View 743 Thursday, September 27, 2012
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
So Romney says he was joking about opening a jetplane window? Mad Magazine made a similar joke, long ago, in their parody of "Lost In Space". In the first panel the family was choking from lack of air; the robot droned, "why-don’t-you-open-a-window?" They did this, and it worked!
That joke worked for Mad because it’s a satire magazine; you read it knowing that nothing in it is meant as a factual statement. Is Romney running a satire campaign? Perhaps he should leave clowning to the professionals.
But seriously… one of the burdens of power is that the office does not permit joking. Or mistakes. Or spontaneity. All masters are slaves.
One of the privileges of power is to surround yourself with intelligent people so that if you say something that turns out to be wrong, someone will correct you. Of course there are politicians who do not choose to have intelligent people around them, and who intimidate their advisors so that they are not corrected; but the best do not operate that way. There may be people so intelligent that they never think or say anything egregiously incorrect, but I don’t know any of them. All of the competent leaders I have known – Reagan, Newt Gingrich, General Graham, Max Hunter, Possony – have expected their friends to speak up if they disagreed, and surrounded themselves with intelligent friends and advisors. As I have said often, one of the advantages of being me is that I have intelligent readers who will tell me if I say something silly, whether it was a simple mistake or due to incorrect information or just a slip of the mind.
I don’t know Romney, but having seen his accomplishments, particularly the reconstruction of the Olympic Games session, I would bet a lot that he likes to have smart people around him. As it happens I was on one of the advisory committees to Mr. Uberoff when he headed the LA 1984 Olympics (having been minorly involved in the LA bid made by Mayor Yorty). My involvement was mostly inconsequential but I was close enough to management to see just how complicated the task was, and how easy it would be to lose a lot of money without trying very hard.
As to windows on airplanes, the ventilation problem in the event of smoke in the cabin is not trivial.
For anyone interested in cabin smoke:
Many airliners still retain the option to open a window in the cockpit, at least on the ground. That’s because the pilot may have no way to exit the aircraft in the event of a fire preventing the pilot from reaching another exit. Smoke in the cockpit is one of the worst airborne emergencies for 2 reasons. First, the smoke may be so toxic that onset of neurological deficit or blood-oxygen transport problems may be only a matter of seconds. Second, the first indication of an aircraft fire or smoke/fumes in the cockpit is usually someone on board saying “hey do you smell something?”, at which point everyone around immediately takes a deep breath or two, inhaling quite a bit of whatever is in the air, delaying starting the emergency procedure procedures while everyone sits around going “I dunno it smells like a bad air filter, what do you think?”
In military aviation we try to beat these considerations into the brains of our student pilots, but over time a little complacency often sets in.
When airborne depending on the aircraft type, there may be an option to depressurize and “ram-dump” the environmental system, which opens ram air ducts to force outside air into the cockpit/cabin. I’m sure every aircraft will have variations in how this works but the basic idea that there is a switch that immediately shuts off conditioned pressurized air circulation and opens up ram-air from the outside is pretty much standard. It isn’t much different from opening a window.
I do know that my one major smoke/fume in the cockpit incident dropped my blood oxygen level to around 85% in a matter of minutes and resulted in an overnight hospital stay, from only 2 or 3 breaths of the smoke-filled air before I got on 100% oxygen.
I have limited experience with cabin smoke but the one I had went much as described: “Hey do you smell something funny?” Followed by discussion followed by “Let’s get this bird down fast!” Fortunately it was minor, although at 38,000 feet nothing involving blue smoke is really minor.
This isn’t really a mail bag, and I do have a lot of interesting mail. I’ve been subject to allergies this week, and Roberta has been gone East to see the grandkids. She’ll be home tomorrow and with luck things will go back to something like normal.
I have several messages pointing to http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/organ_ghouls_of_doom_suit_LxCZMP5uRGgI6yn3ywMN9J
It is not unexpected – indeed the point of Niven’s story was that this was inevitable – but it’s still a bit scary.
View 743 Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The Internet is abuzz with stories of how stupid Romney must be because he said something about aircraft ventilation. The occasion was a heavy smoke incident on a flight that his wife took. The Huffington Post went insane with laughter about how Romney was so stupid he wondered why you can’t just open the windows on a jet plane. Clearly he is not qualified to be President, and in fact must be so incompetent as to need a keeper. Of course the first assumption is that the Huffington Post and other media must be joking; but apparently they were not.
Next comes the ‘news’ that Romney was joking. Probably graveyard humor on hearing that his wife had been in danger but was now safe. Whether or not Romney was joking, which should have been obvious – it’s not as if he has never been aboard a jet airplane. He may even have owned one – it’s not quite so trivial a question as you might at first think. As it happens I know something about this from a long time ago.
This was once a serious topic for discussion and study. As it happens I was in the Human Factors and Reliability Group at Boeing when the 707 went commercial. Boeing’s marketing methods for the 707 were simple: the Company brought the Chief Pilots of most of the major airlines to Seattle as guests to watch the Gold Cup 90-mile unlimited hydroplane boat races from the Boeing barge on Lake Washington. The Gold cup is run in heats, with a major break between heats for mechanical overhaul, and during one of the recesses, without prior announcement, the watching crowd (and the TV audience of course) was told to Look Up! Here comes the new Boeing 707 Stratocruiser! At which point Chief Test Pilot Tex Johnston brought the Dash 90 – the flying prototype of the 707 – down the length of Lake Washington, and at about 700 feet he barrel rolls just in front of the Boeing barge. The result was that within a week every senior pilot in America was in his President’s office panting “We gotta have one!” and Boeing had about a hundred orders within a month.
Boeing began building and selling the 707. Howard Hughes came up to Boeing Field in his private Constellation, and camped out at the end of the runway (with about 17 young lady starlets and stewardesses) while negotiating the design and purchase of a fleet of them. The commercial jet age began.
But within a month of the first commercial passenger jet flight – people paid a premium price for a jet ticket, since it cut hours off cross country flight times – they had a cabin pressure loss above 40,000 feet. The passenger oxygen masks deployed, but people didn’t know how to use them. The pilots did an emergency dive to 7500 feet, then a more gradual descent, so that there was enough oxygen content and cabin pressure for breathing without oxygen masks, but the FAA gave Boeing notice that within 30 days we had to give sufficient evidence that the passenger oxygen system was safe or the 707 fleet would be grounded. Dr. Don Stuhring, the Boeing Central Medical flight surgeon, and I as a human factors engineer were given the task: come up with evidence acceptable to the aviation medicine and human factors professional community, and do it fast.
We spent the next three weeks at the University of Washington altitude chamber. Of course Boeing had a good altitude chamber – in fact a better one than the UW – but we wanted the UW people involved in the experiments including data collection so there would be no question of the accuracy of the data. We took several rides to 40,000 feet a day – actually on most I took them, with Dr. Stuhring outside to preside if there was medical need, which there never was – and flew flight profiles of emergency cabin pressure losses, rapid descent to 10,000 feet and gradual descent to 5,000, with the subjects using the emergency oxygen system while we monitored blood oxygen content, heart rate, and other data. In those days collecting physiological data from non-restrained subjects was very difficult, and I had to use a bank of analog computers to filter out electronic noise. The subjects were paid volunteers from the UW student body, faculty, and staff, and included young and old, sick and healthy. It was a heck of a month, but we got the data, it was accepted by the relevant boards, and the 707 wasn’t grounded.
We (Don Stuhring and I) also participated in discussions about ventilation. What would happen if there were smoke incidents? Obviously you can’t open the cabin to external ventilation if you’re much above 10,000 feet, but rapid descent will fix that. Deployment of the passenger oxygen system will buy you some time, but if the smoke isn’t dissipated you got problems. There was serious discussion of building in external windows operable by the cabin crew. The alternative was a pilot controlled ventilation system, which raises the question of its reliability. We had considerable confidence in the competence of the flight attendants – generally known as stewardesses – despite the public ‘coffee, tea, or milk?’ jokes about ‘stews’; and if we started looking into things that might fill the cabin with smoke most of those might also cripple a pilot compartment controlled ventilation system. I remember saying something to the effect that I had a lot more confidence that Miss Sparling here can open the window than I have in the hydraulics working after parts of it turn into blue smoke.
We’ve come a long way from those days in the 1950’s, but clearly there’s still the possibility of a smoke incident and ventilation problem. And some of us may remember that prior to jet aircraft there were manually operable windows on passenger airline craft. Didn’t George Kennedy open one of them and fire a flare in one of the sequels to “Airport”?
For those who don’t know: without a very efficient oxygen mask delivering pure oxygen, you won’t perform well, or even last long, above 30,000 feet. We learned a lot about that in World War II. With pure oxygen at positive pressure you can manage at about 43,000 feet (this is from memory, but it’s in the right range) but you’re already in need of a pressure suit.
Of course if you’re inhaling smoke at high altitudes you’re really in trouble. Efficient ventilation of aircraft at high altitudes has been the subject of considerable study, particularly for military aircraft – how do you get a Flying Fortress home if there’s smoke in the cabin and AA guns below? But I wouldn’t expect the Huffington Post columnists or editors to know much about that. Their “update” on the incident still doesn’t show much understanding, but that’s to be expected too. Which is fine; my point is that it’s a more complex subject than they think, and Mr. Romney is clearly aware of that. I doubt he knows as much about it as I do, but that’s another story. At one time Stuhring and I knew more about it than perhaps anyone did, not because I was so smart, but because I had reason to think about it. Mr. Romney has a tendency to answer questions asked of him, and to have confidence that if what he says is wrong, someone will correct him. That was true of Newt Gingrich, too, and it’s no bad trait for a President since it shows that he expects to have smart advisors who will say what they think.
The incident tells a lot about many people; perhaps more about the press than about Mr. Romney.
I’ll do a mail bag, but we have a couple of interesting references to things you may not have seen.
An interesting comment on today
The author is a retired ambulance paramedic, former broadcaster, mountain bike tour guide and commercial pilot.
50 years of the Jetsons.
I recall the first season of the Jetsons, and of course the endless replays. It really did affect our expectations of the future.
Mail 742 Saturday, September 22, 2012
I have a great deal of mail, but it is late and this short list will have to do.
Polar sea ice could set ANOTHER record this year
As the arctic icecap shrinks, the Antarctic icecap grows:
You’d think it was homeostasis or something.
Be of good cheer. Even if it is hot outside…
New E-Book: Who Turned on the Heat? The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit — El Niño-Southern Oscillation -buffy willow-
Mr. Bob Tisdale, amateur scientist and avid student of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), has recently published in an e-book results from his studies. Its currently available as a downloadable .pdf and costs a measly $8.00. Quoting his web site, "Who Turned on the Heat? weighs in at a whopping 550+ pages, about 110,000+ words. It contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 color illustrations. In pdf form, it’s about 23MB. It includes links to more than a dozen animations, which allow the reader to view ENSO processes and the interactions between variables."
Also from his web site, he states, "this book clearly illustrates and describes the following:
1. Sea surface temperature data for the past 30 years show the global oceans have warmed. There is, however, no evidence the warming was caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases in part or in whole; that is, the warming can be explained by natural ocean-atmosphere processes, primarily ENSO.
2. The global oceans have not warmed as hindcast and projected by the climate models maintained in the CMIP3 and CMIP5 archives, which were used, and are being used, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their 4th and upcoming 5thAssessment Reports; in other words, the models cannot and do not simulate the warming rates or spatial patterns of the warming of the global oceans—even after decades of modeling efforts.
3. Based on the preceding two points, the climate models in the CMIP3 and CMIP5 archives show no skill at being able to simulate how and why global surface temperatures warmed; that is, the climate models presented in the IPCC’s 4th and upcoming 5thAssessment Reports would provide little to no value as tools for projecting future climate change on global and regional levels."
The book is written for an educated layman to understand.
There is a preview of the book available here: http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/preview-of-who-turned-on-the-heat-v2.pdf
You can order the book here: http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/everything-you-every-wanted-to-know-about-el-nino-and-la-nina-2/. Once there, scroll down a page to find the actual transaction link and an explanation of the transaction process.
For those who saw the description "amateur scientist" and thought "What can Tisdale possibly know?", I refer you to the "Climate Science" blog run by Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., retired professor of meteorology, where he writes, "Bob has contributed very important information on the documentation of ocean temperature patterns and trends, and this new book is a significant new addition to the climate science discussion." Here is the link: http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/announcement-bob-tisdales-new-book-who-turned-on-the-heat-the-unsuspected-global-warming-culprit-el-nino-southern-oscillation/.
I knew Dr. Pielke nearly 20 years ago when I was obtaining my M.S. in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University. He was on the staff then. I can’t recall if I took any courses from him, but I do recall him being a cordial person as well as being well grounded and fair minded. He’s probably forgotten more meteorology than I ever learned.
I have been familiar with that hypothesis for a long time. It seems reasonable to me. I repeat, we know that there were dairy farms in Greenland in Viking times, and we also know that in that era growing seasons were longer across the entire Northern Hemisphere wherever we have records, from China to Sweden to Scotland to Naples. We also know that the Earth was much colder from the 15th to the 19th Centuries. Until climate theory accommodates those data points — Ah, well.
This is a dust ring around the star Fomalhaut, but it sure looks like something Larry dreamed up. (NASA-ESA Herschel photo)
The Coldest Journey
Perhaps the last great challenge to human endeavor on Earth. Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ expedition will attempt to transit the 2,000 mile Antarctic continent on foot. In Winter.
Let brave men everywhere be heartened by their deed.
In the state-enforced mediocrity that is today’s socialist Britain, some still aspire to the exceptional. Perhaps among the last of their kind on the Foggy Island Off The Coast Of France.
Brings to mind . . .
"What a piece of work is a man!" Shakespeare _Hamlet_
"It is the incidence of heroes that matters, not the pattern of the
zeroes." – Rufo, _Glory Road_, Robert A. Heinlein
Made for each other: liquid nitrogen and 1,500 ping-pong balls
The Brits really know how to do LN2 + warm water + 1500 ping pong balls:
View 742 Saturday, September 22, 2012
The ambassador’s journal was found in the sacked consulate in Benghazi, and it appears that days before the siege and attack on the American consulate in Benghazi Ambassador Stevens was concerned about the lack of security in the consulate. http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/tv/170856871.html?refer=y
Presumably he passed his concerns on to the State Department in Washington, which seems to have done – well, nothing. But State is angry with CNN for copying the journal before passing it on to the ambassador’s family, and for releasing part of it. Meanwhile, it is now clear that both the consulate and the socalled ‘safe’ house were under fairly accurate mortar fire. In my experience one does not become proficient at mortar operations without training and practice, and carrying the base and tube and projectiles requires some preparation; it’s not the sort of thing one carries to a demonstration. The evidence for this being a well planned attack, not some kind of reaction to a a movie trailer, is pretty overwhelming. It is also evident that our people in Tripoli knew that security was insufficient and were concerned about an attack on the 9-11 anniversary. We do not know why State and the White House did nothing about the predicted attack. Doubtless they have their reasons, and perhaps we will find them out in days to come.
The evidence mounts that Ambassador Stevens was both tortured and raped before he died.
John Dvorak has sent this to his friends:
everything wrong with computers
John C. Dvorak, KJ6LNG
No comment seems required.
A FIRE IN THE SKY
I also have
> I heard the Endeavor go through the Valley but I was not able to see
> it from here. It’s now down at LAX. In the old days I’d have been out
> at Edwards to see it take off. An era has ended.
I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who thinks that you are part of an irrelevant bygone era.
But I am not sure what I should do with it. Or indeed what it means. I make no secret of having mixed emotions about the Shuttle. The design was wrong and the design criteria included requiring the services of the large standing army of development scientists who had made Apollo possible. Had I stayed in the aerospace industry, say in Operations Research at North American Rockwell – I would doubtless have benefitted from Shuttle. And in 1980, when we were preparing the transition team papers for the incoming Reagan Administration, the Administrator of NASA came to Larry Niven’s house to plead the case for continuing Shuttle on the grounds that it might be flawed, but it was all we had. (It had not yet flown an orbital mission.)
And it was all we had for manned space flight, and it was possible that it could evolve into a truly reusable space ship. It didn’t. From the first Shuttle required operation of the Shuttle main engines at more than 100% of their design rated thrust, and that meant that after each flight they had to be reconstructed. Shuttle was a rebuildable spacecraft, but it was not reusable in the usual operational sense – refuel it and fly again. And over time we found that the Shuttle annual budget was independent of the number of flights. Shuttle ate much of the dream of manned space flight.
Worse, NASA Houston and the standing army insisted on keeping the low pressure pure oxygen space suit system rather than developing the NASA Ames higher pressure air suit. This compromised all the Shuttle EVA missions since it required pure oxygen prebreathing, meaning that the pressure in the Shuttle on missions in which an EVA was planned had to be at low pressure pure oxygen; and that in turn meant that the number of molecules of cooling ‘air’ would be low, meaning that many of the electronics in Shuttle had to be shut down until after the last EVA.
There were other flaws. And yet: Shuttle accomplished much. And she was all we had. And yes, I loved seeing her fly, and I can’t listen to ‘Fly Columbia’ without a tear. And if that doesn’t get to you, and you can hear Fire in the Sky without emotion, then – well. It’s not my place to insult my readers.
A long time ago Larry Niven pointed out to Carl Sagan that every time Carl and his people won the argument that robots would do, and we did not need a manned space program, he lost more support for space. The American people were willing to pay to send humans to space. They were not so concerned with taxing themselves to send robots and only robots. Exploring the universe has a purpose, and part of that purpose is to find new resources, and new habitats, for humanity. As Tsiolkovsky said long ago, the Earth is too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. And as I said long ago in A Step Farther Out http://www.amazon.com/Step-Farther-Out-Jerry-Pournelle/dp/0441785832 90% of the resources easily available to the human race are not on the Earth at all. Even inefficient space exploration has a high potential payoff.
It may be that I am part of an irrelevant and bygone era, but if so, then so are you all. Arthur Clarke said it well: if the human race is to survive, than for most of its history the word ‘ship’ will mean ‘space ship.’ If we do not go to space, all of humanity will one day be part of an irrelevant and bygone era.
View 742 Friday, September 21, 2012
IMPORTANT SECURITY ANNOUNCEMENT: UPDATE your Windows 7 OS now.
Close Explorer and manually update Windows and restart. It will take about ten minutes. Do it now. More below.
The Middle East continues to burn, and America continues to apologize for supporting free speech. One suspects the next move will be to redefine hate crimes to include any graphic depiction of Mohammed, and any publication about him that is less than fulsome praise. Next will come a purge of many history books. So it goes.
On the limits of Chinese languages:
In a previous entry http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9642) I mentioned Sprague de Camp’s observation that the structure of the classical Chinese language limited it to fewer than 14,000 words, which would have severe limits on scientific development; idly speculated that the Whorfian Hypothesis, once important in American anthropology of the Boaz-Mead school, would have generated some conclusions from this but I hadn’t heard it applied to Chinese, and even more idly wondered if this had any influence over Mao’s decision to implement the Great Cultural Revolution.
Last night’s mail http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9713) had a number of reader comments on how modern China is dealing with the linguistic limitations of the language (one symbol per word, not phonetic; only 412 possible syllables meaning that with tones a total of under 1300 vocables; and an ideographic language in which the written symbols did not correspond to the sounded words. As De Camp said, this places heavy limits on science development. Today I have
Spoke to [my daughters’] Chinese teacher last night. When new concepts arise, they tend to use phonetic equivalents of the actual word or Chinese phonetic equivalents if Chinese root words exist. So when you do end up with a new set of symbols, for example the symbols for Google, they phonetically sound like google, but the symbols have nothing to do with the meaning. She also agreed Chinese are very rooted in tradition and change slowly if at all.
which is no surprise.
This implies the widespread use of phonetic writing, which is a fundamental change in the very character of the Chinese language. Phonetic languages can be learned by nearly anyone by the end of the equivalent of first grade, after which the reading vocabulary and the speaking vocabulary are essentially the same, while words never heard before can still be read. Ideographic languages can be learned only after years of intensive study. I can recall that in 1950 almost all of the children of the black tenant farmers I knew when growing up could read, but when I got to Japan many of the adult male workers on the US base where I went to school were illiterate in Japanese. I could read from the phrase book and be understood (doubtless I had a terrible accent, but they were too polite to visibly notice), but showing them the phrase printed in Japanese was futile.
Japan at that time had both ideographic and phonetic (syllabic) character sets, and also used “romanji”, which in 1950 used what amounted to standard American English characters to spell out Japanese words (our phrase book showed both, kana characters which of course I couldn’t read as well as the same phrase in romanji which I could). I was young enough and so preoccupied with my Army training that I didn’t keep a proper journal of my experiences at the time. That’s a pity because it was a unique opportunity to observe the complete transition of a culture from a technically proficient ‘modernized’ Imperialism to something else – and at the same time there was a transition in linguistics and literacy. Alas, all I have is some memories from Japan, and of course my experience with China is confined essentially to what I have read.
It did seem to me that up into the 60’s, when I did have some responsibilities in assessing Chinese and Japanese political developments, that there were some fundamental cultural differences, and I wondered at the time if the ideographic Chinese language (which severely limited literacy) had much effect on that; but the Cultural Revolution happened about the time I got into another line of work, and it is pretty clear that whatever Mao did, it had a profound effect on China.
We’re still seeing some of the results of that. Much of what my generation studied about Chinese culture and history was greatly changed by that, and I confess I haven’t kept up; Some years ago, after the Cultural Revolution was done, I was approached by a Peking University professor about two years older than me – we had both been in Korea, obviously on different sides – about spending a year teaching as a visiting professor. I’d been warned by colleagues that this wouldn’t be easy; they expected hard work. It seemed like a great opportunity, and I was seriously considering it, but the discussions were interrupted by the Tiananmen Square events and were never renewed (and I didn’t pursue any renewal). At the time I thought I had some understanding of Chinese history and culture, but it was clear then that things were changing rapidly.
Sprague’s linguistic observation triggered an old curiosity, which resulted in this discussion. I’m not sure there are any conclusions, but it has generated a few interesting questions. I would gather that literacy in Chine is rising rapidly, which would indicate that the conversion from an ideographic to a phonetic language has been effective. Interestingly, the United States, and particularly California, attempted the opposite: the conversion of English from a phonetic language to “look-say” or “whole word” which is to say ideographic, sparking a wave of illiteracy. (In 1950, the number of illiterate conscripts was below 10%, and of those the vast majority had never been to school through 4th grade; the notion of an adult with an 8th grade education was absurd).
The US education establishment’s war against phonics was vigorous and has had long term effects. One of those effects has been a complacency about low literacy rates. Actual literacy rates have been hard to establish because of the concept of “reading at grade level”, which is nonsense: with a phonetic language you can either read or you can’t. My wife’s literacy program The Literacy Connection http://www.readingtlc.com/ (note that she didn’t trademark the name, alas, and others are using it now) works: in about 70 lessons of less than an hour each, students learn to read, and by read I mean read essentially any English word including “big words” like Constantinople and Timbuktu as well as polyethylene and dimorphictrinitrotoluene. They won’t necessarily know what the words mean – indeed some ‘words’ won’t have a meaning and thus aren’t ‘real’ words – but they can read them. The effect is that the speaking vocabulary is the reading vocabulary, and the notion of ‘reading at grade level’ is abolished. (Some Google links lead to an older home page touting a Mac version: her program works with all versions of Windows. She still sells it and it still works. Her web site isn’t well maintained.)
‘Reading at grade level’ actually means that a child is learning to read ideographs and has made some progress at it; but that’s disastrous, and is why there are so many illiterates in countries with ideographic languages. In the United States a number of those who ‘read at grade level’ are in fact illiterate. The tenure system in both the schools and the Colleges of Education have tended to conceal this, and thus some Education Departments continue to turn out teachers who simply don’t have any notion of how to teach reading. Worse, some are ‘expert’ who are fundamentally opposed to teaching phonics and to this day insist on ‘whole word’ nonsense. All this is based on the obvious fact that most people who read do not ‘sound out’ words: they see the word and they read it. You and I do it that way. But we didn’t always do it, and if we encounter binitrotoluene and polytrinitrotoluene we can at least pronounce the words and wonder if they are nonsense.
Enough. But illiteracy has been a big problem for China and it is one that they appear to be solving. It has become a large problem for the US, and the trends are ambiguous, with many public schools continuing to have illiterate children reach middle and high school. Most of those drop out, of course. I suspect that Chinese illiteracy will vanish. It is not so clear that American illiteracy will follow the same course.
Any reader who wonders if his child can read should abandon the notion of ‘grade level’ and ask the child to read a normal book aloud. English is about 90% phonetic and the most common exceptions are quickly learned. Though the rough cough plough me through is a good example of a lot of the exceptions.
And I am out of time. Roberta’s program is old, hokey, is essentially a DOS program with DOS level illustrations, but it runs on any machine that runs Windows Explorer, and it has enough self rewards in it that it works. You can find more about it at http://www.readingtlc.com/ . One of the major problems with US schools is that some of them – perhaps many of them – don’t really know how to teach children to read, and many will accept ‘reading at grade level’ for first and second graders. In fact by the end of second grade (and for most by the end of first grade) children should be able to read Transylvania, Salafist, Wahabbi, Wittenberg, resurgence, fundamentalism, and other such words encountered in a typical Wall Street Journal editorial. They probably will not understand what they are reading, but that can produce surprises. One thing is certain, although they can read a word they don’t understand, they won’t understand a word they can’t read.
Many children do learn to read phonetic languages no matter what method is used to teach them, or without any instruction at all. The classic story of that was Macaulay whose father read from the Book of Common Prayer to the assembled family and servants each evening. He laid the book on a table and followed the text with his finger as he read. Five year old Thomas stood on the other side of the table, and soon was able to read, but at first could do so only upside down.
It is better to have systematic instruction with some attention paid to the exceptions. Mrs. Pournelle’s The Literacy Connection does that. Doubtless there are more modern looking programs that do so as well, but we know hers works. http://www.readingtlc.com/
I heard the Endeavor go through the Valley but I was not able to see it from here. It’s now down at LAX. In the old days I’d have been out at Edwards to see it take off. An era has ended. We can hope that it is being renewed.
Windows Update: there is a zero day Internet Explorer attack that has gone wild. Open Windows Explorer, go to Windows Update, tell Windows Update to search for updates, and install the urgent update you will then get.
Do this NOW. The IE vulnerability is apparently loose, and the update released by Microsoft is needed for all computers. Don’t join the Zombie Army. Go do this now.
From our security expert:
Dr. Pournelle: for consideration for the next mail/view:
Important computer security updates should be applied to all computers. There are Internet Explorer updates (all versions), Operating System updates, and application updates (Adobe, Java, and more.
Many of these updates are critical to protecting your computer and data (pictures, files, personal data), so should not be ignored.
My best advice:
1) Set up Windows Update to update automatically. Then check your Windows Update status at least monthly to apply any optional updates. Recommended.
2) Make sure your application programs are kept current. The best (and free) tool for this is Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector. It will check all of your programs and install updates. Available at http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/ . I have used this for over a year, and install it on all of my family computers. Recommended.
3) Make sure your anti-virus program is current. Do a full scan monthly. If your anti-virus program has expired, a good alternative is Microsoft Security Essentials (free). Go to http://microsoft.com/protect (there’s also some good info about computer and family security, including videos). Recommended.
4) Be careful about what you open (email, email attachments, etc). If it is not from somebody you know, or is not expected, then be wary. Even email that purports to be from major companies can be dangerous, like an email from "Amazon" telling you that your order is ready, and click on a link to see the details. If you didn’t order something, be wary. Recommended.
5) Be careful about the sites you visit, and any breathless ‘pop-up’ warnings ("You have a virus!"). Double-check before clicking on links in popups. Recommended.
Regards, Rick Hellewell (Security Dweeb and Web Guy)
Mail 742 Thursday, September 20, 2012
I can’t believe you haven’t commented on this. I had read about this concept before, but was completely bummed out by the energy requirements – with the realization that it might be possible to reduce them.
I remember when I was a teenager, and the internet was "National Geographic." I used to pore over every delivery to my dad’s house. I especially loved the space issues. There was one on the expansion of the universe, that as a 15 year old didn’t make sense – the way they described the expansion of the universe exceeded the speed of light! I wrote a letter, and got back a very nice explanation from the author of the magazine article, who explained that space itself was expanding faster than light, and that was allowed under Einstein’s theory. It wasn’t until I took relativistic physics in college that I understood the concept fully.
Of course, I went on to do plain jane engineering, fully resigned to the concept that interstellar travel was for kids. Yeah, when I first heard about it, the Alcubierre warp drive seemed cool, but it was something that I would never see.
But now I am actually excited. Now this is something they should be putting money into. To hell with the God particle. Make this happen and set us all free!
Reading it made me feel sixteen again…
All the best to you and yours,
I have been waiting for more information. Yes, it’s exciting. But then I have always thought that there was a way around that absolute speed limit. Thinking doesn’t make something so, of course.
link from realclearscience.com
Warp Drive May Be Possible, Scientists Say <http://www.space.com/17628-warp-drive-possible-interstellar-spaceflight.html> – Clara Moskowitz, Space.com
Gamma quadrant here we come.
Michael Montgomery, MD
We can hope so.
" concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre; however, subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy.
Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially bringing the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.
But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.
Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.
"The findings I presented today change it from impractical to plausible and worth further investigation," White told SPACE.com. "The additional energy reduction realized by oscillating the bubble intensity is an interesting conjecture that we will enjoy looking at in the lab."
White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive <http://www.space.com/9882-warp-drives-wormholes.html> in their laboratory.
They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps.
"We’re trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million," White said.
He called the project a "humble experiment" compared to what would be needed for a real warp drive, but said it represents a promising first step."
Here’s hoping it isn’t a hoax. Perhaps we will go to the stars with an Alcubierre drive instead of an Alderson drive? Whichever, they both work for me .
Jerry, the last I’d heard, they were thinking that warping space would require several solar masses’ worth of energy to warp space to any appreciable extent, but it seems they think there might be a loophole?
I can find little hard data or much about the people who believe in this. I hope they’re right of course.
‘Arav’s theory is the first such claim that excarnation was practiced in the Holy Land in that era.’
Needless to say, the Chinese would dispute any claims they were behind in science in the Classical era. Anyway there have been many periods in which civilizations have fallen behind and then retaken the lead. These periods seem to me to have little to do with essential linguistic or cultural qualities and are more often contingent on historical events. Need one mention the European dark ages, or the Arab and Persian renaissance during the same period in which Byzantine advances came to a halt while the Irish were the leading custodians of learning in the West? The rise and fall of Athens and then Alexandria as centers of learning seems likewise to be based not so much on language as on accidents of history.
Also you quoted De Camp to say the "classical form of the language" which is not actually the one that is written or spoken anymore. Needless to say Chinese has an enormous number of multi-character words that are not mere adoptions of foreign terms. For many clusters of words with similar denotations, you will find there are a group of related terms which often share a particular character; that might perhaps have been the single character word from the classical literary form of the language, but in actual usage, the multi-character words are used to avoid ambiguity.
I don’t think that attempts to relate linguistic forms to ethos or history are very effective as a rule. You might as well say that Japanese favors what we would call "passive" constructions and that explains their historical pacifism — not.
For most of the history of China as we know it, language scholarship took up a large part of the scholar’s education. The civil service exams were based largely on linguistic abilities. I wopuld be astonished if the comparative lack of words in the language did not have an effect on culture. I have no idea how much.
The Chinese have adopted a lot of Western words, and they increasingly use online shorthand symbology.
Also note that classical written Mandarin is on the decline in favor of simplified Chinese <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_chinese>. In fact, the only place you can really go these days to learn reading and writing in classical Mandarin is Taiwan.
Which, of course, has been true since the Great Cultural Revolution. Japan greatly expanded the number of words gthat could be written in the phonetic (syllabic) character set. I don’t know what China did about that. Compound words in spoken language is much easier than making compound words in a an ideographic language, and of course learning to read ideographs is much harder and more time consuming than learning to read a phonetic language.
What do we mean by energy independence anyway?
Jerry you write:
"In particular it is far better to invest in developing American resources than to fight wars overseas; it is better to invest in developing North American resources than to fight wars overseas. We are a maritime nation and we need a Navy, but we must not be dependent on overseas commerce for survival. Once again, it is better to invest in resources close at hand an under our control than to engage in foreign interventions."
What is our concern about Middle-Eastern oil? Are we expecting that oil producing nations there will stop selling it to someone in the industrialized world, thereby cutting off their supply of cash to buy laptops and drill bits? If for some reason this oil does become unavailable, the price on the world market will go up, and US oil users will pay more, whether or not their oil comes from the United States.
Suppose the US does manage to develop enough energy resources that can meet the entire demand with domestic sources, are we saying that the US would not allow the businesses that extract it to sell to foreign buyers (I believe Bill O’Reilly has suggested something similar)?
I’m not familiar with defense procurement, but is the US really able to build all of its high-tech military hardware without purchasing some materials and components over seas?
Presumably one tries to insulate against this as much as possible by maintaining stockpiles of critical materials sufficient for military purposes, and by not selling part of the stockpile at times of high prices to assuage voter frustration.
I would guess that foreign oil doesn’t represent as much of a security threat as the possibility of foreign powers introducing trap-doors into high-end semi-conductors used in weapon and communication systems. Perhaps the US should subsidize domestic semi-conductor fabs.
What I mean by energy independence is that we don’t have to send the Marine to protect the energy sources, and we don’t have to maintain very large armed forces to assure our energy supply.
The first news story I read today made me laugh pretty hard:
Old Glory strikes back.
In an apparent case of red, white and blue revenge, a Pakistani protester died yesterday after inhaling smoke from a burning American flag during an anti-US rally.
We can only hope this has some wheels turning over at CIA. =)
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Regarding your View at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=9602
I don’t disagree that we should be as independent as possible on energy production and strategic manufacturing (including all military electronics, but as the commercial shops moves overseas so did most military electronics and other critical manufacturing, much to our present regret). As far as commercial electronics, I don’t care where they’re made except I would prefer the jobs here, and I note that a lot more of them would be here if we had the regulatory environment that the Founders envisioned (no income taxes, no concept of environmental regulation, and most federal income from import duties and excises). No onerous environmental regulation (which is not the same as NO environmental regulation, but we should have tread very carefully after the rivers stopped burning; and it’s ludicrous to limit coal power plants to less than 50 tons per year of mercury emissions nationwide while mandating mercury-containing compact fluorescents in the home – though the Sierra Club says that’s a net decrease of mercury emission into the environment (http://sierraclub.typepad.com/mrgreen/2011/07/mercury-in-fluorescent-bulbs-how-much-and-how-to-clean-up.html) it concentrates the released mercury in the home.
However, I don’t think it’s possible to disengage from the world, or even the Middle East, that thoroughly these days.
Consider Israel. One could argue (I note, but do not make, this argument), with 20/20 hindsight, that the US and Britain supporting the reformation of Israel in 1948 was a mistake. However, NOT supporting Israel, breaking those promises, is tantamount to abandoning her people to a repeat of the Holocaust. This time, our souls would be just as tainted by that failure as the Nazi’s were. And even if we were to stop using Middle Eastern oil – and abandon Israel – it would not be sufficient to appease the resurgent Islamofascists (amusingly, my spell checker wanted to spell that sadomasochists). In particular, I believe that leaving a resurgent Taliban in power in Afghanistan, independently of all other considerations (and there are many) just means that we’re going to have another domestic 9/11 in a a few years. Abandoning Israel would also not leave us immune to the Iranian bomb. (And yes, I believe that we need domestic missile defense protection on a scale not heretofore envisioned, and absolute border control and inspection to stoop surface entry of WMDs. Full disclosure, I’ve devoted most of my career to those two objectives).
There are two likely consequences of a broad pullback from the Middle East – a resurgent Caliphate, or a Middle East firmly under control of China and supplying them with oil under near slave labor conditions. Neither consequence would be beneficial to the US in the long term.
We did not need to stay for years in order to avoid leaving the Taliban in charge. They were out in weeks after we enabled the Northern Alliance. Then we decided to make a centralized state out of tribal Afghanistan and to let the Mayor of Kabul’s writ run through the high country and the passes. This would not be cheaply done. In fact it was not done at all.
As to energy independence I will continue to assert that if the $Trillion or more poured into the Iraqi sands and the Afghan mountains had been spent on development of US resources including building nuclear power plants, we probably could have afforded the wars. Or if we had simply taken the Iraqi oil we might have been able to afford Afghanistan. But we are not good at empire.
Incompetent Empire is not a good foreign policy. Nation building in Pakistan and Iraq and Afghanistan is expensive at best and requires more skills and stamina than we are likely to have.
It is hard to see what we have gained from those long and expensive wars. It is not hard to see what we might have gained from a national TVA project.
Out of the Balkans
I don’t think America has so much successfully got out of the Balkans as that there is no shooting currently going on there.
Camp Bondsteel, with facilities for 7,000, is a sizable military base in Kosovo, a territory to which Yugoslavia still has nearly as good a claim as the US has to the Alamo. Bosnia remains not so much a state as a genocidal war frozen in place, requiring endless western subsidy, at least for the Moslem zone.
Basically it all depends on the Serbs not being prone to the sort of loony attacks the Arabs engage in (or indeed that happened there in 1914).
And behind the Serbs are the Pan-Slavic Russians. We had no business in the Balkans and we still have no reason to have troops there. It is involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. There is no gain in it for the people of the United States.
NASA study: The Economic Impacts of the U.S. Space Program
Turns out it was a good investment. I worry about anyone who is surprised by this fact.
No surprises there
Saw this and thought of "Oath of Fealty"
Thought you might find this interesting:
Bruce F. Webster
“The entire arsenal was built with less computational power than what’s inside an iPhone.”
"Animial" may not be exactly accurate, but still very interesting.
Survive in space indeed…
Subj: Time to re-read James Burnham’s _Suicide of the West_, alas!
>>Burnham’s thesis is straightforward. "Liberalism," he writes, "is the
>>ideology of western suicide. When once this initial and final sentence
>>is understood, everything about liberalism-the beliefs, emotions and
>>values associated with it, the nature of its enchantment, its
>>practical record, its future-falls into place. Implicitly, all of this
>>book is merely an amplification of this sentence." That is not to say,
>>Burnham adds, that liberalism is "’the cause’" of the contraction and
>>probable death of Western civilization. ("The cause or causes have
>>something to do, I think, with the decay of religion and with an
>>excess of material luxury; and, I suppose, with getting tired, and
>>worn out, as all things temporal do.") Rather, "liberalism has come to
>>be the typical verbal systematization of the process of Western
>>contraction and withdrawal; liberalism motivates and justifies the
>>contraction, and reconciles us to it." Liberalism’s hold, furthermore,
>>on public opinion and policy makes it ext
remely difficult for the Western nations to invent-and even to imagine-a strategy equal to the challenge to its existence by which the West is presently confronted.<<
I also remember Burnham describing liberalism as functioning as an _anesthetic_, desensitizing the West to the pain of its decline and eventual demise.
It is no secret that I have long been a Burnham fan.
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.
Gingrich: ‘It is inconceivable that there just happened to be attacks in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11.’
Which is to state the obvious. In Libya they brought crew served weapons to a demonstration
US consulate in Benghazi ‘did not have enough security’
"But sources have told the BBC that on the advice of a US diplomatic regional security officer, the mission in Benghazi was not given the full contract despite lobbying by private contractors."
At best, criminal negligence. The British decided the city was too hot for a consulate and pulled their out months ago, there have been attacks since. The country was recently in civil war. The region supplies many jihadis to the war against the forces of civilization.
Frankly, I’d have planned on evacuating the personnel to the actual Embassy for the whole calendar week of 9/11 and most other holidays with patriotic or religious significance.
Rioting and demonstrations extend from Morocco to Bangledesh, including London. Best case, the other targets are alert enough that the attacks which are likely ready now get cancelled or delayed until after the main body of useful idiots get bored again.
Economy in trouble
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
I was recently in the Rockville Barnes & Noble and saw a great crowd of people on the second floor surrounding a guy with glasses at a desk. I snapped a blackberry photo of it.
I asked if it was a book signing. I was told that, no, these were job interviews. All of these people — some 20 or 30 by my count — are here for one purpose: to get a minimum wage job as a bookstore clerk.
The person I spoke to pointed at the first floor of the bookstore.
He said it had been like this all day. Few shoppers, but lots of people desperate for a minimum wage job.
The economy is in real trouble and needs fixing. Unfortunately, it is looking increasingly as if, barring an unforeseen miracle, we will have to do so in spite of the administration and not look for any help from the government.
Comment is not really needed.
Was Pournelle prescient? – ProfessorBainbridge.com
This is precisely why the US was founded as a Republic and should have remained a Republic.
Most of Obama’s constituents are precisely the people who never should have been allowed to vote.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.
View 742 Thursday, September 20, 2012
The story of the terror attack on our Consulate in Benghazi continues. The President continues to refer to the silly video although it is now clear that it had nothing to do with the planned attack other than some fortuitous cover story. The attack employed heavy weapons and was clearly planned long in advance; the date September 11 was of course significant. It is still known why there was essentially no security provided for the Ambassador or why he was sent unprotected to an undefended consulate in an area considered volatile and dangerous. Clearly there was a significant failure of the intelligence community, but whether that was at the information interpretation level is another matter. Intelligence communities did not make the decision to send the Ambassador to an undefended compound. There may be an intelligence fault in protecting the existence and location of the ‘safe’ house where the Ambassador was killed, but the very fact that the consulate was so vulnerable that a ‘safe’ house was needed is probably significant.
It is not clear what the United States policy on the Middle East is, or has been since the President’s Cairo speech.
I am no Middle East expert, but I will continue to defend the general principle that American interests are better protected by expenditures on our Navy and on the development of domestic energy resources, than on military operations in that area. As to the Benghazi operation, had we had a helicopter assault vessel – even an elderly Iwo Jima class such as the Tripoli – in the region the outcome might have been different; and the need for some kind of mobile security intervention force in Benghazi was completely predicable and in fact was predicted.
And the story continues to develop.
I can recommend Holman Jenkins Wall Street Journal article “How 1950’s Eyes Would See the Election” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443816804578004370724409206.html I do not accept his conclusion that entitlement reform is extremely unlikely, but he makes this point:
To cut to the chase, tax reform is the only serious reform we’d hold out hope for today. Entitlement reform, for a lot of reasons, is a political mirage in consensus America. But tax reform can still go a long way to restarting growth, righting the fiscal ship and preparing young people to save for their own old age and health care.
A corollary to consensus theory is an element of chaotic unpredictability in our politics, as parties and leaders, in maneuvering around the center, raid each other’s voters, steal each other’s clothes, pre-empt each other’s winning ideas.
Does that make tax reform more likely under Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama? Literally, it may be impossible to say from current rhetoric and the alignment of political interests.
That leaves only the character of the candidates themselves—Mr. Romney, who delivers transactions, and Mr. Obama, who delivers speeches. Hmm . . .
His conclusion is that the election is important because one of the candidates is more likely to do what he has said he would do than is the other. Reminds me a bit of Newt’s Contract with America.
Yesterday I commented on Thomas Sowell’s essay on tax cuts and the “trickle down” theory so beloved by derivative economists. As Sowell noted, there is no such theory; there is a caricature of a theory, coupled with a deliberate distortion of the reasoning of Treasury Secretary Mellon, that somehow became accepted as an economic theory although no one can find any trace of anyone who actually presented or believed it. Sowell’s essay presents an interesting critique of the “peer review” process that tends to govern modern intellectual life. That was not the ostensible purpose of his economic essay on taxes and revenues, but it may be more important than his original purpose. We find ourselves in a world in which a caricature of a theory is presented in major economics textbooks as if it were real and actually held by someone; it is then criticized as if the refutation of this straw man were a valid intellectual exercise.
This goes on in intellectual disciplines other than economics, and is one of the major threats to the rule of rational thought.
Sowell’s essay may be found at http://www.tsowell.com/images/Hoover%20Proof.pdf Recommended.
View 742 Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A BELATED HAPPY TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY. Aaarrr! I be slow today me hearties.
My military science fiction stories, particularly the CoDominium series, postulated among other advances of the 21sr Century the routine use of “regeneration stimulation”. I was pretty careful not so be specific with details on how it might work.
Yesterday Roberta noted a report in a local newspaper of what amounts to regeneration stimulation therapy in the real world.
Human Muscle, Regrown on Animal Scaffolding
It is still an experimental technique, but then I remember the first heart transplant…
I was rereading L. Sprague de Camp’s Ancient Engineers (1960), and came across
“Although China has sometimes led the world in technology, she has usually lagged in pure science. One reason is that the two leading Chinese schools of philosophy have been anti-scientific.”
He names Confucianism of the 6th Century BC, and Taoism whose founder Lau-dz was a contemporary of Kung-Fu-dz known better as Confucius. This is doubtless important, and perhaps that realization was one inspiration for Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution: the emperor Qin Shi Huang (Tsin Shi Hwang-di in the older transliteration used by de Camp) caused a general burning of books and the banning of much of what was up to then revered scholarship. Qin Shi also built the Great Wall. All very interesting and I remember thinking of it at the time of the Great Cultural Revolution but alas I didn’t carry that thought far enough. On reflection the similarities ought to have been obvious.
Then de Camp says:
“Another handicap to science in China was the nature of the language. This tongue is very odd indeed. The classical or literary form of the language is made up of comparatively few sounds, and these may be combined in only a limited number of ways. Only 412 syllables are possible.
“Moreover, another rule of the language was: One syllable per word. This meant an absurdly small vocabulary. The use of different tones to distinguish words otherwise identical in sound enlarges the list [of] possible vocables to 1,280, but this is still a ridiculously small number for a civilized tongue.
“As a result, any one syllable may have scores of meanings. To distinguish these meanings, the Chinese use a system of compounding. It is somewhat as if we had only the one word ‘cat’ for all the members of the cat family and had to distinguish the lion, tiger, cheetah, and pussycat as king-cat, stripe-cat, dog-cat, and house-cat. All languages do this to some extent, but none to the degree that Chinese does. In the spoken language such compounds are tending to become permanent, forming polysyllabic words; but this is not so in the literary form. The language is therefore ill-adapted to scientific thought, which needs a large vocabulary capable of absolute distinctions.”
I must have read right past that in my previous readings of The Ancient Engineers, but for some reason this time it took root as a small worm of an idea. How do the modern Chinese get around these linguistic limits?
The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. And these figures don’t take account of entries with senses for different word classes (such as noun and adjective).
When I was in graduate school in psychology one of the things we were expected to know was The Whorfian Hypothesis, which postulated some links between culture and language. It was not particularly popular in the University of Washington psychology department, and we didn’t have to know much about it, although there was a question concerning the Whorfian Hypothesis on the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The primary adherents of the Whorfian Hypothesis were anthropology students, particularly those who followed the American anthropologist Franz Boas and his student Margaret Mead, who was considered to be the most influential anthropologist in the world. I don’t recall anything she wrote about the Great Cultural Revolution in China, and a quick search doesn’t show me anything.
Anyway, I have been wondering how the Chinese have solved the problem of their linguistic limits in developing science and engineering, and idly wondering if Mao’s Cultural Revolution had anything to do with them. Friends more acquainted with Chinese than I am tell me that Sprague is correct regarding classical Chinese. They also note that a great many Chinese have been educated in science and medicine in the United States and thus would be familiar with English.
I’ve even wondered idly if Mao had read Sprague’s book and gave it some thought before he began his 1966 Great Cultural Revolution, but that’s probably silly.
The Chinese have adopted a lot of Western words, and they increasingly use online shorthand symbology.
Also note that classical written Mandarin is on the decline in favor of simplified Chinese <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_chinese>. In fact, the only place you can really go these days to learn reading and writing in classical Mandarin is Taiwan.
I have been reading a recent Hoover Institution essay by Thomas Sowell on “trickle-down” economic theories. Sowell says there is no such theory and there never has been: it is a catch-phrase used by political writers, and a caricature of supply side economics. In a footnote Sowell says
Some years ago, in my syndicated column, I challenged anyone to name any economist, of any school of thought, who had actually advocated a “trickle down” theory. No one quoted any economist, politician or person in any other walk of life who had ever advocated such a theory, even though many readers named someone who claimed that someone else had advocated it, without being able to quote anything actually said by that someone else.
[All quotes are from Thomas Sowell, “Trickle Down Theory and Tax Cuts for the Rich”, Stanford University Press, 2012]
I have to get to work on something else, but I was wondering if anyone who reads here has ever found a genuine reference to a ‘trickle down theory’ other than attacks on what appears to be a non-existent theory advocated by no one but imputed to political opponents?
According to Sowell, the attacks on ‘trickle down’ theory have come whenever cuts on income tax rates have been proposed, beginning with the Mellon tax cuts of the 1920’s, but brought out ever since. The argument for tax rate cuts wase that they would produce increased revenue, thus giving the government more money to spend.
It was an argument that would be made
at various times over the years by others— and repeatedly evaded by
attacks on a “trickle-down” theory found only in the rhetoric of opponents.
What actually followed the cuts in tax rates in the 1920s were rising
output, rising employment to produce that output, rising incomes as a
result and rising tax revenues for the government because of the
rising incomes, even though the tax rates had been lowered. Another
consequence was that people in higher income brackets not only paid a
larger total amount of taxes, but a higher percentage of all taxes, after
what have been called “tax cuts for the rich.” There were somewhat
similar results in later years after high tax rates were cut during the John
F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.9 After
the 1920s tax cuts, it was not simply that investors’ incomes rose but that
this was now taxable income, since the lower tax rates made it profitable
for investors to get higher returns by investing outside of tax shelters.
As it happens I had some experience with the Reagan tax cuts, and it is easily ascertained that US revenues went up. Some attributed this to economic activities brought on by Mr. Reagan’s defense spending, but I do not believe that was ever well established.
As an aside, I have one disagreement with the way taxes are collected now: I would in fact raise taxes on the poor, in particular on those who pay nothing. I understand you can’t get blood out of a stone, but you can give them the money and tax it away again. The point is that everyone ought to pay some tax if only to raise awareness of how the government gets money. There is no magical government stash. Consider this a cocktail party theory, not something I am willing to defend against all comers with well thought out arguments.
The heart of Sowell’s essay is:
Repeatedly, over the years, the arguments of the proponents and
opponents of tax rate reductions have been arguments about two
fundamentally different things. Proponents of tax rate cuts base their
arguments on anticipated changes in behavior by investors in response
to reduced income tax rates. Opponents of tax cuts attribute to the
proponents a desire to see higher income taxpayers have more after-tax
income, so that their prosperity will somehow “trickle down” to others,
which opponents of tax cuts deny will happen. One side is talking about
behavioral changes that can change the total output of the economy, while
the other side is talking about changing the direction of existing after-tax
income flows among people of differing income levels at existing levels
of output. These have been arguments about very different things, and
the two arguments have largely gone past each other untouched.
I don’t seem to have a pointer to the essay itself. Doubtless someone will provide it.
And we have
I think that’s what you were quoting from
Thanks. I suspect I can find out anything from one or another of my readers. But then that was true back in BIX days. took a little longer but no less reliable.
View 742 Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I first heard of this when I got a breathlessly worded note from a liberal friend:
Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters | Mother Jones
You are the one who called them "the stupid party". I am now forced to agree. How could they think this wouldn’t get out?
Mildly curious, I followed the link to find that the Awful Truth was that Romney had said
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
It seemed to me a bit pessimistic, but given the context – a fund raiser with an audience that certainly didn’t include anyone who doesn’t pay income tax – it wasn’t particularly sensational to me. Why shouldn’t it “get out”? I can hope it’s not a true statement, and I suspect that Mr. Romney would agree with me on that, but painting dark pictures at a fund raiser is hardly political stupidity. Have you heard some of the things Mr. Obama has said in similar contexts?
I find it pessimistic because I have a better opinion of many of the welfare recipients than the statement implies.
We have for many years discussed the principle that ‘democracies endure until the people discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.” Snopes came up with some hoohaw about how this was a false quote, but since I can’t remember who was supposedly quoted, or for that matter who is now supposed to have said it, I have forgotten the hoohaw. The question is, is it true?
The notion has been discussed among political philosophers from the time of Aristotle. A major concern of the Framers at the Convention of 1787 was how to form a constitutional republic which would prevent democracy, because a pure democracy would always opt to use government to ‘equalize’ the wealth. The sentiment that “there never was a democracy that did not commit suicide” was pretty well prevalent in Philadelphia during that hot summer when the Constitution was agreed to.
In those days everyone who thought much about the subject agreed that freedom is not free, free men are not equal, and equal men are not free; that establishing a democracy would be to set foot on a path to disaster.
Disraeli had this to say during the Parliamentary Reform debates in England:
If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of the public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of the public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason; and you will in due season submit to peace ignominiously sought and ignominiously obtained, which will diminish your authority and perhaps endanger your independence. You will in due season find your property is less valuable, and your freedom less complete. http://www.isegoria.net/2012/05/benjamin-disraeli-on-establishing-democracies/
I have published that observation from Disraeli before. Doubtless I will do so again. I have no great fondness for democracy and neither should the United States, nor, until recently, have we had.
Romney has said nothing that has not been said by thoughtful people through the life of this Republic. I disagree with this particular statement, but only because I do not think we are that far gone: I believe that we are near the point at which there is no return, but we have not quite reached it yet. I believe that of that near majority which receives entitlements, many do not so much think of themselves as victims, but as unfortunate; who would gladly seize an opportunity to get out of dependency and back to work, to a productive life, if only they had a chance, and many of them would agree that the election of Mr. Romney is in fact their best chance. I think others can be persuaded so.
California radio recently has featured advertisements – I would guess public service rather than paid, but perhaps paid – for CalFresh, which is the new California name for the Food Stamps program. A visit to its web site might be instructive: http://www.calfresh.ca.gov/. The United States pays for this program. According to the Huffington Post the number of people on food stamps struck a record high in November of 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/number-of-americans-on-snap_n_1074344.html and other sources indicate that another (later) new high was reached in July of this year. Eligibility for this kind of general assistance has been broadened repeatedly. One can cheer at this national generosity, but it is not mean spirited to point out that this is paid with tax money – worse, with borrowed money which must be repaid in future. One may presume that the Keynesians would approve, since the money is paid directly to people who will almost certainly spend it immediately, generally on necessities, but the evidence seems to indicate that this particular Keynesian spending program has not lifted the economy back on its feet – and it was hardly startling to find that Mr. Romney says that this can’t go on. We can’t continue spending more than we’ve got, no matter how noble the cause. It’s hardly startling that he would say that at a Florida fund raising dinner.
The number of persons receiving aid from the food stamp program is about 45 million. Add about 8 million on disability, and the total number receiving welfare benefits is about 50 million. The total number of Americans working is about 142 million. And the total number voting in the 2008 election was 132 million or about 57% of a 231 million voting age population.
We have no way to estimate what proportion of the welfare recipients vote. If they all did, they would amount to about a quarter of the voting age population. The working population amounts to a bit less than 2/3 the voting population. If they all voted, they would amount to about 1/5 of the voting population or something less than 40% of the number actually voting (in 2008). A sizable number, and one would assume that a majority of them will not vote for Mr. Romney, but that’s not assured: I know of at least two Food Stamp beneficiaries who have always voted Republican.
I am not sure what we can conclude from all this, but I do not assume that Mr. Romney’s remarks will change the results of the election. I do note the triumphalist tone to the liberal announcements and commentaries, but I think I detect a note of desperation in with the triumphalism. That could be due to rumors of a late poll showing that more Americans now consider themselves Republicans than did so in 2998; and 2008 did not turn out well for the Democrats.
I also have other mail on this subject, and perhaps this is more typical:
Tell the Truth and Get Raked Over the Coals
Mitt Romney is now being raked over the coals by a biased press for telling the truth.
There does not seem to be anything that is not true in what Romney said in the surreptitiously recorded video. It seems to me to be a good strategy to not concentrate your on that sector of the electorate since almost all of them are not likely to vote for Romney.
It has been obvious since the days of Neville Chamberlin, to anyone that has been attention, that a strategy of appeasement leads to grief. The Obama Administration has not been paying attention and is not going to start now.
But then anything Mr. Romney says will get him raked over the coals. This is September in a Presidential election year. Mr. Romney knew it was going to be hot before he went into the kitchen, and I doubt he is astonished at this development. So far as I can tell he intends to remain presidential, and were I he I would have little to say about this. Since I’m not him, I can comment. I’m not running for anything.
It is hardly a confession of a secret hatred for the Constitution to state the obvious about entitlements. Romney’s observations were not much different from those of the Framers in 1787, or of Cicero, or of Disraeli in 1832, and I doubt many voters will change their minds as a result.
The key to this election will be turnout, and unfortunately this may have some effect on that, but not much: the Democratic organizers will do their best to get their clients to the polls whatever the politicians say. The question is, can the Republicans play as good a ground game? They did in 2008. This year it will be even more important. Fund raising and ground game, and the history of the world may rest on the outcome. We do live in interesting times.
Arab Spring, Continued
I continue to think about the Middle East, but I have nothing important to add to the discussion. My policy would be disengagement from foreign entanglements, and particularly entanglements in the Middle East, and using some of the savings to invest in development of North American energy resources. I’d rather we had spent the money we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan since 1990 on a national equivalent of the TVA than how we did spend it – and yes I am very much aware that there are better ways to develop energy resources than to fund even a competent bureaucracy. But I’d rather do that than bleed it out into desert sands and wild mountains.
I can recommend http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/obamas-middle-east-delusions/?singlepage=true by Victor Davis Hanson. I did not say I endorse his views; only that you will be better off from having read them if you haven’t already.
In that regard, each time we castigate a Rushdie, a Danish cartoonist, a U.S. soldier, or a nut like Terry Jones, we simply play into the hands of the Islamists. The latter are thrilled when American grandees look weak, desperate, and only too eager to fall over themselves in undermining their own singular Constitution and distancing themselves from their own values. Far better it would be to say, one time — and only one time: “We cherish and protect freedom of expression and abhor censorship and violence; if that bothers you, it bothers you.” End of story.
4. What Must Muslims Do?
It is not brain surgery to enter the modern world. Follow some South Koreans or Chileans around for a week with a video camera. Grow up and stop blaming those on whom you depend for everything from drilling bits to laptops. Adopt the now seemingly impossible: consensual government, a bill of rights, secular tolerance for religious diversity, gender equality, meritocracy, respect for science and empiricism, a free market, and a free press. In other words, join the 21st century.
Otherwise, Westerners must make themselves as immune from Middle East passions as is possible. In that context, not tapping vast new domestic finds of gas and oil on public lands is suicidal, given that such potential income and independence would soon make the Gulf irrelevant to our survival. Let the Kuwaitis or the Iranians deal with the Chinese. Of course, elites warn us not to “overreact.” But overreacting, compared to the present radical appeasement, is the moderate, rational course.
As I said, worth your time.
View 742 Monday, September 17, 2012
The news is that the Middle East is on fire, and Americans aren’t welcome over there. I have been trying to say that the best US policy is the oldest one: we are the friends of liberty everywhere but we are the guardians only of our own; and we need to make ourselves as independent of such volatile areas as we possibly can. In particular it is far better to invest in developing American resources than to fight wars overseas; it is better to invest in developing North American resources than to fight wars overseas. We are a maritime nation and we need a Navy, but we must not be dependent on overseas commerce for survival. Once again, it is better to invest in resources close at hand an under our control than to engage in foreign interventions.
Do not become involved in the territorial disputes of Europe. Or of the ethnic disputes of the rest of the world. I believed that we had no choice but to enforce containment during the Seventy Years War AKA The Cold War; I was in favor of the Viet Nam intervention because I believed that necessary to containment. But we were then faced with an enemy that had an ideological goal of world liberation. And when the USSR folded, so did our need for so much foreign intervention.
I said that prior to the First Gulf War, and I have been saying it ever since. And I say it now. The best foreign policy is one of development of our own resources and investment in what is needed to protect them. I don’t mean total isolationism; but I do mean that long and unwinnable wars in hostile places are wasteful.
We have sunk a great deal into our interventions, but then we sank a lot into the intervention in the Balkans and we have successfully got out of there.
We do not seem to have a Middle East policy. And we do not seem to have gained much value from the blood and treasure poured into the Middle East. I would think the American people deserve a frank and open discussion of just what our interests are. My candidate for a policy is to devote investment and resources into development of North American resources. And bring our troops home.