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Comment Re:Why? (Score 5, Interesting) 284 284

The economic reasons I can think of largely involve more rapid transportation between hubs all over Asia (and maybe even Europe) to hubs in North America. A trip across the Pacific from Hong Kong to Seattle can take two or more weeks, while a rail trip from Hong Kong to Seattle could be done in perhaps one week, depending on how many yard changes would be needed. (Transit times between Hong Kong and the East Coast via the Panama Canal are even longer, taking a month or more, while the additional time required to cross Canada or the US would be measured in days.) Using Google Earth and some admittedly straight lines, the distance from Hong Kong to Seattle was about 6600 miles. If a train can average even 60MPH over that, the trip would take less than five days, and even some curves and detours wouldn't extend it by much. Of course, most train traffic wouldn't originate from Hong Kong, but would instead go directly, more or less, from the other hub cities scattered across China, reducing the factory-to-destination time even further.

Rail gauges might not even need to be considered, since the US and China use the same gauge, and the tracks through Siberia could be laid as dual-gauge or even just 1435mm gauge and the Russians can start adopting that (it would make trade with Europe easier, too).

Such a bridge would have to allow a significant amount of rail traffic to cross, but the economics could work out over a very long term (many decades at least). The trillion-dollar price tag is for a network of roads and rail running from London to New York; the bridge itself would probably be in the range of $100 billion for a road and dual tracks. Amortizing that at 2% interest over 50 years gets annual costs of $3.18 billion for the loan itself.

A North Carolina Dept. of Transportation study placed the approximate cost of a 4000 SEU Panamax vessel at 80% capacity at about $1500 per TEU and a New Panamax (capacity 12,000 TEU) at 51% capacity at about $950 per TEU. Those capacities can be matched using 4.5 or 8.5 trains, respectively, of 180 wagons (the max length allowed in the US) double-stacked and able to handle four TEU each (so 720 TEU). I'm not sure about the basic economics, but I imagine that the costs for train travel are less than that. Even if they're higher per day, they would probably be lower per trip.

If the toll per TEU is about the same as it is in Panama ($72), each nearly-full train crossing would bring in about $50,000. If maintenance consumed a quarter of that and the rest went to the loan, it would require almost 85,000 annual train trips, or about 232 per day. Even at zero interest, it would require more than 53,000 annual train crossings, or about 146 per day, and all of those at around 95% capacity.

However, if the tolls were higher but the cost per TEU were lower, it might work out. At 50 trains per day, the toll would need to be about $250 per TEU (plus some amount for maintenance) to pay off the loan. That's still a lot of trains for two tracks, but it might be workable. This doesn't include any road tolls or oil/gas transit fees for lines running along the bridge, which could add a fair amount, but I'm not sure it would dent it significantly.

Another reason that I can think of, though, is to get part of North America reliant on Russian natural gas, particularly as Alaska's petroleum-derived production slows over the coming decades. That could bring an influence level that's hard to achieve any other way. Russia has a history of slowing or shutting off gas supplies to Ukraine and other places during winter when it wants leverage. I'm sure it would love to have that leverage over the US and Canada as well.

Comment Re:Mod parent up! (Score 3, Informative) 159 159

They did use non-St-36 locations. There were four groups, three of which were given the same stressors, with a fourth given no stressors and no treatment. The stressor groups received either St-36 treatment, treatment where needles were not inserted into any meridian point, or no treatment. I imagine an argument could be made for a group given treatment but not stressors.

I don't know if this provides any vindication for acupuncture (or even electroacupuncture)--something like this really needs to be repeated before I'll believe it--but the research was a little more robust than you imply.

Comment Re:45 million? Tha's all? (Score 1) 154 154

It can be easily argued that any money spent to reduce waste that results in expenditures above what the waste would cost is itself waste. If you have a $1 billion project and identify that $100 million of it is waste (whether through fraud, abuse, or inefficiency), spending money to reduce the waste only makes sense as long as the combined costs of waste and waste-reduction are equal to or less than $100 million. Anything more than that and you're just adding to the waste.

When you have a more complex situation like a federal budget, it might be argued that the money can be more effectively spent elsewhere, and that's where it can get subjective, but that doesn't stop money spent to avoid waste that costs more than the waste becoming waste.

Comment Re:Waste of Time vs Waste of Money (Score 1) 154 154

It's not a correction. It's a lie. The original article says $45 million, not billion. The total revenues for the commercial satellite industry were about $195 billion in 2013, and that includes satellite TV, photography, and communications. Even the US military isn't providing a quarter of that industry's revenue.

Comment Re:Waste of Time vs Waste of Money (Score 1) 154 154

Sometimes looking at the smaller items gives a better idea of systemic problems that contribute to larger amounts elsewhere. The procedures meant to prevent losses have gummed up the works to such a degree that an alternate path was found that, while more expensive, got the job done. It might provide some opportunity to alter how things operate and ultimately save money later. (I'm not holding my breath, but it does sometimes happen.)

This is pretty common in the military. Red tape is just an obstruction to go around.

Comment Re:45 million? Tha's all? (Score 4, Insightful) 154 154

That's just for this part of things. One of the problems with putting in mechanisms to deal with fraud, waste, and abuse--a major part of the red tape--is that it adds waste to the process. Financially, this is acceptable up to the cost of the waste it's fighting, but after that, it becomes a bigger drain and should be curtailed.

Any large system is going to have some level of fraud, waste, and abuse, and it should be dealt with to a degree. Perfection in such systems cannot be obtained, so a certain amount of loss must be tolerated. Unfortunately, that's a lesson that politicians can never publicly learn.

Comment Re:What does your union think? (Score 1) 165 165

Show floors are one of the places where union control got *WAY* out of hand. When someone paying to rent space for a booth can get into trouble--and sometimes even be fined--for emptying a trash can because of union rules, it's gone overboard. It contributes to the sky-high cost of exhibits and puts small companies at a disadvantage.

Comment Re:What does your union think? (Score 1) 165 165

It's not that unions are dead. Unions are very much alive in some places and working for everyone's betterment. Many nurses' unions fall into this.

Unions have seriously declined (they peaked at only about a third of all workers in the 1950s), but that's because protections have been built into the law to ensure that most of those things unions fought for are available to all workers.

Comment Re:Lawyer (Score 1) 165 165

He specifically says he's not looking for advice. He's asking opinions on the moral and ethical lines associated with the practice itself. Some people are going to be fine with it, others outraged. He's formed a basic opinion of things, but he's still fine-tuning it and wants to hear potential alternate viewpoints to factor in.

Morally, I have no problem with it unless the 1099 staff is being dramatically underpaid (which often happens to inexperienced people and that leads to its own inefficiencies when undertaking projects). Ethically, the state has a duty to ensure that its laws are being followed, and the contracts should state all requirements related to them. If the law requires W2 employees, an exclusion of 1099 employees, at least on a general basis, should be in the contract and be subject to auditing by the state, which should happen at least once for every contract term. Exceptions could be made for specialists brought in for short time periods, depending on the law.

Comment Re:Isn't the answer more nukes? (Score 1) 163 163

Hitler actually reduced firearm ownership restrictions starting in 1938. Jews weren't allowed to buy guns, of course, but most Germans could buy long arms and ammunition without a permit, it got much easier to get a pistol permit, and members of the Nazi Party (and some other groups) were exempted from gun control laws altogether.

The laws that Hitler used to disarm portionsthe populace were actually from the previous government, the Weimar Republic. The Nazi Party just took advantage of what was there.

"Why waste negative entropy on comments, when you could use the same entropy to create bugs instead?" -- Steve Elias