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Monday, July 19, 2010

Nancy Pelosi is now saying that the reason Obama's popularity is falling is that expectations were too high. Jimmy Carter tells us that it's racism. The NAACP tells us it's racism that motivates the tea parties and opposition to the government. Meanwhile my newspaper headlines tell me that the Administration, without any Congressional action, is completely revamping conservation and environmental protection. No one is sure what all that means.

And small business investment falls, job creation is low, and the only reason unemployment is falling is that the number of people seeking jobs is falling. I wonder if Congress has considered that if you collect unemployment benefits you have to be looking for work, so if we increase the time  you can collect unemployment it will attract some of those who gave up seeking work because their benefits ran out, and thus bring unemployment rates up again?  Which is a long winded way of saying that if you want more of something subsidize it. If you want less of something, fine people for doing it. If you make it more difficult and more expensive to employ people, you will get fewer people employed; if you pay people to be unemployed, you will get more unemployed. If you pay people to be poor for a living, you will get people to take that job: since they are employed -- the job is collecting public benefits -- perhaps we should "reduce unemployment" by taking them off the "unemployed" list? That should help the numbers.

The government has lost the confidence of the people. The government doesn't even have to read the laws it passes. It's all being passed along to a bureaucracy that understands full well what is wanted.

 

 The Ruling Class

My one-time colleague Angelo Codevilla -- he was briefly a Research Associate at Pepperdine Research Institute when I was Managing Director --  has a long and important article in the current American Spectator magazine. The title is "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution".  Both parts of that title are important. You can find it here: http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the/print

There have always been elites in America, and there have always been local ruling classes and aristocracies; but it is only comparatively recently that there has been "a ruling class" of the kind we have now. Codevilla traces its development and some of the consequences.

This development was predictable and predicted. The authors of The Bell Curve understood the phenomenon, and postulated some of the causes; of course the development of the ruling class was well under way when The Bell Curve was published, and interestingly enough the establishment, although created in large part by the process described in The Bell Curve, soundly and roundly rejected the book, its principles. and everything about it. That's because the authors of The Bell Curve were not part of the ruling class and never could be; and besides, part of their thesis was wrong. The US hasn't become a meritocracy; but the pretense of creating one did bring together the elements of the ruling class.

Some of this development was, if not predicted, at least strongly implied in some of my earlier papers on The Voodoo Sciences, all written long before the current crisis or indeed before "the global warming consensus." And of course there's The Iron Law. Codevilla's thesis isn't all that new (nor does he claim it to be) but this presentation is done well. It's particularly relevant on what has to be done.

The main thesis of Codevilla's article is that America's majority -- an overwhelming majority -- is not represented by the Ruling Class and is increasingly unhappy with it -- and the remedy is not merely turning the Democrats out in November. The storm clouds are gathering.

<snip>Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg's tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. <snip>

Sooner or later, well or badly, [the national] majority's demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace's taunt "there ain't a dime's worth of difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so. <snip>

Codevilla also agues that the ruling class is busily dumbing itself down. Having been created in theory as a meritocracy, it never really was that, and is less so now than ever. I might note that the collapse of the public school system works toward that end. We've discussed this in previous essays, and coincidentally there's relevant mail today. As to the consequences:

<snip> Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith's characterization of America as "private wealth amidst public squalor" (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest's complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows). <snip>

There's a lot more, some of which you will have encountered here, such as Adorno's influential book that few have ever heard of, and other stuff from the Voodoo sciences, or our discussions of education.

The question is, what to do about it. A large majority of Americans rejects the current ruling class. Codevilla (who came to America from Italy unable to speak English as a youngster, and was thoroughly assimilated by the time he was a graduate student) summarizes the task for Americans this way:

[The] greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough.

Amen.

===============================

Dr. Pournelle, You wrote "the iPhone 4 is a major step toward the Pocket Computer Niven and I described in 1974 in The Mote in God's Eye (alas not yet available in Kindle edition; we're working on it)." Mote and Gripping Hand are both available, along with much of your other work, in epub format from Baen, which works excellently on the Barnes and Noble Nook. Read both of them on the beach last month. I also read "Mission to Minerva", by the late James Hogan, this past weekend on my Nook on the beach. I'm pretty sure that the Calibre e-book management software will convert epub to Kindle format.

Kit Case

All true.

================

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Eagle Has Landed   

41 years ago this evening, a human being set foot on another world.

What had long been a metaphor for "impossible" had finally been accomplished, by Americans.

Sometime last week, a senate committee on space exploration voted 10-0 to restore NASA funding for the Orion/Constellation program to replace the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles and begin getting back out there.

As our president went out of his way to cancel that program and reassign NASA to the task of rebuilding Muslim confidence in their accomplishments and abilities, I doubt that he will let that stand.

Because of his open contempt for our country and its' accomplishments, I can't help wondering if he will sink so low as to pick TODAY to stomp on that initiative. I've grown THAT cynical.

If ANYTHING cries out for a posting, this is it.

-- Paul Gordon

 "When faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again." (Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress")

When I was reading science fiction  in high school I never doubted that I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I didn't think I would live to see the last one.

I am not entirely sure that is an optimum expenditure of American tax money to pay NASA to allow the Muslims to contemplate the great accomplishment of preserving Greek works and thus distract itself while stoning women to death.

=========================

I have often recommended Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man (Kindle Edition) for those who want to understand the Great Depression and the various measures used by the New Deal in its pragmatic attempts to Do Something.

One of the key factors in recovering from depression -- or long term recession -- is confidence. If investors don't have confidence in the government's ability to provide predictability and policy stability, they don't invest. Last July 13 Miss Shlaes published a short essay, FDR, Obama, and "Confidence" addresses that. I recommend it.

As in The Forgotten Man, Miss Shlaes tells the story by following individuals; in this case Treasury Secretary Morganthau, who came to the Treasury largely because Roosevelt really wanted to be his own Secretary of the Treasury and Morganthau who had no credentials in economics or finance had no authority other than his office and thus could be trusted to do the President's will; but during the four years following his appointment he began to gain some understanding.

<snip>Morgenthau remained torn between loyalty to FDR and loyalty to office. But from then [the 1937 economic downturn] on, he expressed his disgust for arbitrary intervention. Referring to an agriculture department program that killed swine in order to reduce supply and drive up prices, Morgenthau once commented, "I think from the day we started killing pigs there has been a curse on this administration."

The recovery that followed the 1937-38 depression within the Depression is often credited to expansionary policyómonetary, especially. But the evidence suggests that a new respect for market confidence also helped. Sensing that the U.S. would engage in battles overseas, FDR called off his attack on companies at home and made them allies.<snip>

Obama could learn a lot from reading The Forgotten Man; for that matter he could learn something from reading this short essay. It's unlikely that he'll ever see them, of course.

=============

I note that today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial along the same lines as yesterday's observation here: if you want more unemployment, pay people to be unemployed. 

<snip> The one possibility the President and Congressional Democrats won't entertain is that their own spending and taxing and regulating and labor union favoritism have become the main hindrance to job creation. Since February 2009, the jobless rate has climbed to 9.5% from 8.1%, and private industry has shed two million jobs. The overall economy has been expanding for at least a year, but employers still don't seem confident enough to add new workers. The economists who sold us the stimulus say it's a mystery. But maybe employers are afraid to hire because they don't know what costs government will impose on them next.

In the immediate policy case [extending benefit period], Democrats are going so far as to subsidize more unemployment. If you subsidize something, you get more of it. So if you pay people not to work, they often decide . . . not to work. Or at least to delay looking or decline a less than perfect job offer, holding out for something else that may or may not materialize. <snip>

There are jobs that need doing in the US. Most of them aren't pretty, or fun, or inspiring, and in a severe recession (none dare call it a Depression) that's particularly true. One "remedy" to that is to have government hire people to do them. In our present system those fortunate enough to land a government job are going to be a lot better off than those who have to rely on the private sector.  Of course government doesn't have any money and the jobs government creates don't tend to produce anything measurable that might generate income; and of course that government job must be paid for by taxes. In cities that tends to be sales and property taxes.

If you want less of some human activity, fine them for doing that. Fining people for buying things and owning property always works to reduce buying and owning. Taxing small business insures that we'll have fewer small businesses. So it goes.

===============

Mark Horning addresses What Would Kipling Say over in mail. It's worth a look. You should then have a look at The Gods of the Copybook Headings, and perhaps The Old Issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  July 21, 2010

I am way behind today. Everything seems to be up in the air, as the establishment tries to recover from its rush to judgment. I never heard of a government employee being told to pull over and resign, on the spot, on a cell phone. I got a lot of mail on the story yesterday as links to the first story, but this isn't a breaking news site, and I don't pass along such stories without understanding more than the original link showed. I collected the mail and waited. By evening it was clear that whatever happened, this wasn't what the original link suggested.

I am still uncertain as to what position Shirley Sherrod holds (or held until required to send her resignation by Blackberry from the side of the road). At the time of the original incident she referred to in her speech to the NAACP she was most certainly a civil servant. If she still is, then the actions of the Administration are unconscionable; so much so that I suspect she must now hold (well, held) some kind of political appointment. It must be. I can't imagine that anyone in the Administration would be that ignorant of the civil service regulations. I'm no great fan of the way the civil service runs now, but having GS workers subject to that kind of arbitrary authority -- pull over and text us your resignation now! -- can't possible be a good thing for the nation.

Indeed, that kind of rush to judgment based on an Internet posting of part of a speech about an incident that took place shows such a lack of judgment that I question whether those who rushed to that action should be paid by the US government. Of course that doesn't mean they ought to be forced to resign without a hearing or notification or discussion. But were I the President, I think I might think about my Secretary of Agriculture. Of course the story isn't over yet.

The moral of this story is that some crimes are so horrid that merely being accused is sufficient to convict. Of evidence there is no need. Of defense there is no need since no defense is possible. And there is no need of time for consideration.

Take Climate Change Deniers, for example...

 

Meanwhile I have to go write.

==============

someone thinks like you in high places

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014240527487
04684604575381422950478384.html?mod=WSJ
_hps_LEFTTopStories 

Of course it should have been done 20 years ago.

Phil

I even thought I had convinced Governor Reagan to do it. Somehow it never got through either the California legislature or Congress.  Astonishing that the oil companies didn't want to do that. I bet BP wishes they had now...

============

 

 

 

 

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Thursday,  July 22, 2010

Cap and Trade is still alive, although it won't have that name. Reid can't get 60 votes for it, but he'll keep looking for ways to get something through. And the AGW Climate Change consensus is back with a vengeance.

One move is to require a high percentage of "alternate energy." Note that nuclear power is not considered "alternate" and is not on the table.

At one time T Boone Pickens was enthusiastic about wind, which is on the alternate list. He has stepped back a bit on wind, but he's big on natural gas. His current article is a good introduction to the subject (and even looks a bit at wind).

T. Boone Pickens on Natural Gas

<http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/22/the-natural-gas-man

He is talking about getting the 18 wheelers converted to Natural gas. I have to say as someone in the trucking/transportation industry, is that one of our primary budgetary constraints is the price of gas, and anything that reduces that cost, would be widely embraced by the management here.

David March
Transport Coordinator

<snip>Boone Pickens: Yeah, see, Iím not talking about your car. Iím not interested in your car. Iím interested in 18-wheelers. Because they use 20,000 gallons a year. So if I could get the 8 million 18-wheelers to natural gas and away from diesel, thatís 2.5 million barrels a day. So that cuts OPEC in half with 8 million vehicles. And there are 250 million vehicles in America. So, the stations will come with the vehicles. Thatís a no brainer. If you set it up so the heavy duty is going to go to natural gas, and theyíll put the islands into the truck stops, would be one way to work it. The other way it works, Southern California decided they would go to natural gas because it was cleaner than diesel. And so with trash trucks, they said, if you buy a new one, it has to be natural gas. And the incremental difference was $50,000, so they gave a $50,000 grant for when you bought the natural gas trash truck and now 70 percent of them are on natural gas. And the fueling stations just came with the vehicles.<snip>

Pickens goes into the reason why he believes government action is needed. It has to do with sending money overseas. It doesn't take long to read, and it's worth your time.

=========

 

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Friday,  July 23, 2010

.The reverberations from the Shirley Sherrod story continue.

http://online.wsj.com/article/
SB1000142405274870346730
4575382991544179422.html?
mod=WSJ_Opinion_MIDDLETopOpinion is one account. The egregious Frum is involved, of course.

I find it all fascinating:

"But the NAACP's defense that it was "snookered" by Breitbart--and Frum's implication, in turn, that Breitbart is the only "villain" of the piece--is laughable. Are we to believe that Ben Jealous thought Breitbart was what Dan Rather, before his fall, claimed to be--an impartial and reliable purveyor of facts? In the unlikely event that the answer to that question is yes, doesn't his failure to know better reflect a stunning incompetence?

"No, you can't cheat an honest man. Breitbart set a trap for the NAACP, and the NAACP walked right into it. He was able to do so because he correctly identified the organization's moral weakness. Confronted by a video showing apparent racism at an NAACP function, its leaders appear to have panicked and made a snap decision to denounce one of their own so as to pre-empt the charge of employing a double standard."

Uh -- given that the speech was made at the NAACP, isn't it likely that the NAACP had available a full copy of the speech, and might have reviewed it -- all twenty minutes of it -- before calling the White House and bringing the Wrath of God down upon the head of Ms. Sherrod? Or perhaps to talk to someone who actually heard the speech? But such is panic.

Peggy Noonan as usual tries to make a lesson out of it all.


 http://online.wsj.com/article/
SB1000142405274870346730457
5383731552735178.html?mod=
WSJ_newsreel_opinion

The lesson for me is that I'm glad I don't try to do breaking news. I prefer to make my mistakes after a bit more consideration. There's probably a lesson in there, too.

=================

Niven and I went hiking and then to lunch yesterday, and I got fired up to do some fiction. I'm still trying to keep up on that. It's still the silly season.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned about city government from the Bell horror story, but it's well to reflect on it before leaping in to draw conclusions. That's for another time. It's certainly an interesting lesson on how to grow wealthy from city management, not to say on how to loot a city. Possibly quite legally. Of course local problems stay local; local folly costs mostly the foolish.  Except when it doesn't, as may happen in this case, with state liabilities as well. But all that's speculation.

Today's mail is a very mixed bag indeed.

===================

And here's something to worry about:

Re: Watch Out: Newspaper Chainís New Business Plan: Copyright Suits

Jerry,

See the article from wired.com. But don't copy it. :-)

Newspaper Chainís New Business Plan: Copyright Suits
<http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/copyright-trolling-for-dollars/

Regards, George

The subject is complex. Certainly breaking news belongs to those who found it, and they deserve to make some money from it. We need news organizations, and aggregators while useful don't actually go out and get the goods for us. On the other hand, a month old story probably won't be read again unless someone reprints it. Perhaps by linking to it, perhaps not.

================

We just watched 2012 broadcast without interruption on a good HD television. The effects were spectacular. The plot was abysmal as these things tend to be. Apparently if you wish hard enough, and you have the right feelings, then physics and engineering doesn't matter. Moreover, the soldiers stay loyal, even though we're coming to the end of the world as we know it, and they know that, but still...  It seems to have done well at the box office, though. Parts of it were reasonable I suppose, but I could never have written that. I guess I am doomed to try to make things both self-consistent and reasonably in conformity with reality...

 

 

 

 

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Saturday,  July 24, 2010

I took the day off.

Operatic Insurgents

Hi Jerry,

I was never much of a fan of opera, but this I enjoyed very much

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zmwRitYO3w  (3:52)

Why? I guess partly because it was unexpected. Enjoy!

- Paul

I loved it. I suspect all the readers here will like it too! Go enjoy that! And see below:

=======================

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday,  July 25, 2010

.

I loved the Flash "Brindisi" and it brought up this Flash Sound of Music clip from Antwerp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&feature=related 

(And I actually now the words to "Do, Re, Me.")

Lee

===============

This would be a big story if you could find one. Alas, it's mostly an announcement of hope. Of course I recall when ball point pens sold for $15 each in a time when $15 was more than a day's pay...

India unveils prototype of $35 tablet computer http://www.washingtonexaminer.com
/world/india-unveils-prototype-of-35-computer
-paving-way-for-solar-powered-websurfing-
in-villages-99091259.html 

By: ERIKA KINETZ Associated Press 07/23/10 7:14 PM EDT

In this Thursday, July 22, 2010 photo, India's Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal displays a low-cost tablet at its launch in New Delhi, India. The device looks like an iPad and is 1/14th the cost. India has unveiled the prototype of a US$35 basic touch screen tablet aimed at students, which it hopes to bring into production by 2011. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MUMBAI, INDIA--It looks like an iPad, only it's 1/14th the cost: India has unveiled the prototype of a $35 basic touchscreen tablet aimed at students, which it hopes to bring into production by 2011.

If the government can find a manufacturer

It's that last sentence that's the problem.

=========================

And North Korea threatens war if the US and South Korea continue their naval exercises. At least one source says they threaten nuclear war. I am reminded of an episode of Gunsmoke in which a young gunslinger in search of a reputation finally convinces Matt Dillon that he's serious...

==============

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