Mail 750 Sunday, November 11, 2012
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
Despair is a sin. When does the constant beating of one’s head against a brick wall become a sin?
Our plan for the foreseeable future is not much of a plan and may even be despicable, but it has the virtue of stopping the pain. For years my wife and I have met the requirements to draw a "disability" check. Instead we have worked longer, harder and more diligently to maintain the lifestyle we established with relative ease in the 1980s. No more.
We are both retiring and applying for disability now. We will put our house on the market, such as it is. It probably doesn’t surprise you that our mortgage is considerably less than the market value of the property. As soon as we close on the house, we will start to travel this still-beautiful land, going where we choose, when we choose.
Our only child has special needs and will never have children of his own. There is absolutely no reason for us to continue working as we have. We have accomplished most that we set out to do and have no reason to wish to leave anything behind to be looted. If this be sin, count us among the damned.
Please do not use my name or email address, but you may sign me,
Blowin’ in the Wind
Be careful of inflation.
Four More Years
The economy is already tanking.
I had a decent job in 2008. A month after Obama was inaugurated I lost that job and didn’t see another for two years.
Now I’m in the worst job I’ve had in thirty years. I just found out that we are going to have a six days of unpaid "vacation" between Thanksgiving and New Years, twice what we had last year. I would not at all be surprised if they made us part-time in order to avoid Obamacare.
Obama seems to suffer from the same sort of obsession with gigantism that afflicted Stalin. Apparently the only jobs of which he’s aware are with G.E., G.M., or government. Everyone else is utterly invisible to him, and in fact don’t matter at all. As far as he’s concerned, we could, in the words of a once famous low grade moron, "Die quickly".
During the run-up to the Obamacare vote, I told my mother, a former AFSCME member, "We’ve long since passed the ‘It’s a bad idea’ stage. We’re now at ‘It’s mathematically impossible." Her reply? "They’ll just print more money." To this I responded, "You’re old enough to remember what happened when the Germans tried that." What’s going to be worse, Obama or what comes along to "fix" Obama? President for Life Buchanan? Obama’s setting himself up to be Salvador Allende. Who’s in the wings waiting to play the role of Augusto Pinochet?
Beware of inflation.
= = =
Please do not publish my name.
> That is the first lesson: prepare for inflation.
And how does one do that in 2012? Traditionally, defense against inflation consists of cost-of-living raises, investment in precious metals (gold, silver), investment in manufacturing commodities (e.g. copper), buying land, and purchasing hard consumer goods (e.g., toilet paper) as far ahead as possible and storing them.
Cost-of-living raises are likely to be minimal in the private sector given the weak economy. Purchasing gold and silver is very easy through ETF’s, but I strongly suspect that at some point the federal government will put a steep tax on capital gains earned through sales of precious metals. They will sell it to voters as a form of the "rich" hoarding capital that is needed by the masses; after all, if you can afford to buy gold ETFs, you are clearly affluent.
Buying land may make sense, but if you live in an expensive region of the country, it may not be viable even for the middle class.
Storing consumer goods has limits, and makes more sense in a period of serious hyperinflation. It’s particularly difficult if you live in an apartment or condo rather than a house.
Many Americans have been frugal savers for decades and have a great deal to protect, and they do not have time to go back and replace their savings with new earnings if they are lost due to inflation. And a significant proportion of that savings is in 401k and IRA accounts with legal limits on the types of investments that can be made in them.
I would welcome your thoughts.
Please do not publish my name.
We will be discussing this in the next few weeks. It is a very serious question.
"Fallen Angels": Science or Fiction
Throw another log on the fire…
Yours is one of many pointing to that article. We don’t know what halts Ice Ages; we do know that there was a great deal of ice and much lower seas during much of pre-history of mankind, and that the ice sheets have come and gone more than once.
We also know that it was warmer in the Viking age than it is now. We know that the seas have been rising at about a foot a century for at least 300 years, and we are fairly certain that this rate goes back a very long time (you can see the ruins of coastal cities in the Mediterranean, for example).
The problem with the cult of Global Warming is that we aren’t studying what is really happening.
Swedish boffins: An ICE AGE is coming, only CO2 can save us! FALLEN ANGELS
What a lovely headline. Swedish boffins: An ICE AGE is coming, only CO2 can save us. Have a look:
“A group of Swedish scientists at the University of Gothenburg have published a paper in which they argue that spreading peatlands are inexorably driving planet Earth into its next ice age, and the only thing holding back catastrophe is humanity’s hotly debated atmospheric carbon emissions. "We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we’re not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide," says Professor of Physical Geography Lars Franzén, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Gothenburg uni.”
Fallen Angels seem to be coming home to roost. I guess it’s time for me to dust off my old copy.
End-of-life medical care
Your musings regarding "death panels" reminded me of a set of questions Senator Paul Wellstone used to recommend:
I thought they were good questions then, and they’re good questions in your comments. I agree that end-of-life medical care needs to be brought under control, and also that this is going to be emotionally, ethically, and politically hard to do. But it needs to happen; seems to me our medical technology is good enough to keep people "alive" for a very long time, while not being good enough to do any real healing at that point.
Allan E. Johnson
Dear Dr Pournelle,
Your comments on the last two years of (expensive) life, and voting on treatment with Death Panels, reminded me of the controversies over here in England over the Liverpool Care Pathway. In essence a panel of doctors decide that a patient is dying and stop almost all treatment (I think pain medication is still continued). This is certainly cheaper, and arguably retains some dignity for the patient. The controversy arises from the lack of consent, in some cases, and apparently some patients dying of thirst after artificial hydration being stopped.
I think that this type of regime is almost inevitable when health care is universally available, but resources are limited. I expect that Obamacare will bring a variant of LCP to the US.
I happened upon a teacher’s blog. She was going to vote Obama. When talking with people who were going to vote Republican, she thought (but did not say out loud) “You want to repeal the programs we fought to get enacted.” That, and the infamous 47% voting their pocketbooks, probably explains the results.
Your comments on end of life care remind me of a couple of events that hang in my memory. The first was when I was talking with an old man who described his Parkinson’s disease as “Death on the Installment Plan” (these days I have to explain to many what an installment plan was). This old man, whose quality of life (QOL in current medical jargon) was pretty low, said this about just letting go: “I don’t want to die.”
The other event came when I was asked to determine the competency of a man with a mouthful of tubes and respirator hoses. Should they turn off his breathing machine? His wife was convinced that he was suffering and would welcome death. The doctors agreed. The man had never had a mental illness, but they needed a shrink to pronounce on his competence. So, remembering the first event, I gathered up all my fancy expertise, leaned over and asked the man, “Do you want to die?” He shook his head NO, a look like terror on his face. The wife changed her mind instantly and rushed to his side.
I think that end-of-life issues are complicated. I know some men who would welcome death to get away from their wives. I knew a woman who died happy because her death had shown up some doctors who believed she had psychosomatic paralysis.
The answer is 42.
Astroboffins spot smiley face on Mercury
Have you seen the smiley face on Mercury?
Ah, those lads and lasses at NASA . . .
Dr. Pournelle –
It appears to me that the electorate has, by re-electing the President, told us that they want government spending to continue. At the same time, by leaving control of the House with Republicans, they have told us that they want the spending to be covered by revenues, not by borrowing. And finally, by leaving the Senate in Democrat hands, they have told us that they believe that letting the Bush tax cuts expire is the way to pay, not cutting rates in anticipation that it would increase revenue.
So I say, make a deal. The Bush tax rates expire, the automatic spending cuts do NOT go into effect, and we’ll see what happens.
Meanwhile, we need to start calling the new tax rates "the Obama Tax Rates" and the increasing deficit "the Obama Gap."
I understand that the more acceptable deal, for some, might be to trade the Bush rates for the cuts, i.e., just go over the cliff. That would be my second choice.
Chicago, but my house is red.
Spengler > If You Believe in Staples, Clap Your Hands
Spengler has some comments on the current business scene:
“The last wave of entrepreneurship is long since gone, and there is nothing in the pipeline to replace it. The startup sector of the U.S. economy is dead in the water. In past recoveries, firms with 500 to 1,000 employees were the biggest job creators, as the successful few became big companies. This time around, firms of this size lost the most jobs. Venture capital is doing terribly. Three-quarters of venture capital firms lost money during the past decade, and the sector performed well below publicly traded indices. Once the poster-child for edgy entrepreneurship, Apple has transmogrified into a would-be monopoly that relies on its legal team more than its engineers to suppress prospective competitors. That’s distasteful, considering that Steve Jobs started out by stealing the idea for GUI from Xerox.”
We need a German Miracle. Won’t get one with this President.
And by the time his term is over, much will be irreversible. Depend on that. Recovery is possible, but it will not be quick. We had the ‘quick’ choice until this election. It’s gone now. And entitlements will continue, and the bunny inspectors will get raises. It is time for the clever to be clever.
"Free Stuff" and the Election
Hal makes interesting points regarding "Free Stuff." As a liberal, I think as a country we need to start paying the bills; and I expect that would mean my taxes would rise. I accept that. I would also support spending cuts, if they offend Democrats and Republicans equally; I don’t think either party can play "let’s cut your priorities, but ours are all sacrosanct." For one specific, I am now receiving Social Security, but would support bringing expenditures on that program down; although I would *not* support "reforms" which appear to be intended to eliminate Social Security by attrition. As a liberal, I have written, and will write, to my congresscritters in such terms.
I am glad that Mr. Boehner has been ready to distance himself from Grover Norquist’s theories far enough to accept the notion that increased revenues could be useful. However, I don’t have any confidence that tax cuts can achieve this, and, regarding tax reform, I’d have to see the details. The difference between reform and pandering isn’t always obvious.
Regarding taxes: while I concede that, at some point on the Bell Curve, increased taxes bring decreased revenue, I think it’s equally obvious that at some point decreased taxes no longer stimulate growth. The question would be: where are we on the curve? I tend not to trust economic theories or predictions much, but it seems to me that our tax structures under Presidents Reagan and Clinton worked pretty well. For that matter, Eisenhower-era tax rates didn’t eviscerate growth, though both Republicans and Democrats would probably have cat-fits if anyone proposed such rates now. Before continuing the Bush-era tax cuts, I’d like to see some evidence they gave us a stronger economy. I have no useful comment on the stimulus approach to recession — it doesn’t seem to me that anyone really *knows* how to head off a depression, so I don’t see the point in second-guessing.
If neither party can muster enough integrity to negotiate a "grand bargain" on taxes and spending, then maybe the so-called "fiscal cliff" (even with its attendant shocks) will be the best we can do. It’s something like using a machete to prune the tea roses, but at least it would be something of a reset button.
Allan E. Johnson
Hal’ observations re: "Free stuff" and the election
"Even if one disagrees with him on policy, Mr. Obama has always recognized that optimism sells. Just as Mr. Reagan did. The substance may be different, but the more Reaganesque candidate in presentation won last night. And that too is ironic."
Mr. Reagan did not personally demonize his opponent, and did not run a nasty, divisive campaign. While I agree in general with many of the points that Hal made, I find it appalling to characterize President Obama as in any way “Reaganesque”.
Re: Hal’s comments
With respect, Hal’s comments are way off base. In the midst of a poor economy, Hal wants to blame Republicans on the one hand for spreading "fear" and on the other for not having "real world concerns" and then claim they’re also responsible for the "free stuff" idea. But those ideas are internally inconsistent. In truth, Republicans ARE talking about real world concerns in terms of our debt and the unemployment crisis, and a proper understanding of that does generate fear about our current trajectory with the implication that there can be no more free stuff. To wave that away as Obama did was not being "positive", it was indulging in fantasy, the fantasy that Medicare is Strengthened even while paying for Obamacare and that somehow he’ll cut the deficit by taxing the rich while "investing" more on education and green energy and that there will be no tax increases on the middle class, yada yada yada. Romney was positive in that he thought he could confront and succeed at these challenges; Obama pretended they were never there. (As for the allusion to Mr. Norquist, I have no idea what Hal’s point is supposed to be. The whole point of the government interference is that it is driven by political incentives, not market supply and demand. And nothing I’ve seen about tax cuts seem even remotely connected with making the cost of government services "low low low". Baffled by this statement.)
Niven & Benford at Google.
The stupidity, corruption, and freak of Pasok, the most infamous socialistic mafia on Earth, are out of this world! Pasok mafiosi are the freaks that initiated the impunity and immunity of Graecokleptocrats, the Siemens scandal, the military bribes, myriad kickbacks, and the fiasco of October 18, 2010, which destroyed my life. Pasok freaks stole my life. Pasok declared a war against me, but the whole world is watching this Armageddon. Many Pasok politicians, such as Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Yannos Papantoniou, Tasos Mantelis, Christos Verelis, and Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, are now investigated by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).
The Greek government is the #1 enemy of the Greek people, a den of thieves, a source of myriad stupid things, a grand sink of bribes and kickbacks, the mother of all bureaucracies, a sender of Trojan Horses, a master of hoodwinks and smokescreens, a gang of freaks, a madhouse, a rot of rabble-rousers, a clan of kleptocrats. http://venitism.blogspot.com
The government of Greece in 2010 was so stupid that it hoodwinked all media that I conspired to trigger a war between Greece and Turkey and blame Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, for it! Accusing dissident bloggers of treason, the Greek government manufactured a blood libel in cyberspace, which in turn incites hatred. The government of Greece gave my head on plate to Erdogan. Brutal Graecokleptocrats have destroyed my life. My life is stolen. Now I demand my life back!
In October of 2010, an unknown American, member of Crystal Clear Forum, an American Yahoo Group, used as pseudonym the name of Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, to post a single message about Turkey. The unknown American did not violate any law because, according to the Supreme Court of USA, anybody can use any pseudonym or pen name. For example, thousands of people use Obama’s name as a pseudonym. It’s considered an honor, not a forgery. http://venitism.blogspot.com
Only spoofing is forgery. The unknown American would have used spoofing if she used Xenogiannakopoulou’s email which is email@example.com. Instead she used firstname.lastname@example.org which is not Xenogiannakopoulou’s email. The unknown American posted on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crystalclearforum with her pseudonym using a kind of literature called Lyric Essay, which uses emotion and color to enlighten a message.
A malevolent blogbuster misinformed Xenogiannakopoulou that the culprit was I, Basil Venitis, just because my name was mentioned in the post! As a result of this misinformation, on October 18, 2010, a gang of six brutal cybercops of the violent Greek Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) broke into my home in Athens and into my college office, and stole my computers, software, files, documents, and personal data. http://venitism.blogspot.com
The cybercops locked me in jail for a night, they humiliated me with handcuffs, fingerprints, mug shots, and lies, leaked false information to the media parrots, and the Greek government initiated sham court proceedings for a stack of stupid freakish charges, including forgery and treason! There was neither pillow nor toilet facility in my jail cell. I had to urinate in a bottle! I, a 67 year old with high blood pressure, was not allowed to keep my hypertension pills with me. There was neither toilet paper nor soap in the whole CCU jail facility.
As a result of the huge bad publicity in all media, I resigned from my job without any kind of compensation. I had to protect my employer from any spillovers of government stupidity. The government of Greece misinformed all TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, and blogs with stupid freakish stories about me, presenting me as a traitor and warmonger!
But that’s not the end of the story. Xenogiannakopoulou never shows up in court. My nerves are broken by infinite deferments of my court trial! The judge always postpones the trial ad infinitum. Meanwhile, I always have to show up and waste the whole day waiting as there is no definite timing for the hearing, but only a day. I and my lawyer have to be in the courtroom the whole day until the judge calls my name. Then the judge postpones the trial for another day of harassment, and so it goes. This has happened six times so far! This is a real Greek tragedy! Justice delayed is no justice, justice perpetuated is hell. This amounts to routine summary punishment of the presumed innocent.
Greece, the most corrupt country in Occident, has become a kangaroo valley, violating basic human rights and Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty, but nobody gives a damn. I cannot understand why the European Commission tolerates political persecution and freakish Kangaroo Justice within the borders of the European Union and cannot refer the Greek government to the Court of Justice of the European Union. I cannot understand why the European Commission cannot protect Greeks from appalling violations of Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty by the Greek government. If the European Union cannot protect Greeks from the repressive Greek government, who will?
The government of Greece uses charge stacking to persecute dissident bloggers. Charge stacking is the ability to charge a large number of overlapping crimes for a single course of conduct. Combining crimes enables prosecutors to get convictions in cases where there is no misconduct at all. By stacking enough charges, including treason, prosecutors jack up the threat value of a trial against a dissident blogger, even if the government’s case is very weak. Charge stacking is terror. Disgusting governments cannot terrorize their people.
Persecuting dissident bloggers, the government of Greece violates Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty, which states the European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, nondiscrimination, tolerance, and justice prevail.
Greece violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
Greece violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. http://venitism.blogspot.com
Greece violates Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that every citizen has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected. http://venitism.blogspot.com
JAILBIRD FOR A NIGHT
By Basil Venitis
Big brother checks the internet
For things you criticize
To shut your mouth on the net
To shut your mind on the sky.
Cops busted my home
And stole my computer
Hard disk on their comb
blogger on their mooter.
They threw me in jail
For speaking my mind
My words are out of jail
Revolting in a kind.
This jail is awful
Without pillow alone
Urinating in a bottle
And the girl next cell begins to moan.
Screaming in the dark of jail
Guards pretending they are deaf
She is a girl, she is frail
She is missing her Jeff.
I can smile at the old days,
I was a handsome professor then.
Those were real happy days
Happy memory lives again.
Lesmiserables in jail
Kleptocrats out of jail
This is hell on Earth
It’s shame and pain.
Time for a real revolt
To bring a real change
To bring the looting to a halt
Kleptocrats should not escape.
Kleptocrats must be laughing
Premier must be happy,
This is stupid and disgusting,
Government has a party.
Harmglads sleeping before dawn
Silence cut with a cry
Jailbird could be reborn
Coming back to a happy life.
My memory leads me
Finding strength within
People really love me
A new life should begin.
Waiting for the sunrise
Thinking of a new life
I mustn’t give in
A new day will begin.