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Mail 480 August 20 - 26, 2007
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August 20, 2007
Hansen cracking up?
-- Roland Dobbins
1. Short-term (5-10 years): we'll figure out how goal-directed behaviour is produced. This is currently a hard problem as we know that changing the final reward produces immediate changes in the payoffs of actions potentially leading to the reward. We also know that the brain can model sequences of future events about 20x faster than real-time, and we now have evidence that it can model these event sequences in reverse.
2. Medium term (10-20 years): we'll figure out how people and animals learn their world. In other words, we'll begin to understand development.
3. Long term (20+ years): we'll begin to figure out how the mind evolved and what it evolved to do. Perhaps this will give insight into why the universe seems so unreasonably hospitable to intelligence.
UK snap election plans <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2151907,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2jlvkp>
Airport demo day <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6953518.stm> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/19/theobserversuknewspages.climatechange> <http://tinyurl.com/3ahfgp>
UK troop conditions <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6953532.stm> <http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2876541.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/22jhrj>
Schooling in the UK <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6951679.stm> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6951293.stm> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6950084.stm> <http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article2876546.ece>
Security stories <http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/17/2318245&from=rss> <http://tinyurl.com/2n6c92> <http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/18/1942200&from=rss> <http://tinyurl.com/yoec2y> (passports required for entry into Yosemite) <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2151854,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/33khxb> <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/07/airport_securit_7.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2r7olp> <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/behavioral_prof.html> <http://tinyurl.com/jyo7w> <http://edition.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/08/16/real.id/index.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2n7j9q> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article2284316.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/3clmee>
Return to Cold War conditions <http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,2151237,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/22raa3> <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2151798,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2shbl7>
Wikipedia and corporate edits <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/technology/19wikipedia.html> <http://tinyurl.com/3xdozs>
Supermarket economics in the UK <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/19/nprices119.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/39xaze> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6953474.stm>
This article from the Financial Times discusses the current battle for control over remotely piloted vehicles, now called unmanned (or the more PC uninhabited) aerial vehicles. The Air Force wants to control any vehicle that flies above an altitude of 3500 feet. The rest of the services oppose this Air Force proposal to become the executive agent for such vehicles. Originally the Air Force opposed any significant role for RPVs and UAVs that might replace piloted aircraft. DARPA had to perform the original development for the Global Hawk in spite of the Air Force. Now the Air Force wants to own them all. Sounds like a battle over fixed wing aviation decades and decades ago....
I'd rather abolish the Air Force as a separate service. Left to me we'd have a Department of War, that fought wars, and a Department of the Navy. The Marines are part of the Navy. Let service conflicts be decided by the President. This series of turf wars has done little for our defense an war fighting capability.
The Air Force is no interested in supporting the field army. It wants to bomb people from 15,000 feet and force them to capitulate. The results are usually not anywhere near as good as everyone hoped they would be.
If we are to keep an independent Air Force it needs to know what its missions are, and get out of the way when it doesn't want a mission. USAF has no real career path for close support tactical air people. It knows that. But it will not let go of the missions even though it does not want to perform them.
This is Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action, and it doesn't even have the merit of it senior officers having had to lead armed men into close combat.
But I have said all this before.
Bernanke can emit plenty of lubricant to make the gritty debt gears grind a bit easier, even as major players go bankrupt. Isn't the real question what to do next? Construction was one of the last major productive sectors in our economy. Now it is sinking, fast. As it goes it will take down a lot of feeder *industries* (think Caterpillar, tools, HVAC equipment, etc.) What should the recovery driver of the economy be? Is the goal just to get the same old wheels turning again, somehow?
I've said this before, but I think a campaign for real Energy Independence can provide a solid basis for reordering the economy. There's been enough talk. Now it's time for action. Start 10 new nuclear power plants per year, and also ten 100,000 bpd coal to liquid fuel plants per year for the next ten years. Encourage construction of enough local biomass energy facilities to use what's otherwise left to rot. Start converting the railroad mainlines to electric operation. We have the necessary iron ore, and the steel mills, and more coal reserves than most other continents, and enough remaining infrastructure to get started. People whose energy ideas may have more wattage than the above shouldn't have any trouble competing or attracting capital.
Before we can worry about consumers not consuming any more we should worry about workers working, and working in sectors more productive than bar tending and motel cleaning.
Real jobs with real wages for real families is the sure-fire way to avoid that outcome.
Energy Independence is a worthwhile goal.
Black Swans, Hedge Funds & Minsky Moments
Exactly. Here is where the rubber hits the road. Institutional money managers, including pension fund managers, get floods of money that has to be reinvested, five days a week. What were they supposed to do with it all? Put it in a safe? Invest it in shrinking industries like GM & Ford? Perhaps join syndicates to buy existing public infratructure like the Indiana Toll Road? Dot.com?
Our modern public corporation kleptocracy has proven one thing beyond doubt. They will divert every penny of genuine above average earnings into their own pockets. The only way a passive investor gets a piece of the action anymore is when the numbers are fake, like Global Crossing, World Com and Enron. Well, we put some people in jail so that market supply dried up a lot.
Our problem is we have a national economy that has ceased to generate productive jobs in productive industries. This is all being 'offshored'. Unfortunately this didn't automatically offshore the overhead social structure that supported and came with that industry, such as the UAW's pension payments.
I suspect this definition of "greedy people" encompasses many hundreds of investment managers at pension funds and insurance companies who are clueless about where else to turn for reasonably safe investments yielding even one point above US Treasury bonds. A great many people thought themselves immune to having their personal economic horizons "Wal-Marted". I believe they are now beginning the painful process of discovering they are in fact in the same community boat as $11/hr & no health insurance Wal-Mart employees, or laid off Tower Automotive factory workers. These people are the teeming hordes of doctors, lawyers, corporate business executives, 150k/yr college academics, state and local government employees who all smirked smugly at the distress of their neighbors while mouthing empty free market platitudes.
A restoration of 'prudent' credit practices will only accelerate the Day of Reckoning. This means coming to terms with the fact that ultimately the fiscal markets must follow the physical markets. And when the latter are absolutely declining as ours have been for a long time, the former must inevitably follow.
Now THAT's the right scientific attitude --
An interesting line from the notice about the generated gravity field:
. . . Tajmar, who performed the experiments and hopes that other physicists will conduct their own versions of the experiment in order to verify the findings and rule out a facility induced effect.
It shows that true scientists are not only unafraid to share their results, but are also anxious for others to verify their findings. Hanson should take a lesson from this.
Subject: artificial gravity
I don't have my normal notes available and I'm already thoroughly booked for tonight, but the superconducting spinning disk with anomalous gravitational effects has been investigated and I think thorougly debunked twice -- a Russian (?) investigator with a name whose spelling I can't remember in the '80's, and a University of Alabama in Huntsville investigator in the late 90's who got about $300K from NASA to study the subject.
James K. Woosley, Ph.D.
I thought I remembered that too. Alas.
Former Sen. Sam Nunn weighs run for White House...
Some good news for a change.
From the article:
"he's more than a bit ticked — at the "fiasco" in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises."
As an Independent, not as a Democrat:
"Nunn said he's been in touch with Unity '08, a group with a goal of fielding a bipartisan or independent ticket for president."
Maybe I'll actually have someone to vote for next year, instead of just voting against the worst candidate.
That may indeed be good news. I recall Nunn fondly. What is really needed is two Constitutionalist parties in the US. No choices. Just echoes. But each to keep the other honest.
From Saturday;s Mail:
It makes less news, but Duke Power here in North Carolina had to shut down three coal fired plants for the same reason - rivers too hot. The news article on this mentioned that the plants that were shut down were those without evaporative cooling towers.
Wonder how they measure the river water at Brown's Ferry? The Tennessee is of course one of the Mississippi's major tributaries and moves a lot of water itself. Where I grew up, about 30 miles down the river from Brown's Ferry in Sheffield, Alabama, the Tennessee would often be quite warm on top, but a dive 5-10 feet down would immerse you in wonderfully cool water.
-- Cecil Rose
I recall swimming in that river at Pittsburg Landing AKA Shiloh, with the same results.========d
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Mr. Pournelle -
I've intended to respond to this for a long time. I wrote the following e-mail:
Really enjoyed your article <http://pages.citebite.com/k1s5i0f7b5utu> .
I, however, don't you understand how much worse it really is. The capitalist cheerleaders are not merely undermining the cultural and legal structures that support markets. They are actually making true many of Karl Marx's own predictions.
Mass immigration basically reproduces all of the conditions of a Marxist reserve labor force. This labor force is an army of unemployed people that capitalists can dip into to keep exisiting wages low (Remember, Marx was a classical economist who understood that businessmen are, among other things, relentless cost cutters.) Marx predicted that the instability and poverty that such a system created would eventually anger the workers who would revolt and then push aside the entire rotten system.
Marx, of course, was wrong. Empirically, the period in which he wrote was marked with rising real wages. Theoretically, his error was assuming that capitalism exploited the proletariat when, in reality, it created the proletariat. In pre-capitalist days, a worker would need to either move to a wealthier household to become a servant or he would need to inherit the land and tools if he was going to survive. If he could not do this, then he either starved to death or he was never born in the first place. Capitalism so improved the productivity of labor that it became possible for an average person to sell nothing but his time. This led to a population explosion unprecedented in history. Marx took for granted that all these new people were just there, when, in reality, they were allowed to live. Thus, Marx's predictions were wrong.
Today, with global markets, there are billions of unemployed people that capitalists can now dip into to keep real wages low. Thus, the American standard of living is being dissipated.
If I were a cynical socialist, then I would engineer this situation so that I could see socialism win. If I were a cynical socialist who understood that he might actually be a loser in such a system, then I would have to go to great lengths to ensure that my position is not dissipated. Just imagine the kind of sociopaths America would end up getting ruled by if both of these conditions are met.
More generally, America needs to go back to its traditional economic history and reject the newfound liberal economic history that has taken hold.
Mark Pokorni Chicago, IL
Any economist who says this needs to return his Ph.D. They are the ones who may have read Ricardo, but don't understand him. Furthermore, several articles covering Ricardo on your website do so inadequately.
For example, comparative advantage does not mean that each country specializes in what it does best and then trades. This is an example of competitive advantage: I'm the best tailor and you're the best butcher. I'll focus on tailoring and you focus on butchery and then we will trade.
Comparative advantage is altogether different...and it poses a far more interesting question: what happens if a person (or country) is the best at everything? What happens if I am the best tailor and the best butcher? Does it still make sense for me to trade then? Remember, being the best means both the highest quality and the lowest cost (the most efficient).
In this circumstance, Ricardo argues that, yes, specialization and trade should occur. The entity best at producing everything still faces limited resources so it should concentrate its resources on producing the highest-value goods. If an entity is, for example, the best lawyer and the best paralegal, then he should concentrate on being a lawyer while hiring the paralegal work. This is where the IT world got the language of outsourcing the "low-level" grunt work while maintaining the "high-value" work in-house.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem with Ricardo. When he wrote his seminal work, Europe was still predominantly an agricultural society. For Ricardo, an example of comparative advantage may run like this: a nation is the most efficient producer of both grapes (for wine-making) and olives (for olive oil). If wine is more profitable than olive oil, then the nation should concentrate on producing grapes. If the reverse is true, then the nation should concentrate on producing olives. Agricultural productivity, though, is heavily influenced by climate and geography, factors over which man had little control. An economy that had a varied enough climate to produce a wide variety of crops most efficiently is a lucky accident. Trade would naturally result just because geographic and climactic endowments are different.
When moving to industrial economies, natural endowments matter much less. A factory can be built anywhere. Software can be coded anywhere. Legal work can be done anywhere. Suddenly, paralegals want to be lawyers and maintenance programmers want to be developers.
Where there are overlapping Bell curves, comparative advantage gives way to absolute advantage, where the only factor is the cost of that labor. Soon factories, software coding and, now, legal work, will go overseas.
I hope this helps.
I must have been unclear in the past, because I thoroughly understood what Ricardo was saying; but your explication involving the differences caused by the end of an agricultural economy makes it even clearer. Thank you.
The problem is that Bell Curves exist. So do nations.
The United States is not Lake Wobegon. Half of our children are below average. That would be true even if whatever ability we are measuring is distributed utterly randomly within the American population. It is true in particular of the "g" factor that is the best predictor of success in nearly any ec0nomic activity.
Worse, the distribution of g isn't random within the population. I don't intend to argue this; go read Seligman, who started believing one thing and concluded another. And that brings us to a real question:
When we export a job, the burden falls on the person whose job was eliminated; the benefits come to everyone else, and in particular to the employer. Now to some extent this is creative destruction and inevitable. For a long time the US had protective tariff on automobiles and steel with the result that foreign automobiles were far better than ours while the auto worker unions negotiated benefits that could ONLY be sustained by keeping competition out: in other words, benefits that fell to themselves, while the costs were passed along by the employers to the rest of the nation. Many readers will be too young to recall those days, but might learn some of it from books like John Keats The Insolent Chariots.
Free Trade brought us better cars at lower prices; and the old protection system left us the seeds of the destruction of Detroit.
But the destruction of Detroit meant a lot more than just an economic shakeout, and that area of the country changed forever; and left us problems that we all face.
Our dilemma is this: we cannot just drown the left side of our bell curve. They are citizens of the United States.
Free Trade makes many of our below average and average citizens compete with the right side of the Bell Curve in India and China. It gets worse. It makes the lower part of the right side of our Bell Curve compete with the top of the Bell Curve in China and India. As jobs and goods become more mobile, the result is easily predicted.
Now factor in the inequality of distribution of g.
We sow the wind. Wal-Mart is full of cheap stuff made overseas, being bought by those who can still find employment here. We increase the regulatory difficulty of making anything at all. We add "green" requirements. More jobs are exported. Our ability to make stuff here deteriorates.
I am no expert at economic modeling; but the back of the envelope calculations I have made cause me to think we would be better off with a straight 10 to 15% across the board tariff on everything imported. That won't cover the entire costs of regulations, minimum wages, American with Disabilities, and other economic burdens on manufacturing, but it will shift the economic bell curve leftward as smart people think of ways to employ others locally in order to avoid the import tariffs. It leaves the profit motive intact and puts ingenuity to work keeping jobs at home.
There would certainly be economic consequences; but I think they would be less severe than what is happening to us as we make more and more of our population visibly useless to our economy.
And indeed I have read Ricardo; and I understand the implications of the unequal distribution of g among and within nations.
In a message dated 8/10/2007 2:41:05 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, LJFIND3659 writes:
Katie Couric, while interviewing a Marine sniper, asked: "What do you feel when you shoot a terrorist?"
The Marine shrugged and replied, "A slight recoil."
"Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that made you smile."
The name that Dr. Woosley was groping for is Eugene Podkletnov. A quick google search will cough up a lot of references.
The NASA research was under Ron Koczor:
I think this is another one for the Journal of Irreproducible Results. As much as I enjoy developing rocket propulsion, I'd love to have a system that softly and silently lifts into the sky.
Doug Jones, XCOR Rocket Plumber
By the way, we're still looking for a few good aerodynamicists...
I would really love to have a Buck Rogers rocket ship. Put in fuel, and fly it. no reaction mass. Only energy considerations for travel in inertial space. I love to hear from people who think they have one. But, alas, it never passes the most elementary tests.
I hear that some good aerodynamicists are interested. Glad you have jobs for them.
It's not just climate research.
----- In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake - in essence, women trapped in men's bodies. Bailey described the alternate theory, which is based on Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s, in part by telling the stories of several transgender women he had met through a mutual acquaintance. In the book, he gave them pseudonyms, like "Alma" and "Juanita."
Many scientists praised the book as a compelling explanation of the science. The Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that promotes gay, bisexual and transgender literature, nominated the book for an award.
But days after the book appeared, Lynn Conway, a prominent computer scientist at the University of Michigan, sent out an e-mail message comparing Bailey's views to Nazi propaganda. She and other transgender women found the tone of the book abusive, and the theory of motivation it presented to be a recipe for further discrimination.
-- Roland Dobbins
I don't sound like nobody.
-- Elvis Presley
Propping up Housing and College
Your observation: "Interestingly, learned economists don't seem to see this until it's very clear and plain. Which makes one wonder why anyone pays attention to learned economists."
Back in the Days of Giants (decks of punch cards and batch turn-around time) I was passing the time with an actual Economist (for whom I was doing some programming) and he humorously quipped; "a bankrupt economist is one who believes his own model."
It is interesting that you look at both housing and education. It strikes me that these are two of the few industries that we have not moved off-shore. We can afford to maintain our living standard (or corporate profit, or fat-cat high-living, etc - this is certainly open to politically tinged analysis - but clearly we are leveraging some sort of advantage here) because we have moved production overseas. For work that we can't move overseas we have enticed undocumented "overseas" workers to come here.
"Distance learning" schemes have not caught on. While there are still North American forests and trade unions (as opposed to labor unions) it will still be simpler to build locally (although most of fasteners and other bits and pieces are foreign). Interesting that these two industries are the last stronghold of unions. I don't think the costs are high because of the unions - I think the unions can survive here because the costs are high and there are no genuine options to off-shore this work.
Our political and corporate leaders are intent on providing us with the life style we demand. If they didn't provide some sort of financial smoke and mirrors, the costs of education and housing would be terribly out of kilter with other costs.
Andy Kowalczyk Bloomington, Indiana
It certainly does not cost 400 times as much to build my house now as it did in 1968 when I bought it. I can recall when the most expensive place in our neighborhood -- the old Residency next door to what was then a Catholic girls high school -- was $100,000, and a few years later, the old movie producer mansion across the street which had once been the scene of famous Hollywood parties went on the market for $100,000 but needed $50,000 work to be livable. This wasn't all that long ago.
As to universities, what in the world costs 30 times as much now as it did in 1970? Same with schools: why in the world are schools underfunded at $10,000 per student? Is there any reader here who given 100 students and a million dollars a year could not guarantee one grade's worth of progress per year (refunding, say, $5,000 for each student who didn't make a grade's worth)? I could make enormous profits at that. Couldn't you?
Subj: The Battle of Donkey Island
>>Anyone who is looking for proof of a demoralized US Army or a shattered al-Qaeda will be disappointed. Both sides fought as well as could be humanly expected. The MSNBC article dwells in great on the discipline, training and determination of the al-Qaeda men. The enemy moved with tactical finesse; they did not break even when they took heavy casualties from the US troops; they resisted, like the Japanese in World War 2, to the point of death. But the performance of the US troops was absolutely amazing, a fact that is even more impressive because it was combat between a numerically inferior US unit against an elite enemy force using organic weapons. They held their position, maneuvered for advantage and were never even remotely at the point of panic or breaking.<<
Subj: Second Life goes to war
>>Of particular interest to the army is the major NPC (Non-Player Character) technology advances of the last few years. For decades, game programmers have been making NPCs more intelligent. As a result current NPC tech produces very realistic non-player characters, which are essential for military training (to represent civilians and other troops, friendly and enemy). Combined with photo-realistic images, troops can be confronted with very realistic training situations. This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with civilians in a war zone. This is the most difficult sort of thing to train for.<<
I can't vouch for this website, but if what it alleges is true, the situation is unbelievable:
<snip>In today's America, you can burn our flag but you can not mistreat the Koran. Burning the flag is freedom of expression, a form of allowable speech our courts tell us, but mistreating the Koran is a criminal felony punishable under hate-crime legislation. If you are a Moslem you can, together with your brothers, wave posters at public protests on college campuses calling for "Killing the Jews", "Destroy Israel" and declare "Jews are Sons of Apes". This our college administrators tell us is "free speech". However, you have no right, even in private, to demean a book if it is the Koran. If you do, you go to jail. This is a form of expression unallowable -- perhaps America's only remaining prohibition.
Last week, a student at Pace University in New York was formally charged with a felony for stuffing a Koran in a commode. CAIR, a Muslim organization, filed suit, claiming it constituted a hate-crime. Was this hate directed at a person? No. Was it painted on the walls of an institution where people of a specific race congregate? No. Was anyone threatened? No. It was simply one person's rejection, in a physical way, of a philosophy. People do it and have done it, all the time, with the Christian Bible, the Constitution, our flag, the Republican Platform. When was the last time you ever heard of someone in America possibly going to jail because he flushed some pages of a book down a toilet?</snip>
We didn't need that First Amendment anyway; prosecuting hate crimes is far more important. Have a nice day.
But I suspect this will be too raw even for our diversity-maddened courts. I do not think this will hold.
Unfortunately, we can no longer be sure it's imbecility.
The man who stuffed a Koran in a toilet
Jerry, I just did a Google search on "Pace University New York hate crime".
The first page gave me back several hits on the story in question.
I'll cut to the chase. The story appears to be real. The guy apparently stuffed two Korans in toilets. The local CAIR chapter did scream. The university initially treated it as vandalism, then later handed the case over to the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit.
From one of the Newsday articles: "Stanislav Shmulevich, 23, of 1734 W. 4 St., Brooklyn, was charged with criminal mischief and aggravated harassment as hate crimes."
I hope the guy has a good lawyer. He's going to need one.
So we really don't need that tiresome First Amendment any longer. Ave Imperator. Interestingly, CAIR moves toward a time when the gloves come off and the restraints are gone. They will have removed them.
In your current letters page, you reference a supposed interview by Katie Couric of a Marine sniper. While, as a person who trains military and law enforcement snipers, I feel a certain, shall we say, resonance, with the supposed answer, it didn't happen.
Best Regards, -- Lindy
Ah well. It's one of those stories that ought to have happened.
August 22, 2007
Subj: Citizen Media - status and prospects
Isn't this just getting back towards the situation we had around the American Revolution, when there were zillions of pamphlets, handbills, broadsheets, newsletters and newspapers -- many of them subsidized, overtly or covertly, by political parties and factions? Back before the industrialization of printing led to the mass daily newspaper?
August 23, 2007
I have a bunch of mail and not much time.
Carmack bends some metal.
That's a real pity.
Subj: Why study War?
Considering that I spent most of my life as a Cold Warrior in one or another capacity, I can hardly argue. The Goths were at the gates. We beat them back. Now it's something worse and they're already inside the gates.
Tip O' The Free Trade Iceberg
When this started Foreign Tire Sales initially stated it couldn't do any recall, which was a simple statement of physical reality. Nor was Hangzhou Zhonce really susceptible to enforcement of US decrees or judgements.
This is standard under our Free Trade Regime with dictatorships. Apart from Wal-Mart and a few others, the importer is invariably a tiny shell company that is really just a sales office organizing container drop shipments direct from foreign factories. I have neighbors and friends in this category, not that they're personally rolling in dough from the process, either. This type of importer is the one smaller businesses go to in order to compete. The competitive advantage is far more than just lower wage rates. It's defeating the 'costs' of the entire social and legal structure of our society. 'Illegals' are imported labor examples of the same phenomenon. In this case their direct take home pay isn't so much lower than US workers. Sometimes it's higher. The 'competitive edge' comes from working off-book, from not paying workmen's comp, taxes, health and liability insurance, legal fees and not complying with costly government regulations.
With the 20/20 view of hindsight it's clear the first thing that got 'off-shored' with free trade was the politicians' responsibility to their various constituencies. It was becoming obvious by the early 1980s that many industrial and business regulatory costs were very high. Perhaps excessively high. The comfortable bi-partisan agreement reached in Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary was to have it all. We'd have the huge regulatory costs (i.e. pay the human interest groups personally profiting from this), and we'd also avoid those costs by importing products whose manfuacturer weren't subject to "the rules". Bill Gates has been heard to praise China's low cost business environment. It would be better if he were discomfitted enough to deploy his considerable influence here in rectifying the dysfunctional parts of our environment.
Now it could be we and the English were wrong in the middle stage of the late industrial age about industrial conditions. For instance, maybe it is superior to use lots of pre-teen child labor and just forget schooling for most kids. This has been the world custom for many millenia. It's still widespread in the emerging free trade elephant called India, a country that also has a functional illiteracy rate of around 40%. But one thing is becoming evident now; we cannot have both laws against child labor and products made with child labor.
"It is interesting that you look at both housing and education."
Here in Florida unlicensed contracting is a criminal felony. The dominance of the State in education, the political influence of its labor unions and the force deployed against parents by child welfare agencies to compel attendance is also well known. These fields are just obsolete examples of mercantilism, no longer relevant to the brave new world of GATT, NAFTA and the North American Union. (I'm thinking of dressing as a neo-con minded political-economist for Halloween).
Emphasis added by me.
Subject: Buyer Beware
Seems the housing boom did more than create a financial crisis. There may also be a lot of quality issues with the stuff that they have thrown up in the past decade: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20393984/.
From welfare state to farewell state.
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: RE: Subject: On job exports
I have a simple idea Dr Pournelle. Why not place a limit on imported manufactured goods? Simply say that any company domestic or foreign is only allowed to import a certain percentage of its total US sales from abroad (say 25-40%). That is they can build the factory in China, sell all they want to there, but only a certain percentage of what they make there can be imported here. Beyond that they can manufacture and sell all they want to here--provided it is made here. Something similar to what was done with automobile imports, limit what they can import but they can make and sell all they want to here. American workers would them be employed by companies foreign or domestic making stuff that is sold here. American companies would then be competing with other companies foreign or domestic making goods employing Americans having to pay American size wages and benefits & adhering to American labor and environmental laws, not against someone in China or India making 5 cents on the dollar. I realize it is not a perfect solution the net profits of a foreign company would still be sent home perhaps instead of invested here, but at least it would save our jobs.
Think about it. You do not want this.
Tariffs do not distort the marketplace allocation of domestic resources. We are not trying to expand the power of the state or create a new bureaucracy.
You can educate students for much less, huh? You have asserted so several times without any follow through--why don't you try it? Here are links to some school budgets. Take a shot at cutting out all the waste and making an improved school budget.
Here's a K-12 school district in Maine, 2,900 students, $28M budget. An overview (starts at slide 54) and a detailed budget are on their web site. 63% of their budget is spent on instruction, the rest on debt, maintenance, admin, and transportation. <http://www.windham.k12.me.us/school_budget.cfm>
The Evanston Township High School in Illinois has 3,164 students and a budget of $59.3M. 53% of the budget is spent on instruction. In declining order the other big spending categories are maintenance, admin, and pupil services. The school has 292 teachers, 28 admin, and 227 support staff. Evanston is one of the best high schools in Illinois. <http://www.eths.k12.il.us/dept/business/>
Many school districts have budgets available online, pick one or two and you or your readers can improve it.
It is certainly that case the schools can always spend more than we give them, and that legislatures can mandate spending in lots of ways.
It is also the case that for a hell of a lot less we used to get more education through applying -- wait for it -- transparency and local control.
The reason, Old Sport, that I don't do this is that Roberta doesn't want to do it. We have watched others get rich running private schools; believe me, Old Bean, we could run a school with lower than $10,000 a year tuition and a lot better results. So can almost any rational educated person. Of course finding people who can and want to pay $9,000 a year in tuition is a bit difficult.
The way to do it, Sport, is called vouchers: take the $10,000 the government spends per kid per year, give $2,000 to the school district that the kid would go to, and give the parents a voucher for $6,000. You can predict the outcome of that as well as I can.
If the familiarity bothers you, I think you may be able to infer the reason from your own letter.
Subject: 175 million Chinese learning English
The subject line says it all. After they end up owning all our assets, they should have no trouble finding enough English speaking Chinese to manage everything.
Maybe they will introduce sane education practices as well?
Luggage tags for the Gomer Gestapo (TSA)
Feel free. I think I pass.
Two pieces on free inquiry today. This one is over fine differences of opinion about just when doubting or trivializing the Nazi Holocaust should be made a crime, thought all the panelists agree that it should be done only rarely. They all agreed, however, that to debate the doubters and trivializers would have the effect of giving them an unwarranted credibility. Some worried that a refusal to debate would be taken by some as reason to suspect the orthodox account, though not enough so as to warrant open debate. Just how an outsider is going to determine the solidity of the orthodox account is not clear.
Now there were several references to another unorthodox (meaning one not held by the educational and religious elite) doctrine, that of creationism. Biologists routinely say that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and, indeed, many will not deign to debate creationists. Yet many will. The matter is not closed. It's a sub-cultural thing: creationism persists, not because Christians are incapable of declaring certain phrases in the Bible to be metaphorical, as they do declare statements about the "four corners of the earth," but because they see Darwinism as eroding a transcendental authority for morals. Evidence: I was talking to a Roman Catholic, who is not obliged to deny evolution, and he told me he believes that men's bodies evolved from those of earlier primates. But later he expressed skepticism about evolution from one species to another. This is what *Protestant* Evangelicals harp on all the time: microevolution, or genetic change within a species, yes; macro evolution, or speciation, no. My friend, deeply conservative, obviously hung around conservatives who are Evangelicals and picked up some of their arguments. In other words, he sort of is and sort of isn't a creationist.
Now if creationism is cultural matter, it may be that evolutionists are making little headway against creationism. But I can think of one case where some scientists did deign to confront a different unorthodox opinion. So decisive was this confrontation that that unorthodox view has nary a believer left, just footprints in memories, books, and the web. I refer to Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision (1950). Scientist collaborated on anthology, Donald Goldsmith, ed. (1977). Scientists confront Velikovsky. Norton. Proceedings of a symposium at the 1974 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worlds_in_collision if you are old enough to want a trip down memory lane.
A couple of corrections. It is not true that Holocausts deniers are all anti-semites (an ad hominem argument anyhow). From my small forays into the this debate, it hardly seems that Bradley Smith is. The usual route into Holocaust denial is through literature that is not exactly friendly to Jews, and having gotten there may be the result of progressive unfriendliness. But Smith seems to just have found out about denial accidentally. Second, Debbie's fourth thesis of what "hard-core" deniers deny, "Gas chambers were a scientific impossibility and would have imploded had the Zyklon-B been introduced into them," is not true. Some do make this claim, but others, while granting the possibility, deny that it took place.
I do wish Velikovsky and many other minority opinions had been brought up by the panelists, in addition to creationism. One "minority" opinion is in fact majority. It is just not *elite* opinion. Eighty percent of Americans do believe in the lone-nut hypothesis of JFK's assassination.
Actually, Sagan's performance at that AAAS meeting -- I was there -- generated more sympathy for Velikovsky than the old man had coming.
The reason there were intelligent people like Mosca (and even Possony) who got interested in Possony was not that his ideas were so appealing, but that Big Science acted so shamefully in trying to repress what he said. They began to wonder who was hiding what.
Shapley got Velikovsky's best seller dumped by MacMillan on the threat of boycott: no professor would ever assign a MacMillan textbook again in any class on any subject; MacMillan sold Worlds in Collision to Doubleday which had no textbook division, and sales shot up because of advertising about the SUPPRESSION of this book.
The AAAS debate was a good idea, but Sagan was the wrong man to do it. He wanted to show how brilliant he was, and didn't bother to listen to Velikovsky or answer one thing the old man said.
Velikovsky took a bunch of old texts and spun a good yarn. The archeology people thought his archeology was faulty but that his physics was interesting. Astronomers said his physics was goofy but his readings of old texts was interesting.
The Big Science establishment thought that any notion of CATASTROPHE was a threat to Darwinian Evolution which requires -- or at that time required -- LONG LONG periods of tranquility for natural selection to take place (silly and unscientific and shows insufficient understanding of their own theory, but there it is) and so denounced anyone who brought in catastrophes.
None of Velikovsky (other than his odd astronomy) was new. Marinatos had published the "Atlantis was Santorini (Thera)" in 1938, but backed away from it in the face of the denunciations of the anti-catastrophists. Others had put forth the notion that some of the events in the Exodus might have natural explanations, and they were denounced by the evolutionists as crazy.
In a word, Big Science was astoundingly unscientific. They acted like the Inquisition, not like scientists. The anti-scientific actions of the scientists kept Velikovsky going a lot longer than he would have lasted otherwise. Note that Chariots of the Gods and a bunch of other faddist books like that had their day but didn't last: they weren't denounced by Harlow Shapley and others in Big Science, so they got the usual readership of people who pay attention to that sort of thing.
Big Science has finally accepted catastrophes in the past, and Lo! Suddenly they discovered that if you stress hell out of a species you get much faster evolution than if you have the long, long periods of calm and tranquility that let many variants survive; but what the hell.
If Science acts like Science -- if AAAS had placed a careful scientist rather than the most arrogant showman they had (note that Sagan was a friend and I liked him; but his performance at that AAAS meeting was predictable if you knew him) -- if they had placed a calm and careful scientist up there to debate Velikovsky there would have been fewer sparks and headlines, but there would also have been a lot less sympathy for Velikovsky.
The Velikovsky Affair is interesting, but as a study of how Science ought NOT to act in the fact of challenges. Suppression and ridicule are not the way to convince people the world is round.
I have a long essay on The Velikovsky Affair I wrote years ago; you can find it here.
The reason this may we worth thinking about is not that Velikovsky is still important: he's not except as a curiosity. But the jailing of "Holocaust Deniers" is another matter; that is still going on. And now we have the demonization of "Global Warming Deniers" that may well result in their academic dismissal or even jailing.
Science functions best when it follows its own rules.
Possony used to say that you either believe in rational discussion or you don't.
In mail 480, Jim Lund writes (about Evanston IL, HS)
The school has 292 teachers, 28 admin, and 227 support staff.
Fire 2/3 of the admin and (at least) 4/5 of the support staff. I think that's a total no-brainer, it would bring Evanston High back in line with the northern IL suburban HS I attended 30 years ago.
I had no idea the superstructure bloat was so bad. That's basically a 1-1 ratio of teachers to non-teachers.
But it's normal...
LUCIFER'S HAMMER STRIKES BACK
The seven-spired Abraj Al Bait shopping center is rising "steps away from the holy mosque," says the website of "Makkah's most prestigious retail address." It's fishing for upmarket tenants with a "Spectacular view of the Ka'abah" that will afford " a new shopping experience."
The location's unbeatable, but what will pilgrims want to shop for till they drop after stoning the devil ? With the Black Stone of the Ka'abah in plain view, Blackstone's seems a natural. The upmarket widget retailer already stocks meteorite watches, and with the prayer rug market already saturated, expanding its product selection could turn Abraj Al Bait into a real mecca for the sale of meteorites as heavenly keepsakes, posing a retail opportunity to sell off the mountain of chondrites and octahedrites modern metal detectors have helped recover in recent years as de-mining has progressed in the formerly war-torn sands of the Western Sahara.
Can Islamic theologians be prevailed upon to issue a fatwa commending pilgrims to pick up bits of this heavenly fallout en route to stone the Pillars of Shaitan?
I'S GOT PLENTY OF NOTHING
A paper about to appear in The Astrophysical Journal by Lawrence Rudnick , Shea Brown,and Liliya R. Williams of the U.Minn Department of Astronomy reports detecting a blank space in the universe a billion light years across --
More on the cosmological implications of a void with a radius of 140 megaparsecs at
Saw that in the paper this morning. Intriguing.
"100 gallons of water came crashing through the ceiling downstairs because the plumbing drains were not connected."
This of course has absolutely no connection with shortages in skilled building trades. And it is certain high school guidance counselors are not to blame for discouraging all students from considering skilled trades programs like plumbing, and aiming them towards college and federal student loans instead.
"Later, the roof and windows leaked, the yard flooded, the shower walls started bowing out, the floor in the kitchen started sinking, and mold began to grow all over the house."
Nor are these problems in the slightest way related to hiring labor gangs of illiterate illegal - excuse me, undocumented - immigrants. Having excluded those causes we can get started on solving these mysteries. I think the starting point should be $500 million in HUD grants to university engineering faculties to study the origins of these mysterious problems.
Subj: The Pragmatism of Russell Kirk
Are our schools failing bright students?
Duh. Even Time (the weekly fiction magazine :-)) notices:
Seems to me that the "gifted students" ought to be dropping out at a higher rate...
David Needham -- http://thirdworldcounty.us/
Subject: Costs of educating our young
Jim Lund might want to take a look at this website (feel free to format this in a more useful form, or check my figures):
This table describes the cost per student in constant dollars:
Note that the costs have gone up by a factor of three since 1963.
(Compare costs per student with the private school numbers in this chart:)
Now let's check out the estimated annual teacher salaries, again in constant dollars:
In the same period (since 1963), the salaries went from $38,680 to $49,569. A factor of about 1.3. Obviously, the teachers aren't the ones responsible for the tripling of costs.
As one more cherry on the top, note the pupil/teacher ratios, often cited as a problem in modern schools:
The ratios have dropped steadily since the 1950s. In fact, they're about half what they were in 1955.
Is there more than a little fat in the current public school system? These statistics aren't absolute proof, but shake the old 8-ball and signs point to yes.
I may have sent you a similar e-mail sometime in the past. If so, my apologies.
I can improve on those budgets considerably. I am the chairman of the finance committee at San Francisco de Asis parish school in Flagstaff, AZ. Our budget is $1.33 million for 318 students, which comes out to about $4200/student. I am sure I could easily find things to spend an extra $5000/student on, but probably none of those things would have a measurable impact on what the students learn, so we do without.
The public schools could do the same. They should be doing so now. The public schools have a cadre of highly trained professionals who should be able to properly address the nuances of education and spend money wisely. Unlike a small parochial school, run by a principal and a priest, with only a handful of amateurs like myself to advise them.
I greatly respect your preference for good public schools Dr. Pournelle. Good public schools would provide a common experience to the citizens of this republic. Unfortunately, good public schools we do not have. I am a product of the public schools myself, and while I had enthusiastic and well meaning teachers, I think I read fewer works of literature up through the twelfth grade than you did in grammar school in rural Tennessee. This need not have been so.
-- Benjamin I. Espen
The Time article that kicked off this thread asserts that "Of the 62 million school-age kids in the U.S., only about 62,000 have IQs above 145."-- that is, 1 in 1000. It looks like John Cloud (the author) assumed a normal distribution of IQ and then applied a generous round off.
There are in fact many more than 62,000 kids in this IQ range -- about six times as many. The distribution of IQ has a fat tail which, 3-plus standard deviations out, needs to be reckoned with. Accounting for the fat tail with the Griffe-Terman function, I estimate 1 in 168 kids to have IQ >= 145. Mr. Cloud, should take comfort knowing that more intellectual talent than he originally thought can now be brought to bear on stopping global warming.
Riguardi a tutti,
La Griffe du Lion
Economics, tarrifs and taxes, oh my!
. . . led me back to a recent re-reading of the simple presentation of the "Fair Tax" proposal in "The Fair Tax Book" by Neal Boortz and John Linder. If a taxation system were designed by enemies of the United States to cripple her economy, it would seem to be the one we now have. If you have not yet found time to look at the Fair Tax proposal, the Boortz and Linder book would be a pretty good intro, or the (rather simplistic) pdf downloads at places like http://www.gafairtax.org/ do a fair job of presenting the proposal, urm, fairly.
Coupled with an across-the-board import tariff, scrapping the existing Federal taxes in favor of the Fair Tax would seem to me (in a _much less_ than "back of the envelope calculation" :-)) to offer an opportunity for repairing the economic harm done by federal meddling combined with short-sighted (short-sighted indeed: those who phase out American workers expect not to live to see the loss of their market?) corporate greed.
Sadly, the Fair Tax proposal would remove so much power from the hands of politicians (placing it back in the hands of citizens) that I fear its chances of passing are about as great as the chances of congresscritters actually passing an immigration reform bill designed to protect U.S. sovereignty (or of an administration that would enforce such a bill).
But imagine having a real choice whether to save and invest money (and not be taxed on your savings at all) or pay taxes (by purchasing new goods). Hmmm, it seems to me that Hamilton (Hamilton!) argued that taxing consumption _instead of_ income was the only way to avert abuse of the government's power of taxation. Oh, for the republic that once was!
Lincoln said that if you buy a coat from England, the money goes to England. If you buy it in the US, the money is here and can be taxed again.
Tariff at least keeps some of the money here.
They fine you for saving money. This ought to tell you what they want you to do.
August 25, 2007
This day was devoured by locusts.
|This week:||Sunday, August
e-Pirates of the Carribean to get Letter of Marque?
If they have a letter of marque, are e-pirates e-privateers instead?
Subj: Antigua vs US: Asymmetrical Trade Warfare at the WTO
>>The Antigua story underscores how asymmetries operate in international trade and political relations. A regulatory regime is created, but that fact does not guarantee "fairness". The huge disparity in the size between Antigua and the United States makes the island's trade retaliatory power weak. And in a straight trade dispute the odds would weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the US. But lawyers are clever and the loophole cited by the New York Times makes it possible for Antigua to demand the right to pirate US intellectually property -- under the rules -- and "morally" too because a mechanism which allowed the US to use is preponderant economic power would be "unfair".<<
Remember, International Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming...
Can the US be all that far behind?
Here is a ref to an article about a book written by a former Islamic extremist, British, homegrown, can it be that things in the US are all that far behind the situation in Britain?
What is most horrifying is that this happens within sight and even toleration from British authorities, free speech IS an absolute value indeed, but hate mongering and calls to racial and religious discrimination plus murder are outside the pale.
All the best
The Age of Steampunk.
I'm sure Mike Flynn would have something to say about this:
- Roland Dobbins
My Viking ancestors were everywhere. Mostly, though, we raided Ireland for what we thought would be slave girls. Nest thing we knew, they were wives. We never have figured that one out.
“The crux of the problem in our Army is that officers are not systematically taught how to cope with unstructured problems.”
- Roland Dobbins
Indeed. Thanks for finding that.
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