Mail 719 Saturday, April 07, 2012
Catching up a little on mail…
In the Trayvon Miller case, a senior producer at NBC edited Zimmerman’s 911 call, to make Zimmerman sound like a racist scumbag.
When the brown matter impacted the rotary impeller, the public outcry forced NBC to investigate.
NBC has finished their inquiry. The producer was fired.
Maybe there’s hope.
Perhaps good news. What I find appalling is that it took an investigation; in my day only the most partisan and compromised journalists would have even considered doing a stunt like that.
While it does not change your main point, it is interesting to note that the National Debt was reduced from $127,334,933.74 on 1/1/1816 to $33,733.05 on 01/01/1835. There were reductions at the end of every fiscal year except 1821. That was the closest the National debt came to being eliminated.
From 1804 to 1812 the debt had been reduced from $86,427,120.88 to $45,209,737.90 before climbing to the 1816 level. I expect the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington DC could explain the climb from 1812 to 1816.
There was another reduction from $68,304,796.02 on 7/01/1851 to $28,699,831.85 on 07/01/1857. There was a huge increase in debt during the Civil War, but the debt was reduced from $2,773,236,173.69 on 7/01/1866 to $2,234,482,993.20 on 7/1/1873, and again from $2,349,567,482.0 on 07/01/1879 to $1,545,985,686.13 on 07/01/1893
In about 54 years of the 1800′s the federal debt was reduced. I think we have to give the members of the administrations of the 1800’s a lot more credit for financial management.
In the 1900′s, the debt was reduced in 11 years consistently from $27,390,970,113.12 on 07/01/1919 to $16,185,309,831.43 on 06/30/1930. There were a couple scattered years of debt reduction in the 1950′s,
Since 6/30/1957, the national debt has increased in every year. While Clinton/Gingrich may have had some years of federal budget surpluses, the best that can be said is the rate of public debt increase slowed. While the amount the federal government borrowed by sale of treasury bills may have deceased, this was more then offset by the increases in the amount the federal government owed to the Social Security Trust fund.
So, its really only since 1930, the national debt has had its annual upward increase. I would think it would be more relevant to evaluating solutions to the problem to focus on what has changed from 1893 on, especially changes since 1930 and 1957.
There is good reason to worry the national debt, even if ‘we owe it to ourselves’. If inflation ramps up, i.e. we get excessive doses of "quantitative easing," the value of the bond at maturity may have a poor rate of return, or even a loss, after inflation adjustment. Then the government has to offer higher rates to attract investors, which means that the government has to pay out even more, which creates inflation, which devalues the return on bonds, then the government…
My apologies to my younger readers. I grew up in a time when everyone – and I mean everyone – was familiar with the great inflation in Germany after World War I, when it was literally cheaper to burn banknotes than to buy kindling wood with them if you wanted to heat your room, and employees were let off early on paydays so they could spend their money before it became worthless. Doubtless some of the stories we were told from 5th grade on were exaggerated, but they stuck in our minds. I tend to forget that for decades now we have had teachers and professors who either never heard of this or don’t care to tell anyone. I have in my possession a stamp, 3 pfennigs, overprinted to 3 mird millionen marks; it’s still a first class letter postage stamp.
We used to all know that running the printing presses destroys money, and that inflation is a tax on fixed incomes and savings. I probably don’t say it often enough. So when the US treasury simply prints more money to pay for treasury bonds, the result is always inflation.
The reason education costs so much is that there is money available to pay for it. Injecting money into a market always causes higher prices. It works in housing, education, and nearly anything else: when more money chases a supply of goods, the price of those goods will rise. Printing lots of money will raise prices on everything. The kind of deficit financing the US engages in – borrowing money to pay operating expenses rather than to invest in specific money-making projects – does not cause inflation, it IS inflation. I don’t say that every time I write on the subject because I forget that there are some who don’t know it. Fear of inflation like fear of unemployment was sort of in the DNA of those who like me grew up during the First Great Depression.
Imagine how things would be if there were thousands of these distributed all over the country. No more political speeches.
It would work: that is, as an undergraduate in a class taught by Wendell Johnson at the State University of Iowa we experimented with timed delay speech feedback. Johnson was a speech therapist as well as a general semanticist, and one of his techniques for treating stuttering was to teach the students how to stutter, then how to stop. The time delay feedback was utterly effective in inducing stuttering. Boy was it ever!
Johnson’s book People in Quandaries is still well worth your reading. I have no link to an eBook copy. It used to be and may still be available from the Institute for General Semantics, and used hardbound copies sell for about $40. I have my original hardbound which I bought as an undergraduate. It is an exposition on semantics and language from the view of a therapist, and much of it remains relevant. I’d recommend it to teachers as a source of insights.
In about the year 2000 there arose a big controversy over Johnson’s 1939 thesis study, some calling it “the monster study”. This is the first I heard of the matter. I do know that Johnson’s theories and techniques for treatment of stuttering were new and original when he devised them, but became accepted through his efforts, and were responsible for the treatment and cure of thousands. He was also one of the most effective lecturers and teachers I ever met, and I know a lot of them. I remember some of my undergraduate classes with Johnson– one was just after lunch – when I have long forgotten others. He was one of the sanest men I ever met.
I don’t usually pay attention to April Fool stuff, but this is amusing:
Here’s Google’s entry for 2012-04-01:
Unfortunately, this is one of those jokes that just might show up as a real product. I mean, you could pull it off now.
My 5-star review of Senator Inhofe’s excellent book about Global Warming and energy policy just went live on Amazon. The book is called The Greatest Hoax <http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+greatest+hoax+inhofe&sprefix=the+greatest+hoa%2Cstripbooks%2C271> .
There is something that you can do to assist free speech. Amazon is being flooded with negative 1-star reviews from Obamanoid Trolls who have not read the book, but are frantic to suppress it. The book is being trashed, along with any reviewers who have said favorable things about it.
If you could go to Amazon, take a look at the book, and “vote” for the 5-star reviews, it would help.
I will not go so far as to use the term Hoax, although certainly some Warmer Believers certainly act like hoaxers. And I am not entirely sure that campaigns to influence the number of stars in reviews are a great idea. I’d hate to have to devote time to things like that. Of course it may have to be done.
A very thoughtful bit of analysis and contextualization of March weather anomaly
Michael Tobis, one of the folks I trust most on providing context and analysis of climate matters has written a fantastic piece on the midwestern March temperature anomaly. He does a very good job of explaining what the atmosphere was doing and how it differed from anything that climate scientists had predicted.
A good introduction to the subject. Thanks. Weather remains complex.
The slow, excruciating death of SF
As one of the few remaining "big idea" SF authors, your take on ‘Why We Need Big, Bold Science Fiction’ — http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2012/04/04/why-we-need-big-bold-science-fiction/ — would be interesting.
I’m not sure I have much to say. As Doc Bussard used to say, the really easy stuff has already been done; the engineering gets harder now. I’m not dead sure that’s true, since computers may start us up another S – curve. As Possony and I said in Strategy of Technology, technological progress goes in S – Curves (called logistics curves), slow at first, very rapid for a while, then slower to no progress—think top speed of airplanes from the Wright Brothers to present. Computers may have started us at the bottom again. Anyway I don’t teach science fiction. I’m with my old friend Harry Harrison. Let’s get science fiction out of the classroom and back in the gutter where it belongs…
There are a couple of small apps out there that will disable some of the useless keyboard keys, such as the Caps Lock and the Windows keys. My apologies for not including a link, but it’s been a year or two since I applied them.
As far as the rising cost of health care, education, government, etc., they can all be traced back to the availability of money. For health care, costs began to rise when health insurance became available. Why would health-care organizations leave that money on the table? It became a positive feedback loop after that. Same for education when student loans began pumping money into colleges and universities. The archtypical example is the growth of government as it could create taxes to expand itself. "The money’s out there, we might as well spend it."
At least in health care, some of the money is used to improve treatment. How many of us would be dead if not for new drugs, equipment, and procedures?
Yes I know, but I find that stuffing a bit of sponge rubber under the key works just fine: it leaves the key usable, but you have to mean it.
The concept is not new; the handheld prototype is. This could change the face of warfare.
Mind-bending ‘psychotronic’ guns that can effectively turn people into zombies have been given the go-ahead by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The futuristic weapons – which will attack the central nervous system of their victims – are being developed by the country’s scientists.
They could be used against Russia’s enemies and, perhaps, its own dissidents by the end of the decade.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Zombie guns, death rays, disintegrator rays – some of the great ideas of 1930’s science fiction. So we now all need mind shields… Of course it’s one more thing to worry about.
The stability of the present system in China depends on the party system. They don’t really attempt to suppress free circulation of ideas, nor to establish a totalitarian state. China has a long tradition of supporting a government that has the mandate of heaven. The leaders are skilled, and the Party cadre is subject to the Iron Law. I don’t pretend to be able to predict what will happen in China. The all pervasive Party system resembles in some respects the old Mandarin civil service.
Interesting event so close in time and space to the Zimmerman case.
You will notice that both suspects area bout the same age as Trayvon Martin and look a lot like Martin as well as President Obama’s mythical son.
We still don’t know what happened when Zimmerman shot Martin, but the claim the Zimmerman’s assertion that he was defending himself from a violent assault is not credible is itself absurd.
I wonder if it will turn out that this assault was retaliation for the Martin shooting incited by the Today show’s misleading edit of the 911 call.
The news media distortions and the feeding frenzy on this story have shown some of the ugly potential for the new world of instant communications. At best such frenzies spread panic; at worst they are an incitement. This is neither the first nor the last, and the professional victims stand ready to exploit every incident.
At a length of 45 feet (13.7 meters), a wingspan of 24 feet (7.3 m), and a weight of 800 pounds (363 kg), Arturo’s Desert Eagle is claimed to be the largest paper airplane ever made. Its design was based on that of a much smaller paper airplane, created by 12 year-old Arturo Valdenegro of Tucson, Arizona. Valdenegro was the winner of a contest held by the Pima Air & Space Museum, in which children competed to see whose airplane could fly the farthest. A team of engineers proceeded to recreate his winning plane on a grand scale, and last week managed to fly it after releasing it from a helicopter over the Arizona desert.
The Great Paper Airplane Project was intended to get young people interested in careers in the aerospace industry, and it seems to have worked with Valdenegro – he reportedly now plans on pursuing a career in engineering.
Looks like fun and some of these folks got paid to do it. Color me a bit jealous.
John Harlow, President BravePoint
I figured that, with the low standards for teaching in 2012, this would happen. But, I did not know how they would get their foot in the door on this one, but here it is:
"American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots. Or, more accurately, robo-readers — computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade. The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn’t have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they’ll become — even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms. … Take, for instance, the Intelligent Essay Assessor, a web-based tool marketed by Pearson Education, Inc. Within seconds, it can analyze an essay for spelling, grammar, organization and other traits and prompt students to make revisions. The program scans for key words and analyzes semantic patterns, and Pearson boasts it ‘can "understand" the meaning of text much the same as a human reader.’ Jehn, the Harvard writing instructor, isn’t so sure. He argues that the best way to teach good writing is to help students wrestle with ideas; misspellings and syntax errors in early drafts should be ignored in favor of talking through the thesis."
Robots can not only pick fruit; they can grade papers. The teachers will assign more papers if the robot can grade these? When will they decide that a robot can assign papers more cheaply and does not file sexual harassment complaints or bring law suits?
I used certain tools to help me improve my writing. These helped me to avoid passive voice, find verbs, and remove wordiness e.g. that the, and so — one can usually use one word and retain the meaning. Basically, the software stops you from writing like a pompous ass who does not know how to write in a refined manner. I do not use this software in my emails; so I reserve the right to be a pompous ass. =)
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Actually, with the Kahn lectures widely available on line, bright kids can learn darned near anything no matter how bad the student. Of course they can’t get good discussions that way. In my day we didn’t have Kahn and the Encyclopedia Britannica had to do. I did find Calculus Made Easy at about the right age.
I appreciate the plug for the Space Access conference the other day. If you get a chance at some point, could you also post the URL for the latest conference info?
We’ve always been stiff-necked about only listing speakers who’ve confirmed and making sure speakers are on at times they’ll actually be onsite, which can mean late schedule changes. In this case, for the good; we have a couple of last-second additions.
SA’12 Conference Manager
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.