Mail 756 Monday, December 31, 2012
Happy New Year.
Still more ‘fun’ with deciphering the ACA
I trust you and yours have been enjoying the most delightful of holiday seasons (or more politically incorrectly: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)
I am a disabled Vietnam Vet and, as such, am eligible for medical coverage from both the Veteran’s Administration and from Medicare. I presumed that these coverages would insolate me from the requirements of the Individual Mandate of the ACA.
I noticed however, that there was never a direct statement that Medicare and VA Medical coverage made one immune to the requirements of Obamacare. From what I was able to discern, it is clear that neither of these government programs cover ALL of the 10 areas required as "essential health benefits" under Obamacare. I became concerned and attempted to find an official statement on this subject.
When I failed to find such a statement….lord knows it may well be hidden within the thousands of pages of the ACA….I decided to go to the source and called the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). I waded through their phone tree and eventually was placed on hold in queue waiting for a real live person. Eventually I got to speak with a real live person….but was unable to make them understand my question (disappointing!)
My next attempt was to call the office of US Senator Charles Schumer (known locally as "the Hon. Chucky Cheese Schumer". In spite of many attempts to both his D.C. office and to his local offices, I was never able to reach any of his staff nor even voice mail. Eventually, I sent email expressing my concerns. I have now been waiting a month for a response.
Next I attempted to contact my US Representative, Mr. Peter King. I succeeded in reaching one of his local staff to sent me to the voice mail of the DC staffer responsible for health care. Astonishingly, she called me back within the hour! She assured me that I WAS acceptably covered by Medicare and the VA. When I requested that she send me a clear statement of that coverage on the Representatives letter head, she said she would have to do some research but would get back to me shortly.
The following week I received a letter from Mr. King’s office which reiterated the fact I was covered. The relevant paragraph, however, reads a bit like it was taken from a draft of Through the Looking Glass!
It is a long paragraph so I will extract the relevant text:
"The Affordable Care Act requires that…policies….and plans cover a comprehensive package of 10 categories of items and services known as ‘essential health benefits.’ You expressed concern that certain government-sponsored programs…do not cover services in all ten specified catagories. This is correct; <emphasis added>…However, I can assure you that beneficiaries of these…plans will still meet the ‘minimum essential coverage’ requirement."
Hmmmm, sez I, plans that both do not meet the requirements and "…still meet the…requirement." and all at the same time! Mebbe the Red Queen can make sense of that, but not me!
Quite unsurprisingly, my follow-up request for clarification has gone unanswered!
I rather expect to have find the funds to purchase insurance from one of the ‘exchanges’!
Despair may be a sin, but are not all men sinners?
Warm and Holiday Regards,
Welcome to the brave new world. Despair is a sin, but anyone can ask for grace.
Is this a surprise?
Clemson University student Nathan Weaver just wanted to put together a project to help figure out the best way to assist turtles in crossing the road. But he also ended up with a peek into the dark souls of some human beings. Weaver put realistic-looking rubber turtles, no bigger than a saucer, in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched as over the next hour, seven drivers intentionally ran over the turtle, and several more appeared to try to hit the defenseless animal, but missed.
If the penalties weren’t so stiff, I’ll bet people would run over other people rather than slow down..
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Not really. Of course I am from an older tradition, which accepted that mankind is in a fallen state and requires both effort and grace. Obligations are not a popular topic for thought and attention now.
I’ve got a little list
To the list of folks to fire (like "bunny inspectors") I propose we add "undercover kitty photographers".
Maybe we should be careful what we wish for:
A guy stopped at a local gas station & after filling his tank, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind him and filled in the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was 25 feet behind filling in the hole. The men worked right past the guy with the soft drink and went on down the road.
"I can’t stand this," said the man tossing the can into a trash container and heading down the road toward the men. "Hold it, hold it," he said to the men. "Can you tell me what’s going on here with all this digging and refilling?"
"Well, we work for the government and we’re just doing our job," one of the men said.
"But one of you is digging a hole and the other fills it up. You’re not accomplishing anything. Aren’t you wasting the taxpayers’ money?"
"You don’t understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. "Normally there’s three of us: Me, Elmer and Leroy. I dig the hole, Elmer sticks in the tree, and Leroy here puts the dirt back. Elmer’s job has been cut… so now it’s just me an’ Leroy. We’re saving the taxpayers money because now there’s only two people doing the job of three.”
Efficiency is important.
‘The Alabama prison system’s policy of segregating HIV-positive prisoners from other inmates violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson ruled this morning.’
Clearly we have too many people working the judicial system.
Bill Whittle doffs his suit and gets down to work spending an hour with a speech that sort of grew on him as he went on with it.
Bill Whittle "Where do we go now?"
He explores options, even some ugly ones. He does not want to "Never Surrender" because it’s a slogan. He spends time to show WHY this is not a case to surrender even though times for surrender do exist, as General Lee understood at the end of the Civil War.
He explores the problem Romney had selling himself when he clearly had let the left set his definitions for him.
He explores the likely future starting with an explanation for why our revolution and the resulting Constitution reflected societal reality of the time. He explains that, yes, big monolithic government is the model for the industrial age with its big monolithic industries. The model for government follows, with a lag, the model for society as a whole.
Society has changed. It’s no longer monolithic when Fred can sit down to dinner, have an idea, pick up his smart phone, order 50,000 widgets from wherever, and resume eating all in the comfort of the new "Be Our Guest" restaurant/experience at Disney World. (Recommended for this who can make it there.)
The form of government will have to change to adapt to this ultimate decentralization. But it will take time. We’re now a minority. The last election proved that. We must do what minorities have always done in the past, look out for your own. Italians hired Italians.
Jews hired Jews. And so forth.
The video is long. It’s not fine tuned as most of his videos are. It is, I feel, worth the hour I spent watching it and the time I have spent since then thinking about it.
I am not sure he’s entirely correct. There are aspects of the Information Age he has not well considered. (One such is the utter lack of personal privacy that will exist shortly. The only privacy will be in being lost in the multitudes.) These may make his vision not work and the future different from what he’s expecting. BUT, the huge monolithic government model is, as he asserts, already DOA.
But smart people are not allowed to hire only smart people. What we need is equality. You must hire two incompetents for each competent, and you must pay them all the same. That is called fairness. Then you pay more taxes than those who hire no one. That is called your fair share.
China’s Buying of U.S. Securities
As I may have mentioned, I’m studying for a couple FINRA exams. During the course of my study, a thought occurred to me. U.S. government securities are traded on the faith and credit of the United States government, which takes real power from the U.S. government’s ability to tax.
Why would China buy U.S. securities in such great amounts? Would it be to put pressure on government to raise taxes; thereby, reducing revenues and productivity as we experienced, historically? I believe JFK lowered tax rates and found that revenue viz collected taxes and productivity both increased. Certainly, economic policies in the United States proved this point again and again.
If China continues to buy U.S. government securities based on the pressures created then China plays a shrewd game. The hypothesis makes sense, in some sense. It also, poetically, reminds me of the Opium Wars. We get them addicted to opium and now they get us addicted to debt… The more I think about it, the more I think I might be on to something.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
An interesting interpretation. Of course the US can simply devalue the currency for paying debts abroad, while allowing inflation as a means of taxing those foolish enough to save money.
Hm, nice idea that. But somebody’s already doing it less well,
Here is a piece on “the increasing difficulty of actually deploying a new invention or innovation:”
The title is “Hm, nice idea that. But somebody’s already doing it less well,” and it is a discourse on why when we have innovation we are seeing a slowing of economic growth around the world. He explores the hypothesis that the answer lies in “the increasing difficulty of actually deploying a new invention or innovation.”
Or “Better is the enemy of good enough”, and maybe even of not quite good enough.
Be Careful Of That For Which You Wish
"Of course what most people want is another law. Once guns are banned, I presume we will have to worry about regulating hatchets and machetes."
Brits have been calling for a ban on pointed kitchen knives for years:
They’re hell-bent on turning the U.K. into the world’s largest group home for the developmentally disabled.
There is no shortage of people here with the same goal.
Rocky River, Ohio
And when we disarmed they sold us,
And delivered us bound to our foes…
SUBJ: TSA: They Steal Anything
Now who would ever have suspected that?
"Although we cannot rule out the possibility that our results are driven by misreporting, our results imply that over the very short run, the death rate may be highly elastic with respect to the inheritance tax rate."
For some reason, revenues are almost always lower than those who want to raise taxes to get more money predict they will be. One might think this a complicated affair given that legislatures never seem to know it.
Life in the ‘world’s largest democracy’.
The framers never thought that democracy was a desirable form of government. We seem to be expierimenting with it now.
“We should be upset. This is a terrible blow to general relativity.”
“In the absence of data, theorists thrive on paradox.”
Better Than Human
This guy is looking ahead to robots replacing most people’s jobs:
“To train the bot you simply grab its arms and guide them in the correct motions and sequence. It’s a kind of “watch me do this” routine.” Sound like the robots Robert predicted in Door Into Summer, long ago.
If the main prediction is correct, then shall we end up like the people in Fred Pohl’s “The Midas Plague?”
There are two aspects to economics, production and distribution. Distribution through sheer entitlement has plenty of problems, but if production is simple and efficient — of course so far it never is. But it’s a lot easier to distribute a big pie than a small one.
‘Global warming’ strikes again.
I believe that despite the warnings about how hot it was, the actual temperature in 2012 was about the same as the previous year, and the long flat to cooling trend continues. Probably not for all that long. But the models won’t tell us. Russell Seitz points out that we are getting more reliable data as time goes by.
SpaceX’s reusable rocket lifts cowboy into the air and lands back on its feet,
Private industry in the guise of SpaceX has reinvented the reusable rocket hopper:
I liked your DC-X better, though. This one looks awfully tippy.
DCX reborn. <http://www.newspacejournal.com/2012/12/24/grasshopper-hops-ever-higher/>
Live long and prosper
h lynn keith
Nine Carriers at Norfolk
Nine Carriers are at Norfolk. All I can say is wow!
Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
View 756 Monday, December 31, 2012
Happy New Year
I don’t do topical news, and it’s just as well. After the President gave his smirking press conference to spike the ball on having forced a tax settlement without any spending reductions he then threw in more insults to Congress. If he intended to end negotiations he could not have done a better job. There are those who say this is exactly what he intended.
Of course there never was much chance of actual spending cuts: in Washington there is an automatic increase in spending unless some action is taken to “cut” the appropriation. Last February the House passed a bill to eliminate this feature, but it was never even voted on in the Senate, and would not have survived a veto from President Obama in any event. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/house-votes-eliminate-automatic-spending-increases-budget
In theory the sequestration will bring about an actual cut, but it’s not likely – mostly it’s a decrease in the increases that the different departments will get. But as I understand it, there may be some actual honest to God cuts in a few cases. One of those will be missile defenses, but there is considerable discretion in the military cuts of about $55 Billion in a base (note that the base has a built in rise) of about $550 Billion. This looks accomplishable: the US spends more on military power than the rest of the world combined, and I don’t see anyone planning an invasion of the United States. The military is not the first line of defense against another 9/11 style attack. It is in theory the first line of defense against activities like the Fort Hood massacre, but I don’t think military budget cuts or increases will have much effect there: what’s needed is a military attitude toward that threat, and that doesn’t cost much. Had all the officers and senior noncoms been armed, Major Nidal Hassan would have been shot down before he could kill and wound so many of his comrades. But the military apparently is being told to be more concerned about Hassan’s beard and with not offending the Muslim community.
We are going over the cliff, which means that each of us will owe about $2000 more in taxes than you planned to pay – assuming that you pay taxes, which I suspect that most non-student readers here do. Those who don’t wish they could. It is not clear whether we will have to actually pay that extra tax. The President keeps trooping up representatives of the middle class – I assume they are actually tax payers, although how he selects those who stand with him when he delivers his post campaign speeches is not known, and I haven’t been clever enough to find out through Google or Bing. Since there was cheering when he slammed the Republicans I presume this wasn’t an actual press conference with actual journalists, although there may have been bloggers. In any event I do not think that even those privileged to stand behind him as he read from the teleprompter would welcome the coming tax increases.
The cost of cutting back taxes to 2012 rates will be that there be no “tax cuts” for those making more than $200,000, and that the new higher rates on “the rich” will be permanent. This may bring in as much as $100 Billion over the next few years, although it’s unlikely – predictions of increased revenue do not take account of probable efforts to avoid those taxes through shifts on spending patterns. It may bring an increase in charitable donations. If your income is more than $200,000 this year this might be a good time to make charitable donations, particularly if there is any chance that the donation may influence school selection committees or have other such effects.
But the drama is not over.
I note that there is frantic last minute activity in Congress, but I also note that it is more devoted to “turning off the sequester” which is the only real spending cut in the future. No one is looking at fraud and waste, bunny inspectors, government activities we would be better off without. Soak the rich is now the goal for a lot of Democrats. By “the rich” is generally meant those whose income is salaries and bonuses, people paid through stock options for engaging in high risk enterprises, etc. People who move money around in circles generally find ways to defer income in ways that don’t get hit with “income” taxes. And of course there are many perks that come with wealth but which don’t look like income.
The President wants to pound the rich. He doesn’t care what that does to investment climates. And no one is going to make any cuts to entitlements.
At some point, one would suspect, the American people will have had enough; but that will take a while. And Congress gets a raise. Their staffers get a raise. Government employee pensions continue to rise, and the courts are now saying that cities can’t stop paying into pension funds even if they go bankrupt, and the idiots who bought city bonds have less claim on a bankrupt city’s money than the pensioned off employees. Salve Sclave.
Happy New Year
An example of modern political debate:
Demand a Plan
View 755 Thursday, December 27, 2012
The media seem determined to mock the NRA for the view that “the main deterrent to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but I see no error in the statement. As to the suggestion of having armed personnel at the schools, surely that is a local matter. In Los Angeles the immediate policy reaction of the Mayor and Chief of Police was to instruct patrol officers to once a day at some random time go to each school campus in their patrol area. I don’t know if we have enough resources to implement this, but we can hope so, and it certainly seems like a reasonable idea.
I also note that had the active duty officers at Fort Hood been wearing sidearms, far fewer people would have been harmed when Major Hassan smuggled in a pistol and began firing randomly at his comrades in what is officially described as a work place incident rather than a terrorist act. I recall that my youth, officers and senior non-commission officers were always armed when they went out in public: it was just part of the uniform. In England the Sam Brown belt and Webley revolver were a common sight in the World War II era. Given the size and weight of the Webley the Sam Brown belt was very nearly necessary. Now one might limit this to combat branch officers and sergeants, in which case the argument is that if you trust these people to lead your kids into harm’s way you have no business saying they are not trustworthy enough to be armed in public.
When I was a University of Washington campus policeman for a short time, that officially made me a Washington State Policeman, and it was understood that even off duty we were law enforcement officers. We were permitted to carry weapons off duty although I did not. I don’t recall any untoward consequences of this policy (nor any advantages either). It does seem reasonable to find ways to put good guys with guns in places that bad guys might bring guns.
Of course what most people want is another law. Once guns are banned, I presume we will have to worry about regulating hatchets and machetes.
We daily lurch toward the fiscal cliff, and no one makes any practical suggestions.
I know how we could save $12 Billion a year with a positive effect on the economy, without having to do a thing: let the subsidy to wind power generation expire. It was abolished ten years ago with 31 December 2012 as the expiration date. It costs $12 billion in direct subsidies. The amount of energy generated by wind is small, but letting the subsidy expire won’t cause any shut down of existing mills. Windmill operating costs are low enough that once built they can make some profit – but not enough to amortize the capital costs of building them in the first place. But the ones we have are already built. The end of the subsidy will actually bring about a drop in the costs of energy. Lower energy costs are always a better economic stimulus than any “stimulus program” ever has.
I have no predictions about what happens next. My guess is that Obama will allow us to go over the cliff, and thus expose every American family to a couple of thousand dollars tax hike; then he will come as the savior with the “Obama Tax Cut” which will be essentially the restoration of the expiring Bush Tax Cuts applied to 95% of the population. Everyone will cheer Obama and curse Bush.
I suspect though that we will get emergency legislation to restore the wind power subsidies as part of the Obama Tax Cut. I sure hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.
I have dental appointments. Managed to knock out a tooth when I fell and bashed myself a few days ago. All’s well, I am more embarrassed than hurt, and the swelling has gone away on my lip leaving me with no more than a magnificent black eye. And it’s lunch time.
For those interested in more information on wind energy subsidies, former Senator Gramm has a Wall Street Journal article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324481204578179373031924936.html?mod=googlenews_wsj including some specific numbers.
I have been looking for federal employees whose jobs should be redundant in that we don’t need done that which they are doing. Some are doubly redundant – we’d be better off if they weren’t doing it. One group are those who hounded Dr. Peter Gleason to his death over his peer-reviewed articles pointing out a useful off-label use for Xyrem, whose label use is for narcolepsy. The six federal agents who handcuffed him and the entire prosecutorial team involved might be better employed as bunny inspectors.
The government does a lot of expensive things that either don’t need doing or which actually cause more harm than good. It would make a certain amount of sense to identify these and leave them out of appropriation bills. The money saved might not be very great – although the wind energy subsidies certainly involve real money, a hundred billion here and a hundred billion there really does add up to real money – but even a few million saved is worth saving. Particularly if the effect is to stem the flow of information. As it happens I knew the Glendale dentist whose speculations about the effects of aspirin on his patients led to Big Medicine reconsidering aspirin’s use in heart cases; and I was witness to some of the humiliating treatment he received at medical conferences when he simply tried to get them to consider his theory.
In my judgment the FDA assumes that American citizens are dolts, not free citizens, and assumes powers it should not have. I can very well appreciate the usefulness of enforcing truth in labeling. I can defend the notion that the FDA can require drug dispensers to say “The use of this product for purposes other than those listed as approved is done at the risk of the patient, and we think this stuff is likely to kill you or do something awful to you. Just as I can accept that if a product advertises itself as genuine snake oil it ought to contain oil squeezed out of a snake. I have no objection to labels that say The FDA believes that if you take this stuff you are out of your ever-loving blue-eyed mind, and God have mercy on your soul. But to jail a doctor for telling a medical conference that he has evidence that the stuff is useful is a job not worth doing.
You can’t protect free people from everything. Attempts to do so can lead to bad results. But then science fiction readers have thought about this for a long time.
View 755 Tuesday, December 25, 2012
For those who have asked, I’m all right. I did manage to bash myself a bit Friday which has slowed me down, but it’s nothing serious and I’m recovering nicely. We had a good Christmas, both by Skype and with Frank and his partner who drove in from Texas to spend the afternoon with us, and all’s well.
I found this amusing:
I should be back in business tomorrow. Have a great week.
And for your contemplation:
TSA Agent Blows Whistle
It’s nothing that we — and millions of Americans and millions of foreigners — did not already know, but maybe having a TSA worker repeat it will clue in millions more.
A former TSA screener turned blogger who is now causing embarrassment for the federal agency has revealed that TSA officers routinely laugh at and make fun of passengers’ nude body scanner images in back rooms.
In a blog entitled Taking Sense Away, the anonymous ex-TSA worker reveals how he, “Witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers.”
The revelation was in response to a reader who asked, “Tell us, please, what really happens in that private room and why the TSA does not want it seen in public nor recorded.”
The ex-TSA screener also ridiculed the existence of I.O. rooms (image operator rooms) where naked images produced by body scanners are viewed by TSA agents.
“The most ridiculous thing is that these I.O. rooms even exist, to begin with. The backscatter machines are useless, as I and many, many others have previously pointed out. They should never have been put into use to begin with; TSA officers should never have been viewing nude, radiation-rendered images of passengers in those private rooms, period,” he writes.
“That’s why there are federal lawsuits pending against TSA (Ralph Nader, Bruce Schneier, et al) and why TSA is trying to backpedal and sweep the radiation scanners under the rug away from oversight committees and the public at large, as quickly as possible, right now. The entire thing was, as usual, a hare-brained, tax payer money-wasting, disaster of an idea.”
In a separate blog post, the whistleblower explains how TSA higher-ups are fully aware of the public’s disdain for the agency and that, the, “TSA is the laughing stock of America’s security apparatus,” with most employees desperate to transfer into a more respected government agency.
The whistleblower also highlights how TSA screeners would punish passengers who displayed a bad attitude by subjecting them to pointless bag searches with zero justification.
You can work with those harassment devices, however. I won’t get into the details, but smart people will figure out ways to make the harasser wish that he’d never harassed you. Many professional and bureaucratic remedies exist; you can apply the same for devastating effect.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Nothing unexpected, of course.
I have been talking to my son Frank who does various commercial advertising stuff. There is an interesting situation involving vaccinations and inoculations and compensation for those who ( several per million ) have really terrible reactions to them. Statistically if you give essentially any immunization whatsoever, a few people per million are going to have terrible reactions – possibly fatal. It’s not the “fault” of the drug company. It’s not incompetence or bad manufacturing practice. It’s just the way the world is.
The law that compensates these people is from about 1986 and is based on Reagan administration – actually more on Carter administration – data. I charge is made for every vaccination, and the funds go to compensate victims of vaccinations. It is possible to refine this some and come up with some predictions about who will have a larger probability of something awful happening if they are immunized, and to tie those probabilities a little closer to the specific immunization. It’s tricky. It involves careful data collection and meticulous work. It doesn’t take brilliance – at least that won’t be necessary although brilliance might make it faster and cheaper – but it will take thorough and careful work, and a lot of careful record keeping, and supervision. All that costs money, but it’s research worth doing. Some of the money is available in the funds appropriated for compensation: the fund is financed by a flat fee on inoculations, and has grown faster than intended, so some of the money might be available to appropriate as research.
On the other hand, this is the kind of research project that can be done by existing grant supervision agencies: it just needs the money and some careful attention to the research grant terms and work statements. I suggest that there are plenty of US government activities that could be abolished and money saved by declaring those doing needless jobs as redundant. Bunny inspectors come to mind, but perhaps there wouldn’t be enough saved by sacking the lot of them. Couldn’t hurt to do it of course.
But given the above story and other materials we see in the news, may I suggest that the TSA could spare a lot of money for some needed research that might actually save lives? It’s not as if the TSA were so very good at what it does.
More another time, but it’s something to think about.
I have not time to write at length on this, but what I am doing here is making a case for some immunizations as a public good. I recall growing up with compulsory smallpox vaccinations; they killed a small number of children every year, but they had the desired effect of making smallpox rarer and rarer for the immunized and susceptible alike. In those days diphtheria was a dread disease that killed a lot of children every year. The immunizations essentially eliminated it as a conscious public threat, although it’s still out there ready to come back if there’s a large enough population of susceptible children – it’s a concentration thing. The Iditarod race came out of getting vaccines through the snow and ice in days before airplane deliveries.
I understand that requiring someone to be vaccinated is an encroachment on freedom. I know the arguments; but the issue was settled before any or us were born, and few of you grew up in a time when major epidemics were not only common but inevitable. By my time smallpox was no longer a danger because most of us were immunized but polio season came every year, and we were all terrified when it came. Schools and summer camps closed, there were quarantines – almost every year in Shelby County Tennessee.
But any time you have mass immunizations some will die of allergies. Some will be badly injured. If you want freedom from smallpox and polio you cannot rely on suing the drug makers. The 1986 law approaches this by taking the compensation requirement away from the drug people and the Tort bar, and making government responsible. Even so some will be harmed; it seems an ethical obligation to minimize that number, and as our science gets better being able to predict those likely to be harmed by immunization gets better – but the research is expensive and isn’t particularly romantic, it just requires meticulous preservation and analysis of date, lots of patience, and money.
I think we would all be safer if we had research grants on finding ways to identify people likely to have a bad reaction to immunizations; and I suspect we’d save a lot more lives than the TSA inspectors are saving. Certainly per dollar spent.
More another time.
View 754 Friday, December 21, 2012
I am pleased to tell you that we have passed both dawn and noon local time in the Mayan palaces, temples, and pyramids in Yucatan, and the world does not seem to have ended. Edgar Cayce predicted the rise of Atlantis with resulting tsunamis creating disasters on the Atlantic coast, and some time later – I’d have some warning – on the Pacific coast. I am pleased to say that so far there is no sign of that happening. Alas, Cayce wasn’t so exact as he might have been, and the rising of Atlantis may not happen until the opening of the New Cycle.
Tomorrow morning begins a new Long Count cycle under the Mayan Long Count calendar. Each cycle lasts 1,366,560 days. The Romans used to have the Secular Games (you see remnants of them in Catholic Jubilee years) which by law were “something no living man has seen, and no man living will see again.” I think a 1,366,560 day cycle qualifies.
The Republican Plan B which would halt the tax rise (average of $3500 annually per household) in 2013 for everyone making under $1,000,000 a year, but would allow the rate for those making a million a year to revert to the previous level before the Bush Tax Cuts could not get enough Republican votes to pass. It was doomed in the Senate and President Obama had said he would veto it, but the Speaker apparently thought he had enough votes to get it through the House.
The plan was to present the coming tax crisis as the Democrats’ fault for rejecting Plan B.
The Club for Growth, a tax cut advocacy group which preceded the Tea Party and is not a part of the Tea Party movement, had this to say:
“Like many of you, we at the Club have been watching the ongoing debate over the “fiscal cliff” closely. A brief reminder of how we got here: President Obama and Republicans in Congress agreed to a 2-year extension of the Bush tax rates two years ago, and then pushed through a deal to raise the federal debt limit last summer that created “sequestration” or automatic spending cuts if a so-called “super committee” couldn’t reach a deal on deficit reduction. The combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to happen at the beginning of January 2013 is a culmination of these two deals in what is now known as the “fiscal cliff.”
The Club opposed the August 2011 debt limit deal because it raised the debt ceiling without structural reform (like a Balanced Budget Amendment). We firmly believed that Congress would never allow sequestration to happen, and that all we’d be left with is trillions in new debt.
Earlier this week, after publicly putting tax increases and yet another increase in the debt limit on the table during negotiations with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner announced that he would put forward a proposal to raise marginal income tax rates, as well as rates on capital gains and dividends. He called this anti-growth tax increase “Plan B.”
Thanks to members of the House, elected with Club PAC support, the Plan B tax increase was defeated. Fiscal conservatives revolted, and Speaker Boehner was forced to pull the bill. The Speaker even tried to “buy” votes by including spending increases that broke the sequestration deal (just as we predicted).
Lawmakers now need to focus on the long term pro-growth solutions to grow our economy and reform entitlements instead of their myopic concerns of how polls will blame them tomorrow, next week, next month, or ahead of the next election. The standard by which we should measure legislation is not whether it generates revenue to the government. Instead, the paramount consideration should be whether it promotes growth and reduces the size of government.
The Club will continue to closely monitor the progress of Congress and urge Senators and Representatives to find a pro-growth solution to the fiscal cliff. Stay tuned.”
The Republicans now seem determined to allow the US to go over the financial cliff, since it is unlikely that any Republican Bill that has any chance of passage in the House will be acceptable to the Democrats. It is not clear whether the Democrats can concoct a bill that could attract enough Republican votes to pass, but it is not impossible.
The “financial cliff” that will take effect on January 1 is the reversion to the Clinton era tax rates before the Bush tax cuts, and the sequestration of funds that automatically takes place due to the Republican/Democrat compromise bill that raised the debt limit ceiling. The Act makes many drastic cuts in Federal spending – actual cuts, not merely reductions in planned increases – but does not affect Federal employee pay or pensions. It makes large cuts in military spending, but not in military pay. Medicaid, Social Security, and veteran benefits are not affected. There are those who say that blanket cuts in Federal spending would be a Good Thing.
Note that the Federal Zero Interest Rate policy is not affected; this policy has enormous effects on investment strategies. Do note that everyone who holds cash is subject to a 2.5% tax on total cash holdings (including money in checking accounts) and in general the return on savings accounts doesn’t cover inflation either.
The financial cliff includes taxes on medical devices; it is not clear why pacemakers, crutches, splints, ankle braces, replacement knees and hips, and so forth deserve a special tax and should be made more expensive. Since a great deal of the cost of such devices is borne by Medicare and Medicaid, and thus the tax is paid by the Federal Government, the effect is a rise in costs for those covered by private insurance or by their own bank accounts; which may in fact be the purpose of the tax, which seems to be inserted by those who favor increased government control of medical care.
Once we go over the cliff, the Democrats will propose “tax cuts for the middle class” and will probably gain a great deal of credit for having done so. They repeal the Bush tax cuts and later come up with Obama tax cuts. The Republicans do not seem to have made many political gains from being responsible for the Bush Tax Cuts (which the upcoming Obama Tax Cuts will probably not match – he wants more revenue, and it’s easier to get that from the middle class) but it is likely that Obama will get a lot of credit for his. So it goes.
Of course the Senate has not passed a budget for years. It will be interesting to see if it can do so.
Under the Constitution no money can be drawn from the public treasury except through a law that originates in the House of Representatives and which has been passed by the Senate.
The NRA position is that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
It hasn’t said much about who the bad guys and who the good guys are. King George and Lord Germain undoubtedly had different ideas from those of Samuel Adams and George Washington.
And when we disarmed they sold us
And delivered us bound to our foes…
It is evening and the world has not yet ended. I suspect most of us will still be here tomorrow. The days will begin to be longer, and another year begin. Or another Long Cycle if you are a Mayan astrologer. Happy New Year.
I continue to point out that if we took $10,000 from each of the 2% of Americans every year, that would amount to $62 Billion a year; about the amount the US borrows every month. Not insignificant, but also not likely we can get that much more from people already paying taxes at the current rate.
View 754 Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I got this email today:
: Warning: My email was hijacked by a SPAMBOT
This morning I opened an email from an old friend. It held one line that said "Hey, check this out" and a link to an article on MSN. I opened the article.
Evidently the article was a SPAMBOT. Soon thereafter I found numerous MAILER-DAEMON "DELIVERY FAILED" notices in my inbox. The evidence is that the SPAMBOT illegally used my e-address to propagate SPAM to those on my address book.
If you see an email from me in your inbox with the subject "Hey!", DO NOT OPEN IT! Delete it.
As it happens I had already received the deadly message purportedly from him, and I had marked it to be looked at later when I had time. I had not opened it but I might have. I don’t know what would have happened. In another time I’d have gone to a quarantined machine and opened it just to see what would happen, but I don’t do so much of that any more.
The site that leads to is http://msn. msnbc. msnbc- news3. com/jobs/ which I include so you can see that on first look it appears harmless, but on examination is fairly suspicious. In any event, stay away from it unless you are an expert at this sort of thing.
The subject of the message (at the moment) is Hey! The message will come from someone who has your email address. I think not from me; I never visited that site and I see no signs of anything out of the ordinary here. But be careful.
I am working on my essays, but I have been slowed down by many matters, some pleasant and some not so much so.
I also have to do a piece on the state of “mental health science” and the impulse to change the law. The Newtown school massacre has sparked two movements for federal legislation: one to limit possession of guns, the other to expand federal control over persons likely to commit crimes and expand federal power on “helping” people with “mental health problems.” Both are pernicious. The states have plenty of power in these matters. There is no need for new Federal legislation.
Of course the greatest influx of assault weapons into the hands of criminals was Operation Fast and Furious in which a Federal Agency under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security arranged for more than 2500 AK-47 Assault Rifles to be passed along to Mexican criminal organizations. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would bet that more than 27 people have already been killed by those Us Government Issued weapons than were killed at the Connecticut school – and of course the Fast and Furious count is not done yet.
As to the confiscation of weapons, it was said well enough long ago. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail269.html#copybook
Kipling’s poem, which we ought to read at frequent intervals, is also here, with some appropriate illustrations: http://andstillipersist.com/2012/11/the-gods-of-the-copybook-headings-illustrated/
And when we disarmed they sold us
And delivered us bound to our foes…
When I was in graduate school I became involved in the movement to limit mental health detentions. As Professor Cole put it, do not people have a right to be punished, rather than locked up forever for their own good? One case was that of a man who pleaded guilty to a sex crime for urinating on a school wall at a time when there were pupils present but he wasn’t aware of that: they were peering at him through a hedge. He was sent to Atascadero essentially at the pleasure of the State of California, and remained there for 10 years until he finally found someone interested in taking his case. He was drunk on beer at the time, and it was 0830 in the morning. He had not exposed himself to anyone before and was embarrassed. He had not realized that his guilty plea was to a sex crime and made him a lifetime sex offender.
Fifty years ago there were many cases like that, madhouses full of people who had long since ceased to be threats to themselves or others, but who were very useful as unpaid orderlies and attendants (trustees, of course) in the asylums.
We also had the Cold War, and the famous cases of people in the USSR sent to mental health hospitals for treatment for their dissent from Communism.
The result was a movement that did justice to a number of people who possibly deserved punishment, but their punishment became life sentences. Unfortunately the pendulum swung too far. From prohibiting imprisonment of sane people in madhouses it swung to abolishing the madhouse as if there were no madmen.
In those days before the reforms a panel of three, one policeman, one psychiatrist, and one official of an institution for treatment of mental disorders could commit someone for years. No judge and jury. Just a panel of experts.
Again the pendulum swung too far. Rather than tighten up the criteria for involuntary commitment, and possibly inserting some kind of judge and jury into the system for long term commitment particularly in cases in which there had not been a crime, only odd behavior, it became very difficult to put away people who were clearly out of their minds, and almost certainly dangers to themselves if not others – dangers to themselves if only because they could not refrain from driving others, like shop keepers, into fits of rage.
None of this is simple. Locking people away is a serious matter. So is madness. And the state of the sciences is such that we really don’t know what we’re doing. It is true that psychiatric medicines – meds – have changed schizophrenia from dementia praecox – young onset dementia – into something that can be ameliorated and possibly controlled. At one time a diagnosis of schizophrenia was essentially a diagnose of lifetime psychosis since there was no known cure or even amelioration, either on the medical side or among the various schools of psychotherapy from Freud to Rogers to Horney to – well, you get the idea.
Now the MD’s can prescribe meds which sometimes have real effects. They don’t precisely cure but they do arrest the deterioration, and some people on meds can function in a way nearly indistinguishable from those who don’t have one or another of the disorders. I decline to get into specifics here. I’m way out of date. The DSM didn’t really exist when I studied abnormal psychology in grad school. Of course there is a good argument that the DSM was essentially a device for the convenience of insurance companies and mental health practitioners who could put in labels for getting paid by someone other than the patient; but that’s another conversation.
I don’t think anyone has a solution to the problem of detecting and deterring mad killers. I do think that leaving it to the states, with some possibilities of intervention by the federal courts on behalf of those involuntarily committed, is a deeply flawed system – but far better than anything we could get from a Congress advised by “mental health experts.”
We are, after all, dealing with fundamental matters of freedom. What is one free to do? At what point have you made it clear that you are a real danger to the world although you have not yet harmed anyone? These are matters of deep concern for those who love freedom.
Freedom is not free. And eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.
We do not teach poetry in school any longer. When I was in school from first grade through high school graduation we read numerous poems, and were required to memorize and recite some of them. It is a practice that might be reinstituted. See my references to Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings above.
I was recently reminded of this by Longfellow. At one time half the people in this nation could have recited it. Many who have never heard the entire poem will find familiar lines and phrases.
A PSALM OF LIFE
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST
TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:—
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
Mail 754 Sunday, December 16, 2012
Training Mass Murderers
Lanza, just like Cho, Loughner, Holmes and the rest, is a creation of the commercial media.
Regardless of their other psycho-pathologies, they were all malignant narcissists, absolutely craving mass attention.
One of them commits a mass murder, seeking attention.
What does the commercial media do? They REWARD him with publicity which would have made the Beatles in their heyday, green with envy.
Crazy isn’t stupid. They take malignant narcissists who would literally KILL for publicity, then when they kill, they give them… PUBLICITY.
I don’t know how big of a stumbling imbecile somebody has to be in order to believe that if you respond to negative behavior with positive reinforcement, you DIMINISH the incidence of that behavior. Why do you think they tell you not to feed bears?
Some conspiracy theorists would say that all of this is to ENCOURAGE these kinds of crimes in order to further an agenda. I say it’s much more likely that the commercial media just doesn’t CARE. This is about MONEY, and despite all of the hypocritical duplicity about "gun industry profits", the commercial media spend more on paperclips in a year than the firearms industry grosses. "If it bleeds, it leads!" And if it needs to bleed MORE in order to prop up the bottom line, that’s just fine with the people raking in the ad and ratings revenues. Like I.G. Farben, their goal isn’t dead bodies… but they’ll cheerfully stampede across those bodies to get to that goal… and it’s plastered with dollar signs.
Canada’s School Shootings Policy
Recommend we all study Canada’s policy to protect against school shootings. First of all, no mention would be made of the perp. No pictures, no interviews with family, nothing! There is a law against it. Secondly the schools are prepared. Each class can be locked from the inside. The teacher who secures the classroom then blocks up the door’s window if there is one, with a colored sheet that indicated "Secured" or slides it under the door. So law enforcement responding can look down the hall and see the SAFE rooms versus those not so declared. Perhaps your Canadian readers can tell us more.
I recall many years ago, perhaps in 10th grade, finding in the section on the assassination of a US President a line to the effect: “His name is known, but historians have determined not to publish it. There is no need to add to his notoriety.” I think they were referring to the assassination of McKinley but I am not certain.
Obviously such sentiments were abandoned long ago.
Japan is No Exception
Sadly attacks on schools happen occasionally in Japan as well. I remember one that hit the news a while back and dug up the link of the event on wikipedia.
Dear Dr Pournelle,
In Japan, the typical scenario is that of a teenager flunking school exams and stressed out from cram school who snaps, murders his parents with a baseball bat and the commits suicide.
I doubt gun control (or lack thereof) is the issue: Canada has more firearms per capita than we do, but a much lower incidence of violent murder. Culture matters.
There are some studies that show news articles focusing on a mass murderer encourage copycat killers. Perhaps the press should agree to inflict damnatio memoriae to scum like Langa.
Does the top of the falling slinky fall at or faster than any other object dropped in 1g? I suspect:
a. the center of gravity of the entire spring is falling at 1g, b. the tension on the spring is additive to the force of gravity at the top end so it falls faster, and c. the tension on the spring is subtractive from the force of gravity on the bottom end, so it doesn’t move until the c.g reaches it.
That reminds me of a problem we were given in Freshman physics lo these many years ago. What is the tallest brick smokestack that can fall over in one piece? Simplifying assumptions: the smokestack is a right circular cylinder; the shear strength of the mortar between the bricks is zero.
The answer is that at some point on the smokestack, the vertical acceleration will exceed 9 m/sec^2, and the joint will fail at that point. Once you see that, you can calculate where that point is. I’ve long since forgotten the number, though.
Joseph P. Martino
POTUS is making his move to disarm the citizenry concurrently with his purge of the military. The eagerness with which Obama is exploiting the Newton Connecticut massacre to ban "assault weapons" is sickening given FBI Homicide data that shows that only a tiny fraction of young homicide victims are killed with firearms.
Year of incident by Weapon used for United States
Return to selection page <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/asp/off_display.asp#> Download the tab delimited file Download data <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/asp/off_display.asp#> Printer friendly version Printer-friendly <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/asp/off_display.asp#>
<http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/images/tri_red.gif> Count Row % <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/asp/off_display.asp#> Column % <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/asp/off_display.asp#>
Age of oldest victim
0 to 5, 6 to 11
Count Firearm Knife Blunt object Personal Other/unknown Total
1980 101 43 45 307 181 678
1981 90 48 84 305 200 728
1982 107 36 68 362 166 739
1983 103 41 51 328 166 690
1984 80 44 51 319 145 640
1985 105 54 53 302 183 697
1986 92 32 55 365 183 727
1987 93 50 51 322 202 719
1988 133 40 63 346 220 803
1989 143 43 37 324 213 761
1990 123 40 45 362 179 749
1991 133 44 44 395 242 859
1992 141 30 64 374 187 797
1993 153 26 55 414 222 871
1994 156 33 39 445 198 870
1995 142 23 47 397 207 817
1996 111 25 50 456 235 878
1997 101 21 47 387 199 755
1998 96 33 55 385 203 772
1999 74 21 70 315 200 681
2000 67 28 67 348 179 689
2001 80 25 40 382 232 759
2002 117 31 35 340 188 711
2003 88 22 48 369 211 738
2004 69 29 57 331 188 674
2005 82 29 54 343 203 711
2006 79 26 53 327 222 708
2007 90 29 53 365 227 764
2008 89 21 60 349 252 770
2009 82 22 60 315 189 668
2010 72 25 61 311 209 678
Total 3,192 1,019 1,663 10,991 6,234 23,099
Suggested citation: Puzzanchera, C., Chamberlin, G., and Kang, W. (2012). "Easy Access to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports:1980-2010." Online. Available: <http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/> http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezashr/
Data source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. Supplementary Homicide Reports 1980-2010 [machine-readable data files].
And by far the greatest killer of children in the US is the automobile.
Subj: Nassim ("Black Swan") Taleb: Learning to Love Volatility
I especially liked "Rule 4: Trial and error beats academic knowledge."
Perhaps nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American anti-intellectualism was wiser than we knew! Certainly wiser than we were taught by mid-twentieth-century … intellectuals.
"Rule 5: Decision makers must have skin in the game" is a close second.
I had not previously known the Roman rule, that engineers had to sleep under the bridges they built.
I have been reading this book and planned to recommend it. And do not forget Thomas Sowell on intellectuals, many of whom see themselves as The Enlightened and the Rest of Us as The Benighted.
Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza ‘bigger than North Sea oil’
“Reports suggest that the UK sits on one of the richest deposits of shale gas in the world. An unpublished but independent estimate of UK gas potential by the British Geological Survey suggests it may be more significant to the UK economy than North Sea oil. Cuadrilla initially estimated the UK has enough gas to make it self-sufficient for 15 years at current consumption rates – but this may be underestimated by a factor of four:”
“The combination of fracking and horizontal drilling techniques can be used to unlocked new reserves of exploitable gas. (The combination is also deployed to unlock renewable geothermal energy.) The consequences for the energy market have been dramatic. US gas prices have fallen by two thirds, the country is now self-sufficient on gas – and the United States enjoyed the largest fall in CO2 emissions of any major country as its power generators switched from coal to gas.”
Hmm. Fracking drops CO2 emissions.
Hmm. We’re not going to run out of fossil fuels anytime soon.
And of course there are plentiful energy resources in the United States if we were allowed to develop them. And with energy you can do anything. See A Step Farther Out…
Climate Report Draft Contradicts Itself
At risk of being the 37th person to send you this:
Apparently the most recent draft of the round 5 IPCC report contains in its chapter 7 an admission that, statistically, solar forcing (as measured by galactic cosmic ray-induced isotope levels in the geological record – solar activity affects GCR arrivals) seems to be a major component of historical global temperature changes, even if the exact mechanism is not yet known. It’s not the actual solar energy levels arriving; those only account for a fraction of the climate changes that strongly correlate with overall solar activity. The section goes on to name solar activity-linked variation in GCR arrival affecting cloud cover levels as a possible mechanism.
The draft’s chapter 8, meanwhile, written by a different group, gives the politically correct version: Their climate model that includes only direct solar energy-level variations ("total solar irradiance") fails to explain the majority of temperature changes since 1980, therefore the unexplained difference must be anthropogenic CO2. (Yeah, right.)
From the above story: "The report still barely hints at the mountain of evidence for enhanced solar forcing, or the magnitude of the evidenced effect. Dozens of studies (section two http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/22/omitted-variable-fraud-vast-evidence-for-solar-climate-driver-rates-one-oblique-sentence-in-ar5/
here) have found between a .4 and .7 degree of correlation between solar activity and various climate indices, suggesting that solar activity “explains” in the statistical sense something like half of all past temperature change, very little of which could be explained by the very slight variation in TSI. At least the Chapter 7 team is now being explicit about what this evidence means: that some mechanism of enhanced solar forcing must be at work."
Three guesses how this contradiction gets resolved in the final version report. Meanwhile, though, the cat is out of the bag.
Egypt arming for attack on Israel?
The formation of a revolutionary guard personal loyal to Morsi would undermine the power of the Mamaluks.
Or start a civil war. The SS had to have the night of the long knives to get rid of the SA. The Wehrmacht did not intervene.
I found myself thinking about the night of the long knives when the Adm commanding the CBG in the Med and the General commanding Africom were relieved for attempting to intervene in Benghazi then Petreus chose to resign in disgrace for having an affair that hadn’t been so secret rather than continue to lie about it.
Hitler had his Brownshirts. Mussolini had his Blackshirts. Obama has his Brown Bra Brigade.
"What the Romans didn’t do for us"
I don’t like that headline. What the Romans did do was to adopt a local custom, or practice, and make it a normal way of doing things. My historical analysis may be unsound here, but did not the Romans attempt to invade the British Isles a hundred years prior to what the article refers to? Granted it was a failed invasion, I submit that they saw the technology used locally and also after reflection saw that it was a sound and useful technology. Maybe it took them a hundred years to figure out that what one nation can do another can as well (witness nuclear profusion). I think you have often said that once a thing is ‘proved’ to be possible, it is only a matter of engineering to make it feasible. I paraphrase.
The Republic of Rome was adept at conquering other nations and incorporating the subjugated nations’ technology and philosophy. Perhaps it took an Empire to conquer the Brits?
I dunno, I don’t often quote or reference the Guardian, although I do miss one of your contributors who did so…
I just wanted to ‘smack’ that one down, for old time sake.
I raise a toast to Dr. Erwin.
(misspelt of course)
Brian P. wrote some interesting comments on distributionism and, of course, most of his comments are correct. [http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=11073] One thing you both missed is that socialism, communism, and all the other isms used to define the practice were created to exacerbate problems. These paradigms are designed to do exactly what they do, create a growing underclass and solidify the ruling class. Read Tragedy and Hope by Quigley or any of the other writings on how these political systems actually work to learn more. I do not believe for one second that consequences we observe from these systems are unintended; that’s part of the propaganda. Oops, we made a mistake, let us introduce more lackluster polices to fix it. Ooops we messed up again; we just can’t get anything right. Let’s kill off more dissidents, steal more wealth, and try this new policy, which will make matters even worse. These policies always follow this pattern and it is no more a mistake than when a conman rips you off and pretends he didn’t know it would happen and that circumstances are beyond his control. Through clever propaganda and manipulation of emotions, these systems gain popularity and power. The only remedy to these systems is critical thinking, analysis, and observation as Brian P. did with his letter. It was good of him to write it and good of you to publish it.
Through shrewd application of Hegelian dialectics, it is easy to confuse and mislead even intelligent people with these systems and the reasons intelligent people are misled are two fold. First, the intelligent person realizes he’s smarter than others and so he thinks the answers will come to him with less effort and he becomes lazy and does not want to concentrate fully on the problem, but still offers a half-baked statement about it and others run with that. Second, the intelligent person becomes confident that they are accurate, but confidence does not equate to accuracy and when we use intellectual systems. e.g. analytics, mathematics, it really does not matter how smart you are. A smart person can create new mathematical theorems and scientific theories; you don’t have to be smart to apply what someone else already invented. If you have the discipline and psychological fortitude, you can apply almost any paradigm. Obviously, more discipline and fortitude is need to apply Tensor equations than is required by the Pythagorean Theorem.
Because most people are even lazier than the intelligent members of society, they take the half-baked theories — presented with confidence — by lazy intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals and we get trouble as popularity for lackluster policies rises — consider the latest election. I believe that blaming stupidity or incompetence for our problems is the lazy man’s way out. "There was no plan to do this, he’s just stupid". And then, everyone can feel good about themselves because these people who are conning them are really so much dumber than the speakers are even as the speakers lose their freedoms, their fortunes, and their dignity. I hope to see more letters like those from Brian P.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Legacy of Daniel Boone
AW&ST 12/10/12: "One of the engineers on NASA ‘s Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle is an accomplished Ph.D. astrophysicist named Catherine Boone. Now working at Ball Aerospace , she helped Lockheed Martin develop a machine-vision system that Orion may one day use to dock with other spacecraft en route to Mars (AW&ST Jan. 9, p. 44). She is also a descendant of 18th century American pioneer Daniel Boone. There is something extremely fitting about one of old Daniel’s offspring helping pave the way into the Solar System. Apparently, it’s a very strong gene."
* * *
"Mad Science" means never asking, "What’s the worst that could happen?"
Phobos is hollow and artificial.
Don’t know how this will fit into the GUCT (Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory) I’m working on, but I thought I’d pass it along since as it may interest you…
That is the least goofy url that I could find about it, the UFO sites are a bit farther out with it… Here’s my favorite conspiracy minded one:
Lots of nice pictures and a timeline going back to the Viking missions.
BTW, although I don’t put much stock in this sort of thing, but it sure would be cool if it really is artificial and hollow. I think a manned mission there would be the best investigative start to settle the question once and for all… I would actually settle for another manned mission to the moon to settle whether it is actually hollow and artificial. Did you see this: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20121207/NEWS02/712079882 ?
Doesn’t Richard Hoagland (Enterprise Mission) have some words on the hollow moon of Mars? My problem is that I know many of the people involved in processing the data from Mars, and I just don’t think they’re in on a conspiracy, and I know they’re smart enough that if there were one they’d know. Of course my judgment may be failing, but I thought this back when I was still smart…
APOD: 2012 December 10 – Time Lapse: A Total Solar Eclipse,
APOD: 2012 December 10 – Time Lapse: A Total Solar Eclipse:
I think this beats your bunny inspectors:
How Ernest Hemingway’s cats became a federal case The descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cats – dozens of them – freely roam the writer’s former home, now a museum. In a controversial court case, a judge says the felines must be regulated under federal law.
“The exhibition of the Hemingway cats is integral to the Museum’s commercial purpose, and thus, their exhibition affects interstate commerce. For these reasons, Congress has the power to regulate the Museum and the exhibition of the Hemingway cats.”
By this ‘reasoning’, there is nothing in the land which the Congress cannot regulate. Utter madness.
View 754 Sunday, December 16, 2012
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, has announced that she will introduce a bill to ban assault rifles on the first day of the new Congress. This will begin a new round of the move to disarm American citizens, as the people of Great Britain were disarmed following the slaughter of children in a school in Scotland in 1996. It was my understanding that the Bushmaster at Sandy Hook was found in the automobile, not in the killer’s hands, but of course that may have been another false report; but he didn’t need the rifle. The two pistols with multiple magazines would have been more than sufficient.
I point out that a majority of Swiss households have assault rifles and ammunition readily available – indeed they are required to have them.
And far more than 20 school age children were killed by automobiles than by guns last year– indeed, cars are the leading cause of death for children of any age, and have been for a long time.
The Sandy Hook massacre will spark a new round of political debate, and it will be used in every political discussion for a year or more.
There are about 350 million Americans. Two percent are said to earn more than $200,000 a year, and raising taxes on them is a sine qua non for the President. It’s the only way to pay off the debts and continue to entitlements. Two percent of that is 7 million people. If we levied an additional $10,000 on each and every one of them, and all of that was paid without additional costs, the result would be an additional $70 billion a year. The United States borrows something like $40 Billion a month. How much revenue does the President expect to obtain from this?
Of course if the intent is not to raise revenue but to lessen the difference in income, that is another story. One does suppose that those who have very large incomes have many options on where they live.
A recent letter, which will be in Mail reasonably soon, reminded me that we are nearing the anniversary of the death of Dr. Harry Erwin, whose Letter From England was a regular feature of Chaos Manor Mail for decade or more. That sent me looking for my announcement, which I found in the January 3 2012 View. That issue also had my comments on the coming primary season. I really miss Harry Erwin and his commentary on the social and political scene in England.
Mail 753 Saturday, December 15, 2012
‘Criminals Are Made, Not Born.’
I confess that I had not heard of the 1927 Bath School Disaster until this called my attention to it. It is an instructive story.
Falling slinky displays slow-motion causality .
“Researchers from the University of Sydney have explained why a spring dropped from a height – in this case the toy “slinky” – appear to ignore the force of gravity for a time. The very odd thing is that “if a slinky is hanging vertically under gravity from its top (at rest) and then released, the bottom of the slinky does not start to move downwards until the collapsing top section collides with the bottom.”
They include a fascinating video of physics in action. Puts you in mind of Wile E. Coyote.
It was a bit odd watching the video (which is inside the Register website) but halfway through oddity gives way to astonishment. Well into the video a very long slinky is released with just a bit of lateral motion given to the top of the spring. What happens next is more than counter intuitive, it is nearly astounding. The top of the spring falls faster than the ‘signal’ wave, so that the top of the spring is now falling fast enough to pass the bottom before the bottom begins to fall.
Now think about all this through the eyes of relativity, with the notion of the top and the bottom of the spring as either observer or observed object. Keep in mind the premise of relativity regarding the medium through which signals pass, and the non-existence (to relativists) of the aether in which light waves wave. Under Petr Beckmann’s non-relativity theory, there is an aether, which is the local gravitational field. Of course the ‘signal’ to the bottom of the spring that it is no longer supported and thus can start falling travels in a wave through the medium of the spring itself. You can experiment with that sort of thing with a very long rope suspended at each end: shake one end and a wave travels down the rope. You can see it. I used to do that a lot in the hopes of getting a feel for wave mechanics. It makes visualization a great deal easier.
There is a link in the Register text to the actual paper Modeling a Falling Slinky which has partial differential equations. Following them would take more concentration than I care to give this, but I am reminded of a problem we had in a mathematics class involving modeling the result of forces applied to one end of a very long and very rigid rod. That got sufficiently complex that it took a great deal of work to understand; I suspect that’s the case with the falling slinky, so I don’t think I’ll contemplate the relativistic equations this observation may require for a complete mathematical description. I suspect they would be of a complexity far beyond my abilities no matter how hard I concentrate. Relativistic descriptions of simple phenomena like aberration of the components of a spectroscopic binary get beyond the mathematics ability of nearly everyone. Fortunately they can be modeled by assuming a medium, propagation of gravity speed, and forgetting the relativity. Come to think of it, that’s just what was done here.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
In your latest missive, you wrote:
"The actual debate here is ‘distributism’. Just how large a discrepancy between rich and poor can a republic survive? The problem with socialism and social engineering is that the money goes to finance a huge bureaucracy which grows more and more powerful, and the power of government is more oppressive than ever was that of the rich upper class. The distributist notion is to divide excess wealth among all equally. That at least doesn’t build huge government bureaucracies, and gives the recipients some choice over what they do with their windfall gains. Small is beautiful, employee owned businesses are best – etc. And of course there are many variations on the theme. It’s best explained by one of its proponents. I’ve found this <http://www.scribd.com/doc/69349217/Age-old-%E2%80%98Distributism%E2%80%99-Gains-New-Traction-The-Washington-Post> . I am sure that is much more (including of course some of the work of Chesterton and Belloc)."
I can think of two things to contribute to the conversation on this:
1) It occurs to me that distributism will prove to exacerbate the gap between rich and poor, not close it. Why? Because the wealthiest of the wealthy can afford lawyers to protect them, offshore accounts, and friends in government. Saw a lot of the revolving door when I was in defense contracting. The ultimate result is a very few large companies like old-style AT&T or General Electric or GM locking up most of the wealth and productivity while the underclass grows.
In order to close the gap between rich and poor, we need to provide some way for poor people to become rich. Which means to foster economic opportunity, provide minimum barrier to creating new businesses, and allow people who make wealth to keep it. If you want to hammer really big combinations like GE or Microsoft or Borders or Walmart to allow more mom-and-pop stores , fine. But current government policy fosters and rewards the huge players (who oftentimes are the only ones who can afford things like CMMI-5 level processes) while making it harder for the little ones to play.
Of course the current administration is pursing diametrically opposite policies. All I can say to that is thank God for term limits, and we will have chances to reverse course. I believe the US as we once knew it is permanently and irrevocably dead, but that doesn’t mean life has to be miserable. The Roman Empire was not the Roman Republic, but it was still a sight better than a lot of other places out there.
2) I have recently read two books on very disparate cultures — "Blood and Thunder" by Hampton Sides describing the war with the Navajo, and "The Sex Lives of Cannibals", by J. Marten Troost , on life on Tarawa as the husband of an aid worker.
Both of these cultures have this in common: Personal wealth is considered very poor taste. Wealthy people are — or were — expected to give away much of their wealth to the tribe. To be outstanding was to be considered guilty of witchcraft.
While this sounds more "fair", the result of the societal approach is a subsistence level of society marked by poverty. Instead of having everyone equal in wealth we have everyone equal in poverty and squalor, because no one will step out to do anything as the fruits of their labor will be snatched away from them.
It’s not at all different from what Sam Clemens described in "The Innocents Abroad"
The Emperor of Morocco is a soulless despot, and the great officers under him are despots on a smaller scale. There is no regular system of taxation, but when the Emperor or the Bashaw want money, they levy on some rich man, and he has to furnish the cash or go to prison. Therefore, few men in Morocco dare to be rich. It is too dangerous a luxury. Vanity occasionally leads a man to display wealth, but sooner or later the Emperor trumps up a charge against him—any sort of one will do—and confiscates his property. Of course, there are many rich men in the empire, but their money is buried, and they dress in rags and counterfeit poverty. Every now and then the Emperor imprisons a man who is suspected of the crime of being rich, and makes things so uncomfortable for him that he is forced to discover where he has hidden his money.
Moors and Jews sometimes place themselves under the protection of the foreign consuls, and then they can flout their riches in the Emperor’s face with impunity."
Morocco wasn’t exactly a beacon for the 19th century Mediterranean either.
The lessons of history are clear and indisputable: Humans being what they are, if society is to prosper ordinary humans must have the ability to become rich. This means both minimizing the barriers to their doing so and a willingness to break up combinations that will hoard capital. It’s a shame we will have to relearn those lessons as a culture, but learning is better than willful ignorance.
Of course the mechanisms of confiscation always generate results you didn’t expect or want. Redistributing the wealth of the 10% or even the 2% wealthiest in the United States will not likely make anyone rich except those who are managing the despoiling. That has always been the great failure of socialism: it always works out in practice to create a New Class (Djilas has much to say on that) while at the same time greatly reducing the wealth to be distributed, so that the poorest become even poorer, the middle class becomes less wealthy, and even the New Class – nomenklatura, party officials, union leaders, etc. – is often less wealthy than they would be if the economy worked properly. As Mrs. Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you run out of other people’s money.
As to social conventions, probably the most easily examined example would be Zurich, where you have immensely wealthy people living in fairly modest means by choice. Of course I live near the somewhat different examples of Malibu and parts of Beverly Hills. Living in the filthy rich style comes and goes in and out of fashion in irregular cycles.
The real lesson to be learned is that if you are going to try to reduce the disparity between rich and poor, you should do it in a way that doesn’t create a class who can exist only by continuing the process. Setting up a “disparity of wealth” bureaucracy is never a good idea – it will always find that the disparity is too great, and the bureaucracy needs more highly paid agents.
At the same time, we have learned more than once that “too big to fail” should be too big to exist, and that too great a concentration of capital can be as inefficient as the confiscation of all capital. The concept of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was to stop actions in restraint of trade and break up monopoly power. It didn’t always work as intended – certainly folks who’ve got money can scratch where they itch, and will always look for means to defend what they have, often through fairly desperate and sometimes violent means.
Great discrepancy in wealth always tempts demagogues to incite the people into despoiling the rich and “spread the wealth around”.
The point I am trying to make is that there are institutions that are too big to fail, and thus ought to reorganized into institutions any one of which can be allowed to fail. Instead of Five Huge Banks we would all be better off with fifty or a hundred smaller ones. And those government financial institutions which are beginning to dwarf everything else are themselves creating dangerous powers. The “student loan” phenomena pours more money into the Universities which can always absorb the money and will never go back to lower costs; and meanwhile the entire middle class is subjected to lifetime enthralldom to government agencies and bureaucracies. I find that horrifying.
It would be better if everyone didn’t graduate with a lifetime debt, but it is worse when that debt is owed to government and can never be forgiven no matter what the circumstances. Yet we seem headed there, and no one seems to care.
‘Last year, he took home $822,302, all of it paid by taxpayers.’
Public sector employment is best
Not that you’re a big fan of government employees as a general rule, but can you imagine someone instrumental in finding Bin Laden is stuck at a lower grade than people coordinating corporate tax shelter work at another agency?
Over the past year, she was denied a promotion that would have raised her civil service rank from GS-13 to GS-14, bringing an additional $16,000 in annual pay.
–Unsigned for obvious reasons…
The new class at work. Socialism always creates these. Lest anyone get the idea that I am an anarchist, I understand that we need and are often well served by a civil service. My observation has been that it always works in its own interest, and sometimes needs to be restrained and reorganized. If I had my way we would begin by passing the old Hatch Act on political activities of Federal employees. Accepting civil service employment forfeits your political rights including advocacy and donation to political causes.
A Poor Constraint on Power
In View, 12/12/12 you wrote, "Power can be checked only by other power."
The power of the King can be constrained by shame. It certainly does not work well, but here and there a King stops before exercising power.
It seems to me that shame no longer exists in our culture.
Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
Heaven and Hell are both rumored to be absolute monarchies. Monarchy is always the best form of government for large states – but only if you can assure that you have a good monarch. Alas, that doesn’t always work. As witness the events before and after the death of Marcus Aurelius (see the movie Gladiator for a fictionalized account). The laws of heredity assure that once in a while you will get a good king, and kings spend the early parts of their lives learning how to do the job of being king. Democracy assures that whomever you get as supreme leader will have spent all of his life learning how to get the job, and not so much on learning how to do it. So it goes.
The genius of the Framers was to divide power, giving the federal government enough – but just enough – to assure the survival of the Union without giving it the power to meddle in such matters as the public schools or religion (the States were assured of the right to create Established Churches supported by public taxes if they so wished) or wages. The general run of government was left to the states with the view that if one overtaxed its citizens they would flee West or to another state. And so forth.
But now federal supremacy has upset that balance and created an elected king who spends his life campaigning.
U of Chicago Law on The Mote
The Mote in God’s Eye made the latest list of books (row 6, item 4) recommended by the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School: http://webcast-law.uchicago.edu/facultyreading/
As well it should. Thanks…
View 753 Friday, December 14, 2012
I don’t do breaking news, but enough details are in on the Connecticut shooting to warrant comment. As one radio commenter said, ‘Who the hell would do this.” The story changes hourly, but apparently the narrative is that Adam Lanza, a “developmentally challenged” young man of 20 who lived with his mother in a small Connecticut town founded in colonial days. He apparently shot his mother at home, then went to the school and killed those in her class, her principal, and other adults. At least that’s the story as of 1630 PST. It could change. An hour ago the story was that the mother was in her classroom, and the shooter was Ryan Lanza, Adam Lanza’s older brother, and that he had previously killed his father at an apartment in New Jersey. And hour before that —
But the story seems reasonably stable now: it was allegedly Adam Lanza who allegedly killed his mother at their home, then went to the school at which she had taught and shot up the place, using a .223 Bushmaster, a Sigg Sauer, and a Glotz, but there is some ambiguity about which gun was used for what. And as I listen to the reports, Nancy Lanza is not listed as a teacher at that school. Which leaves the question of what connection Adam Lanza had with this school. And the Bushmaster was found in Lanza’s car, meaning that it played no part in the school massacre.
No data on how he managed to kill 27 people with two pistols. Was he an expert pistol shot? Did he have a number of pre-loaded magazines? Had he been acting strange lately? Now there’s a report that he had some disagreement with his mother, which, given that she is now dead of gunshot wounds to the face, seems rather likely. And a later bulletin says she was a substitute teacher at the school.
A famous psychiatrist tells us solemnly that Adam Lanza had a ‘personality disorder.’
And I have done this ramble as an example of why I don’t do breaking news.
When I was young we had massacres in the United States, as well as well publicized violent shootouts between the G-Men and various public enemies; and of course mob violence got plenty of play on radio and in newspapers. The scale was smaller, though. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929 only left 6 men dead, although another died a couple of hours later reportedly while saying “I ain’t gonna talk.” Then came World War II, and the reports of German, Russian, and Japanese atrocities, which tended to give some perspective to stories of gang “war”.
But graduate psychology courses in the 1950’s had nothing about ‘personality disorders’, ‘learning disabilities’, and the like, and very little on autism. It’s not that what we did study was particularly useful, but at least it did not tempt us to believe we understood everything because we had a label for it.
I do recall that while I was growing up, comic books, which were a way of discovering information about the world when there wasn’t any television, often had stories about ‘running amok’, which was an Asian phenomenon. I don’t recall too many stories about Westerners running amok, but there were plenty of stories of Asians doing so. Amok is a Malay term, and typically describes someone who has previously not been a criminal or particularly anti-social suddenly taking a kris or other large knife and running about striking down everyone he – it’s nearly always a he – encounters. Apparently it happens in China with considerably more frequency than in the United States and Western Europe (where the weapon of choice is usually one or more firearms). I am not sure I have heard of such cases in Japan.
We can now expect a new surge of advocacy for “gun control”, using the Connecticut massacre as the example of what must be prohibited, and which presumably would be ended if we just had better gun control.