View 760 Thursday, January 31, 2013
Years ago when I was in graduate school the University of Washington put on a play called “All for Mary” (I find that it also was a 1955 comedy movie but I never saw it) and my friend Rod Whitaker was one of the lead actors. Rod later became a best selling author under the pen name Trevanian, but in those days he was a graduate student in Glenn Hughes’s UW drama department. I loved the play. One of the repeat comedy lines in the play is said by all of the characters at least once: “Hospital very bad. Many go in. Few come out.”
I’ve been known to repeat that line more than once.
When Hospitals Become Killers
A drug-resistant germ has struck even the National Institutes of Health Medical Center.
In 2011, the lethal germ known as CRK—short for carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella—raced through the National Institutes of Health Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Antibiotics couldn’t stop it. Infection-control precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not contain it. Six patients died because of it, including a 16-year-old boy.
Last week, public-health researchers released alarming data in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology showing that the same germ that swept through the NIH is invading hospitals across the country. Researchers writing this month in another medical journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, warn that CRK poses "a major threat to public health."
The CDC estimates that there about 99,000 annual deaths from hospital acquired diseases, and the number is growing. By contrast, deaths from traffic accidents peaked at about 50,000 a year a few decades ago, and have been dropping ever since. We’re down to under 35,000 a year now. Of course much of that decrease is due to modern medicine and modern emergency hospitals.
It’s just one more thing to worry about.
For a short period of time when I was in high school I was employed as a junior blood technician at a downtown Memphis clinic. Standards in those days were much lower than they are now, of course, but one thing we were taught was meticulous if somewhat drastic sanitation. One of the practices we used was periodic sterilization of darned near everything with carbolic acid, which, I admit, was pretty drastic. It used to be that every biology lab had a bottle of carbolic acid for sterilization, and you could ever get soap with carbolic acid in it – I know, because we were required to use it to wash our hands before and after taking a blood sample. I don’t suppose they do that now. I do wonder how a bug could develop a resistance to phenol, and I doubt any have done so. Maybe we need to go back to something like that? I mean, how much do we spend on trying to prevent traffic deaths, which seem to account for about half the number that you get from hospital infections, and we’re only discussing deaths now, not infections from which people recover.
The Wall Street Journal article asserts that
We have the technology to contain these drug-resistant germs. What is needed is the will to do it. Otherwise patients with cancer, organ transplants and other immune-compromised conditions may find themselves worrying: Is it safe to go to the hospital?
Just one more thing to worry about.
It’s lunch time. I’ll be back. Bill Gates had an interesting essay on measurement and progress last week, and I have some thoughts on that.
View 760 Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The President has announced his new immigration ‘reform’ wishes. The details are not important because this is part of the new strategy from the White House. The notion of a new White House strategy has been commented on by many, but perhaps the most eloquent and persuasive statement is by Peggy Noonan, long a conservative commentator but seldom accused of extremism.
Noonan: Lessons Conservatives Need to Learn
Obama is a formidable foe. He means to change the country and crush the GOP.
The senators weren’t organized or focused, they didn’t coordinate questions, follow up, have any coherent or discernible strategy. The only senator who really tried to bore in was Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who asked a pointed question that was never answered: If you wanted to find out what happened when the consulate was attacked, why didn’t you pick up the phone the next day and call those who’d been there? John McCain made a spirited, scattered speech—really, it was just like him—that couldn’t find the energy to end in serious questions.
Some conservatives are saying Mrs. Clinton looked unhinged, angry. In their dreams. She came across as human and indignant, and emerged untouched. What air there was in the Benghazi balloon leaked out. Someday we’ll find out what happened when somebody good writes a book.
All this looked like another example of the mindless personal entrepreneurialism of the Republicans on the Hill: They’re all in business for themselves. They make their speech, ask their question, and it’s not connected to anyone else’s speech or question. They aren’t part of something that moves and makes progress.
Minority parties can’t act like this, in such a slobby, un-unified way.
Hill Republicans continue not to understand that they are the face of the party when the cameras are trained on Washington. They don’t understand how they look, which is like ants on a sugar cube.
She has more to say, but that’s the essence. The Republican Establishment can’t handle this all out assault on the opposition. Either the Republicans get their act together and become a legitimate opposition party or they are finished. The Establishment Republicans aren’t accustomed to this. During their forty years of wandering in the wildness they became something else, an Established Permanent Minority Party, existing in large part on largess from the Democrats, sometimes winning the Presidency – first to Nixon, then to Reagan, finally to Bush – but never losing the permanent minority attitude. They resented Newt Gingrich and his “we can win” attitude. The Establishment Republicans did what they always did, made accommodations and compromises with the Democrats. Mr. Bush rooted every Reagan person of note from the White House, showing what the Establishment Republicans really thought of him and his populism. Then, despite having a Republican President elected in large part because he made the flat campaign statement “Read my lips. No new taxes,” the Establishment cooperated with the Democrats to raise taxes, and President Bush went along with that. The result was that George Bush, who after the First Gulf War had a popularity of over 80%, managed to squander all that and fail of reelection, losing to the governor of Arkansas who already had an interesting personal background. They failed. They lost to – well, to a country bumpkin widely reputed to have bimbo issues. They lost to – to Clinton?
One reason they lost was that Mr. Clinton was obviously a master politician who had learned well from Roosevelt. But in the resulting shock reaction they did essentially nothing, remained disorganized, and – and along came Newt with his Contract with America who swept the mid-term election giving the Republicans a majority in the House for the first time in decades. But the Establishment wasn’t finished yet. They insisted on running one of their own against Clinton. Bob Dole, probably the only major Republican that Clinton could beat. Managed to lose the election – but the Republicans retained the House and Newt remained Speaker.
And then followed an interesting era. Clinton, a master politician, and Gingrich, a committed intellectual conservative and political realist, managed to halt the growth of government and balance the budget.
That era didn’t last because of Mr. Gingrich’s personal failures. Mr. Clinton was able to weather his personal indiscretion storms. Newt was ashamed of himself and resigned. The result was the return of the Establishment Republicans with a vengeance. They came back – and went mad. We got “big government conservatism” as if that were even possible, much less desirable. They threw away all the lessons of the Reagan victory and the Contract with America, and descended in their wrath on the Reagan and Gingrich Republicans. And while they have had no choice but to make some compromises with the Tea Party Republicans, the Establishment clearly would rather have the respect of the Democrat leadership and media than lose its power.
Now those are generalizations, and most Establishment Republicans would not accept this assessment, but it sure looks that way from where I sit. There are deep divisions among the Establishment Republicans – in particular over the neo-conservatives, some of whom have been accepted into the Establishment and some of whom have not – but in general they stand together and have their own view of the way the system works.
As Peggy Noonan warns, they are in for a shock. The President has no intention of going back to the old ways and the old system. He intends to change the Republic in a fundamental way. In doing it he will divide the Democrat Party, and the real future of the republic –becoming-a-democracy will be in the hands of new democrats. History has seen this sort of thing before. The future of Rome lay not with Sulla and the Optimates but with Marius and the Populares. Until there came a time when neither was important and the Praetorian Guard determined who should be Emperor, but that is another story and we are not there yet.
It is time that the Republican Establishment realized that it has a better chance of retaining honor by getting along with the Tea Party and embracing freedom.
Someone has to stick with the principles of liberty and freedom. Maybe even a few Democrats will discover that.
View 759 Thursday, January 24, 2013
The grandchildren are back in Washington, and I have new spectacles. Tri-focal with photo-grey for normal use, and bi-focal computer glasses. I think I invented computer glasses in an early BYTE column: I described how I got my optometrist to prescribe my corrective formula in glasses with a 28” focal length, that being the distance to the screen of Ezekiel, my friend who happened to be a Z-80 computer with Electric Pencil. Alas I didn’t think to try to patent or copyright or trademark the name computer glasses or the concept. Not sure it could be copyrighted, and in those days I was very much opposed to that kind of copyright and trademark. Still am, I suppose, but it would be nice to have a dollar for everyone who now has computer glasses.
In any event I have cataracts but they only degrade my sight to about 20/25 or so, so there’s no recommendation that anything be done, and since my last glasses were three years old the new ones are remarkably better than the old ones were. Didn’t take all that long to get used to them, either, although most of yesterday was used up getting my sight back after having the drops and the cataract examination. I note that almost all that is automated now, and much of it done by technicians. The actual examination was done by an optometrist, not an ophthalmologist as it was last time they did that. The eye examination equipment is all pretty well automated, and ePhotos were taken which presumably go to a specialist for confirmation – all saving money.
Once again I have been impressed with the thoroughness of Kaiser and how they work to make visits there a pleasant experience, with pleasant people, while they work to improve technology and bring in more skilled technicians. When I went out for my first eye examination there was a demonstration of some kind going on. It was at one (of at least five) entrance to a large parking area, and that was probably the least used entrance at that. Kaiser had one security guard observing at a distance, and there were three union-officer-looking guys in suits observing from about the same distance. The twenty or so people holding picket signs were unintelligible at fifty feet as they chanted “One Two Three Four something or another” and “What do we want? Justice something something.” They carried signs but I couldn’t make out what they said. Of course that was before I got my new glasses, but Roberta didn’t make out what they wanted either. Given the unemployment rate in Los Angeles I am astonished that there is anyone not happy to have a job in a pleasant place to work, and I’ve been unable to find an press accounts of the demonstration. Google shows me there is some kind of ongoing dispute by registered nurses against Kaiser –
I found this
Kaiser Permanente registered nurses across the state will begin a picket Wednesday afternoon, protesting what they say is a staffing shortage that has forced patients to be turned away.
Kaiser officials say that their staffing levels meet or exceed state requirements.
The union notes that nurses from 21 Kaiser hospitals across the region – including the three Sacramento-area centers – will participate in the picket, to happen from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Read more: http://fox40.com/2012/12/19/kaiser-nurses-to-picket-allege-staffing-shortage/#ixzz2IwMgkfgl
But that was for last month. Perhaps this is the same thing. Most of those in the picket line were women about 30 years old, and they may have been registered nurses. The union bosses watching over them were all male and dressed in suits.
But it was all controlled and civilized, and reminded me of Mort Sahl’s description of a strike at Disney, with the artists drawing cartoons of pickets and the supervisors drawing cartoons of strike breakers.
If I seem to ramble a bit about Kaiser there is a point. I conclude from long experience with the Kaiser system that it works. It’s pleasant, the people who work there are pleasant and helpful, and I haven’t had any haggles with administrators: I go there, I make a reasonable copayment for the visit, and that’s that. When they found The Lump in my head I saw a dozen specialists and had 35 sessions of hard X-rays, and once the treatments started I wasn’t even paying the nominal per-visit copayment. I ended up going to half a dozen different facilities, and they were uniformly well run by pleasant people. Even the security guards and parking attendants were pleasant and cheerful.
The problem, I suspect, is that any attempt to clone Kaiser would likely destroy it as well as produce a distorted copy that wouldn’t work as well as the original, and by the time you got to a fourth generation clone you’d be where socialized medicine establishments usually go. I could be wrong on that, of course; but it’s the way to bet. In any event, after more than thirty years experience with Kaiser in Southern California treating me for traumatic injuries, a hand broken while I was on a hike in the Sierra with the Boy Scouts, brain cancer, trips to the emergency rooms for various members of my family, prostate cancer examinations, and a whole lot of preventive medicine classes, I’m sold. I was assured by President Obama that if I like my current health care I can keep it under the new laws that take effect this month. I can only hope.
There is a lot of topical news but it’s hard to rate the significance. We have had the Benghazi inquiries by Congress and have learned little to nothing. What difference does it make whether this was an organized attack (as foreseen by intelligence analysts for the 9/11 anniversary date) or a local reaction to an obscure video that almost no one saw? Those brave State Department heroes are dead either way, and bullying the Administration about why, and why Susan Rice continued to harp the video days after everyone in the White House and Foggy Bottom knew that it was an al Qaeda operation is just mean spirited and an attempt to make the President look bad. It’s just mean.
Meanwhile there are various interpretations of President Obama’s inaugural address, but all agree that it’s a pointer to what will go on in future: either the full realization of the liberal dream, or the destruction of the constitutional republic established in 1789, depending on your point of view. Whatever your opinion, the government is taking over about 15% of the national economy as Obamacare takes effect. Add that to the government’s allocation of GDP and the US becomes far more like one of the European socialist states than the Republic of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, or Reagan. How far that will go is not so easy to determine, but the financial juggernaut is quite real: if we don’t cut spending or raise revenue, we’ll simply run out of money. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a revenue raising solution to the impending bankruptcy of the states, and Federal entitlements can’t go on this way forever.
If a thing can’t go on forever, it will stop.
What happens when it stops?
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. And freedom has been an elusive thing. Far more humans have lived their lives in some kind of bondage than have been free. The norm is that the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must. “To secure these rights” of life, liberty, and property, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. So said the Continental Congress, but it wasn’t true until they said it. The longest lived Republic in human history was the Most Serene Venetian Republic, and it had not long to live after 1776. It was washed away in a tide of Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! following the events in the public squares after 1789. The world would be made free, and equal, and all that would be carried across Europe on the points of French bayonets; and when it was over there were no Republics nor would be for decades. Except, of course, the Republic of 1789, born from the Revolution of 1776 coalescing in a More Perfect Union to ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
But that was in another country.
At least one news commentator says that Obama’s Inaugural was more important than George Washington’s.
Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. A sentiment that has been around since the days of Sophocles and probably well before. It sometimes seems appropriate.
I have this from a future crystal gazer.
The Americans With No Abilities Act
President Barack Obama and the Democratic Senate are considering sweeping legislation that will provide new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.
"Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability (POI) to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they have some idea of what they are doing."
In a Capitol Hill press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to the success of the U.S. Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. At the state government level, the Department of Motor Vehicles also has an excellent record of hiring Persons with No Ability (63 percent).
Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million mid-level positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.
Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that promote a significant number of Persons of Inability (POI) into middle-management positions, and give a tax credit to small and medium-sized businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.
Finally, the Americans With No Abilities Act contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the non-abled, banning, for example, discriminatory interview questions such as, "Do you have any skills or experience that relate to this job?"
"As a non-abled person, I can’t be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, Mich., due to her inability to remember righty tighty, lefty loosey. "This new law should be real good for people like me. I’ll finally have job security." With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Said Sen. Dick Durbin: "As a senator with no abilities, I believe the same privileges that elected officials enjoy ought to be extended to every American with no abilities. It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her inadequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation and a good salary for doing so."
The President has warned the Congress that if it will not act, he can issue an Imperial Rescript, excuse me, Executive Order, and given the urgency of gun control he will not hesitate to do that.
"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
Co-author of the Second Amendment
during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
Actually, converting the entire educated middle class into bondsmen in debt for life to the government will accomplish the result very well indeed. But George Mason had no experience with that level of expertise.
I’m still working on my essay on public education. The first question to ask is what is its purpose? If the just powers of government are derived from consent of the governed, what do those whose wealth is confiscated to pay for public education expect to get form their expense? For that matter, what do those who demand public education as an entitlement expect to derive from their dozen long years of compulsory exposure to classroom after classroom, rule after rule? As children they have no choice. As parents they compel their own children to the grind. What do they want, and are they getting any large part of it from the current system?
“If a foreign power had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightly consider it an act of war,” said the Glenn T. Seaborg in the report of his National Commission on Education in 1983. It is certainly no better now. Why are we subjecting our children to a system indistinguishable from a hostile act?
I’ll try to get a mail bag up tonight. We have a lot of good mail. As ususal.
Mail 759 Sunday, January 20, 2013
Subj: Federal Agencies we can do without: the Raisin Administrative Committee
>>Did you know that if you grow raisins in the United States, you are
>>sharecropping for the government? …<<
Hardly needs comment… And we borrow the money to pay for this. Should we?
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I share your concerns about the political dangers of a standing army; yet I also agree that SAC’s power to destroy civilization should not be in the hands of recruits. How, then, do we reconcile citizen armies with nuclear technology?
Jonathan Schell offers a partial solution in his book, "The Abolition", which proposes that the USA become a "latent" nuclear power; that is, that it dismantle all actual nuclear bombs, but retain(and indeed strengthen) its ability to swiftly build those bombs. We keep the know-how and the infrastruction and the fissile materials, but hold off on building the accursed things unless we need them right away. You could call it just-in-time civicide; like taking the bullet out of the rifle over the fireplace. Nuclear latency is purified deterrence; a way for America to say to the world that we don’t feel like killing a million people today, so don’t make us want to.
I like Schell’s idea, but I think it’s incomplete. It’s too rational, it lacks the aura of apocalyptic histrionics so natural to all things nuclear.
I therefore offer the following modest proposal: Nuclear Blatancy Day. It’ll work like this:
Every Presidential election year, college and high school students across the country submit their bomb designs. The winning entries are cast into metal and chips (but no explosives and fissile materials, of course) and sent to the Nevada Test Range. There the bombs are loaded with plutonium from the armory, and lowered deep underground.
The contestants arrive, and their families, and technicians, and generals, and reporters, and Presidential candidates, and foreign dignitaries. Also on hand are marching bands (pro-bomb) and satirical giant-puppet troupes (anti-bomb). Both groups are welcomed as essential components of the inherently mixed message being sent that day. The Presidential candidates speak blandly of the People’s Bomb; the grandmother from Hiroshima pleads passionately for peace.
The countdown starts. Five, four, three, two, one, zero! Suddenly new craters collapse in the Nevada desert. The marching bands cheer, the puppeteers boo, and the foreign dignitaries look at each other nervously. Technicians announce yields; the winning contestants get scholarships and job offers; and the dignitary from Japan quietly tells the other dignitaries that these Americans are indeed as crazy as they look, so don’t mess with them!
I trust you understand, Dr. Pournelle, that the preceding three paragraphs are satire; but they are a satire that would work. It’s absurd, but slightly less absurd than what already exists. I offer it to you as my fulsome praise, and also my excoriating critique, of America and civilization and the entire human race.
Schell wasn’t being satirical so far as I know. For myself I would not care to try to assemble the nuclear weapons after a nuclear first strike took out the plant and much of the infrastructure around it.
I have never been a great fan of MAD, but I was never able to find a way to do away with it. And I continue in my admiration of those young men and women who sat there in the silos day after day including Christmas with the keys on chains around their necks as they waited for that damned klaxon. EWO EWO Emergency War Orders, Emergency War Orders, I have a message in five parts, message begins Tango Xray …
Conscription and service a’ la RAH and more on ITHAKA
Heinlein’s discourse on conscription have been mentioned, but I thought we should also mention the kind of service he proposed in _Starship Troopers_. If I remember right, service was voluntary, but the "government" was required to give work to anyone who applied. Military service, in many different corps, was only one option. Citizenship was granted to anyone who successfully completed a single service term.
It sounds as if the recent proposal you cited was similar in some ways to the story. However, it sounds more like a way to grab VA-like benefits for any GS or WG job, rather than a way to self-identify individuals who place society at a high level of importance. It sounds as if we want to expand pensions and not limit the franchise.
I think we do need a legal decision to get changes to the distribution system for all federal government-paid documents. It should require a simple contractual requirement change for all funded study grantees to publish publicly via some acceptable means. It is a wonder to me that this is not in the law already. We need a congressional sponsor with some pull to get it across.
I really thought FOIA covered this. If ITHAKA and its subscribers are in violation, that needs to be shown, probably in court. I don’t know if this circumstance is truly the case, or who could bring a suit.
Mr. Heinlein’s society in which only veterans can be voters would probably not be stable since it would require a bureaucracy to enforce it… Why should I have to go to the trouble of FOIA actions to get access to documents reporting publicly supported research? Particularly since publication costs are generally part of every research proposal…
“His view was that standing armies became independent entities, and transmogrified into mercenaries…
And after that came the professional military, the volunteer forces, and the United States became the world superpower. So far that has not brought about the difficulties Machiavelli prophesied”
You think not? What I see is the military having to use other methods than the love of one’s country and patriotism to convince people to join. Funds are provided for benefits used for this purpose. Money to attract Soldiers? Is that not a mercenary army?
I can’t say I blame them. It used to be people honored the loyal soldier, now they do not, and the politicians consider them expendable for political purpose.
Aaron Swarz was a self-confessed Chomsky disciple, FYI.
While I deplore the routine prosecutorial tactic of gross overcharging in general, especially for nonviolent offenses; and while I’m opposed to the ITHAKA monopoly on the fruits of publicly-funded research, I don’t have that much sympathy for Aaron Swarz. He strikes me as a soi-disant ‘activist’ lacking the courage of his supposed convictions, once that it wasn’t all fun and games, anymore, and who was willfully naive of how the legal system works (there was no way he’d end up in prison for any large amount of time based upon an initial conviction, much less on appeal), and who settled upon legal representation by an attorney who has a good reputation, but who wasn’t the best selection for this particular set of circumstances, IMHO.
I will admit that this whole sorry episode, and others like it, lead one to the conclusion that the minimization or outright elimination of public prosecution and prosecutors in favor of private prosecution might well be worthy of consideration.
I never met Mr. Swartz and I haven’t spoken to any of his intimates. I am more concerned that there was no trial. I would like to see a good reason for ITHAKA to have this monopoly.
Aaron Swartz — an opposing view
I am related to someone who reported recently on Aaron Swartz in a paper for classwork. Her take on his case was somewhat different. The man reportedly was guilty of breaking and entering, wiretapping, and vandalism — the last by locking (preventing the use of) the files by their owners.
After Swartz’ activity was detected and measures were put in place to prevent access, he escalated his efforts while in full knowledge of the penalties if detected and prosecuted.
The ITHAKA service obtains exclusive use of academic documents legally and maintains an electronic library, at no small expense, for institutional subscribers who are mostly the same as the contributors.
Swartz interviews indicated he was less motivated by freedom of information than by grabbing attention for himself. He was indifferent to the cost of his activity to the the lawful users and owners of the information, and had no concern for the direct effect of his actions.
While one should not speak ill of the dead, and he may have had a point freedom of access to government-sponsored information, I’m personally convinced that the prosecution wasn’t excessive. If his legal defense was unsuccessful in reducing the sentence further, he probably should have sought more competent counsel — as you say, he would have found many willing to support that effort.
In my experience, it takes a really small effort to obtain access to government sponsored data via the freedom of information act, and in most cases taxpayers foot the bill for production of that information to the requestor. Swartz attacks were focused on an information outlet with which he had a personal gripe. He was certainly making a poor point the hard way. Perhaps he came to realize this.
Why should it take any effort at all? And I assure you that unless you are part of academia, access to many journals is quite expensive. They are behind efficient pay walls.
Subj: Is there something in Massachusetts that deranges prosecutors?
The recent Aaron Swartz case is not the first time a prosecutor in Massachusetts has run amok. Remember the Amirault case:
>>[S]o much testimony, so madly preposterous, and so solemnly put forth
>>by the state. The testimony had been extracted from children, cajoled
>>and led by tireless interrogators.<<
This may be the first time since the President took office that I agreed with a quote I saw from his press secretary –
“Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight,” press secretary Jay Carney said. “But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”
The President’s children ought to have security because they are exposed to greater risks than the average school child and the consequences to the country are greater if something happens to them that takes away his (and of course everyone else’s) attention from keeping the country running.
It’s about time people learned to turn the politicians’ own bullshit back on them; when people learn to use courts and laws in this way I suspect we’ll see some changes in how government does business:
A petition calling for the elimination of armed guards “for the President, Vice-President, and their families” has met and exceeded the previous threshold set by the White House on their We The People petition submission site.
The petition states: “Gun Free Zones are supposed to protect our children and some politicians wish to strip us of our right to keep and bear arms. Those same politicians and their families are currently under the protection of armed Secret Service agents. If Gun Free Zones are sufficient protection for our children, then Gun Free Zones should be good enough for politicians.”
Although it will likely receive only a glib response, the petition reaches its quota just as fervor over a National Rifle Association (NRA) ad pointing out this very same hypocrisy has erupted.
I’m Joshua Jordan and I support this message! I don’t know about you, but my life is worth more than all the politicians in the world; they think I don’t need guns? Well, I disagree and so does the Constitution; but, since they want to take away guns, let’s take away the guns around them and make them happy.
I’m sure that assassination attempts will no longer occur and politician will be completely safe if nobody has guns around politicians. After all, we can just pass a law and that’s what will happen.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
The Solar Dynamics Observatory spies a beautiful prominence in UV. The time lapse video covers four hours
Regards, Charles Adams
Impossibilities in the world.
1. You can’t count your hair.
2. You can’t wash your eyes with soap.
3. You can’t breathe when your tongue is out.
Put your tongue back in your mouth, you silly person.
Ten (10) things I know about you.
1. You are reading this.
2. You are human.
3. You can’t say the letter ”P” without separating your lips.
4. You just attempted to do it.
6. You are laughing at yourself.
7. You have a smile on your face and you skipped No. 5.
8. You just checked to see if there is a No. 5.
9. You laugh at this because you are a fun loving person and everyone does it too.
10. You are probably going to send this to see who else falls for it.
You have received this e-mail because I didn’t want to be alone in the idiot category.
Have a great day. Laugh, and then Laugh and sing "It’s a Beautiful Morning " even when it’s not.
"Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."
Robots doing work
Every year seems to get us closer to the reality of needing much fewer people to do work than we have. We’ve seen it in agriculture already where 1% now do several times the work that was done in the 1900s and with vastly increased production. On the other extreme, I’ve seen it in IT where one person can manage hundreds of servers that a couple decade ago would have employed dozens of people. I still can’t get my head around where this is heading in the short term. The collapse of the idea of majority employment?
This was once a fairly popular theme among science fiction writers. If we went from a majority of mankind working in food production and service to a very small percentage of them so employed in under a century, how long will it take Moore’s Law to reduce the number of highly paid workers needed for manufacturing to a very small number? The golden age of blue collar middle class has passed and it does not look as if it will come again. A $22,000 robot can do the work that three highly skilled auto workers once did – and do it two shifts a day for nothing like twice as much as it cost to do one shift. That’s on today’s market.
Over time more and more skilled jobs will be done by smart robots. And we do not much speculate on the logic of one man one vote in a nation in which most of the population contribute nothing whatever to the national productivity… Yes, I know, I must be exaggerating. Surely.
In Re Victory
Had to look up the article quoted by Col Couvillon (forgive my possible mis-spelling). Found the editorial at http://strategicstudyindia.blogspot.com/2013/01/americas-strategic-stupidity.html
I think your and the Colonel’s observations are correct, but I think the author was taken out of context. While Bacevich may indeed be a U.S. apologist, I think that he was trying to state that faulty strategy — which did not include a military victory — was at least partly at fault for the failure to achieve any particular goals. He unfortunately uses language that appears to place the blame on the troops. I don’t think that is the author’s intent.
Perhaps the language is poorly considered, however, I don’t think that his position is too far distant from your own, or the Colonel’s, on this matter.
This is interesting:
The U.S. Marine Corps, known for turning out some of the military’s toughest warriors, is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness. Marine Corps officials say they will build a curriculum that would integrate mindfulness-based techniques into their training if they see positive results from a pilot project. Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired concept that emphasizes active attention on the moment to keep the mind in the present.
Alan Watts put it best when he described Buddhism and added "and when this gets mixed up in the context of Western ideas, Western science and so on it will do things the Asian people never dreamed of and might not even approve of". I think this article outlines one of those "things" that Alan Watts mentioned in his lecture on the transformation of consciousness. While some might consider it an irony, I am not surprised and this is not the first time someone tried this concept.
In the Heian period of Japan the Sohei lit. "monk warriors"; "fighting monks" raised armies. Interestingly enough, the Sohei were similar to the yamabushi lit "mountain warriors" in origins. Yamabushi are often associated with ninja — and for good reason. Ninja, however, did not raise armies; they undertook intelligence work and covert action. The Sohei had much power, partly because it was considered bad to kill monks. The Shohei were often influencial in Japanese politics and military affairs until just before the Edo period. The closest thing we’ve had in the West to the Shohei are the Teutonic Knights or the Knights Templar. As an aside, Himmler tried to make the SS into something like the Teutonic Knights. Unfortunately for him, the Nazis jailed and/or killed off any esotericist that might have helped them accomplish this as they were afraid of anyone who might have some power they could not control. Most of Himmler’s scholars were deluded and the Third Reich never lasted long enough to create the SS Himmler would have wanted. But, enough of history, let us speak of 2013.
I am most interested to see how this process would unfold with our military. I might have advocated something this when I was younger, but realizing the quality of people available I am concerned at how this will be applied and what the results will be. Also, if the Shohei, Templars, and Teutonic Knights provide a lesson for us, we could see a — if you will — spirit warrior caste of great power and influence. I realize that this "goes too far" because I’m looking beyond the short-term and most people don’t think that you can look beyond the short-term with any degree of accuracy, but I proved such platitudes wrong many times over the years and I did not say this was a certainty — only a possibility and something we might take care to consider and monitor.
Of course, if the Marines apply this concept on a mass scale we would find out if G.I. Gurdjieff’s hypothesis was correct. Gurdjieff postulated that war — he often used WWI as an example — demonstrated an instance of mass psychosis. Gurdjieff asserted that if the soldiers became aware — or "woke up" as he would often put it — they would lay down their weapons and return home to their wives and families.
If Gurdjieff is correct then only certain war fighters would enhance their killing efficiency with this training; such war fighters would constitute the small percentage of humans with no inherent resistance to killing one’s own. This inherent resistance is the major obstacle that prevents war fighters from killing. LTC Grossman’s work on the matter indicates that killing occurs by overcoming this resistance, primarily, through group absolution, demands of authority, social distance, psychological distance, mechanical distance, cultural distance, physical distance, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning. Grossman proved that group dynamics, symbols of authority, distance, and conditioning allow soldiers to deny the humanity of the enemy and kill them. Grossman indicated — through quantitative and qualitative methods — severe increases in kill rates from the Civil War through the Vietnam conflict in a book, aptly titled, On Killing.
I believe that it may be possible to create a hybrid training program that would bypass the "awakening" Gurdjieff might have expected, but I believe it would take more than what I’ve read here combined with what we have in 2013. I believe Grossman’s factors are compelling and that one can use a more sophisticated approach than employed in 2013 to increase killing efficiency and lessen suicide rates through better selection and preparation of war fighters. Still, I think this would work with war fighters that have the constitution for their work. The Marine Corps seems to think — judging by the article — that more self awareness will afford that constitution for all trainees. I don’t believe that, but I do believe that more self awareness will — through weeding out candidates without the constitution for killing — create a more efficient killing force and that is what martial science is all about.
Another interesting part of this development is in elitism. Per capita, very few Americans are or were members of the military. These people already represent a small — one might be forgiven for using the term "elite" — section of society. Military people tend to in better physical and mental condition than civilians and add a superior spiritual condition to this and you’re looking at a very interesting and powerful group of individuals. How will that square with a society that seems more degenerate with each passing day? I think we might do well to encourage — but not require — soldiers and veterans to work with civilians and the community to develop some of the traits and principles learned in the conditions the military imposed on them. I think that would do a lot for our national power as it would help restore a sense of national pride, individual competence, and self confidence. The rising influence of military and former military citizens might alarm some, but it could be a positive and helpful influence on our people from 2013 and on. This could be incorporated in the awareness training discussed in the article. After all, anyone who is aware realizes that they’ve never seen an organism without an environment or an organism that did not have others that looked similar. As Marcus Aurelius put it, "We are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to Nature, and it is acting against one another to be vexed and turn away."
Joshua Jordan, KSC
On a lighter side of contemporary computer Security Issues check this URL site out:
Seriously? Google Wants to Go Green Lantern on Us to Replace Passwords <http://technorati.com/technology/article/seriously-google-wants-to-go-green/>
Good heavens. Are we to boot our PCs with a ring and an oath aka Green Lantern?:
In brightest day, in darkest night,
I hope my PC starts tonight.
Let those viri trojans try as they might, Beware Google. Green Lantern’s light!
For those who weren’t DC Comic fans here are the full words for Green Lantern’s oath from Wikipedia:
Green Lantern is famous for the oath he recites when he charges his ring. Originally, the oath was simple:
…and I shall shed my light over dark evil.
For the dark things cannot stand the light,
The light of the Green Lantern!
This oath is also used by Lanterns Tomar-Re <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomar-Re> of sector 2813, and Chief Administrator Salaak <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salaak> . <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Lantern#cite_note-21>
In the mid-1940s, this was revised into the form that became famous during the Hal Jordan era:
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!
—Hal Jordan/Many Current Lanterns
I read Green Lantern when he first appeared, but he was never one of my great favorites. In those days his nemesis was wood, not yellow. I read lots of comics in the late 30’s and up to the end of WW II, but after that I shifted to science fiction and lost track. My favorite was Captain Marvel, and I was in love with Mary Marvel…
Kinder Egg inspectors
Just caught this article by Mark Stein from The Corner:
Choc and Awe
By Mark Steyn
April 24, 2011 8:55 A.M.
I am looking this bright Easter morn at a Department of Homeland Security “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence.” Late last night, crossing the Quebec/Vermont border, my children had two boxes of “Kinder Eggs” (“Est. Dom. Value $7.50″) confiscated by Customs & Border Protection.
Don’t worry, it’s for their own safety. I had no idea that the United States is the only nation on the planet (well, okay, excepting North Korea and Saudi Arabia and one or two others) to ban Kinder Eggs. According to the CBP:
View 759 Sunday, January 20, 2013
Richard and Herrin and the grandchildren are on visits to California friends, so in theory we had the day to catch up, but in fact the day was devoured by locusts. All small and nearly trivial problems that ate time.
I am grateful to Thermaltake and their gaming keyboards. Roberta managed to spill coffee in her old Gateway, and at the same time my old Ortek decided that the n key was going to be flakey. I found a Thermaltake for Roberta, and another for me. The one I have is the Challenger and comes in a professional carry bag. Everything Thermaltake does is in the direction of elegance. Of course keyboards and gaming keyboards are greatly a matter of personal preferences. The Thermaltake Challenger is definitely not a writer’s keyboard, and after Richard’s family goes back east I’m going out to Fry’s to get a Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard. I prefer the old Ortek but it is really OLD, and no longer reliable. If I did a lot of gaming I’d keep the Challenger in place, and in fact the simple solution would be to make some changes in my setup here and use the Comfort Curve on Emily over here on my main Windows machine. But I’m planning on replacing both the main Windows machines here with newly built systems anyway.
One thing we have learned is that Windows 8 may be great for gamers and other home use but Windows 7 is more than good enough for writers and office use. I think Windows 8 should be reserved for touch control machines. Windows 7 is still the best Windows yet, and in fact it’s the reason I haven’t converted everything to Mac systems. I was on the way to that conversion when 7 replaced (ugh) Vista, and 7 seduced me back to the dark side. Apple is too persnickety about things being done the Mac way or no way at all. Underneath the hood there’s real UNIX in Macs and that will solve almost all Mac problems, but UNIX remains the guru-friendly system. Ah well. More on that another time.
The Thermaltake keyboard is elegant, but the keys are too close together (perhaps that is a good thing if you are primarily a gamer) and I find I have the CAPS LOCK key on a lot when I didn’t want it. As far as I am concerned CAPS LOCK could be on a key switch over to one side of the keyboard. On my old ORTEK I disabled it by stuffing rubber foam under the key until it takes real pressure to activate it. If I keep this Thermaltake in service (not likely because the keys are just too close together for my style of typing) I’ll try that trick with it, only I don’t quite remember where I got the foam rubber. Probably from a dying chair.
I will repeat that Thermaltake has elegant products. I love their cases and their power supplies and cables and those work extremely well as well as look elegant. Their accessories run to the expensive elegant and impressive side – which is in fact a bit appealing, but not for keyboards where you have to do a lot of writing. Which is why I am still using, or wish I were still using, a 20 year old ORTEK programmable, and Roberta is using an even older Gateway. Or she may be. She’s got a Thermaltake now, and I washed her coffee soaked Gateway in the shower. That often fixes them. We can hope it works with hers. And for my ORTEK for that matter.
Anyway, I’m catching up, trying to get some work done. I don’t seem to be catching up although I am dancing as fast as I can.
View 758 Thursday, January 17, 2013
My son Richard, his wife Herrin, and two grandchildren are here. In addition, I am working on getting the Reader finished and in publication, and I am proofreading the final of HIGHER EDUCATION by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle for eBook publication. And I am working on two novels. I’m dancing as fast as I can…
Prosecutor defends actions in Aaron Swartz case – on Technology
I saw this story on NBCNews.com and thought you’d find it interesting.
** Prosecutor defends actions in Aaron Swartz case ** The U.S. attorney who directed the prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who took his life last Friday, made her first public comme…
For more news, visit http://www.NBCNews.com
Apparently whoever threatened Aaron Swartz with a long jail sentence did
not work for the U.S. Attorney. They were going to give him six months
at a Federal country club. So the mystery deepens.
Which makes the story even stranger. Of course the usual practice of prosecuting attorneys is to threaten the maximum penalty while offering something much smaller in exchange for a guilty plea. One presumes that what Swartz wanted was a trial in which his defense would be along the lines of liberation of public owned property: that he was entitled to copies of the materials he had downloaded. Why he believed – as apparently he did –- that he was faced with ruinous fines and decades in prison as opposed to a few months at Camp Fed in the company of financial offenders is not clear.
Leaving Swartz out of it, there remains the question of distribution of public documents. I find impossible to believe that setting up monopolies on the distribution of documents reporting publicly financed research fits any constitutional definition of promoting useful arts and science. I understand that journals must be financed. The editorial activities of soliciting peer reviews and doing initial publication have to be paid for; but the current system is simply ridiculous. ITHAKA and JSTOR pretty well prohibit widespread distribution outside academia; but the taxes that paid for the research certainly apply to the general public.
Perhaps Swartz’s legacy will be a new look at our whole journal distribution system with a view to promote the progress of science and the useful arts – and to make available to the public the results of publicly financed research. That issue is not settled.
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an op ed article
Keith Hennessey: How to Wage the Debt-Ceiling Fight
Republicans ought to make Obama an offer that would put him at odds with members of his party.
Step one is for House Republicans to argue for and pass a debt-limit increase combined with present and future spending cuts. Mr. Obama will reject deep spending cuts and accuse Republicans of playing dangerous games with our financial system. So what next?
The president wants a very large increase in the debt ceiling—he and his team have demanded either no limit at all, or a five-year increase, which means at least a few trillion dollars. His obvious goal is to punt the issue past the 2014 midterm election. Yet if he has to ask Congress for a new increase every few months, the spending problem his administration has exacerbated in his first term will dominate the policy agenda—when he wants to work on other issues.
That brings us to step two, which is for congressional Republicans to offer Mr. Obama a choice. He can have a long-term debt-limit increase if he agrees to cut spending, or he can have repeated, short-term increases without spending cuts. If the president continues to dodge the country’s long-term spending problem, the solution is to force him to ask Congress every few months to give him the authority to borrow more while facing questions about why he refuses to restrain spending.
The article continues with arguments for his strategy. For those who believe, as I do, that it is vital for the United States to stop the automatic growth of government – in particular the exponential baseline expansion, replacing it with zero growth baseline so that a cut in a budget item really is a cut, not merely a reduction of the increase which has been promised, this seems like the right idea. The Constitution requires that money bills originate in the House.
The first move ought to be reform of the budget process to eliminate the growth that is built in to continuing resolutions. Then Hennessey’s strategy will work, possibly quite splendidly.
Some views on conscription
I have always thought that it would be a good idea to make completion of Basic Training (Boot Camp, et al) a requirement to graduate High School. One wouldn’t need to continue on to the specialization schools (infantry, radio operator, cook & so on), and of course those who have a physical or mental handicap that might preclude them from completing basic shouldn’t be required to attempt it. I realize that there are able-bodied and mentally competent individuals that would still refuse going through any sort of military style training, I will call them conscientious objectors I suppose, for them and perhaps for those with handicaps where appropriate why not require them to do some sort of equivalent time in the Peace Corps or something similar. I think something that could be accomplished over a summer, or less would be appropriate.
Since I hate me some commie peace-nik types, I’d want the Peace Corps side of things to be conducted overseas in a nasty, brutish, possibly dangerous part of the world; and of course you wouldn’t be armed with any terrible weapon that could possibly hurt anyone, it being a Peace Corps and all…
Maybe I could be talked out of such a crazy idea if say the Peace Corps term was twice as long as the longest military basic training course. Or maybe make them into medics in a busy ER, clean operating rooms or something, we do now have Health-care for everyone to deal with now…
Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force are 8 weeks, Army is 9 weeks and Marines a grueling 13 weeks. I guess that’d make the Peace Corps requirement 26 weeks, six and a half months! Ouch, maybe some of the conscientious objectors would opt for Coast Guard, Navy or Air Force instead?
Anyhow, once you complete the 8-26 weeks of training that you opt to take, you are finished with it unless a REAL draft is needed, at that point you report to whichever branch of service you completed your training in for whatever specialized job they need you to do.
What do we do with the folks who opted for the Peace Corps-style term of service? I would think you figure out which branch of service needs people, and send them to the appropriate basic military school to get them started on the path to infantry, cook or whatever.
Of course, the genuinely handicapped individual isn’t and should not be sent through a military style training scheme, and I don’t think they should be forced to do a 26 week mandatory Peace Corps hitch to graduate either. Maybe make it a voluntary thing for them, 13-week if they choose? Sort of a civilian contractor type role, someone physically disabled might be able to work wonders on a computer for any war effort (or Peace Corps effort, I suppose). Mental disabilities might require a bit more creativity, but if they want to volunteer, surely they can contribute in some way.
Remember, my proposition is to make this a requirement for High School Graduation, one can always drop-out. Later in life, should they so decide, they can finish the requirement and get a GED, if they decide to.
Not quite a draft, but close enough to one to expedite the training process should a draft ever be needed.
One approach is to legislate universal conscription, but make it easy enough to get out of. However, anyone who does not put in the conscript year is no longer eligible for any federal employment, and any employer is exempt from application of any anti-discrimination laws for refusing to hire someone who has not complied with the conscription law. That has worked well enough for some nations.
conscription; Bill of Rights
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I’m not in favor of conscription; I agree with Heinlein’s view of it. But I would also note that the conscription of the early Republic was for service in the militia, usually within the state and certainly within the Union. That’s a far cry from the national government having the power to draft people and send them into foreign countries. It makes sense to me to say that if a foreign war isn’t inspiring Americans to volunteer, it’s not a war we should be fighting. It’s a natural check on the kind of military adventurism that became popular in the United States around the time when the Progressive movement emerged.
I’m puzzled by your claim about the Bill of Rights not applying to the states. Certainly that was true when it was originally enacted. But the Fourteenth Amendment seems to say otherwise; if anything, its list—privileges and immunities, life, liberty, and property, AND equal protection of the laws—seems more all-inclusive than the explicitly named rights of the first eight amendments. Could you spare a brief explanation of why you think otherwise?
William H. Stoddard
The notion that the 14th Amendment implied rights against the states that could be inferred – rather than rights enacted by Act of Congress – was not applied until well into the 20th Century. Indeed, the notion of some kind of federal protection against religion didn’t come until quite late. Originally the States had the right to establish religions – seven of the original states had established religions when they accepted the Constitution. Leaving matters to the States and abstaining from ruling on “political matters” was the usual practice of the Supreme Court until the Roosevelt Administration.
But this is all fairly moot since the questions seem to be settled. Whether they have been settled properly is perhaps worth discussion. The search for perfection does not always end well.
View 758 Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Noam Chomsky Killed Aaron Swartz.
‘Lobbyists are only interested in money. Activists are only interested in power. Sometimes a great nexus of corruption thrusts forth a figure of genius, such as Al Gore, who dazzles us with a talent for both.’
The article claims that Aaron Swartz was enamored of the views of Noam Chomsky, and this self deception was the cause of his death. It is an interesting view, but it sheds far more light on the views of Mr. Chomsky than those of Mr. Swartz.
I will say from the beginning that I was never a great fan of Aaron Swartz and his circle of friends, and of course I believe in copyright and intellectual property rights. I am also a great fan of the Constitution of 1787, which does not grant the Federal Government the right to issue monopolies except under certain conditions. In the England of 1787 – which is to say England after the Civil War, England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 with its Bill of Rights – still accepted that great powers resided in the sovereignty of the Crown. There was some dispute as to how much of the power of the Crown resided in the King (and his appointed ministers) and how much had passed to Parliament, but there were few who dissented from the notion that government had great power over its subjects.
The Declaration of Independence challenged that notion. To the Declaration, governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed, and nowhere else. The Convention of 1787 never made that declaration, although many of those who sat through those hot days of a Philadelphia summer accepted it; but they explicitly said that no such residuum of sovereign power was vested in the Federal Government. To the extent that there were unspecified powers they were reserved to the states of the people. This wasn’t in the exact wording of the Constitution – although Hamilton insisted that they were a logical implication – so the words were added to the Bill of Rights, so they might as well have been. Hamilton said there was no need for a Bill of Rights because the general government had no powers not explicitly granted in the Constitution, and he would have considered the notion of emanations from penumbras the ravings of a mad tyrant.
One of the residual powers definitely not granted to the general government – the feds – was the power to issue monopolies, either by Executive Decree (Executive Order, Royal Rescript, whatever you want to call it) of by Act of Congress.
One power was explicitly given:
“The Congress shall have power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
Note that nothing was said about intellectual property.
Note also that nothing was said about who owns the rights to intellectual property created through grants of public money.
My – sympathy, affection, agreement, whatever you care to make it – with Aaron Swartz has to do with his challenge to ITHAKA’s monopoly of access to journal accounts and the high prices it charges. I think someone ought to challenge that monopoly, and I think Mr. Swartz performed a public service in doing so. I think a public trial of Mr. Swartz, which probably would have resulted in a conviction although jury nullification is always possible, would have been a healthy thing for all. As I say, it probably would have resulted in a conviction of Mr. Swartz, and his sentence to something under a year of imprisonment, and perhaps a fine (which would undoubtedly have been paid by public subscription). Instead the US Attorney sought 35 years of imprisonment, offering no alternative other than a plea of guilty – and thus no trial, and no challenge to the ITHAKA monopoly.
It seems as if the goal of that prosecution was not enforcement of laws against stealing, but prevention of a trial that would have exposed the ITHAKA monopoly.
I remain of that opinion.
Los Angeles has an interesting First Amendment case. A recent county initiative – a form of direct democracy that California seems to like a lot (unsurprising in a state given the history of its legislature) – requires that actors in pornography films wear condoms. One pornography company (which a few years ago required the use of condoms but abandoned that after it adopted a system of STD testing for all its performers) now challenges the law on the grounds that it adds nothing to public health, and restricts the First Amendment rights of both the producer and the performers.
A spokesman for the porn industry asserts that no one since 2005 has contracted AIDS from acting in a pornographic scene, and that more than 300,000 hard core pornographic scenes have been filmed since that time. One actor has come forward to assert that he has become HIV + as a result of being involved in pornographic movies. It is asserted that he engaged in sexual activities not part of any pornographic recordings, and the industry continues to assert that the condom requirement does nothing for public health while it does restrict the rights of free speech.
In the early days of the Republic it was explicit that the Bill of Rights did not necessarily apply to the States, and that continued even after the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Fourteenth Amendment. After World War I this began to change and the Supreme Court began to assert that the Bill of Rights could be enforced by the Federal Government against the states. As an example, seven of the original 13 States had established churches with tax-paid clergy, and this continued the 1830’s when the last established church was disestablished by its state legislature. The regulation of religion including religious practices – such as benedictions and closing blessings at public ceremonies like road openings and public building dedications – was left entirely to the states. That is hardly the case now, as SCOTUS found emanations and penumbras in the Bill of Rights.
Is requiring an actor to wear a condom a violation of a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States?
I look forward to hearing the arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States a few years from now. when the Awful Majesty of the Law will tender us a decision.
Much of my day was devoured by locusts, but I now have new glasses, and they greatly improve my vision; clearly I went too long without getting new eye tests. Now to catch up.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Former General McChrystal is on record as favoring a draft of some kind.
“Service member” should not apply only to those in uniform, but to us all.
The concept of national service is not new, nor is it outdated. When America needs it, national service is the personal obligation of every American. And she needs it now.
All of us bear an obligation to serve—an obligation that goes beyond paying taxes, voting, or adhering to the law. America is falling short in endeavors that occur far away from any battlefield: education, science, politics, the environment, and cultivating leadership, among others."
I wanted your opinion on this, because I believe that this concept would be anathema to the founding fathers. While all able-bodied males were expected to be part of the militia, which could be federalized, the idea that the federal government could conscript labor at whim seems more like something which would be done by the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt rather than free Americans.
I just re-read the Declaration and the original bill of rights, and while it doesn’t appear this specific issue was addressed in either of those documents, there’s a little bell going off in the back of my mind to the extent this WAS addressed by the founders as not being a good thing. Perhaps in the federalist papers?
Machiavelli urged republics to employ conscription for their defense, rather than hiring long term professionals. His view was that standing armies became independent entities, and transmogrified into mercenaries. The United States had that view until, and for that matter after, World War II. The professional military of the United States was intended to deal with immediate matters, but it was not to be large. For the vast majority of the time of our republic, the Navy belonged to the President and could be used to intervene in foreign affairs, but the Department of War – the Army – belonged to the Congress and could be employed only in real declared wars.
Much of that changed after World War II, and of course the existence of the Air Force and particularly the Strategic Air Command complicated everything: SAC, after all, possessed the power to end the world as we knew it. This was clearly not a task for conscripts. Then came Viet Nam. And after that came the professional military, the volunteer forces, and the United States became the world superpower. So far that has not brought about the difficulties Machiavelli prophesied, and the Framers’ fear of large standing armies becoming the instrument of tyranny – since they could always subdue the militia – has not so far come to pass. I understand that many Old South loyalists might dispute that statement.
Universal manhood conscription has always had a unifying effect, and has been employed in nations such as Sweden and Switzerland – both known for their ability to maintain neutrality during world wars – with considerable success. One effect of conscription is to acquaint the citizens with each other: I had never known anyone but fellow Southernors when I went to Basic Training, and I certainly had never known any blacks my age. For that matter, I hadn’t really got to know any Southernors other than those from Shelby County, Tennessee. It was an enlightening experience for me. Of course I wasn’t a conscript, but many in the Basic Training barracks were.
In addition to enlightening experiences, subjection to basic military training was a positive experience for me, and I suspect to most of those around me. We griped, we complained, but we were at the age usually called ‘coming of age’ and that is no bad description.
The objection to conscription is that it is the ultimate tax, and Mr. Heinlein maintained that a nation that had to resort to conscription did not deserve to survive. This is an essentially moral argument and depends mostly on one’s premises. I will note that democracies have employed conscription far more often, and far more vigorously, than aristocracies and monarchies.
In response to your question, the Framers had mixed emotions on the subject. The Continental Congress clearly thought the States had the power of conscription and urged that they raise militias for the national service by impressment (generally for one year terms). This was employed without much success by some states, refused by others. By the time of the Civil War the federal Congress had no qualms about passing a conscription Act. nor did the Confederacy, and both sides employed conscript soldiers throughout the war.
I will also note that Rome not only employed conscription during the entire history of the Republic. Indeed. military service was considered a privilege. The Senate and People of Rome were very reluctant to erect long term standing armies. Of course the Army was the mainstay of the Emperor after the collapse of the Republic.
In other words, you ask a very complex question to which the best answer is that we all need to give all this considerable thought. In general professional soldiers are much more effective than part time militias, and standing armies generally win when wars begin; the strength of democracies is that they could use professionals to hold off disaster while they raised armies. That is the traditional basis of the American Way of War. The argument is that the world has greatly changed now, and we have no choice but to have a large professional standing army. The counter argument is that such an army can be employed far more easily and in stickier situations than an army of citizens and their children. We will not settle that here.
View 758 Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The Wall Street Journal has an editorial article of some importance today.
The Rise of the Accreditor as Big Man on Campus
The gatekeepers of federal student aid wield too much influence in higher education.
Who’s in charge of our colleges and universities—their boards of trustees or the accreditation organizations that are the gatekeepers of federal aid? That’s the question I’m left asking after a decision by the Southern Association of Colleges (SACS), one of six regional accreditors recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to put the University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by no less than Thomas Jefferson, on "warning."
SACS’s action comes in the wake of efforts by the University of Virginia’s governing board this summer—later reversed—to remove President Teresa Sullivan in favor of a leader more aggressively focused on cost controls. After months of criticism and second-guessing of the board’s decision, last month the accreditor sanctioned the university and placed it on a warning status pending further investigation.
As US higher education gets more expensive it also gets more useless; but it is able to do that because of its control of credentials. Now it appears that the bureaucracies that control accreditation of the colleges have become more active in forcing both the increase in expense and the ritualism that makes the education itself worth less. It’s a vicious circle with the Iron Law of Bureaucracy in control.
In 2007, when the University of California regents attempted to deal with runaway administrative costs through modest salary and benefit changes, they found themselves spending precious time responding to accreditor complaints that trustees were "unnecessarily harsh" with administrators. These are not isolated incidents. Across the country, boards of trustees are being effectively sidelined in their oversight responsibility, in deference to accreditor pressure.
The remedy of course is to change the whole notion of credentials and accreditation: judge the worth of an institution by its results. By their fruits you shall know them, Jesus told His followers; and it is splendid advice to follow in bureaucratic situations. Setting up procedures which, if followed, give you high accreditation marks even if you turn out students who can’t read – and there is increasing evidence that the number of students who graduate from accredited colleges functionally illiterate is rising – is a sure way to ruin.
In my early stories in which I postulated a spacefaring nation by 2010 I also assumed that major companies would have their own education programs turning out graduates who would be useful to the company. That was at one time happening. It can and should happen again.
When I first went into the Boeing Company nearly half the aeronautical engineers at Boeing were not university graduates: they began as draftsmen right out of high school and over the years learned the job. The other evening I saw my old friend Paul Turner, one of the last non-degree engineers from the space program. He retired from North American Rockwell as project manager of a small but significant station in Shuttle. You don’t have to have an expensive university degree to be a good engineer. It often helps – we used to have the slogan that the half-life of an engineering graduate was about seven years – but it also helps if you acquire the habit of staying current in your profession. The non-degree engineers always did. The best of the university graduate engineers did also, but there was also a significant number who stopped learning when they left university, and their half life was indeed about seven years.
The United States has the capability of regaining its position as the leading academic nation on Earth; but we have to change the accreditation system along with the whole notion of academic control of credentials. We need to get back to the notion that the best credential for doing a job is the ability to do it well. That particularly applies to teaching the young: our colleges of education, fully accredited, are shameless messes producing illiterate children. Shame.
Anonymous hacks MIT after Aaron Swartz’s suicide
Hacktivist group defaces university pages after the school promises a full investigation into MIT’s role in events leading up to the Internet activist taking his life.
After calling the prosecution of Swartz "a grotesque miscarriage of justice" and "a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for," Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section labeled "Our wishes:"
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
Of course this was to be expected – whether by Anonymous or some similar group. It shows very clearly the state of law and order in the electronic frontier, and its similarity to Deadwood or perhaps Dodge City without James Arness or even William Conrad.
This shouldn’t be taken as approval of the Anonymous action, but it’s fairly easy to sympathize with their view. The US Attorney in the Swartz case has famously said “Stealing is stealing!” and that Swartz deserved punishment. One can agree with that without approving her threatening him with 35 years imprisonment for a crime in which no one was harmed and nothing was actually republished.
Moreover, Swartz called attention to something important here: of the millions of documents he “stole” by downloading and recording copies of them (while of course leaving the originals in place for anyone else to download) the vast majority were reports of publicly funded studies and projects. Why ITHAKA, a non-profit whose executives are paid in excess of $200,000 a year (the CEO makes over $300,000), should have a monopoly on control of access to those documents, and be able to charge quite large fees for doing it, is not entirely clear: I would bet you that if there were some competition in the journal publishing business it could all be accomplished for a heck of a lot less than ITHAKA’s JSTOR charges. If I am incorrect I invite someone to defend the current situation.
My liberal friend Francis Hamit has some experience in this matter.
The Swartz case
I have to say that the Arron Swartz case leaves me with mixed emotions. You will recall that I had a big copyright infringement case several years ago against a publisher that sold 99 articles of mine to several databases. I sued not just the publisher but ten of their customers. It was an extraordinary and expensive measure that produced results, with the case being settled in my favor for a sum I am not allowed to disclose. I’m not particularly sympathetic towards people who rip off copyrighted material under the theory that information should be free.
But the prosecution of Swartz mystifies me. I asked the U.S Attorney in Los Angeles to take a similar measure on my behalf and spent a couple of hours explaining the multiple infringements of one article on several databases to a FBI agent who claimed to be a CPA and a "cybercrime" expert. They weren’t interested. The FBI said it seemed like a Civil matter to them and that not all laws were enforced. I pointed out what the law is and expressed my disappointment with their lack of action. I said at the time that the Copyright Act only got enforced when there were headlines to be made to show that the FBI and the U.S Attorney were on the job. And that only small fish were ever prosecuted. Never large organizations with political power.
I suspect that was the case here. The offense was too large to ignore. Five million articles seems like a lot, but as someone who publishes that kind of material online and has researched actual database usage by libraries, I can tell you that the losses were minimal. That U.S. Attorney is perfectly correct. Stealing is stealing. But she could have offered the kid a plea deal and been done with it. A big fine would have made the point. Instead she terrified him with the threat of a huge jail sentence. The case had not even gone to trial. So his act was a permanent solution to a temporary problem which could have been negotiated down.
It’s a tragedy. The punishment did not fit the crime. But there is blame on both sides.
I would have thought that even a moderate fine and perhaps thirty days in the clink would have been enough to discourage repetition of Swartz’s crime, while also allowing there to be a trial. Forcing a trial was the point of his action; and a month or two in the clink should be a high enough stake. After all, to the best of my knowledge there has never been any debate of the wisdom of giving this monopoly over reports of publicly funded research to ITHAKA, nor of whether the current costs of public access to publicly owned data can’t be improved. I suspect I could staff such an enterprise for a lot less than JSTOR/ITHAKA charge.
I don’t subscribe to the information ought to be free notion, but I do subscribe to the notion that the public owns what the public has paid for, and that includes publications intended for wide distribution. Yes, there needs to be attention to just what rights the authors of reports of publicly supported research should have. I do note that many academics, paid for from the public purse, owe their promotions and for that matter their tenure to widespread publication and aren’t so much interested in being paid for their writing as in having it cited in other publications.
There is a great debate require here, but it won’t happen if the only way for that to take place is for someone to risk life imprisonment.
And where you see nothing but blame in Swartz, I see some glimmers of heroism. The liberal credo is that intentions matter more than actions; certainly Aaron Swartz meant well – and he caused no one any real harm. The government suppressed a needed debate by making the price of a trial his risking 35 years in jail. Her could have got off lightly if he had pleaded guilty, but what would that have accomplished? We’d still be paying too much for access to publicly owned documents, and paying ITHAKA executives $300,000 a year and more for running this show.
My thanks to all the readers who have written me to assure me that modern cataract operations are fabulously successful, and a great deal less complex while highly effective than was my experience in my youth. I appreciate your concern. I am also happy to report that I don’t need such an operation just yet. although tomorrow they will give me one more exam to be certain. Thanks to all of you for both the information and the concern.
View 758 Monday, January 14, 2013
I have this from Colonel Couvillon
I pick this up from the middle of the article:
" Simply put, the troops proved unable to win, a shortcoming painfully evident in both Iraq and Afghanistan."
Bacevich, a former US Army Colonel and West Point grad, makes the same damn mistake that US apologists always make. They forget that to WIN a war one has to DEFEAT the enemy AND his supporters… That means to subjugate the enemy populace and make them bow to your demands and power. When the enemy populace becomes your ally and turns on their government/leaders; or at least rejects our enemy – and yes, that means oftentimes innocent people die in the meantime, then you WIN. The US does not do this, to our great failing. All the talk of rebuilding, making democracy, support, help, assistance, etc. can happen after that point.
The troops didn’t prove unable to win… they were withheld from doing what is necessary to achieve total victory.
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work
In The Revolt of the Masses, Ortega y Gasset tells the story that Napoleon was reviewing his troops. They marched past in their splendid uniforms, and the Emperor said to Talleyrand “See my soldiers! See their bayonets, how they gleam!”
Talleyrand replied, “You can do anything with a bayonet, Sire, except sit upon it.”
Ortega’s point was that rule is not so much a matter of the firm hand as of the firm seat. The history of Afghanistan from Alexander the Great to the present is well known, and demonstrates that gaining a firm seat in that land was beyond the reach of everyone including Alexander, the Persians, Tamerlane, Babur the Tiger, the British Empire, and the Russians, and that no tactics would prevail. No one tried dispossessing the population and replacing it with colonists, but 21st Century Americans were unlikely to do that in any event – and it is not impossible that even that would fail. Colonial empires that used that strategy have fallen to rebellion…
The history of Mesopotamia was no more encouraging, and worse, there had never been an “Iraq” in the first place. Iraq was created by jamming together three provinces of the Ottoman Empire. One of those provinces was a portion of what had once been Kurdistan, whose people wanted unification with their relatives in the Turkish and Iranian Kurdish provinces. The Kurds have been warriors for all known history, and under their great leader Saladin liberated Palestine and most of the Middle East from the Crusader Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem – and began the process of reunification of the Muslim world. Beginning with the allegiance of the Kurds he went on to become Sultan of Egypt and take the rulership of Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and other provinces, before the Mongol invasion and later the Turks established a new Caliphate.
I agree with Colonel Couvillon that there is no substitute for victory. Indeed, Colonel Bacevic would have been required to learn in Beast Barracks at West Point Macarthur’s dictum” "From the Far East I send you one single thought, one sole idea — written in red on every beachhead from Australia to Tokyo — There is no substitute for victory!" Every plebe must recite it many times.
It is possible that in Iraq we might, with the help of the Baath Party and the regular troops of the defeated Iraqi Army, have imposed some kind of enduring state with which we could ally in Iraq. It would have been expensive, and it would certainly have been the kind of state that Plato and Aristotle called a timocracy or rule by military honor. The classic theory is that such societies degenerate into oligarchies, and are inferior to the rule of the best, but they are greatly to be preferred to other degenerate states. Whatever the possibility of creating a stable ally in Iraq through a rule of honorable warriors, it was ended the moment that our proconsul disbanded the Iraqi army and unleashed a horde of armed but unemployed young men.
Had we understood that the objective in both Afghanistan and Iraq was to instill in the population and leaders the notion that life was better without America and an enemy, much might have been accomplished; but a failed attempt to install liberal democracy before the complete defeat of the enemy was doomed from the beginning, and American politics pretty well guaranteed that we would not pay the price in blood and treasure for such a complete victory. I had thought that we went into Iraq to assure two things, Iraq as a stable opponent of Iran, and the flow of Iraqi oil into Western markets. Both those goals may have been possible before the dissolution of the Iraqi army, but not later. And in Afghanistan we had achieved the goals President Obama has proclaimed as victory – that Afghanistan did not harbor the enemies of the American people – in months without the intrusion of masses of troops seen not as allies but as occupation forces.
Of course it is instructive to reflect on what we might have done, but it is more important to think clearly about what we must do now.
Technology marches on. Is the Second Law of Thermodynamics now at risk?
Another odd consequence of negative temperatures has to do with entropy, which is a measure of how disorderly a system is. When objects with positive temperature release energy, they increase the entropy of things around them, making them behave more chaotically. However, when objects with negative temperatures release energy, they can actually absorb entropy.
"We have created the first negative absolute temperature state for moving particles," said researcher Simon Braun at the University of Munich in Germany.
I note that some jobs previously exported to China and the oriental Tigers have been returned to the United States – but they are now done by robots. Sixty Minutes last night showed a $22,000 robot, good for three years, that will work tirelessly without health care benefits. It can be programmed by guiding it through a repetitious task (shades of Heinlein’s Door Into Summer!).
Assume that it will work two shifts a day, and that it requires “health care” of a value equal to its cost. Assume further that it requires a human attendant to care for six of those robots. (Skilled workers attended at least as many mechanical looms during the early Industrial Revolution, each doing more work than a single master weaver could have done by hand). Thus one worker supervises six of these. Assume he is highly skilled and costs $75,000 a year, or $225,000 for three years. The machines cost $44,000 each for three years, or $264,000. They do the work of 6 for not much more than the cost of one highly skilled worker. Assume that the job is simple enough to be assigned to someone less highly paid than the skilled supervisor, but also factor in the costs of having employees (including pensions, health care, and other government mandated benefits).
Now assume Moore’s Law applies to the cost of the robots and their care. Also assume that the robots continue to get smarter and more productive.
Science fiction tried to explore this sort of world in many stories. Some assumed that smart people stopped having kids, but the general population did not, with the least intelligent (those who didn’t understand how birth control works) having the most. Assume liberal democracy. Now go read Cyril Kornbluth’s “The Little Black Bag.” There is also Kornbluth and Pohl, Search the Sky, another take on much the same view.
There are others.
But a society in which half the population is essentially useless and knows that it is unemployable may not be stable.
It’s lunch time.
For a long time the maxim “You never appreciate how smart a moron is until you try to program a robot” was a fairly accurate observation. Apparently that is no longer the case. Would you buy that for a quarter?
While contemplating the advances in robot productivity and their elimination of the “skilled worker” factory jobs that created the blue collar middle class of our golden days, contemplate the population declines. Fewer and fewer workers must support more and more retirees and pay for their increasing-with-age health care. We’re going to need the robot productivity just to stay out of bankruptcy. We have no idea of where the population will stabilize, but it may be a wild ride getting there.
And as robots get smarter, will they be able to write science fiction novels?
MIT is now rethinking its role in the Swartz case.
“I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many,” Reif said in the statement issued Sunday. “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”
Critics, including Swartz’s family, blamed Massachusetts prosecutors and MIT for unjustly punishing Swartz.
On Saturday, the family issued a statement that included the criticism, stating, “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The U.S. attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”
Reif said he has asked Hal Abelson, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, to “lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.”
“I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took,” Reif said.
Mail 758 Sunday, January 13, 2013
There is also a View today http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=11443
Linear No Threshold Theory Wrong UN Admits – Media keeps Quiet
For 60 years the Linear No Threshold theory (LNT), that low level radiation is harmful, has been the foundation of the anti-nuclear movement. It has never had any scientific justification whatsoever and this has now been publicly acknowledged by the The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).
The fears engendered by this scare story have been directly responsible for the standstill in nuclear energy generation and thus in most energy generation overall in the world since 1970. Without that scare the world would be producing at least twice as much electricity and would thus be thought twice as well off.
Such paradigm shattering news is of massive worldwide significance and has thus been ignored by virtually all the world’s conventional media <https://www.google.com/search?aq=f&hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=unscear+radiation+levels&oq=unscear+radiation+levels&gs_l=news-cc.3..43j43i400.7688.25281.0.26016.28.5.0.10.0.0.453.2062.3-1j4.5.0…0.0…1ac.1.zB9GUOcFckk> with the almost sole exception of this from Forbes:
As far as I am concerned, the linear damage all the way down hypothesis was disproved years ago, and the balance of evidence strongly favors the theory of hormesis. The linear damage theory says that the dose make the poison, and even a little bit of radiation damage is too much; hormesis says that a little bit of radiation can actually be good for you. It does NOT state that if a little is good more is better.
We discussed all this years ago at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail311.html#hormesis
And more recently at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2010/Q1/mail616.html#hormesis
See also http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2010/03/radiation-hormesis-spreading-question.html
And in fact I have been writing about this since my days as science editor of Galaxy Science Fiction. There is a section on radiation hormesis in A Step Farther Out http://www.amazon.com/Step-Farther-Out-Jerry-Pournelle/dp/0441785832
But one need not accept hormesis to realize that the lowest levels of radiation don’t have much effect on large mammals.
And another long time consensus may be dissolving into something nearer truth:
Solar Variability and Terrestrial Climate
Dr. Pournelle –
An interesting press release on the National Research Council’s report, "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate."
Solar Variability and Terrestrial Climate
The "consensus", if you will, of the workshop which generated the report is that even small variations in solar activity can have a significant effect on the earth’s climate. Some of these effects are thought to be through complex mechanisms. (Occam advised that things shouldn’t be more complicated than necessary, not that they should be simple.) (The report can be purchased or read and printed online.)
One of the statements that caught my attention:
"Indeed, the sun could be on the threshold of a mini-Maunder event right now. Ongoing Solar Cycle 24 is the weakest in more than 50 years. Moreover, there is (controversial) evidence of a long-term weakening trend in the magnetic field strength of sunspots. Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives, magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Independent lines of research involving helioseismology and surface polar fields tend to support their conclusion. (Note: Penn and Livingston were not participants at the NRC workshop.) "
On the other side of the issue, the U.S. National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee has come out with its latest draft report in which it states that temperatures in the U.S. have risen 1.5 F since 1895 and will continue to rise 2F to 4F in the coming decades and that this increase is certainly anthropogenic. (I recommend Judith Curry’s website in general and her current -and no doubt future – commentary on this report. http://judithcurry.com/ , http://judithcurry.com/2013/01/12/draft-u-s-climate-assessment-report/#more-10910 )
As an aside, you have periodically mentioned the dragging of heavy cannon on sledges across the frozen Hudson River in 1776, Here are a couple of other events:
Jane Long wrote of surviving the winter of 1821-1822 with her three children (the youngest born Dec. 1821) and a slave, abandoned at a fort on the Bolivar Peninsula, in part by eating ducks and fish hacked out of the ice on Galveston Bay.
In February of 1895, local papers reported that ships at Galveston were frozen at their moorings and an errant mule was observed to walk from Galveston to the mainland on the ice covering Galveston Bay.
It doesn’t get that cold today. I, for one, am grateful.
The facts remain. Although the media keep telling us that this was the warmest year in history, they don’t make it clear that “warmest” is a very relative term, and by any interpretation it was “not very much warmer” than the previous “warmest year” – and given that temperatures have been falling for years, it doesn’t take much. We really don’t have the means to get average temperatures over large areas to an accuracy of a tenth of a degree, even today with satellite measurements; and if we are trying to compare to temperatures taken back in the days of mercury thermometers, accuracies to within a degree are questionable.
The Earth has certainly warmed since 1895, which was about when Arrhenius did a back of the envelope calculation on what might be the effect of doubling the atmospheric CO2 and came up with the notion that CO2 additions from industry would create a greenhouse effect and raise global temperature. Since he was from Sweden he didn’t think this was necessarily a bad thing.
The actual rate of global temperature rise since 1900 hasn’t been greater than the rate of rise in the last half of the 19th Century, and for the past ten years there doesn’t seem to have been much rise at all.
I am a bit astonished that there is not more literature on what might be the optimum temperature of the Earth. Of course what we have seems “normal” but might there be a better temperature?
But we don’t have much control over the solar radiation and sunspots, which may have more effect on Earth’s temperature than our belching factories. And for that matter there is more belching in China and India than in the US and there will be more to come.
See also http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/11/2012-probably-not-the-hottest-on-record-after-all/
HARRIS AND BALL: 2012 probably not the hottest on record, after all – Washington Times
Your argument has become main stream.
Well , we will see…
NASA’s James Hansen Declared Obama Has One Week Left To Save The Planet! — ‘On Jan. 17, 2009 Hansen declared Obama only ‘has four years to save Earth’ — Only 7 Days left!
Obama Mission Accomplished! ‘Obama succeeded in reversing global warming’ Global Temps Cooling Over past 4 years
Alert: NASA’s James Hansen Declared Obama Has One Week Left To Save The Planet! — ‘On Jan. 17, 2009 Hansen declared Obama only ‘has four years to save Earth’ — Only 7 Days left! <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=0fc410c522&e=e57bd7cb9d> — UK Guardian Jan. 17, 2009 <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=c9d801d93d&e=e57bd7cb9d>
Obama Mission Accomplished! ‘In Jan. 2009, Hansen gave Obama 4 years to save the planet – and he succeeded in reversing global warming’ Global Temps Cooling Over past 4 years! <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=85b0cdcf7e&e=e57bd7cb9d>
Flashback 2011: Promise Kept – Planet Healer Obama Calls It: In 2008, he declared his presidency would result in ‘the rise of the oceans beginning to slow’ — And By 2011, Sea Level Drops! <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=ea50a51c99&e=e57bd7cb9d> — Obama ‘presided over what some scientists are terming an ‘historic decline’ in global sea levels’ — ‘Obama should declare ‘mission accomplished’ and take credit!’
Climate Depot’s Morano: ‘It is just possible that Obama has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men — since sea levels actually cooperated with Obama’s pledge! <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=114bb7762a&e=e57bd7cb9d> ’
Laugh Riot: 190-year climate ‘tipping point’ issued — Despite fact that UN began 10-Year ‘Climate Tipping Point’ in 1989! <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=109f68b073&e=e57bd7cb9d> — Climate Depot Factsheet on Inconvenient History of Global Warming ‘Tipping Points’ — Hours, Days, Months, Years, Millennium — Earth ‘Serially Doomed’
National Journal: ‘Guns, Debt, and Climate Change Give Obama Shot at Immortality’ <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=9a089d025d&e=e57bd7cb9d>
Obama To Personally Take Control Of The Climate: ‘Obama may intervene directly on climate change by hosting a summit at White House early in his 2nd term, environmental groups say’ <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=03be7b6c0b&e=e57bd7cb9d>
UN’s top climate official: Obama should deliver strong response to 2012 record-breaking heat <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=bdffdfc4d2&e=e57bd7cb9d>
Obama ‘seriously considering’ hosting climate summit <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=12d0528d1f&e=e57bd7cb9d>
Ralph Nader: You know what the U.S. needs? A brand-new $340 billion annual bad-weather-prevention tax The best solution for climate change is a carbon tax <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=b7b9de0bd4&e=e57bd7cb9d> – ‘With annual emissions of 6.8 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents, the U.S. would collect $340 billion each year.With revenue like that, a carbon tax could be used to help balance the budget’
WashTimes: EPA busts private-sector budgets with rules that cost $353 billion: ‘The equivalent of all the wealth generated each year in Virginia’s private-sector economy’ <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=470ce90ed5&e=e57bd7cb9d>
EPA under investigation for skirting email transparency <http://climatedepot.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=87b74a936c723115dfa298cf3&id=a77701a0bb&e=e57bd7cb9d
We’re still here, too.
Apophis Asteroid May Destroy Some Satellites In 2029.
And it will be back again in 2036. Perhaps closer still. At about 800 megatons, or 17 Tsar Bombas.
Among the many petitions submitted to the White House petitions R us program was one to commit to build the Death Star by 2016. The White House has answered the petition.
Earth is getting greener (WSJ)
“Did you know that the Earth is getting greener, quite literally?
Satellites are now confirming that the amount of green vegetation on the planet has been increasing for three decades. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, overdevelopment and ecosystem destruction.”
* * *
"Mad Science" means never asking, "What’s the worst that could happen?"
I Will Not Despair
I share your concerns about the future. Like you, I’ve read enough history, and lived enough of it, to recognize some of the warning signs. It “feels” a lot like 1933. Dangerous ideologies and nascent aggressors abroad. A messianic regime at home; drunk with ambition and contemptuous of those in the way of the bright new future. A shaky world and domestic economy. It would be easy to despair.
Do not! We may face a crisis which we cannot prevent. Many voices, yours included, warned of the dangers ahead and were ignored. Or worse. Articles were written, speeches made, stories told, of what the future could bring if we chose The Easy Path. Some listened, most did not. The Easy Path is seductive. Despair is also seductive.
I will not despair! I want to, but I refuse to! Despair is the surrender of the spirit in the face of adversity. It is the suicide of the soul. I deny myself the right to despair! I owe too much to the past and the future of mankind to succumb to it.
I will invert the placidity of despair into cold and thinking action. I will turn my hand and mind to limiting the effects of the coming crisis. I will work to preserve and protect what I can. I will warn those who will still listen; especially the young. I will enter the Wilderness Years unbowed. I will live long enough to see this version of the Easy Path die. I will make this the decade when Socialism died.
I will not despair.
Freedom is not free
Of all the things you have written and/or commented on which I have admired (and there are many), I think the one which has most impressed is the aphorism:
Freedom is not free;
Free men are not equal,
and Equal men are not free.
Though its truth seems quite self-evident to me, it is an astonishingly short and powerful argument against affirmative action and central planning. I do not recall that you ever attributed it and I do not recall ever having seen it before and so assumed that you had originated it.
But as Newton said: "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." So I did a little looking. The aphorism has been attributed to quite a few people, including anonymous.
Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), in his book, “The Constitution of Liberty”, (see also "The Road to Serfdom") wrote much the same thing, but less succinctly, than your aphorism:
From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either the one or the other, but not both at the same time…(W)here the state must use coercion for other reasons, it should treat all people alike, the desire of making people more alike in their condition cannot be accepted in a free society as a justification for further and discriminatory coercion.
I probably learned it as an aphorism from Hayek but I have known it for so long that I no longer remember how that particular formulation came about in my head. The sentiment has been known for a long time of course.
Freedom is not free.
Free men are not equal.
Equal men are not free.
The Spartans called themselves The Equals although they acknowledged dual kings. They submitted to the most stringent discipline and rules known at the time. The Athenians did not call the Spartans free.
"liberal" and "conservative" working assumptions
Dear Mr. Pournelle:
It occurs to me that one of the points of frustration between "liberals" and "conservatives" (I don’t think either of those terms are very useful) is that each tends to have its attention caught by a different range of data. Here’s an instance of "takers" which I found striking:
Apparently, it’s becoming less uncommon for banks to foreclose, evict the occupant, and then not follow through with the foreclosure. The bank takes the insurance and the tax write-off, and the former occupant discovers some time later (apparently, the bank is not legally required to tell them they still own the property) that they’re responsible for upkeep, taxes, etc., on a house they can’t live in and can’t sell.
To my mind, this sort of fully legal "taking" by institutions with economic power seems to amount to something like a blow against the social contract. This gets me angry, whereas selfishness and stupidity on the part of people with little economic power just reinforces my usual low opinion of the human race.
Allan E. Johnson
Bunny Inspectors – update
Colorado bureaucrats want compulsory life-jackets for dogs in pet centre pools.
Fair Warning: fascination alert.
I really like this.
Well I warned you
SUBJ: Carthage surrendered their arms first buffy willow
We all know "Carthago delenda est". Rome razed Carthage, killing 90% of its people and selling the rest into slavery.
But did you know the Carthaginians voluntarily surrendered their arms to Rome first? I did not.
One more historical vote against gun control.
"Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose" – The more things change the more they stay the same.
Yes. I learned about that in 8th grade world history. Apparently they don’t teach that sort of thing now.
And when we disarmed they sold us
And delivered us bound to our foe…
Dad hires online assassins to slay game-obsessed son:
I guess that’s one way to get the kid out of WoW.
An essay in respect to your stated views upon seeding the oceans.
TO: Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Chaos Manor.
Sir: The following is something I wrote that is probably too long to publish, but having thought about your highlighted item on seeding the ocean and your views on such I did at least feel motivated to A: Finish it the next day, B: Submit it properly in spite of how long it takes to get to the point it’s making.
Jaron Lanier is a sort of techno/computer "guru," even though he hates the word: http://www.newyorker.com/ reporting/2011/07/11/110711fa_fact_kahn?currentPage=all
I say "sort of", because the article mostly relates the difficult upbringing that he had, as well as initially enthusing upon how he is a computer visionary. But it also archly defines what a "visionary" often is: "a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills."
It also illustrates, in some ways, how intellectual contrarians such as he often only decide to take a morally conservative position once they have fully explored the sheer gruesome extent of the damage that their initial enthusiasm has created, often far after the potential for remedy has been lost.
Worse still even than with Mr. Lanier, are people who were spoken to beforehand about the possible consequences of their actions, and determinedly, they ignored you. It is simply that, like Eeyore in a den full of Tiggers, if you are dumb enough to try speaking to them about their behaviour, you will not get listened to as a point of principle, since sunny positivity is always sought on the planet where they live. Lanier has this in his defence: He has woken up.
With him in mind, let us move on.
My problem with Bob Zubrin is he is Tigger: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/336808/greens-attack-mariculture-robert-zubrin?pg=1#
I am Eeyore. http://io9.com/5952101/a-massive-and-illegal-geoengineering-project-has-been-detected-off-canadas-west-coast
It does not strike me as a good idea to be doing this for a lot of reasons, not the least of which involves Manatees, but which culminates an idea raised in the Ridley Scott film "Prometheus," which has been exhibited to much public confusion in the cinemas recently.
I would assert that the issue neglects a number of what economists might call "moral externalities" to the otherwise nice idea of seeding the ocean with any materials to create Plankton, aquatic life, and cause the absorbtion of carbon dioxide. Lurking in the background is a serious moral rubicon that has then been crossed, is hard to articulate, and yet is permanent in it’s effect. I think it is a quiet reason why Bob Zubrin is so keen upon the position that he is taking in regards to this matter, but is not going to admit to openly.
Manatees are creatures that live in Florida. The are universally loved by the state and the tourists that watch them, are herbivorous and are even, in the eyes of modern society, that most important of things: Victims. They are continually killed and injured by boat propellers, and suffer from habitat loss due to those rotten humans and their waterfront property developments. (Many of which are owned by President Obama’s notional Rich People.) I am sure that you understand the idea.
The problem is that they are also parasites. Freeloaders upon humanity even, and would have migrated out of harm’s way years ago were it not for an amazing phenomenon that nobody anticipated: Power stations.
On a cold night, Manatees LOVE power station water. We have created a situation where a species of creature is quietly dependent upon us for their winter habitat. It is not even as if their loss is one of extinction, they exist in numbers in the Caribbean and would long ago have migrated away as a deme, as they are nomadic creatures and their habitat has been slowly lost to urbanization. They have stayed because humans are providing them with warm water, and other humans now seek to manage them.
Thought: What moral duties do you eventually possess to organisms that are totally dependent upon your active intervention for their existence? It is different to a policy of not knowingly doing any harm and leaving nature alone, like we try to do presently, but now represents one which instead sees us literally actively intervening to create and maintain life?
Look how far this one got, found in the outfall of an oil refinery. I wonder how much that C-130 cost, in order to ship him back to Florida: http:// www.savethemanatee.org/news_feature_ilya_09.html
Although you are right about Bunny Inspectors, I think that I have gone one better than such, in that Federal Laws mandating that power generators have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to keep Manatees warm is an example of government that can be done without. If you are not happy with Federal Bunny inspection, everyone can at least exercise their right to only attend magic shows that don’t feature rabbits in the act, and eventually such nonsense stops. Good luck living without TECO’s electricity, however.
The problem is that this is what is going to occur with ocean engineering of the form envisaged. There is no method of managing the migratory patterns of, for instance, the great whales that traverse the region annually down to Baja California to calve. Will they be unaffected? In the presence of free food, I doubt it. Will the Killer Whales hang around, given the presence of such near shore life? We have seen an answer already in the article, and they are also keen upon eating great whale calves if they can find them….It’s why the larger whales travel down to the bottom of California, in that it gives their juveniles a chance at gaining some size before they migrate back north.
A broader, more distressing idea then follows: Consider the idea that having seeded the ocean, an assumption arises that anything that grows there is only present due to an element of human volition. This is akin to farming animals, and thus means the natural world is defined as property. Like with Samuel Maverick in the old west, any newborn cow that didn’t have a mark was one that he could claim was his. So it will be here, in that anyone fishing in "our" waters is taking "my" fish. Anticipate that the Haida Indians, having spent their money seeding their water to create their crop will quickly regard Killer whales, seals and ultimately any other organism who shows up in a boat as taking their livelihood. When it is considered how much fish a 30-strong killer whale pod can notionally hoover their way through, and how fishing grounds are known, I anticipate that presently animals and people will start getting shot. This is a pretty bleak view, but frankly a realistic one given the way that some parts of the world work when A Bonanza is flashed in front of them, particularly if it is to be found out of sight of the land in international waters.
To finish, by contrast to what these people are doing, I would emphasize that there are perfectly ethical methods by which it is possible to obtain all of the cultured fish and protein that the rising prosperity of the planet will demand. The one which I am familiar with is on-land aquaculture and aquaponics, which sees animals such as Salmon raised on land using tanks. It is commercially proven and it’s only impediment, the provision of fish meal, is lessened using modern developments in what is known as the "Floc" system: This is a system where phyto and zooplankton are capable of being artificially grown and used for fish farm cultivation, and so helps limit the ecological atrocity of fish meal production that had previously rendered aquaculture uneconomic. (As in, fish being pulled from the sea to create fish meal pellets….That are then fed to other fish for commercial sale in a fashion that made minimal economic sense when the overall energy expenditure to do so was evaluated.) This approach is now taking off as a field and frankly seems more moral.
What does the film "Prometheus" have to do with this? Some have criticised the film for problems in it’s written structure, and some of the extremely dumb decisions that the characters make in order to get the action going, but several minor details of the film are fascinating in terms of what the story is advancing towards.
For instance: Why is it a plot point/revelation that Merideth Vickers is Weyland’s daughter? But nobody else is aware of this? Put politely, it probably means that she’s illegitimate.
Why does the star map, that The Engineers have given to each ancient culture on Earth, lead back to a planet that is basically a biological research/weapons development facility? China Lake or Fort Detrick, in effect?
Why does The Engineer that they find in the hidden spaceship instantly want to murder the humans that have awoken it, resulting in the conclusion that the creature wants to destroy the life that exists on earth?
And yet why do we see, at the start of the film, and later confirmed the scientists, one of their number actually creating us?
They perhaps hate us because one of their number has acted without the consent of the community, and are largely angry out of the obligation that we now represent to them. One of their number has created new life, and others must now be responsible for it….And why should they be so obliged? What duties and sacrifices might this potentially involve?
Maybe that is why Bob Zubrin thinks that this is a endless debate worth avoiding, but if you consider his history, he has long stated that he thinks terraforming other planets is moral. I would not have a problem with such a view were it not for the fact that the fashion in which this act is being suggested is underhand. It is being done by a clandestine precedent occurring TODAY rather than a rational choice by those who eventually will possess such power, and I assert that he knows this. By turning our own planet into a "terraformed" environment of sorts, he is effectively advocating the idea that there is no moral justification against not doing so elsewhere. "We do it on earth, so why not everywhere else?" is the resultant argument, because it is the truth when we treat our own planet in this fashion.
The only problem with that is that there is potentially no justification for such an action beyond profit, as the Haida Indians seek, albeit dressed up in the language of "benefit to the environment," by a corporate promoter. The creation of life is thus reduced to an act of profit, and as this promotional website for the Prometheus film implies, the Weyland corporation serves as the hypothetical endpoint for such logic, conducting the Terraforming of new worlds for profit:
It strikes me as being a long slow slide into moral sleaze. Backsliding your way into the universe going "what’s the problem!?" then suggesting "Well, someone will stop me if I’m doing anything wrong!" then "Awwww! Aren’t these Manatees cute. Slow your boat down to avoid hurting them!"
moving eventually to "We’re from the government and you may not build a housing development here," towards a finality: "Give us money to protect Manatees, and don’t ever question why you should."
A road to serfdom, perhaps?
Every step of that is logical, and has the possibility of occurring upon an even larger and worse scale than simply our own planet…As engineers, what responsibilities might we accidentally wind up acquiring? Just like that man you described in Kansas, who is now expected to pay child support for a separated, lesbian couple’s child, because he was the sperm donor.
Best wishes and thank you in advance for the time taken to read this overly long letter. I intend to renew my subscription but am regrettably short of money at present. Hopefully what I’ve written has been worth a read.
Andrew S. Mooney,