Mail: new technology, climate, air supremacy, health advice, Putin, and more

Mail 821 Tuesday, April 22, 2014


“Surveillance is the business model of the Internet:”

“The adage goes that if something is free, the users are probably the product. With an increasing smartphone penetration rate, we Internet users are practically carrying surveillance devices in our pockets all day, and have become unwitting participants in government spying activity, security expert Bruce Schneier argued during a talk at the recently-concluded SOURCE Boston conference.

“Surveillance is the business model of the Internet,” Schneier told attendees in his keynote. “We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing.” But what’s even more concerning is how this massive data collection effort by businesses has made it easier for governments to do their surveillance on citizens. “The NSA woke up and said ‘Corporations are spying on the Internet, let’s get ourselves a copy,’” Schneier said.

“He explained how the Internet is built around the data economy, in which corporations have thrived on offering free services in exchange for learning more and more about users’ lives. In exchange for “free or convenience,” users have become goldmines for companies like Google and Facebook, which want to get even more data from users in order to better sell targeted advertising. “I like to think of this as a feudal model. At a most fundamental model, we are tenant farming for companies like Google. We are on their land producing data,” he said.” <snip>

“The fact that society today is so enthralled with social media and mobile devices makes it easier for agents to do their surveillance work. Surveillance work is no longer just “follow that car,” Schneier says, referring to the traditional way of keeping track of a person by following his whereabouts. It is now “tell me everywhere the car has been for the past month.” Meta data leaves a trail, after all, and we are all unwitting participants to this widespread surveillance effort with all the breadcrumbs we leave behind.” <snip>

There is more, of course. It makes conspiracy theorists seem reasonable: just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean They aren’t spying on you.

Ed (the shrink)

If something is free, the users are the product….


And the winner for "Best Use of a Drone in the Continental United States" is…

This is a really smart use of a drone to support an unexpected field: archeology.

–Gary P

I like that one.


America is an Oligarchy?

Hi Jerry

this seen on BBC today –

America is run by the rich and powerful – probably not news really

all the best


There is a sense in which all free societies tend to be oligarchies. Education is supposed to remedy that. Education and the usual regressions to the mean. A fool and his money are soon parted. The Barbara Hutton phenomenon. But of course the wealthy and the unions can work together to prop things up so that the usual leveling of a free society doesn’t happen.


green Greenland

Jerry, I know you’ve been using farms in Greenland as a reference point for the uselessness of climate models, but climate scientists do claim to have an explanation for the MWP..

For what it’s worth.


I misspoke. They don’t claim to have an explanation, just evidence as to the extent and scope of the MWP.


for the work.


But of course the ice cap on Greenland is thousands of years old. The Viking farms were possible only for a few centuries – and are impossible now, although the glacier is retreating. Not so far as it retreated for the Vikings though. All through that era from China through the monasteries in Europe, summers were longer and the climate was warmer. Vines in Yorkshire and Scotland. Viking settlement in Nova Scotia called Vinland because grapes would and did grow there – and vigorous skralings to drive them out, too.


crackpots and remote connections


I remember that in the early 80’s a guy who had been a bomber navigator and/or an Air Force weatherman use to hang around the fringes of scientific meetings. Once he latched on to you, mistaking your courtesy for approval. His insight was – get this – that weather patterns were connected. Note we have the NASA piece that tells us – curiouser and curiouser – that weather patterns are in fact connected, and halfway round the planet!

Golly. Even “crackpots” have their day.


Actually, I always found Major Singer interesting, and when someone would actually listen to him he no longer sounded like a crackpot; indeed he seemed to have found an interesting connection. He sent me a copy of his book, and apparently he has something, but how much I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to have revolutionized the weather prediction community. He had some purely empirical connections that he thought happened far more often than current theory would suggest.

I tend to listen to a lot of people others call crackpots. I am still fascinated by Peter Beckmann’s alternative to Einstein and as physics invents more and more epicycles I wonder, I do indeed. I mostly get stories of reactionless drives which are just around the corner, but alas I never saw one that I could test…

And there turn out to be a number of really unexpected connections in weather…


Microsoft OneNote

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Big changes must be on the way at Microsoft. They just released OneNote for the Mac, for free. It will also work on the I-devices.

As you’ve remarked on the virtues of OneNote in the past, and are a Mac user, I thought you might be interested if you were not already aware. Keep up the good work.


Art Russell PhD

I remain sufficiently interested in OneNote that I am seriously considering a Session 2 Pro. I’d have bought one already but the Microsoft site believes I have a previous account, which I probably do, and it won’t tell me how to reset the password without my giving the answer to a security question I do not remember ever choosing and certainly do not know the answer to. So I gave up. This was just before taxes, and my taxes were higher than I thought so I suppose I should be glad I didn’t buy it yet. But it does look like one great research tool. With OneNote.



From Ragnarok to Anak Segara

Dear Jerry

Some months ago we discussed progress in ‘carbon free carbon dating’- the

detection of cosmic ray damage levels in rocks covered and uncovered by evolving ice cover to date volcanic fallout layers at high latitudes.

The dating of such layers now combines with isotopic and geochemical tephra analysis to point the finger at aerosols from a little known volcanic cone on Lombok as the proximate cause of the shift in radiative forcing that drove the bad weather that terminated the Viking colonization of Greenland

<> >

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University

But could that happen again?

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

We know both from climate models and recent volcanic SO2 aerosl events that injecting just a few million sons of sulfur ( roughly a 100 meter cube ) into the upper stratosphere can cool the planet by a decree C or more. Recent eruptions in this category, from Tambora to El Chichon have been single paroxysmal events taking days or weeks to emit cubic kilometers of ash and tephra.

Consider what would happen if a varhe volume, high-volatile magmachamber emptied not with a bang, but a whistle,with a plume carrying thousands of tons a day of SO2 into the stratosphere for several or many thousands of days , instead of gigatons all at once?

Instead of a Year Without A Summer, you could get a Decade Without July

Stay tuned for more tephrology studies to get a quantitative handle on the subject.

Mantle and crustal heat flow models needed to answer the question depend in turn on better gravity models and more data on high pressure materials science than we at present possess

The greatest volcano on Earth was not recognized as such until last year:

Thanks to the GRACE gravity satellite program, improved mapping of density fluctuations in the crust and upper mantle is progressing :

But that never makes it into the big multi billion buck climate modals does


Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

Subject: Re: From Ragnarok to Anak Segara

Your wish has been answered- just out this paper on modeling a very big,

very long lived eruption :

Biogeosciences, 10, 669-687, 2013


© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons

Attribution 3.0 License.

* Article


* Related Articles


Impact of an extremely large magnitude volcanic eruption on the global

climate and carbon cycle estimated from ensemble Earth System Model

simulations J. Segschneider1, A. Beitsch1,*, C. Timmreck1, V. Brovkin1, T.

Ilyina1, J. Jungclaus1, S. J. Lorenz1, K. D. Six1, and D. Zanchettin1

1Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

*now at: Institute for Oceanography, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg,


Abstract. The response of the global climate-carbon cycle system to an

extremely large Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude volcanic eruption is

investigated using ensemble integrations with the comprehensive Earth System

Model MPI-ESM. The model includes dynamical compartments of the atmosphere

and ocean and interactive modules of the terrestrial biosphere as well as

ocean biogeochemistry. The MPI-ESM was forced with anomalies of aerosol

optical depth and effective radius of aerosol particles corresponding to a

super eruption of the Yellowstone volcanic system. The model experiment

consists of an ensemble of fifteen model integrations that are started at

different pre-ENSO states of a control experiment and run for 200 years

after the volcanic eruption. The climate response to the volcanic eruption

is a maximum global monthly mean surface air temperature cooling of 3.8 K

for the ensemble mean and from 3.3 K to 4.3 K for individual ensemble

members. AtmosphericpCO2 decreases by a maximum of 5 ppm for the ensemble

mean and by 3 ppm to 7 ppm for individual ensemble members approximately 6

years after the eruption. The atmospheric carbon content only very slowly

returns to near pre-eruption level at year 200 after the eruption. The ocean

takes up carbon shortly after the eruption in response to the cooling,

changed wind fields and ice cover. This physics-driven uptake is weakly

counteracted by a reduction of the biological export production mainly in

the tropical Pacific. The land vegetation pool shows a decrease by 4 GtC due

to reduced short-wave radiation that has not been present in a smaller scale

eruption. The gain of the soil carbon pool determines the amplitude of the

CO2 perturbation and the long-term behaviour of the overall system: an

initial gain caused by reduced soil respiration is followed by a rather slow

return towards pre-eruption levels. During this phase, the ocean compensates

partly for the reduced atmospheric carbon content in response to the land’s

gain. In summary, we find that the volcanic eruption has long-lasting

effects on the carbon cycle: After 200 years, the ocean and the land carbon

pools are still different from the pre-eruption state by 3 GtC and 4 GtC,

respectively, and the land carbon pools (vegetation and soil) show some

long-lasting local anomalies that are only partly visible in the global


Russell seems to have a magic computer that inserts weird formatting into his mail and this one has been around a while because it took half an hour to reformat and I still didn’t get it right; but it is worth your attention.


From a heart specialist friend:

More not less,


Read your comments about your own fatigue.

I hear these types of complaints frequently and the tendency among the fatigued is to do less, not more. It is a subtle trap. I often tell patients two things. First, at 25 when you chased the girls up the hill and you got tired you said to yourself "I need to get into better shape." At 75, when you feel fatigued we fret that the fatigue is the result of aging or some medical condition.

Often, it is the result of a fall in conditioning. So more is the answer, not less.

Second, I tell people that my father is about to hit 95 and his motto is "find a hill and tramp up it over and over again."

Grab Niven and Sable and hit the damn hills.

More, not less.


Alas I fell far behind in mail and I can’t take Sable now. I sure miss that dog. So does Niven. But we’re going up the hill tomorrow. And it’s great advice. Now I need nagging. Sable used to do that.


Subj: hmm


Certainly makes for interesting reading. But I am not sure I believe the next one


The real cause of global warming:



JSF F-35

Jerry –

Long-time reader of your columns in Byte – just discovered your website. Great reads!

My thoughts on the F-35 follow:

IMO the F35 multi-role fighter is nothing but a glorified Swiss army knife. Somewhat capable of many things, but not particularly capable of any. Some pilots have actually likened it to a flying piano.

As any skilled craftsman will attest there are no substitutes for purpose built tools.

Keep well

// Paul

Paul Loewen

The TFX was a very good recce/strike airplane, but it was also intended to be a fighter which it was not. There is no prize for second place in a dogfight. If you want air superiority you have to pay for the technology. You cant then hang bombs under the wings and call your air superiority plane a ground support plane.

All this is in great detail in The Strategy of Technology. The Air Force used to understand that lesson.


America and freedom

Jerry -

In your latest post, you wrote, "Nations have few permanent friends, but they do have permanent interests. One permanent interest of America is to maintain liberty and freedom."

I’m pretty sure this is the argument used by interventionists going back at least to Kennedy.

So the question arises: liberty and freedom for whom?


Jim Martin

I am not sure I understand your point. Kennedy went into Viet Nam because he thought it was necessary for containment. There was this ongoing thing called The Cold War, and if your strategy is to contain the enemy then you have to contain him. It happens that the war of attrition in Viet Nam had almost the exact effects intended by containment: we were rich enough to afford it. The USSR was not. It was hard lines on the Vietnamese of both parties; being a battlefield in a war of attrition usually is.

I recall in a debate with Allard Lowenstein back in those days, he said “Jerry, you want to win this and get out. I just want to get out. But your friends there “ –indicating the Secretary of Defense – “want to lose it and stay in.” I admit to being silenced. I didn’t have the minutes to give a lecture on how to win a war of attrition when it is part of a strategy of containment, and I am not sure I understood the situation that well in 1968 anyway.


Ethnic Boundaries

“Why is it our job? We did that after WW I and the result wasn’t very pretty.”


1) It is not our job, but since we appear to be continually embroiled in foreign conflicts why not arrange things so it happens less often?

2) We did not do that after WWI. We arranged things like a bunch of drunks, almost as if the goal were to screw it up so nothing ever gets resolved.


But well, we thought we were doing good. We drove out the Hapsburgs and ended the Holy Roman Empire once and for all. And after all, Die Sudeten Deutschen were only Germans, and Germans didn’t deserve an ethnic boundary.


Babcock & Wilcox cuts Small Modular Reactor program

>>B&W continues to believe in the strength of the mPower technology, but without the ability to secure significant additional investors or customer Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts to provide the financial support necessary to develop and deploy mPower reactors, the current development pace will be slowed. <<



Government Swat Teams

We’ve been discussing government SWAT teams for years, on Chaos Manor and in other places.  We mentioned Department of Education SWAT teams and we quipped about drones and so on.  Well, the mainstream is finally catching up:


Regardless of how people feel about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over his cattle’s grazing rights, a lot of Americans were surprised to see TV images of an armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary wing of the BLM deployed around Bundy’s ranch.

They shouldn’t have been. Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions. It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.


They failed to mention the Department of Education, the Post Office, and other places that have SWAT teams.  They also did not mention highly trained Bunny Inspector Counter Assault Teams, which are trained to kill anyone who mistreats rabbits and evades the normal Bunny Inspector Agents.  And that’s probably because these don’t exist — at least not in the unclassified data stream.  =)  But, you’d almost believe it these days…


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


Two Fronts To Putinism


This piece makes an interesting case that we’re opposing Putin on one front when he’s actually fighting on two – and we’re unwittingly helping him on the second.

Briefly, we’re encouraging national self-determination around Russia’s periphery, an easy sell among former members of various Russian-dominated empires who do NOT want to go back.

At the same time though, we’re pushing Western postmodernism upon these nationalists, hard, by both current Administration policy and (my take) by general State Department proclivity. This doesn’t go over nearly as well.

Putin, meanwhile, despite our President’s proclamations to the contrary, very much does have an ideology – to oversimplify grossly, anti-postmodernism (read the original article.) The Russians bearing it aside, this ideology is a lot more attractive to many of the former Soviet nations than what we’re pushing. If we actually want to win this contest we’d do well to drop the aggressive postmodernism and stick to national self-determination. (If we want to survive as a powerful nation we’d do well to drop the aggressive postmodernism, but that gets into a discussion of the coming elections.)

As for various Western conservatives beginning to make approving noises about Putin, I assume that’s more a matter of any stick to beat our current postmodernist masters with than it is serious support for expansionist Russian nationalism, and I can (somewhat) sympathize. Were I them, though, I’d be very careful how firmly I grasped that stick.

The time could come when they’ll want to drop it in a great hurry, if Putin overdoes the expansionism.


Tsar Regent Vladimir Putin is one of the most astute politicians of the age, and underestimating him is a very dangerous thing to do. He has goals and their implication must be studied. But: he is a Russian nationalist, vicar for the Tsar, and not a candidate for Emperor of the world; and Europe has faced far more dangerous threats.

NATO is now a burden. The Cold War is over. And we have no great interests in the territorial disputes of Europe. Or in Entangling Alliances. We have common interests with Russia. They should be pursued. I’d rather have a Russian agreement than an alliance with Bosnia.


Another Russian bolide


Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery

See all my books at <>


Heat-seeking drones are getting the 420 on weed in the UK,


Ho ho – so ironic

Technology – ain’t it grand?


I see some great stories there. Free lance drone owners, like falconers…




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Mixed Mail Bag: Beach on Mars, Politics, ObamaCare, First Amendment Zone, Armed Feds, and other interesting stuff.

Mail 819 Monday, April 07, 2014


Alas, it’s tax time and much of this is short shrift.


On The Beach — Looking at this, who can doubt that Mars once had an ocean?


Russell Seitz


What goes around comes around…

"For those who may not recall those late August days in 2012, the Republican Party arrived in Tampa dedicated to creating a seamless launch for the national presidential campaign of its standard bearer, Governor Mitt Romney, and to do all it could to insure at least the appearance of a united party as it moved toward the November election.

"To make that happen, Chairman Reince Priebus—along with a number of national committee members on the Mitt Romney bandwagon—made the determination that anyone or anything associated with libertarian Ron Paul was bad news for the GOP’s chances and, as such, were to be avoided at all costs."

"By seeking to rig their 2012 convention (performances by Clint Eastwood aside), the GOP has set a trap for itself that is likely to have a significant effect on their 2016 chances…and party leadership seems to want to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist."

The sounds of the waterfall seem to be growing louder…

I have wondered if Obama was re-elected because the Republican elite was so contemptuous of the Ron Paul supporters that those folks sat at home Election Day.

Charles Brumbelow

Since Obama got fewer votes in 2012 than the losing candidate in 2008, it should be fairly clear that the deciding factor in 2012 was lack of interest in voting on the part of anti-Obama voters. One may make of that what one can. Had the Republicans turned out in 2012 as well as they did in 2008, Mr. Obama would have been a one term President.


Uninsured Rate

Hi Jerry-

We have this:

This seems to indicate that the rate of those without health insurance is declining rather dramatically. Whatever its merits and flaws, the AHA seems to be working, assuming this is not due to confounders such as an improving economy or demographic changes such as an aging population.

Best regards,


Some of those now insured are young people taking advantage of their parents’ policies. It may be that the system is “working” in that enough young healthy people are signing up and actually paying premiums, but that is not clear on the information I have.

Of course this is still not an indication that ACA is “working” in that it will deliver health care. There is still some question about that. But one would suppose that eventually the purely technical glitches will be overcome and all who want Obamacare coverage will be able to get it.




Here is a ~15 minute podcast interview with Matthew Green, the university cryptography researcher who (you might recall) ran into an attempt to force him to take down a blog post some months ago.

He and a group have looked at the Dual ECRB random number generator that NSA is reputed to have back-door’ed and then paid RSA to make the default in one of its products. In this interview (sponsored by Kaspersky) he discusses their findings. Basically, it’s clear that the standard was made much easier to break if one knows and understands the backdoor, which the author (NSA) certainly does.




Another government agency acquires armed force


In case you haven’t seen this:

Best regards,

Doug Ely

Federal law enforcement

"The proliferation of federal agencies with armed agents is one of the most worrisome aspects of the growth in government."


Subj: "Credentialed Government Workers"

"“I can’t find the talent right now. My health and human services secretary says ‘Please get me some talent. Please get me some forecasters. Please get me some technical people.’ [Information systems] people are very, very difficult to find. If I get a good [information systems] person, they’re stolen within a year by the private sector.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R)

“His concern apparently is over the pay scale of government workers, although I have not heard that there is any shortage of “qualified” i.e. credentialed applicants for government jobs. The biggest problem is that we have an education system indistinguishable from one imposed by a foreign power after winning a war with the US."


I work as an IT professional in one of Gov. McCrory’s departments, and, yes, there is no shortage of ‘credentialed’ workers here in the research triangle with several excellent universities a hop, skip and a jump away. However, government salaries have essentially been frozen for much of the last ten years due to the economic recession, and we have great trouble hiring, and especially retaining, the best and brightest, particularly the ‘young tigers’ among us.

Cecil Rose

Apex, NC

I would not think that ordinary government work requires the best and the brightest; indeed, the best and the brightest in my experience make god-awful bureaucrats. The real question is, why does government need the best and the brightest for career positions?


U.S. Response to Crimea Worries Japan’s Leaders


How long until Japan feels compelled to start building nukes?

James Crawford

Oh, but could they do that?


Damned Exploiters

Those evil Western Colonial Powers were up to no good an Africa again:


An angry crowd attacked a treatment center in Guinea on Friday where staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were working to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, forcing it to shut down, a spokesman for the medical charity said.


Oh, excuse me, this has nothing to do with colonization and has everything to do with local people disrupting their progress.  


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


gun-free military

Dear Jerry -

You wrote, "Another shooting incident at Fort Hood. The Army is unable to protect itself: if you want to murder people, you need access to a military base or a school; on either case you will be assured that someone will have disarmed anyone able to protect himself or comrades, so you may proceed as you will. Just as it is generally safe to rob landing passengers from aircraft. This is to assure the safety of the disarmed troopers. One might have thought that this approach would have been questioned after the Mad Muslim Psychiatrist opened fire on his unarmed comrades five years ago."

Well, true enough, but it’s not like this is a new condition. Traditionally, garrison troops are discouraged from possessing weapons, and their duty weapons are strictly controlled. This has been true of the US since at least WWI, with the possible exception of officer’s sidearms. In a combat zone, of course, this doesn’t apply, but in CONUS it has been very much the rule. To put it bluntly, the traditional view of enlisted troops did not suggest that letting them run around with guns (outside of combat or strictly controlled duty or training, of course) was a good idea. For instance, it was common after firing range training to have the responsible officer walk down the line of troops while each would state, "No brass no ammo, sir!"

And changing this policy would require some extraordinary adjustments, as it would essentially require adopting the viewpoint that no soldier should trust his fellows.


Jim Martin

Perhaps what is needed is a Foreign Legion which never sets foot on American soil? Or perhaps it is better to disarm the soldiers to make life simpler for Mad Muslim Major psychiatrists. If the troops could defend themselves against declared enemies of the United States would they merit the Purple Heart?


I don’t believe it, I agree with Soros on this one:


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

The legalization of marijuana by the states is an accomplished fact; this kind of experimentation is exactly what the Constitution encourages. As to what happens now, we will see.


Dept Dir of CIA Morell on Benghazi

The iron law in action:

Under questioning from members on the committee, Morell described a process under which C.I.A. analysts in Washington provided an early assessment without seeking or receiving information from the many C.I.A. officers and other witnesses on the ground in Libya. And when the C.I.A. Tripoli station chief attempted to correct the record in an email to headquarters on Sept. 15, 2012, Morell says it was discounted as unreliable. According to Morell, the email claimed the attacks were “not an escalation of a protest.” However, Morell said that intel relied on press reports and C.I.A. officers on sight who probably would have arrived too late to see a protest anyway.

“My actions were appropriate in response as Deputy Director of CIA,” Morell testified. “I immediately recognized the discrepancy between my station chief and the judgment of our [Washington] analysts.” Morell says he asked his analysts to revisit their judgment and “they stuck to their initial conclusion” that the attacks were by protesters. Morell defended the decision.

“I did not hide nor did I downplay the station chief’s comments as some have suggested, in fact I did the opposite,” Morell said today.

So, the Station Chief on site, says one thing and the boys at HQ decide he does not know what he is talking about?

Burn HQ to the ground and start over.





States work to protect electric grid


High Frequency Trading

In 2012 Katsuyama left RBC to form IEX, an exchange that aims to level the playing field so that price information is available to all investors simultaneously. It launched last October. Among the tactics deployed to keep the market even: a “magic shoebox” containing 50 km of coiled fibre optic cable that sits between the exchange and HFT firms. The added distance results in a 350-microsecond delay, just enough time to dissuade predatory electronic traders.


It seems likely to me that over time High Speed Trading is a problem that will solve itself. A new government agency is not needed. Technology is the great leveler. As it is, everyone has access to major computing power, effectively equal to what the government has (in the sense that more doesn’t do more for you).


Physics Stopped Being Science, Long Ago

I had a discussion today and I wanted to look into the matter to see if the Emperor and his Ignorial Storm Troopers decided to start observing nature again or continue their metamorphosis into witchdoctors.  You seem to hold a fondness for "voodoo science" =) ; the ooga booga machine seems bigger:


The theory is deceptively simple: The speed of light is not constant, as we’ve been taught since the early 1930s, but has been steadily slowing since the first instance of time.

If true, virtually all aspects of traditional physics are affected, including the presumed steady state of radioactive decay used to measure geologic time.


More importantly, if true the standardized speed of light, which conflicts with available data, would mean that physicists stopped being scientists when they stopped observing nature and began using standard measurements rather than taking natural measurements. 

Consider what this might mean for the species, if you will:  What would we do in 10,000 years if physics stopped working and nobody thought to measure the speed of light?  We would, likely, have a mystery religion with priests looking for a lost key that they forgot and cannot find; it would be another dark age; it would be like today; it would be horrible.  We don’t want that to happen again.  But, enough of my admonishments; your grasp is keen.  Let’s continue:


Early in 1979, an Australian undergraduate student named Barry Setterfield, thought it would be interesting to chart all of the measurements of the speed of light since a Dutch astronomer named Olaf Roemer first measured light speed in the late 17th century. Setterfield acquired data on over 163 measurements using 16 different methods over 300 years.

The early measurements typically tracked the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter when the planet was near the Earth and compared it with observations when then planet was farther away. These observations were standard, simple and repeatable, and have been measured by astronomers since the invention of the telescope. These are demonstrated to astronomy students even today. The early astronomers kept meticulous notes and sketches, many of which are still available.

Setterfield expected to see the recorded speeds grouped around the accepted value for light speed, roughly 299,792 kilometers /second. In simple terms, half of the historic measurements should have been higher and half should be lower.

What he found defied belief: The derived light speeds from the early measurements were significantly faster than today. Even more intriguing, the older the observation, the faster the speed of light. A sampling of these values is listed below:

In 1738: 303,320 +/- 310 km/second

In 1861: 300,050 +/- 60 km/second

In 1877: 299,921 +/- 13 km/second

In 2004: 299,792 km/second (accepted constant) </>

Now, I know we’re going to have objections at this point; so let me toss some ice water on those little fires:


Setterfield teamed with statistician Dr. Trevor Norman and demonstrated that, even allowing for the clumsiness of early experiments, and correcting for the multiple lenses of early telescopes and other factors related to technology, the speed of light was discernibly higher 100 years ago, and as much as 7 percent higher in the 1700s. Dr. Norman confirmed that the measurements were statistically significant with a confidence of more than 99 percent.

Setterfield and Norman published their results at SRI in July 1987 after extensive peer review.

It would be easy to dismiss two relatively unknown researchers if theirs were the only voices in this wilderness and the historic data was the only anomaly. They are not.

Since the SRI publication in 1987, forefront researchers from Russia, Australia, Great Britain and the United States have published papers in prestigious journals questioning the constancy of the speed of light.

Within the last 24 months, Dr. Joao Magueijo, a physicist at Imperial College in London, Dr. John Barrow of Cambridge, Dr. Andy Albrecht of the University of California at Davis and Dr. John Moffat of the University of Toronto have all published work advocating their belief that light speed was much higher – as much as 10 to the 10th power faster – in the early stages of the “Big Bang” than it is today. (It’s important to note that none of these researchers have expressed any bias toward a predetermined answer, biblical or otherwise. If anything, they are antagonistic toward a biblical worldview.)

Dr. Magueijo believes that light speed was faster only in the instants following the beginning of time. Dr. Barrow, Barry Setterfield and others believe that light speed has been declining from the beginning of time to the historic near past.

Dr. Magueijo recently stated that the debate should not be why and how could the speed of light could vary, but what combination of irrefutable theories demands that it be constant at all.

Setterfield now believes there are at least four other major observed anomalies consistent with a slowing speed of light:

quantized red-shift observations from other galaxies,

measured changes in atomic masses over time,

measured changes in Planck’s Constant over time,

and differences between time as measured by the atomic clock, and time as measured by the orbits of the planets in our solar system.

Perhaps the most interesting of these is the quantized red-shift data.


We have a small, rebel force on a moon on Endor attempting to shut down the deflector shield so that our forces can burst the Deathstar of ignorance that menaces the discipline of physics.  May the force be with them and that Nobel Peace Prize winner that will play Luke Skywalker in all this malarkey.   


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Well, if the speed of light is diminishing at something like a meter per second per century, projected back 10 billion years, what would the velocity of light have been? Of course there’s no reason to assume a linear rate of change. Logarithmic? S curves? If the rate of change is that pronounced it should be detectable over a period of years. It would not be all that difficult to take annual measures, just in case… But of course the Voodoo Sciences don’t encourage people to routinely test “laws”.


Norman Borlaug Centennial

This past week was the 100th birthday of the late, great Norman Borlaug.

A statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday of plant scientist Norman Borlaug, the man widely considered the father of the Green Revolution and whose work helped save as many as 1 billion people from starvation in the developing world.

He is one of just six people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And yet Borlaug, who died three years ago today, is scarcely known in his own country.

Though barely known in the country of his birth, elsewhere in the world Norman Borlaug is widely considered to be among the leading Americans of our age.

And Penn and Teller’s "Eat This!" episode hi-lights Borlaug, whom Penn Jillette declares "the greatest person in history" (It starts out dealing with overeating, then flips to deal with food shortages, in which Borlaug figures prominently).

Steve Chu


The Atlantic article was published in 1997. Interestingly, the "population bomb" mentality had not yet loosened its grip. Now in the industrial world, demographic collapse is the specter stalking us , led by Japan and Russia, with western Europe and China close behind. One of the less-appreciated reasons that Russia is currently being so territorially aggressive is that the Russian leadership knows it is facing a catastrophic shortage of Russians in the near future and is desperate to supplement it by any means possible.


Subject: Side effects

Hello Jerry,

Got this from my science teacher daughter, who got it from one of her fellow teachers.

It is about the ‘fallout’ of re-introducing wolves into Yellowstone.


The video runs about 3 min or so.

Bob Ludwick

Of course there are those who like wolves.  Ranchers are not usually part of this group.


Russian Navy Now Has Control over Crimea’s Elite Dolphin Unit | Mediaite


Will the Dolphins be loyal to Russia?

James Crawford=





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Blackwater, climate change, Stonehenge, and a mixed mail bag.

Mail 814 Monday, March 10, 2014

A very mixed bag of mail and short shrift comments.


Blackwater is still around.  After the fiascos you’re aware of, they changed their name to Xe (pronounced Zee).  Comparatively recently, they changed their name again; now they’re called Academi —


SITREP Academi Mercenaries Ukraine

This is to respond to the reports of Academi mercenaries in Ukraine (Blackwater changed their name to xe and then changed their name again to Academi).

Essentially, some men in sterile uniforms, who could be anyone, were running around with guns doing some unknown activity.  Certain observers shouted insults, including "Blackwater" in the same way a citizen might call a police officer a Nazi if he believed the police officer were violating his rights. 

I would, generally, think anyone dressed like this were a contractor or a special operations soldier or paramilitary operative.


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Thank you.


Subject: Do Not Call registry

Hi Jerry,

Did you know that a "Do Not Call" registry exists that makes it illegal for telemarketers to call you?

Alas, it does not work for political campaign calls. The politicians want to be able to bend your ear whether you like it or not.

Eric Krug

It advises me to go to a place that tells me I must be the authorized agent for my organization or some such in order to register. I am not an organization. I am confused.


Ukraine may have to go nuclear, says Kiev lawmaker


I suspect that North Korea, Pakistan and Iran as well as Israel and India understand the implications of these events. I expect that potential nuclear powers such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Argentina and Brazil are contemplating their options.

James Crawford=


You wrote on Heinlein, Machiavelli, and conscripts:


Robert Heinlein and I debated for much of his life over conscription. His view was that any nation that needed conscripts had no right to exist. Mine was closer to Machiavelli’s. Conscription has the many benefits for a Republic, and its effects on liberty are not purely negative.  A nation needs paid professional Legions, but their existence allows them to be sent to wars we might be better off avoiding. Clinton would not have sent conscripts to the Balkans.


I believe Constitutional protections would be sufficient to stop Clinton from sending soldiers to the Balkans if Congress hadn’t shirked their duties through the War Powers Act, helping usher the rise of the imperial presidency over successive administrations. 


Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Perhaps. The consequences of Clinton and Albright choosing sides in five hundred year old conflict in the Balkans, and choosing to bomb the Slavs, has had and will have repercussions for a century and more, and it is still difficult to find the US national interest involved.


Capitalism can survive climate change. this is bad


This is not a joke

As long as the conditions for investment and profit remain, the system will adapt. Which is why we need a revolution

The conclusion about the need for a revolution does not follow from the data presented.


‘After all, if we give up our obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom, we can consider more thoughtfully what is just.’

Surely this is satire?

‘After all, if we give up our obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom, we can consider more thoughtfully what is just.’



Roland Dobbins

One would like to believe so, but I am not sure.


Long – worth reading

Not much new to anyone who’s been reading your web site since the 1990s…but worth looking at.

Worth reading and coming back to. I have not removed it from the mail queue and we may see it again.


“There had to be something special about these rocks. Why else would they take them from here all the way to Stonehenge? It hasn’t been considered until now that sound might have been a factor.”



Roland Dobbins

I wondered on that myself when I was working on my Atlantis was the Minoan Empire novel, but I could not come up with a good explanation.


Col Oldfield talking about the Genie Atomic air defense missile in the late 50′s

Nice to hear reason for a change, even if long ago.



: Water evaporation

Dear Jerry -

Paul Linsay’s letter makes some good points, but his final statement, " The same holds true for the 15 micron CO2 line in the atmosphere. It doesn’t penetrate the water more than a few microns and is consequently incapable of evaporating all that extra water into the air to cause more warming." is ill-considered.

In fact, the less the penetration, the greater the increase in evaporation. Consider the two extremes: penetration to the sea bottom and total surface absorption. In the case of total penetration, the incident energy is distributed throughout the entire body of water, increasing surface evaporation by a miniscule amount. In the second case, for a thin enough absorption layer, all of the energy is applied to boiling off that layer.


Jim Martin


Dear Jerry .

Paul S. Linsay , like Mark Sanicola, is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own natural history.

Two days ago you quoted his views thus :

"Regarding Russell Seitz’ comment, "Mark Sanicola claiming that CO2 does not have an absorption band " between 9 and 13 microns is pure hogwash ." Sanicola is correct and Seitz is wrong".

Whereupon he embarks on a short Gish Gallop through Google space ,connecting to an article on CO2 lasers instead of that obvious arbiter of the facts concerning CO2, the absorbtion spectrum of the atmosphere itself.

As can be seen below, despite its modest concentration CO2 takes a substantial bite out of infrared transmission all the way from 9 to 13 microns.

Inline images 1

It is really depressing to see the Dunning-Kruger linewidth of ersatz climate skeptics broaden under pressure– while water makes a dandy beam dump for CO2 lasers, a block of dry ice works too !

Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University



Subject: Healthcare


One of the issues in medicine is that thing simply cost more than they did and the care is much better than it was 30+ years ago

when I started. As an example, when I started in medicine if your knee hurt because of arthritis, I gave you 2 aspirin 4 times a

day. We knew that could hurt you, but it made the pain more bearable. Now we send you off for an artificial knee! We’ve gone from

a cost of a few pennies per day to a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

In my own field, when I started if you had a heart attack, I gave you nitroglycerin and spoke with your widow after it was over.

Then I begin to give you thrombolytics (clot busters) and that put my conversation off with your widow for a few years. Now I rush

you off the the cath lab, put in a drug coated stent and give you aspirin and plavix and your wife is stuck with you for decades if

you have a modicum of common sense. The care is staggeringly better!

The cost of all of this has increased and not in small way. This problem is worse in the US than anywhere else as illustrated.


Is universal health care part of the answer? (The below is stolen from Dan Munro)

* There are about 200 countries on planet earth – and only about 40 have a "formal" healthcare system (which includes access,

delivery and payment for citizens within a given country).

* The U.S. remains the only country (out of the 40) without "universal access/coverage."

* All of the countries in the chart above, almost all of them except the US, have universal health care (note that they don’t

all have the government paying for all of health care). The cost is less and the quality of care is mostly better.

Why don’t we have/approve of Universal Health Care in the US?

Fear – which is largely fueled by three things.

1. A false assumption (with big political support) that a system based on universal coverage is the same thing as a single

payer system. It isn’t. Germany is a great example of a healthcare system with universal coverage and multi-payer (many of which are

private insurance companies).

2. An attitude and culture of what’s loosely known as American Exceptional-ism. There is simply no other country on planet

earth that can teach us anything. Our entire raison d’etre is to be the world’s beacon of shining success – in freedom, liberty,

democracy – and really everything (but especially technology).

3. A fierce independence that has a really dark side. It took another Quora question to really help me see this one. The

question was: P


positive Rights: Why do many Americans think that healthcare is not a right for its own taxpaying citizens?


Here’s the #1 (395 upvotes) answer by Anon (a Brit):

The fundamental mythos of American culture, is that no matter how poor or humble your birth, you can through grit, spunk and

hard work become wealthy and prosperous.

On the face of it, and from the perspective of a class divided Europe, that seems incredibly noble and empowering. The idea

that there is that much social mobility, that anyone can forge their own destiny is a powerful part of the American psyche. When it

happens, it is an incredible thing. Something Americans can feel proud of.

However, there is a dark side to this mythos. Which is this… if anyone can win through hard work and effort, anyone who

doesn’t win, therefore deserves to be poor.

At the core of all the anti-health care reforms is the single concept "why should I pay for the healthcare of those losers."

Added together, these 3 things all contribute mightily to the runaway healthcare system we have today. Today – the NHE for USA is

$3.5T per year – and it’s growing at (arguably) ~5% per year (for as far as the eye can see).

So can we fix this in the US? Not without some open discussion. There are a LOT of painful things that need to be done. We need

Tort reform, we need to reduce the cost of medical education, we need to decide if EVERY person can have stents or artificial knees

and how do we decide.

One really, really good thing we should be doing is looking at the 39 countries who DO have universal coverage and see how they do

it. For example, the national health service in Great Britain has great public support, their costs are something like 8 times less

and their life expectancy is better. What do they do that we don’t?

You are correct, in general Kaiser does a very good job controlling costs, so does the state of Oregon. What is done at Kaiser and

in Oregon that could be applied elsewhere?

Complex issues, worthy of national discussion.



And at some point there may be a rational discussion.

Today we learned that of those getting health care insurance for the first time, some 30% are felons being enrolled in Medicaid, which was allowed by the Affordable Care Act. As of now no one has found a single person who voted for the Bill who knew that provision was in it. Surely someone knew?


Pine trees’ smell ‘could prevent climate change really being a problem:

“Previously unknown processes like this could help to account for the fact that the world’s temperature, following significant warming in the 1990s, has been stable for the last 15 years or so – a circumstance which climate science is struggling to assimilate.”



Possony used to say that the flatulence of cows was as important to global warming as CO2. He was whimsical but perhaps correct…


The loss of work

The recent discussions about the loss of work are very topical, and I have been motivated to write as follows:

Some of the problems arising from the elimination of work are readily discerned, but boredom, lack of motivation and any need for personal responsibility are the most deadly.

Marx may have suggested that in the future, productivity would enable a day to encompass work, art, and revelry, but observation of welfare dependent communities indicates that sloth, depravity and drunkenness are more likely.

In the past, when the productive have been increasingly forced to support the otherwise starving unproductive, it has been put down to overpopulation, and solutions have been to promote mass emigration and wars.

Such solutions are nominally unacceptable today, but the pressure of circumstances may yet lead to conquests and massacres as events follow the inevitable process of cause and effect.

Progress in human affairs is organic, people take actions to maximize their survival on the basis of their particular circumstances. The ‘one solution fits all ‘ approach of Socialism has been shown to be unsuccessful, and while the purpose of Government should be to facilitate rather than to direct, the inclination to compulsion seems to be compulsive in the governing classes.

In the early days of colonization of America and Australia, the pioneers arrived with very little except some knowledge, some seeds and a few tools. It was a bit wild and lawless, but not to the point of self destruction as evidenced by the present state of these territories. Today, entitlements, health and safety, minimum wages, and constrictive regulations would prevent the establishment of any new territory with similarly limited resources.

Such a potential habitat is in North Australia where the semi-tropical climate is typical of South-east Asia.

Indonesia has long eyed this largely undeveloped territory, and refer to it from time to time as South Irian.

Indonesia has a large population that is unrestrained by a sense of entitlement and eager for development.

We should not ignore needed opportunities that may favour other less developed nations.

Best regards: Ian Macmillan


Global Cooling Circa 1975


Here is one of the articles you mentioned from the 1970s that sounded the alarm about global cooling back in the 1970s:


Rodger Morris


Subject : love will keep us together, until Medicare…

Dr. Pournelle,

Speculation similar to yours on Captain and Tennille’s Medicare gap:



Billy the Kid


Some "nameless person" just edited the Wiki for William Bonney to add his mentions in Inferno and Escape from Hell.



On Global Warming

Hello Jerry,

Got this from your post a couple of days ago:

“….. but that was before the Great Global Warming Consensus that came about when global temperatures began to rise – by fractions of a degree Centigrade – in the 80’s and 90’s (up to 1997 or so) when they stabilized and may have begun to fall again. We don’t know how long that will go on, either."

According to this article, with lots of graphs, Global Warming is indubitably anthropogenic; the raw sensor has been methodically pencil-whipped anthropogenically to produce the highly publicized 20th century warming. See what you think:

Bob Ludwick


Subject: Of course there is no sound in space

No comment



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Discussion of the conservative case for raising minimum wage.

Mail 812 Thursday, February 27, 2014

This mail will essentially be on the minimum wage issue. Because of the way blogs work now as opposed to my old log before the changeover to this new and improved system it would have been easy to link to the previous discussions on Ron Unz and his Conservative Case for Minimum Wage;( ) now you‘ll just have to scroll down and look for them. They’re in the last couple of VIEW columns, and do understand, Ron Unz is no fly by night newcomer. He has serious arguments which need to be thought about even if you do not agree with him – I don’t agree, but I admit some of his evidence is pretty good.

This mail will be largely about his theory.


‘You want a higher minimum wage? Turn off the spigot of low-wage workers pouring in to the U.S. and it will rise on its own through the iron law of supply and demand.’



Roland Dobbins

This is the nearly automatic argument. Whether it politically makes sense in 2014 is not so clear. We have had the political debate over stopping the influx of low wage workers for thirty years, with the result that the inflow is not stopped, and the benefits which the Courts discover must constitutionally be paid to the incoming illegal aliens – or undocumented workers, or immigrants, or migrants as you choose – goes exponentially upward, no matter which Party has a majority in Congress or holds the White House. Unz argues that a higher minimum wage would allow better enforcement of laws restricting employment to landed immigrants or documented workers or whatever, and the lack of employment would then restrict the spigot of undocumented migrants. It would also tend to lower the number of citizens and legal immigrants receiving welfare and other benefits, greatly lowering the pressure to pay such benefits and making it easier to identify those illegally receiving them. He has more to say on this.

One may fervently wish we would do this, but we fervently wished that would happen as part of Mr. Reagan’s amnesty program. The result was not what he expected. And the fence has never been completed although it was dictated by Congress decades ago, and the Courts have held that the Border States can’t do their own enforcement. But they must pay the benefit.


China, Taiwan, Korea, and the minimum wage 

Dr Pournelle

China is not going away. The Chinese build empty Potemkin villages in order to fill the pockets of politicians and their cronies with public monies skimmed from construction. Their factories churn out poor copies of Western consumer goods and Russian military hardware. Unlike Ford, for the Chinese, quality is not job one. Hell, it’s not even job twenty-seven.

Despite these and other problems, China keeps rolling along. In the words of David Byrne "same as it ever was." I see no significant difference between China under the Emperor and China under the current leadership. They may call themselves Communists for a thousand years, but their gov’t bears no resemblance to any system outlined by Marx or Lenin.

The Taiwanese love to trade with China. It seems they believe they can play with the dragon without harm. I don’t think so. One day, China will bring Taiwan into the fold. Firm US military and diplomatic support of Taiwan can delay that happening, but it cannot prevent it. And I do not believe that the US gov’t can be firm about anything over a span of decades.

The surprise is Korea. Right now, China props up the North. Without Chinese support the North collapses. Would such a collapse hurt China? No. Already China commands the majority of South Korea’s import and export trade. The South is allied with the US now, but Koreans know their history. They look upon China as the older brother which means they will follow the Chinese lead.

The North will collapse and a generation later Korea will realign from a US ally to a Chinese ally.


Minimum wage

I think the economic variables are too intertwined to attribute any effect solely to an increase in the minimum wage. The problem is that we cannot run experiments that permit us to make comparisons. Suppose Idaho were to raise its minimum wage but Nevada did not. Could we wait a year or ten and compare results? No. The job market in Idaho differs from that of Nevada.

Unfortunately, the minimum wage is not an economic issue. It is a political one. That means the issue will not be decided by rational debate but by emotion and power.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

And yet there were data on states with and without minimum wages and their effects on unemployment and they were fairly unambiguous. But yes, it is very much entwined with politics and particularly of immigration reform.


Minimum wage


I’m thinking through about three pounds of blue mush right now (thanks for the sinupulse, without which it would be about six pounds of blue mush :) but I don’t think you need to be rethinking the minimum wage just yet.

Certainly not without some changes to additional economic assumptions.

I’ve done some analysis and when I get the round tuit I need to pull up more data and look at it monthly, but increases in the minimum wage are ALWAYS accompanied with increases in unemployment (one exception in the 80 year history of the minimum wage, and that was the modest increase by Clinton after the minimum wage remained static for twelve years under Reagan and Bush 1, such that employment was high and the number of minimum wage workers low), and ALWAYS accompanied by inflation which wipes out the wage increase (no exceptions).

Given that even a casual review of the numbers shows that a large element of the current economic malaise was the increase in minimum wage passed by the Pelosi-Reid Congress in 2006 and signed into law by Bush 2, from which we’ve not recovered, another minimum wage increase at this time will destroy what recovery we have had and leave more people unemployed besides. The combination of that increase and the soft-money policies have contributed to the significant inflation in food prices over the past five years, which is hidden in the CPI both by changes in the formula by which it is calculated and by the soft money policies, which are what has engendered the increases in stock prices at the effect of the rest of the economy.

The last thing we need is a minimum wage increase until the economy has stabilized.


That would be my view; were it anyone less worthy of listening to than Ron I would tend to repeat that and end the discussion. But the fact is that we are on a cycle of illegal immigrants, loss of jobs as people stop looking for work and see the jobs they might get taken by those who will work for less, and court ordered benefits along with demand for “immigration reform” which means open borders.

If something cannot go on forever it will stop, but you may not like the stopping point. This cannot go on forever, but I don’t see how it stops.


A Canadian Case History from a very long time subscriber:

minimum wage

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Recently, British Columbia raised its minimum wage. Here is my take on what that affected. First, I think we can all agree that people who are paid minimum wages can be termed as “working poor”. They don’t make enough money to save, or invest, and therefore are condemned to live paycheck to paycheck. With that agreement in place, I will continue.

My son works in the restaurant trade, and was earning $10/hr, a full $2 higher than the minimum wage of $8/hr. He knew he wasn’t making great money, but he wasn’t at the bottom of the pay scale either. He felt good about that. Not great, but good. Then the incumbent government got into a bit of a scandal and decided that buying votes would be a good idea, so they raised the minimum wage to $10.25/hr. Hurrah and huzzah, they care about the working poor! It worked, not too surprisingly. They won the very next election, even increasing the number of seats in the legislature, after being written off in the polls as sure losers. Oh, and they added a new statutory holiday, forcing businesses to either gift a day’s wages to their employees, while reducing their earning potential by one day, or if they stayed open, insured that the cost of doing business would overwhelm any chance of profit as workers who are “forced” to work on a statutory holiday earns time and a half.

So, my son received his two-bit raise, with other employees receiving the full raise of $2.25/hr. The restaurant had to either increase the prices of the food (actually, what happened was smaller portion sizes, which amounts to the same thing), or force a cut in hours to the staff. In reality both happened. There was an immediate increase in other costs: gas, groceries, clothing, as the inflation rate went up. Employees contribute to items like EI (Employment Insurance) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan) based on a percentage of wages. So those items increased in cost to the worker. In BC, we also pay a Medical Services Premium (MSP), which is $65/mo for a single person. A paltry sum, if you are not the working poor. It’s quite the bite out of your income, otherwise. If you make under a certain amount of income, that payment is forgiven on a sliding scale. That amount was not increased, so more people are paying either a larger percentage or the full cost of MSP.

The rest of the hourly paid workers in the province, who were already earning a higher wage per hour, did not receive any wage increases at all, so the increased inflation reduced their disposable income. At the lower end, it eliminated it entirely. Creating even more working poor. And there have been many small businesses that ended up shutting the doors, causing unemployment to go up. You’re entirely correct in being worried about start-ups. So far, I haven’t seen any new businesses in my town, but I do see more empty storefronts. Well, that’s not quite true. The Tommy Hilfiger store at the local mall closed, but is being replaced by Old Navy. And Zellers was bought out by Target, who just posted a billion dollar loss. I can foresee some of their stores being closed in the near future, creating even more unemployment, which will force the government to either cut benefits or raise rates.

The only winner is the governments, both provincially and federally, who collects the income taxes, CPP, EI and MSP. Those revenues are up, all on the backs of the working poor, of which there is now a far greater number. Oh, and the feds fiddled with the EI rules, reducing the length of time covered and forcing people to accept any jobs that pay 70% of their former wage, or lose their benefits entirely. Creating even more working poor.

Somehow, people are convinced that they can fight poverty and narrow the gap between rich and poor, by raising the minimum wages of the working poor. I am not so convinced and this recent increase in minimum wage hasn’t altered that conviction. I think if a CEO of a corporation is paying himself $5 million per year, that raising the minimum wage to $10, $20 or even $50 an hour won’t narrow that gap by any appreciable amount.

What I think the world needs more is a Maximum Wage. Say twenty five times the lowest paid employee, including perks, benefits and stock options. That way, if the CEO wants his $5 million paycheck, he would have to pay his lowest paid employee $200,000/yr or $96.15/hr (based on 2080 working hours per year). Or, since the corporation’s stock holders will insist on paying the legally mandated minimum, the CEO could only make $256.25/hr (based on $10.25/hr) or $533,000 per year. This still won’t eliminate the gap, and people will still complain how much more the CEO is earning, but at least it forces the gap to remain constant. I’m no economist, and I can certainly see that either method causes inflation to go up, but I think my maximum wage concept will cause a smaller spike overall.

In reality, what we really need is a largely reduced government, but we both know that isn’t going to happen without a revolution, and even then, it would just be a matter of time before the government grew every bit as large or larger. Your Iron Law is irrefutable.

Kindest regards,

Bill Grigg

Thank you. That would certainly be my expectation.


Comment on raising the minimum wage


You asked for comments about raising the minimum wage. I believe that a better alternative to raising the minimum wage is to provide a Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and eliminate the minimum wage and all other poverty programs altogether. If for example we provide $1,000/month to every US citizen that would raise a single person or a couple with 2 children above the federal poverty limit. As this payment is independent of any means testing we could completely eliminate the minimum wage. If you work flipping burgers at $1/hour that would be income in addition to the UBI and more money in your pocket. We would also eliminate Food Stamps, Unemployment benefits, Student Loans, Social Security, HUD, etc. We would dismantle the entire bureaucracy. As these payments would only go to citizens, it would reduce illegal immigration as citizens would be willing to work for a lower wage. I know that there is no chance of something like this getting through Congress, if for no other reason than Congress would no longer be able to pick winners and losers but I think it is the right direction. More info on this idea

Mike Plaster

That is fairly close to Milton Friedman’s scheme. If we are going to provide safety nets, leave as much freedom and employ as little bureaucracy as possible. Yes, some will take their benefits and drink and smoke and dope themselves to death: how much must we spend to protect them from themselves, and how much ought we to spend on that? Should that point even be debated?

But I fear your political reservations are well conceived.


on raising the minimum wage

"But of course there was a hidden assumption in that premise about minimum wages: it was that the difference between the minimum wage and “a living wage” would not be made up by a public payment of tax money, and that this payment could not be denied to anyone including minimum wage earners."


"And Ron is certainly correct in pointing out that the great financial gains made since the crash and the Great Recession have not gone to the working class or the middle class. They have gone to stock holders and no one else, and they don’t contribute all that much to middle class tax relief."

Both great points. The first is a side effect of the progressives. The second is also intertwined with employee stock compensation. In the 80′s, policy papers pushed the idea of employee participation in company success via stock options. Great idea, but it morphed into something a little different. When I started at Intel in 89, Intel did everything itself. There were Intel employees who worked in the mail room, cleaned the place, and fed everyone in the cafeteria. Within a few years, however, all the non-engineering functions started to get contracted out. No more blue badge mail room workers for example. So a company comes in and contracts to run the mail room, pays the former Intel employees much less money and benefits and no stock options. The whole valley follows suite. Now entire groups of middle class people become a lower sub class and don’t participate in a company’s success.

Now take silicon valley startups. When Adobe was founded, Warnock’s wife insisted that they give their first secretary 50,000 shares of stock. That does not happen much anymore. Startups are usually a group of engineers who work for little or nothing, are young, and have few responsibilities. A lot of the lower paid jobs are staffed by unpaid interns. If the company makes it, most of the stock goes to the investors and founders. There is little left over for the later hires. This creates massive concentration of wealth and skews the system even more. And it doesn’t help that more and more the young engineers are brainwashed by liberal "elite" colleges before they get here.

I have always thought like you, that you pay someone what they are worth and what you can afford to pay. However, what does a billionaire 30 something know about such matters?

Successful Silicon Valley Software Engineer entrepreneur


more on minimum wage

I completely agree with you on trust busting. Out here everyone in the EDA world starts a company expecting to be acquired by one of two companies, Synopsis or Cadence. The startups get absorbed into the collective and innovation ceases. The founders leave after the golden handcuffs come off and start another startup which gets acquired and the cycle repeats.

Test equipment is another area. Tektronix and Agilent are the big two. They desperately maintain their price points even though equipment is no longer expensive to build. The 70MHZ scope is exactly the same hardware as the 300MHZ scope, it’s just crippled. So instead of great equipment on every engineer’s desk, it’s still limited to a shared expensive device in a lab.

I think we need an amendment that defines what is too big to exist. If we did that, Enron’s would not happen and we would not get saddled with syburn oxly’s.

= = =

And Yet Some More

And yet there are areas where innovation is relentless. Process technology for example. 12 nm fabs are coming on line around the world. On the other hand, wafer starts (the cost to begin production of a chip once you have the design) are about 4 million US. This cuts out all the garage shops and little startups that want to make a chip.

In the aerospace world, you have seen the industry go from many smaller companies to the big one in commercial (Boeing) and the big two in government (Boeing and Lockheed….). You probably also have a good idea in that industry what a good size is for a company.

The other point I wanted to make is when you have a giant company eating all the little companies, at least in the tech industry, you get large collections of followers and a tendency to keep the gravy train rolling rather than building new products. Throw in cheap tech labor from the 3rd world and it gets even worse.

A successful Silicon Valley software engineer entrepreneur

Understand, this is the world that Ron Unz lives in and has become a multimillionaire in. We had some of this discussion with Ron at my kitchen table. He deserves a hearing. And yes, I know damned well the issue is very complicated, and it is very much rolled in with the reality of entitlements, welfare benefits, the notion of deserving and undeserving poor, work habits, and education.

And as you say, the robots are coming. Innovation is relentless. Moore’s law was an S curve, not an exponential, but the usual result of a flattening out of an S curve – not that we are there yet with Moore’s Law – is the beginning of another S curve with newer technology.

And the Marx-predicted concentration of capital and the ownership of the mean of production continues just as relentlessly.


An American’s case for boosting the minimum wage


I’m all in favor of boosting the minimum wage. I also favor the various gun grabs, taxes, EPA mandates and other crippling measures being demanded by the "Progressives" currently in charge of this country and economy.

Compare this to a plane losing airspeed because of a crippled engine, propeller windmilling and creating drag. When the plane gets down to a certain speed, the wings stall. If the stall break takes place with sufficient altitude, there is a brief excitement, then recovery. Put the nose down, trade altitude for airspeed, and that energy allows controlled descent. A series of these can get you to a safe landing, or sometimes even get the engine running again.

However, if the stall takes place below a certain altitude but not quite low enough. all that results is complete destruction. Worse, incompetent actions by the pilot — even at an otherwise safe altitude

– can result in development of a flat spin, where nothing that anyone does can bring recovery.

The engine is economic and political power. If we’re going to have a stall, let’s stall NOW, let people recognize the incompetence of our political leadership (both D and R), and take back the controls before it’s too late.

My great fear is that things will continue to stretch out, like taffy, and then the inevitable disaster begins, it will be too late for the survivors to recover. The necessary resources are being legislated out of existence and those with the skills to produce and use them are being suppressed.

We have descended so far down that the only remaining options may be to give in to Fascism, or (as Churchill put it) fight with all odds against us "and only a precarious chance of survival." Dear God let us avoid the last option in that progression, and if the only way to do so is to encourage the "stall break" now, then I’m all in favor.


The alternatives to the concentration of wealth are few. One is to encourage the concentration and turn each into a regulated public utility – remember The Phone Company. Or control them through a Grand Council of Fasces as Mussolini sought (recall that some of his ministers were Jews until he was forced to ally with Hitler; he was a Socialist and his original Fascism was political not racial. Authoritarian, but of course tending to totalitarianism. See the Ignacio Silone novel Bread and Wine; it is worth your time.

Another alternative is, as David McCord Wright noted, the intent of the Sherman Anti-Trust act and its descendants. Do not allow the concentration: require competition even if that appears to lower efficiency – it probably will not lower efficiency because as there is less competition there is more Bureaucracy, and Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy will take hold and efficiency will go to hell. Schumpeter also has much to say on this.

Too big to fail is an invitation to disaster. Concentration of wealth is an invitation to disaster. But confiscation of wealth merely fuels the government and builds even larger bureaucracies and stifles innovation. I would think that obvious, but it seems obvious only to me.

Distributism is an extreme form of reducing concentration and raises moral and ethical questions. Anti-trust actions have been proven to work in the past. Why have we abandoned them in the siren song of increased efficiency? And are uncompetitive giants actually efficient? Or when they become too big to fail what happens?



The attached, taken from government data (sources below) accessed c. 2004, and analyzed very crudely (as appropriate to annualized data) clearly illustrates the correlation between increases in the minimum wage, unemployment, and inflation. One of these days I hope to find monthly data and do a more precise analysis, if I can get the "round tuit."



Minimum Wage (as of 1 Jan of year)

Unemployment Rate <>

Inflation Rate






Which gives a range of discussion items. It is late now and I am going to bed. I doubt this discussion is ended. Unz is saying that raising the minimum wage will address a number of problems including entitlement and unrestricted immigration of people willing to work at slave wages; that it will make immigration control easier by making employment control easier. Of course employment control is not desirable per se; it is an imposition on freedom and a restriction on economic growth. The German Economic Miracle came about when Proconsul Lucius Clay allowed Konrad Adenauer to essentially abolish all employment restrictions and regulations: hire anyone who will work for you at any wage they will accept; build, create, produce! And Germany went from bombed out ruins to a hypermodern economy, while next door East Germany slowly descended into the economic muck despite the similarity of population and war destruction. An experiment we do not take note of any longer.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.