their procedures.

And then, just like that, the USDA claimed that we didn’t have a problem with BSE and seriously reduced the scope of the testing program.

Here is the issue — If the testing was flawed, then the statistics we pulled from the testing are invalid, leaving us at the same point we were back in December of 2003 — not knowing if just how prevalent Mad Cow Disease is or is not.

And just yesterday we find out that we have the Bush Administration fighting “to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease“.

Re-read that previous paragraph and see if that makes any sense.

Why does the government wish to prevent a single meatpacking company (Creekstone Farms – see the back story here) from implementing a perfectly logical response to Mad Cow, both in terms of consumer safety as well as the free-market?

The problem with the question just asked is that there is no good answer. Every response to that question will either sound shallow and unreasoned (“Larger meat companies fear they might have to perform the expensive test” or “widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry”) or too conspiratorial (“The Cattle Industry does not want any bad press to affect the lucrative export business”).

But it’s still a question that deserves an answer. Just like the “How percentage of American cattle has BSE?” deserves an answer as well.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 8:07 am

The strange sad story of Paul Wolfowitz

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A good retrospective of his checkered career, his inability to work well with others, and his delusions regarding outcomes.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 7:58 am

YABF (Yet another Bush failure): interrogation methods

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From the NY Times:

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 7:35 am

Some history with my shave

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Continuing the shaving-stick theme, this morning I used Taylor of Old Bond Street St. James shaving stick, and another Omega Silvertip. Oddly, this brush didn’t seem to do so good a job as yesterday’s brush. Still, I got the lather I needed, and with a Feather blade in the Gillette Aristocrat TTO razor, got a fine shave. The Aristocrat really dives in: a good, aggressive shaver. It probably felt more aggressive in comparison to yesterday’s quite mild Aristocrat open-comb three-piece razor.

For the aftershave, the obvious choice: Taylor of Old Bond Street St. James aftershave.

And the promised history:

In the 1950’s Personna (GEM/Ever-Ready etc) invented the Stainless Steel Blade and marketed them for their single edge razors – they were sharper but they found though that the edge deteriorated quickly and became quite rough to shave with.

Wilkinson Sword was in the forefront with the technology to coat the edge with Platinum, Chromium, PTFE etc for a smoother shave. They held many of the patents and grabbed a considerable proportion of Gillette’s market share ever so quickly in the late 50’s early 60’s…., basically WS blades were noticeably better & so a deal was made by Gillette for them to use WS technology. All of this helped in the demise of the DE as Gillette’s patents were coming to an end and they were no longer in the controlling seat – Gillette decided to take a new direction in the early 1960’s and cartridge systems would be the end result.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2007 at 7:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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